Upswing

I’ve been on a major upswing since my last post. I’ve been working on finding what makes me happier and healthier and embracing that. I’ve made the following changes: 

With the help of my primary care physician we found the right meds for my anxiety with very little, if any, side effects for me. I saw my therapist again for a while and that was enlightening and strengthening as always.  I don’t know if anyone else feels strong after therapy but I sure do! 

I left the job that I’d been at for nearly 10 years as it had become a major source of stress and unhappiness. I no longer saw a spot for me there in the long term and I wasn’t happy with where I was at. I took a leap (and a pay-cut) to have a better work/life balance. I have my evenings, weekends, and holidays free for the first time in my 22 years of working. Since I was used to working odd shifts and days, it was a HUGE adjustment working five continuous days. It kicked my butt! I have since adapted and I LOVE it. The best part? I can see myself investing in this new company and I’m excited for what my future holds. 

I’ve deleted Facebook. Not just quit signing in, or deactivating it, I flat out permanently deleted it. Today is the day it is no longer recoverable and I feel great. I’ve wanted to get rid of it for years but was too chicken to pull the trigger. I was terrified I’d be missing out. After really considering it though, if that was the only way I had to be in touch with someone, clearly we were not that connected. The political posts, the people who had to jump down my throat when I had views different from theirs, it was a time suck and it caused me more unhappiness and annoyance than it did connection. It had to go and it did!

My younger sister, Sam, has been on her own fitness journey for some time now. I’ve mainly watched and said, “Nope, nope, nope. I love nachos, ice cream, wine, coffee, pizza, oh goodness do I love pizza! I am a professional couch potato.” I had no interest in making changes or doing the work. Then… I’ve had some reasons as of late that have inspired me to start making changes. Health concerns with people I care about, never fully feeling comfortable in my own skin because I knew I was neglecting myself, seeing Sam’s success. It was just time. 

So a month and half ago I bought a membership to Beach Body OnDemand. I started 21 Day Fix and man that first day kicked my ass so hard I was sore for a week but I kept pushing.  I finished week 1 and started week 2 before falling off. Luckily Sam and Erica ran a fitness challenge that started August 13th and I restarted my workout program then. I am proud to say that yesterday I completed day 21!!!!  This week I’m going to tackle a weeklong program called, “Clean Week,” before going back to 21 Day Fix. 

I’ve also been tracking my food intake in the Lose It app as a way of becoming accountable and aware of what I’m consuming. At first it felt hard to stay within the calories I was allowed for the day. It felt very restrictive but as time goes on, it gets easier to make healthier choices and I’m often under for the day. I do splurge though, here and there, as we have to live life and sometimes horrible for you but delicious foods or beverages are going to be a part of that. 

Changes are happening slowly. I’m seeing different muscles becoming more defined. I fit back into the dress pants I bought for my new job and quickly outgrew thanks to some weight gain. Granted, I text Sam almost every day and say something like, “I’ve tracked my food and worked out for a month. I’m putting in the work. Shouldn’t I be fit now?” She very graciously and patiently reminds me that I didn’t get to where I was overnight or in a single month nor will I get to where I want to be that quickly. Then she will continue with some encouraging or supportive messages that I just dismiss with a, “Yeah yeah. When will I be fit?” Thank god she loves me! 

I’ve been reading more which is a balm to my soul. I love reading! For the longest time though I was engaging in mindless tv watching rather than doing something I really love. I still watch tv but now, if I’m watching tv I’m engaged and purposefully watching something or I turn it off. My current reading consists of Rachel Hollis’, “Girl, Wash Your Face,” and the book “Stray: Memoir of a Runaway,” by Tanya Marquard. If anyone is looking for an amazingly inspiring, funny, and heartwarming book I highly recommend you check out “Girl, Wash Your Face.” 

SO that is where I’m at it. Taking it one step at a time, making changes, embracing successes and doing my best to celebrate LIFE. 

 

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Struggle, Anxiety, Meds

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The last several months the struggle with anxiety has been all too real. I’ve suffered from and dealt with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety, and panic attacks for over half of my life at this point. I’ve been on and off medication, mostly on, since I was 23 years old. Despite the fact it helps I also hate medication. I hate the side effects. I hate being tired all of the time. I hate sweating. However, I’ve come to the conclusion, I need to be on medication.

In the past when I’ve gone off of medication I was reckless and stubborn. I went off meds before cold turkey, not once, but twice. I suffered withdrawals. I was miserable. I made my family miserable.

This time had to be different. This time, I felt like I was in a really solid place in life. Good job, house, meditating, had seen a therapist, etc. I felt ready to tackle life without medication. This time I reached out to my doctor to wean off properly and I even got the info at least a month in advance.

I weaned off, slowly and carefully as prescribed and man… I felt great. I wasn’t tired all the time. On my days off I was actually making plans to be social rather than hide in my house and nap and be lazy. I had energy! My sleep was great! The annoying and ridiculous sweating stopped. Life was lovely for maybe a month.

Slowly though, impatience started creeping in. Anger started seeping out the seams. Frustration was being aimed at my dogs and my parents and my aunt. Work has been kind of messed up since June 2017 and just kept getting worse, more overwhelming. By November I had a massive panic attack. Every day I was questioning myself if I was doing the right thing by being off of medication. I was constantly analyzing how I felt and trying to determine if I needed medication again.

By December it was abundantly clear with the never ending tension in my neck and shoulders. I reached out to my doctor and set up an appointment. Thankfully, unlike my last primary care physician, my current one listens to me. We discussed options and came up with a plan. We started me on the lowest dose of the original medication I went on years ago with the plan of increasing if needed after a week or two.

At the end of close to two weeks and there still being significant anxiety and even the intrusive thought of, “I’d rather be dead than deal with this.” I increased to the higher dosage. Slowly the medication started working in my system. Slowly things were getting more manageable.

Sadly though, it only took me so far. My doctor and I discussed the possibly of increasing the dose or changing meds and we ultimately decided to change meds. During the next couple weeks there were some ups and downs with the adjustment. I’ve also been back in therapy as well.  My physical revealed that I am very low on Vitamin D which can be a contributing factor to anxiety and depression.

While I made so much progress I also struggled in that I was beating myself up. It never took me this long to get back on track when going back on meds. I had not been so low in such a long time, if ever. I’ve been hard on myself thinking how much of a burden I’ve been to my friends and family. I’ve been analyzing every thought and feeling. Judging or grading my progress. Any time I felt even a little anxious I went into over drive, trying to figure out why and lamenting that I was still having anxiety. After all, I’m on meds, I’m on prescription strength Vitamin D, I’m in therapy, I cut out caffeine and alcohol.

I expressed this to my therapist who told me, “Stop beating yourself up. Focus on the positives. You’re stressing yourself out more and making it worse.” Well… that was a novel idea. To not focus on the struggle and instead focus on the good? Focus on all the hard fought battles I’d won? It definitely helped to shift things.

At this point, I’m still not entirely where I want to be. Sometimes interacting with others takes more energy than I have but I get through. My mind still goes into over drive here and there. But… I’m getting there. Sometimes, it’s a journey and I’m having to finally slow down and accept it for what it is.

Progress Made

It’s a funny place I find myself in, sitting comfortably in my mid-thirties, rid of all the angst of my late teens to mid-twenties. I still recall the emotional turmoil I was in, the loneliness, the anger- so much anger! Despite the ability to recall it all, in vivid detail, it also feels like a lifetime ago. The suffering definitely helped to shape who I am, but that person, that version of myself seems foreign to me now.

I remember… staying up all night, watching tv and chatting over AIM with 5 people at once and writing two pieces at a time. I remember all the pent up rage over my (perceived) inability to live a normal life. I remember the feelings of isolation, desperation, and loneliness that overwhelmed me. I remember having my first full blown panic attack one night around 1am, while watching Vanilla Sky, wondering if I should wake my parents to take me to the hospital or let them sleep and maybe find me dead on the couch in the morning. I let them sleep and hoped and prayed I wasn’t having a heart attack and dying like I thought I was, like I felt I was.

I remember… writing dark and twisted poetry about the fury, the sorrow, and romanticizing suicide. I never truly considered it but it felt like such a tempting escape from the misery I was in.

I think back to all the crazy that I attracted to my life during that time. The drama filled people who seemed to find me like I was a magnet and truth be told, I probably was. It seemed like one friend after another was in crisis. My friendship circle consisted of self-harmers, pill poppers, and the like. It was also filled with people who had been dealt some really shitty hands in life but year after year they continued to be the victim rather than become the heroine of their own life. I remember one often repeating, “I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve all of this.”

I remember… finding solace in the darkness of depression, the depression that anxiety drove me into. Misery does love company and I found my tribe. I remember feeling so liberated being able to share the chaos and storms that were swirling within me. I was no longer alone in my looney tribe of misfits. We were all wounded in our own ways and suffering but we had each other and that made it less lonely.

I remember… the clouds starting to lift in my life. The poetry dried up and I feared I was losing my creativity. I remember that the down moments came less frequently, the mood swings not as severe. I remember feeling at odds with myself because I didn’t recognize myself anymore without turmoil. Sometimes, even now, a little part of me misses it. For the creativity that is. There is something about angst and writing that go hand in hand, at least in my twisted mind.

Yet, I wouldn’t go back to it. I like being in a happy place now. That’s not to say my life is perfect but I am more appreciative now. I understand my anxiety better and have a better handle on it. I’m thankful for my struggles because there are somethings one cannot fully understand without experiencing them, mental health issues being one of them. Yes, I remember my battle and I’m grateful for it but I am so content to be exactly where I am right now. 100_0291_2.jpg

Mourning and Moving Forward


shutterstock_558143062.jpgI am sure it comes as no shock but I’ve been in a bit of mourning with the current political climate. I don’t know that it is even so much the results of the election but the sheer ugliness and divisiveness being expressed towards anyone that has different views. Being totally transparent, yes I was disappointed by the results of the election. However I know that we are not always going to get our way, you win some and you lose some. I’ve done a good job of sort of blocking it out since then but with the inauguration a whole new wave of ugliness has crept in, not to mention I have no choice but to face reality.

I’m not writing this post to rail against our current officials or trash talk his supporters. That sort of thing plays out on Facebook day in and day out. I’m tired of it. I’m writing this because I need to find a way to move on. I need to find a way to use my voice to share some positivity and tolerance. Many of us are disappointed as of late. Regardless of who had won the election, many of us wonder how anyone could vote for XYZ candidate. However that does not solve anything. Accusations and cruelness only serve to breed more contempt and anger. I’m looking for a higher road. If you’re happy or unhappy do something about it. Use your voice!!!

A couple things I have discovered in the last couple of days:

Countable (website and app)

https://www.countable.us

Helps you to identify your representatives, keep you abreast of current issues, and provides an easy platform to get your voice heard.

Petitions on WhiteHouse.gov

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/#signapetition

You can sign or create a petition that, with enough signatures, will illicit a response from the White House.

A couple last thoughts:

“We have far more in common than that divides us.” Jo Cox.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi (though I’ve heard he wasn’t the one who said this)

First Step…

They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting that it exists. Well, I’ve long admitted that I have issues; with anxiety, stress, social anxiety, trust, insecurity, abandonment, need for control, need to fix everything, take care of everyone, etc. Ok in all fairness most of the issues stem from anxiety/social anxiety. I’ve known that ALL people could benefit from therapy while actively avoiding going to therapy. I did try it once, but it was the wrong fit and quite disastrous. Also, being (mostly) self aware I knew a lot of the things I need to change/work on/address so… How would discussing it with a stranger help me, really?

shutterstock_139247051.jpgStill… As the anxiety/stress was leaving my shoulders and stomach in knots, as I was reeling from the emotional fallout of some big decisions, and knowing that I deserve better in life I finally sucked it up and sought out therapy. Again.  I called my insurance stuffs, found a recommendation, and made an appointment. Even making an appointment led to my active mind kicking into overdrive. My therapist treats people in his office or at his home. His home was closer and also better parking options not to mention the day that worked best for me happened to be a day he was working out of his home. Enter active mind: I’m meeting a man I do not know, in his home, and I’ll be alone. Is that really safe?  Is that wise? What if he is creepy? What if he is some weirdo? What if, what if, what if? The two biggest words that roll around in my brain. Ok. STOP. BREATHE. 1. If your health insurance/employment is recommending this person he probably checks out. 2. If he is some psychotic, monster he probably wouldn’t have passed whatever screening was necessary to be recommended by reputable companies. 3. Just hush noisy brain. Hush.

For anyone who has never gone to therapy, the first session mainly revolves around paperwork, dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s, establishing what is bringing you in, in a nutshell. The first appointment we didn’t discuss anything huge. Right away I felt at ease with him. He reminds me of my uncle John that passed away. He has a plant growing in his living room, the same kind of plant that my sisters and I gave to our relatives for Christmas one year as kids. I felt comfortable.  I also realized pretty quickly that he was perceptive and picked up on the things I wasn’t saying. While we didn’t cover anything deep or significant, I felt lighter. He gave me some ideas to consider, a few challenges in how I think about things.

At this point I’m about 5 or 6 sessions in. I can definitely see it helping me. I was right, I know a lot of the things I need to work on but it does help having someone neutral to discuss things with. I’m finding that I am getting better at stopping my mind from spiraling out. My aunt says I am calmer, less nervous. The thing I’m finding, I didn’t fully realize how neurotic I was until I started making positive changes. I was explaining one of those realizations lately to my best friend and told her, “I was so crazy before, the thought process that would have been going through my head over something so insignificant, but now, I am ok with making this inconsequential decision and not analyzing it to death or assuming what the other person could be thinking.” She was very  gracious and told me I wasn’t crazy before but that my brain was definitely very busy and that it must have been exhausting. True dat. 

2016

It is totally bizarre to me to acknowledge the fact we are in the year 2016. As a child of the 80’s, I couldn’t fathom what the world would look like in the 2000’s. I kind of assumed daily life would be a little bit closer to the Jetsons. I’m feeling a tad cheated, where is my flying car? Despite the fact we are not at the level of the Jetsons, I’d have to say I’m pretty satisfied with where life is currently.

This year will be a year of new adventures for sure! In the beginning, of December, I accepted a position that allows me to work from home. I am now home all day with my adorable (annoying) pups. Since I am home with them while I am working, I don’t feel guilty leaving them to go out socially, or even for the sake of running errands. It’s very freeing to be able to go out and do things without this feeling of, “I’m a terrible person the dogs have been alone the entire day and I’m out again,” haunting  me.

A new position also means new challenges, which is something I was long overdue for. While I loved what I had been doing, I was also feeling stagnant. I had been doing the same thing for six years. Six years in the same position, same location. That’s the longest I have stayed put in years! I was itching for a change of some sort. Sometimes I need to jump feet first into the unknown and see where I land. So far, I’m really liking where I have landed. I also have my eye on future challenges because that is how I operate. Nothing set in stone, just ideas floating around in my head as to what I can strive for when I get too comfortable in my new role.

The second big adventure in my life is the fact I have joined a gym. My friends and siblings have tried the last several years to get me to join the gym. The idea sounded…. Awful. I knew working out would be good for me but I also knew I would pay the monthly fee and pretty much never go. I didn’t want to. It would be one more thing for me to do, another obligation outside of the house. It wasn’t happening.

Now that I am working from home, and I’m 35, and my sister’s wedding is coming up in five months (and I need to fit into my bridesmaid dress)… I’m finally ready. That’s a lot of ‘ands’ but it is where I am at. I’ve never in my life been in shape. I’ve been skinny but I didn’t work out and ate ice cream nearly every night. I’ve been overweight (which is where I am right now). I’ve occasionally tried to add some physical activity into my life or count calories or eat healthier. However, like most people, I would mentally plan out these HUGE changes and then defeat myself about two minutes into it. I would get discouraged and proclaim “I love food! I hate exercise,” to sort of placate myself as I was giving up. There is also the fact that the gym, working out, being in shape, etc is incredibly intimating to me. I feel clueless in there and I feel like a wimp. I hate not knowing what I am doing. I’ve accepted defeat too many times and given up, its time to change that.

Granted it is very early into the new year and I hate that I’m making changes in my life at such a cliched juncture but… I am four workouts in with my fifth already planned. Thanks to the help of some wonderful people I have used weight machines for the first time since it was required in high school gym class! I’m counting calories even though it hurts my soul a little (discipline is not my strong suit and I LOVE ice cream more than I should). I’m going to the gym every other day and I’m finding myself enjoying it. It’s kind of odd to be upset if I feel like I’m not sweating enough, or if I’m not feeling the burn in my muscles while doing weights. It’s also exciting.

Yes, 2016 is going to bring a lot of positive changes into my life and I can’t wait!2016.jpg

Fall 2013

Here it is, decidedly fall. A fact I think I write about every single fall. I can’t help it. There is a bite that comes in the air, a scent that marks the changing of seasons more accurately than a date on the calendar. 

I was so pleased when the heat of summer seemed to stretch into October. There were no complaints from me about the warm , sunny days we were continuing to have. While other people may have lamented “it feels like August in October,” on social networking sites I was happy. I took Milo for a few evening bike rides enjoying the balmy air. 

However, fall has fallen down upon us. Yes, today is sunny and gorgeous with bright blue skies to make my heart sing. There are still leaves on the trees, another welcome sight to my eyes. But the leaves are changing from deep greens to vivid reds, oranges, and yellows. I have finally had to retire my hoodies in exchange for actual coats. While I walk from one spot to the next, wrapped up snug in my coat, the cold air nipping at my skin, breathing in fall, I get nostalgic. 

Every year, I love the fall. Still this time of year fills me with dread. Dread for the long, gray, cold winters that will descend upon us long before I am ready and last far longer than I am comfortable with. I envision snowy, icy roads. I can feel the tension in my body as I clutch the steering wheel praying that all the drivers on the road will exercise caution as we glide over the frozen, slick surfaces. I shake my head and remind myself to enjoy right now. 

I am going to visit a cider mill soon which is something I have not done since my youth. I order pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks and eat pumpkin bread. I love the crunch of leaves under my feet. The sting of the autumn air. It is exhilarating. Change is good. Even if some changes bring upon others that we may not want…