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. 

Lost & Looking

Right now I’m feeling a little lost and a lot impatient. I’ve been having flare ups lately- of GERD and anxiety. I wake up incredibly nauseous and then as I start trying to force myself to get up for work I have panic attacks. It’s a lovely combination really. The other night Daney butt was sick which scared me something fierce. I’m ready for school to be done. I’m ready to be self employed. I’m just… ready. Heck I would be tickled to be retired and spend my days volunteering for causes I believe in and spending time with all of those I love.

I need to focus on the here and now. It’s an issue I have struggled with my entire life. I’m always looking at the next thing, whatever that is. My mind is always going, ten steps ahead of where I’m at, spinning out of control and defeating myself, probably from exhaustion if nothing else.

I’m craving change of some kind. I’m needing something new. I’m needing to find some relaxation- the one thing in life I’ve never been good at. Well that and math. I’m a little lost right now but it’s ok, I’m looking to find my way again.

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Photo courtesy of Alessandra, Flickr Creative Commons. Original photo can be found by clicking on pic.

Emerging From The Darkness

I am emerging from the darkness. I am once again feeling stronger. After a few weeks of being down, dancing between two emotions; numb or melancholy, the fog is lifting.

Every so often I slip into a low. As my mother puts it, it is like a blanket that covers me and keeps me from being myself. I agree with her, partially. It is like a blanket, or a fog, or a haze that descends upon me. The usual happy go lucky demeanor takes a back seat. I get introspective, contemplative, quiet, and yes- moody.

However, I am still me, this is a part of me. Is it mild depression? Is it just part of my personality? The need to pull back now and then and take stock of my life? I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me, not too much at least. It doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t last. The only time it ever lasted I was on the wrong meds/too strong of a dose. Then I withdrew pretty much all together and spent any time not at work lounging or sleeping in my bed. That is not where I am now. That is not where I have been for a long time. 

To me, there is a certain beauty to darkness. I think embracing it now and then is important. Is it painful? Yes, but it also leads to growth, to joy, to a stronger version of me. Embracing it, as long as it is not stopping me from fulfilling my responsibilities (much), or totally cutting everyone out of my life, or having suicidal thoughts (which I don’t), then I say, embrace away. 

Still, there must be a balance. The dark cannot overtake the light. I mustn’t dwell for too long. Life is too precious, too fragile, too beautiful to focus on the misery and the sadness for an extended period of time. 

I was sort of due for this little segue into the land of sorrow. Uncle John’s birthday was just a week ago. There are other changes going on in my life that I was not thrilled to hear about. I have not been focusing on maintaining a positive attitude. There are a few stressors that had been weighing me down as well. Mix that all together and it’s a perfect recipe to backslide a touch. 

Besides, if I get too comfortable in life, if things are going too smoothly, it makes me a tad uncomfortable. I spent so many years overwhelmed and miserable due to my undiagnosed anxiety disorder that peacefulness can actually be unnerving at times. Realistically I suffered from my anxiety issues for years (at least seven years totally undiagnosed, three of those years experiencing panic attacks that scared the bejesus out of me). Just as I began to learn about my anxiety disorder and seek treatment the health of several relatives went into decline, one right after the other. 

In some ways, I’ve had a rough go of it since I was 17 years old.To be clear, not as rough as many in this life but this is my life, my journey, and my issues to deal with. Sure there were pockets of calm in between but also a lot of chaos, a lot of stress, a lot of… well… a lot. Not to mention the amount of growth a person does in those years regardless of other factors. 

So here I am, learning to adjust to a new normal. One I never imagined but one that I am content with. A normal that sadly doesn’t include people that I assumed would be around a lot longer than they were. A normal that still battles anxiety and depression. A normal with more amazing friends than I dared to believe possible when I was younger. A normal that includes healthy relationships with my family. A normal that is all mine. Yes, I am emerging from the darkness once again.

Emotions

Emotions. They can be rather tricky things. Especially if you miss a dose of your anxiety meds. Effffff. I hadn’t done that in such a long time. I had been pretty consistent, though never taking my pills at the exact same time every day. Taking medication at all annoys me, even if it helps me, even if I need it.

Last week, I was exhausted from attempting to clean the dickens out of my house in preparation for Easter. Monday night I fell asleep at 8:30pm. I had been taking my pills at night and while the idea of them danced through my brain as I dozed off, I reasoned that the dogs would get me up soon and I’d take the pills then. To be honest, I’m not sure if they did wake me up that night. It is too long ago now and I was too tired to remember. 

I do know I woke up Tuesday morning around 6:30am with the panic inducing thought of, “I didn’t take my pills last night.” Shit. I really didn’t want to take them that early, I prefer night as I have been closer to taking them around the same time that way. I knew I couldn’t put it off until that night though. I would go into some form of withdrawals for sure. So I took my meds, cursing the fact that I was now taking them in the morning. 

I do not like taking my pills in the morning because if I’m running behind, that is one last extra thing I have to remember to do. Also, I do not have a set schedule at all, so I’m never up at the same time every day. One day I wake up at 6:30am, the next it could be 9:30am, and on a day off it may be 10am. Which means I’m all over the map for taking my pills. 

Still, it is what it is, and I need my meds to keep the panic attacks at bay. I swallowed them down and promised myself I would ease my way back into taking them at night. Wednesday I took my pills a little bit later in the morning. Thursday I had off from work. I decided I would push my pills back until the afternoon. This way, by Friday I could take them at night. It wasn’t the gentlest, slowest easing back to night time pill taking but it was better than just saying “eff it,’ and jumping from morning to night like I have done in the past. See, I’m growing after all!

Thursday did not go as I had planned though. I slept in and lounged about for awhile. Then I got ready and went to visit a friend. I had anticipated getting back home around 4pm at which point I would take my meds. However, my mom text me and said that her and my dad were on their way over to install the new faucet I bought for my bathroom and as payment I could feed them dinner. (That’s a fair trade in my book). 

In all the chaos of the afternoon/evening I didn’t remember I still needed to take my meds. I remember watching Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal that night, feeling extra emotional during them. I am someone who can tear up over a good commercial so it is not unusual for a tv show to get me worked up a bit. Something felt off though. The emotions felt a little too raw, a little illogical. I remember thinking it was odd but I had no explanation. Around 11pm or midnight I was very stuffy and congested. It hit me; I hadn’t taken my meds… Fuck. I got up and took them immediately.

Despite being tired and not having any caffeine late in the day, or napping, and having been up since a very reasonable 9am on Thursday, I could not get to sleep that night. My stomach hurt, I was nauseous, I was agitated. I couldn’t get comfortable and I couldn’t quiet my brain. I was keyed up. I was frustrated. It still wasn’t dawning on me as to what was going on. It had been so long since I had felt this way…

Friday morning I got up for work, I felt miserable. My body ached, I felt out of it, somewhat removed and also raw. I ate my cereal and made some coffee. I was mentally trying to figure out what was going on with me. Withdrawals. Thanks to a hectic week and going hours past when I should have had my meds, twice in a week, I was now suffering. I have always been sensitive to missing a dose of my anxiety meds, no matter what med I have been on for it. 

As it became clear to me why I was feeling so miserable I started to panic, which is oh so helpful. I started imagining my day at work, knowing how raw and jumbled my emotions were, how miserable I felt physically. I tried to assess whether or not I could put my best foot forward, working with the public, or if I would somehow screw up, being short tempered and rude. It all felt too much and I realized I had tears in my eyes that were starting to spill down my cheeks. It felt like someone took all the range of human emotions and shook them up inside my head like a snow globe, letting them all fall at once. I was scared, I was agitated, I was panicked, I was so so sad. I felt like I was going to throw up and my body hurt. 

I called in to work, somehow bumbling through the conversation, hearing myself talking, analyzing myself talk, and not sure I was even making sense. As soon as I got off the phone I was tearing up again. I started texting my mother who was the one who brought some clarity to the moment. She encouraged me to bust into my essential oils. “Get some of your calming oils,” she said. “You must have some for the physical symptoms too.” 

I filled my diffuser with water, put in some lavender and Valor (a blend of oils), and sat it as near to me as I could. I put lavender on my hands and cupped them over my nose, breathing in deep. I took some peppermint to calm my stomach. My pups got on the couch and snuggled with me. I wrapped myself in a blanket, inhaling the wonderful calming scents from my diffuser. I felt a great deal of relief.

I was still very jangled that day, and felt rather off. I was exhausted by the time nighttime came. I fell into bed, totally wiped out, very mad at myself for messing up but also feeling a little bit better. The next day I went into work and it was a bit rough but I wasn’t feeling quite as miserable, my emotions not as raw. I have since taken my mother’s wise advice and set an alarm to remind me every night to take my pills. A thought I had had many times over but never followed through on.

This week, I’m feeling much better. I’m still very embarrassed for having screwed myself up. I do not like messing up, I certainly do not like feeling the way my mistake made me feel. Still, in some ways it was humbling. It reminded me that I do have a battle to fight, daily. That anxiety will always be a part of who I am. That if I don’t take care of myself, I will feel miserable. 

It was also a wake up call. To know that my body is so dependent on my anxiety meds, and how strongly it reacts if it doesn’t have them makes me want to work harder to find natural ways to manage my anxiety issues. I need to find something that works with my body rather than coming in and kind of forcing normalcy on my system. Which… maybe doesn’t make sense but it does to me. For now I’m just making sure I am doing what I can to take care of myself and to keep myself feeling the best I can.

Pity Party

Today I am having a pity party. Maybe not the whole day but while I sit here staring at a white page with black letters, the thoughts that need to pour out of me are less than positive. I need to rid myself of them. I need to let the negative out because inside, I am drowning.

Those that know me in the realm called real life know I’ve had a lot going on. Not all of them know how far back this insanity goes. Those of you casually reading this page that perhaps don’t know me at all, know none of it. For the sake of my sanity and healing or attempts thereof, I need to whine. I need to feel bad for a moment. If I exhaust myself with my reality then perhaps I can start a new one. Move past where I am currently.

This story starts about three years ago. My Aunt Marianne fell ill very suddenly. Her health hadn’t been great in years. Too many fad diets, too much neglect. It takes a toll. However when we got the call that after a routine test she was now in a medically induced coma, we were shocked. A few days later they pulled her out of the coma. Then came the triple bypass. She seemed to be doing well. She was improving. I flew out of state twice to see her. Then, about two weeks after her release from the hospital, she passed away. We were shocked. We were distraught. What had gone wrong? Too many blood thinners and not being monitored close enough. Clear warning signs that she chose to ignore until it was too late. I was not prepared to lose my aunt. That was November.

In March, her grandson, my cousin, was diagnosed with cancer. He was just a kid. Several tense months, lots of treatments, follow ups,etc and he was thankfully cured.

I think the next medical crisis was a cancer scare with my Aunt Nancy. Thankfully, it was a scare. Nothing more. But it takes time to find that out so for a week or two (and right around Christmas) we were all on pins and needles waiting to hear the news.

Then it was my Uncle John. Several years back he had prostate cancer. Surgery. He was cured! Then a year ago they found a mass on his pancreas. His genius doctors (and him) chose the wait and see approach. A mass on the pancreas. Let’s not go in and remove that sucker. No, we’ll give it six months and reevaluate. I tried to stay peaceful during that time. It was difficult.

Six months later, the mass had of course grown. So surgery again. It was precancerous. One mass and half a pancreas removal later he was cured!

This past September my great Aunt Mickey passed away. Two weeks later my grandmother passed away. A month after that my Uncle John is back in the hospital. He was turning yellow, itchy, and having pains in his stomach. The mass is back. Although after nearly two weeks in the hospital the doctors can’t make up their minds whether or not he has cancer. One says yes, the other says no. Another says its not normal biopsy results but it isn’t cancer.

Add to this my dog getting sick. He’s lost a pound (which with a small dog is cause for concern). He shakes and sits in the corner like a beaten puppy. He is out of character. One slightly expensive vet appointment later, medically he is all cleared. Pain meds, pepcid, and lots of love.

All of this has been hell on my anxiety. Yes, I feel weak for the fact it is affecting me the way it is. It’s definitely getting to me. My anxiety is so elevated that I am physically uncomfortable. I had to call in to work the other day. I was a mess. Three magic pills later and trip to my doc I felt a little better.

A few days later…

I’m feeling a little better, a little stronger. Some stressors are being removed from my plate, one by one. For one thing my little guy is acting about 95% normal now. Which makes me crazy happy. I was scared I was going to have to say goodbye to him. Thanks to a few phone calls by the right people, my Uncle will be seen by an amazing doc for another opinion. I don’t care for his so this makes me happy and hopeful. My anxiety is perhaps coming down… God I hope so. I’ve also done some research into an intermittent leave of absence from work. So on the days that my anxiety gets the best of me, I won’t have to worry about it affecting my employment. Things are slowly coming together. Not fast enough for my impatient self but I will take what I can get.

In the mean time, I’m working on changing up the house. Painting, decorating, things like that. It’s item for a fresh start. For all of us. This old house included.

I Surrender

I Surrender.

The past week or so I have not been feeling well. It is like I am on the verge of getting sick or being sick. A lingering feeling, like a dark gray cloud following me around. Every morning the past week I’ve had to force myself to get out of bed. Literally force myself to get up, be responsible, go to work. It’s not that I don’t like my job, quite the opposite. I just wake up feeling drained. Congested. My stomach has been hating me lately. I feel feverish but I am not. I’m achey.

Today, I surrender. I called in. After a night of having issues sleeping due to raging heartburn and a general feeling of malaise, I surrender. Rest. Fluids. Taking it easy. I’ve had several cups of tea with honey throughout the day. I’ve eaten. I’ve napped with my snuggly pups. I’ve restored my phone and set it up as new, I’ve organized some photos. Emailed a dear friend. Chat with people I love. Now I’ve moved on to blogging and watching movies I’ve seen before for comforting background noise.

I want to shake this whole not feeling well business. Am I sick? Have I caught one of the many bugs going around? Is it my anxiety or depression rearing their ugly heads? I think that is what is irritating me the most. The idea that it may be one of my two life long enemies. Anxiety or depression. They’re both nasty foes. I would say I hate them both but they make me stronger. More empathetic. They challenge me. They give me an appreciation for the darker side of life. They force me to fight for the life I want. Right now I’m pissed if they are trying to come in and stake their claim. I will triumph.

Lately my friend, one of my best friends, my person, and I have been discussing life. What’s the meaning? The point? Why the monotony? What makes life worth living? I can empathize. I’ve been there. Thanks to anxiety, depression, wrong meds, and perhaps the biggest evil of all: thinking way too much. 

There was definitely a time in my life that thinking too much would keep me from doing things I would really like to do. I would ponder all the what if’s and what’s the point’s until I just… Didn’t. I would stay home in misery instead. I would think too much. Trying to find the logic.

Life isn’t supposed to be logical. It’s messy and full of feelings we will never understand. Or at least not at the time. But there is a purpose, a reason. Its the feelings. The connections. The experience.

I think we are set up to fail. I think we have these unbelievable, unattainable, preconceived notions about what life should look and feel like, and it never does. So we get depressed. We start dissecting it. Destroying it. Minimizing it. We think too hard about it.

When we do that, life, it just falls short. So we sink deeper and deeper into the abyss. Lord knows I have been there. Probably will be again someday. Some times I think its important that we marinate in the ugliness inside of us, own it. Be it. Dwell, pity, roll around in the misery. But then we have to shake it off. Make the conscious choice to be what and who we really want to be.

I dunno. Maybe I am overly simple. Tomorrow is another day. Another chance to conquer the world. Today? Today, I surrender.