Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: dealing with stress

Probing Anxiety Wounds

“Her peripheral vision sparked and distorted the edges of everything so that when she turned quickly to look at something, it moved just out of sight. And even while everything inside her body seemed to speed up, everything outside of her body – the movements of other shoppers, the reaching and lowering of boxes and packages into carts – slowed.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

What a rush! I read this description of anxiety and was instantly transported back to when my children were preschool age.

In the past I could work all night at Disneyland surrounded by thousands of tourists and then go to university all day. I could design the sets and lights for live shows, direct a crew of twelve people, and schedule an entire department of technicians, but two toddlers in a grocery store had overwhelmed me and I could not for the life of me understand why.

Looking back, nearly twenty years later, the reason stands clearly before me. Before children, I was responsible for only myself. I slept when I was tired, ate when I was hungry, and went wherever I wanted, when I wanted to. There was no one to consider but myself. Having children changed that completely.

I had already spent my young life playing as much as possible. Now was the time in life to take responsibility for others seriously and I was ready to do it, I just wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it without losing myself completely.

Lack of sleep didn’t help matters. I wasn’t ready to give up my job. I’d worked so long and hard to get to that place and I’d only been there a year when I met my husband. Besides, I didn’t think I’d need to, lots of people work and have kids. The situation seemed perfect to my young mind. My husband worked during the day and I worked after he got home. The shift was only a few hours in the evening anyway, so I was home at a reasonable hour, and I figured a few hours of sleep and I’d be fine to take care of my kids.

I was wrong, but it took me a few years to realize what was happening. I had no idea how much energy little people can consume! I had an amazing support system; my husband was understanding, my family helped me out, and having my Mother-in-law living with us was a blessing beyond belief. Even with all the help, I still found myself getting angrier and angrier every week. Anxiety attacks became more frequent, emotional outburst became more destructive because I could not find a way to escape from confrontation. My family needed me, and I was so afraid of letting them down that I refused to walk away even for a moment.

I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point I had said something my doctor about feeling so angry all the time, that everything seemed to be moving at breakneck speed and couldn’t keep up. I remember telling her about an incident that had worried me. I was standing at the kitchen sink, doing the dishes, when I heard the front door open. I instantly cringed and prayed that my husband would not talk to me, that a child would not call me, that somehow, I would be invisible, and they would just pass me by. I had been flushed with the heat of anger over something as simple as a hand on my back and a kiss hello while I was doing the dishes alone. She immediately prescribed an anti-depressant and told me that I needed to talk to a therapist. I cried and she hugged me. And that’s when the healing began.

Nearly twenty years later, I’m still working on my depression and anxiety, but I’m definitely better than I was back then. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful that I spoke up when I did, before things could get worse. I still have bad day, weeks, but in general I’m good. I’ve learned new ways to cope with anxiety, new outlets. Most of all, I have better understanding of who I am and what my needs are, that they change from time to time, and that everyone is a work in progress.

I stopped medicating ten years ago, the year I moved out of the city. Something about the slower pace of rural living (and the fact that children do grow and don’t need constant attention) helped me immensely. Recently, I feel like I’m self-medicating with alcohol more than I probably should, and I’m working on that. Sign of the times, I guess. The upside is that I’m aware of it earlier and I’m not letting it get me down.

Fascinating the things that a piece of fiction can bring up from your memory. I hadn’t thought of that feeling specifically in years. Writing about it helped me clarify it and clean it up, like gently probing a wound to make sure there’s no debris in it so it can heal properly.

Why I Get Up in the Morning – Episode 1

This is exists. It’s called grass and you can walk on it. It grows where water flows. Crazy.
Something else that makes life worth living!

I promised you that I’d write a more positive weekly article as well, so here it is!

Why DO I get up in the morning? To see what happens next!

Why do you watch the next episode of tv show that you know is going badly? Why do you turn the page and read the next chapter of a book when the one you just finished killed off your favorite character? Humans have a strange fascination with the ugly shit, don’t they? I’m no different.

Yes, things are definitely changing, but if it didn’t we’d all be sitting around complaining about how boring things are. This is not how I thought life would go right now. I’m genuinely not happy and there is much that I worry about on a daily basis. Nothing is certain at the moment. And, to be completely honest, I’ve always been a conservative soul. I enjoy continuity and predictability with maybe a small change or mix up in a regular routine for spice.

This is too much spice for me and it is straining my mental resources to remain calm and find safety.

Yes, I can count my blessings (for they are many). Yes, I am damn lucky and resourceful. The choices we have made as a family have put us in a pretty decent position to ride much of the bullshit out, but…and this is a big BUT…what about the future? What about my children? What about my friends and acquaintances that aren’t so lucky or haven’t made any plans or have simply lost too much? That’s what I start to lose sleep over.

And there are relatively (in the grand scheme) silly things that I stress about. Will I get to take my grandchildren to Disneyland someday? Will my son finish college, get a house, and be rich? Will my other son ever have his orchard? Will we get to dress up with our friends and go to the Renaissance Faire, eat turkey legs, and get drunk in public? Movies? Travel? Eating in a restaurant? Shit…seeing people’s faces?!

What can I do? I can get up in the morning and put my own oxygen mask on so that I’m ready to help when and where I can. I’m done with fearing what might happen and ready to deal with what does. I’m done arguing with people and trying to convince them that my ideas have merit and ready to live my life without their approval. I can’t change what others are doing but I can change my attitude.

That doesn’t mean I approve or love what’s happening. I honestly believe much could be avoided if we did a few things differently, so I’m starting with me. I won’t be hostile to others that choose differently, even when I feel they are trying to force me to choose their way. I won’t blame others for what is happening in my life. I won’t fight “them” or otherwise participate in building up conspiracy theories.

People are going to do what they are going to do. I believe the kinder, the more open, the softer, and more loving to others we each are can make a huge difference. We’re all are making it really hard on each other lately but I know it’s because we’re scared. I’m scared too, but someone has to start going first.

I’m turning the page, or hitting ‘play the next episode’, and watching what happens next.

So Much is IN DEMAND Lately

Daily-Writing-Prompt-7-2

Thank you, Writers Write, for all your brilliant help!

What exactly is in demand these days? Toilet paper (for some reason I still don’t understand)? Fabric masks to wear at the grocery store so the people around you aren’t afraid? Patience? A positive attitude? Honesty? Common sense?

It’s been a rough month for me, and that’s putting it lightly. I’m not coping with the stress nearly as well as I would have hoped I would, but I am learning. I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest month I’ve lived through. Being arrested for armed robbery and attempted carjacking and then spending a year of time and money getting my life back was slightly more upsetting. My arrest through me for a loop. By the end of the whole process, my entire worldview had changed. There was no going back, no return to my naïve way of thinking. I was a different person.

What was in demand then was faith that everything would work out fine and some patience with the criminal justice system. What I really wanted was patience from my friends and family. I was going through a traumatic experience, life was completely rearranged, and I was looking at the possibility of losing at least ten years of my life in jail for a crime I did not commit. Could they allow me some leeway and forgiveness if I lashed out in fear and anger, or just felt like being alone?

Somehow this crisis is different. It feels more permanent, more world-changing for everyone around me, instead of just myself and my immediate family. And it feels so unnecessary, like it shouldn’t be happening, not like this. I’ll admit, I’m not dealing with it half as well I would have hoped I would. All this self-help shit isn’t putting anywhere near the “Let it Ride” feeling I wanted to have during a crisis, but I’m learning quickly. I’ve always been one to react badly at first and then re-think and adjust. I’m moving into the re-think phase at the moment.

What’s in demand now? Bravery, for one thing. Fear makes us do the ugliest things to ourselves and others. We can’t run in fear of a virus, not like this. We can’t hide in our homes forever, afraid we’ll catch something, afraid we’ll accidentally pass it to others. We can’t tear each other apart on social media over what we believe we should and should not be doing.

Understanding and space is something else in demand. Less judgment would be nice, too. What if instead of insisting that those around us do what we believe is the right thing, we just did what was right for ourselves? What if we allowed the people around us, in our towns, counties, and states, to decide for themselves what was right for them? What if we automatically assumed everyone around us was making the best decision for themselves with the information they personally have, instead of demanding that they follow our lead?

What else? Let me see…maybe some patience with others when they question the choices we each are making? How about when we question science or what our government is doing and why? What if instead of ridiculing and belittling those that question authority, we listen to them and allow them to speak? What about those that are worried about the financial future of our country? Could we give them a voice as well? It is important, by the way, just as important as your health. You may not get the virus that is going around, but when inflation starts, companies close, jobs and food become scarce, it won’t really matter, will it? Yes, your Grandma didn’t die of the virus, but now the whole town is threatened with starving. It is a legitimate concern and something we need to weigh in the balance when making decisions.

It seems there are a plethora of things in demand at the moment, huh?

And the worst part is that it’s being demanded of all of us at the same time. Not only am I struggling with these shutdowns, so is everyone around me. It’s hard to ask for bravery, understanding, and patience from my friends and neighbors when they need it just as much; like the toilet paper, there just isn’t enough on the shelf for everyone to buy a two months supply at once.

Maybe I’ll have to supply it for myself, retreat a bit and not add to the chaos, or create something here at home to replace it.

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