Archives for category: Anxiety

It’s raining this morning. I slept deeply through the night. It’s been a painful couple of days, but the pain has been just that physical experience of arthritis and of aging. I could feel the rain coming.

This morning, I sip my coffee and welcome the rain. The window of my studio is open to the sound of it, the smell of it, and the coolness of the fresh damp air that has begun to the fill the room. Refreshing. The cadence of it varies; sometimes falling quite heavily, a momentary drenching downpour, other times a soft quiet spattering of smaller drops, sometimes stopping briefly. I could listen to the rain for hours, doing nothing else but enjoying the sound of rain falling.

I sip my coffee and think about how the garden flowers will appreciate this rain. I think about taking my walk in the rain after so much dry summer weather. A bird begins to carry on rather loudly, somewhere in the pear tree beyond the fence, outside the window, disturbed by something I don’t see. Today I’ll run an errand or two, which will take me down the road, on this rainy day. I smile at the thought. It’s not raining hard enough to cause me any stress over the driving, and I realize as I consider that… well, it’s been a long-ish time since I experienced any stress about driving in the rain. 🙂 Progress. Trauma does heal over time – given a chance. That’s nice to experience, and to recognize, firsthand.

…Let’s be real, though, y’all… The event that caused the trauma that drove the driving stress specific to driving in the rain? That happened back in… 1997? It’s now 2021. We’re talking about 24 years here. 24 years to heal from a single traumatic incident. Of that 24 years, I didn’t drive at all for about 14 years. I even let my license lapse and just replaced it with an ID card. Circumstances rather unforgivingly nudged me in the direction of needing to get over my anxiety about driving and just fucking deal with it, about 7 years ago. The first 6 months were sometimes challenging, and for a handful of years after I got my license renewed, I drove when I had to, and it wasn’t something I enjoyed at all. That changed when my Traveling Partner more or less insisted that I go ahead and buy a car for myself, that I would really enjoy driving, when he needed his car back (he’d loaned it to me while I was moving, and it suited us both for me to keep and maintain it for awhile). I enjoyed shopping for a car for myself, on my own, with very little input from anyone else. It was fun. I found something affordable that I really liked, for me, and went for it. I still love my car. I’ll probably replace it, one day, with another just like it – only newer.

Am I rambling? I’ll blame the rain, and this good cup of coffee, and this very relaxed morning. 🙂

I guess what I’m saying is that healing takes the time it takes. Yeah, we can (and do) make choices that may slow that progress (or seek to rush it through), but none of that truly matters – it still takes the time it takes to heal. Physical hurts, emotional injuries, mental health trauma: all of it takes the time it takes, to heal. Seriously. Give yourself enough compassion and kindness and general decency to understand that it’ll take time to “get over” something that has wounded you. The time it takes you, versus the time it takes me, or someone else? Those things don’t compare directly; we’re each having our own experience. If I resist being open to healing, I’ll for sure slow the progress I can make toward wellness – I’ll say that again – If I am not open to healing, or unwilling to let go of my pain, and my chaos, and my damage, healing will definitely take longer. Let’s not quibble, and just accept this for a minute; sometimes we are “not ready” to get well from emotional injuries. Anger or resentment that still needs acceptance and soothing, and authentic understanding and love can really get in the way of emotional wellness, however sincerely we weep that we wish to be well and whole again. It’s complicated, isn’t it?

I sip my coffee thinking about the many days and years of this journey, behind me. I listen to the rain fall and consider the path ahead. I still have flare ups of my PTSD. The chaos and damage may be, to an extent, a permanent part of the emotional landscape (although things have improved so much over the years!). I give myself a moment of kindness as I consider that. My cognitive quirks, and eccentricities resulting from head injuries, are part of who I am – some of them I would not trade for an opportunity to be “normal”, ever. This? This life now, these moments, here? Pretty splendid, generally. I can recall a very different life, mired in misery, anxiety, chaos, anger, and pure effort spent hiding as much of who I am from everyone as I comfortably could – even from myself. I was deeply unhappy, and doing not much at all about that. I was consumed with resignation and a sense of utter futility.

I stare out the window, watching the rain fall, thinking about that life, and that woman and her deep deep suffering. I sip my coffee, silently acknowledging how much of my pain was actually self-inflicted, and how many verbs were involved in getting from there, to here. So many new beginnings. So many “failures” along the way. So many opportunities to inch a little bit closer to the woman I most wanted to be, living that beautiful life I could envision, and somehow could not achieve. I wish I could reach back and assure her we got here, and how good it is. Enough. More than enough.

There’s still a journey ahead. That’s living life, is it not? One moment after another, and always time to begin again. 🙂

A panic attack woke me around 2:00 am. I woke drenched in cold sweat, mouth dry, breathless, chest tight – and brain focused on something somewhat stupid that managed to fall out of my mouth during the work week (that was likely entirely overlooked, and there was no “fall out” or follow-up). It wasn’t a big deal. Simple slip of the tongue. Poorly chosen verbiage, corrected in the moment. My brain, though? Would not let that shit go when it woke me.

I got up for a few minutes. Had a class of water. Took a few minutes for meditation. Went back to bed.

“Anxiety” 2011

No luck. My brain was locked on to that one small error, out of a busy week with no doubt many others that were similarly inconsequential. I distracted myself with math puzzles – that ended up pulling me back to work thoughts again, fairly quickly. I tried imagining a walk in the forest, in great detail. I still ended up back on the work thoughts and this one error, fighting the impulse to make a bigger deal out of it, trying to avoid conflating it with “everything else that went wrong” this week, resisting the temptation to fit it into “a pattern”.

More meditation. My head was kind of stuffy. It occurred to me that if I were having trouble breathing during the night, that could easily have woken me in a panic, a physical feeling of “anxiety”, and a mind filled with whatever bits and pieces were still lingering in my consciousness as my brain did the housekeeping as I slept. I take allergy medication. Try sleep again.

Eventually I slept. I woke a bit groggy, but otherwise it’s been a lovely morning, and I feel fine. I feel settled and calm. It’s a pleasant Friday morning, at the end of a busy week.

A colleague sent me a message during the wee hours of the night, and I see it when I get logged in – she apologizes for a moment of confusion, something “dumb” she said. I don’t even recall the moment. I chuckle over my coffee; it’s a very human thing to struggle with self-doubt, insecurity, anxiety, concern, regret… all the things. We may each be having our own experience – but these experiences are pretty commonplace human experiences. Mix and match – we have more in common with each other than we are truly different.

I sip my coffee. Prepare to begin again.

Keepin’ it real on a Sunday. Later I’ll just get to work on housekeeping chores and try to get past being a fucking human being, with all the flaws and limitations and confusion that seems to include. This morning sucks. Shit-tastic moment right here. Crap-tacular.

I’ve managed to up-end what might have been an ordinary lovely Sunday morning over-reacting to something my Traveling Partner said. I could have “let it go” or allowed myself to understand his perspective without sharing mine, but in attempting to speak up about my own perspective and experience, the whole entire morning just came crashing down around me. I don’t communicate skillfully in that moment, he doesn’t seem to understand what I’m trying to communicate. I manage to hurt his feelings, frustrate, and anger him. Now we’re separate people with separate lives in separate rooms having separate moments quite removed from each other, still, I’m sure, entangled emotionally with this shared shitty experience. It sucks on a lot of levels. We’re each having our own experience. We each understand our lives in a context we may not be able to actually share with each other in an understandable way. We’ve got our own perspective, our own baggage. Our own PTSD.

I’m trying to avoid creeping despair with limited success, as it attempts to weave its way into my emotional landscape.

I feel isolated and lonely. I lack a feeling of being understood, or even accepted. My fingers pause on the keyboard while my brain grinds through all the ways this is “my fault” and all the many things I have sought to do differently in one partnership or another to be other than I am, with varying degrees of skill – or success. The more my thoughts swirl around all this shit, the more it blurs together, like bad finger painting at that point at which the colors are just becoming a muddy homogenous gray. I’m already not even making sense, to myself. The tears keep coming.

I know, I know. It’s clearly time to begin again. The weight of the ennui and learned helpless is tremendous and if I were standing in an inch of water, I’d likely drown. My attempts to communicate are falling so short that each new attempt is at risk of being an escalation, and I was told I’m “being dramatic” several times this morning, before I finally withdrew into my carefully crafted one-room private hell. (I know, I see it. It does read like I’m “being” “dramatic”; I’m having trouble making myself heard over the din in my own head.)

New beginnings do tend to require that something else end. I don’t really know what needs to be ended, right now, in this moment. I feel sad and worn down. Tired. Frustrated. I assure myself “this too shall pass”, and although I know that to be pretty reliably true, I don’t have much confidence in whatever may come after it. A literal lifetime of struggling with my mental health, and specifically in the context of intimate partnerships and familial relationships, has worn me down past the point of being sure I can make constructive, practical, healthy, useful changes that result in being whole and well and emotionally self-sufficient. I’m frustrated by that. Most of the “obvious” choices, in this particularly difficult moment, seem rich in potential for self-sabotage or self-spite, wildly contrary, and the sorts of things that follow someone shouting “Well, fine, then I’ll just never…” (or, you know, “just always…”) before going immediately to gross hyperbole and refining the discussion to some ludicrous probably irrelevant extreme.

I read those words once or twice more. It’s true I’m definitely not feeling heard. It’s also true that when my experience hits that wall, I do tend to become more prone to drama (in both word choice and tone). I become more ferocious in my delivery, seeking any breach in the wall of misunderstanding, trying to force the person I’m talking with to hear me, to acknowledge my humanity, to “get it” – when they clearly don’t get it. It’s not helpful. It’s not helpful for them or for me; it’s not possible to force people to understand something they don’t understand. Just letting it go… like… forever? Not helpful for me. Might save the relationship, though. Is every point of contention a “hill worth fighting for”? I mean, obviously not; I used the word “every”. Along with “always”, and “never”, “every” is pretty much the customs stamp of a logical fallacy; if the argument is taken to that extreme, I can be pretty certain, generally, that whatever is claimed to be “always”, “never”, or some portion of “every”… it’s incorrect. Fallacious. Not accurate.

I start on better self-care.

I breathe. Relax. Try to let this one go, again. What matters most? Maybe I can let myself focus on this list of chores. Do those, as mindfully as I am able, let this other shit go… deal with it when I feel stronger. More emotionally safe. Clearer of mind. Choose a better moment, from a more rational perspective – sounds super smart. I’d like to be that person. It doesn’t make sense to keep expecting other people – any other people, including my partner(s) – to really understand my experience from my side of it. Pretty silly, actually, in the context of “we’re each having our own experience” – which we are. Another breath. Another sip of cold coffee. I’m fortunate to enjoy this loving partnership with this human being I cherish so much. Expecting that it will also be characterized by a universally aligned, wholly informed and accepting shared understanding of self, of each other, and of the world around us is, at best, wildly unlikely. I don’t think it’s very reasonable, at all, actually.

I think I’ll shoot for “reasonable” and “contented” today. Pretty lofty goal from the vantage point of this desk, and these tears drying on my cheeks. It’s something to work towards. I’ll focus on practical matters like good self-care, and perspective, and this list of chores. I’ll keep the achievements small and achievable. I’ll let the emotional weather pass like clouds. I’ll work on keeping my expectations of myself, and of the day, quite manageable, and reality check my assumptions regularly. It’s not “everything” (what is?), but it’s a starting point, and it’s within reach, and looking over the commitments with care, it looks both reasonable and emotionally healthy. That’ll have to be enough today.

My Traveling Partner looks in on me. He says kind words. He has a kind face and a concerned look. We connect gently, carefully, seeking to ease the emotional hurts, reduce the stress. He tells me that spiders have invaded the house during the night. I say I’ll make a point to vacuum with care and do my best to make our space unwelcoming for them. The interaction approaches normalcy. It’s something to hold on to. A stepping off point from which to begin again.

My week started out pretty rough. My sleep health wasn’t good. Nightmares (again), and disturbed rest. Flare ups of emotional volatility, partially due to the poor sleep, partially due to “whatever” was driving that. I mean, I’m not unfamiliar with my own issues, I know what’s up. Political and legislative attacks on women’s health care options. Political shenanigans (seriously??) regarding basic good sense medical care during a pandemic (the heights of ignorance are astonishing). I’ll admit I’m offended that medicine, medical care, or the healthcare system are politicized in the way that they are. (Although, just being real here, I’m also offended that those are “for profit” industries, too.) Then, on top of the stressors this background crap presents, we’ve got people objecting to ending our endless war in Afhganistan. What the fuck?? I get it, it’s hard watching those media images of terrified people trying to get out of their country – away from war – against limited time, and limited transportation resources. My PTSD flared up hard. Rough. I don’t really want or need to deep dive the details; ruminating on the start of a downward spiral is not especially helpful (for me, now).

I’m okay right now. Yesterday was pleasant, too, and Thursday was better than Tuesday, so… “nothing to see here”. 🙂

The “downward spiral” of a flare-up of a mental health condition isn’t new for folks who deal with it. It’s frustrating. Terrifying. Causes a deep sense of futility and despair. All the work to heal… all the therapy… the expense… the effort… and then… still human. Still capable of suffering. Still wounded. Still struggling. It’s hard. It’s also super real. Are you in it? Sliding down? Scrambling for any possible hand-hold to slow the progression downward? I feel that. I see you.

This time was better, for me. I didn’t slide as far as fast. I didn’t get mired in my own bullshit, blinded and deafened to anything else. I was able to ask for – and accept – help. I was more clear, with my words, about what I was going through, and be more open. I was able to stall the slide – which still kind of wows me, sitting here this morning, with my coffee and my contentment. I’m pleased to acknowledge the very real progress I’ve made that I could not see, sense, or appreciate on Tuesday. Was it Tuesday? Monday? Earlier this week. 🙂

My Traveling Partner was taken by surprise by my flare up. He was a support super star, after the initial chaos rocked him off center. I not only stayed open to being supported – which was hard for me – he also stayed committed to supporting me. I know that couldn’t be easy. Apologies were exchanged, where appropriate, and the love we wrapped each other in was authentic, and deep and abiding.

I guess I’m just saying… don’t just give in to the slide down. Breathe. Take a nap. Drink enough water. Handle your self-care. Walk in the sun. Take a day off work. Get some exercise. Let it pass – it will, eventually, but let that happen. Don’t hang on to the pain and the chaos. Distract yourself from your ancient pain, don’t just sit there picking at the scabs. I mean… I’m no expert, I’m just saying, you have options. 🙂

You’re stronger than you know. You’ve been through a lot. You’ve got this. Begin again. ❤

The path ahead in life often isn’t all that clear. From one day to the next, it can very much feel like forward momentum is unpredictable, chaotic, and fraught with unexpected trail hazards, literal pitfalls, and lacking a map, shit gets… complicated. Practicing healthy practices, particularly those associated with mindfulness, and good self-care, definitely help keep me on the path, but it’s still a journey without a map.

…How do I get from wandering (with purpose) to… orienteering?

I found myself thinking over what kinds of small things motivate me most – those little personal celebrations of milestones and goals achieved that serve to bolster my resolve – and support my resilience. I think about diet and exercise. I think about staying on track to meet various personal and professional goals. I consider meaning, purpose, intention, and will.

The path ahead isn’t always obvious.

Two nights in a row of relatively poor sleep. Brain grinding away on whatever it can’t let go of until the next day. Nightmares (war… pandemic… civil unrest… it’s all a bit much, and it’s finally hit my sleep). Funny thing is, somehow, I’m managing to make use of the chaos and anxiety to prompt some needed self-reflection, and re-assess some values, some goals, some ways of getting from points A to points B, and beyond.

It’s gotten me more serious about healthy exercise, again. I’ve resumed daily walks with more enthusiasm and real joy, and found some fun in my dumb bell workout and step exercises. Honestly? I’d like to be around, and healthy, a long time – and spend that with my Traveling Partner in good health and good cheer. 🙂 I found an exercise challenge app I like, and that’s helpful for a bit of “gamification” to motivate me further. (I’m not linking it, because I haven’t used it long enough to endorse it.) This is something that works for me, at least during an initial “habit building/rebuilding” process. 🙂

…Also… why would I not choose an opportunity to have some fun, at all? Fun is good, right? Joy? Also good, yeah? I’m not feeling like dragging around more misery, or punishing myself for not being good enough to clear some high hurdle I stupidly set for myself. lol I just want to enjoy a sunny day, some fresh air, and the flowers along the way. 🙂 Isn’t that enough to be something worth doing? 😀

Apps come and go. Fitness trackers, too, wax and wane in popularity nearly as often as the moon phases change. I find it rather obviously okay to change with the changing times, and with the changing tools. Change is a thing. People know about it. 😉

Anyway… it’s a lovely day to begin again, to make a choose, to course correct, to choose a new path… to turn the page.

Ask the questions. Do the verbs.

You are your own cartographer. You get to write your own map. Your results may vary – but they’re yours. ❤ Maybe it’s time to begin again?