Archives for posts with tag: anxiety

I woke a bit early. Not early enough to go back to sleep. I got up.

I dithered a bit with my morning routine. One thing at a time. Got through it. Great. Fine. Necessary. Completed.

I sat down, eventually, with my coffee. It’s been awhile. Mostly just… sitting quietly. Scrolling. Done with that, too. Bored? No. Ennui? Not that either.

Anxiety.

Just garden variety anxiety on a Wednesday morning, without specific context or cause. It is the nature of an anxiety disorder, of any sort, really, to deliver some anxiety, however “well-managed”, now and then. Must be my morning for it.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

It’s been with me awhile. “All my life” does not feel like an exaggeration. I take it much less seriously these days, seeing it for the fraud it actually is, and managing its presence more skillfully than I once could. Still… annoying to deal with, every time… and dealing with it is non-negotiable. Deal with it, or fall apart. Deal with it, or break down. Deal with it, or lose my shit completely in some very inconvenient or problematic way. Deal with it – or deal with the consequences of failing to do so. Fuck anxiety.

I don’t need to troubleshoot my anxiety. It’s got a familiar face; work, life, money, “the world”…  I’m real with myself about it. There’s more anxiety about more things than is entirely reasonable (it’s a scary fucking world right now, frankly, being a little anxious seems pretty damned reasonable). I take a deep breath and let myself relax each time I notice it surging forward, bubbling up from my consciousness to become part of my immediate awareness; it helps. It helps, too, not to deceive myself or play soothing mind-games to try to wish it away. I examine what seems to be driving my anxiety. I consider those things with care. Real? Exaggerated? Imagined? Sometimes anxiety is pretty legit, and functions to hold my focus on some concerning detail, until I take an appropriate action. Sometimes anxiety is just… wasted emotion. A reaction without a cause worth acting on. Disordered thinking. Sometimes, of all the irritating things, it is not anxiety at all – sometimes I have conflated the physical experience of excitement with the physical experience of anxiety, and don’t yet realize I’m just excited about something, and could enjoy that moment of anticipation much more, if I stop defining it as anxiety.

I breathe. Relax. Let it go. I let it all go. This thing over here? I let that go. That thing over there? Yep. That, too, I let it go. Another breath. Another concern. Another moment to let shit go. It’s a practice, and it requires practicing, and that means verbs, and that means choices, and that means… working at it.

Still.

So, yeah. Mindfulness is enormously helpful with managing my anxiety. It’s not a “cure”. It’s a tool, and a way of experiencing life, that can be very helpful. I feel much better when I maintain a rigorous meditation practice than when I don’t. I feel much better when I am able to maintain exceptional sleep hygiene, than when I don’t. I feel much better when I am open, authentic, vulnerable, and real with myself – and others – than when I am not. I feel much better when I get out of the house, get plenty of healthy exercise, and a good measure of both social and solo time. It’s not some one practice that eases my anxiety; it’s practicing the ones that work best for me in a consistent way.

Sometimes I fail.

Sometimes I succeed.

I just keep practicing.

It’s one of the challenges of achieving mental and emotional wellness; the work is on my end. I have to do the verbs. I’m going to be the one practicing the practices to improve my own experience. It’s my journey, built on my choices. Incremental change over time is fucking slow as hell, and can be incredibly discouraging; I still have PTSD, a TBI, a broken back, and a very human experience. All the improvement in my experience of self and life I could ever imagine will not change those things. No cure. Just practice, growth, and incremental change over time. 🙂

Sure. I’m anxious this morning. I have an anxiety disorder. I also, unrelated but metaphorically relevant, have a thyroid that failed years ago. I take medication for it, and go on with living my life. Anxiety isn’t really a lot different; I’ve got some fail sauce and messed up wiring in my emotional experience; I practice meditation, breathing, and other assorted practices for that, and go on with living my life. If my thyroid medication doesn’t work ideally well, I go back to my physician, and we make changes. If my anxiety flares up, I go back to my practices (and, in some cases, also back to my therapist), and make changes. “Easy”. (It isn’t, but it is generally adequate.)

I breathe. Relax. Run my writing through a spellcheck (which will reliably miss at least one error, regardless). Hit publish…

…And begin the day. It’s a whole new one, all my own. Fuck anxiety.

Damn. Fuck this week. Already. Shit.

I say “this week”, but in all reasonable ways, and well-considered perspectives, this has been building slowly, event by event, detail by detail, day by day, and stitched together by threads of good intentions, affection, kindness, and commitments. I’m still having some moments of major anxiety as delicately balanced circumstances teeter on the edge of not going very well at all, which is stressful on a level I don’t recall feeling in a long time. It’s hard.

…Every new responsibility adds to the burden.

…Every new need piles on still more to a growing list of shit to do.

…Every new moment of stress dials up the intensity of the anxiety in the background.

…Every day… each moment… add another… then another… now one more… still standing? Here, have a little more extra… and more… and again… and still… and even… and then… and now… wait…what?? No time for questions – go go go!!

I caught myself “screaming into the void” on the commute home – a solo rant, with some ferocity, something on the order of a spoken word performance, or poetry, only much less pleasant. lol Not tearful, not exactly frustrated – just mad… about feeling anxious. Mad about feeling ill-equipped to be fully adult, even now. Mad at circumstances that could be just the tiniest bit better and end up quite splendid. Angry just to feel these ancient-seeming feelings of “shouldering the load” again. It’s not any one thing. It’s not any one individual. It’s not specifically work or specifically personal. It’s not lacking in context. I’m not “in it alone”. I’m just one human, having this human moment of mine, myself, and really feeling it. Which is… uncomfortable.

Mid-rant I remembered something I have been finding important; I don’t grow much through experiences that are comfortable, or reliably pleasant, or completely planned and predictable… or easy. That’s just real. Ease does not correlate with personal growth. That thought shut me down completely for a moment. I even stopped being so aggravated by that ludicrously slow driver ahead of me (15 in a 25 – one lane, no passing room) maintaining easily 3 car lengths of distance from the car ahead… during the evening rush hour commute… down a road with intersections more frequently than every quarter mile… with bumper-to-bumper traffic behind him for many blocks (I could see when I got a good view from the top of the hill in my review mirror). Yep. Even that stopped bugging me in the moment that I realized I’d been handed something precious – discomfort, anxiety, and a chance to work through those things and grow.

I’m pretty committed to my personal growth as a human being – I don’t know how much time I’ve got to complete this project, really, and I’d like to get as far along as I can toward being the human being I most want to be. It’s a real and true thing, that “doing better than I did yesterday” is a bit more complicated if the days roll by so gently that what I feel most of the time is delicious simple contentment, wrapped in the affection and high regard of those who hold me dear. I can choose change, but I won’t kid you; I’m not likely to choose to be uncomfortable, stressed out, anxious, fearful, worried, nervous, or in dread of what comes next out of this craze-tacular fun house of chaos and human drama. I like it easy.

Well it doesn’t feel fucking easy right about now. I’m having to bring a lot of attention to maintaining good self-care practices in the face of a lot more stress than has been commonplace for a couple years now. I’m having to skillfully practice “letting shit go” when holding on to it only creates more stress, and has no productive outcome. I’m having to really search for perspective, really work to find balance, and really practice the practices that have brought me so far in such a short time – as if failing to do so could send me crashing into a pit of despair (which it easily could). So many verbs. So little time. 😉

Tonight I’m not doing beginnings – just practicing. 😉

…A soft autumn rain begins to fall beyond the open window. I chat a bit with my Traveling Partner. The scent of petrichor wafts into the room, filling the space with fragrant reminders that this too will pass. Summer is ending. The tightness in my chest and shoulders begins to diminish. My breathing becomes deeper as a smile starts to transform my face. I’m okay right now. I let my thoughts glide over my day gently, finding a kinder truth in tense moments that are now behind me. I listen deeply to my internal dialogue, pointing myself to a compassionate path, reconsidering human beings in the context of their humanity. Reminding myself to assume positive intent, each time I note that perhaps I had not done so. I take time, too, for gratitude; a lot of people came through for me today, in so many small ways. My smile feels pretty steady, and I feel pretty much at ease; the anxiety in the background is subtle now, less a plague and more a pimple. (…Maybe if I don’t fuck with it, it will clear up on its own?)

I listen to the traffic go by outside. The house is very near to the street, and the walls don’t keep out much noise. Right now it isn’t bothering me; I am aware of the open window. That makes a difference to me for some reason. The noise doesn’t matter. The smile matters more. This gentle moment matters more. Taking a little time to enjoy the moment matters more. Following through on moments and smiles may not save the world, but right now, in this moment, it’s enough. 🙂

The last day or two have been strangely filled with the sound of breaking habits and routines. Again this morning, coffee holds no appeal. I have chai tea instead. With almond milk. My shower is cool, almost cold, and I take it before I do much of anything else, instead of after yoga or dumbbells. I put my shoes on as soon as I got dressed, instead of just before I leave. My TBI seems to be “whispering at me” through the fatigue and distractions; habits breaking everywhere, because that’s what does seem to happen with me under these circumstances.

I whisper back to the woman in the mirror, “keep it together, you’ve got this – now wear is your work badge, and why is it not hanging on the hook where it belongs? damn.” So human.

I remind myself to “stay on the path”. I go through the motions of the other usual morning things, check the clock, notice it is almost time to leave for work (already??) and I hadn’t written a word, or even scrolled through my feed (who are you??). It’s okay. It’s just my version of spontaneity. LOL I’m fine, just… a bit stressed, managing my anxiety, and living life pulled in more directions than I typically prefer. I take a healthy calming breath, and let it go.

It’s a Friday. Here’s a weekend ahead of me. It’s time to begin again.

The School of Life doesn’t have a rigid test schedule that is easy to plan ahead for. Cheating is just about impossible. All the tests are entirely open book, and generally really fucking hard. There’s no curve to be graded on; each test, each question, each student stands alone in judgment, generally the internal self-inflicted judgment is most intense. The grading system is mysterious, flexible, and grades can change even in the past; we become what we practice, and the result is that context, meaning, understanding, and perspective over time can all change as we become someone we weren’t at some other, earlier point.

I’m just saying, the tests are hard.

It’s test time. Maybe it sort of always is, but I’m feeling it more this week. My anxiety comes and goes, and it is both unwelcome, and unsurprising. Happily, I’m also not extraordinarily tense about the anxiety itself, an experience which can really add a lot of additional anxiety to the anxiety that is more about the anxiety itself than whatever I may think I’m anxious about. It’s not helpful to have to sort all that out, but it can be majorly helpful to make the attempt to do so. No pressure… time is passing… what, it’s still there?? I chuckle over my coffee in spite of the mild persistent tension of the anxiety in the background. Shit gets real sometimes.

When a fresh wave of anxiety tightens the pit of my stomach, pulls me over my keyboard, pushes my shoulders high, and makes my chest tighten, I push back gently, raising myself up full erect on my spine, breathing deeply, letting my shoulders relax again. Another breath, reminding myself these sensations are only that, this emotion just a momentary experience – emotional weather. Another breath, “this too will pass”. The sounds of traffic and tinnitus mix with the sound of my very even breathing. Another slow even deep breath, the knot in my stomach begins to unwind.

I keep at it for a few minutes (in this instance, about 6 and a half minutes, actually), until the wave of tension and worry passes over me, and recedes. If yesterday is any predictor, it’ll come and go rather more frequently than usual today, not attached to much of anything, besides the general every day stress of managing expenses, change, and adulthood. I’m okay right now. There’s nothing much “wrong”, really. The comfortable awareness of this reassures and soothes me, and I return to sipping my coffee and writing.

Have a flower. It can be helpful to take time for beauty. I’m a fan of pausing for flowers. 🙂

Some of the most stressful things in life are made far worse by our way of treating ourselves, and this one piece of living life skillfully is so very much within our own control, it’s hard to imagine not to at least give improving those skills a try. It’s been a good strategy for me – admittedly, it’s also a lot of work, and self-awareness, and failing, and learning, and getting things wrong, and owning my own poor choices, or behavior, and change, and practice, and… yeah. It’s a commitment to self that rivals any commitment I could ever consider making to another person. I try my best not to let myself down, and when I do let myself down, I try my best to move forward having learned something from the experience.

I’m so human. There’s no “cure” for my head injury, or for my PTSD, and so… this human experience. Very human. Ups, downs, all the things. This week? Anxiety. I’m not mad about it, just saying; I go through it. It used to be worse and more often. It is mostly manageable, most of the time, now. That’s more than something – it’s enough. Truly.

Ah, yes, there it is again, surging up from a ball of background stress and fear lodged in my gut; anxiety. As it begins to grow large and fill my consciousness, I return my attention to my breathing, and make a point of letting it go, again. I shrug in the silence. I can do this all day. All week. All of the rest of my life if necessary. It’s far better than becoming mired in the feeling of anxiety, frankly. I’d rather practice the practices that dial it back. Yes, of course, there are verbs involved; I have to do the things that help. Just thinking about them won’t do it. Bitching about the anxiety, by itself, is also not effective – although it can be enough distraction to break the cycle, so I can’t say “don’t bitch about anxiety”. lol Sometimes that really does work, too.

Art, puzzles, an intellectual distraction of some kind, these are things that can also help reduce anxiety.

Funny thing; the anxiety does not really want me to focus on my breathing or other self-soothing practices at all. It would far prefer that I try to troubleshoot why I feel anxious, as if deep-diving those details and attempting to fix all that would resolve the anxiety. It might. It might not. Anxiety is its own thing, and it’s a bit of a mistake to fuse it with some narrative about “why” that I’ve built up in my head. Instead, addressing the anxiety itself, from the perspective of being an experience built on some specific sensations and emotions, and accepting that it may not be so directly connected to a “why” at all, tends to be most effective. It doesn’t actually matter whether I’m “anxious for a reason” – the anxiety doesn’t care about that at all, and makes shit up on the regular for me to stress “about”. lol I’m not falling for that bullshit anymore. 😉

It is a short work week. I’m missing my Traveling Partner. Anxiety is currently part of my experience. I’m physically fairly comfortable at the moment. My coffee is almost gone. These are all equally true observations of my subjective experience. One human. One experience. Tons of choices.

I take a deep breath and relax, and choose to begin again. 🙂

I didn’t sleep well. The alarm was an unwelcome interruption of what little sleep I did manage to get. I woke groggy and irritable. Well, shit. It’s a work day, and I’m facing it rather grimly over my morning coffee. It’s only Tuesday. I sigh, and sip my coffee.

Mornings like this one are hard sometimes. Really waking up. Hard. Managing my emotional balance. Hard. Maintaining a pleasant office-appropriate demeanor. Hard. All of it still at the top of my list of shit that needs to get done today. lol

I continue drinking my coffee, and I give some thought to the resources available to me to get through the day, and get all the things done… Well… I’ve got coffee. That’s something. I can start there. The warm cup in my hands is soothing, pleasant, and I savor the sensation. It’s even a good cup of coffee. The environment here is lovely. Quiet. Tidy. Something to look forward to coming back to. I can make it an early night if I choose. I can bring a healthy lunch to the office and practice good self-care, fairly easily. Doing so will insulate my fatigued self from potential missteps through the day.

I wake up, slowly, and as I do, I feel less unprepared for my feeling of fatigue, more able to cope with it. It’s a good beginning. Another cup of coffee, and I will be ready for the drive, too.

I smile. Finish this cup of coffee, and get ready to begin again. 🙂