Archives for posts with tag: anxiety

It was a lovely weekend at home. We had a bit of a snow shower yesterday, and enjoyed a quiet day at home celebrating my Traveling Partner’s birthday; one more of the “winter holidays” to enjoy. πŸ˜€ We had a delicious stir-fry for dinner (one of his favorites; bell peppers and beef), and for dessert pumpkin pie (at his request). We hung out, enjoyed each other, and watched the snow fall most of the day, although it didn’t stick much at our altitude, and was gone as the late afternoon “warmth” was enough to turn it all to rain (and mud). I baked shortbread cookies in the afternoon, while my partner tinkered in his shop.

The first snow this year, here.

This morning, my day started quite gently and pleasantly. Good coffee. Quiet lo-fi on the stereo. I’d been up for hours when my Traveling Partner woke. He let me know he did not sleep well. He seems cross and quite out-of-sorts with the world, at least for now, and says he did not sleep well. I offer my sympathy and an expression of regret, as I head to my studio (where I generally write, and turn my attention inward, seeking – if nothing else – to avoid “poking the bear”, and hoping to give my partner some quiet time in which to fully wake up and get his shit together).

My writing is interrupted by my Traveling Partner, who is still feeling cross and annoyed to have slept so poorly. He asks me in an aggravated tone to check my oxygen (using the pulse oximeter feature on my phone). At 99% it’s better than usual, and my attentive upright posture at my desk is intended to support good breathing and also help minimize the pain I’m in. He didn’t ask that question, and yes, I’m in enough pain this morning to have taken an Rx for that almost first thing. I have little enthusiasm for dealing with relationship stress stemming from my pain and his lack of sleep this morning. My solution to the challenges of the morning? Get the hell out of the house, taking my laptop over to the co-work space I generally work from on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s a location suited to writing and there’s plenty of coffee available, too.

My arthritis pain this morning is a big contributor to why I chose to simply, quickly, and without fuss get the fuck out of the house as soon as I could; I can manage my pain and my anxiety, but I’m not likely to be easily able to also “manage” (meaning support or account for) his today, too. Seemed the wiser choice to just get the hell out of each other’s way for a while. For sure my writing does not benefit from nagging or vexed interruptions, and neither does my temperament.

…Damn, though… the coffee is so much better at home. LOL

…Yeah, this coffee is so bad it is distracting. LOL Fuck office coffee. LOL

My partner pings me to let me know he misses me. Also to ask about my recent lab results. I take a look, and find myself almost immediately stymied by the VA’s health website. Nothing unusual; their technology and user interface is not exactly state-of-the-art. Funny thing, though; even this small change to my medication (I’m already calling my beta blocker my “chill pill”) has noticeable results even with small day-to-day frustrations. My partner’s morning grumpiness? Not so big a deal – I’ll just get out of his way while he wakes up. No problem. Can’t log into this website or that tool? Meh. I’m over it already and it’s fine; I’ll just do something else and try again later. Not a big deal. Only… these are precisely the sorts of everyday challenges that could upend my entire experience and send me spinning off course, so easily! No tears this morning. No tantrums. Just… moments. Nice change. πŸ™‚ It’s not “everything”, but it’s something – and that’s enough. One step at a time. Incremental improvements will add up. πŸ˜€

I sip my coffee and think about the holidays. The tree is up. There are holiday lights on the mantelpiece. There is a Giftmas pudding awaiting its moment. Holiday cards have been sent. The first snowflakes have fallen. Thanksgiving and my Traveling Partner’s birthday are both behind us. There’s no great pressure on the Yule holiday-to-come; we plan for it to be a moment on the calendar, enjoyed warmly, wrapped in love, and characterized more by the festive morsels and holiday cookies than any great number of gifts. We’re focused on other things this year. There will be some small budget for gift-giving, but more of a token of the holiday than a prominent feature is what we’ve discussed. πŸ™‚ I’m even (more than) okay with that. It’s where we are right now.

Giftmas glow. Glad tidings. Happy Home.

I sit for some minutes more. I breathe in and take stock of how I feel. I breathe out and let go of lingering anxiety. I repeat this several times, slightly different iterations with each breath. I breathe in and feel a sense of place within my body. I breathe out and let go of tension I feel in my shoulders, in my back. I breathe in and listen to the quiet of this office place. I breathe out and feel my contentment spread. In. Then out. Just breathing. I “pause” (not the breathing, just the focus on it) to write every now and then. A paragraph. A sentence. A thought. I add a link. I add an image. I look the whole mess over. I resume my observations and my breathing exercise. Back and forth. Breathing. Sipping coffee. Writing. I feel my body and my mind begin to “meet in the middle” feeling more contented and relaxed as I proceed. This is what I was working on when I started the morning. It’s nice to find my way back and “finish what I was doing”.

…It would be nice if the weather were sufficiently pleasant and mild to get a good long walk in…

I think about the day ahead. It’s a day off, although it is a Monday. This feels very luxurious to me. Any time I take a Monday off, specifically, it feels so luxurious. πŸ˜€ I’ve a small number of things on my to-do list today – some laundry (just putting clean stuff away), and some tidying up. It’s planned to be a very relaxed day. I hope I succeed there. πŸ™‚ Maybe I’ll bake more holiday cookies…? Maybe I’ll read, or study, or paint…?

I’ve already used one “do over” this morning – it’s good to get comfortable with embracing new beginnings. Useful tool in a chaotic world. Already time to begin again. πŸ˜€

There are so many tea-related metaphors. I’m more of a coffee drinker, frankly, which you probably know if you’ve read more than one or two of my blog posts. I do occasionally drink tea, though…

Proof I do drink tea. Sometimes.

Here’s a thing, though; tea has been around a very long time. It has ancient origins. The idea of having a cup of tea to relax, or as a pick-me-up, or as a shared moment among friends, or a celebratory or thoughtful ritual, is not new. (This is going somewhere…)

…I mean…damn. Have some tea. Think about how that connects you to your ancestors – and the world!

Life has been “busy”. My anxiety has pushed me back into therapy, because although I worked a long time to manage my anxiety generally (in the face of trauma, stress, and emotional pain), I haven’t actually done much to deal with my anxiety in the face of … success and contentment and a pretty good life. Turns out, that also massively aggravates my anxiety! Fuck. Seriously? Well, shit.

Even a lovely colorful pleasant life rich in love and joy can be a source of stress.

One of the things I had talked over with my therapist is this idea that I feel unprepared for things to go well, and as if I am constantly vigilant, waiting for “the other shoe to drop”, which is a weird source of anxiety, seems to me. I also gave voice to my frustration that I’m struggling to stay on track with my meditation practice – in spite of my awareness and direct experience that it is profoundly helpful for managing my anxiety. How is that even fair? lol

All through the summer, I explored area parks and nature areas with my camera. Thinking, walking, taking pictures of flowers, trees, and birds.

I zoomed in close-up to examine small details.

I developed favorite spots as the weeks passed. I switched up my routine to put me out on the trail with my camera almost every morning for a hour or so before work. It did a lot to inspire, soothe, and entertain me. It met real creative needs that I’d been struggling to meet well for rather a long while. I still do it most days, even though the sun rise is (much) later. I start my work day later, too, and stay closer to home on work mornings (saving the further away spots for weekend mornings). I’m grateful that I can.

Just this morning, at dawn, I had a realization…

I think I’ve been “getting too close” to the issue at hand, and as a result failing to find a thread that connects some of it in a useful way, with other things that are also going on with or around me…

It’s easy to get too close to something, and miss the important details I’d easily see if I took a step back.

I drink a lot of coffee in the mornings. I often write in the mornings. I do camera walks in the mornings. I feel fresh and wide-open to possibilities in the morning. Once my two coffees for the day are over, I’m generally pretty well wrapped up in work, or moving on with a list of things that need doing, or errands that want running. By nightfall, I’m exhausted, irritable, in pain, and struggling to find emotional balance. There’s a lot of time between the end of that second coffee and the end of my typical day. I’m going to start stopping for a cup of tea in the afternoon. πŸ™‚ An easy moment from which to begin again, to reset, to reconsider, to reconnect with myself… I plan to make a commonplace ritual of it, as so many people do, and I will seek to be very mindful, and deliberate, and take advantage of the break in my routine each day to really pause, reflect, and appreciate my circumstances.

…If nothing else, it will use up the tea in my cupboards, and give me a reason to use the tea cups in my porcelain collection. Delightful. Self-reflection, a break in the afternoon, and delight?? Sign me up. (Oh, wait, I already did…) A new practice. Sometimes it takes a bit of new along with the routine to find my way along the path. Something with which to begin again. πŸ™‚

I am sipping iced coffee from a can, listening to a song that suggests I have some tea. Of these two juxtaposed experiences, the music is by far the better choice of the two. lol This is a thing to know about choices; the results vary. I still got to choose. πŸ™‚

I woke early. Too early. Early enough to leave the house (early) and miss the morning commuter traffic into the city. It’s a Wednesday. I go in to the actual office each Wednesday. This, too, is a choice I make. Funny thing about choices; they feel different from circumstances that are imposed upon me. That commuter traffic? Dense and unpleasant and very stressful – if I have to endure it. Interesting to me is how much less stress I feel over commuter traffic going into the office once a week by choice. I shrug it off. I take my time. I relax and comfortably remind myself there is no hurry. I plan my evening around the longer commute time, and come home with take-out, or run an errand on the way. This morning, the lack of traffic at that early hour was a lovely change, so much so that the drenching downpour along the way did nothing to add stress to the drive (though it often would). Just a woman driving a car in the pre-dawn darkness on a rainy morning. Nothing to see here.

…When commuting is forced on me as a requirement of my employment, the seemingly endless hassles of the traffic, shitty drivers, and time pressure mount up day by day, worsening as each week progresses, becoming a thing to dread, and a source of lingering background stress, anxiety, and disappointment in my fellow human beings (some of whom clearly ought not be licensed to drive at all, based on what I’ve seen on the roads). It’s one of the things that nudged me in the direction of working remotely; that commuter traffic was a massive looming source of ongoing stress that I could choose to avoid.

So. I’m in the office early. I am alone – first in. I make coffee for folks who will arrive shortly. I grab “a cold one” – canned coffee – from the fridge in the break area. I sit down to write, feeling relaxed and comfortable. It’s a pleasant start to the day. I’m sufficiently relaxed to think about anxiety. LOL I give myself a moment with that thought.

A coworker’s heavy fragrance – classic, French, expensive – arrives seconds ahead of the sound of conversation, as she enters the work area with a colleague. The smell of rain follows them from the elevator. I feel a moment of appreciation and gratitude; the restroom is down that way near the elevators, also – the results could be much less pleasant than perfume and petrichor. LOL We all exchange smiles and greetings, and the morning feels merry as the presence of colleagues signals the start of the work day.

It’s time to begin again. πŸ™‚

Oh my god this day. It’s hard to bitch… good job. I’m enjoying it. Great partnership. I’m super in love with that guy. Lovely little house just outside a small town. I love it here. All the practical details of an amazing and comfortable life are in place. In spite of that, this morning, I absolutely melted down over the dumbest shit, and wrecked my day in a stew of tears and drama. My mental health wellness is at risk because it is not as well-managed and supported as it could be. Part of that is in my hands; I needed to return to therapy, but I delayed that because I figured I was “honestly fine”. Compounding that, I moved to a new community (what, two years ago now? ffs) and haven’t yet found new healthcare providers. So… yeah. My therapist impressed upon me that he’d like me to consider giving medication another try for my anxiety. (I see his point, and my Traveling Partner’s as well.) So… sure, but… he’s a PhD and can’t prescribe, so I need a clinician who does to partner with him. Someone more local, perhaps? Fuck-fuck-fuck…

…Today I may have finally found someone…

My whole day today has been a weird series of otherwise-welcome interruptions of various sorts from various people for various purposes. None of them especially urgent. All of them important enough to want to support or respond to immediately… which starts setting up cascading conflicts in my priorities, and quickly destroyed my bandwidth with the buckshot of “pings”. Email. Slack. Calls. Text messages. Errands. My to-do list. “Quick questions.” It was peculiar that it was so quickly “too much for me”… I think I slept well..? My self-care hasn’t been horrible… but I also don’t feel like I’ve truly been caring for myself, so… yeah. I finally disintegrated into tears and just let that be what it was for awhile. I know it passes… eventually.

My headache is… a headache. Worse from crying. I feel “low” – the chemical aftermath of that emotional storm may last a bit longer. My back aches. I got enough done to feel productive. Even took time to get my nails done. I feel drained, though, and tired. Disengaged. Moody. I’d call it “hormones” – but theoretically I’m well passed all that!

I “don’t know” what to do now… a shower? A nap? More coffee? Do a thing? I feel distracted and pulled into separate pieces of consciousness and getting my shit together right now is like herding kittens (only less cute). Fuck.

…I’m okay, though. Truly. For most values of “okay” I’m not only okay, I’m living a good life in a good place surrounded by love and all is well. The only messy bit is this fucking emotional construction zone in my head and I’m getting fed up with the constant fucking remodeling (to stretch the analogy way too far). I know I need to begin again, I’m just too annoyed to do that – at least for the moment.

I’ll get there soon enough, I just need to practice some practices and stay on the path. Sometimes there are stairs to climb. Sometimes it rains.

It’s a journey with a lot of stairs to climb…

It’s early evening. Or… late afternoon. I guess it depends on how you count the hours, and when you dine – or end the day. This once, let’s agree it is early evening, though the twilight before nightfall is quite a way off still. I am sipping a glass of ice water after a leisurely soak in the hot tub, and some yoga to ease tense muscles. I am thirsty, and almost peculiarly I am not completely worn out beyond usefulness, which is a nice change of pace for this time of day. It’s been a pleasantly productive day of work, and I’ve managed to be genial, relaxed, and content all day. I have not burdened myself with the additional stress of self-imposed ridiculous deadlines or “production goals”, nor worn myself thin with too many “yes” answers and not enough “no” answers. I have enough left in me to write, and likely even to prepare a meal later. What did I do differently…?

Let me count the ways I did things differently today, and the things I tried:

  1. I gave myself a lovely few minutes before ever beginning work to reflect quietly on the day ahead, and give some thought to what I hoped to get done – and to realistically plan ahead the things I probably would not get to, without giving myself any shit over it, or making any excuses.
  2. I focused on, and completed, the few specific tasks I had committed to, and having left myself some room to do so, I was able to pick up a handful of other helpful things and get those done without any pressure to do so, nor any sense of failure if I did not.
  3. I took real breaks, and made a point to walk away from work – the way I often recommend to other people, and often fail to do for myself.
  4. I had real conversations with real humans, and during those conversations I focused on that human I was speaking with, and really listened to what they were saying. (Doing this, and getting it right, was the most difficult thing I did today!!)
  5. I took care of myself when I got home from work… yoga, a hot shower, a soak in the hot tub, and this quiet time spent writing, all fill that requirement.
  6. I did some site maintenance on my blog that I’d been putting off and feeling crappy about.
  7. I updated my to-do list without rushing to do any of it just yet.
  8. Each time I experienced a moment of anxiety, I gave that feeling a minute of my attention, and some self-compassion. I paused long enough to practice self-soothing, and to consider what might really be driving that moment of anxiety, without judgment or shame. I even learned some things by doing so.

Not bad. In fact… (I feel) pretty good. I’m pleased by this feeling of being settled and centered, at the end of a work day. It’s a good feeling. Comfortable.

β€œAnxiety” 10β€³ x 14β€³ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

…My anxiety surges as if on cue. I’m okay. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I look it in the face – “why now?” Probably simply that success (on this issue) is a little scary, itself. I’ve struggled with anxiety for so long, it is a little… weird… to contemplate who I am without it. That seems very human, and acknowledging both the emotions/sensations and the humanity of it, I feel myself relax again. Less anxious. Good deal.

Perspective matters. “Emotion and Reason” acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow 2012

I see my therapist Wednesday. Our first in-person appointment since before the pandemic. Wow. Milestone.

My Traveling Partner sticks his head in for a moment. “How’s your writing?” he asks, pleasantly. No stress between us. This also feels very good. My anxiety fucks both of us up. lol I gesture vaguely at the screen, “I’m writing about anxiety, things I’m doing differently to handle it, stuff we were talking about…” He nods looking serious and hopeful, “That’s promising…” he says (or words very like that – I may already have forgotten precisely what he said).

…It’s time to begin again.

Staying on the path is a choice, and there are verbs involved.