Archives for posts with tag: anxiety is a liar

Yeah. Still a thing. Still so human. I woke anxious at 2:41 a.m. I got up at 3:00 for a few minutes to deal with it, when turning over and calming my breathing wasn’t sufficient to soothe me. I went back to bed a few minutes later. I woke with the alarm, less anxious. It’s still lurking there in the background waiting to be taken more seriously. Ideally, I don’t plan to give it much thought, this morning; there’s nothing “wrong” over which anxiety could gain some legitimacy.

I’ll just say this bluntly; this is advanced anxiety management, and I could not have managed it in this fashion a few years ago. It’s not that I’m “ignoring it”, quite the contrary, I’m very aware that the sensations are there, and those are quite physical, but, and this is an important thing, because there really isn’t anything particular to be anxious about, I am mostly able, at this point, after years of practice and work at this specific thing, I am mostly able to relegate the experience firmly to the realm of “weird physical sensations that don’t mean much” and let it go. Mostly. I’m more than typically vulnerable to stress real-time, though, and that’s something to be mindful of as I go through my day. I treat myself gently, and a bit as if I am “already triggered”, just to stay alert for unexpected losses of perspective or emotional balance as I go through my day.

I sip my iced coffee. I breathe. I practice good self-care. I consider the day ahead. I look forward to the weekend. Oh – there it is. Am I anxious about the flight? I rarely travel by air, and it’s been rather a while since I have. I’m pretty human. lol Novelty isn’t especially comfortable for me. Crowded airport spaces are noisy, and filled with stimulus. I’m easily overwhelmed by it. I breathe. I pause to remember the real joy and excitement of waiting for my grandfather in airports when I was small. I feel a smile tugging at my face, and the anxiety dissipates. Yeah. Just needed to feel heard. Okay. I got this. 😀

This weekend I’ll be taking my laptop, and possibly writing a bit; it’s a time for self-reflection as I close in on 55. Wow. 55?? How the fuck did that grand age creep up on me, and why is it that it feels so much younger than old? Pretty sure I once thought 55 would be… old. It’s just not, actually. lol I guess I’m glad about that – there’s still so much to do!!

It’s time to get started – I’ve got a list. 😉

Yesterday was rough. Well… no. Sort of. Not really. Well… not entirely. Just there at the end.

It was a great Monday in most respects, actually, and I was looking forward to my afternoon appointment with my therapist (really just a “check-in & catch up” sort of thing, and very much worth looking forward to). Hell, I even got there without any real inconvenience, and found a great parking spot, right away, (in a terrible neighborhood for parking). So far so good.

We sat down together and I started talking. I talked until I was hoarse. The words just kept coming. The clock ran out on our time. (Those hours always seem so much shorter than any other hours on the clock. lol) I left my therapist’s office, and stepped out into the pleasant warmth of a sunny spring afternoon… and into a wall of anxiety. Fuuuuuuuuck. Breeeeathe. Breathe-breathe-breathe-breathe-breathe. Shit. Damn it. I sit for a moment in the car, but this doesn’t much help my anxiety, roasting myself in the heat of the sun-baked car interior, with cars turning the block at regular intervals, seeing me sitting there, and waiting for a moment, hopefully, then driving on looking aggravated. Nope. Not helpful.

I set my GPS to take me home. It wants me to take the freeway – it’s 2 minutes faster than not taking the fucking freeway. I don’t want to deal with rush hour traffic on the freeway, and I’m pretty certain my GPS is being rather optimistic about the drive-ability of that route. I attempt to set my GPS for “no highways” – and can’t find the options. Damn it. I’m started to feel frustrated and rage-y. I’m also already driving. I half follow/half fight my GPS, which is generally a poor choice. Being aware of this frustrates me further, and I finally just shut it off and begin following side streets in the general direction of “east” based on the compass display on the rear view mirror (true thing, works okay-ish-ly), until I reach a fairly direct, more or less major thoroughfare that isn’t a highway, that will also get me home. In fact, after about 20 minutes of struggling with the GPS, I am, actually, on my regular route, some distance down the road from my typical starting point. lol Because my GPS has a human voice, I lecture it sternly about how dissatisfied I am with the experience of the day, crossly noting “I can do a better job of finding my way, generally, without your fucking “help” you bullshit piece of machinery”. I even feel a moment of awkward disappointment with myself to find myself willing to be so callous and cruel-of-tone; it was probably doing its best, more or less.

I am irritated with devices and technology when I finally arrive home, a bit later than usual. I dither awhile, still awash in anxiety and frustration, and feeling also… incredibly tired.

“Baby Love”, a favorite rose in my garden, and a moment of contentment and joy.

Meditation doesn’t ease my anxiety much. Still tired, too. Some dinner? Still anxious. A pleasant, cooling shower? Still anxious. I start going down the list of good basic self-care practices… finally noticing it is 7:00 pm, or a little after. Fuck it. I decide to yield to fatigue and just go to bed, after spending a few minutes in the evening sunlight. Oregon’s winters are sort of long and drizzly and gray. So is Spring. So, too, is Autumn. Vitamin D, precious warming healthy sunlight is a treat in this climate; I linger on the deck, appreciating the first roses blooming, and enjoying the sun. It feels nice. I begin to really relax. My thoughts begin to untangle themselves from the anxiety. Anxiety is a liar. It teases and irritates my consciousness with a very hostile, fearful, view of what may be, and generally with no real basis in fact. It is a poor framework for thought. As the anxiety recedes, my thoughts become more ordered, more useful, and begin to the take the form of plans to get things done that were nagging at me in the background. There are dishes in my sink. Enough to stoke my anxiety by itself, easily remedied on the way to bed, so I am not bothered by them in the morning.

All these practices help. Therapy helps. Taking better care of myself helps. I still have a brain injury – and no amount of meditation changes that. My c-PTSD is still a very real thing – all the practicing of practices I can think to practice doesn’t change a traumatic, haunting, past. There is no “cure” – there is improvement over time. A lot of that. Enough of that to almost feel like… yeah. Hopeful. Positive. Whole. Strong. Contented. All of that and more. Still not a “cure”, and I still have to deal with some shit sometimes… but don’t we all? Incremental change over time is still a thing, and I can still count on it, and it’s still so much better now than it ever was before. Resilience is about bouncing back.

I knew this morning I could so easily begin again. 🙂 I think I’ll do that. It feels good to be so sure I can. 🙂

I woke from a deep sleep to some kind of noise…a persistent sound of some sort…a beeping, or chiming, or… and it wasn’t stopping… Oh. My phone was ringing. Only one number rings through my “Do Not Disturb” settings; my Traveling Partner. I quickly lurch from bed and careen through the apartment, stumbling on shit that doesn’t match my mental map of my apartment; there are stacks of boxes everywhere. I reach the phone and answer it, delighted to hear his voice. No emergency, he’s just back in town and wanted to hear my voice. 🙂 It was a short call, and a quick return to sleep…


Nope. Not sleeping.

…I couldn’t so easily return to sleep.  Just as I was about to drift off my brain decided to attack with a barrage of insecure doubt and anxiety and dread, and oh, just all the things available to keep me laying wakefully for some time. I did eventually return to a restless unsatisfying sleep. Nightmares of loss and loneliness occupied my sleeping mind until the alarm went off.

I woke feeling okay. Feeling thoughtful. Feeling… thought-filled. lol This too will pass. I make a point of reminding myself how pointless rumination is, and that anything of substance that truly needs to be considered will still need to be considered later… after I wake up, after meditation, after my morning coffee, and perhaps even just quite a lot later today – after work. Perspective is helpful. Context matters. Oh, and also – brains make shit up all the damned time. lol My imagination is just as likely to work against me as to delight me. So, I shrug off as much of the weird lingering insecurity, anxiety, and doubt as I am able to, and I push on with the morning.

I have a practice for this one, and although it works, it’s not to be undertaken lightly first thing in the morning by a sleep-addled brain. (I learned that the hard way!) My practice for dealing firmly with insecurity and anxiety is to look my fears in the face without flinching. Seriously – I consider as frankly as I can whatever bundle of fears and bullshit that is freaking me out, and I consider it as if it were simply a given and life is no kidding going to deliver on all of it as if it were a promise. Feeling insecure about my relationship? I consider life without it, no bullshit, no drama – what does that look like? Could I still be okay? What advantages might that bring? Is there a future from that point that may still be quite nice? Does it change who I am? What am I truly afraid of? Is there an opportunity for growth, here? This works for any sort of insecurity, doubt, and anxiety, really. Emotions are powerful. It’s a good idea to choose some moment when it feels truly safe to fully consider my deepest fears. Results vary. Scary, tense, anxious, insecure, doubtful emotions can go sideways so easily, plunging me into real despair… but, all the more reason to learn to face them unafraid of the emotions themselves, and there is so much to learn. They’re still only emotions; getting to know them well, becoming comfortable with emotion, generally, and working to develop a measure of emotional intelligence that supports good quality of life is not only completely achievable, I have found that improving my emotional intelligence improves my interactions with others, too, and sort of “tidies up my thinking”. 🙂

So much of what goes on in our heads is actually completely made up bullshit going on in our heads. 🙂 I am as likely to find my anxiety provoked by things that are delightful, or changes that suit me better than whatever had changed ever could, as I am by things that are legitimately worth being anxious about. Silly primates – given both emotion and reason (which work so nicely together), and yet time and again we keep trying to choose one over the other. lol

I sip my coffee and watch the dawn slowly becoming day. I consider my imminent move. Just two more work shifts before that actually becomes a thing happening in the moment…and one of those work shifts is today. This is happening!! 😀 My conversation with my partner last night opened some opportunities in the context of moving that I hadn’t considered, and although I spent some time wracked with anxiety (because changing plans sometimes causes me anxiety), the opportunities themselves are worth considering fully. Later.

The calm of the morning develops like a Polaroid. I feel settled and secure, and focused on changes that meet my needs over time. I feel content. I feel loved. Fears and doubts fade away as the sky lightens, and anything that lingers to day’s end can be fully considered at some later point, in a comfortable, practical way.

It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I woke slowly, resisting the end of the night as long as I could. I felt comfortable, content, and rested – I just didn’t want to wake up quite then, although I could see dawn was imminent by the lightness of the room, generally. I woke. Wandered around the place in an unhurried way opening up the patio door and the rest of the windows to let in more of the cool morning breezes. Today won’t be as hot. I find myself smiling; I’ll get more done. There’s more to do. This works for me.

The night ended gently.

Yesterday was a good day. I’d planned to do more, including go enjoy dinner with visiting friends from out-of-town. I wasn’t up to it after all. I didn’t let that blow my general good spirits or fill me with guilt or shame or disappointment, and since I took a different approach than all of those things, I also avoided becoming mired in hidden resentment, irritation, or defensiveness – the sort of things that are, while very human, so capable of wrecking a perfectly good time, and frankly so easy to avoid, by choices that I make myself to live authentically, and take good care of this fragile vessel.

This morning we have it in mind to get together over brunch. 🙂 Fun! I love brunch. My traveling partner is of a mind to join us, and it all sounds quite wonderful. 🙂

Today is another day of packing, boxing, and sorting things out for the move. Laundry, too. Fuck – this doesn’t sound like a day of leisure at all. LOL I take a deep breath as my anxiety level attempts to rise, and as I exhale I feel myself relax. I chose this. I’m eager to proceed with it. This means it will be most easily done if I am also able to embrace the realities of the effort involved. There’s really no dodging the verbs, and life has a lot of them to offer.

I remind myself that this is a move that is only 11 days away at this point. (What?!!) That’s okay – I have boxes, a list, packing tape, sticky labels, a sharpie, tissue paper, and bubble wrap! How much more prepared could I be? Yesterday I got a thoroughly excellent start on having Day 1 items ready to move, and placed in an expedient “staging area” that I suppose could also be called a “dining room”. I made sure to provide the landlord my new address, and my firm move out date, and in return she provided me with the specifics of my pro-rated July rent. This is real. This is happening.

I take a few deep breaths of cool meadow breezes, and pause to listen to the wind chime, the call of the crow in the little pine outside my window, and to sip  my coffee. There remains much to do. It only feels overwhelming when I find my consciousness stalled in some future moment, while standing in the midst of all of the things yet to be done, and feeling rather as if that future moment is now, a now in which I am clearly not ready for it to be that future moment, then. lol Well, that’s easily remedied, is it not? I return my consciousness to now as well, and I’m just fine.

My anxiety comes and goes as I move through the work and details of managing yet another move. Some of my anxiety is merely baggage, the remnants of my chaos and damage lurking in the background of every moment. Some of my anxiety is real enough, but also that fairly natural impotent sort of not-very-helpful anxiety that crops up in the face of adulting at full speed, and suddenly noticing “I don’t have training wheels”; I feel less skilled at all of this than I most likely actually am. I’ve moved before. I’ve moved recently. I’ve moved myself with minimal help. I’ve coordinated moves when I’ve had a lot of help. I’ve got this. Anxiety is liar.

It’s a pleasant morning, and the day has yet to reveal its many delights. It’s enough to enjoy the moment, to enjoy the breezes, to enjoy my coffee, and to begin again. 🙂

I woke around 2:30 am, drenching in cold sweat, feeling a vague sense of panic, breathless, heart pounding…and anxious. I tossed and turned for some moments until I was awake enough to realize I was struggling with, rather than responding to, my feelings.

"Anxiety"  10" x 14" - and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ – and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

By the time an hour had passed by it was clear that self-compassion, reassurance, and a little meditation were not sufficient to put this particular anxious moment to rest. I got up for a few minutes and did some yoga (specifically a sequence of postures that are described as ‘calming’). I took a Benadryl (over-the-counter, fairly safe, and one of the oldest pharmaceutical anxiolytics). I got comfortable in bed, with some soft dim light, and read something light and entertaining for a few minutes. I got back to sleep.

I woke this morning, having slept in until past 7 am, anxious. Great. It’s going to be that holiday weekend, is it? I remind myself of two things as I head for my coffee: I overslept my usual timing on my thyroid medication, that can sometimes make me feel anxious, and anxiety is a liar.

  • My anxiety tells me ‘something is very wrong’. There isn’t anything actually wrong, based on observation of my environment and circumstances right now.
  • My anxiety tells me I have clearly done something terrible to feel this way. This is more a reflection of learned responses; as an anxious child, my parents reinforced the idea that anxiety is an indicator of unstated guilt. (Anxiety may or may not be associated with feeling guilty – it is a separate emotion, and correlation would not prove causation.)
  • My anxiety tells me I am ‘not good enough’ and backs that up with delusional ‘examples’ that ‘prove it’. (Taking a look at each offered example from another perspective derails the seeming factual nature of those arguments – but the anxiety exists; it is its own thing, requiring no ‘proof’, and refuting an example successfully doesn’t end the anxiety, it feeds it with attention.)
  • My anxiety reminds me that ‘time is running out’ – which, while true, is more about playing on a basic understanding of ‘how things work’ to terrorize me from within; what I do with my time is what sets the pace of my experience, not the sweeping second-hand on a clock.
  • My anxiety is a very physical experience that dissipates quickly if it can’t get a solid emotional foothold and a steady infusion of new chemistry; it will whisper anything it has to into my vulnerable consciousness to achieve emotional domination. Anxiety is a bad ass – but not to be counted on for truths.
  • My anxiety finds ways to put doubt, insecurity, and fear in my path; if I am consumed by those I stop questioning the anxiety and build it a home, instead.

Sometimes a bit of anxiety may be a healthy indicator that I am stepping outside my comfort zone in a positive way – that’s not what this morning is about. I am nauseated, and my body is enduring physical sensations I associate with imminent threats, terror, impending physical attack, terrible consequences, and future preventable loss followed by the dismay of others on a ‘how could you??’ level. It isn’t real. How am I so sure it isn’t real, when it feels so real? Because both thoughts and emotion lack substance until we give them substance. Emotions are physical experiences that manifest themselves both in physical and cognitive ways. Feelings. I feel. However, I am also able to make some sense of reality (in whatever limited way is available to me as a human primate with a complete set of common place senses and faculties) – and there is nothing in my environment that would cause this experience.

I am so human. Without question there are circumstances and experiences in my adult life that might cause some moment of mild anxiety…but this is not that. This experience qualifies as ‘disordered’, if for no other reason because it is very clearly and demonstrably not based in my real experience of now. Still, the small things that tend to drive small anxiety hop right into the ring with the Anxiety-with-a-capital-A of the morning; there is a chance that putting those to rest one by one may ease the Anxiety, but it isn’t a given, and is as likely to make things much worse if I become frantic or driven over it, by becoming invested in the outcome.

I am drenched in sweat. The apartment is a comfortable 72 degrees, and I am not exerting myself. Hormones? Still? Maybe – or just the anxiety, over coffee. Oh hell yes I am still having my morning coffee – with caffeine – in spite of the anxiety. Basic self-care demands it; the headache I’d be having later today if I don’t have my morning coffee would only put me at risk of being less able to continue to work through the anxiety if it lingers.

I have PTSD, and anxiety is part of my experience sometimes. I have a brain injury that results in executive function impairments – one of which is that I lack skill at managing strong emotions; I tend to put it all right out there, and find it difficult to ‘wrap things up’ in a timely way, sometimes remaining immersed in an emotional experience that is long behind me. These two things do not play nicely together. I write those simple words and tears start falling (I still find being quite so broken a sad thing, I mean, fuck – I’m 52 and still dealing with this bullshit!) – quite possibly the healthiest thing I could do for me right now are these honest tears – the science suggests that this will bring my cortisol level down more rapidly than most things I could do right now. Still sucks. I feel like a big cry baby (yeah, I hear the beratement and derision there, and recognize my demons on the war path, attacking me when I am vulnerable – it’s not helpful to treat myself callously right now).

I don’t like writing about anxiety…but if I were to omit this experience from my writing in a willful way, then I would also be a liar, leaving you thinking that somehow I had magically cured my anxiety issues with some sitting still, a few good books, and the occasional walk in the sunshine. It isn’t that easy. If it were, I wouldn’t be 52 and crying over my coffee because I am just that anxious on a lovely summer morning, utterly without cause. Writing about it, in a practical way, without ruminating over the details that my Anxiety would like to direct my focus to, seems helpful this morning; I am (after 1000 words or so) considerably less anxious now. Experience tells me it may surface again a few times over the course of the day or weekend, ready to become a weapon of mass distraction in some future interaction; today I will continue to take care of me.

Huh – there it is again. Is it my commitment to taking care of me this weekend that is actually causing the anxiety? Just now, as I considered taking yet another day focused completely on taking the best care of me, my anxiety shot through the roof… interesting. Am I still harboring feelings of guilt over putting me at the top of my agenda day-to-day? It’s a question worth considering some time.

Few things are more delightful than a leisurely morning over coffee with someone I love dearly.

Few things are more delightful than a leisurely morning over coffee with someone I love dearly.

…It is hours later now, about 2 and half hours actually. My writing was interrupted by the door bell. I checked through the peephole expecting someone canvasing the neighborhood for sales or prophet, and to my great delight my traveling partner was on the other side! We shared a leisurely morning coffee, catching up on small things, celebrating life, love, and enjoying each other’s company greatly. His is that rare presence that nearly always eases my anxiety, regardless of circumstances. I find myself on the other side of the anxiety, feeling comforted, safe, and assured that ‘all is well’. Good practices, trusting that the anxiety will pass, being frank about its appearance in my experience, and refraining from investing in holding on to it all help greatly – the addition of a pleasant intimate connection with another human being finished it off.

It’s a promising start to the day. I put on music, make a second coffee, and consider this pleasant moment. What could be worth more time, study, investment, or practice than Love and loving? 🙂