Archives for posts with tag: anxiety is a liar

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. 🙂 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. 🙂

I made a cup of coffee shortly before a meeting. Minutes later, before I even felt the warmth of the mug soak into my hands, my Traveling Partner was finally getting it through to me that the electrician who had just arrived would be cutting the power while he worked. Well, shit. I mean… I knew he was coming. It was on the calendar. I chose to work from home anyway (really needed the bigger dual monitors for the project I was seeking to complete), because the last time the electrician came around, or so it seemed to me, the power was only very briefly disrupted. Maybe I wasn’t home for that? Something had gone wrong with my planning, for sure. My partner finally succeeded in communicating through my “focus fog” that I wasn’t going to be able to work much longer in my office at home… so, I packed my things “right quick” and headed to the nearby cowork space…

My anxiety flared up hard-core. Did I have everything? Would traffic be bad? Would I hit all red lights? Would I get to my meeting on time? Would there be a nearby parking spot? Would I get my equipment set up fast enough? Would there be an open workstation for me? I hammered my brain with what-if scenarios all the way to the office. It’s only a 2.5 mile drive… but it was also midday. Lunch time “downtown”. I fussed the whole way there, but…

A. I hit all the traffic lights green.

B. Traffic wasn’t bad.

C. There was an open parking spot right by the front door.

D. My usual workstation was available for me.

E. I got my equipment set up quite quickly – with minutes to spare.

Oh, but that streak of luck ended when I logged in and went to my calendar; I forgot my headset. Wtf?!? Damn it. I asked the receptionist if she had a spare laying about…but no. The facility manager overheard me, and offered me a pair of wired earbuds of unknown origin, that she quickly wiped down with a disinfecting wipe. Fine. That works. I was most appreciative – and I made it to my meeting precisely on time. 😀

I got the work done I needed to. The electrical work got done, too. My Traveling Partner let me know once all that was finished. I wrapped up the work in front of me, and the day seems to finish on a good note. I sit for a minute with a warm mug of herb tea – it’s a bit too late for coffee at this point.

What I’m saying, I guess, is that my anxiety may have flared up, but it wasn’t any more real than any other imaginings of whatever sort. It had no particular bearing on the actual outcomes. No relationship to real life at all. A lot more small bullshit could have gone wrong. I’d have handled it if it had. Anxiety is unpleasant to experience, sometimes difficult to manage, but it lacks substance. It’s “not real” – or, to be more clear, it’s no more real than I make it.

The day winds down. I’m tired. It’s time to begin again.

My morning started too early. The air compressor in my Traveling Partner’s shop “went off” in the wee hours (it hadn’t been shut off the night before, after the work day was completed). Well, shit. I was awake, wasn’t I? He wasn’t, though. I got up quietly, dressed, grabbed my laptop and workday shit, and quietly slipped out of the house, hoping he would be able to sleep in.

I woke feeling a complex stew of crappy emotions. Frustration, sorrow, fragility, the threat of imminent tears without cause or point, anxiety – stress – filling my morning like this Americano fills the cup on my desk. All the way to the fucking top. It’s not a helpful addition to the pain I also woke up in. I’m cranky from being awakened by an unpleasant noise first thing in the morning, too early, on the heels of a bad dream. I’m cross because… I don’t know, just because. I mostly just want to put my head down on this deck in this co-work space and cry for awhile. This coffee isn’t going down very well, and my stomach is sour over it. What a rough morning.

I know, I know, “begin again”… but… it’s easier when it’s easy, you know? Right now, it’s not so easy, and I’m feeling fussy like a toddler with an attitude problem. My “inner adult” knows better, and some of my stress sources in the conflict between that worldly experienced woman with a job to do, and the frustrated fussy little kid that lingers within me.

This lives in my saved images for mornings like this…

I’d like today to be easy. Relaxed. Productive. I’d like to “kick ass” on the job today. I’d like to “win big” at life today. I’d like to be my best self, every moment. In this moment, I don’t know what that looks like. My poorly managed physical pain on top of my poorly managed background anxiety have combined to make me a fairly shit human being right now, hard to be around, cross, irritable, unpleasant, with a seriously dark sense of “humor” that isn’t funny. Looks like a long work day ahead, too – not because I’ve got so much to do, more because I sense that I’m not someone my partner is going to want to be around, in the shape I’m in. May as well spend that time working.

I sit here seething. Sipping coffee. Feeling the tears pooled just at the edge of my eye lids, not falling, not going away. Therapy tomorrow… I can do this, right? I can stretch one day to the breaking point, collapse into a deep sleep, and drag myself back to the office, and then on to my appointment…? That works, right?

Fucking hell. Some days being human just fucking sucks all the god-damned dicks. :-/ Well. I guess I’ll do my best – whatever that is today, and then try again tomorrow. The clock keeps ticking on this mortal lifetime… It’s not easy, but…

…It’s definitely time to begin again.

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.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ 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.

Damn. Rollercoaster ride of a few days. Crazy. Some lovely on-again-off-again rainy days, which I find generally quite pleasant. Less pleasant is the ebb and flow my anxiety. I had a lovely relaxed weekend with my Traveling Partner – it seems ridiculously far away, now. I’m not certain either of us actually recall it.

My last surviving grandparent died over the weekend. It hit me harder than I expected. I keep making that observation, in various conversations. I’m not sure why I feel I need to explain or excuse my feelings. Grief and grieving are very personal processes. My partner is loving and considerate of my grief. He’s good like that.

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

My partner is less loving and considerate of my anxiety; it tends to provoke his, which then causes mine to worsen (seeing him anxious), which, of course, aggravates his (seeing my anxiety increasing) and around we go. He does his best – and his best is pretty good. I’ve been – often right here – “working on” my anxiety for years now. Study. Practice. Consult. More practice. Repeat. It’s hardest on us when we’re both having an experience that is characterized by feelings of anxiety. “Background anxiety” is particularly insidious. I too often feel that I’m managing things skillfully, feeling good…but miss some detail that could predictably be a thing that might trigger his anxiety… and we’re off. My fairly chronic picking at my cuticles, for example, although it is a sort of a “tic”, and hard to shut down or “break the habit”, it functions as a trigger for his anxiety (likely by sending subtle “anxiety signals” to him that suggest I am anxious, myself) – I’ve fought this “habit” for years. It’s nowhere near as terrible as it once was (I can not now imagine what observing that horror show must have been like for onlookers), but I still bite my nails sometimes and pick at jagged cuticles something awful, and often without being aware of it. Yeesh. I could do better. It’s hard, and there are verbs involved, and it is a major bummer to see so little obvious progress over time. I keep at it.

Anxiety and grief. My week, this week. That’s already a lot to take, but on top of that – I woke yesterday from a late afternoon post-crying-over-death nap with a serious case of vertigo. Did I sleep on my neck wrong? Do a poor selection of dumb bell exercises? Was it because I was working with the 3D printer on my hands and knees, instead of sitting comfortably and being aware of my posture? Is it viral? Was it doing all the show-and-tell stuff my physician asked for during yesterday’s video appointment? I rose from bed with care, severely dizzy, and fighting the anxiety that comes with the vertigo (hard not to panic, it’s very scary). It soon made me physically ill, and I gotta say, I did not enjoy the experience of cleaning up puke while also still fighting the spinning of the room. I did impress myself, though (less by the quantity and distance I achieved, more the unexpected success with the clean up.) I went back to bed – not much else I could do (literally). I just didn’t have the balance to be doing things. I woke a couple times during the night, still spinning. Managed to make it to the bathroom without an incident. This morning? Not quite as bad, and I worked, more or less as is typical.

Well.. I worked, and I juggled the anxiety. Mine and his. I don’t really know what caused his – maybe mine. For sure a portion of mine is caused by his. It’s a pretty problematic feedback loop that seems solved only by literal distance from each other, at least lately. His tense request is that I do a better job of managing my anxiety. I can’t even argue with that; it’s a reasonable request. “Already on it!” is what I’d like to reply, but don’t want to sound flippant, or dismissive, or in any way take away from his message – which is that he is struggling to feel comfortable and manage his own anxiety, when he is with me. Especially hard when he wants to be with me so very much. I want that too.

My arthritis pain competes with my anxiety for my attention, and with the vertigo continuing to flirt with my awareness from the periphery. Adulting is hard. I sigh and email my therapist to request an appointment time. There are steps to take. There are things I can practice – or practice more. There are things within my power, right now, to do better/differently to care for myself with greater skill. It’s not about “easy” – there are no promises that it will be, and I don’t expect it to be. More failure than success? Comes with the issues being tackled here. Incremental change over time is slow. Anxiety fights back. S’ok. It’s a process. Failure doesn’t truly characterize the journey unless I stop moving forward entirely. 🙂 One step at a time, walking this hard mile. I’m having my own experience – and I feel fortunate that I am also sharing the journey with someone who truly cares about my wellness, and to see me thrive as an individual. More practice? Sign me up. It’s really that simple. I don’t have time for blame-laying, I just want to heal and be well. I’m willing to work pretty hard for that, and willing to do so in the face of literal years of failure and frustration, just to manage some small improvements. I’ve had to be. Is it “worth it”? That’s not really a question I can answer for anyone else.

It’s time to begin again. Again.