Archives for posts with tag: anxiety is a liar

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.

I still struggle with deal with live with (cope with?) anxiety. My anxiety woke me this morning. Unpleasant way to wake up too early, although, I will say that anxiety and being groggy don’t co-exist – so I definitely woke up fully, all the way awake. lol The newly added acoustic treatment in the house (in my studio, in the echoing hallway, in the living room where we listen to music) has the added bonus of allowing my Traveling Partner to sleep through my wakefulness, so… win? It at least amounts to an improvement.

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

I sip my coffee feeling my anxiety begin to recede. What sparked it? I’m not sure, and it’s not always necessary to do a detailed “root cause analysis” – doing so often seems to prolong or increase the anxiety itself, rather than diminish it. It just doesn’t do to give anxiety too much “attention”. Anxiety is an attention whore. Anxiety is liar. Fuck anxiety. LOL I breathe, exhale, relax – and feel the physical details of my morning anxiety continue to dissipate. At this point, I suspect my waking anxiety was nothing more than a physical experience of attempting to sleep through the warning signs of mild gastro-intestinal discomfort. I similarly experience heightened anxiety if I wake feeling nauseous, unaware – at least initially – that I am potentially going to vomit. Anxiety reliably wakes me – and my brain certainly knows this.

Aside from my anxiety upon waking, it’s been a lovely morning. I woke, took care of biological needs, took time to meditate, dressed and went for my morning walk. I returned home from a lovely walk filled with birdsong, blooming roses, and rose-tinted clouds as the sun rose, had a shower, and made an excellent cup of coffee – with enough awareness still left over to notice that I probably would do well to get more coffee beans today (instead of tomorrow). I find myself wondering what would be nice for dinner, tonight? I think about the tomatoes I planted last week, and the irrigation my Traveling Partner provided them – he knows that the greatest risk to any garden of mine is that I will run out of energy on hot days, and fail to water them reliably. Problem solved.

Lately we’ve been working on a variety of household projects intended to improve our quality of life by addressing some personal needs – like noise sensitivity (so, acoustic treatments for that), and light/dark/shadow quirks and personal preferences for qualities of light that can influence emotional states (so, installing modern programmable, controllable lighting with features that reliably create suitably comfortable environments for the human primates living within). It’s pretty mind-blowing to have these options, instead of feeling limited to some dismal, single, bare, rather depressing yellow-y, overhead bulb in a dusty or broken fixture (honestly, it’s been a long damned time since I had that to deal with, but the memory lingers on in my emotions and sense of comfort). My partner gets something out of doing the projects – we both benefit from the results. I enjoy the almost magical fairytale experience of stepping out of my office on a break to discover some new wonder of quiet, or lighting.

…Today I’m trying out a style of wall switch, as I work…

…Work. Right. Another work day. I’m not fussing or discontented. I like this job. I enjoy working with this group of colleagues. I know it’s a good fit for me; it’s not easy. It’s a stretch for every skill, every day, though, and that’s cognitively fatiguing, leaving me pretty drained at the end of each week. It also finds me a bit more skilled and a bit more developed, at the start of each new week. So… another win? There’s certainly a bit of juggling involved in finding something like “work/life balance” right now… there are days that I suspect, left on my own, I’d just continue working long into the evening (so unlike me) because the work matters, and I find it engaging enough to be almost entertaining at some points. This is new for me. I explore it gently, finding ways to make use of this heightened emotional investment in doing well, without undermining my actual wellness.

The world continues to turn. Sometimes my stomach along with it; I am appalled, every day, at new reports of human cruelty, violence, and hate. I want to cry “where did this come from?!” – but I’m aware it’s been with us all along. It’s in our primate make-up. We are not truly domesticated. We are not as civilized as we would like to be seen to be. I take a breathe and exhale, reminding myself that I can do better, individually, at least – and take steps to be my best self, and to be the change I want to see in the world. If nothing else, I can at least do that. We’ve each got to begin somewhere.

Has it “all gone terribly wrong” for you? Been there. I suppose sooner or later I may be there again. I can only suggest that you begin again. Yes, and again after that if need be. Stop. Take stock. Breathe. And begin again. And again. And again. Incremental change over time will add up. Choosing, in some small way, to be and do better than the last time – it’ll add up. Like adding acoustic treatment to a noisy house – one room at a time. Or changing out old incandescent lighting for modern LEDs – one bulb at a time. Room after room. Change after change. Choice after choice. It adds up. It doesn’t always feel like progress when progress is slow… but seriously? We get to our goals in steps. One step at a time, one choice at a time, one new beginning at a time. πŸ™‚

It’s time to begin again. Today, I may not change the world, but maybe I can change the person I am, and become more the person I most want to be? One moment at a time.

It’s been a few days of dealing with an “interesting” increase in my anxiety, recently. Like… a distracting, persistent, defiant amount of anxiety, of varying intensity… the sort of thing that surges back seemingly stronger than previously known (it isn’t, really), and difficult to manage. It’s been disrupting my sleep, and pulling my attention away from things that (truly) matter much more. Frustrating.

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

I woke early, pre-occupied with work, because that’s just the sort of thing Anxiety enjoys nibbling on before the day even begins. Any detail over which I’m less than entirely confident and comfortable with becomes fuel to her fire. Fuck Anxiety; she’s a liar. Anxiety forces me to view the world through a lens of fear, doubt, stress, and insecurity, and prevents me from embracing other qualities of my experience. I haven’t had to do such fierce battle with my anxiety in a long while. It’s fueled by the competing experiences of home-ownership and difficult (unpleasant) work-place relationships. The sense of obligation that comes of owning a home causes me to feel I “have to” endure more that is unreasonable, to set fewer clear boundaries, to be more reluctant to “draw a line in the sand” with higher ranking colleagues… all of which are uncomfortable, less than ideal, and probably also seriously bullshit. lol Anxiety, remember, is a liar.

I woke early, and spent my first minutes on meditation. It helps a lot. Coffee came later, because over the years I’ve learned too well that Anxiety likes a good cup of coffee every bit as much as I do, and not in a helpful way. lol Meditation first. Coffee later.

I looked over my work calendar, and quickly identified the source of my stress – it was really just one meeting on my calendar (that I own), and only due to a change of format being requested, for which I have had too little time to prepare. So… that’s not even “about” me. I reschedule the meeting to give myself (and another affected colleague) more time to make the requested changes. No harm done. Hell, it’s even a short week (after a Monday holiday) and so far it’s going very smoothly. Hard to argue with those results. πŸ™‚

I feel my tension ease, my Anxiety receding into the background, returning to being “anxiety” with a lower-case A. Nice. A good start to the work week… I mean… good enough. Amply adequate, for sure. πŸ˜€

The weekend that is now over was a lovely one. I sip my coffee, free of the crushing weight of the anxiety that had been nagging me earlier, and think about the lovely miles of trail walking, the scent of fresh baked cookies that filled the kitchen all weekend, and my Traveling Partner’s smiles. A good weekend.

Sometimes the obstacles along the way are small enough to just step over them. πŸ™‚

So, a new week, new beginnings – and new challenges. πŸ™‚ Sometimes the “new” challenges just happen to be old familiar ones – I just get to practice handling them, all over again. lol Didn’t think I needed to take that lesson one more time, but there it is – and we become what we practice. πŸ˜€

It’s time to begin again.

One step at a time, eventually measured in miles. One day at a time, eventually measured in years. One moment at a time eventually becomes a life well-lived, on a beautiful journey. ❀

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life… and I’m feeling good

Oh yeah. Enjoy the pleasant moments with a big smile and eyes wide open. Maybe don’t take the tough ones so personally. They’re just moments. They pass. (Even the good ones, but that’s a tale for a different moment than this one.)

Lovely couple of days with my Traveling Partner. Work stress? Not relevant in this moment. πŸ™‚

…No lie, though, my anxiety level over work stuff is pretty high. I handle it with a combination of meditation and good self-care, and savoring pleasant moments utterly unrelated to any of that. So far, that’s enough. My results may vary, but I’m getting results. πŸ™‚

Sufficiency. Perspective. Mindfulness. πŸ™‚

Look at the time! It’s already 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ™‚