Archives for posts with tag: anxiety is a liar

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™‚

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. πŸ˜€

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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ™‚ I think I’ll do that. It feels good to be so sure I can. πŸ™‚