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Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Burnt My Bagel

So....This may seem like a ridiculous post, but today I burnt my bagel while making breakfast.  Normally, this would send me into a mental assault on myself.  Normally, my brain would be telling me how I messed up and couldn't even toast a freaking bagel correctly.  How I should have been paying more attention and taken it out sooner.  How worthless of a person I am if I can't even make breakfast without screwing it up.

Don't get me wrong, my brain started it's normal belittling mental chatter, but then I remembered my "assignment" to fail.  I thought to myself, "Self, is this a failure?  Is this my chance to put this assignment to use?"

While burning a bagel may not seem like a failure to most, it does often feel like one to me.  So, I decided to go with it.  I stopped and thought to myself, "Self, you burnt your bagel.  Wow!  What a big deal!  Yes, you could have popped it out sooner.  Of course, that may have been a little difficult seeing as you were across the house doing something else at the same time.  It's just a bagel.  It's not the end of the world.  It may be a little extra crispy, but oh well.  We'll hide it under a little low-fat cream cheese.  Let's move on and enjoy the rest of the day."

It took me a little while to process it all and really come to terms with it, but halfway through crunching on my extra crispy bagel, I really started believing that my burnt bagel was no big deal.  Go figure!  Now I can't wait until my next failure!  : )

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fear of Failure

I woke up this morning in a good mood.  The sun was shining brightly after what was a dark and stormy day yesterday.  I thought it was such a beautiful day.

Then, the thoughts and anxiety started to intrude....

I haven't been in the best of places recently anyway.  This was something I addressed yesterday with Rachel.  My thoughts have been wrapped up in the holidays as well as the anniversary of the death of a former student of mine who was killed two years ago while crossing the street.  She was only eleven.

After delving into things, we soon realized that one of the main roots of the anxiety and depression was the thought of seeing my father if I went to the holiday dinners at my brother's.

At first, we simply thought it was my anxiety about my need to be perfect and make everyone happy.  The need to create that Norman Rockwell kind of holiday.  Perfectionism is a constant issue with me.  We address it almost every therapy session.  I'm trying to chisel away at it little by little, but it's so ingrained for so many reasons.  Rachel gave me an "assignment" this session.  The "assignment" was to try to fail.  Well, not exactly to try to fail, but to allow myself to fail and not to judge myself for it.  She doesn't want me to try to create failure.  She just wants me to accept it if it happens.  She wants me to allow myself to be human, something I never do.

There are two main reasons I strive for perfection.  The first is to keep everyone happy.  In my childhood world, when things weren't perfect, my dad could get angry, and then people got hurt.  After my parents' divorce, if things weren't perfect, my brother could get angry and take his anger out on me.  Even after we all grew up, if things weren't perfect, if I wasn't perfect, my siblings would be unhappy.  They may be a lot less likely to take it out on me physically, but they have no problem taking it out on me verbally.  My need to be perfect stems from me trying to protect myself and my family from making anyone unhappy, to protect anyone from being hurt, physically or emotionally.

The second reasons for my perfectionism also leads back to my father.  This is what we really discovered yesterday.  It is another reason I don't want to be around my father, at all.  This reason is that I'm scared of being like my father, of turning into someone like him.  He also had OCD tendencies.  He especially had food contamination issues.  Some of the anxieties I have, some of my obsessions and compulsions remind me so much of his when I was a child, and this scares me.  This scares me because if I have his OCD tendencies, can I also have inherited, and eventually develop, his other tendencies???

I don't want to be the kind of person who would beat their spouse until I cracked their skull.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would hit their children with a hammer or chase them through the fields with their pick-up truck.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would put their four-year-old in the bucket loader of their tractor, raise it twenty feet above the ground, and dump it hoping that their child would fall twenty feet and land in pain.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would kill their child's pet right in front of them just to see the anguish on their face.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would torment the people who loved them just to get pleasure for their pain.

I'm so scared that if I inherited his genetic predisposition for the OCD, that I could have inherited his genetic predisposition for this as well.  I'm scared that if I'm not perfect, that if I lose control, that this could slip out.  I'm scared I'll hurt someone I love, that I'll become the kind of monster my father was.

Rachel pointed out that the fact that I even worry about this shows that I am NOTHING like him.  People with issues like my dad's would never think twice about it.  She said that I am not him, I will never be like him.  The fact that I am willing to put myself through so much, to make myself so miserable to prevent it, just for everyone else, shows that I would never be like him.

Still, the entire idea of failing, of being less than perfect, of being human, being fallible, terrifies me.  It fills me with so much anxiety, so much paralyzing fear.  It fills me with anger toward my father for doing the things he did, for putting me in this position.  It fills me sadness and depression for the child I used to be, the one who endured all this.  It fills my mind with so many racing thoughts and images, past, present, and future...of things that were, of things that maybe, of things I wish weren't and things I pray never will be.  I'm just so overwhelmed by all the thoughts and emotions, by all the fear and anger, that I'm not sure how to dig myself out and move past it all.  I'm sure that after a few days, my poor mind will be able to process everything and figure it all out, but right now, I just feel stuck and helpless, and I just feel scared.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trying to Scrape the Barnacles Off My Mayflower....

I've been reading everyone's lists of what they're thankful for.  It reminds me of all the great things we have in this world, of all the things to be thankful for myself.  Unfortunately, my mind is currently in a place where every good memory, everything I'm thankful for, brings up something I'm NOT thankful for, something I'm angry about, aggravated by, or just want to forget.  This just makes me feel SO ungrateful...which I'm not!  It also makes me feel like a brooding misfit for not being able to move past those negatives that come to mind and focus on the good things.

Holidays are never a good time for me.  They bring on so much anxiety.  We used to have family holidays at my house.  I would cook and clean for days, and spend more money than I had trying to make sure everything was perfect.  I wanted everyone to have their holiday favorites.  I wanted the kids to enjoy themselves and the family to play games together, but I also wanted a formal table.  I wanted the best of both worlds.  I wanted tradition and casual fun.

The trouble would start with the scheduling of holiday gatherings.  Between my sister's ex-husband and my sister-in-laws family, we never got to have a Christmas on a Christmas Day or even a Christmas Eve.  Thanksgiving was always done late in the afternoon or early in the evening.  Everyone was already stuffed on food.  They would show up long enough to put me down, scarf the food, put me down a little more, then take off leaving me to clean everything up.  Most of the time, I would have to take care of getting the kids' plates filled and getting them settled as well as cleaning them up when they were finished.  Usually, everyone else was almost done with their dinners before I even got a chance to sit down.  I don't know how many holiday meals I finished sitting by myself.

Of course, there were also those holidays when my sister would have a major fight with her ex and take it out on her children, me, or my mom.  I seriously don't remember a truly happy holiday in my household.  Sure, I still tried each year to make them perfect and make everyone happy.  I still slaved for days trying to make the house and the menu perfect.  I always struggled to ignore the passive aggressive, belittling comments my family throughout.  Still, none of this can make up for an unhappy, dysfunctional family.

The death blow for holidays came a few years ago when, after our traditionally terrible Christmas actually celebrated on Christmas Eve for the first time EVER, scheduled by my sister and sister-in-law, my sister got into a fight with her ex-husband on her cell phone.  It had to do with the time he thought he was supposed to get the kids that night.  She got angry and ended up throwing her cell phone across the living room, filled with family members, shattering the phone against our bookshelves.  She then proceeded to storm out of the house, ending the not so festive festivities.  Oh....but she wasn't done yet.  My sister proceeded to call my mom the next morning, on Christmas Day, and yell at her about how her Christmas was terrible because of her fight with her ex and how it was all my mom's fault for having our Christmas celebration the night before.  (I guess she had forgotten that she and my sister-in-law had scheduled it.  My mom had had nothing to do with that.  She was NEVER given a choice on when we celebrated.)  My mom ended up breaking down in tears when she hung up the phone.

That was it for me.  I ended up sending out a not so friendly e-mail later that day, telling my brother and sister that I was DONE with holidays with them.  I was no longer spending my time trying to make them all happy when they constantly put me down and then ended up making my mom miserable as well.  (Rachel says that I may not realize it, but this was a HUGE deal for me.  A very positive step.)

I haven't celebrated with them since.  In recent years, my brother and sister-in-law have begun to have celebrations at their house.  My sister and nieces and nephews are all there.  My father is there as well.  I don't go.  My mom and I celebrate our holidays at home, then my mom spends the afternoon or evening at my brother's with the rest of the family.  I still refuse to go.  I just don't want to deal with all that crap again.  I know that I would be miserable.  I know that they would pick up on that and just make things worse.  I really don't want to have to deal with all that.  Still, it's hard to say no.  I feel guilty doing so.  This battle of emotions starts weeks in advance.

I've been talking to Rachel about this for weeks.  She always reminds me that I'm an adult and get to make my own choices.  If I don't want to go, I don't have to go, and I don't owe them an explanation.  They're adults and can just deal with it.  I shouldn't have to make myself feel like crap in order to make them happy.  I can love my family and still not like them, and if I don't like them, I shouldn't have to spend my holidays with them.  Still, I feel this mix of anxiety, guilt, anger, annoyance, sadness, etc., and it gets worse and worse as the holidays approach.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Emotional Whirlwind

I'm sorry for not posting.  I really haven't felt up to it.  I'm still dealing with a swirl of emotions left over from the emotional "perfect storm" that occurred last week.  Besides watching the Dan Wheldon Memorial Service on Sunday as a way to get a sense of closure, I've also had to take my mom to the cardiologist to go over what happened at the neurologist and what her 24-hour heart monitor showed.

Everything went smoothly with both things.  The Memorial Service was beautiful, sorrowful, and funny.  (Who knew Dan Wheldon had OCD???)  I really did feel better for watching it.  I had debated with myself for days.  I felt I needed to watch it as I was still having a difficult time believing he was really gone.  I felt nervous though as I don't tend to deal well with funerals or wakes.  I was worried that it would set off an entirely new set of emotions that I just didn't want to deal with.  Finally, I made the decision to watch it and record it as well, in case I wasn't yet ready to actually watch the entire thing.  Then I could watch it in bits and pieces as I felt ready.  I did get through the entire service.  I still feel some deep sadness (depression???) over the situation (and all it reminds me of), but I've come more to terms with it.  I no longer feel that doubt and uncertainty I felt before.

The trip to the cardiologist was nerve racking.  I always hate going to any doctor, but knowing I was taking my mom to find out why she had the episode she did at the neurologist, the one that landed her in the ER for six hours, had my anxiety level sky high.  I knew that there was the possibility that her Long QT or her mitral valve prolapse had worsened.  I also knew that it very well could be nothing, but just the thought that something could be seriously wrong had my mind racing.  Would she need surgery???  This thought kept whirling through my mind, as did other darker ones I don't want to revisit.  I did my best to hide all of this from everyone, to act as if it was no big deal, but a did let out a silent sigh of relief from deep in my soul when the doctor said that the monitor didn't show anything very interesting.  Her heart rate and blood pressure have been running slightly low, but there were no abnormally rapid arrhythmias which was good.  He took her off her beta blocker and reduced her water pill.  He also asked her to record her BP twice a day, and she is to go back in two weeks.  Despite this good news, I still feel overwhelmed and scared by the entire situation.

The worst thing is that my moods have been all over the place.  From day to day or even hour to hour, I can go from sad, to anxious, to giddy, to fearless, to angry at the world, or even to just plain numb and apathetic.  It is this last one that has me the most concerned.  I can figure out where all the others come from, what causes them, and even how to deal with them.  The numbness makes me fear that I'm simply checking out, because I can't deal with things.  This is usually what happens when I hit my darkest times, when things become the most overwhelming.  I simply don't care at all.  Nothing matters.  Nothing affects me.  I'm simply not feeling.  I recognize this when it's happening, I just can't figure out how to bring myself out of it.  This brings about feelings of failure on top of everything else.  ARGH!

I think this is why I haven't felt like blogging, or really doing much of anything, because I can't figure out these emotions, and at times, I just don't care.  I know I'll have to discuss all of this with Rachel today during therapy.  Perhaps she can pull out some of her special Rachel power and figure it all out.  She has a tendency to do that.  Sometimes, it's quite annoying, especially when it's something I just don't want to deal with.  LOL

Also, I have an appointment with the doctor on Monday.  We will be reviewing meds and hopefully figuring out what to do with these stupid allergies.  This has me nervous as it is a trip to the doc, time out of the house, and a possible/probable change, but I've been trying to keep in mind that it is a good thing.  Dealing with the allergies and tweaking my meds should make me feel much better.  I'm going to try to continue to focus on this and hope that I can make it through without too much anxiety.  I will try to keep you all informed of what changes we make and how they affect my anxiety level.

I also want to say a huge thank you to all those who have sent me support during the last couple of weeks and even before.  Your support really makes a greater impact than you could even imagine.  Thank you.  Virtual hugs.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Universe Has Gone Trigger Happy

I'm sorry it has been so long since my last post and since I've been able to read through everyone else's posts.  It seems that in the last week, all H-E-Double Hockey Sticks broke loose for me.  Where to begin......

Let's start at the beginning.  Saturday, we received a phone call from my sister.  A twenty-year old boy I used to babysit and have known since he was born, died.  He was born with a severe heart defect.  The doctors weren't even sure if he'd ever make it home from the hospital.  After multiple reconstructive surgeries, pacemakers, and even a heart transplant, Clinton's health issues finally became too much for his body to handle.  He was found by his uncle, laying in one of the family's fields.  What makes this even harder for me is that Clinton was the child of two of my oldest brother's best friends.  Clinton was even named after my brother.  His parents gave him the middle name "Scott" as a tribute to their friend who had struggled for years against his own body during his struggle with cancer and had won.  This was shortly before my brother's death in an automobile accident.

Those of you who have read past posts know how difficult my brother's death has been for me.  It is something I've always felt guilty about and struggled with.  So, Clinton's death, coming less than a month after the twentieth anniversary of Scott's, was a real blow.  Especially when combined with the fact that in a few weeks, it will be the anniversary of the death of one of my former students who was killed crossing the street to get to a birthday party.  Everything just keeps piling up.

But, wait!!!  The universe wasn't done with me yet.  Those who know me well know that I LOVE Indy Car Racing.  Being a Hoosier, I almost consider it my duty.  I've always loved Indy Cars.  Over the last few years, that love has grown.  I've found that it is something I can turn to no matter my mood and find completely encompassing and destressing.  At least I did until Sunday.  Everyone who really knows my love of Indy Cars knows I have five favorites who I adore.  One of those was Dan Wheldon.

So, imagine how Sunday went when I tuned into the final Indy Car race of the season, hoping to enjoy it and destress a little from everything swirling in my head and heart.  Then, only a few laps into the race, a fiery crash claims fifteen cars and the life of Dan Wheldon.  Not only is this heartbreaking in itself, but once the news of Dan Wheldon's death was announced, my mind was immediately shifted back to my brother's death. (the second such trigger in as many days.)  Dan Wheldon's car hit a second car that he couldn't avoid and went airborne, cockpit first, into the catch fence, bursting into flames.  The protective roll bar was sheared from the car and when the car came down on the edge of the wall, upside down, Dan Wheldon's helmet struck the wall causing unsurvivable head injuries.  My brother lost control while going too fast on wet roads and went airborne.  He struck an electrical pole with the driver's side door, shearing off the pole and crushing the side of the truck.  The truck then proceeded to roll and flip several times.  The impact of the accident caused unsurvivable internal injuries and a broken neck.  So, while the accidents weren't anywhere close to identical, there were enough similarities to immediately send me back to that 4 am call.

The universe didn't stop when the weekend ended...noooooo....not by a long shot....

I already had a therapy session schedule for 9:00 Monday morning.  Normally, I have them scheduled for the afternoon.  First, I have to wait until my mom is off work to borrow her car to get to the therapist.  Second, I don't do well with mornings.  I'm usually running around like crazy trying to make sure everything is taken care of and prepared for the day.  I had scheduled the morning appointment though as my mom was off school for Fall Break, and I had scheduled an appointment with an oral surgeon for the afternoon.  Because I was already stressed, I decided to go to all my appointments alone, rather than take my mom with me.  Having her with me would just make me feel as if I had to be even more careful and protective.  I just didn't think I could deal with it.

So, I showed up for my 9:00 am appointment with Rachel.  I told her all about the aftereffects of our last session as well as all the stress and anxiety that had cropped up throughout the weekend.  I also told her how Monday and Tuesday promised to be stressful as there were lots of appointments and lots of driving and time out of the house to deal with.  Monday had a therapy appointment, a quick breakfast, a trip to the library, a 45 minute drive to the oral surgeon to discuss removal of my impacted wisdom teeth, grocery shopping and a 45 minute drive home.  Tuesday was supposed to have a 7:00 am drop off of the dog at the groomer, a 45 minute drive to a neurologist for my mom to have some tests done for her polymialgia rheumatica, a 45 minute drive home, and eventually picking up the dog at the groomer.  Rachel helped me go through and set up a plan for the two days as well as coping mechanisms to help me through the rougher parts.  We also discussed the events of the weekend, eventually working through my brother's death and into more about my father and his abuse, something that has been on my mind a lot lately.  Needless to say, it was a rough, tear-filled session.  Thankfully, Rachel did not assign "homework".

After therapy, the quick breakfast and stop and the library went well.  I made it down to Lafayette just fine, avoiding the interstate as I knew I wouldn't be able to handle the speeds and traffic.  I picked up most of the items on my shopping list before the appointment with the oral surgeon.  (Nothing that needed kept cold of course.)  Then I spent 90 minutes at the oral surgeon.....waiting and waiting and find out that my oral surgery would be slightly more difficult than planned (as they would have to cut the top part off one tooth, sliding alongside and under it to push it up where they could pull it, being careful of the nerve so they didn't cause numbness and paralysis that could last weeks or even months), that I needed cleared by my doctor before I could have the surgery (meaning another doctor's appointment), that they may be limited on the amount of numbing agent they could use but knocking me out would mean that it would have to be done in a hospital OR given my heart condition, and that my insurance would pay for less than half the cost (leaving me with nearly $400 to come up with on my own).

Needless to say, I was not feeling all that confident or peaceful when I left.  Still, I had a few more things to pick up at the store before I went home....including meat.  Yeah, my old nemesis, raw meat.  Before I went into the store, I called my mom to double check that there wasn't anything else I needed to pick up that wasn't on my list.  She proceeded to tell me that she had gotten a call from the Sheriff's office that morning while I was at therapy.  It seems that the parents of a pair of girls she tutors had seen a picture of a child molester and thought it looked similar to my mom.  The deputy knew my mom and knew it wasn't her so was calling to get her driver's license number to pull a picture to prove to the parents that it wasn't my mom.  (I'm still not sure how they thought it looked like my mom.  The woman didn't look much like her at all  had a longer face, different color hair and eyes, was ten years older, seven inches taller, forty pounds lighter, and lived in a different county!!!!)  Thankfully, that whole mess has since been cleaned up.

Still......I managed to get through Monday.  I was exhausted, stressed, and a little depressed.  I went to bed early and looked toward making it through Tuesday.  Needless to say, I didn't sleep well that night.  Actually, I hadn't slept well in several days by that point.  I woke up slightly earlier than I needed to.  I walked and fed the dog, fed the cats, etc. to get prepared for an early and long day.  I was starting to freak out when my mom didn't get up and didn't get up.  Finally she woke up, just as I was ready to go pound on the door and wake her up.  It appears her alarm didn't go off.  So, we were running late.  On top of that, the dog was so excited to go to the groomer that she didn't want to eat.  I had to sit right next to her bowl to get her to eat.

Finally, we got on the road and made it to the groomer....ten minutes late.  No big deal, I left a little extra time in the schedule.....until I got back in the car and started to drive and smell something.  Yes, on the way out of the vet's office where my dog gets groomed, I stepped in dog poop.  It was all over my shoe and the floor of the car.  We tried to use wet wipes to clean it up, but it just wasn't working.  So I had to race back home, driving with no shoe, to change shoes and Clorox wipe the car, all the while thinking about how I touched dog poop and hadn't washed my hands.

Running 45 minutes late, we finally got on the road to my mom's neurology appointment....and we hit construction.  We called ahead and let the doctor's office know we were running about five minutes late.  We finally got there, got signed in, they took my mom back for her test, and I sat in the waiting room with a book.  Thirty minutes later, the doctor came out to get me.  She let me know that there was a little problem, that my mom had a bit of an "episode", and they would have to reschedule the test.  Come to find out, the nurse placed my mom's foot, leg, and hand into pails of hot water (which weren't even clean come to find out) and left her, saying she'd be back in ten minutes or so.  Twenty minutes later, no one had come back.  My mom has the same genetic arrhythmia that I have and is on a beta blocker as well.  She also has mitral valve prolapse and her pulse runs low.  Putting her in the hot water dilated the blood pressure and set off the arrhythmia.  She started feeling dizzy, faint, and nauseous.  She screamed and pounded trying to get help.  No one came.

Finally, near blacking out, my mom crawled to the door, opened it and started screaming for help.  It was then that they finally found her.  She was gray, hyperventilating (which no one noticed or helped her stop until I came into the room), and her pulse and blood pressure were fluctuating all over the place.  They ended up calling an ambulance and sending her to the ER to get checked out.

Four-and-a-half hours later, my mom's pulse and heart rate had finally started to stabilize.  Her chest x-ray, blood tests, etc. had all come back clean, but the ER doc was still waiting to hear back from my mom's cardiologist to find out whether she should be kept overnight or sent home with a heart monitor.  Neither she nor I had eaten or drank anything since 8:00 am.  It was 3:00 pm.

My sister had called while we were in the ER to tell us that she had gotten flowers for Clinton's funeral.  I explained that we were in the ER.  She said she would leave her phone on if we needed anything.  When 2:30 rolled around, I knew I wasn't going to be able to make it back to pick up the dog from the groomer before they closed unless I left my mom by herself in the ER, which I didn't want to do given the circumstances.  So, I tried to call my sister, but she didn't pick up.  Her children are in college, so I called my nephew asking him if he could pick up the dog, explaining I was in the ER with "Grandma".  He made an excuse about not having gas in the car.  He never asked about "Grandma" or offered to get money from his mom or friends for gas or offer to try to catch a ride from a friend.  So, I called my niece.  She said she was rearranging the furniture and had to go into work in an hour.  She also did not ask about "Grandma".  So, I called my sister again, who was at work.  She said she would try to find someone and get back to me.  Twenty minutes later, she still had not called back.  I had to rush off, leave my mom in the ER, drive like a bat out of Hades through pouring rain, to try to get to the groomer before they closed.  My nephew called just as I was getting on the interstate, 30 minutes after I had talked to my sister.  I told him to nevermind, I was already on my way and I'd take care of everything myself as no one had seemed to want to help and I hadn't heard back any differently and couldn't wait any longer.  Needless to say, I wasn't very pleasant.  This is a constant in my family.  Everyone expects me to drop everything to take care of everything for them, but no one ever wants to help me or my mom or even just be there for us.

I called the groomer, in tears, and explained the situation.  She very kindly offered to stay late if she needed to.  I picked up the dog, tried to rush home through the rain with the dog on my lap (as I wasn't prepared to pick her up by myself), fed her quickly, prepared her crate, crated her, and flew back down to pick my mom up from the ER. She had called when I was halfway to the groomer, saying that they were going to send her home with a heart monitor.  By this time, I was sobbing hysterically, overcome by anger and stress, having a full blown anxiety attack and possibly emotional breakdown.  It was so bad, the nurse in the room with my mom could hear me through the phone.  The nurse was great.  She found out that my mom had not eaten since breakfast and quickly got her a menu to order food from the cafeteria.  (Thankfully, the cafeteria at that hospital has great food.).  By the time I got back, an hour-and-a-half later, my mom had been dressed, fed, outfitted with her heart monitor, and was waiting for me at the door, ending a six hour ER visit.  I still had to drive home, again, another 45 minutes, through pouring rain, in the dark.

Finally, at 7:00 pm, I had my mom settled, making a multitude of phone calls to be sure everything was taken care of for her classroom the following day, and I was able to grab something to eat and drink for the first time since 8:00 am.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted, yet still so amped up, anxious, and angry that I couldn't sleep.

I took my mom back to the hospital (another two hours of driving) to get her heart monitor removed on Wednesday.  She has an appointment with her cardiologist next week to go over the info from the monitor.  For now, she has canceled the neurology appointments and is waiting to find out what the cardiologist has to say.  She is tired, but otherwise fine, and went back to work Thursday.  I'm still trying to bring down all of the anxiety accrued over the weekend and first half of the week.  I was finally able to get a half-way decent sleep last night.  I'm hoping to get back on track and be able to read through everyone's back posts soon.  It should be interesting to go through all this with Rachel next week.  ; )

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Help! My Therapist Has Morphed Into Nancy Reagan!!!!

Ugh!!!  So Tuesday's therapy session set me off a little.  Yes, it has taken me two days to even get to the point where I can blog about it.  It started off with the construction in the parking lot.  I couldn't park where I normally do, and there was only one space available.  The problem was that the cars parked on either side of the empty space were hugging the line.  Once I finally got squeezed into the skinny strip of asphalt available, I had a new problem.  I could barely get out of the car!  UGH!!!  Don't people know you're supposed to park in the middle of the space???  Come on people!  Show some courtesy!

Once I finally made it inside, less than five minutes before my scheduled time, the waiting room was crowded.  There was a college student near the door (blowing his nose for five minutes straight) and a flock of other people spread around the room.  I had to wait in line behind a woman who must have thought she had all the time in the world, just so I could sign in.  I finally took a seat as far away from everyone as possible (without being near the bathroom).  Unfortunately, this was right by the reception desk, at which the woman with the temporal issues was still standing.  So, of course, my body automatically leans toward the right and the other empty seats.  But wait...this can't be the end of the ordeal.  In walks a snotty-nosed, hyperactive little boy who immediately leaps into the chairs next to me.  HELLO!!!  On top of all this, my therapist was running late....fifteen minutes late to be exact.

By the time I finally got back to my therapist's office, my head was spinning, my pulse was racing, and I was ready to throw up and run away screaming all at the same time.  Just thinking about it now has my pulse rising.  Whew.....Breathe....Okay.....

So, I finally start my session...fifteen minutes late....and my therapist asks me how I've been doing and what I want to talk about.  The problem is, I can't think straight, because my mind is still out in the waiting room.  So,  I tell her that.  Which sets off a whole, "Why didn't you ask to wait in the back?" thing.  Yes, I get that plenty of people wait in the back.  Yes, I get that it is an accepted thing for them.  Yes, I get that it is more than okay with the staff, that they even expect it.  Still, it's not acceptable for me.  I try to explain this to Rachel, but I'm not sure if she gets it.  Yes,  the waiting room sent my anxiety sky high, but for me, waiting in the back (which I've never done) sets of an entirely different set of worries and anxieties as well as a feeling of failure and "why can't I just suck it up and wait in the waiting room like a "normal" person?".

Rachel tries to explain that waiting in the back is normal, accepted, and even expected and that removing myself from a situation that makes my anxiety flare is not failure, but a positive step.  Cognitively, I get that, but emotionally, I'm not there.  The entire idea of waiting in the back raises my anxiety even more than just waiting it out.  Why in the world is something so simple so difficult???!!!

Anyway...this brings the entire session to the good old conversation that I feel I've had a thousand times within the last few months...putting myself and my needs first.  I just can't seem to get this.  Rachel and I have been over this time and again.  We've talked about voicing my needs and setting boundaries, etc.   I get the need.  I just can't seem to do it.

It is so complicated.  I can't seem to reconcile the idea that putting some focus on my need is not the same as being selfish.  We're always taught to share, to eat what you are served, to give to others who are less fortunate, to be a good sport, to be there for your friends and family when they need you, etc.  Not doing so is equivalent to being selfish.  If this is true, then how is it not selfish when I say, "No, I can't babysit my niece and nephew this weekend" and do so for no other reason than I simply don't want to, that babysitting them drives up my anxiety until I am physically ill?  How is it not selfish to say, "No, I understand that you really want chili for dinner tonight, but I don't.  Let's have something else"?  To me, being unselfish means giving others what they want and need and making them happy.  Taking away what they want simply because I don't would then make me selfish.

I'm sure this is all just some warped idea my brain has conjured up.  I just can't find my way out of it's mess right now.  Rachel asked a question.  Do I give in because it's easier, or do I give in because I don't think I deserve to be happy and have what I want as much as others deserve to be happy and have what they want?  My blunt, truthful answer???  Both.  Yes, it is easier to give in, especially with family.  My family knows how to bully and manipulate to get what they want.  When they do so, they prey on things that make me feel worse about myself.  Of course, I want to avoid this.  If the purpose of "Saying No" and setting boundaries is to avoid things that make me anxious and to make myself happy, then how is submitting to their bullying and manipulation helping???   It definitely doesn't help me avoid things that make me feel worse.

I know that this is more of my mind's messed up thought process.  I can't keep everyone happy, and I can't keep everyone safe.  It's not possible.  I don't have that kind of control over the world.  Still, I can't wrap my mind around the thought of not doing everything possible.  I can't wrap my mind around the fact that my saying, "No, I can't go shopping today.  I know it's better for you, but I'm just not in a place, mentally, to do it.  Let's go tomorrow instead..." isn't going to hurt someone's feelings and make them upset at me, or if it does, then that's their problem, not mine.  That getting upset over something as little as that is their problem to deal with and doesn't reflect on me.  That they are adults who can deal with it themselves and make their own decisions.  That they'll either get over it and move on, or they won't, and that if they can't respect my needs, then maybe it's better I'm not around them.

All of this has made this week's "homework" overwhelming.  I'm supposed to focus on putting my needs first and setting boundaries.  I'm supposed to work on "Just Say No".  The thought of doing so makes me physically ill.  I literally started crying at the thought of this as Rachel and I discussed it during my session.  Rachel noticed and asked if we needed to back off.  Of course, I couldn't even say no to that.  I smiled, wiped away the tears, and told her I was fine, but for the last two days, I've been in a whirl of thoughts and emotions, sick to my stomach, and just an overall mess.  I know this is something I need to work on.  I know it will be hard.  I know it will eventually be possible.  I'm just not sure how I can do this, if I can do this, especially right now.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Am I Worth the Investment???

Today is World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to promoting awareness and open discussion of mental health issues.  This year's them is "Investing in Mental Health".

I think that this is the hardest thing about therapy for me.  I have never thought of myself as worthy of an investment.  My focus has always been on making everyone else happy, doing for others as I would never do for myself.  Holidays dinners had to include all my nieces' and nephews' favorite foods.  It didn't matter how many hours I stood over the stove to do it.  It didn't matter how stressed and tired I was or whether there was anything I liked to eat.

School was always about getting the best grades.  Making my teachers and my mom happy.  In high school I felt the necessity to become involved in every activity I thought might impress a college administrator.  It didn't matter whether I chose the classes or paths I enjoyed.  It didn't matter how stressed or overwhelmed I became.

This same idea that I didn't matter spilled over into all my relationships.  I wasn't worthy of good relationships so it didn't matter how friends, family, or lovers treated me.  Because I knew that I wasn't worthy of good relationships, I never really became fully attached to anyone.  I kept a small part of me separate, knowing that in the end, people would hurt me and/or leave me.  That had always been the way my relationships had worked in the past.

Moving past these ideas and realizing that I am worthy has been the toughest thing.  The idea of my limited worth has been so ingrained for so long.  It wasn't until my mom insisted that I take time to get help through Disability Medicaid so that I could receive treatment that I even considered the option.  I had never considered therapy, because I had never considered myself worthy of it.  I didn't consider myself worthy of it, but my mom did.  It took someone else showing me that they saw my worth before I could even begin to see my own.

Through therapy, I have begun to look at this.  I have begun to see that others, not just my mom, do see worth in me.  If they see worth in me, how can I not see the worth in myself?  This has been one of the major eye-opening moments for me, simply realizing I'm worth investing in.  Realizing that investing in my own wants and needs doesn't mean that I don't care about the wants and needs of others.  Realizing that investing in my own needs is a requirement if I truly want to be there for my friends and family rather than be detached from relationships.  Therefore, for me, the first step in investing in my mental health has simply been realizing that I'm worthy of being invested in.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

World Mental Health Day: Investing In Mental Health

October 10, 2011 is World Mental Health Day, a day to "raise public awareness of mental health issues" and "promote open discussions about mental disorders".  This year's theme is "Investing in Mental Health".  This obviously has multiple connotations.

The first is obviously about financially investing in mental health services.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health services are highly underfunded around the world, especially in low or middle income countries who focus less than 2% of their health care budgets on mental health care.  Many countries have less than one mental health care specialist for every one million people (in population).  When you calculate that much of these funds and many of these specialists are allocated to large mental hospitals, how much is left for smaller community services?  It is obvious that more funding is needed for mental health care in order to fund personalized and effective care for those dealing with mental health issues.

Another connotation of "Investing in Mental Health" is more personal.  It is the time, energy, and emotion that those dealing with mental health issues invest every day.  It is also the understanding and support that family and friends invest in these individuals.  People don't always realize how much dealing with a mental health issue is like investing in the stock market.  Those of use dealing with these types of issues may invest money in our therapy, our medications, etc., but even more so, we invest ourselves, our whole selves, in our therapy.  We invest countless hours digging though thoughts and memories, understanding triggers, focusing on being mindful and staying present.  We invest energy finding outlets for our stress and discovering coping mechanisms.  We blog.  We craft.  We meditate.  We invest in relationships with our therapists and our doctors, trusting them with our deepest emotions, our darkest thoughts, and our happiest triumphs.  We invest all that we can in order to help ourselves in our struggles with our disorders.

Like the stock market, struggling with mental health issues has it's ups and downs.  Just when you think your investment is starting to pay off, something comes and knocks you back down.  Just like investing in the stock market, investing in your mental health is most successful when you invest long term.  You can't be frightened by the ups and downs and bail out, no matter how much you might want to.  You have to ride it out.  Eventually, it will turn back around and regain its upward trend.  Whether you are investing in your mental health or the stock market, the key is the same.  If you invest enough and stick it out long enough, fighting through the ups and downs and never giving into the panic that the ups and downs cause, it eventually pays off in dividends, and you can become wealthy beyond your wildest dreams.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Power Over Poultry

For those who don't know, I have huge food contamination issues.  One of my worst has to do with uncooked meat.  I don't even like to touch the packages in the store.  I've been know to go into full panic attack mode if I do.  Hyperventilating, sobbing, the full nine yards, right in the middle of the supermarket.

I do love to cook, and this has made it really hard for me to do so in the recent years.  I'm the wash the hands several times, every minute or two, kind of girl.  Crack out the Clorox wipes and scrub down the kitchen a few times as well.  Yes, it makes sense and is important to wash your hands and disinfect surfaces when working with raw meat, but for goodness sake, it takes me 45 minutes to prepare a meatloaf for the oven!???

I understand why I have these food issues.  It's a complex combination of things.  We had to be extra careful with cleanliness and food prep when my brother had cancer.  On top of that, I have had food poisoning three times (thanks to two restaurants and a boxed food item).  One of those times, I ended up in the ER and my mom ended up hospitalized.  I've also had an uncle get E.Coli from a restaurant in Chicago.  It nearly killed him and he hasn't been the same since.  So, you can easily see where my food issues come from.

Last night, I decided to make roasted chicken legs for dinner.  It was a challenge to myself.  About a week and a half ago, I roasted a whole chicken.  Poultry is usually a HUGE issue for me.  As soon as I know I'm going to work with poultry, the OCD voice in my head starts chanting "SALMONELLA...SALMONELLA".  It starts out slowly and quietly at first and builds in both speed and volume.  Usually, by the time I finally get the bird (or bird parts) in the oven, I'm frantic and hyperventilating.  Still, I go through it, because I love chicken.

Preparing that whole chicken a week and a half ago was different though.  I prepped in advance as Rachel and I had discussed I should do when working with raw meat.  I had the oven preheated, dish out and sprayed, everything ready in advance.  All I had to do was open the chicken, remove the giblets, and get it into the dish before I could wash my hands.  All of this went off without a hitch.  The first part of Battle Poultry went as planned.  (I will admit one squeamish moment when trying to tuck back the wings.  The stupid things just didn't want to cooperate, and I felt as if I was torturing the poor creature.)  Next, I prepared the olive oil and my homemade seasoning salt by removing the lids and setting them to one side.  This allowed me to pour and season with one clean hand while rubbing the olive oil and seasoning into the bird with my second hand.  Once that was done, I used my clean hand to open the oven and stick in the bird.  Done!

All that was left, was cleaning up the mess.  I resisted the urge to wash my hands first before picking up the chicken wrappings that were laying in the sink and tossing them in the garbage.  Why I ever thought I needed clean hands to do so is beyond me.  Once the mess was out of the sink, I washed my hands, washed the kitchen shears used to open the bird, and wiped down the sink, faucet, countertop, etc. with a Clorox wipe.  I washed my hands again for good measure and left the kitchen.  I didn't return until the bird was done.  : )

You might still think that is a lot of hand washing, but really it is greatly pared down for me.  Only one Clorox wipe to boot!  That's not the biggest deal, however.  The biggest deal is that there was no panic mode, no hyperventilating.  I think the OCD voice must have taken a vacation that day, or possibly had a sore throat.  I'm not sure.  Either way, there was no chanting of "SALMONELLA...SALMONELLA".

Needless to say, I was so proud of myself that I did a little happy dance.  When I told Rachel during our last session, she said that I had every right to be proud of myself.  It is a big deal.  Yet, my OCD voice (obviously fully recovered and/or back from vacay) kicked in and told me, "It's just a one time thing.  There's no way you can do that again.  You're not strong enough."

So, last night's chicken legs were a challenge to myself and my OCD voice, a way to prove it wrong.  I'm happy to say, it went relatively well.  Was there panic?  No.  There was a moment when one of the drumsticks flipped out of my hand, flew across the counter, and came to a rest on the lid of the container to my homemade seasoning salt.  (The seasoning salt itself remained unaffected as I'd opened the container earlier.)  My first thought was, "CRAP!!!  Now the entire counter is dirty and full of germs, and I'll definitely have to wash that lid.  Will the lid dry enough to be able to put back on the seasoning salt without making the seasoning salt clump???"  Still, that was the extent of it.  They were valid thoughts.  They were reasonable and there was no repetitive chant of "SALMONELLA...SALMONELLA" and no panic.  Just annoyance at having to wash the lid and deal with the mess.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Therapy Anxiety

I have to say, the last week has been a relatively good one.  Despite the allergies, I've been relatively upbeat and have even seen a slight decrease in rituals.  The weather has been abnormally cool, rainy, and overcast.  It's more like late October than lat September.  I LOVE IT!!!!

I'm a fall kind of girl.  I love the crisp, coolness and the breeze filled with the smell of bonfires.  I love brilliance of the leaves finally showing their true colors.  I love that it is the season of pumpkins, apples, and sweet potatoes.  I am happiest in the fall.

Given the unexpectedly fall-like weather, I've been on cloud nine.  I've been curled up with a cup of tea, my dog, and a good book.  Nothing could be better.  Heck, I've even felt so energized that I've been jumping on the recumbent bike with my book, pedaling out 16-17 miles while enjoying the unusual love story between a vampire and a witch.  (Yes, I am rereading "A Discovery of Witches for the fifth time.  Don't judge me!)

Until yesterday afternoon.  At first I thought it was do to the little pop-up storm we had that turned the sky black and sent everything in my backyard swirling in circles.  But the storm passed, and despite that fact, I'm still anxious beyond belief.  Then it hit me.  Today is therapy day.

It does seem that I always get worked up the day of therapy.  There is a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and my heart feels like it's going to beat out of my chest.  It's more than just the fact that going to therapy means leaving the house.  I occasionally have to leave to go shopping, and while I do get anxious, it's not this level.

I think it's a combination of knowing that in reality, I don't really control my therapy, no matter how many times Rachel tries to tell me that she works for me, and knowing that I will have to address issues that I just don't want to address and feel emotions that I just don't want to feel.  I adore Rachel.  She is a great therapist and I feel more comfortable around her than I do most people (including half of my family), but sometimes I just wish she'd get horribly lost on her way to work, blow a tire in the middle of nowhere, and have no cell phone signal, so that they would call and cancel my session.  I's terrible!  Yes, it makes me feel guilty to even think that.  (God forbid she actually gets lost, blows a tire, and has no cell signal.  I don't think I'd ever be able to face her again.)

Still, I have never cancelled or walk out of a session.  That's a good thing, right???  Despite that, I'm worried about why therapy makes me so anxious.  Is this normal????

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wonder Woman I Am Not

Today, I had someone tell me that I was their hero on a discussion board pertaining to a book I've been reading, and rereading, and then reading again.  (It's titled "A Discovery of Witches" and is by Deborah Harkness.  I love it because there is so much history, mythology, etc. embedded and so much to research to do.  The lead character also deals with some anxiety issues of her own, which I can definitely relate to.)  Several of us have been discussing and researching the book for the last few weeks and have been doing a real-time read for the last week or so.

So, why was I suddenly considered a hero???  Because after discussion about the difficulty of sifting through all the threads to find all the research everyone had done, we decided we needed to make a new thread and compile it all there.  When no one else did so, I decided to go ahead and do it myself.  Why not, I have the time and it's just the kind of thing I like.

So, with that I was suddenly a hero.  Which reminds me of something Rachel is constantly telling me during our therapy sessions.  "You are not Wonder Woman.  It is not your job to save the world."

I think this is something that a lot of us deal with.  We want to make sure everything is perfect for everyone.  Sometimes, that keeps us from taking care of ourselves and focusing on our wants and needs.  It is such a difficult, constant struggle to decide, "Am I being a kind, supportive friend/family member, or am I trying to be a superhero?"

When this woman said I was her hero, I immediately had to stop and think about it.  Was I creating the thread and compiling the information because it was something I wanted to do or was I doing it to please everyone else?  Was I doing it simply because everyone wanted it and no one else wanted to do it?  Was I doing it because I felt it would make others look up to me with added respect?  Was I doing it because it actually interested me and made me feel fulfilled?

After stopping to sort through all of this, I was secure in my choice to do it.  I really did want one centralized place to put all of my research and be able to look back on everyone else's.  That's the main reason I love this book and this discussion group.  I also love the "tedious" task of sifting through it all.  I actually find it mentally stimulating.

Still, the entire event brought to my attention the fact that I don't think through these things as much as I should.  I really need to get back to taking a breath and thinking things through in advance, figuring out what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.  I've been focusing on this with some of my rituals, such as hand washing, but haven't been applying it to these types of situations.  Who knew such a little thing on a discussion board for a piece of fiction could cause me to have such an epiphany?

I know that it will be tough to do this, but what isn't tough when dealing with anxiety disorders?  I'll try to take it one day and one decision at a time and keep reminding myself that I'm not a superhero and don't want to be one.  Being a superhero is too hard for a simple country girl like me who can't fly and doesn't own a lasso of truth.  I'd rather just be me than hide behind a mask and a secret identity.  Besides, no one would want to see me in tights and a cape.  ; )

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Tribute

I'm sorry that it has been so long since my last post.  I've been going through a bit of a rough patch.  You see, a big anniversary has hit me this month and has triggered a lot of emotions that I'm just not able to really deal with. Today is the 20th anniversary of my big brother's death.

It's something that, according to Rachel, I've never really grieved and actually have never really fully grasped.  She feels that, even twenty years later, I'm still in shock.  Maybe she's right.  I don't know.  What I do know is that my emotions are all over the place, I can't sleep, and my rituals are off the charts.

My big brother was the best man I've ever known.  He is the one person who could tease me and make me feel loved at the same time.  He's one of the few who made me feel protected and safe, even when he was weak from chemotherapy and radiation and couldn't even make it to his own bed.  Even in the hardest times, he had a smile on his face.  Everyone loved him.

Scott was 14 1/2 years older than me, but never treated me like a little kid.  He always listened and respected what I said and how I felt, something most members of my family never did.  He was the oldest and only my half-brother. He and my father never got along.  As hard as my father was on everyone else, he was even worse on Scott.  Still, that never changed the kind and caring person Scott was.

Because of the issues with my father, Scott moved out when I was four.  I only saw him occasionally at holidays and family functions.  Still, I felt closer to him than either of my other siblings.  When I was nine, Scott was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease (a form of lymphoma).  We first knew something was wrong when he showed my sister a lump on his neck while at my grandparents for a family gathering.  After the diagnosis, my brother moved in with my grandparents so that he wasn't on his own during treatment.  Shortly after that, my parents split and Scott moved in with my mom, my other brother, and myself.

Scott battled the cancer for more than three years total.  He went through radiation that caused a sever fungal infection and a hole in his throat.  He spent a week in the hospital.  His skin became so leathery that the nurses had a hard time getting needles through it to set up IVs.  His teeth became very sensitive.  He had trouble eating and lost a lot of weight.  Still, he was always the first one with a smile and a joke about everything he was going through.

Finally, after all of this, exploratory surgeries that split him from neck to navel, a tumor in his abdomen the size of a basketball, the removal of his spleen, and much more, Scott went into remission.  He was able to get back to work, something he loved, and able to spend time with friends.

It wasn't long until we all knew something was wrong.  Scott was having night sweats again.  He was tired and had trouble breathing whenever he laid down to sleep.  After going back to his oncologist for a check-up, they found that the cancer had returned and that Scott had a tumor the size of an orange around his aorta.  Whenever he laid down, it cut off blood flow.  Scott started chemotherapy.  He had to travel two hours each direction to get to a hospital that specialized in the chemo he needed.  My mom (who was working three jobs at the time and going to college) and my sister (who was married with a daughter) took turns taking him to appointments.  I cooked many of his meals (usually French toast or soup as they were easy to eat and keep down) and helped clean up after him when the chemo made him sick.  Many nights and weekends, it was just the two of us.

Chemo definitely took it's toll on Scott.  His hemoglobin dropped until he would pass out frequently, once taking a header into the bathtub.  He spent a week in a hospital in Indianapolis fighting a rare pneumonia.  Still, he never lost his sense of humor and the smile never wavered.

Finally, Scott went into remission for the second time.  He was so excited that he was done with chemo, not because of the sickness that came with it, but because his hair could finally grow back.  (He really loved his hair and spent more time, and hairspray, on it than any woman I've ever met.)

The last night I saw him was the first time he'd gone out since finishing chemo.  He was excited that he was starting to have hair again and was excited to be able to go out and celebrate the joint bachelor/bachelorette party for a pair of his friends.  He spent extra time getting ready, despite the fact that his hair was much shorter than normal.

My mom was gone that day to a festival with a friend.  my sister was at her house with her family.  My other brother was on his way to Rhode Island with his girlfriend.  It was just Scott and me.  I was sick.  It was just a cold, but I wasn't feeling up to par.  Scott knew this and hated to leave me home alone.  He wanted to stay until my mom got back.  I told him to go.  I was just going to take some cold medicine and sleep.  There was no reason for him to stay.  It took me a while to convince him, but finally he agreed to go.  My last words to my brother were "Have fun and be sure to wear your seatbelt."

In all the days that followed, all the planning, the wake, the funeral, and even with all the people who came to pay their respects, bring casseroles, and send flowers and cards, I felt alone, angry, guilty.  I was angry that my brother could have been so stupid as to have driven his truck so fast in the rain that he lost control and smashed into a telephone pole, snapping it off at the ground.  I felt angry that he could leave me alone.  I felt guilty and angry at myself for sending him out that night when he wanted to stay home.  Maybe if I'd have let him stay, maybe just those few hours would have made a difference.  I felt angry at God for taking away to one person who made me feel safe after everything else that had been lumped on my shoulders in the preceding thirteen years.  I felt guilty for showing any emotion that might make the rest of my family feel worse.  I felt angry for not being able to show emotion.

Twenty years later, I still feel these same emotions.  I've never really been able to address them or even allow myself to fully admit them.  Instead, I've stuffed them inside so that life could go on and I could be there for everyone else.  I stepped immediately back in to my role of caretaker and never looked back.  So, every year, in September, as the days start to grow shorter, the gloom of depression takes me over and I struggle to push away all of the emotions and memories that make every moment of everyday uncomfortable.

This year, instead of stuffing, Rachel suggested I find a way to actually let myself remember and really grieve.  As uncomfortable as it is, I know it is something that I really need to do if I'm going to be able to move forward with therapy and have any success.  So, today I remember my brother.  I remember his smile, his ridiculous sense of humor, his obsession with his hair, his love of classic cars and really bad movies.  I remember all the slightly rude nicknames he gave me (the way a older brother always does with his little sister).  I remember how frustrated they always made me.  I remember all the times he would bend over and tell me to kiss his butt.  I remember how he would always take my report cards to work to brag about his little sister.  I remember his bravery and his stupidity.  I remember the good and the bad and i miss him more than ever.

Monday, August 29, 2011

One Of Those Days... is one of those days.  One of those days where it seems like everything goes wrong.  One of those days when the anxiety and frustration are already sky high and thus everything just seems to add up faster.

First, I've been on pins and needles because of Hurricane Irene.  No, I don't live on the east coast.  No, I've never been through a hurricane.  (Heck, I live in Northern Indiana.  Hurricanes aren't really a part of our normal weather patterns.)  Still, I've been more than a little anxious.  You see I have many friends who live on the east coast.  Yes, they are Facebook friends who I have never actually met face to face, but that doesn't make them any less important to me.  They are always there when I need them.  They support me, make me laugh, and deal with my frequent funks.  They are some of the best people I know and some of the most important people in my life.  I spent days watching CNN and waiting, impatiently, to hear of their safety.  I'm happy to now know that they are all safe.

Second, I've just felt like crap lately.  My bursitis has been acting up as have my allergies.  It's either go about my day unable to breathe or doped up on Benadryl.  Neither works well for me.  Especially when coupled with the fact that my Zoloft has been making my blood pressure run low.  It just seems to take everything I have to drag my butt out of bed and do my daily chores.

So, with all this I'm already way up to the top of my "fight or flight" threshold.  Then I log into Facebook.  They have been "updating" and "making improvements".  Some improvements.  First, I can't do anything without it begging me to take a tour of their improvements.....three times.  Next, my buttons to post links or videos are gone.  The one to "ask questions", which no one really uses anymore, is still there.  I'm just not quite sure what sense this makes, but then again, I'm not Mark Zuckerberg.  Then, out of nowhere, all the posts on my feed disappear.  There are no statuses, no links, no pictures, no nothing.   Ironically, just as I go to report the bug, they miraculously reappear.

This doesn't even take into account the fact that I've already blown a breaker, burnt my toast, and lost the sound on my tv for about 10 minutes this morning.  What a day!

This is where my outlets are supposed to come in handy.  Obviously, I won't be baking a cake today when my elbow feels the size of a basketball.  So, I turn to the next best thing:  Angry Birds.  There is something very cathartic about slingshotting birdies into fat little piggies.  In between shots, I focus on my mindfulness techniques, using my relaxing breathing.

Still, I just feel the charts when it comes to my anxiety and frustration.  "Why?" my therapist would ask.  Well, the easy answer is because I'm not in control.  I can't control nature.  I can't control Facebook.  I can't control whether or not the household appliances work to my expectations.  But, why do I need to control these things?  Obviously, I want to control the weather to keep those I care about safe.  I want to control Facebook so I can easily connect and be sure that those I care about are safe.  I want to control my appliances because, well, I hate burnt toast...and also so I can watch CNN and keep tabs on the aftermath of the storm so that I know those I care about are safe.

For me, control equals safety.  I grew up in a household where I had neither, a household where being perfect was the only way to keep everyone safe.  Twenty-five years have passed, and while the man who made that household what it was is no longer in my life (for the most part), I'm still emotionally living there.  I'm still trying to make everything perfect.  I'm still trying to protect everyone.  I'm still looking for that elusive sense of safety and security that I've never been able to find.

This is what I have to remember.  When it's one of those days, it's not one of those days.  I'm not five-years-old.  I'm not in that same household.  I'm safe.  My family is safe.  No one is going to get hurt over some burnt toast or a few missing Facebook tabs.  Scrap the toast and start again.  Copy and paste the links directly into the status line.  Go on with life, enjoy breakfast and friends' status updates, and know that no one was harmed in the process (or the making of this post).

Friday, August 26, 2011

Outlets vs. Receptacles

Wednesday was therapy day.  Usually, therapy day is not a good day for me.  Actually, the two days before and two days after therapy day are usually not good days for me.  Usually, the two days prior to therapy and therapy day itself is filled with amped up anxiety.  My need to have perfection around me increases, hand washing increases, the number of lists I make in a day increases.  I tend to rant over every little thing that sets me off.  Boy do I feel sorry for those around me.  The two days following therapy tend to be the exact opposite.  i go into a deep funk of depression.  I don't want to deal with anyone or anything.  I just want to be left alone to wallow in my thoughts.  Not a healthy time.

This Wednesday was slightly better, however.  I'm becoming more comfortable with my therapist, Rachel.  She and I share similar personalities.  We both have super sarcastic senses of humor, and we both prefer alt rock (especially when compared to the cheesy spa music played in most relaxation cds).  It has also helped that Rachel is no longer "flooding" me as part of my sessions.  Let's just say "flooding" and I don't get along.

Instead, we're taking it slow.  She's helping me to look at the events that happen between sessions and the emotions that go along with them.  This is much more pleasant than diving head first into my past.  Instead, I can explore which emotions are amped up because they are linked to my past experiences.  She also helps me understand which behaviors I experience due to these emotions are appropriate and which are illogical.  (Ranting for a couple of hours and including some choice words in those rants, because a semi-driver wouldn't move into the fast lane and nearly ran me down on the interstate is okay.  Following said truck driver until he exits the interstate and beating him with a tire iron would not.)  

While I acknowledge that this is an important part of my therapy, it is also extremely difficult.  I simply don't do well with emotions.  I often find them overpowering and simply can't understand them.  So, I lock them up and let them build up until they all come out in an eruption that cannot be reigned in let alone controlled.   Not only is this not good for those around me, but it's also terrible for me.  When this happens, I immediately feel guilty for having such outbursts.  The guilt leads to depression, which leads to anxiety, and around in the whirlpool we go.

So...needless to say, one of my "homework" assignments is to work on finding "outlets" for my emotions.  Since I have trouble voicing them, I have to find another way.  What is an "outlet"?  Let's look at the definition:  "A means by which something escapes, passes, or is released, in particular".  In this case I need to find some means by which my frustration, anger, sadness, etc can escape or be released (before it explodes like Krakatoa).  I've never really focused on this.  Instead I've relied on "receptacles":   An object or space used to contain something.  

Think of an electrical outlet versus an electrical receptacle.  What good is the receptacle (which contains the plug) if there is no outlet to allow the energy to pass through the wires and into the cord which carries it to our appliances of choice.  All this time, I've been plugged in, but the juice hasn't been making it's way through to the necessary destination.

So....I need outlets (other than 2 hour rants about the decline of civilization as seen in traffic violations).  I love to cook and it does make me feel better.  I mean, I get to torture food by hacking it into pieces, beating it up, and baking or frying it under high heat.  What better way to work through frustrations?  (Plus, in the end I come  out with something beautiful and nourishing to share with my family.)  Still, sometimes I just don't have the energy to hack, beat, and bake.  Sometimes my anxiety level is so high that I simply dread touching the raw ingredients.  So, what do I do when I can't cook?  I'd love to take up kickboxing, but I'm not sure the injuries to my hip, elbow, or back would cooperate.  Goodness knows meditation is not my forte.  So, where does that leave me?  

Any ideas for me to try out?  What kind of outlets do you have that might be helpful for me? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Only Thing We Have To Fear

For those with anxiety disorders, nothing rings more true than FDR's quote, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  It is fear, worry, uncertainty that runs around in circles in out minds like a gerbil on an exercise wheel.  The only difference is that it is much easier for that chubby little gerbil to hop off that wheel than it is for those of us with anxiety disorders to jump out of the mire in our minds.

Everyone faces fears and worries, but for someone with an anxiety disorder, those fears and worries become like a broken record, repeating over and over in their brain until the uncertainties have grown into certainties in their minds.  For most, a fear indicates what might possibly happen, but for us, fear indicates what will probably happen, no matter how improbable it actually is.

Whether it's not knowing who touched that doorknob before us, what germs they might have been carrying, or whether we might catch something from it or it's worrying over the possibility of tornadoes, damaging hail, or flooding rains from an upcoming storm, we can become completely consumed by these worries until we are unable to focus on anything else.  We prepare.  We make back-up plans.  We even make back-up plans for our back-up plans.  In the meantime, everyone else is enjoying the shopping trip or the last of the sunny day.

We often feel alone, different, not normal.  We feel as if no one else understands and like we are left holding the bag for everyone and everything as no one takes things as seriously as we do.

But we are not alone and we are not different.  The number of people who suffer from anxiety disorders is greater than any of us could ever guess.  The 40 million adults affected by anxiety disorders each year understand.  We can all listen, support, and help each other through the good times and bad.    We can all help those around us understand as well.  Their love and support are more important than we sometimes acknowledge.

Through this blog, I hope to share stories of my struggle and therapy.  I hope that through this, many of you who struggle with anxiety disorders will find a way to do so as well and those who do not struggle with anxiety will develop a better understanding.  Through this we will all be able to find friendship and support as well as a sense of community and calm in our chaotic world and our chaotic minds.