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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.