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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 know.....it'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.