Posted in anxiety, escape, happiness, health, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, Musings, People, random

Powering Up

bed

Yesterday started off like most days do for me- up at an insanely early hour, I sat down here at my computer and waited for my coffee to finish brewing while I read some blogs, and indulged in my latest utter waste of time- slot machine games on my phone. I don’t know what in the world it is about fake slot machines that are so much fun, but they really are. I mean, it’s the ultimate time suck, right? No skill required, no real money is won, but…whatever the attraction is, it’s really caught me this past week.

Anyway, I sat here, drinking my coffee, winning fake money, then wrote for a little while on my novel. The sun had started to come up, and…two coffees in, I decided to head back to bed for a while. Cam had stayed an extra night at her dad’s. The house was a mess, there were things to do, but…I just felt like laying down. So I did. I got back in bed, and I slept for an hour or so. Around 7:30, I sent a text to my ex saying I would pick Cam up for our Sunday beach walk at nine. He replied “It’s raining, you know.” Um, no, I didn’t know. I hadn’t opened my blinds or looked outside yet. Hmm. “Do you just want to bring her home, then, when you guys are up?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied, “I’ll be there in about an hour.” I unlocked the front door so that they could get in, and I went back to sleep.

Somewhere in there I watched a few shows on Hulu, then slept some more. Devon, true to his nature, was very, very late. For once in my life I wasn’t bothered- I was busy slipping in and out of dreams. By noon, I knew exactly what kind of day this was going to be- and ultra-lazy-not-getting-out-of-bed-day. Every once in a while, I have a day like this. Usually, I fight it. I make myself sit up, and I procrastinate and make mental plans that my body cannot seem to execute, and it’s generally not a lot of fun. Yesterday, I just kind of rolled with it. I ate some very bad things- as a matter of fact, I broke my “No Fast Food” rule yesterday, indulging in McDonald’s for the first time this year. Man, was that disappointing. Yuck. After going without for so long, it didn’t taste like a treat at all- it tasted like…well, honestly, it tasted like garbage. Which is basically what it is, so I don’t know why I was surprised.

I did not shower yesterday. I did not change my clothes. I did not look in a mirror, or pick up one item off the floor and put it back where it goes. I didn’t do laundry or dishes or one productive thing. And you know what? I. Don’t. Care.

Last Wednesday night, I went to the movies with Cam and a couple of other people (one adult, one child.) Thursday, I visited with my friend Donna. Friday night, I had therapy and my writer’s group meeting directly afterwards. Saturday, I had a date with a guy I’d never met in real life before, right after a memorial service for another friend of mine who left this world far too early. That might be an average week for some people, but for me…for ME, that is a LOT of activity. Pair all of that with the gnawing anxiety I’ve been dealing with, and it’s no wonder I needed a day of pure laziness.

That’s another thing worth mentioning. I didn’t have a single moment of anxiety yesterday. Not so much as one. And when the anxiety leaves, there is some exhaustion. All that adrenaline leaves the building, and a girl gets tired. I’m not just making that up, either. I’ve done my homework.

So, yes- it’s Monday morning, and I’m starting my week with a messy house and hair that is currently in one big knot over my right ear. I need a shower, we are out of dog food, and I’m hoping I can scrape together at least one clean outfit for Cam to wear to school today.

But you know what? I feel ready to face this week. I feel rested and more calm than I have in a while. I feel like I probably could have at least stretched yesterday- my back kind of hurts, but…eh, so what? I wasn’t being lazy. I was powering up. And I feel pretty good this morning. Which is nice.

Happy Monday!

 

Posted in anxiety, Depression, faith, family, happiness, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, mindfulness, Musings, People, spirituality

A Curated Life

A few more eye opening things have happened this week, and I thought I would share them with you now,before they get too far off in the past and I don’t feel like talking about them anymore.

thoughts

One thing, that just occurred to me this morning,is what prompted me to title this the way that I did. You know, it’s funny…in the technological age that we live in, we…or I guess I should say “I”, since I have no idea how you live your life, suffer with an absolute overload of information just dumping into my brain. I get up in the morning, and the very first thing I do is grab my phone off the charger and check my Facebook- before I so much get a cup of coffee in my body. I am checking my likes and my news feed before I even fully wake up. And yes, this doesn’t seem weird to me, but…I really thought about it this morning, and in the midst of my struggles with this beast of anxiety, I don’t think it serves me well.

I really considered it this morning, this habit I have of allowing any and all information into my mind indiscriminately. Things that make me smile and laugh, yes. But SO MANY things that make me sad, angry, disgusted, worried, annoyed. It doesn’t balance out. The same with my news consumption. The other day I listened to the entire days testimony of Micheal Cohen. The whole seven hours. I periodically jumped on Facebook to make a comment about it. Later, I spent time arguing with people who wanted to debate over it. The next day, I read all the news reporting about the testimony I had already heard. And you know, great, it’s good to know what is happening in the world, it’s important. But…not at the cost of your mental health. In the midst of typing out a particularly snappy comeback, my daughter tried to ask me a question, and I bit her head off. Misplaced anger. Tension. Frustration that I was still having the same fucking arguments with the few staunch Trump supporters I manage to be on speaking terms with. So how is this serving me? How does me using my precious time to argue with people who will NEVER agree with me, how does this help? How does snapping at my child because I’m mad serve my family, my goal of being better?

Short answer? It doesn’t. It doesn’t help me, it doesn’t change the world, it doesn’t help my family and it certainly does nothing but aggravate my already inflamed, anxious mind. So this has to change. I’m not going to pretend like I won’t hit up Facebook anymore- that’s not realistic. But the moment I saw what it was REALLY doing to me, I couldn’t help but lose interest in a big way. I’m tired, you guys. I am TIRED of feeling the way I’ve been feeling. I’m going to stop poking a stick at the angry dog of my head, and let it rest.

The other thing that hit me is this- I have been painfully aware of my crazy thoughts this week. So. Aware. Well guess what? I guess that means all my mindfulness practice is finally paying off, doesn’t it? Here I’ve been wondering what is wrong with me, why am I so on top of everything going on between my ears…well congratulations, Court. You just leveled up. I’ve been praying and waiting and hoping for a spiritual awakening, thinking it would be peaceful and lovely and blissed out. Nope. Now the real work begins, it looks like.

Which leads me to this final thing- if you look at my life this week, it LOOKS good. I have been productive and kind (except for that one little snapping incident I mentioned- I am only human) and tending to all the things I need to tend to. But there has been a discrepancy between how it looks and how I feel. I am not entirely comfortable in my skin, I am still having more worry and unhappy thoughts than I would like. But I am choosing to move through those feelings and worries anyway. I am seeing them, acknowledging them, and gently telling myself “You’re okay.”, or “That isn’t true, though.”, or “we can think about that later.”. I am not where I want to be, but ruminating on that is not helpful, whereas hugging my dog for five minutes on the floor might be. Snuggling with my daughter might be. Playing with my kitten might be.

Basically, I am living in acceptance right now. Here is what I have to work with, how can I work with it?Because I know I will not feel this way forever. Inevitably, I will get through whatever this is- I am getting through it right now, even- and life will start to feel really good again. It might even be today. But in the meantime, I am not just going to lay down and let it take over. I will still get up, still shower, still go to work, still laugh and joke and get dinner on the table. And I will choose what gets into my mind more carefully, because it matters. I cannot control what happens out there, but I do have some control over what happens HERE. Right here, right where I am, in this moment. Which is really all that matters.

Happy Friday!

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, faith, family, happiness, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, People, spirituality

Did…did Oprah Just Change my Life?

Glennon

(This is longer than usual, I apologize. But I needed to tell this story)

As you all know, I have been struggling like crazy (no pun intended) with my mental health recently, specifically an anxiety cocktail that includes obsessive thoughts, hyper focus on far-fetched illnesses, and catastrophic thinking. I would not recommend this cocktail to ANYONE.

I would like to announce that I had a little breakthrough yesterday. It actually started out to be a terrible day. I woke up anxious already, but I couldn’t figure out about what. I felt shaky and nervous and weird, and all I’d done was wake up. So of course, my anxiety is looking for something to hitch its wagon to. I see my brain start searching it’s data banks for the nearest fear it can blow out of proportion.

And let me tell you, I am just fucking sick of this shit. Pardon my language, but my GOD, this gets soooooo old. So, I sit down to pray and meditate. I send up an urgent prayer to God- please take this, please help me, HELP ME. And then I choose my meditation for the day- I love the calm app, and if you struggle to meditate, I cannot recommend this app highly enough. Guided meditations for every conceivable thing, plus you can choose your music, and the woman’s voice is incredible. Anyway, I chose one I’d never seen before…I just had to look it up, it was called “Investigating Anxiety” and let me tell you, it was one of the hardest 13 minutes I’ve ever sat for. She asked me to call up my anxiety, to feel it in my body, to sit with it. It was like opening up a fire hydrant and just letting it blast you in the face. But I did it. I sat there, with the knot in my gut and tears rolling silently down my face, and you know what…it didn’t kill me. For that time, it was just a very uncomfortable feeling. For some reason, I feel like that limbered me up a little bit- like I was looser, and less clenched, and so what happened next was able to get in, I was able to hear the message I was meant to hear.

Let me explain what I mean: I have noticed, throughout my life, that when I am desperate and asking God for help, God is listening to me. But I need to be open to the answers. Until I am open to the answers, I am not going to be able to receive the help even when I am begging for it. When my anxiety is full throttle, I am so shut down, just trying to make it through every minute, that short of appearing in the flesh in front of me and shaking me, I am not picking up what God is laying down- and for the record, if the idea of God makes you uncomfortable, just fill in that space with whatever word you use. (WOW that was a run-on sentence. My apologies) I really don’t think it matters.

Anyway, I was feeling a little less knotted up after my meditation, and when I returned home after dropping Cam off at school, I started listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast. I started last week, and had moment of clarity listening to Brene Brown, which was so funny as I have struggled to get through her books…but something about hearing her speak got the message through. Anyway, yesterday, I trusted that I would find the right episode and chose Glennon Doyle, whose name I’d heard, but knew nothing about. She said some stuff about addiction, that it is a place where sensitive people hide because they learned early on that the cost of love and pain were too much. It blew my mind. Wow. There was more, but trying to convey it all here would be impossible- I didn’t take notes, I just let the message into my heart. After that, I listened to two episodes with Iyanla Vanzant- again, heard the name, know nothing about her. Let the message flow into me.

I couldn’t tell you the exact things I heard, but I can tell you this- I remembered a few things that my anxious mind was keeping from me. Things like, oh yeah- I believe in a benevolent universe, and I have a God in my life who loves me. That you can’t bank worry to keep you from future pain- it doesn’t work like that. And that sometimes bad things do indeed happen, but that is true whether you choose to live in fear of them or not.

But it wasn’t exactly what was said, I don’t think, that really got me. It was more like…my mind and my heart opened up because I was thinking in a different way.  The guests and the questions and the stories were like WD-40 for my mind, helping the wheels to start turning, getting me thinking again. And right in the middle of all of it, I opened up a notebook and wrote a letter to myself. I’m not going to share it with you here, but my therapist had asked me to write a letter of self-compassion last week, and I balked like no one has ever balked before. Just, YUCK. No. But lo and behold, I pulled it off yesterday. It didn’t even start off that way, but that’s where it ended up.

The thing is, my anxiety is not really about my fear of something happening to me, or to my children. My anxiety is really about me not being able to forgive myself for my past. It’s about me not thinking I deserve the blessings I have today, because I am just a mean-spirited ex-junkie who just got lucky. It’s me waiting for the jig to be up, for God to take it all away. My anxiety is me, telling me I am not good enough. That there must be some mistake.

But I have worked really hard to get here. I overcame my addiction, and even though it didn’t seem hard to me, it must have been- how many other times did I try and fail? How many years did I sacrifice to that monster? So, yeah, it didn’t seem hard but maybe that’s just because I have a good perspective about it and I chose to see the beauty in it. And perhaps it looks like I have a cushy job- even to me, sometimes. But I show up day in and day out and I try to do my best. I struggle A LOT. The point I am trying to make is that the same brain telling me I am not good enough is the one telling me I just got lucky. Yesterday I saw the flaw in my thinking. I do deserve my life. I do deserve my kids, and the love, and the happiness. And yes, awful things may come. But do I have to ruin all my happiness while it is good? No. No I do not.

I’m sorry this is so long. I needed to get this off my chest. The thing is, I am not magically cured. I just believe I needed to stay with those feelings until I got the lesson, and now things will, hopefully, begin to improve. In the meantime, I am going to keep asking for help and looking for the message, and really try to let go of fear and enjoy my life. So thanks, God. And thanks, Oprah. LOL. You’re the best.

Posted in anxiety, Depression, family, health, kids, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, motherhood, parenting, People, random, women

Anxiety is Boring

Well, it makes me boring, anyway. Trying to figure out something to write about has been damn near impossible…hence, my longer-than-normal absence from my trusty old blog.

I don’t know what to think, you guys. None of my tricks are working. Now, don’t get me wrong- I have moments every single day where I feel just fine. But when you think about that, it doesn’t seem like a very good deal, does it? I have MOMENTS when I feel okay? As opposed to “normally, I feel fine, but sometimes I do get anxious”. Yeah, basically, I am feeling anxious more than I’m feeling okay, and that is not normal for me. I don’t feel normal. I feel pretty awful, honestly.

It got me thinking about a lot of you bloggers that I follow who struggle with mental illness daily and keep on writing. I have such a huge amount of respect for that, now. Because when you are feeling the opposite of okay, when the thing you are struggling with is the very thing you are thinking with…it is HARD. Much the way chronic pain just wears you down, chronic mental anguish is exhausting. And it’s so weird- even when I am feeling so-so, I’m tensed and ready for the next wave of bullshit to knock my feet out from under me.

I was doing better- as a matter of fact, I had just bravely proclaimed to myself that I was DONE with this anxiety. I yelled at it, out loud, in the shower one morning- had a firm conversation with my anxiety that I was tougher and braver and smarter than it was, and that I would not be falling for its lies any longer. I went on and had a brilliant day, and I thought “Of COURSE I can do this! What was I thinking? I just needed to make up my mind!”

And then Cam came home from school that very afternoon, and she went directly to bed and fell asleep, and…kids get sick, right? But my anxiety saw an opening, and it went in full force. To be honest with you, my hands are shaking right now, and that was Thursday that it happened. She had a slight temperature, and she’s been under the weather since then- not eating much, etc. Last night her ear hurt. Her fever is gone. She is getting better, not worse, but my anxious, fucked-up brain cannot be reasoned with. My logical mind knows that this is cold and flu season. That kids are exposed to every kind of virus and bacteria and nastiness you can think of on a daily basis at school. But my anxious mind flies straight to the worst of the worst. It’s cancer. It’s meningitis. It’s…you fill in the blanks with whatever your worst fear is. It’s all so far-fetched, yet I feel it in my sick little soul.

Sigh…what can I do, though? The only thing I can think of to do is to keep on working through it. Keep on going to therapy and figuring out ways to not let my fear rule my life, or, even worse, freak out my children. It’s hard. I check on her too much. I probably took her temperature about seven times on Friday. And it’s so funny to me- in many ways, I am one of the strongest people. I have lived through so much and come out the other side relatively unscathed. I don’t know why this is happening to me right now, and I don’t know how to make it stop.

But I can promise you this- I will keep trying to figure it out. I will keep working to resolve this knot in my gut, and this mess in my head. I don’t know what other option I have. But any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

Posted in anxiety, health, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, mindfulness, Musings, People, women

Not Myself

frustration

It has now been exactly one week since my massive panic attack, and I am still not myself.

I am okay, I guess…but I wake up every morning to a racing heart, to a stomach that is clenched as if waiting for bad news, or a swift punch.

This is NOT ME. This is not the way I wake up, the way I am. I hate it and I don’t know what to do to make it stop. I’m doing all the things I normally do that have helped me before- rest and meditation, exercise and prayer. Nothing seems to keep the moments of pure anxiety away.

It is very hard to pretend to be okay when you are anything but okay. But when you are a mom, it is important to at least try. The thing is, when I am very anxious, I am concentrating so hard on just trying not to let things spin out of control that I have little room for anything else. My patience is worn so thin. This is not the way I want to be living my life.

And I can’t help but think…what is this about? First, a panic attack at the end of December, then another one at the beginning of February. Before that, years and years and years since the last one. What is trying to come up? What is it that is asking to be healed? What am I missing?

Crazy to think that my own mind might be hiding something from me, or that my own consciousness is choosing not to understand something, but I can’t help but wonder- is this really just a fluke, or is this an opportunity for resolution? Resolution of some pain or some wound that I am just not seeing? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just bat shit crazy, but I’d like to believe that there is a reason. I’d like very much to know what that reason is.

Today, I am just going to try to be patient and loving with myself, and with others. I am going to remember that I can survive my feelings, even when it doesn’t seem like I can. I have a perfect record so far of withstanding every single one of them.  I am going to take my dog for a walk, and if the walk doesn’t feel like enough, then I will run. I will run until all this nervous energy dissipates, and if it comes back, I will find another way to discharge it. I will tend to myself. I will continue to work through this. I bet there will even be moments today when I am happy, as there have been every other day.

But I am still not at all myself. And I really want to be again.

Posted in anxiety, health, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, motherhood, parenting, People

A Different Kind of Storm

Another storm came the evening before last, only this time, it wasn’t happening outside of my house, in the sky.

This time, the storm popped up out of nowhere, inside of me, in my head.

I had another panic attack. Another really, really bad panic attack. Over 24 hours later and I am still not myself. My stomach is in knots and I feel afraid and shaky, embarrassed and ashamed of my uncontrollable mind. I had to call off work yesterday because I hadn’t slept at all the night before, and to be honest, I still have barely eaten since this all started.

I am doing everything right. I have been exercising every single day, eating healthy, praying, meditating, working hard and treating myself well. To know that I can go from the very top of my game to an utter shaking mess in a matter of one single, illogical, triggering thought…well…that is terrifying. I don’t know any other way to look at it.

I remembered everything my therapist told me the last time this happened. I told myself all the things I knew, all the logic and facts and practical wisdom I had- I threw all of it at this monster, but it pinged off his skin like nothing and continued to advance. When I am in that state, there is no safe place I can go, no way to escape, because the feeling is inside of me. You cannot outrun yourself.

I am so upset with myself for things that happened during this episode that I almost wasn’t going to write about it. I don’t want to tell the truth. I am ashamed of it. But I will tell you this- my panic started over a very minor injury that happened, not to me, but to my daughter. It should have been something we put a band-aid on and forgot about. Instead, we made two trips to the ER and didn’t make it home until 5 in the morning. The doctors were kind to me- they could see that I was not okay. But the idea that my panic can spill out onto someone else that way, that frightens me. I didn’t reach out to anyone, didn’t pick up the phone and call a friend, give them the chance to talk me down. I put my poor kid through so much because of MY fear, and that fear was so BIG, I couldn’t help it. I literally couldn’t help it.

And now the question is- how long until it happens again? Because once is an anomaly, once is…just a weird glitch that happened, and whatever. But this is twice now since December and I can’t imagine going through this again. Or regularly. I can deal with, I guess, my average daily anxiety. But this panic- no. I can’t. I won’t. I will find a way to fix it. If I have to just steam-roll it with pure stubbornness, I will.

But today, I am just so tired. I don’t want to feel like this ever again.

Posted in adventure, advice, anxiety, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, Musings, People, spirituality, women

Gentle

gentle
From The Desiderata

Gentle is my word for today. I will try to be gentle.

Not only with others, but most of all, with myself. I am my own worst critic, always thinking back to some awful thing I did in the past, or worrying about things that I might do wrong down the road, rarely able to give myself any credit for the beautiful life I have provided for myself, here and now. I am forever berating myself for almost every little thing I do- and even when I do it right, I could have done it better.

So today, I am practicing being gentle with myself. Every time my mind starts galloping off into the future or flailing away uselessly at the past, I am gently bringing it back, to right here, right now. This morning, I was morbidly imagining myself with some life-threatening illness, worrying about how my children would fare if I should die. I had to pull myself back- Courtney, you are not dying in a hospital bed. You are standing at your sink, washing your daughter’s water canteen, absolutely healthy. You are fine. You are fine.

Yesterday, while I was meditating, I was having trouble with the sheer volume of my thoughts. There were so many things my anxious brain needed me to acknowledge right NOW. All of the sudden, I had this immense compassion for myself. An image popped into my mind, unbidden, of big me holding little Courtney in her arms. I ran my hands down 7-year-old-me’s back, and could feel the little knobs of my spine, the little angel wings of my shoulder blades sticking out. I told myself “it’s okay. Shhh…it’s okay.”. I don’t know where that image arose from, but it was powerful. The little girl in me needed that hug, that acknowledgement so badly. I may be a grown woman now, but that child is still in there, somewhere. And if it is hard to be gentle with me, perhaps I won’t struggle so much being gentle with her.

Here’s the thing- I want to fully inhabit my life. I do not have a desire to be bound by all the rules and dogma that I have either grown up with or invited in myself over the years. I want to be free. And all of this is brand new to me- it’s like I woke up two weeks ago and started questioning every single thing I believed to be true. I am starting at zero, trying to figure out who I am, really, and how I want to show up in the world going forward.

And the very first gift I choose to give myself today is this- be gentle. Be gentle with yourself, and with those around you. Let other people have their thoughts and feelings and perspectives, and choose to walk around them- let things be. Just like I told little me in that meditation yesterday…Shh…it’s okay. Everything is okay.