Posted in adventure, anxiety, health, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, Musings, People, random

40 Minutes a Pin Cushion

pin cushion

I have thought a lot about trying acupuncture, but it’s always been one of those fleeting thoughts where I don’t remember later to follow through. Well, last week, I was sitting here working and feeling pretty fed up with the worry and anxiety nipping at me incessantly. I googled “Does acupuncture work for anxiety?” And spent a few minutes reading several different articles. The basic consensus seemed to be, especially in the very scientific articles- “Yes, it seems to work. We can’t really figure out why, but it does.” Which I found both amusing and encouraging. I figured I really had nothing to lose by giving it a shot (oh my God, no pun intended) and I turned to googling local acupuncturists with good reviews.

I settled on one that not only had good reviews but a cool name- Rikke Blessing. I mean, how could you go wrong with a name like Blessing?! I called, left a message explaining my situation, noting that I’d read through her reviews and saw that most of hers were related to helping people with fertility. I emphasized that I was most DEFINITELY NOT interested in getting pregnant, but could she do anything about my anxiety? Please?

She called back right away, and explained that acupuncture was very good for anxiety, and that she could for sure help me. I was very excited. The things I’d read online were extremely promising, and as you well know, I’ve been pretty desperate to get on with my life. So we made an appointment, and yesterday, I showed up, not really knowing what to expect other than some needles getting jabbed into me here and there.

We talked for a while first, and I asked questions about why she believed acupuncture worked. To my surprise, she didn’t mention much about blocked energy-maybe that would freak some people out? Not me, but there was no way she could know that. Instead she talked about nerves and dopamine and neural pathways and hormonal imbalance and perimenopause. She also asked to look at my tongue. I wasn’t prepared for that. Hahaha. Oh, and she recommended that I consider giving up coffee. I told her I’d think about it. I’m thinking about it right now, as I sip my coffee. I mean…coffee is the only thing I have left. I might cut back. But giving it up completely for 21 days? That seems so…incredibly horrible.

Finally, it was time. I hopped on the table, minus my shoes and socks (note: if you decide to try acupuncture, maybe shave your legs and trim your toenails. If this sort of private failing makes you uncomfortable. I’m way overdue for a pedicure, and had a days worth of stubble on my legs.). She swiped me here and there with alcohol, then, just like that, the needles went in. Now, I am not someone with any sort of fear of needles, so I was never worried about this part. But even if you are, I can promise you that these needles are so tiny and flexible, you literally feel nothing. The only one I felt was the one on my forehead- the third eye, she called it. Apart from that, I honestly couldn’t even tell that I was being stuck.

The only part of the whole experience that I struggled with was the length of time I had to lay still. Now that I know I will be there for a good forty minutes, I will be prepared. There was beautiful music playing (Liquid Mind, if you want to look it up) and a little ocean wave sound machine off to my left, and if I’d been on my stomach, I might have dozed off. But, me being me, about 20 minutes in, I started to wish my phone was nearby, just so I could make sure that no one needed me for anything. Like, what if there were an emergency? My ringer was off. Would I be able to hear it buzzing with all this music on? So then I decided to check my watch to see what time it was, except that when I did, I knocked the dixie cups that were covering the needles in my stomach off, which meant I couldn’t put the blanket back over me…sigh. I think I probably need more than one session. I got the cups back on the needles, re-covered myself, and decided that, just for this one time, maybe the world would keep turning without my attention. I closed my eyes, and tried to relax.

Now here comes the weird part- I felt the difference immediately upon leaving the office. I was as calm last night as I would have been after a massage. It was absolutely comparable to that feeling, or the feeling you get after a good workout, once you calm back down. Or even a really good session of meditation. I felt very, very able to keep myself from becoming irritated, which is a huge part of what anxiety looks like coming out of me- very quick to snap, very quick to lose patience. I helped Camryn with her homework last night without once losing my cool- and if you could see the one man drama show that comes out of her during homework, you would understand why this is impressive. Four pages of homework, and I never once raised my voice. I did have to take away all devices for the evening, but I did it calmly and without malice. It was just- “sorry, no devices tonight. We’ll try again tomorrow”. Honestly, I’ve never been so proud of myself after homework, and that is saying a lot. Oh, and I slept like the dead last night, too. I didn’t wake up once in the night.

I am 100% looking forward to going back. I don’t have any idea whether it is working because it really works, or if I only think it works because I want it to so badly- but at the end of the day, does it even matter? As long as I feel better, and I really, really do…who cares? I’ll be a pin cushion any day of the week if it helps me. Only next time, I think I’ll just make sure my phone is within reach. Just in case of an emergency. 🙂

Advertisements
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 adventure, happiness, inner peace, Life, living, magic, Musings, People, random

Stormy Weather

I went to sleep last night to the sound of rain pouring down outside. What a lovely way to drift off…I can’t think of a better sound to lull me to sleep.

I woke up this morning to the sound of the wind howling through the trees outside. Shaking the windows and screeching around corners. Camryn must have gotten scared, because, as I lay there just listening, I heard her little feet padding through the house, and soon there was a warm little body snuggled up against me. And I love it- the storm, the rain, the wind, the little girl curled up next to me.

I love the wildness of a storm. So many times over the past few weeks, as the rain poured and the wind howled, as the dark clouds roiled in the sky, I have opened up my front door and invited a little of that charged air to sweep through my home, cleaning out the stagnant air and replacing the old energy with new. I have stood on my porch and looked out over the rooftops and up into the sky and let the cold air wash over me and wake me up completely.

In this verdant place where I live, trees are snapping like twigs and whole limbs are crashing to the ground, blocking roads and rerouting the world. Rivers flow down streets and waves crash, littered with branches and boiling with foam, into stairs we once used to walk down to gentle beaches. And I watch all of it with breathless wonder, the might of mother nature never failing to thrill me.

I cannot seem to resist the call of the outdoors despite the weather- or maybe even because of it. I made my way through Carmel on Sunday, having to turn different corners and drive down unfamiliar roads due to all the trees down, but we finally made it to the shore only to find the sand had been devoured by the angry waves. Still, I had to go- I had to see it for myself, and only returned to the car when I was soaked and so cold my fingers ached.

Yesterday, I rolled the dice and went with my dog for a run in between rain showers. We made it far up the hill when the rain decided to begin to fall in earnest again. I couldn’t help but smile the whole way home, breathless and soggy and more alive than I’d felt in forever.

And in the evening, we went to the beach. I wanted to see what treasures had been washed ashore, churned up from the ocean floor and left for my fingers to pluck up from the sand. What I found instead was a sky so breathtaking with clouds, the sun burnishing them the most indescribable pink gold in places, and leaving them so ominous and black in others. The greens and oranges of the ice plant and the metallic, mercury waves, the angelic pink and doomsday gray of the clouds…I was frozen solid by the time we made it back to the car, but my soul was fed. And just as we began to drive home, the rain swept back in from out to sea, and began to fall once more.

Oh, how I love a good storm.

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.

Posted in Addiction, adventure, happiness, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People

Changes II

I meant to write this yesterday, but I accidentally spent the entire day in bed, sleeping on and off and watching Ghost Adventures- every now and again, you need a good “bed day”, don’t you think? Also, probably going through some weird mental stuff now that I am not giving my body that little hand-to-mouth-inhaling-chemicals thing it loves so much. I was definitely grouchy yesterday.

Oh, and also…it might be because I am feeling a little weird about a decision I made. I told my sponsor a few days ago that I am taking a step back from meetings. I gave up my service commitment. I ran through it with my therapist, and I spent a lot of time thinking hard about it. I don’t know what it really means yet. I just know that I was listening to the same people say the exact same things over and over and over, I was hearing myself give a lot of lip service with no feeling in my heart, and…my time is so precious. I know this is contrary to everything I’ve always said, and it doesn’t make any of that untrue- NA saved my life. Many times. NA fed me so much and helped me so much and I know myself better now than I ever have. But for now, I’m stepping away.

I don’t want to still be talking about what it was like for me in another 20 years. I don’t want to keep rehashing it. I don’t want to call myself an addict every time I speak. I know who I am, and who I will always be- I don’t need to keep announcing it. Words hold so much weight. That is not my identity. I am questioning so many of the things I thought I knew, and wondering if I even believe them anymore. And you know, this is really upsetting and scary to a lot of people! But I am not going to be afraid of my own thoughts. I am not going to be afraid to question my beliefs. Even if it is upsetting to other people. I might change my mind in a week or two, I might not. I don’t know right now. And that’s okay.

I refuse to speak a bad word about any twelve step program- they are an invaluable resource to anyone who wants to learn how to be clean or sober, depending on which “A” you follow. I think it is a beautiful, life-changing thing. But maybe it’s not a forever thing for everyone. And that is also okay.

Like I said, I’m taking a break. Stepping back. Trying to figure out where I fit in. I don’t know what that means…But I can tell you this: I have not rushed out to chug a beer or snort a line or whatever. That’s not what this is about. I’m simply…taking a breather. And it feels really stinking weird.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to get a little uncomfortable, though. Now I just need to figure out what I’m doing next.