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.

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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 anxiety, Blogging, faith, friendship, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, Musings, People

A String of Lovely Days

dalai
This basically summarizes everything I just wrote, so you can just stop here if you want.

Yesterday marked my 8th day in a row of being happy. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the days that preceded that were so God-awful, at least a few of them, that I am not even going to link to the “Panic Attack Rabies Incident” here. (Hint: that’s not what the post is called, that’s just what it’s about. It might have the word rabies in it though.) It’s so crazy, it’s almost embarrassing. If you want to read it, you can just scroll back until you find it. The days prior to the really, really bad day (or four) were no picnic, either. I was fighting a lot with my older daughter, feeling uncomfortable in my own home, which, when you are someone who is home as much as I am, this really sucks. And honestly, looking back even further than that- I was trialing new medication for my ADHD that went terribly wrong, I was struggling with a sort of depression/anxiety/ unhappiness/totally-stuck-in-a-rut thing. My life just didn’t feel good anymore, for a while, and I didn’t know why. Or maybe I kind of knew why, but I didn’t feel able to do the things I needed to do to overcome it.

Lucky for me, everything blew up. First, I asked my daughter to leave. It wasn’t quite as nice as that, but it has been the best thing for both of us. Then, I stopped taking that F***ing medication. No thank you. Then I had a four day panic attack, and was pretty sure I was going to die of rabies. As soon as I stopped thinking that, I started thinking I was just crazy, and this was how life would be from here on out. Panic, waking up already afraid of…of what? Just, everything. Life. It really sucked.

But, when God or the Universe or whoever is in charge of knitting bodies and souls and brains and guts together, made me, they put in this funny little switch. It gets tripped at the oddest of times, generally when I am at my lowest. Right around the time when I am feeling hopeless and ready to give up, it activates, and I wake up and think “Like HELL. Like hell am I going to live like this. If (for instance) I’m going to die a horrible death from rabies, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of these last days on earth.” Or, “I don’t know what all this fear is from, or why it is happening, but NO. I am not going to live like this.” And then the most incredible thing happens…I just…get over it. Like, I know that doesn’t sound possible, but i’m telling you, it has happened for me so many times throughout my life. I have these horrible run-ins with crippling panic and then, I just can’t take it anymore, and I put my mental foot down.

I am in NO WAY suggesting that this is a solution for anyone else, or pretending that it is proof that the mind is so powerful, you should be able to…I don’t know, be so stubborn that you can destroy your anxiety simply by not letting it happen. I’m just so, so grateful that my particular stubborn brain has this escape hatch. Because panic and anxiety are brutal motherfuckers. I’m sorry for the language, but this is a fair and accurate description. I do not have time to be a quivering mass in the corner. I have shit to do. I am the home that all of my people come to- family or just weird, adopted, family type people. This is where their mail comes. I sign for their packages. I am that person.

Anyway, there is more to the story, of course. I remembered what I already knew, but just hadn’t been practicing. That a happy life is a life that includes both things you enjoy doing, and tasks completed that need to be done. Too much of either one, and it’s no good. So every day, I make sure to do a handful of things that need to be done- clean out the car, wash the dishes, replace light bulbs, change the sheets- and a few things I just want to do. I pick up beach glass, or make hot chocolate, read a good book in the tub. Buy some crap I don’t need on Amazon. Whatever. I remembered that exercise is so important- just taking a little walk every day is so invigorating. And of course, prayer and meditation, or whatever practice is sacred to you, is just perfection. Finally, I remembered that isolation is not the same as time alone. I must talk and interact with others, because my head will start to tell me things that are not true. I need the brightness and laughter of friends to clear things up.

So- my energy has bounced back. The fear and worry have been off somewhere else. I am better than I’ve been in months. I just hope it lasts. But I will do EVERYTHING I can to make sure that it does. And for now, I’m just going to enjoy feeling good- feeling like myself again. My good self. I like this version of me.

 

 

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

Light after Darkness

light through darkness

I want to share something with you: Although I would never, ever, ever wish a panic attack of any caliber on anyone, I am sitting here this morning grateful for the meltdown I had last week. I honestly think it needed to happen. Yes, it was scary, and over the top, and it kind of felt like I filled a few short hours with a years worth of fear, BUT…walking around with all those bottled up emotions, trying to be strong and good all the time- it’s exhausting.

I learned some important things, like: even though I might feel like I am alone in the world, there really are people that I can count on in a crisis. People who love me exactly as I am, even at my worst.

Thanks to my heightened anxiety and panic for those few days, when I came back down to earth and my normal worries started kicking back in, they paled in comparison to the shit-show I had just survived. So, I have been less worried about mundane, normal things than usual. This is nothing short of a miracle. Worry is a waste of time, period.

I figured out that I need to be ME. The full expression of myself, not watered down, not held back to be more palatable for someone else. I need to be comfortable in my own life, and if I am not committed to this, certainly no one else will make it so. This is MY life. I must care for it and tend to it and make it beautiful for me, which means being who I am and defending the boundaries I decide on. I must be an active participant. Funny side effect of this is that when you start to be true to yourself, you start to uphold those boundaries, not only do you respect yourself more, but other people respect you more as well. And then it becomes even easier to be happy, and be yourself. It all goes together.

From the heights of panic to the depths of despair, my mini-nervous breakdown left me with a lot of information to process. It also left me with a clean slate, in a place where there has been much peace and gratitude. I’ve returned to my daily meditation practice, I pause many times throughout the day to appreciate the calm, or the contentment, or the quiet within me. It’s been easier for me to be kind, to reach out to others. My picking up on the vibes of others is at an all time high.

I’m no fool- I know that life is not going to magically be wonderful forever now. Ups and downs are just part of the ride, and some of us have more of them than others. I know there will be other moments when I am crying in the bathtub, scared to death of my own mind. But there will also be other moments when I am so in love with life, and so grateful for that same exact mind…and that makes it all a lot more bearable. Knowing that, when it is very dark, the light is on its way. I will try to remember that.

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, health, inner peace, Learning, Life, meditation, Mental Health, Musings, People, recovery, women

Real, for Real

feel better

Over the past while, for whatever reason, I have noticed my tendency to…sort of be disingenuous a little bit in my writing. I am giving the truth, but maybe not the whole truth, and I don’t know why that is. I think part of it is that I’ve wanted so badly to feel like I am exercising some control over the way I am feeling in my life, and so I will try this thing, and that thing, in an effort to feel better. For example, changing my diet, exercising regularly, meditation, mindfulness- and all of these things are WONDERFUL things, don’t get me wrong! All of them work, too…to a certain degree. And I’ve wanted so badly for them to work, I get so excited when, for a week or two, or maybe even a month, I can do everything perfectly and things seem to be looking up- I am quick to sing the praises of all of these things as a solution, but…the sad truth is, it’s really, really hard to do all of these things consistently forever! And the even sadder truth is, I am finding that even when I am pretty damn consistent, there is still a huge gap between how I AM feeling and how I WANT to feel. I haven’t missed a day of meditation in almost three months, and yet…I am struggling terribly with my mood. I am painfully aware of it, thanks to being so goddamn mindful, but I can’t seem to work through it, accept it, or just allow it…I don’t want to allow that. Why would anyone?!

Oddly enough, it was my little experiment this past week- let’s see if I can go 24 hours without yelling, remember? That pushed me into reevaluating my situation. The fact of the matter is, I couldn’t do it. I tried really hard, but I found myself doing okay the first day, and utterly failing on the second and third day. The yelling, though- I know this is just a symptom of a bigger issue, and that issue is that I am constantly battling with low level depression, an onslaught of negative thoughts about myself, and just generally clinging to a shred of debris that keeps my head above water. The tricky thing is that I don’t feel like this every single day- some days I feel great, and when that is true it’s hard to imagine that I ever feel so badly. But I’m here, right now, telling you that I do. More and more often lately, I feel far less than good. I used to have lots of good days punctuated by spells of shitty ones. Now it seems like the opposite is true. And I am out of tricks. The vitamins, the clean eating, the exercise, the meditation, the journaling- it just isn’t enough. And I refuse to live this way. I will not subject my child or anyone else I love to my bullshit behavior anymore- I got clean because I didn’t like myself, I am sure as shit not going to be a sober person who is still an asshole.  And listen, I am not just being mean to myself. I realize that I can’t really control my behavior- there is something wrong, and that isn’t my fault. Just like the fact that I am an addict is not my fault. But, just like my addiction- it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to fix it.

Yesterday morning, I made a decision. I have an appointment with my therapist today, and I am going to talk to her about getting an appointment with a psychiatrist, because it is finally time to discuss getting on some medication. I have tried for almost three and half years to fix myself, and if I am being 100% honest, I haven’t gotten very far. Lots of things in my life have gotten better, but the way I FEEL has not. I am less frantic, maybe, and able to be more calm, but this is just the benefit of not ingesting a metric ton of methamphetamine, I’m sure. The way I feel is still suffering. And, though I am really nervous about taking a prescription drug- I’m worried that I could feel worse, or have weird side effects, or gain weight- I’m more worried about the fact that there might be a solution and I’m over here just struggling every day for no reason. So I am going to start that ball rolling today.

This morning, I made another decision, and this is a big one- I decided that, because I know it will be weeks until I can see a psychiatrist, and I want to start feeling better yesterday, I am going to try CBD. I have been doing a lot of research about it, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, so why not give it a shot? If I can find something natural, with no side effects, that will work? Hell, that sounds great to me. My hope is that it will work so well that by the time I get in to see a prescribing doctor, I won’t need a prescription anymore.

I would really love to hear about anyone else’s experience with CBD- and remember, this is the NON THC version I am talking about. Not only am I in recovery, but I HATE the way being high feels. A funny thing for an addict to say, I know, but no thank you. Not my kind of high, anyway. Have you tried CBD? Did it help? Do you know anyone who has tried it and liked it? Tell me EVERYTHING. I will be visiting the dispensary today, so hurry up. And for the love of God, have a good day, will you? The world needs all the happiness it can get.

Posted in advice, anxiety, Depression, faith, health, inner peace, Life, magic, manifestation, meditation, Mental Health, mindfulness, People, spirituality, the occult

Just DO it.

just do it
Thanks, Nike.

Early, early this morning, because it was a full moon and I am not a night person in ANY way, I did a little candle ritual to get rid of this negative energy that’s been clinging to me like a second skin lately. I also saged myself and my house, and left all my crystals outside to charge in whatever glimpse they might have gotten of the moon through the thick fog that blankets the coast in the summer months. Yeah, I do all of that stuff. I’ve been listening to podcasts about magic and manifestation (they aren’t all that different, to be honest), I’ve been reading books about mindfulness and journaling. I also started taking magnesium, because I’ve heard it is effective at easing depression. I’ve seen my therapist, I’ve gone to meetings, I’ve reached out to friends. In short, I have used almost every weapon in my arsenal to yank myself out of this funk I have been in. There are two things that I haven’t done- well, one, as of yesterday- and they are these: Take TRUE action and take medication. I don’t happen to have any medication laying around to take, obviously, but I am not averse to doing such a thing- going to my doctor and saying “Hey, nothing I am doing is working. I need some help.”, but I will tell you this, it is the very last thing I ever want to do. I’ve been lucky so far and it hasn’t come to that, but rest assured, if it did, I would do what I needed to do. I would never shame someone for needing that kind of help. Depression is an endless-seeming nightmare, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Everyone I’ve spoken to about the way I’m feeling inevitably asks the same question- “Why are you depressed? What’s wrong?” And it is almost funny, but not really, because…seriously? That isn’t how depression works. And I don’t know. There’s nothing wrong, nothing has changed, I just feel awful and I can’t shake it. Trust me, I’m TRYING.

Taking TRUE action though, the other thing I hadn’t done until yesterday, I know isn’t an option for everyone who is clinically depressed. I don’t think that’s what I am, although I certainly have potential (the one instance where not living up to my potential is a good thing!). I am more like…lightly depressed. A salad with a side of depression. Still showering, still getting dressed when necessary, just really upset about having to do those things. So, for ME, I know that if I can just get myself moving, I will probably feel better. Only I don’t want to do that. I want to sit here, in my robe, with my hair in a fraying braid, eating ice cream out of the container and watching “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” with the blinds closed.

My daughter called me the day before yesterday, and I huffily paused my show to take her call. She asked how I was, and I told her the truth. This kid, she has struggled with depression off and on for years, and she had some advice for me. I told her “I just keep thinking ‘tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be better’  but it’s the same thing!” and she goes “mom, you can’t do that- you have to just get up and make yourself do something- I even wrote it on my dry erase board-‘JUST DO IT’, and I look at it all the time. It really helps!”

Of course, I rolled my eyes (she couldn’t see me) and said “I know you’re right, I will.” with absolutely no intention of doing any such thing. Later that night I messaged a friend of mine- “I really need to get my shit together. I can’t go on like this.” I went to bed, and in the morning, I read his response: “Just do it, then.”

Hmm.

As woo-woo as I am, you won’t find it hard to imagine that I strongly believe in synchronicity, and messages from the Universe coming through in any way that they can. Just Do It. From two people who care about me, two people who couldn’t be more unlikely to have conspired behind my back to get this through to me.

Fine, then.

Yesterday, after work, instead of slipping into my couch-coma as I am wont to do, I grudgingly put my shoes on and ordered my small child and my dog into the car. I drove to the beach, and I grudgingly got out of the car, ordered my whining child and super excited dog out of the car, and trudged morosely up the hill and over the dunes. It was freezing cold and super windy, and for some reason, by the time we made it down to the water, both of us humans were smiling. The dog was smiling the entire time, of course. We didn’t go far or stay long, but that wasn’t the point. The point was just to do it. By the time we got back to the car, my ears hurt like hell from the cold wind, but I felt…alive. As if I were actually existing inside my body and life, rather than from somewhere outside of it.

We went to Petsmart, bought some dog shampoo and a big bone for Lucy, and when we got home I gave her a bath. She hasn’t had a bath in several months- the only one who hates her bath more than I do is her- but I was bound and determined to do it, and I did. She was such a good girl- she got right into her little tub and lay down, and I used a pitcher to rinse the filth off of her. When she was done, I dried her with a towel, and she pranced around, feeling pretty, the way dogs do after a bath. Five seconds before she went and rolled in the dirt out back. Goddammit.

The point here is, I did some things. And after I’d done them, I felt better. I took myself out to dinner, alone, and had a smashing time. I was in bed by nine, and that’s okay, too. So now, my job is not to lose my momentum. I’m not out of the woods yet. As soon as I hit publish on this bad boy, I’m throwing on some yoga pants and heading out for a little while- back to the beach, and then to a meeting.

Do I believe in my candle rituals and manifestation boards and crystal energy? Do I believe that my prayers are heard and that meditation helps, and that talking about what is wrong matters? YES. I believe all of that. But I also believe that we need to meet the Universe, meet God, meet whoever or whatever is out there halfway. Whether that means asking our doctor for help with our brain chemistry, or getting up and out of the house, putting away the ice cream and opening the blinds- that’s a personal decision. We can’t just wait for miracles to fall out of the sky.

So…just do it. Whatever it is. Sorry, Nike, I’m borrowing your catchphrase,

Posted in Depression, escape, family, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mindfulness, People

This Crazy Brain

anxiety

Sometime last week, I was driving home from somewhere with Camryn in the back, and she goes-“Mom, do you ever think about about the things you think? Like, isn’t it weird that you can think about your thoughts?”

And I was like, whoa- pretty advanced stuff for a seven year old to come up with, but I just said-“Yeah, actually, I do. Isn’t it cool that we can have thoughts and also somehow observe those thoughts?”

“I don’t know…I think it’s kind of weird.” She said worriedly.

“Well…you know, that’s why mommy meditates so much- so that I can learn how to not get too caught up in all that thinking. My brain makes me crazy sometimes- it goes and goes and goes, and sometimes I just wish it would settle down.” I told her.

“Maybe I should do that.” She said thoughtfully, “Because sometimes I wish I could just open up my head, pull out my thoughts, and throw them out.”

Uh-oh, I thought. She’s exactly like me.

Although I know I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have the brain that I have, sometimes it really would be nice to slow it down a little bit. I don’t mean physically- hell, I could sit still in a chair without moving once if the right channel was playing back to back episodes of a good enough show. As a matter of fact, I think the reason I CAN do this is because it cuts off the incessant thinking for a little while. Because my brain is exhausting. It literally never shuts the fuck up. I know that is what brains do, but I feel like (and I have zero proof of this, obviously) mine is just a little extra. It has the ability to run off in several directions at once while playing horrible songs from the 70’s on repeat. It likes to ambush me with terrible memories at the most random moments, and if one doesn’t upset me enough, it comes prepared with an entire montage of unrelated but equally horrifying past transgressions.

Sometimes I think my own brain is out to get me.

Yesterday I had an anxiety attack triggered by one of my weird bouts of catastrophic thinking. The pretty mild, innocent incident that triggered the attack was a missed phone call. I took a missed phone call, and my brain made some enormous, poorly judged leaps to conclusions that had me shaking, sick, and nearly out of my mind with panic. I just knew that something horrible had happened, I just knew it. But…I also knew that I was probably wrong, and that I was acting crazy, and that I needed to stop. Except I can’t stop when I get like that, I don’t know how. I know lots of things that should help, that, in theory, sound helpful- but in practice they simply do not.

One minute passed, and the phone call was returned, and I acted bright and happy and chipper, and everything was fine…except it wasn’t fine. I wasn’t fine. My anxiety did not retreat, even after everything was okay, not for the rest of my work day. And when it finally did calm down, I was so tired that I couldn’t function.

For dinner last night we had popcorn, ice cream and tortilla chips. We ate on the living room floor with the blinds closed because it was 4:30 and I was sick of the sunlight. We watched Sherlock Gnomes from a pile of blankets stolen off of both our beds, and every pillow we could rustle up, and Camryn thought it was fun, but I knew I was just hiding. Recovering. Trying to figure out what the fuck my problem is.

I tried talking to my mom about it, but she has her own shit going on, and she has a way of sort of dismissing what I’m telling her that makes me feel like I am just blowing it out of proportion. I know she is probably trying to make me feel better, but it just makes me feel like…like I’m being dramatic. Which I AM. Which is kind of the whole problem in a nutshell- my brain is super dramatic, and I can’t control it. That’s kind of what my anxiety looks like.

Anyway, I have a new day to start fresh with. Hopefully nothing horrible happens, like, I don’t know…someone doesn’t pick up the phone the first time I call. Or Camryn coughs once and I assume she’s choking to death. Sometimes I wish I could open up my head and pluck the thoughts out, too. I know exactly how she feels.