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. 🙂

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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, 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 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.