Posted in anxiety, Depression, family, happiness, kids, Life, love, Mental Health, mental illness, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

It’s Not Just About Me

I come to you this morning with my messy pony-tail and my ratty old robe, having not left this house once since around 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, and only then because I had no choice. I was out of kitty litter, and the house was starting to smell pretty bad. The only reason I even noticed this was because I shielded my tender little eyeballs from the sun and ran a bag of trash out to the cans in another one of my weird surges of efficiency earlier that day. When I came back in, the smell about knocked me over. Apparently, sitting in the reek all day was fine, but discovering it after a brief moment of fresh air was unacceptable. So, to the store I went.

Of course, I went to the store in my beat up old sweatshirt I’d slept in, didn’t bother with my hair, and had a face so free of makeup that it looked as if I’d left my eyelashes at home on the bathroom counter. I have absolutely colorless eyelashes, I tell you. Anyway, it follows that I ran into a “friend” from Facebook in the produce section at Target. I say “friend” in quotations because, although we have interacted quite often, and for some length of time, this was our first time meeting in real life. At least she recognized me. I was about as mortified as I am capable of being at this point, which is to say, not much.

Here’s the thing. My anxiety has been strangled into submission by pure stubbornness, it seems. But left in its wake has been something I can ONLY describe as depression. Like, I have never been so disinterested in everything before in my freaking life. I’m even bored with the idea of being depressed. Like seriously, what the fucking fuck? Can I just pull it together for five minutes or WHAT? I’m sure it has everything to do with my period showing up Sunday, and that the minute my hormone levels start rising or falling or whatever they’re supposed to do, I’ll feel marginally better, but…my God, I’m OVER IT.

I’ve even been grouchy to my pets. It seems like Lucy (my black lab) is forever nudging her head into my lap, probably sensing that I desperately need some kind of support. And I am forever perfunctorily patting at her ears for half a second before pushing her away irritably, telling her “GO!”

I watched this little video snippet yesterday of a mother reading aloud a little thing she wrote about the fleeting nature of childhood- the way our babies turn to toddlers, then children, then adolescents and so on. And how, at every stage, we think we have so much more time…but really, we don’t. Take it from me, with my 21 year old and my 8 year old who were both, somehow, born like a year ago. It feels that way, anyway.

That video jarred something open in me. You know, I’ve been so incredibly busy being self-obsessed, trying to figure out not only what is wrong with me but how to fix it, that I had completely forgotten that I am shaping the life experience of others. Namely, my small daughter and my pets. I wasn’t thinking about anyone else because I was thinking so much about me. You know, I don’t have forever. Camryn won’t be small for too much longer, and Lucy…well, she’s 7 already. For a Lab, that’s up there in years. I may not be Camryn’s whole world, but I’m a huge part of it, and for Lucy, I AM it. I have no right to push her away when she needs a pat or a little reassurance that I’m okay.

So, just like that, I changed my attitude. On my lunch break, when I jumped in bed to take a little snooze, I patted the bed and invited Lucy up there with me- a rare treat- and we snuggled for 30 minutes. It didn’t escape my notice that she yelped a little bit in pain when she attempted to leap up onto the bed. I don’t have forever. I am her person. She deserves my love, even when I don’t feel very loving.

Cam, who’d spent the day with her dad, came home to find a big sign I’d made for her- big bubble letters of her name, decorated with flowers and vines, and various declarations of love. Just a little dumb thing to let her know I was thinking of her.

Here’s the thing- it made ME feel a thousand times better. Loving on my dog, playing with the kitten (who, incidentally, has the best, loudest, juiciest purr you’ve ever heard), petting the more stoic and reserved Frankenstein (my black kitty), taking a moment to do something sweet for my kid…I did it for them, but it helped me. I forgot how that worked. I forgot that when we think of and do for others, it takes us out of ourselves and fills us up with something wonderful.

So, I’m a mess- there’s no getting around that. I’m a mess that is always working towards a solution, though, and I am proud of that. But I figured something out yesterday at least- I’m not going to find happiness searching the very place where all the trouble is originating. That happiness I want is not inside my head. It’s over on the couch as we speak, snoring way too loudly for a dog, waiting for me to stand up so she can follow me anywhere I happen to be going. It’s in the little body in my bedroom, drooling on my pillow, waiting to see what adventures this day holds. Yes, I’m a mess. But I have the best tools in the world to lift me up, out and over. People and creatures who love me far more than I probably deserve.

Today, that is more than enough.

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Posted in anxiety, Depression, Goals, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, women

Kicking Ass

I told you that I was about to shift gears around here, and apparently, I actually meant it. I don’t have a ton of time this morning, thanks to the 45 minutes I just wasted playing video slot machines with fake money that nevertheless absolutely makes me stress like actual money, but I digress. (PS: that shit is really fun, but I don’t dare connect it to my Facebook account for more free coins because I don’t want anyone to worry that I’m on drugs- trust me, it really is a druggie thing. Also, trust me, I am seriously NOT on drugs. 🙂 )

Anyway, I have been a veritable whirling dervish since we last talked- not a literal one, I just looked up what “whirling dervish” is and it’s some kind of religious thing. So that’s not it. What I mean is, I’ve been kicking ASS around here. Handling my business. Folding laundry, keeping the sink clear of dishes, seeing a piece of garbage on the floor and actually picking it up instead of walking past it forty three times before I realize it’s probably me who needs to dispose of it. I’m serious, that’s a thing I do. I honestly forget that I’m the one in charge around here.

All this to say, I am working hard to change the way I go about my day. I’m not just over here being sad or frustrated that my life doesn’t look the way I want it to- that I KNOW it CAN, if only, if only, if only. Because all that lamenting and gnashing of teeth has gotten me fuck-all. I suppose I’m finally putting on my big girl panties and taking charge.

And it feels good. Really, really good.

Has my anxiety magically disappeared? Am I suddenly glowing with some incandescent inner light born of joy? Um, no. This is more like a grim, head down, advance into war kind of thing I’ve got going on right now. Because I am fighting this bullshit that’s been trying to take over around here for some time now, and I don’t know if that is the right way to deal with it, but…nothing else has worked so far. Self- love, mantras, deep breathing- none of it is getting me the results I need so desperately. But grim determination feels like the start of a solution.

For example, my kitten gouged- I mean, really messed me up kind of gouged, my tender inner arm on Monday. I don’t know if you guys read the post, but a cat scratch was the trigger that started this whole bout of anxiety. It’s kind of horribly embarrassing, but yeah…I wound up in the hospital, demanding rabies shots because of a panic attack. The scratches this time were WAY worse. Super deep, instantly bruised, just gross. I washed them thoroughly, cleaned them up, and…well, I went on with my life. Have I been checking them obsessively to make sure I don’t have an infection, or blood poisoning? Maybe a little bit. Did I double check her shot records to make sure she had all her vaccinations? You know I did. But there has been no panic, no tears, no freaking the fuck out. I’m doing what any reasonable person would do- keeping an eye on things and waiting to see what happens. That is a big, big deal. I’m proud of myself.

I’m not going to let anxiety rule my life anymore. I meant what I said. I’m going to whip this house into order so that I can enjoy my surroundings. When the worry wants to push me until I can’t back up any further, I am not going to give in. I’m going to push back. When the anxiety leaves me weary and worn out…well, I’m just done letting it do that to me. I’m not just tired of it. I’m mad at it. I guess that’s okay, for now. I think it helps me get a hold of myself, and that’s exactly what I need to do. I’ve sort of indulged my fanciful mind a bit too much…let it take me along for some rides that I am not tall enough to be on, you know?

Anyway, don’t worry- I’m not stomping around here, cursing and banging things around. I’m just…I’m just having a growth spurt I guess. Not the physical kind, but the internal kind. I’ve been having the growing pains and now it’s time for me to exercise this new strength. I hope that’s what this is. I’m calling it that.

Okay, off to shower! I have new things to conquer today.

Posted in anxiety, Goals, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, motherhood, Musings, People, women

Raising my Standards

anxiety

I want to tell you something: If you are new to this blog, say, within the past few months- you have not gotten to see a very accurate picture of who I am. For whatever reason, my normally somewhat simmering anxiety got the heat turned up underneath it and started boiling over. During that time, since December I’d say, I had a lot of stuff happen that I couldn’t really control. I have been shaken down to my core, and that’s the truth. My self confidence plummeted, and I often have felt like a passenger in my own life, not really at the wheel, sort of at the mercy of whatever too-strong emotion wanted to drive that day. When your mind has turned on you, it is a very, very scary thing. I have not felt strong, or capable, or well at all.

But I have been working hard to deal with it. I have doubled down on therapy, listened to podcasts about overcoming anxiety, bought lots of books about it, I’ve had acupuncture and meditated twice a day sometimes. I take deep, deep breaths and I talk myself down, and I try really hard to talk sense into a mind that is…well, panicking. Creating fantastic scenarios of terrible events that are unlikely to ever take place. This has been the focus of my life for too many weeks now. And it is EXHAUSTING. I have heard things like “There’s nothing for you to be anxious about” or “You just need to get over it” or “Maybe just don’t focus so much on it” and quite frankly, I’d like to send out a big FUCK YOU to those people. Because anyone who has dealt with it knows that THAT IS NOT HOW ANXIETY WORKS. DUH. Do you think I enjoy this shit, Barbara? No, no I do not. The way my brain is wired, the hormones and chemicals that make up the little ecosystem or whatever of ME, make me a little more prone to slipping off the edge, and believe me when I tell you that I do not have time to be crying, curled up in the fetal position in the corner.

I am a professional. I have a job I work 40 hours a week at and the handsome paycheck I receive every two weeks goes to support my little family of children and pets and myself. I am a mother. I am a single mother at that, taking 90% care of my 8 year old, and by that I mean: I pack the lunches, wash the laundry, run the baths, keep the house, do the shopping, read the books, oversee homework, dry the tears, play drill sergeant every morning, drop-off, pick-up and try to fit quality time in there as well. That doesn’t even include taking care of myself, balancing the books, paying the bills, or feeding and caring for this freaking menagerie of animals I have.

So, even when I am so anxious that I want to sit in the tub with the shower just spraying me in the head, I DO EVERYTHING ANYWAY. Life does not stop just because my thoughts are running wild and my heart is pounding so hard I can hear it in my ears.

Do you know what that means? That I am so incredibly, amazingly strong. That, even with my mental health in the shitter, I am still KILLING IT. I am a motherfucking warrior. I don’t think the people who give me shitty, condescending advice would survive one 24 hour stretch in my mind the way it’s been lately. But it would be fun to watch them try.

Anyway, I am still not 100%. But things are getting better, and I think I might understand a little better where all this ultra-anxiety is coming from. One long, stupid word: Perimenopause. My spell check is telling me that is not a word, so maybe I spelled it wrong, but you ladies of a certain age know what I’m talking about. That’s right- my lady business is starting the long, arduous process of closing up shop. My estrogen levels are plummeting, and my brain is going haywire, and all I can do is hang the fuck on. It’s taken my “normal” anxiety and turned up the volume to like 457.

So no, I am not where I’d like to be. But I can tell you this- I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I am not just surviving hour by hour anymore, which is amazing. I am feeling my fight come back, and oh lord, how I need that fight right now. Without my spunky nature, without my ability to find the silver lining, to overcome every obstacle life throws at me…I am just not me. I lost myself pretty thoroughly for a minute there.

But I am back, and I am DETERMINED to wring every bit of good out of this bullshit I am dealing with, and turn it into something great. And that means it’s time to raise the bar a whole lot. I am going to self-care the shit out of myself, and I don’t mean bubble baths and pedicures. I’m talking about meeting life head on and DEALING with all the little problems I have let slide while I’ve been freaking out, and taking my life back to where it was…and then going way past that spot. I want to be happy. I deserve to be happy.

So, from here on out, I will be posting what I am doing to make that goal a reality, and sharing why these things are necessary for ME to have the life I want to have. I might not have a choice about whether this anxiety stays or leaves, I might not be able to control my hormones and chemistry (completely), but I do get some say in how much I allow myself to be slowed down. And today I am choosing to blast right through the barriers.

Stay tuned!

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 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 adventure, fun, funny, humor, Life, Musings, People, random, women

I don’t know what happened (the story of my week)

Okay, so…last time I posted, I basically announced that I was quitting recovery, and then I disappeared off the face of the earth. I’m assuming that some of you figure I’ve been in a blacked-out stupor since then, busy torching the life I worked so hard to pull together.

Well, let me reassure you (or disappoint you, depending on what kind of person you are) that nothing could be further from the truth. I may or may not have mentioned that I finally fulfilled my resolution to give up smoking and vaping? Yeah, that happened last Thursday, so I’m a little bit over a week in now. I’ve been using the patch to get me through it, and some weird things happen to me on that patch. Well, not that weird- actually it’s pretty common, but…I have the most crazy dreams. Super freaky. My dreams are kinda strange and vivid anyway, but this turns up the weirdness to full blast. The thing about it, though, is that I enjoy the hell out of those dreams. I can’t seem to get enough of them. Or maybe it’s just harder to get out of bed, knowing there’s no nicotine reward waiting for me- either way, I’ve had a harder time getting out of bed in the morning. So it’s harder for me to fit in writing here, you see.

What else? Oh yeah, I’ve been eating as though it were my mission in life to explode my body from the inside out. Basically, I’ve completely lost the reigns of all my January resolutions this week, and I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s the giving up the smokes/vape thing. But yesterday I had an excuse- I went to my works anniversary brunch for people who have been with the hospital for ten years or longer. My first one! It was at the very swanky ballroom at Spanish Bay (in Pebble Beach, the golf mecca) and they provided a lavish buffet. I am not one to ever turn down a buffet. And no matter how I promise myself I will make wise choices and eat fruit and yogurt, I crumble in the face of Eggs Benedict and piles of bacon and sausage. I just can’t help it.

So that was my breakfast. I got to have the rest of the day off, and had offered to buy a good friend of mine lunch if she’d pick up Camryn from school, assuming I’d be hungry again by then. I had scheduled my annual mammogram for that afternoon, forgetting that I had it off. I would have much preferred to do that on a day I was working, so I could feel like “hey, if I have to get my boob squashed, at least I got out of work”, but I messed that up. Anyway, I was NOT hungry by the time I got out of there, but did that stop me from eating a massive sandwich? Of course it didn’t.

The end result of that being, I wound up in bed with a horrible stomach ache around 6 p.m., and Cam’s dad had to come over to see to her dinner and homework. I got up once to check on them, and he was asleep on the couch, while Cam had made some type of slime concoction to which she’d added a pencil sharpener, a hair clip, and something else I can’t recall. The fact that I didn’t even care should illuminate my state of mind for you. Normally, that would have really pissed me off, the lack of supervision. I just noted it and went back to bed. I didn’t even wash my face last night, that’s how zonked I was.

In other news, we got a kitten on Monday. Her name is Lily, and she is a 3 month old long-haired Calico. I can’t even deal with how cute she is. I’ll share pictures with you soon!

So, there’s my week- eating too much, sleeping too much, not handling my business the way I generally prefer to do. But I haven’t put anything in my lungs besides air, so I’m still calling it a win. I think today I will pull it together again.

Happy Friday!