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!

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

Quiet

*** Warning: This is not as happy as most of my recent posts. Teensy bit of a bummer***

I went on to have a bad day yesterday…after the beautiful weekend, after the peace and happiness I held in my heart and in my body as I wrote my post yesterday.

Work was…the same as it always is. The same, same, same. I began to wonder if maybe, reading chart after chart of sick and injured patients- if maybe I took on some of that. Some of the emotion- the fear, the worry, the sadness- that I read day in and day out. I have said before, I am very impressionable. My body grew tighter and more tense as the day went on.

By 2:30, the anxiety had started to blossom in my chest. I tried to resist it, but that never works. I tried to sit with it, to reason with it, to ignore it. Nothing. Nothing worked. The terrible thoughts began to bombard my mind- car wrecks and kidnappings and all of the ideas that plague me when my children aren’t within arms reach. My mind becomes a bitter enemy.

And now I am starting to see what comes after the anxiety rushes out- after the child is home, safe and sound, leaving this giant space inside of me where all that worry had been. After the relief of her arrival-that brief, sweet, space- has also fled. I am left with this…this awfulness. This feeling that my mind has done it, once again, splintered away from reason, led me down this dark path. And then I am angry. I am angry with myself, but it comes out in other ways. Impatience with homework, intolerance, temper. The anxiety leaves me with another mess. I am finally seeing it.

This morning, I am once again left with the task of forgiving myself. Of loving myself despite my defects. Telling myself that healing is not a straight path- there are dips and bends, and times when the road doubles back on itself. The times when I am angry and lost are so brief now, but they seem to bother me so much more. And you know…no one went to bed with hurt feelings last night. Cam crept into my room and slept beside me while I was sleeping. It wasn’t that bad. But I want it to be better. I always wish it were better.

I crave quiet this morning. I turned the radio off in the car, let the sound of the rain fill my ears, the low hum of the car. Even now, I hear nothing but the rain outside, and it is all I want. I don’t want to scroll through Facebook, or hear anymore of the godforsaken news of this fucked up world. I have enough on my plate right here. Right inside these walls. I am on my guard, of course, praying the anxiety does not return today. It gets old. It gets old not feeling safe in your own life, knowing it’s all just a lie your brain is making up. It gets old not knowing what to do to fix it.

So today, I’m just going to be quiet. I’m just going to breathe. And try to figure out how to clear this hurdle.

Posted in Blogging, family, happiness, home, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, motherhood, Musings, People, random, women

So Much Good Stuff

Sunrise on Saturday morning from my front porch

I want to give a little run-down of my weekend, but of course, I’ve waited too long to write and now I have no time left.

I ended my Friday night with selfies with my cat, Frankenstein.

Suffice to say, I had the loveliest of weekends. Why, you ask? Well, on this particular weekend, there were several factors that added up to contribute to the loveliness. One of the things is that I have gotten quite comfortable with my daughter being off with her dad from Friday evening until late Saturday afternoon, so I can really enjoy my time alone. And this weekend, it really was time alone- I went to bed at like 7:30 Friday night, slept like a log, woke up in the morning, did some writing, meditated, basically…I did whatever felt good to me in that moment.

My screamin’ soup with way too much garlic bread. Yum. I miss that soup already.

I made a big pot of soup which I shared with my ex when he brought Cam home, and if we did anything exciting Saturday night, I can’t recall what it was right now. Sunday morning, I got up early, did all the same things I did Saturday except I added in my weekly “luxury bath” where I dump in dead-sea minerals and essential oils, glop on a face mask and soak until my skin prunes up. Ahh. Not too shabby. Around 10 or so, I woke Camryn up and we headed to Carmel beach to walk Lucy, stopping at the best donut store on the planet first for a massive bag of donut holes.

Cam, in free-fall

Carmel beach on Sundays is kind of our new thing. You can let your dogs roam freely on this beach, and it is truly dog paradise. There are at least 50 dogs- probably more, just running around, sniffing each other’s asses. God, I’m glad I’m not a dog. Anyway, if you are ever out this way and need a dog fix, this is the place for you. Seriously. Camryn just lost her freaking mind when she saw a Basset Hound yesterday. I think she might have scared the dog a little, but in all fairness, it’s pretty easy to have a dog-related meltdown when you are surrounded by that much fur and happiness. I had a similar reaction last weekend brought on by a Newfoundland. They are just incredible.

The Newfoundland that made me lose my shit.
Just a surfer, and a breathtaking view. No big deal.

So, we took a healthy stroll before heading home. Once we arrived home, I took a short nap, and after getting out of bed around 2:30, I had some coffee and started kicking ASS. I cleaned house for a solid two hours, tackling things that I’d had no intention of getting into when I’d started. After things were neat enough, I did my second day of the 30 day Yoga with Adrien challenge on YouTube, and let me tell you- she is GREAT. I am really liking this whole yoga thing, much to my surprise.

Cam and I worked together to finish her homework packet after dinner, and she was SO proud of herself for figuring out her math (thank God she did, because this new math is freaking confusing) and I showed her how to check it with my calculator- with every right answer, she was more pleased with herself. Finally, after a quick trip to the store, it was time for her bath and reading.

At the end of it all, in her fresh jammies, with her hair in a bun, she said “Well, mom- for once I finally accomplished something.” I know she meant her homework, and of course it wasn’t the first time she’s ever finished it…but it might have been the first time she did it and felt proud of her work. I know how good that feeling is. I’m glad she got to experience that feeling- I was feeling it too last night. That sense of accomplishment that comes when you strike a good balance in your day. Just enough play, just enough work.

My future home. Seriously, is this out of control or what? What a view they must have!

I had a huge sense of accomplishment when I went off to bed last night. It has carried over into this morning, and I hope it bodes well for the week. Happy Monday! Get out there and kick some ass!