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.

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Posted in anxiety, Depression, friendship, health, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, People, relationships

Looking for the Lesson

So, I have to go in for my next rabies shot this morning. Even though I’m like 99.8% sure at this point that neither the cat nor I have rabies, I figure I still might as well finish what I started. Who knows when a furious raccoon might charge me as I’m walking to my car at 5 a.m., right? And when/if that happens, I’ll have a super power- the rabies vaccine, POW! Bite away, you frothy mouthed trash demon. Can’t kill me! Well, unless you sever an artery or something with your fetid claws.

As you can probably tell, I’m feeling a little less terrified and a little more back in reality than I was. Do I feel sheepish at all? Eh, maybe a tad. But listen- I am nothing if not a hypochondriac, and if I hadn’t gone ahead and handled this, I’m sure I would’ve only prolonged my misery and panic. Anyway, even though the odds of that cat having rabies were pretty low, what I may not have mentioned was that she WAS in some sort of altercation with another animal the week prior, and we do have a dearth of raccoons and skunks that frequent our yard. Those animals are notorious for carrying rabies, and the cat wasn’t vaccinated, and ALSO, there have been rabid animals in our county withing the past year. So…still, a bit (like a big bit) of an overreaction, but for me, too much knowledge, paired with a big imagination and a healthy dose of anxiety equals a real bad scene.

Thursday morning was the day of my rapid unraveling. It is now Sunday, and I am not yet 100% myself. I continue to wake up jittery and nervous, I’m avoiding my normal routine of coffee, coffee and more coffee ( I just stick with 1-2 cups, rather than endless), and everyday tasks such as changing my clothes and accomplishing anything much have been a bit beyond my reach. I did change from my pajamas into regular clothes yesterday, but they were the same clothes I wore the day before that, so…not really an accomplishment. It’s not like I was out rolling in mud or anything, but still. I finally began to feel almost regular by about noon yesterday, yet in terms of energy and drive I am still flagging. I’m sure such a rapid increase in adrenaline in ones body, along with whatever else might be happening, causes a big crash. I’m just speculating, but it seems logical.

I’ve been looking for the lesson in all of this- that’s just something I’ve always done, since I was a very young woman. I try to figure out what I am supposed to be learning from the thing that I am going through. Right now, I am taking from this that the effects of stress on me, mentally, will eventually come boiling to the surface. It is up to me to put my foot down and protect myself. That stupid and trite saying about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first absolutely applies here- I was trying to help other people when I have been seriously in need of some care, myself. My body, my brain, my spirit- they all got together Thursday and declared a state of emergency. I had no choice but to listen anymore. So, even if the thing I did to care for myself seems strange & over the top, it was a rational reaction to the crazy feeling inside of me. I honored myself by listening, even though I was embarrassed and scared.

Another thing I am learning from this is stop looking for help in people who refuse to be available to you. When you reach out to someone and they are not able to hear you, stop reaching out to that person. The toll it will take on your already vulnerable self is devastating. I have been incredibly sad about the rejection I felt from not one but two different people I have tried to reach out to, lately, and I know that added to the mini-breakdown I’ve had. But you know what? I found exactly what I needed, and BECAUSE I was so desperate at that moment, I did something unusual for me, and I kept reaching out. I called my friend Donna, and she came immediately to take my daughter so I could go to the hospital, EVEN THOUGH she thought I was out of my mind (not wrong) she humored me because she could see that I was hurting. She then brought my daughter to me at the hospital so they could examine her for bites or scratches, and after that, took the cat to the SPCA.  My boss, who is amazing and so supportive, sat with me on the phone at least four times and listened to me cry and told me it was okay to feel how I felt, and it was okay to not work, just to try to get better. My Ex, who I have a difficult relationship with at times, is currently sleeping on my couch so that I feel safe, and so I can have hugs, and also, so he can help with our daughter. I have incredibly good friends who go above and beyond for me. I don’t have billions of them, but I have a few really good ones.

Yesterday, I dropped off a few little gifts for people that weren’t expecting them. My neighbor who’s had a really rough few years, my boss who ought to have expected it…that went a long way in cheering me up. I really fell apart, you guys. I’m putting myself back together. I don’t think I will be exactly the same person when all the puzzle pieces are back in place. I don’t think I am supposed to be. I think maybe that’s part of the reason we fall apart to begin with- so that we can come back a little differently, and maybe a little better, than we were. Maybe that’s the lesson.

Posted in anxiety, funny, health, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, People

My Most Expensive Panic Attack Ever

It’s not a big secret that I’m an anxious person- it doesn’t take more than a cursory glance through my many, many posts to see that I’m high strung, and overthink the fuck out of almost every conceivable situation. Although I do love to be funny and witty and make people laugh, I am pretty sure this is yet another defense mechanism to trick people into liking me…not complaining about it, just saying- I’ve overthought even my best attributes. Anyway, be all of that as it may, I tend to be a super high functioning nut job. For the most part, my anxiety is pretty manageable and doesn’t keep me from doing what I need to do.

I mean, until it does. Listen, I am still not 100% clear on where I tipped the scales exactly, yesterday, but…holy shit you guys. Whew. I’m almost hesitant to talk about what happened because it is truly one of my biggest, most over-the-top episodes to date, and, well…I’m just going to say it. I woke up yesterday already feeling panicky and weird, and I’m not sure why. Although looking back now, I can tell you that there has been a lot of unusual stress and drama in my life this past month, and I do tend to wait until things are better to fall apart, so maybe that was the culprit? Anyway, I woke up panicky. I had some coffee (bad idea number one). I scrolled through Facebook (bad idea number 2). I listened to my daughters cat yowling non-stop for the fourth day in a row (she’s in heat). I took a bath. While I was in the bath, the cat came in and started yowling and being weird as hell, and I looked at my right arm, covered in fresh gouges from where she’d attacked me recently…and out of nowhere, I decided she must be rabid. I know, I KNOW how crazy this sounds, but in that moment, as panic took over my body, I was CONVINCED that that fucking cat was rabid and that I was infected.

My body went cold, my stomach dropped, and I started shaking all over. There was always a small voice in my head that said “Dude, come on, the cat is not rabid- she’s in heat.” but it was so small, and my panic was so BIG, I couldn’t listen. I was having a full fledged panic attack. If you have had one, you know- there is no reasoning with a combination of feelings like that. I tried. I tried my really fucking hardest.

Long story short, I found myself, two hours later, in the ER getting the first in a series of rabies vaccines. Let me tell you something: I was under the impression that I would be getting two shots- the rabies immune globulin, and then the vaccine. Guess what? I ended up getting TWELVE shots. 10 in a ring around my wrist, where all the bites and scratches are, and one in each shoulder. The ones around my wrist really hurt. But oddly enough, the pain snapped me back to reality a little, made the panic lessen. This will end up costing upwards of 3 grand, by the way.

Unfortunately, this did not take the fear away completely. For the rest of the day and into the evening, I still half believed I was going to die of rabies. Even after my therapist explained to me that the vaccine kept people from contracting the virus even after being bitten by animals that were confirmed to have had it. You would think that this would have completely put my mind at ease, but my mind had forgotten how to work that way by that point.

I’m going to be real honest here and tell you that, even today, I am not really okay yet. Better, yes. Weepy and weird, also yes. I am sharing this story in hopes that, whatever might be going on with you, it probably isn’t as off the Richter fucking nuts as a grown ass woman subjecting herself to 12 rabies shots because her in-heat cat scared her so badly. No matter how bad your day is going, I would almost bet you are doing better than that. And if you aren’t, you message me, and we can talk about what bullshit it is to have a mind that won’t cooperate reasonably at times.

Because it’s scary…it’s terrifying, really. But you know what? It isn’t like that every day. And if today isn’t good, it still might get better. And tomorrow just might be perfect. Hope you liked this story. Go make sure your pets are vaccinated. Trust me, it’s just better to stay on top of that shit.

PS: Milo, my daughters cat, got her shots yesterday, too. And today she is getting fixed. Freaking cat.

 

Posted in anxiety, Dreams, family, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, random, relationships, women

Even After all this time

verbal abuse quotes Beautiful Domestic Violence Awareness Get The Facts [Infographic]

I woke up at three o’clock this morning, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d had a terrible nightmare, the kind that seems so real, where you wake up breathless- like you were running straight out of the dream. Honestly, I could cry just thinking about it right now. I dreamed about a man I haven’t laid eyes on since I was 15 years old, a man I hope I never have to see again. But for a long time, he was part of my life, and part of my family. He turned what might have been a happy childhood into years of walking on eggshells, afraid to say the wrong thing, or make the wrong face. He was my stepfather, and he was a terrible man.

In my dream last night, somehow, he was back in our lives. We were trying to get away from him- I remember desperately thinking that I should call from a different phone, pretend to be a different woman, convince him that he should meet up with me, but…even in my dream I was too afraid he would recognize my voice, too afraid of what would happen if I were found out. I was standing in my kitchen, in this house, and I could hear the sound of that particular kind of “fight”- the kind that isn’t really a fight at all, but a man overpowering a woman. I know that sound intimately. I rushed out to find him holding my mothers arm behind her back, as she swayed on her feet, looking dazed. He had his arm pulled back, ready to punch her again. My heart was in my throat as I rushed to her side, wedging myself between them, and somehow he didn’t resist me, he let me lead her into the house. This was not how the story went in real life, of course. I was little then, and I couldn’t do anything at all to help, no matter how much I wanted to.

I don’t think my mom likes it when I talk about this. I know these are terrible memories, and she wishes they didn’t exist. But I want to point out how remarkable it is that, at the age of 43, almost 30 years since I’ve even seen this person, my mind, my heart, my consciousness, can still recall exactly the terror and the pain and the helplessness I felt as a child. I want to point out that, even if I never spoke of this again, these feelings still exist in me, whether I acknowledge them or not. I do not think of this man- almost never. I don’t waste my time hating him or being angry about what he did. I figure his biggest punishment is walking around in his skin, with his memories and his broken mind.

But do I ever feel sad for the child I was, who certainly didn’t deserve to have to live that way? Of course I do. Do I ever wonder how much that contributed to my years of drug abuse and dysfunction? You bet your ass I do. How could I not? Do I blame my mother? Nope. We’ve talked about it, many, many times. She was a very young woman, trying to provide a life for her children, and she simply got in over her head. She didn’t know how to get out. The mental manipulation that goes hand in hand with physical and verbal abuse makes it very hard to tell which end is up. There are good days in between the bad days, and remember…this abuser didn’t start off being a monster. You are always looking for the man inside the monster. Sometimes he is wonderful and charming and fun. Towards the end, as I recall it, the monster consumed the man. We left because my mother began to truly fear he would kill us all.

Though he was not my father, he left traces of himself on me. I have had to learn that people aren’t supposed to erupt in rage, or terrify littler people into submission. I have had to learn how to love others without harming them. I did not know how to fight fair. I did not know you didn’t have to fight at all, not like that. I would never tolerate a man putting his hands on me- I made that promise to myself, and I have kept it. But I became the tyrant, at least sometimes, and that has been hard to know about myself. It has been even harder to overcome.

As for my mom- she has gone on to bigger and better things, and she has been successful and happy and done so many wonderful things. But for a long time, she couldn’t talk about those years, not really. I needed to talk about them. I will never forget the night we drove out along the beach, the two of us in her car, and she finally opened up to me. She told me everything I thought was real, my memories were indeed as I remembered, and she said the most important words she’d ever said to me: “I’m so sorry. I wish I could go back and change it, but I can’t.”

Forgiveness was a lot easier after that. I don’t know how to end this, so I’m just going to say this- if you are in a situation where you are being abused, and you don’t think your kids are being affected, please believe me when I tell you that they are, and they will be for many years to come. Even if it seems impossibly hard, you can leave. There are so many organizations that can help.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

 

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Depression, health, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, misinformation, People, recovery, twelve step

Fear, Shame, & the Stigma of Addiction

stigma

Something I am really riled up about right now is the stigma and shame around drug addiction. SO MANY people do not understand what it really is, what it is really like, and how it feels when you are in the grips of it. They get upset that it is classified as a disease, and they say that it is a choice…which…I mean, even drug addicts themselves feel guilt and shame around this. Trust me, I was one of them. For a long time, I thought it really was my fault, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just quit, why I insisted on making my life so much harder than it had to be.

Well, news flash! It might start off as a choice- a BAD choice, obviously- but lots and lots of young people experiment with drugs. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a really healthy chunk of the population has, at one time or another, tried drugs. Lets not forget that alcohol is prevalent almost everywhere, and it is one of the most highly addictive and destructive drugs that exist- why do you think AA started WAY back when? It wasn’t just a friendly, old-timey social club. Anyway, not everyone gets addicted. But for some of us, for whatever reason, our brains get a little hit of that euphoria, and from that moment on, we just want MORE. To our detriment. As our lives crumble, as our dreams wither up, as our families cry and beg for us to change. And we promise to try, we promise to pull it together, we want to get better, but…

It’s not a choice anymore. Something has us in a grip so massive that we can’t stop killing ourselves. So maybe it isn’t a disease the way that cancer is. I will give you that, if it hurts you to think of it that way. But what about OCD? Bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses? Would you judge someone harshly for having something like that? Because to me, addiction is a mental illness (and usually not a stand-alone one, either) and it’s no more my fault than it would be if I had…say, an ulcer. Or maybe diabetes that I controlled with my diet and lifestyle. Other people might do the same things that I did, and be okay. But some people aren’t, because something inside of them is different.

Sure, now that I know better and I have it under control, I can manage it by avoiding the things that would make me sick again, and by taking my “medicine” (meetings, therapy, watching what I eat and how I behave and paying attention to my thoughts and feelings). Just the way someone with diabetes has to monitor their diet and their glucose and all of that. I know that if I don’t do those things, I am putting myself in danger of a relapse. I am now responsible for my continuing health. But I was not responsible for the way my particular body reacted to the substances I foolishly tried.

Here’s the thing, though: People get sick and they aren’t afraid to go to the doctor and ask for help. They are not judged by their doctor when they show up sick. They don’t generally fear repercussions from their employer if they are ill. But do you know how many people walk around every single day, desperate for help with their substance abuse problems, but terrified to reach out because of what might happen to their lives? Not all addicts are the people you see on the streets, acting crazy. It isn’t always that obvious. Many of us are high functioning professionals with a LOT to lose. And asking for help is terrifying.

I stayed sick for a really long time because I was afraid to tell the truth, afraid of what would happen to me, and to my family. I was lucky.  I got the help I needed and I got to keep my job, I got to tell the truth to my boss, and she was compassionate and concerned. That is not everyone’s story.

But I really think it should be. We don’t throw people away like garbage because they aren’t working correctly. You don’t KNOW…you don’t know what kind of beautiful human being is there, underneath that illness. The addicts I have known in my lifetime, and there have been LOTS of them, are not garbage. Not even when they were using. Even the worst people I have known had redeeming qualities, and intelligence, and loyalty, and very, very few of them did not dream of getting better. I can’t think of one person out of hundreds that didn’t want to lead a better life.

We should be able to ask for help when we need it. When someone asks for help, we should help them. When someone is sick, even if it makes us uncomfortable and afraid, we should help them find their way to help. Addiction is stealing the lives of our friends, our family members, and our children, many times over, every day. Addiction is destroying the lives of not only the addict, but the addicts parents, and the addicts children. It is a disease of loneliness and disconnection. It might help a lot to end the stigma and remove the shame. It’s a terrible life to be stuck in. When someone is reaching out, we have to reach out, too.

And that’s what I am thinking about this morning.

1-800-662-HELP is the number for SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Call someone if you need help, or even if you just want to know how to help someone you love.

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.

Posted in Depression, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, random

Sad News

I sat down here this morning to write how sorry I was that I haven’t been keeping up lately, to tell you that I have been so happy, and my life has been so joyful and full of so many good things, that I didn’t want to break the spell by trying to explain it all. That is what I intended to say to you all this morning.

And then I received an alert on my phone that Anthony Bourdain had died, at the age of 61, from suicide, and…you know, I’m feeling much more somber now. That’s two in one week, you guys- two that we know, personally, among many, many more, I’m sure. First Kate Spade, and now Anthony Bourdain. Two people whom, I imagine at least, have all of the things we think would make our lives “perfect” if only we had them, right? It struck me this morning, as I thought about it, that perhaps all the success contributed in some way to the problem. Like, if you have everything you ever wanted, and you still feel terrible, you still suffer with depression, anxiety, whatever mental illness plagues you- wouldn’t that make it even worse? I don’t know, I’m just speculating. I imagine that it would. I just know that I am especially sad about the loss of Bourdain. He was truly one of my favorites.

It is hard for me to remember what depression feels like when I am no longer in it- I have only had a few bouts of it, but that was enough for me. But I do remember that when I was deeply entrenched in it, I could not remember what it felt like to be happy. And more than that, I could not imagine ever being happy again. Worst of all, I believed that all the memories I had of a time when I was happy were lies. My brain was so sick and sad that I honestly believed that I had never really been happy in my life. So, I don’t know…I don’t know how long I could have kept going that way, what my thoughts might have looked like after too long. And I don’t know what it’s like to be truly suicidal, either. There have been times when I thought I might not try to move aside if a truck jumped the curb, and there have been times in my addiction when I really felt my family would be better off without me, but…I never considered killing myself, not really. So I don’t know, and I’m glad I don’t. I guess my mind is just trying to wrap itself around this latest loss, trying to understand, and…you know, I don’t need to, I guess. I can just be sad.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t feel qualified to even guess about this, let alone write about it. But it would be weirder, maybe, if I didn’t. After all, I was a huge fan, and I am terribly sad about this news. I wonder what was going on inside his head, what must that have looked like to make such a final, permanent decision. How awful things must feel if death looks like the best answer. Again, I’m glad I don’t know. I wish it was different for him, and for Kate, and for Chester, and for Chris, and for the millions of other people whom I do not know but have come to the same end. I hope they all find the peace that they sought.

I am not going to write about my happiness this morning, but I am not going to feel guilty about it, either. This poor world…it needs all of the light it can muster.