Posted in anxiety, health, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, motherhood, parenting, People

A Different Kind of Storm

Another storm came the evening before last, only this time, it wasn’t happening outside of my house, in the sky.

This time, the storm popped up out of nowhere, inside of me, in my head.

I had another panic attack. Another really, really bad panic attack. Over 24 hours later and I am still not myself. My stomach is in knots and I feel afraid and shaky, embarrassed and ashamed of my uncontrollable mind. I had to call off work yesterday because I hadn’t slept at all the night before, and to be honest, I still have barely eaten since this all started.

I am doing everything right. I have been exercising every single day, eating healthy, praying, meditating, working hard and treating myself well. To know that I can go from the very top of my game to an utter shaking mess in a matter of one single, illogical, triggering thought…well…that is terrifying. I don’t know any other way to look at it.

I remembered everything my therapist told me the last time this happened. I told myself all the things I knew, all the logic and facts and practical wisdom I had- I threw all of it at this monster, but it pinged off his skin like nothing and continued to advance. When I am in that state, there is no safe place I can go, no way to escape, because the feeling is inside of me. You cannot outrun yourself.

I am so upset with myself for things that happened during this episode that I almost wasn’t going to write about it. I don’t want to tell the truth. I am ashamed of it. But I will tell you this- my panic started over a very minor injury that happened, not to me, but to my daughter. It should have been something we put a band-aid on and forgot about. Instead, we made two trips to the ER and didn’t make it home until 5 in the morning. The doctors were kind to me- they could see that I was not okay. But the idea that my panic can spill out onto someone else that way, that frightens me. I didn’t reach out to anyone, didn’t pick up the phone and call a friend, give them the chance to talk me down. I put my poor kid through so much because of MY fear, and that fear was so BIG, I couldn’t help it. I literally couldn’t help it.

And now the question is- how long until it happens again? Because once is an anomaly, once is…just a weird glitch that happened, and whatever. But this is twice now since December and I can’t imagine going through this again. Or regularly. I can deal with, I guess, my average daily anxiety. But this panic- no. I can’t. I won’t. I will find a way to fix it. If I have to just steam-roll it with pure stubbornness, I will.

But today, I am just so tired. I don’t want to feel like this ever again.

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 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 Addiction, anxiety, Depression, health, Life, Mental Health, Musings

Realization Dawns

anxiety

Recently, I was wrapping things up with my therapist, and just before we were done with our session she said something like- “Oh, well you have anxiety anyway, so that makes sense.”, and she said it so matter of factly, and I was a little bit offended for some reason, like, pssshh- I get a little nervous sometimes, but I wouldn’t say I have anxiety! Which is so funny, now that I think about it, because…I obviously HAVE anxiety. I must have been in a really good phase or something, because her words kind of wounded me. I just don’t think of myself that way.

That’s the tricky thing about MY particular set of mental peculiarities. I am not anxious all of the time. It comes and goes with me. There are certain situations which trigger massive anxiety, and once my thoughts start spiraling out of control, it is very hard for me to pull myself back into logic and reality. One of those is, clearly, my children. There have been times when it was worry about my health. Occasionally, I will obsess over losing my job or having to move. But all of these are pretty manageable except for the one about my kids. That is my big-ticket item, the one that I can make myself physically ill over.

So, when things are going along nicely, and our routine is well established, and nothing weird happens, I forget that I even have anxiety. Because, technically, when I have nothing to be anxious about, I kind of DON’T have anxiety. But that’s the thing- there will always be times when things don’t go as planned. I can’t control every single situation so that it works for me, and I really shouldn’t have to. Sometimes people’s phones die. Sometimes they are running late, or they lose track of time. These little tiny things, innocent, average, every day things, can make me lose my mind. When I can’t reach my little one’s dad because his phone is on the charger, or she is at the fair with a family friend who lost track of time, I don’t think “Oh, they’re fine.”, I think “Well, I better get in my car and go look for the wreck they were in”, only in a more screamy voice.

Anyway, I am in a lot of private groups on Facebook, and the other day I joined several more- groups for people with anxiety. After I had my meltdown on Tuesday, I just thought maybe an anxiety support group might help. So I joined three. Last night, a girl posted that she had been obsessing about a pretty unlikely health worry, and that she knew it was silly, but she couldn’t stop thinking about it, and she couldn’t stop pacing, and she was exhausted, and I reached out to her, and so did a lot of other people, with stories of their own, and with…well, support. Here’s the thing: Not one single person said “Oh, come on, that is so ridiculous! Of all the things to worry about, you think you have THAT?” Which, if it were any other group I am in, that would have been said. Instead, at least three other people confided that they had shared the exact same fear at one point, and others shared similarly unlikely worries. Everyone got it.

And I woke up this morning still thinking about that. That not only did I totally get where she was coming from, but everyone in the group that spoke up did, too. And that is when it hit me- I TOTALLY have anxiety. These people are my people, because they get it. When I am freaking out, even when I know I am being crazy, I just can’t stop being scared. Fear literally takes over my body, and will not listen to reason.

And here’s the deal- this is not a new thing, not at all. I started having full blown panic attacks at the age of 17, sometimes as many as five, six, or seven every single day. I didn’t know what they were, so I thought I was either going crazy or someone was poisoning me. The only problem with the poisoning theory was that I was around different people all the time. So instead of realizing that this was improbable, my poor, sick brain assumed that everyone was trying to kill me, and I just stopped eating food that anyone else had touched. Do you know how difficult this is? I lost a ton of weight, and my mom said something like “My god, you look like you are dying of cancer.” Which, of course, gave me a whole new set of worries to obsess about.  Honestly, the only reason I pulled myself out of that mess was because I got so sick of worrying all the time that I just said “Fuck it, I can’t live like this anymore- if I’m going to die, so be it, but I have got to eat.” And I just threw all caution to the wind and ate at Denny’s. From that day on, I stopped having panic attacks, and thought I was cured.

But…here I am, at 43, realizing that it never really went away. I masked it for many many years with drug abuse, and now I am discovering that it has been here all along. It was just covered up. I am so lucky that I can talk about it to the people around me- my boss knows that I get weird, sometimes, and she is super supportive. And I am sort of the quirky friend, the crazy co-worker, the funny-but-super-high-strung one. Being the oddball is kind of my thing. I’ve made it into a bit of a joke, I guess. Because it make it more tolerable, for me and for everyone else, too. Which made me forget, or not notice, that it is real. The moments when I want to cry because I’m so scared, when I can’t sit still, when I can’t breathe, when I can’t slow down my fucking insane thoughts- that’s not funny at all.

My point is, I guess, that I woke up this morning and realized that I really, really have anxiety. And that it’s been part of my life since early adulthood- this is NOT a new thing. It might look a little different, my fears might have changed a little bit, but the feelings? They are exactly the same. And now I get to figure out what happens next. But I have found some people just like me, and I am much less afraid.

Posted in anxiety, Depression, health, kids, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, women

My Terrible Thoughts

 

99problemsI don’t have a ton of time this morning, so this will get right to the point- I need to share about it before it fades away completely. Yesterday was a disaster. Not because a single bad thing happened, but because I spent the entire day worrying-no, obsessing- about what MIGHT happen.

And do you want to know what caused all of this obsessive worry? Well, I’ll tell you, but you better not fucking laugh at me (go ahead, I can’t see you anyway.). Okay, ready? Here it is: My daughter walked from her classroom down to the pickup area, with three other kids, and got a ride home from the lady who babysat her all summer. Yes, you read that correctly. No, nothing is missing from the story. That is what made my day into a living hell yesterday. We changed our routine.

For a “normal” person, this would have been a non-event. Or maybe even a big relief, right? No running across town on my lunch hour to pick up a kid and then trying to rush back within the 30 minutes allotted to me? Sounds great!

For me, unfortunately, every new situation, everything slightly outside of what I am used to, turns into this other thing. I imagine a plethora of things that might go wrong, and at least as many things that are extremely unlikely to go wrong, but still so scary. What if she gets lost? What if the teacher doesn’t get my note and won’t let her go? What if she gets lost and an adult offers to help her, only it’s really a serial killer and he lures her into his car? What if…what if I NEVER SEE MY CHILD AGAIN?! I know this sounds so silly that it’s comical, but when these thoughts are going through my head, they are terrifying. I get sick to my stomach, and my hands get clammy. No matter what I do, the thoughts keep building and growing more and more awful, and I honestly lose control of them. I don’t really know how to make them stop.

But here’s the thing- there is also a rational part of my brain that absolutely knows that I am being crazy. That none of these things are (probably) going to happen, and that I am ruining my day for NO REASON.

I just wish I knew how to stop being this way. Honestly, there isn’t enough CBD in the world to tackle thoughts that big.

Of course, my daughter made it home just fine. But I wasn’t fine. Do you know what panic like that does to your body? I could cry right now because I am still feeling the effects of that stress on me, 15 hours later. I went to bed at 7 last night, drained from all the worry.

This is just not okay. I have got to fix this before I start making her terrified of everything. Because that is where this is headed- not only will I be miserable, but I’ll have a child who is scared of the world. I guess I’m not done with therapy yet, huh?

Here’s to an easier day today.

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.