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Quiet during lockdown

24 Aug

11:59 am

We’ve had a serious increase in COVID cases in the past month-ish, so we’ve been put back into lockdown mode–all nonessential businesses closed, beaches closed early on the weekends (we have the weekdays, though, for which I am grateful), social distancing and face masks required, of course. And, it feels kind of lame; like, we’re just getting our first wave, and it’s mainly due to increased travel (locals leaving and coming home), tourism (we re-opened to tourists in June and they seem to think that they’re on vacation from COVID, too), and people just getting “COVID fatigue.” I mean, I am fine with it since the lockdown thing looks very much like my life before the pandemic, but…yeah, even introverts need to know that there ARE things to do and places to go, even IF we refuse to do those things and go to those places!

In any case, I don’t really feel like I have much to say these days, which is why I’ve been quiet. I feel depressed, I guess. I only have a few hours a day in me, to focus and “work,” and after that, I just want to zone out. The thing is, there’s not much going on externally except, we’re getting over the loss of our dog (we had to put her to sleep about two weeks ago already), we’re going to the beach (floating in the water seems to calm me down and bring me a visceral sense of peace), and I’ve been waiting on a job that might come through (I wish it was for something new and different, but right now, the pandemic has sort of thrown our “new and different” small business and career ideas out the window).

I’ve been thinking, too, about the nature of depression. Lately, I don’t have a lot of oomph, or mental energy to take in and parse that much information. One of the reasons I took a long break from Facebook was that, all that information was just too much to handle. When I talk to my mom on the phone, her incessant analyzing of every last detail doesn’t irritate me as much as overwhelm me; I just have to zone out, I can’t take it all in. It takes me forever to read even 20 pages in a book (which, actually, is a bit scary–what’s wrong with me? Early-onset dementia from all the drinking I did in my 30s, or, burnout?). I don’t really feel excited about much; I mean, I am the queen of “cultivating joy,” especially in these times of menopause, but it just makes me wonder, is it that I’ve been here/done this and just need something new, or is it this COVID crap getting to me like it is everyone else?

On a positive note, I saw the constellation Orion rising along the northern horizon at about 3 am last night (before I went to bed). Wow–it’s the first time I’ve seen Orion since, well, whenever it goes away (it is a winter constellation, in my mind). It was cool. I woke up at 4:45 (of course, I did), and got to glimpse the uber-bright Venus halfway to the sky’s dome–Jesus, it is bright. For some reason, staring at the stars in the middle of the night calms me down, just like floating in the sea. These past few months, I’d be out in the living room with our dog almost all night long–she was too distressed to sleep, and I wasn’t sleeping, so we got to just stare at each other and the stars. I hope she’s up there, shining down on me. The night is, indeed, “dark and full of terrors,” but…not for her anymore, and frankly, MUCH less so for me now that I’m (sort of?) on the other side of perimenopause.

Anyway, just some Monday morning thoughts. Take it easy, everyone. You don’t have to do anything or be anyone. It is OK to rest, to be quiet; to stop thinking, stop doing, stop working, stop wondering. It is OK to just be right now (even if your mind keeps telling you that it’s not).

A prisoner in her body

10 Aug

2:59 pm

I wrote this yesterday, but, last night was the same and this morning, it’s been the same, so, it still applies. I guess the only difference is that, while our dog is still alive, she’s struggling hard–and, I realize that we’ll probably have to put her to sleep within the next few days.

From yesterday:

Well, that wasn’t a fun night. I went to bed around the usual time, 2:30 am, and was woken at 3, then at 4:30, then probably around dawn, then finally at 9–by our dog, trying to get comfortable in a body that has seemingly become a prison overnight. I mean, over the past few days, she’s gotten much worse: she can’t get up, she can’t walk, she can’t get comfy in any position (as in, no position seems to take her pain away). Granted, we just started her on two more meds, both antibiotics, and I sort of want to “blame” those for messing her up, but…I haven’t found anything linking lameness and back legs crossing and giving out to a sulfa drug and doxycycline!

It just sucks. We had our neighbor over–she’s like family, and silly as it sounds, if our dogs were our kids, then she would have been our dogs’ aunt–and, as a longtime owner of many different dogs and other animals, she was urging us to just get it done. Take her in, she’s suffering.

It sucks.

What’s more? Not that it bothers me, but it sort of makes me chuckle, ironically (we’ve spent so much on this dog over the years, from endless pain meds to laser therapy!): it’s going to cost us about $700 to euthanize her and then, have a private cremation here. Everything is more expensive on an island, I suppose.

Writing about it, talking about it–I guess it makes it more real.

I was thinking, would I get more dogs after this? I moved here about eight years ago, and our two dogs were such a huge part of our early life together, as a couple; of my own early island life; of my sobriety. The one died a painful (horrific, actually) death from lymphoma over two years ago, and this one has been a bit lame all her life (she has had hip dysplasia since she was young, as long as I’ve known her), but has been getting progressively worse for the past 1.5 years.

Anyway, these dogs were the loves of my life. I’m not sure there are any other dogs out there that I could love as much, that would compare to these dogs. We gave them everything, and they gave us their all. What more could you ask for? Is the pain of their long, horrible deaths worth the joy that we exchanged over the years, the nonstop love? Probably. Doesn’t feel like it right now. Would I be able to love other dogs the way I loved these two? And, would I even want to try? I guess we’ll have to get through this and see…

I wonder, do others consider their dogs more like humans? This is my third dog, and each one suffered a drawn-out, painful end; I mean, maybe the end is always painful, no matter what species, if you’re experiencing old age or an age-related disease.

I don’t even know if words will cut it, but I will miss my best girl, my fiercest friend; a found (discarded) object, beyond precious.

On that note, yeah, not a great morning, but, it’s still sunny and I should get outside to absorb some of the light. Good news is that my hormones are settling down (going away, drop by drop–haha), so the night heat and insomnia have improved (not the heart palpitations, though). Bad news is that our area has seen a significant increase in positive COVID cases, so we’re probably going to see some sort of enhanced lockdown again soon. Fingers crossed a few job leads pan out and/or I can keep collecting a bit of unemployment–this week is going to be a wash if we have to put our dog down. I’ll need at least a day or two to zone out and collect what’s left of my shattered heart.

Through all of this, the great news is that I haven’t even thought about drinking. I haven’t once even considered it. I made a cake last night, kind of in preparation for filling myself up with, well, something, when she’s gone; but, eh, my binge eating days are long gone, and I most likely won’t feel like eating at all when we finally do make the call to our vet.

More soon. Thanks for listening, friends.

Staying healthy in the time of COVID

29 Jul

1:09 pm

Do I have COVID? Did I have it? What if I tested negative–can I still have had it? How will I even know that what I have is/was COVID and not something else? What if I get all the scary long-term symptoms?

I think we’re ALL fixating on these questions now, as we zero in on every little ache, pain, cough, or twinge. I know I have been sort of hilariously worried, so to speak, whenever anything feels off: a whisper of a cough one morning, and, I’ve got The Corona! A slight pressure behind my eyes, a passing shower, really, of a headache, and, OMG, I’ve got The COVID!

While I don’t think I’ve had coronavirus (yet!), lately, I have felt unwell–and that’s making me go, hmm. I have been feeling achey, feverish, fatigued. I mentioned in my last post that I think my chikungunya virus infection is back, and I’m still sort of convinced that this is the case. Chik-v, as I like to call it, is a mosquito-borne illness, similar to Dengue fever and malaria in the way it’s transmitted (through mosquitoes) and in some of the symptoms. For some people, it can go dormant after the initial infection and clearance, and then keep coming and going. I got it in 2014, and I’ve had it come and go once in a while; I haven’t had it for a long time, though, and I haven’t had it come back this bad.

When I got it, I had severe pain in joints that were already lame or weakened. For instance, my left knee cap has been straying off course for years, and it usually hurts when I jog or walk down hills. When I got chik-v, it was like, the virus made a beeline for this joint and moved in; it really hurt, moreso than other body parts or joints.

When the chik-v flares, I feel achey and a burning sensation in some joints, feverish, and just kind of blah. The aches I have today are quite reminiscent of when I was first infected, so I’m pretty sure it’s that. The feverishness? Well, hi, menopause. Who knows–I am hot like, 99% of the day and night now, so…LOL, I have stopped wondering if a fever means anything anymore. (Sometimes, I am worried that when they temp-check you, like at a local grocery store here, before you walk inside, they’re going to find that I have a fever and be like, you can’t come in, you have corona…and I’ll have to say, nope, just menopause.)

Not to go on and on about this, but I think it might be worth sharing. Past few years of bloodwork, my white blood cell count has come back high. Nothing to worry about, and the doc didn’t really say much about it. But, I have been wondering why. Is is the latent chik-v, resting in my cells, that’s causing my body to be on immune alert, so to speak? I often wonder, am I working out too hard? That’s really the only other thing that seems plausible to me since, sometimes, after a hard workout in the sun, climbing hills, probably in 95-degree heat and 80-percent humidity (I don’t even want to know what the “feels like” temperature is)–I feel under the weather.

I have the feeling it’s chik-v, and it’s been riled up because I’ve been taxing myself too much working out. Yet…I can’t help but wonder, could I have another infection, and if so, could it be corona?

I’ve been staying relatively well, otherwise, during this pandemic. I am not prone to the anxiety, I guess, that others (my mom) are feeling, in terms of not being able to socialize. It’s true that I do have a significant other, and I am grateful and fortunate to have that–others, like my mom, don’t. I don’t need a lot of friends, I guess, to be happy and feel safe; I need to socialize from time to time, but a lot of the deep thinking and emotional work, well, (in getting sober) I learned to keep to myself. When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I needed WAY more close friendships; I depended on my “tribe” for survival. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped needing–or wanting–to be that open and vulnerable about my inner world. In this pandemic time, it’s probably helped that I’ve sort of always been able to be happy and imaginative in a bubble of only a few close people and pets.

For some reason, I haven’t wanted to cook more, or experiment more with random ingredients. I don’t know if I’m bored or lazy in the kitchen these days, but I would love to do more cooking (of things I’ve never made). I have truly sucked at reading more books–I am literally hanging my head in shame that I haven’t finished one book (yet!). Um, speaking of book–haha; I have a book idea (a few), and it’s in project stage, and said project is on my to-do list EVERY day, and EVERY day, I find something else to do instead of that! Haha. I’ll get there.

My workouts are strong, my job search has been going well–I made it through my video interview on Monday, now it’s a matter of waiting. There are good things, too, and we have to congratulate ourselves on doing the good things, on simply staying sane.

We are expecting our first storm of the season down here–it’s the ninth storm to form, the first to touch down, this year. I cannot believe how EARLY we’re getting our first tropical storm this year. By comparison, in 2017, when we were struck by TWO category-5 hurricanes within two weeks’ time (cat-5 is as high as it goes, so, a very bad season), Hurricane Irma was the ninth storm that year–that was in early September; we aren’t even out of July yet!

Anyway, the water is churning, the wind is rumbling the hurricane shutters, and we’re getting ready to just close up and sit tight for the next day, if not several days. Stay well, everyone, and I’ll see you soon.

Insomnia is a mental illness

8 Jun

11:40 am

And, actually, it IS! According to Medscape:

The DSM-5 defines insomnia as dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality, associated with one (or more) of the following symptoms: Difficulty initiating sleep. Difficulty maintaining sleep, characterized by frequent awakenings or problems returning to sleep after awakenings. Early-morning awakening with inability to return to sleep.

What I mean, however, is that insomnia causes mental illness (and that is part of its definition, too, in the DSM). For me, personally, that means anxiety, depression, and relatively speaking, “suicidal” thinking (i.e., what’s the point, everything sucks). I had one of my nights the night before last, and it took almost the entire day for me to rebound, to feel like myself again–to come out of the depths and to be able to think positively.

Honestly, it feels WAY too much like a night of blackout drinking and the next-day hangover from blackout drinking: you’re in and out of sleep, you’re having nightmares, you’re angry–oh, boy, does insomnia make me irrationally angry–and you’re delusional. It truly is horrifying, doubly so because it is like a replay of one of the MILLIONS of blackout-drunk/next-day hangovers I’ve had over the course of my drinking career (which gratefully ended when I started this blog eight years ago). It really does feel like I’m hungover the next day, too: intense anxiety, forcing myself to get out of bed, depression, this sense of darkness around my world and goals, the inability to think clearly, the list goes on and on.

Usually, I experience nights of insomnia caused by perimenopause–sometimes, I can’t fall asleep because I am burning up or otherwise wired wide awake; usually, I wake up after three or four hours sleep and can’t fall back to sleep. This time, however, it was because my stomach was cramping all night long (I have been toying with going on the keto diet; however, I am definitely crossing eggroll-in-a-bowl off my list of things that I can eat–LOL). I had some crazy nightmares, too: one was, the brother who wrote me off (after a bad blackout verbal assault!) was attacked by Trump supporters; the other was, our house, with floor-to ceiling windows looking out onto the ocean, was being flooded by HUGE waves that we could see come crashing down on our roof…and inside was a friend who ghosted me in 2017 (she just stopped emailing and texting, after 11 years of friendship, and I have never learned why). God, it was a dark night!

The next day, yesterday, I gave myself what turned out to be a gift: I went to our local Humane Society and spent the morning walking dogs! It felt really good to get out of my head, outside myself, and just help others, even if those others were fur-balls! Later in the evening, I went alone to our closest beach and took a sunset soak. It gave me the chance to remember how many times volunteering my time, helping others, actually saved me from myself. Getting outside myself has been what has saved me more than once from depression, anxiety, and everything that comes with too much self-focus.

It’s Monday, and while the protests are still going on and the COVID is still going on, I have to get on with my life. Which means, rebooting my (professional) writing portfolio and starting to send out ye olde resume. I don’t necessarily believe I won’t get my job back, but…it’s good to consider the possibility that I won’t.

I am eight weeks Facebook-free today, and I feel pretty much great about that. I do miss my actual friends’ posts, and I know that I am missing out on some events and “in the know” activities; however, for the most part, I believe I am not missing anything and I feel better about myself, calmer about the pace and progress of my days. I keep thinking of a few friends especially, wondering how they’re doing; otherwise, most people are simply not on my radar in that way (and, I would venture that most of anyone’s friends on Facebook are not really their friends, per se, people whose lives they’re actually interested in keeping up with). Anyway, I will keep going with it; I might not deactivate as I said I would, but I’ll probably stay off for a while longer, at least. The benefits are just too good!

Our dog is hanging in there; it was a bit sad to walk such fiesty pups at the Humane yesterday and come home to our “old” girl, barely able to hobble around for a few minutes outside. On the bright side, she IS still able to get herself up and down, and she IS still able to walk outside to pee–all good, right? I have come to accept her aging, the process of her aging, a wee bit more with every passing day. It’s part of life; I just wish it wasn’t part of HER life–haha.

Blessings, all, for a good week. Stay strong (or not); either way, you got this.

Guilty or grateful–or both?

31 May

1:20 pm

I feel guilty today. I am only just watching the news on TV, only just reading about all the protests (in the US; I think everyone knows what’s going on, so I won’t get into explaining it here) on social media (Twitter). I am not there, and I feel guilty for not being engaged, for seemingly not caring. Even if I was there–I am not on the mainland–I am not sure I would be at a protest, and I feel guilty about that. I am even feeling a twinge of guilt about not being active on social media (I have been off Facebook for about 1.5 months and I haven’t been on Twitter, as a user, for like, a decade)–I got off for my mental health’s sake, and I don’t see it helping me to go back on right now.

(Actually, I went on Twitter yesterday and this morning, for the first time in years, after having realized that that’s where a lot of people are getting their news these days; and I have to say, it’s been really helpful to see all the user-generated video content of the protests. However, I don’t want to log into my account and start scrolling endlessly through a feed that is so tailored toward my specific, and illusory, reality.)

Anyway, I also feel this restless anxiety toward…I don’t know, the uncertainty of all this, how it’s going to end, how it’s going to affect the COVID situation (so much for the easy re-openings!). In my opinion, this will never be fixed unless we stop telling ourselves, collectively, that “it’s a few bad apples” and “99.9% of cops are good guys.” If that were the case, why the EFF is our entire country, across cities, coast to coast, totally enraged? Why are these so-called “good apples” teargassing everyone, from peaceful protestors to journalists (who are doing their jobs!?). It’s akin to the “hearts and prayers” crap that has been on repeat in this county for decades, which does nothing to fix the problem of gun violence in America.

Like most Americans, I see these “bad apple” incidents happening over and over and over again; I see these “good cops” suit up in their wartime garb, for situations that are NOT riot scenes; I watch them commit murder again and again and again, and they never get charged. I was wondering the other day, what kind of treatment would I have gotten when I was picked up, stumbling drunk and ridiculously belligerent (a few times, years ago), if I were a person of color? I definitely don’t think I would have sobered up in peace in the slammer as the “good apple” (sincerely, there must be some!) cop just turned his or her head to my angry insults.

I don’t know what this country should do, but it’s obvious that police culture and training needs to change. Accountability somehow needs to happen–for me that means, cop-killers should not get life in prison while killer-cops don’t even get arrested or charged. It’s not as simple as that, but that’s one thing it boils down to, for me anyway.

I feel grateful today, on the other hand. Grateful that I am here, safe, and that I don’t have anything huge to do today. I mean, I feel scattered, sort of angry, so, not sure what I’ll get done; but I am willing to pull it together, to stop the black-and-white thinking, to have a day. And, I have the time and space–and safety, and privilege–to do that.

Guilty, and grateful, that’s for sure. And, there is no way around feeling both, at the same time, today; so, all I can do is feel and move on with my day, feeling what I feel.

The deep end

28 May

1:03 pm

I don’t have much time today, so I’m going to dive right in (no pun intended!).

So, as everyone with depression, anxiety, and/or obsessive thought “disorders” knows–at least, intuitively if not consciously–our dark thoughts can intrude on us, control us, and pull us down. They float us toward the deep end, and if we are not careful, they pull us under to a dark, motionless place, a place that is hard to get out of, a place that controls us, a place that traps us. We feel trapped by–and within–our dark thoughts, which may be true (at least for the while that we’re under them, in the deep end).

I don’t know how to explain this any better than with the recent example of the dark place(s) that my picking up trash alone took me; or, talking to both my parents with (relatively) untreated mental health disorders (I have yet to blog about this, but will one day soon). Regarding the former, I just felt pissed off, but almost irrationally so. I mean, yes, there is trash on the side of the road and it sucks that people throw it down, but that does not mean that I necessarily need to get angry about it, think bad things about EVERYONE who lives here, believe that I am defeated and there is no reason to ever go outside again. I don’t need these thoughts, and I don’t need to allow myself to be trapped in this deep end. I can permit myself to let go of, or forget, these thoughts–they are not “real” in the sense that, they are not truth; they are not necessary to think, or to hold onto, in order to find truth in my daily life or to live truthfully.

Same goes for the thoughts I find myself having, uncontrollably, when I talk to either of my parents on the phone. I listen to them, I hear their thought patterns, and I wonder why they have constructed such dark–paranoid, angry, anxious–world views. I think to myself, what you believe, dear parents, how you live your lives, are these really your idea of truth? Yet, I struggle to justify their thoughts and behavior, to try and overlay them on what I would consider a more general construct of reality–most people are not obsessively thinking about doing ONE thing and not doing it for months, years, decades at a time (mom); most people are not setting up businesses on a whim, trying to borrow money against a negative bank balance (dad). I fail to see their realities fitting within the lines of this general construct (which, I admit, is simply based on interacting with many other, different people over the years).

In truth (I believe), I am trying to reason with what is unreasonable–and, that takes my mind to a dark place, a place where thoughts have no doors, no windows, no outlets.

This is a place, I have come to believe, where I do not need to be.

I used to think that I had to think all these thoughts; that these thoughts were supposed to hold court, keep me thinking them until I figured “it” out. I have come to realize that I am either creating an “it” that does not exist (everyone here is a litterbug) or trying to make common sense out of others’ affected or deluded thinking. I do not have to do either! Moreover, I shouldn’t! Not unless I myself can tolerate drowning in the deep end, coming up for air once in a while to glimpse my lighter reality (consciously constructed to be so, over the course of years of getting sober and practicing avoiding the behavioral pitfalls of my own obsessive and/or deluded thinking).

Maybe this post is just crazy-sounding, but honestly, I am beginning to think that all thought might just be a by-product of evolution gone wrong (haha).

I will, one day, write a post about my parents’ mental health; but, I have come to understand that I don’t really know shit (I do know that having a “normal” conversation with either of them is really hard; then again, what is “normal”?). Plus, I never want to talk about other people’s mental health without their express permission and input. Too often, people talk about these things as if they know; mental health “problems” are intricate expressions of the human experience, which comes in infinite forms. Who am I to judge, to talk about someone’s “reality”, especially considering my background and difficulty finding footing in a version of a livable reality of my own?

Anyway, it’s time to go out for a jog since the rain stopped. SO glad we got some rain here, it was getting pretty darn dry!

Our dog is hanging in there; she seems to have had a slight recovery. She can go on walks now, with the help of a sling for her hind end/legs–and most importantly, she WANTS to! I’ve been seeing the puppy in her come out once in a while, which is sweet; she tries to get up and drink water on her own more often than a few weeks ago; and, she regularly wants to go and lay in her spots outside (she loves being outside, always has). I dote on her a LOT, but, I figure, she needs it and um, I need it!

Facebook-free for six weeks and counting. Admittedly, I have kept messenger on my iPad (I do want to receive messages, if people choose to chat via that app versus phone text); and the other day (well, a few times), I clicked on a few Facebook stories and…got sucked in and got annoyed within a matter of a minute or less. SO, for me, it’s better to just stay off it; for reasons that are probably my issue, I just dislike the FOMO and I dislike the feelings that come from FOMO–I am off Facebook because MY mind and heart are much more at peace if I just don’t connect with my “friends” on that platform. I am still considering deactivating after two months, so we’ll see…

Love in the time of…Covid-19

19 Mar

2:31 pm

I had this long post drafted, but, as it goes, I trashed it, held off for a few days, and am starting over.

What I really want to say is, I hope everyone is hanging in there, not letting the fear and paranoia overwhelm, and well, just being OK with being isolated.  See, my preferred way of life is social distancing and sheltering in place, and I’ve been practicing it for years, so…I got it down (haha).  However, for those who don’t, my advice is, take it as it comes, try to connect in virtual ways (this blog was my lifeline when I was first getting sober), and don’t let your bad feelings and thoughts about it all get you down or make you feel less than you are, which is strong and capable and worthy.  You are doing your best; you’re not going to do it right or perfect the first time around (as a perfectionist, it’s a lesson I learn over and over again with every day, every written piece, every trashed blog post…).

I have gone insane more than once over the years, working from home from an island.  On thing I have learned is, you do need a change of scenery, a feeling of having gotten out into the world.  I have learned to go outside when I start feeling trapped and angsty about being cooped up–get out, in any way or form; whether than involves actually meeting up with people or just seeing them in action, both are helpful.  You don’t have to go far either; just far enough out of your home orbit to feel like you’ve tasted the world a bit.  Again, if you get angry or frustrated or start to feel trapped–don’t get down on yourself.  This way of life is not easy, especially for people who actually like human interaction (haha).

So, lately, I’ve been mulling/ruminating on the nature of evolving friendships as you get sober and move into long-term sobriety, and as you age.  Frankly, I feel like I’ve aged two decades over the past two years–we moved off island for those two years, and I entered the symptomatic phase of perimenopause.  GURL, I cannot tell you how the latter has made me re-evaluate my relationships.  If I was questioning the basis of my friendships immediately after getting sober–do I really like this person, or did I connect with him/her mainly because I needed a semblance of friendship or a potential drinking buddy?–I started to really dig deeper years down the line.  NOW?  I am really finding it difficult to have any patience for phony or passive aggressive behavior.  And, I seem to keep running up against that here, with friends that I had and that I am coming home to, literally or figuratively.

Granted, friendships change when you leave home; you can’t go home again is right, but one can hope–especially when it comes to deeper friendships.  I don’t know if it’s paranoia from the Covid, paranoia/anger from the pill depleting my feel-good hormones (or general hormonal imbalance), or if I am just seeing things clearly now, but….I just can’t tolerate phoniness anymore.  Maybe I’m just not willing to buy into it anymore.

That being said, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  In fact, the bad apples are few and far between in the grand scheme of a lifetime of relationships.  There are good people out there, a lot of them (all of you!).  I like to think of it in terms of “holistic” healthcare practitioners:  There are good yoga teachers and not so good, right?  Good reiki practitioners and the frauds.  Good acupuncturists and the ones who make your limbs tremble.  It’s all a matter of perspective, too–black-and-white thinking never got me anywhere.  And, I can do things to immediately change my state of mind:  Get off Facebook (gah–for real!), practice deep breathing, go outside, and um, just go to bed; remember what I have right now, to be grateful for; remember that it will not last, whatever it is that I am experiencing physically, emotionally, and/or mentally.

I promise to write more, I’ve just been feeling very challenged emotionally and physically lately.  Still, I promise to share more of those challenges, in more frequent posts.

I’m so grateful for this community–keeping me sane for almost eight years and counting…

Mental illness should not be a moral failing

28 Jul

11:24 am

So, because I’m either a cynic/pessimist, or because I’ve been around the sobriety block and tend to see deeper into things or events than the average “normie” and apply my perceptions differently as they relate to my long-term sobriety–YES, my presentation went off successfully, but I did learn a few things.  I learned that PTSD is real, the brain connections made to enable such a state are powerful, and using drugs to help yourself recover is not only not a bad thing, but a professional method toward recovery.  I learned that my real voice needed to be “let out of prison,” that some/maybe a lot of people relate success to willfulness only and not to a variety of factors (some of which, like mental illness, you are not always in control of), and of my own strong desire for approval from others.

In short, I mentioned the other day that I had been alerted about a month ago by my direct boss that I had to participate in giving a team presentation to our larger group/team at our group meeting that happened just this past week.  Upon hearing the news, and for the next month, I worried and obsessed–and prepared.  I have had a major fear of public speaking and stage fright surrounding this for about 13 years (since an incident in graduate school), and I simply HAD to deliver this time around.  I knew that if I didn’t get help, I would not be able to get up there, I would disappoint my big boss (my boss’s boss) and team yet again (I’ve had, as it goes with stage fright, major issues even introducing myself to the team at past events), and I might even jeopardize my job!

So, I freaking made it happen.  I booked an appointment with a psychiatrist, got a prescription, then used said drug at various public speaking “test” events around my ‘hood all throughout the month of July to see if it worked, and how much of it I needed to take for it to work.  Fast forward to the day of my talk–effing FINALLY–on Thursday of this past week, and WOW/HOLY EFF, I rocked it!  I got up in front of the crowd, and all of the sudden, this deep sense of calm came over me; I just stood there, folded my hands in front of my legs, and began speaking, interacting, and generally, performing at a level I never thought possible for me.  On the flight home, I came up with this as to how it made me feel:  the real me was released from my jail cell, and not only that, set free into the grass, where I danced, literally, to celebrate being free.  It was like, the real me was finally able to come out and perform–I was finally able to show my team who I was, how prepared I usually am, how committed and invested I am in this job, and how well I am doing the job, or at the very least, trying to do it.

It didn’t go unnoticed:  everyone, including my big boss, complimented me; she even took me aside and told me that not only did I do a great job, but that I had improved very much over the past three months (we last saw each other in April at another conference).  Which brings me to my first point:  how come I was now considered competent and successful, just because I was somehow (um, thanks pharmacology) able to “overcome” my stage fright and perform like a “normal” human being?  I mean, I am always competent, whether I have mental illness or not; it’s not my fault I have this type of stage fright/mental illness; and, it’s not something I can control.  BUT, having it does not preclude me from also being competent and succeeding at my job.

Another thing I realized was how much I was simply craving not just her approval, but the entire team’s.  I mean, I was SO wanting her to say, I approve of you–and she did, more or less, for the first time since I started this job. I felt SO relieved and reassured when, after complimenting me, she actually talked to me as a person (we had never had a real conversation before); and, later throughout the day, I felt somehow more or less included in the upper tier/managerial team (I am not really part of that team, but at my age and with my title and experience, I SHOULD embrace that type of role, if offered).  UGH–I mean, I cannot deny that that was exactly what I was craving, but it sort of startles me that I need approval that badly.

In any case, I am not only flying high, I am super-relieved.  Of course, there will be other conferences and meetings, and of course, I’ll have to decide if and how I will use the medication (there aren’t many side effects, but there are some; also, if I was a masochist, which I kind of am, I might want to keep attending my public speaking group events here at home to practice speaking without the medication–I don’t foresee myself EVER being able to be as calm and “competent-sounding” as I was on Thursday without that medication, but, you never know/stranger things have happened).  For now, though, I am flying high, grateful, and SO ready to put that behind me and move on.

Moving on, indeed!  In other news, we’ve decided to move back to our island!  I won’t say too much about that–it’s been a long 1.5 years here, struggling to learn, evolve, grow, and rediscover ourselves; and, we’ve both sort of found what we were looking for (for him, he doesn’t want what the mainland has to offer, and for me, I can take the parts of it that I know I want–I can work this nonprofit job remotely from there–and leave the rest, which I discovered in the past 18 months I actually don’t miss, want, or need).

Anyway, I just wanted to share the happy news that while I did succeed at my speaking event, it wasn’t without a few major personally-vexing revelations–welcome to long-term sobriety.  (oh, and of course, there was one night where I was SO burnt on the interacting with other people that I craved a glass of wine–but, no can do, folks/le effing sigh)

Facing my fear of public speaking

6 Jul

10:22 pm

And, it’s about time, eh?  It’s only been 13 years!

Seriously.  I’ve had what some call fear, what others call performance anxiety or a social phobia around speaking in front of groups for 13 years–ever since that fateful day in one of my graduate school seminars where I literally lost control of myself and shut down during a group presentation.  I am sure I must have drunk the night before, so there was some element of alcohol involved, which probably served to heighten the feelings of panic.  A few months prior, I had also had my first literal panic attack in another class, so my nerves had already been rewired/primed for panic by the time this incident happened.

What actually happened was what happens now, every time I speak in front of any group, whether comprised of strangers or friends:  my heart starts to beat UNCONTROLLABLY hard; I can’t breathe; I can’t speak; and I feel SO nervous and amped up by all this stuff going on inside my body that I feel like I’m about to pass out.

Before these past few months, I’ve been able to straight up avoid EVER talking in front of groups.  Of course, I’ve had to endure these occasions once in a while–saying goodbye to a group of fellow volunteers on a volunteer project; saying my name and what I do in front of a group of my coworkers–and they have felt utterly horrific.  My heart pounds, my entire body starts shaking, my voice starts wavering, or, I just can’t breathe and start to dart around in place, wishing with my entire being that I could just GET THE EFF out of that room.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I found out that I have to give a (short, probably not a big deal) presentation for my job in front of my (small, only about 20 folks) team at a group meeting in July.  UGH.  I’ve literally been obsessing about it since I found out a few weeks ago–like, extremely nervous at even the thought of standing up, talking, trying to figure out how the heck I’m going to remain standing.  I haven’t even been able to imagine past the first few seconds of my talk.

So, I decided two weeks ago that I just need to resolve this–if not solve my problem, then somehow resolve it.  I made an appointment with a psychiatrist, hoping/thinking that he’d prescribe me either Xanax or some other benzo used for panic attacks.  Come to find out, there are tons of people just like me, and they are all using beta blockers!?  The doc gave me a prescription for a beta blocker; long story short, I went to a public speaking group the other night to “try it out,” and uh, I actually stood in front of a group of strangers willingly and talked my head off–no nerves, no aversion, no shaking voice, no sign that I wasn’t “a natural,” as several people who congratulated me after I came down told me.  (what a fraud, I laughed on the inside; hey, whatever it takes, the other me shot back)

Either the drug worked, or I just didn’t feel that much anxiety in this particular situation.  The people I was speaking in front of were warm and welcoming; strangers; no one related to my job, I thought.  Hmm.  There was no sense of, I have to perform my JOB AS A WRITER, which is connected to this talk, PERFECTLY, or someone somewhere is going to find out what a fraud I am, what an imposter!

I am fairly sure that this drug will help me–it’s already sort of stopped that creeping sense of anxiety I had even just a few days ago, thinking about my work event–to “retrain” my brain, at least a little.  I’ve witnessed that I can get up there and actually talk in front of people without that horrifying sense of fear and panic, and that has somehow already rewired me to feel less nervous about the upcoming work thing.

Still.  What if I was just not nervous enough because these people have nothing to do with work?  Because I don’t care what they think?  Because I felt safe there, and not judged?  It’s interesting to me that this sort of PTSD surrounding talking in front of groups revolves not necessarily around all groups, only groups where I am performing and that performance is based on something that I feel insecure about (apparently, writing).

What surprised me more than this discovery–I kind of knew that this is a form of PTSD; what I didn’t know what how intertwined it is with my sense of imposter syndrome related to writing and journalism–was how empowering and relieving it was to dredge up my drinking past, my panic attack past (related to my drinking past) with an actual psychotherapist!  I haven’t really talked about it in years; I stopped going to AA years ago, too.  It was nice to just get it out there again, in the open.

I am so tired of this old story about my fear of public speaking; I wasn’t always like this, and I have to believe that nothing is impossible, that this story I have told myself for 13 years is not forever truth.  I have to believe that I can tell a new story about myself when it comes to public speaking–and frankly, I AM starting to believe that it could be as simple as some medication and exposure therapy to at least allow myself to survive these public speaking situations.

It just feels good to have finally stopped running from what has obviously affected both my professional and personal life for almost a decade and a half.

Now, we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out at my work even in a few weeks.  Sure, I am dreading it, but with this medication and a few more practice runs at the public speaking group and other events (maybe speaking at an AA meeting?), I might just survive.  (I am not looking to THRIVE as a public speaker at this point, just survive; and that’s good enough for me right now.)

Being here, and now

23 Jun

10:37 pm

Just a quick post tonight to say, be here, now.

DDG, try to stay in the moment and, be here, in the now.

After a great workout this morning–where I thought of nothing but how nervous my job is making me and that I have GOT to get some Xanax or something to bring along with me to the next team meeting if I’m EVER going to get through the presentation that I’ve been tasked with giving–and a nice evening on the beach; I realized just how hard it has become for me to stay in the moment these days.  If I’m not obsessively checking my work email and making my work to-do lists, I’m checking personal email or scrolling through Facebook and LinkedIn.  I am always thinking about something, or thinking I should be thinking about something; I am forever making plans, or making contingency plans.  It’s starting to feel a bit obsessive.

When I was getting sober, I didn’t feel so wound up.  When I was working at my last job, I didn’t feel so controlling.  I feel like there is a lot riding on me staying focused these days, especially at my new job.  I do have a lot to get done–thing is, I don’t have to do it all perfectly, and I probably could get away with not getting it all done!  I keep telling myself I have nothing to prove, yet, around every corner, I am doing things that scream, Love me!

Lately, I’ve been feeling like if I let one thing go, the entire sweater will come undone, the house will collapse, everyone will find out that I’m really an imposter.  And let’s face it, these days, I’d rather not be writing most of what I have to write as a science writer, sitting on a beach in a meditative state.  I’d MUCH RATHER not be pretending to care about chasing after the rewards of the rat race.  Island life taught me that it’s OK to reject these ideas and it’s even more OK to choose to live a life that does not glorify them.  Yet, I’m in this new life out of choice, so…I had better learn to live in it without having panic attacks!

There MUST be some value in literally refusing to let one’s mind wander.  You know, down that road of distraction via social media, or negative thinking by way of obsessing over events yet to happen.  I’ve been guilty of both of those lately, and I have to believe that forcing myself to think positively–differently, at least, than I have been doing lately–will have some sort of impact on moving my thoughts to a different place and/or new level, to staying in the here and now.

I MISS that me, that girl who somehow, after all her time chasing and competing on the mainland, was able to finally unwind and unplug and learn how to just sit, and breathe, and embrace the rich nothingness of the moment.  These days, I am preoccupied and miss the richness of a lot of my moments.  My goal in the next few weeks is to focus on learning to stay here, now, while also getting my work done; to breathing through my anxiety and thinking beyond it; to remaining at least somewhat of a willing participant in the life I have chosen.

I know it won’t be forever, and I’ll come around to finding a new here and now.  But for now?  Stay in the moment, DDG.  Be here, and now.

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