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A painful truth vs a beautiful lie

21 Nov

9:23 pm

One day last week–sorry, it’s been SO LONG since I’ve posted a blog; I’ve been buried under work, the kind that makes me not want to read or write for “fun” after the day is over–I came across someone’s meme on Facebook that read: You hate me (haha; only on the ‘book can you feel assaulted and insulted after three words of a half-read meme) because you are a beautiful lie and I am a painful truth.

Ouch. And, huh.

Well, for one, I don’t hate this person (or anyone, for that matter!) and I really haven’t been thinking about it all that much–her life, I guess, and how it’s turned out these past oh, 30 years since she got pregnant at 16 and dropped out of high school (and went on to build a nice life and family, btw)–but, now that you mention it; yeah, it’s kind of true. Not the hating anyone part, but the difference between beautiful lies and painful truths *on social media*.

The sad (to me) reality is, we don’t ever tell or talk about our painful truths. I mean, not really. Not ever, really. And, I guess that’s the challenge of authentic living–how to talk about your painful truths without scaring people away. I am still figuring that one out, but, I will say, social media turns that battle even more uphill because of what it encourages, which are glossy, doctored misrepresentations of a life. It’s not real!

I think I might just need to take a break from Facebook again…

Speaking of real, things are still pretty real here. It’s been quite the trip these past four months/three effing years (haha), trying to “balance my hormones.” After years of dealing with the most disturbing symptoms of perimenopause (which, after going on some Facebook groups, mine have not been bad at all, compared to what some other women go through), nothing really scares me about it anymore. However, I have kind of resigned myself to the fact that, it’s just going to take trial and error, time, and hopefully, not becoming an exhausted lunatic before either *I* get my “hormones balanced” once and for all, or, they balance themselves out over time.

The insomnia comes hard the majority of nights, and I usually don’t get more than three hours in a row–it truly sucks, but there is beauty in those wee morning hours. I see new constellations now–a reminder that a whole season has passed since I was sitting on the floor next to my dying dog, trying to comfort her as she freaked out all night. I find solace in knowing that the light I see is ancient, some of it from sources that have long since burned out; that that light will be here LONG after I am gone. There is immense beauty in getting a momentary glimpse of what is really here, which is so much bigger than me, and my life, and my dog’s much shorter life. I don’t know.

On a different note, today marks ONE year since we flew back here–a place that we lived for many years, left for about two, and then came back to last year (we moved back into the same house, with our old furniture even!?). It’s been a strange year, actually, and not just because of the Covid. It’s been a year of, well, painful truths, honestly. Good truths, but still painful ones. I feel like the vast majority of people we called friends here have either moved on physically/literally or just aren’t really friends anymore. Maybe they weren’t to begin with? I feel like I have aged two decades in two years and am really done with passive aggressive behavior.

Good also came: I was forced out of a job by the Covid but ended up finding well, a better job. I am slowly but surely getting over putting our dog to rest (sweet girl!) and becoming ready to love a new furry best friend again. I would never in a lifetime have volunteered to make the turkey, but–this year, I feel safe enough in my own skin and um, cooking abilities, to have put that into motion! I am heading up the Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing-making! What? Yup! Add a key lime pie to the mix (I swapped desserts for drinking when I first got sober), and we’re going to be very good to go next week. (we are doing a small thing, just a few close friends who practice safe Covid’ing)

Yeah, so, that’s it, in a nutshell. I mean, lots more on the parents front–aging sucks; mental health disorders left untreated over the course of a lifetime suck even more!–but I will save that for another Saturday night. 🙂

Happy sober weekend, all!

Still here, plugging away

24 Oct

9:39 pm

I just wanted to jump on here and say, hi! I am still here, just plugging away at two jobs (when it rains, it pours; but, I’ll take the deluge after being unemployed for five months after I was furloughed from my job, thanks to Covid). Essentially, I have been working 12-hour days since the start of the month, which has left little time for anything else (especially fun stuff like my blog!).

In any case, I had been having this weird leg muscle and joint pain the last time I blogged, and I had gone to the doctor to seek some answers–and all the tests came back normal and/or negative.

As it turns out, I went off the generic and onto a (much more expensive) brand name estradiol patch and lo and behold, MOST of my leg *muscle* pain went away within a day, or days. I’ve been on it for a week now, and while my joints (hip/groin/lower back, ankles, feet, fingers) still (sort of) hurt, I swear, my legs started feeling better within a day of taking the new medication. Could it be? Well, yeah, it must be, right? I recently read a story about semi-shady pharma manufacturing plants in India and how, the FDA-sanctioned regulatory checks at drug-making plants there leave a lot to be desired in that they let shit slip through the cracks. I have had a similar experience with a generic birth control pill in that I had all the side effects, but the second I went back on my name brand drug, they went away.

Correlation does not equal causation, but, I am like, 99% sure that the DAY AFTER I changed patches, my leg muscles started to feel normal again. That continues to today, where I have gone for a couple jogs this week and have not felt debilitating pain for days after my workout, where I am able to just get up and go for walk and not feel like I ran a marathon. Fingers crossed, it keeps getting better. I will pay the price if it means that I don’t have crazy leg pain! (I will add, with every generic or brand name switch, it has felt like I’ve changed medications and am starting over, so, that kind of sucks)

Today, I got to go for a walk in the morning and a soak/swim in the afternoon–and, it felt like a long-lost luxury. Add to that coffee and the tropical natural world? Cloud freaking nine, people.

On that note, I have missed touching base with this community and my “old” DDG self (am I still her? is she still here?). I hope I find more time soon so that I’ll be able to just ponder and enjoy and be grateful because, well, I miss that and I need that.

Sunday afternoon ramblings

4 Oct

2:53 pm

As I wrote about recently, over the past few weeks (going on a month now, actually), I’ve had terrible leg pain. I thought I had some terrible disease (of course, I did), so I went to the doctor–a first in that, this doc took me seriously and ran every blood test possible for a complaint like, “my legs hurt”–and, well…nothing is wrong. No Covid, no infectious disease, no autoimmune disease, blood panel good, muscles fine. I also got a blood test done for both my estrogen and progesterone levels, and for where I am at in the process of both menopause and taking estradiol via the patch, those came back normal, too.

SO, I have to conclude that it’s something to do with the estradiol patch (which, btw, is only one method of transdermal application; there are also creams, gels, sprays, probably others). And, that kind of really sucks since, I don’t know if another via-the-skin application will work for me. I am going to keep riding it out and see what happens.

So, that’s one reason I’ve been quiet on my blog, I’m just trying to take care of myself–mentally, it’s really hard for me to accept pain and not being able to work out because of pain. I usually just push through pain, but my muscles seem to take days to recover from even the slightest workout, so I have been obeying my body’s commands. It’s not easy not knowing either; and, I’ll never know unless I take the time to go off everything, let my body readjust, and then, go back on things one at a time. The patch is working for my night heat and insomnia, though, which is glorious!? Still, if I can’t live WITH the medication, then…it’d have to be a dealbreaker.

I am well, and my doctors took me very seriously–so, a huge win. Plus, it appears that I never got Covid, which is a relief as well.

I’ve been working full-time and will start working a new remote contract gig this week, putting me at full-time-plus for the next few months, so…that’s been great! It’s a relief to have work, sure, but even more of a relief to not have to job and gig search for a while.

Another thing that’s been going on is that my dad has gotten himself into some physical trouble (think: crashing cars and breaking bones) due to well, untreated bipolar disorder (in my opinion). Long story short, he’s doing fine but he’s still up to his tricks, so to speak. Lesson learned on my part: he will never change until and unless he takes medication; he will never admit anything is wrong; and, importantly, there is nothing I can do for him. I have thought of telling him, I refuse to talk to you until you get meds, but, I don’t quite get how an “intervention” or “ultimatum” would truly work or be beneficial for a mental health disorder like his. He doesn’t believe–refuses to believe–that there is anything wrong. How can you force him to consider an ultimatum that doesn’t really mesh with his version of reality? I don’t know.

On that note, I am going to exhale–my mantra these days–and go for a walk. I can do that at least; it’s funny how much of an “athlete” I am: I have already acclimated to this new level of pain and have found ways around it. I will never stop working out! (maybe that’s what got me here to begin with? lol)

Thank you, one and all, for still being part of my life. This blog-o-sphere is truly one of my favorite places to be on a Sunday afternoon…

Exhale, and believe

7 Sep

3:01 pm

That’s my mantra these days. Exhale, and believe.

Exhale, sure. Calm down. But, believe? In what? Well, that things will change. That, um, I will change. That I will have the courage to just let things be if they’re not working for me anymore. That I will have the courage to just let my thoughts go if they’re causing me more harm than good.

This past week turned out better that I imagined it would, considering that I landed two contract jobs, which means I’ll have at least part-time work through the end of the year. (My “dream job” got back to me, too, requesting an interview, but…I am not sure what’s going to transpire with that, so, I’m just waiting and seeing.) All the work I am doing now came from networking with my existing contacts, not cold calls, as it were. So, that’s a big lesson right there, which is, eff Indeed! (haha)

I am slowly getting over putting our sweet girl down coming up on a month this Wednesday. We’ve thought about fostering a dog (or two) since we’ve now got the time *and* have to be in the same place (now that I am working again, I need to be settled; plus, the only place we would want to travel would be the West, in an RV, and um, it’s kind of literally Hell there right now). It’d be a shame, in my opinion, to not give love when you are able to give love; there are plenty of dogs in need at the local shelter–just like our girl and our boy needed our love, those many years ago. We’ll see…

I’ve sort of been on autopilot the past few weeks, sometimes wanting to give up this blog, sometimes wanting to write more on it; just plugging, getting back into work mode (man, my brain is slow after five months on furlough–haha). It’s been great, though, to redirect my attention to something else, anything else, but trying to work on my book (hashtag fail) and staring at my belly button.

I don’t know if my new hormone therapy is working or not, really; there aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to “what is supposed to happen in menopause” and I am not sure if I can expect 100% “back to normal.” However, I know what I want, and I don’t feel what I want yet. Unfortunately, even though I’ve been going through this crap for three years, I probably won’t see the light at the end of the very hot tunnel until the end of this year, considering how long you have to take your regimen to see if it’s working (three months) before you can request a change or upgrade (if that’s even possible, I don’t know). The wait is not as much of a problem as the fact that this has been going on for three years, and it has been really trying, and I just want to feel like myself again. The uncertainty factor has been the most irritating part of this process–you just don’t know how you’re going to feel or when it’s going to feel better.

Today marks three years plus one day that Hurricane Irma hit. Our lives were forever changed. A part of me really misses that time; amidst the chaos there was excitement, and promise–of something new. We lived that “new” and are now back to where we started. Except, there’s a pandemic now and no one can do anything–which, actually, kind of sucks more than the aftermath of a hurricane, mostly because, the aftermath and rebuilding had/has a finite end! Anyway, I wonder, what’s next? What’s going to be new? I am so jones’ing for something new again, aren’t you?

So, I come back to my mantra: exhale–what will be, will be; let the planning go for now–and believe–things will change, they will not be this way forever. Exhale, and believe.

Days go by

25 Jul

5:05 pm

Days go by, and I keep plugging away.

There’s my job search, which is going well. I’ve got a great lead on a great company/gig, and I have what I believe might be my final round of interviews on Monday. I am trying to not overthink it, as in, wonder all sorts of things about the industry, full-time vs. freelance, my own emotional and/or mental investment… However, here and now, in the midst of a pandemic where over half of my own organization was furloughed; where jobs in THAT space are few and far between; where a TON of people are without work and I should be thrilled that this job even exists, let alone that I have the potential opportunity to be offered said job–I am trying to not overthink it, keep an open mind, and focus on the task at hand.

Which is definitely being helped by me being off Facebook! I actually went on last night–and, of course, I got sucked in for a whole hour, from 2 to 3 am! The good news is, I didn’t really obsess about anything or anyone’s posts; I didn’t let much affect me–that felt good; it felt good because I was able to check my groups (which I miss), read a few people’s updates (I miss keeping up with some friends’ lives, more regularly that I would in person), and then…log off. I will probably continue to go on periodically, but I don’t have a desire to get hooked in on a daily basis.

Speaking of my 3 am bed time, um…yeah. I am trying, but it’s hard for me to get to sleep before 3–especially when I don’t have to go to work the next day. I mean, I have always been a night owl, but I actually want to see if I am waking up after three hours (so, 6 am) every night because I went to bed too late and it’s sunny as shit by then or because, well, menopause.

I started on the estrogen patch this week, so, I’ve been off the birth control pill for two weeks. I have to admit, I think I’m actually having daytime hot flashes/flushes now, and I never had those before on the pill. Hmm…maybe it’ll just take a while for the patch to start working? Or, maybe I’m just hot (it is really hot here right now; 90 degrees in the shade, lawd knows how humid)? Maybe I need a higher dose? Who knows? (I’ve stopped trying to figure it out…because, well, menopause! WHO KNOWS what’s going on? I don’t, and I majored in physiology!?)

Maybe I’m hot because I am taking care of our dog all day long? It’s like a crossfit workout, taking care of her! My girl hasn’t been able to walk for oh, three days now. Her hind legs are just so tired–atrophied , crossing each other (it’s like, her left hind has lost all tension). She’s struggling. We spend a lot of time helping her get up, walk across the room and outside, go for walks on the harness. I say, it’s a crossfit workout, taking care of her, what with the bending and kneeling and lifting. She’s been pooping on her bed for months now, but recently started losing control of her bladder, SO…lots of wiping and washing and drying, spraying and folding and moving and tucking in… I love her, but we’re all getting tired.

I was thinking of how much of a higher power she was to me when I was getting sober. I’ve written about it on my blog before, how she and our other dog (RIP, sweet boy) were my higher powers. He taught a newly sober me how to love others; she taught me how to love myself. That’s all I can say. They were such a huge part of my early years here, on island; such a huge part of my sobriety–I know, I know, they’re “just dogs,” but, to me, for me, they were so much more than that; they helped me more than most humans could have helped me. I just can’t imagine life without her, her not having life–it’s too hard to contemplate. She wants to live, and until she lets me know otherwise…?

What else? I swear, my chikungunya is back. It usually resurfaces to a degree when either I am infected with another virus (the flu, for example) or my immunity is low (when I work out too hard, for instance). Past few days, I’ve felt achey all over, especially in my ankles and wrists and fingers, and like, have had this familiar internal burning feeling in these areas; just blah–“chikungunya-y.” I hate to say it, but, maybe I’ve contracted the COVID? Hopefully not. I’ve been reading about the chronic nature of COVID for some patients, and it reminds me of the way chikungunya virus can hide out for a long time in some people (apparently, me; I got it in 2014, and I still have symptoms once in a while). Yipes. No, thanks!

On that note, I’ll sign off.

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down/into the blue again, after the money’s gone/once in a lifetime…

More like my dog

8 Jul

1:14 pm

During these dogs days of summer–I can’t believe we’re well into July; it’s been a steamy one here, too–I’ve been watching my dog a lot. And, man, I wish I could be more like my dog. She is fierce, endlessly patient with herself and her limitations; she is never mean, always loving, and keeps trying and trying, adjusting to every new normal as if it’s no big thang. If it’s sunny, she’s resting peacefully in her spot outside in front of the door; if it’s raining, she wants to be out there, too, getting wet and inhaling the breezes, more alive than ever as she stands guard against enemy dogs who might try to take advantage of the dark wet night’s cover. She never, ever complains; when she is unhappy or depressed about her condition, she gives a nod that she wants to be left alone, and then sleeps it off. Oh, boy, I wish I could be more like my best girl!

Me, on the other hand, I am not patient; I try to take my transitions in stride, but, usually, I let them get the better of me. This past week has been hard, with my hormones not quite right–major heat, constant heart palpitations, anger. The other night, my night heat got the better of me: after about 1.5 hours of sleep, I was jolted awake by some freaking intense heat, burning up head to toe. I turned the a/c down, cranked the fan up, and decreased the temperature setting on my chiliPAD (it’s been a lifesaver these past few years; Google it!). I rushed out to the kitchen, literally gave myself a bath at the kitchen sink, and overheard myself whisper-screaming, This is a living hell; this is truly a living hell. (One more week, then an off-week, and then I start the estrogen patch–we’ll see if it helps.)

My dog just rolls with it at night, which is her worst time, too (panting like crazy, hurting from the day). When I get up at night, she just looks at me like, what? I pet her, smell her ears and feel her fur, and it all just makes me feel better. She helps me get through the nights, which are “dark, and full of terrors”–she’s my best friend, mainly in that she knows more about my nights than anyone can or would want to know. And, still, she loves me!

I am trying to just embrace the days and live free. I’m still off Facebook–and it feels great. I got off in April, didn’t go back on until June, and then went on two more times last night and this morning…which was an excellent reminder that I’m so much better off without it, at least right now in my life. I can’t speak to Twitter or the ‘gram or any other social sties, as I have never been a big user of these platforms.

I do miss certain things about Facebook–I miss my “on this day” feed, which is kind of like a journal that reminds me of the cool things I’ve done on this day in years past; I miss my groups; and I miss certain people, mainly those people with whom I don’t have typical friendships (like, folks I met while volunteering abroad, locals who live in those communities). Most of the other posts fill me with a sense of, this virtual reality is not only not real, but it is designed to keep people stuck in it, wasting time, wasting their actual, in-real-life energy! Increasingly, I see it as a tool to remind me of MY life, but not as a way to actually interact with others. Only took me a decade to figure this out!

I had a job interview yesterday, and I think it went well. The huge plus of job searching as a remote employee looking for remote work is that…everyone is now open to it, if not at least initially. I have been working remote for a long time, years and years; every time I interview for a job, though, it feels like a piece that requires explanation and justification. Not now! And that’s a wonderful relief–it’ll allow everyone to finally focus on the job, not the logistics or politics, you know? We’ll see; it’s one of those jobs that will require a long interview process (at least two more people and then a panel video interview with, I’m guessing, three to six more people), but, it will be worth it if I do land the gig!

It’s a beautiful day here, so I am trying to embrace the wonder; the past few days, I was just angry all day (thanks, hormones), and I took it with me–on my walk, around my boo, maybe even toward my best girl. Today, I’m just trying to be more like my dog: patient, taking it as it comes, and accepting all of things, good, bad, and in between.

To be (sober) or not to be (sober), is that the question?

11 Aug

9:26 pm

Since I’ve been working this new job–my first big-girl job, in a certain sense, since getting sober–I’ve been wondering how my coworkers would (secretly) perceive me if they knew I was once a raging drunk?

I say “first” big-girl job because this is my first full-time, non-contract job since getting sober–I worked as a freelancer for many years, and while I had a long-term gig (because it was freelance, so to speak), I never had to truly commit.  Sure, I gave my all, and my time, and my talents–but I knew that I wasn’t being counted on to deliver; I knew my job didn’t necessarily depend on both my performance and my commitment, however perceived, to that performance.  With this job, it’s full-time and it’s a lot of both professional and emotional commitment.  Shit, I really care what my coworkers think of me, and if not of me, then definitely my performance.  I wish I didn’t care, frankly; but, my obsessive preparation for the presentation I had to give at a team meeting a few weeks ago says that I really, truly DO CARE.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for someone whose entire alcoholic history is intertwined with people-pleasing, perfectionism–a severe self-imposed pressure that came from God knows where, really–well, it’s disappointing that I haven’t sort of grown out of that after seven years sober.

Then again, seven years sober is not that long of a time (and, as you all know, I had slips here and there; my last official drink was January, 2016).

Coming back to what I’ve been wondering:  how does one come out to coworkers when it’s been a long time since you’ve been there, in that raging drunk place?  I understand the desire to come out, and the immediacy of it, when you’re in that place; I came out to a lot of people when I was a few years sober–I was so proud and so free.

Now, though, it’s been a while, and I have had years to sink into this maybe-false sense of self–am I still an alcoholic?  I am no longer a high-functioning hot mess; I no longer consider myself a hot mess.  I have transitioned–at least to a certain extent in my mind–into a new person, someone between “used to be a drunk” to “used to be a drunk but not really sure if it even matters anymore to me, let alone you, if I used to be a drunk.”  With that transition, which has been gradual and ongoing, into this weird place of “long-term sobriety,” I can’t help but wonder, does it matter anymore that I am sober?  Do I still define myself as sober–and, therefore, attach myself to all that that entails, including my long recovery–and if so, how?

One of the things I’ve found hard this year, since I’ve been at this job, is that I know that I don’t have to identify anymore with being Drunky Drunk Girl; I could totally forget that she existed, if I choose.  I am so far removed from jobs who knew me as DDG; I am far removed from my first foray into the working world post-recovery, which was that long many years ago as a freelancer–now, post-post-recovery, I could really just disappear into the world of normal people who work and don’t drink…

That’s where the rub is; that’s where I feel the most disconnect with myself this past year:  I am anything but normal, and my history, my story of recovery is anything but over.  I know this, I do, but I guess I’ve been hiding from it.  Most days, I have this niggling feeling that I’m hiding out in the normal world, pretending I belong there–and, there’s that imposter syndrome again, right?

I would LOVE to reconnect with DDG, with that person who was “on fire” during my immediate recovery, but I don’t know how to do that besides continuing to blog here, to think about my process of recovery, and to continue reaching within and without for direction and support when I bump up into the HUGE unresolved issues that were essential to my alcoholic drinking.

What I don’t really have a sense for is, is it worth revealing your history to coworkers for whom it might be shocking to the point of them wondering if it’s possible that you could be that old hot mess of a drunk AND this person, who is doing a good job?  Like, if I once was that hot mess of a drunk, would they now judge my performance as “someone who is sober, but seems to be doing great work” instead of “someone who is doing great work?”

Sometimes I feel like jumping from the roof, screaming the benefits and life-changing lessons sobriety has offered me for seven years!  Other times, I feel like quietly gliding down the sidewalk, enjoying my anonymity.  I’m not trying to hide it; maybe if I came out, I’d get more of that old fire around recovery back?  Or, maybe it’d just fall flat, no one would care or remember, and we’d all just get on with our work day?  Maybe, it just doesn’t matter right now anyway. 🙂

It’s strange, long-term sobriety, but the lessons NEVER stop coming.  And for that, and for each day still that I am not drunk or hungover, I am ever-grateful.  For those still struggling, you got this; it does get better, it really effing does.

 

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.)

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