Three weeks

Three weeks.

That’s how long I had more happiness than sadness, more good than bad, more peace than anxiety.

I’ve been on Lamictal for 2.5 months now, and the first few weeks were pretty good, then it was rocky for a bit, then I had 3 weeks of bliss.  Maybe not true bliss, but compared to the majority of the last decade, it felt pretty blissful.

I had anxiety, of course, but it was short-lived, or didn’t go above a 7. Which is saying a lot, since the 12 months previous to that rarely went below a 7.  I felt like I had a handle on my life.  I was feeling motivated, getting things done that needed to get done, and surprisingly not waiting until the last minute.  I know I wasn’t as “happy” as I’m sure I could be, but I felt like I was on the right track.  I felt like I was one step closer to becoming a normal person.  My therapist hates that word, “normal”.  And I know, theoretically, that normal is non-existent.  Everyone has their thing/s that make them abnormal.  I know that normal is a bad goal to shoot for, and it’s not one that I’m consciously putting effort into, but it’s still hard to think of becoming stable as anything other than normal.

Three weeks.  Then I started PMSing.  I did a little research a couple months ago after a particularly bad hormonal week, and a few different things said that PMSing can make anxiety worse.  Thank God.  This time, I didn’t freak out.  I “rode the wave” trying to just let the hormones do their thing, and just let myself feel sad or anxious or whatever, knowing that once the PMSing was done, I’d start feeling happy again.  And I was fine again after a day or two.  Then I had a really crappy weekend before my birthday (officially in my early 30s), and although there have been a few really amazing things that have happened over the last 10 days, (namely involving my fiance) it’s just felt like I’m completely losing control, losing any progress I’ve made, and I don’t know how to stop it.

I know one of the things that’s amplifying it is that I’m having anxiety about my anxiety.  That’s one of the number one thing almost any article or blog post or anything relating to anxiety says is common, is that having anxiety about your anxiety is a lot of times what keeps the wheel turning.  And I know that I could maybe slow it down by practicing meditation/mindfulness exercises and a few other tools that my therapist has recommended, and I honestly don’t know why I don’t.  Maybe I think if I can just plow through it, I’ll eventually not have to rely on tools to help me get out of an anxiety circle.  Because as I’ve said before I’m still in denial, still hoping that one day I’ll be fixed.

Maybe that’s what’s getting to me, is that I had three weeks of not feeling broken.  And now I’m back to someone needing to be fixed.  I’m tired of feeling like a person who needs fixing.  I’m tired of getting an extreme adrenaline rush when my internet cuts out for a half a second, or any number of other things that set my anxiety off.  An hour slash hours worth of anxiety for half a second is exhausting and so discouraging.

I’m sure in a day or two or 30 I’ll feel better, and I hope I’ll get back to that “blissful” space, and that they will start to last longer.  But as for now, I’m feeling broken and disheartened and hopeless, and so overwhelmed that I have to pick up the pieces from the floor for the umpteenth time and start assembling myself again.  I really need some better glue.

Acceptance

Acceptance is not something I’m good at.  Unless something is meticulously planned out from beginning to end, with all possible outcomes accounted for, I can rarely move on and accept that it’s just happened or is happening.  This is something I’ve obviously talked about numerous times with my therapist, especially since the route of “treatment” we’re on is learning how to be mindful and live in the present.  I do think I’m slowly getting better at accepting things I’ve had no control over, but it’s definitely a hard and long road, and I’ll probably never be GREAT at it, but I’m putting in the effort.

Anxiety is a relatively new thing in my life, or at least it feels like it is.  After spending some time reflecting, and having some conversations with my mom about how I was when I was younger, I think anxiety has actually been part of my life since I was little.  Depression just overshadowed it for 15 years.  Depression was the thing that took over my life, that drowned out everything else, that affected every decision I made.  Or didn’t make.

For a long time, I went back and forth between fighting it and letting it completely envelop me.  There were times I would cry and feel sorry for myself, and scream at the Mormon God, asking him why he’d put me through this.  Other times, I’d “happily” sleep for 18 hours a day, or lay on the couch watching tv while the hours flew by and my ex-husband got home from work, usually pissed that the dishes or laundry hadn’t been done.  I went through ups and downs of depression during my 20’s, though there were definitely more downs than ups.  I tried a few different medications, Prozac and Cymbalta were the ones I stayed on the longest.  I took Prozac for a year after separating from my ex- husband, and the side-effects were what caused me to finally stop taking it.  Sure, I was more evened out, but not happy.  I had a hard time sleeping, and when I did sleep, I had nightmares.

After I left my ex-husband, there was a rebound relationship that lasted 3 years too long.  I moved to California to be with him.  I was secluded from my family and didn’t know anyone, and that particular ex was more depressed than I was.  I learned a lot from that relationship, but it definitely didn’t help my mental state.  A few months before we officially called it quits, I made the decision to take some form of control of my life.  I started eating right, stopped drinking on a regular basis (I took up drinking after making the decision to leave the church, although it definitely wasn’t HEAVY drinking), and lost about 60 lbs over the course of 4 months. I did really well for a while until an altercation with my ex-boyfriend took place a week before I went home to visit for Thanksgiving.  I was naturally feeling a bit out of whack afterwards, and while I was home, my mom suggested I go visit the doctor and see if he could get me on Cymbalta since she had heard good things about it from some family members.  I ended up becoming a complete zombie, and sleeping for 18-20 hours a day, and not being able to function at all.

I decided I didn’t want to try any other medication for the time being, and a few months later ended up moving home and getting hired back on to a job I had between leaving my ex-husband and moving to California.  I had a few periods of time where my depression was prevalent, but over the last 2 years, I’ve really made progress at keeping myself out of the black hole.  Which gave my anxiety a foothold to take over my life.

Over the last couple years, I’ve come to accept that I’ll probably have to deal with depression for the rest of my life.  I hope to god I won’t have the never-ending depression like I did during my teens and 20’s, and even now, I have a few down days here and there, but I’ve gotten a lot better at noticing the signs.  I’ll allow myself to have a day in bed where I don’t do anything, and most of the time I feel better the next day.  If not, it’s much easier to find motivation to keep going.

Anxiety on the other hand….  I’m still fighting it.  I have times where I completely fall apart and can’t imagine the rest of my life feeling this way.  I feel like I’m grieving time I haven’t had yet, shadows of time in the future where I will have to give up time with people I love or doing activities I really want to do because I’m terrified that if I leave my house the world will end.  I’m angry I don’t have an “anxiety free life” to look forward to, and that my anxiety will never be cured, just managed, that there’s no hope of me ever being fixed.

Then I remember: I’ve gotten to a good place with my depression.  It doesn’t currently rule my life.  I accept I’m feeling depressed, give myself a little time to experience it, and move on with my life and enjoy the rest of the week, minus the anxiety.  And I hopefully can look forward to a life where I may not be cured, but the anxiety I get about my anxiety will slowly fade, and along with it, the daily anxiety I have.  Hopefully, I can just accept that I have anxiety and  more importantly, that I don’t need to be fixed.

Remainders of Mormon Conditioning

I was never a very good pray-er.  Sometimes it was because I was over-thinking the Mormon Prayer Format, and feeling guilty if I asked for a “blessing” before I had given thanks for everything on my list.  Sometimes I didn’t feel thankful for anything, so didn’t feel entitled to ask for any blessings.  During my “darkest” moments, in times where my “faith was wavering”, I questioned how God could hear so many prayers at once and answer them all, and feel equally about each person praying to him.  Sometimes, in order to combat the last one, I’d try to pray late at night, because that obviously meant not as many people were praying, so maybe my prayers would take a little more priority.

I’m not sure if I believe in God.  I still haven’t separated “God” from the “Mormon God”, and that particular God I still have some issues with.  If I had to label myself, I’d put myself in the “agnostic theist” category, and I don’t know if I’ll stay here, or move onto some other belief system, but I’m happy where I’m at, for the time being.

With that being said, I have a reflex to pray.  Usually this takes place for one of two reasons.  The first is during times when something happens that is too much for me too handle, either because I’m faltering in confidence to handle a situation, or because my anxiety has taken over.  The second is for completely irrelevant and trivial things.  An example of this is when the stoplight stays green when I’m running a tiny bit late to work.  I automatically think “I’ve been living my day “worthily” so far, so God must be blessing me” and start to say a small prayer of thanks.

Now, I don’t mean to sound critical of anyone’s belief system, or if they do indeed have small prayers of thanks throughout the day, if it is what makes them happy and their day easier, I’m all for it.  My problem is that it is NOT my belief system.  The only reason I do so is because it is what I was taught to do.  And it was something I felt guilty about for 20 years of my life, because I believed I wasn’t good at it.  Also, if there is a God, I sincerely do not believe that he is going to bless the most worthy of people with an extra few seconds of a green light to make it to work on time.

I guess I’m just angry about it.  My anger is very complex, because I’m not only angry at the fact that the teachings of the church are so pervasive that I am still wondering if I’m living a worthy enough life today that I will receive blessings from God, but I’m also angry that after years of unanswered prayers, I still am not 100% convinced that there isn’t a God.  I think the thing I’m most angry about is that I feel guilty for even considering there isn’t a God, because that is a question that any intelligent being should be able to ponder.

Procrastination and Parachutes

I’m a procrastinator.  I always have been.  I’ve had a tendency since I was a child to put things off til the very last minute.  I’m also a very hard worker.  One of the few positive things that both my parents equally gave me is a good work ethic.

Currently, these are both causing me a lot of … everything really.  Pain, anxiety, depression, sadness, feeling overwhelmed, defeated and completely lost.  I generally don’t feel these negative feelings all at once, and sometimes I don’t feel any negative feelings at all.  But the past couple days have been a combination of all of the above, and it’s very hard for the rational part of my brain to process.

I’ve been in therapy for a little over 7 months.  There were a couple reasons I started going.  The #1 priority was my anxiety, and immediately following that, I wanted to process the last decade of events I have experienced and have pushed off to the side in hopes they would disappear.  Once I realized I needed to process them in order to be able to completely move forward in life, I still procrastinated and told myself I’d deal with it when I was “ready.”  Once I got into therapy I felt ready. I wanted to start managing my anxiety, then really dig in and just sort it all out and try to get closure and just be able to experience my relationship and great job and all of the amazing things my life has to offer without being plagued by ghosts from the past.

This obviously didn’t happen as quickly as I had hoped.  I’ve only recently gotten to where I’m (kind of?) managing my anxiety.  I’ve started a medication which seems to be helping. The major symptoms aren’t as frequent, and the minor symptoms are easier to manage with other tools.

So, being the hard worker that I am, and also wanting to be “prepared” for the last few therapy sessions I’ve had, I took my newfound freedom (kind of?) from anxiety and just dove into my past.  The first thing I chose was my marriage and divorce.  I felt like it was the biggest monster to tame, one with a multitude of things to choose from to file away neatly in my “past drawer.”  I knew it would be painful, but I think my seemingly rational approach to something that is not at all rational is adding to the pain I’m feeling.   I think I thought it would be easy.  At least as easy as getting closure from a very painful time in my life could be.

It’s not easy.  It’s affecting me to my core.  It is an intense fluctuation of emotions, ones that I can barely keep under control.  And one of the things I’m most pissed about is the fact that I’ve put it off for so long.  That I haven’t sorted through and untangled all the confusion and misjudgments and mistakes that occurred in the decade of life I shared with my ex-husband.  Because I’m now in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in, including relationships with friends and family.  And this path to closure is affecting me.  I wish that I could just spend the bulk of my time in the present, rather than giving a large part of myself to the past.  Because the present is happy.

I think that I’m scared that I will have to slow down the process, that I won’t be able to work as hard as I want to.  I went into it just wanting to plow through it and come through the other side a happier, more relaxed version of myself.  But I think what I attempted is closer to jumping out of a plane without a parachute, in hopes to get to the ground faster, not realizing that the impact would be very different than if I went the more responsible route and attached a parachute to my fucking back.

Catastrophe

I had a thought the other day:

I think my anxiety would be a little easier if the relief of the world not ending mirrored the time preceding it.

I catastrophize.  When something disrupts my routine in a negative way, or something “bad” happens, I quite often spend hours in an endless cycle of negativity.  The amount of energy I put into thinking of backup plans to irrational events, and backup plans to those backup plans is exhausting.  It’s even more frustrating because most of the time I’m very aware of the fact that what I am thinking is irrational and the probability of any one of those events happening is very low.

In a way, it’s understandable that I expect my world to be blown to pieces, because it’s happened.  The events leading up to the separation and eventual divorce from my ex-husband are some that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Yes, I survived it, and on my good days, I am very proud of that fact and wear it like a badge.  But nearly every single thing that could have went wrong at that time in my life, did, over the space of a few short months.  I don’t like to victimize myself because I am very fierce in taking responsibility for my actions.  But I did get dealt a very shitty hand for a while, and I’m really trying to learn how to balance accepting that, and being confident that I’m taking blame for anything I did wrong.

I recently searched for ways to help with catastrophizing and anxiety and one of the things I found is asking yourself  “What evidence do I have that this thought is true?”  The answer I give myself is “my world has been blown apart before, so it’s a possibility it can happen again.”  It’s a very negative thought, and I’d give anything to have a more positive outlook on it.  But, for me at least, anxiety doesn’t allow much room for positivity.  I can only hope that once I work through more of the stuff I’ve kept bottled up regarding the events surrounding my divorce, I will find a bit more peace and have a more rational approach to the world ending.

J O Y

Other people’s feelings matter.

I don’t know if I was taught this by the adults in my life, or the Mormon church, or if it’s just an inherent part of my personality.  But I’ve spent a large portion of my life protecting other people’s feelings, generally at the cost of my own.

The Mormon church has an acronym that they teach their followers at a very young age:

J-  Jesus
O- Others
Y-  You

Add on top of this their teachings of charity and serving others, and giving of yourself to make God’s kingdom great, I learned from a very young age that my needs wouldn’t be met unless I gave of myself.

I’m by no means saying that charity and service will make you less of a person.  But everything I was taught, by my church and by my parents combined with my reflex to live life perfectly, contributed to a perfect storm of a lifelong habit of sacrificing at the expense of myself.

I fell in “love” at a very young age to someone who, in the end, drained me of nearly everything I had to give.  I was a naive 19 year old who had been sheltered by a small Utah town and the Mormon church and my warped view of giving of myself, and over the course of nearly a decade, I gave myself away in little pieces here and there in an attempt to make my ex-husbands life more worth living.  I learned to always put his feelings before my own, long enough that the only feelings I had left were guilt and shame.  I did my best to keep him on the “straight and narrow” and when that failed, I spent several years hating myself for the bad consequences that happened because of what I took on to be my failure.  At the end of it all, he told me on more than one occasion that I would be nothing without him, that all the “good” in my life would be non-existent had it not been for him.  Truthfully, I was nothing in a large part BECAUSE of him.

Or nearly nothing.

Thankfully, I had hidden away a tiny nugget of myself that, after so many years, I was able to use to start over.  I started building myself around this tiny nugget, the core of who I have been my entire life.  It had been overshadowed by my bad choices, and everyone else’s needs and feelings on a never-ending priority list that had cemented me dead last for a very long time.

It’s in my nature to be giving, and it’s a reflex to put other’s before myself, one that I will have to fight my entire life.  There’s plenty of time in life to serve others and make sacrifices that may put someone before me, and I can guarantee that I won’t always have a handle on whether that sacrifice is healthy or not.  But I’m doing my best to make myself a priority, to see myself as worthy to receive just as much of my love as those around me.  And to feel my feelings, whether they are the uncomfortable ones such as anger and heartache, or the more positive ones like confidence and JOY.

Compassion & Patience

I’ve had a crappy day.  A crappy FIVE days really.  I had to send my fiance back to New Zealand after an amazing 6 week visit, and I’m still recovering.  After weeks of feeling safe and happy, two things I’ve rarely felt in my life, I’m back to my anxiety ridden day-to-day life.  Today was no different, but I just had to hide it a bit better since it’s Monday and I had to put on an “I’m happy and confident” face for the new people who started at my  job today.  Thank God for lunch breaks and a mom who answers her phone when I ring.

After work, I have a habit of walking in the door, plugging in my laptop, saying hi to my boyfriend on Skype if he’s home, letting the dog out, and getting immediately into the shower.  Where my brain goes into a frenzy.  I either end up pushing myself into a higher level of anxiety, or having epiphanies, realizations, or breakthroughs.  Sometimes both, but this is rare.  Today was more on the good side of this, and I had a realization.

I’m part of the training department where I work, and there is a massive amount of information thrown at new employees their first week of training.  We currently have an older gentleman who is not very proficient with computers, who will be good at the job once he’s finished with training, but training is 100% done on computers.  Last week, my second day back at work after taking my boyfriend to the airport, I was feeling crappy and sad and moody.  This older gentleman was having technical difficulties, some his, but mostly ours, and he just got frustrated and threw down his pad of paper that had every detail of every instruction or information the main trainer had given the training group, and said “I’m too old for this job, I just can’t figure it out, maybe I should just quit.”  My heart broke a little for him and I wanted to cry for him.  I managed to calmly tell him that he’ll get it, and that there is a lot thrown at him, and it can get very overwhelming.  I talked him through the problems he was having, and told him to let me know if he had any questions for the rest of the night.

My realization was this:  I’m a compassionate person.  And I won’t be a bad mother, at least in this regard.  I’ve also realized that for my entire adult life, I’ve equated compassion with patience.  I’ve been so terrified that I would not be patient with my children if I ever had any, because I’m on such a short fuse all the time due to my anxiety.  Losing my temper isn’t always what happens, more often, I just get overwhelmed and need to shut down.  Or get very emotional.  In my past relationships, patience was not something that I had.  Arguments erupted very quickly, but I’m slowly learning that the lack of patience was not always only mine.  I rarely could calmly get through a conflict, and after I left my ex husband, I was convinced I would never have children because I would be a terrible, impatient, unkind mother.  There were a few more factors, but my lack of patience was definitely one of the more glaring reasons.  My last relationship only cemented that fact.

I am currently with one of the most patient, relaxed people I’ve ever met.  He’s definitely helped me learn that it’s not always been me.  He’s also been patient with my impatience.  And I’m learning that even if a person is lacking in patience, compassion can make up the difference.