Neither Light nor Dark: A Tale of Anxiety

Anxiety. ANXIETY. anXiEtY! Websters defines anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”. Clinically, Anxiety DISORDER as described by the Encyclopedia of Psychology, ” is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.”.

It is not uncommon for folks to experience what I call “situational anxiety”. A big project is due at work that requires you to present your work to a room full of people. You aren’t a fan of public speaking, after all, most people aren’t. The night before the big day you can’t sleep and when it is your turn to present you have the sweats and feel a little woozy. Situational.

Let’s talk about “clinical” anxiety, although I prefer the term chronic, it just sounds less like “the crazies” that some associate with psychological diagnosis . It is easy to give the definition of anxiety but it is extremely difficult for us to describe how it fees. It is probably even more frustrating to those who don’t experience it to understand, to empathize. I have often tried to explain what I am going through during an episode and my recurring thought is that I wish they could be in my mind and body for that moment. Please don’t misunderstand, I do not wish anxiety on anyone, chronic or otherwise, but is it exasperating to try to explain and not be understood. Some of the questions I get are “what caused this”, “your life isn’t so bad, think of those worse off than you”, “just calm down”. I am often left feeling that non-sufferers think I am weak or just being melodramatic. Whose fault is this misunderstanding? It is nobodies, but I have hope that both sides will research and be more sympathetic to each others feelings.

I experience anxiety in different ways and for different reasons. One of my recurring scenarios is being dead. Not dying, but just not existing anymore. Through my depression I sometimes feel like I don’t want to be “here” anymore, but to me that just means I don’t want to feel this pain. The “dead” anxiety is more along the lines of the fact that one day I wont exist anymore, I will be a picture on a wall. What will become of my children, my grandchildren? This anxious episode often comes in the middle of the night. I wake up sobbing and I feel like I can’t catch my breath. My bed is damp from my body sweating and then comes the insomnia. Another time my anxieties catch me is when I am driving. I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin,  want to pull over and then be magically transported to my bed. Is this rational? Nope.

I like to think of myself as a strong person. I don’t handle obstacles by shying away. I don’t lack faith in myself and my capabilities. That being said, I throw out that whole “everyone has stress so deal with it” mentality, because Honey, this gal can deal like a mofo! However, it is very common for me to not show outward stress and it is possible to ignore the stressed out feeling and just power through. Unfortunately my body disagrees with this method and I have a physical reaction to stress. What happens? An acute anxiety attack. My chest feels tight, I feel like I can’t catch my breath, panic and tears ensue. These are only a few different scenarios my anxiety brings.

I use various tools to combat some of my attacks. I journal, take mini vacations, show love to others, nurture folks with meals made with love, and yes sometimes I do just fold and cry. Let’s go back to the word clinical. I have recognized in myself that sometimes I do need more than the tools I use to get through an attack. I see a therapist on a regular basis. I also take medication. Some of my medication is taken daily, while others are used for an acute anxiety attack.

I don’t see anxiety as a dark part of me as I do the rabbit hole of depression. Neither do I embrace it and wallow in my anxiety. I acknowledge the feelings and I press forward with whatever mode it takes to get through. I would be completely dishonest if I made it seem as if I have everything under control and that I beat anxiety every time. As a matter of fact, as I write, I feel my chest getting tight. I want to jump out of my skin and I am……shit, I have no words. What I will do is force myself to do my every day chores. I am going to breathe as deeply as I can trying not to hyperventilate. My rational side knows that this will pass but right now I can’t be so sure.

This blog may not have a good flow or direction and some might be just as confused as when they started reading. You may not see my point and there really isn’t a happy ending. But end it shall, literally and figuratively. I have no parting words, niceties or solution for the suffers or their loved ones. My anxiety is mine. Anxiety is anxiety is anxiety. That’s all I can say.




Rocking Chair Regrets

Regret, remorse, sorrow, disappointment….all of these words describe emotions that every human being has felt throughout their lives, some more than others.

Millennials coined the phrase YOLO (you only live once), and took that to mean enjoy life, but even more so, take risks even if they are careless and downright stupid. Previous generations, dating back to ancient literature, used the term Carpe Diem. Carpe Diem! Seize the day! Live life for today. Live an extraordinary life for tomorrow is not promised. It seems that this ideology is absolute mantra to some and the absolute opposite for others. It’s black or white. Either you’re in or you’re out.

I am often torn between these opposing thought processes. I have children, so I have to make decisions for their futures. On the flip side, I wonder what my life would be if I didn’t have children. I would like to imagine that I would be living a carefree life. I would travel, explore, backpack and camp out in hostels. Maybe I would walk the Camino de Santiago. Saying that I would live the life of a nomad sans children does not mean that I regret having my girls, or feel like I am being held back by them. Not at all. The path that I am on now is one that I chose. I am want to be here.

What does any of this have to do with rocking chairs and regrets? It simply means that when I am up in years, sitting on my metaphysical porch, rocking back and forth in my rocking chair, I want to look back at my life and with a sheepish grin, remember how lovely my life was and how I have no regrets. I don’t want to look back and say that I never took the risk of falling in love. Or that I became so disenchanted with love and romance, that I feared being hurt and I stopped loving. I want to close my eyes and be transported back to those times when I packed up the girls at the last minute and took off for an mini vacation in the mountains or beach, even if my finances took a big hit. I want to remember when I happily worked my butt off to prepare holiday meals so that my family could come together and make memories. Remember the waves of indescribable, unparalleled love I felt the first time I heard my little ones wail’s of protest at being yanked from the safety of the womb in to this bright new world. What about the times I shut everything off and sat in the dark, all alone, and reveled in the peace and silence enveloping me. That one morning I watched the sunrise at the beach and wrote a love note in the sand bidding my sweetheart a good morning.

My youngest daughter recently asked me if I would change anything in my past if I could do it all over again. I thought about it for a second, thought about how I might have been happier if I pursued my dream of being a police officer. I had a dozen scenarios whirling around in my head and then suddenly I realized that I wouldn’t change a thing. Every choice I made, every path I took led me to where I am. Led me to my girls. Led me to the love that I have shared and enjoyed with others. Led me to a company and career that I love. My choices led me to you, my readers, my supporters, my loves.

However you want to view it, YOLO, Carpe Diem etc., please plan for the future but be present in today. Live in each moment with your soul. At the end of your life sit back and rock in your chair, close your eyes and sheepishly grin at the awesomeness your life was up to that very moment.

Battle Baby!

I am a softball mom. After awhile you develop a softball vocabulary. You know all the chants the girls shout from the dugout. Each season you watch the girls grow their skills and you know when someone is having an off day. On those off days it’s not uncommon to hear someone shout from the stands “Battle Baby! Battle Kid!”. It means exactly that….whatever you have going on, set it aside for just this next play. Take a deep breath, shake the tension out of your neck and shoulders. Battle through it. One play after the next you battle until you have heel toed your way through the game.

Obviously I am not the first person to compare life to a sporting game of some sort, but my focus is on those few words. Battle Baby! Battle Kid! It’s at the point when your chest starts to tighten up you look up at the road ahead of you, it looks bleak. What is the destination? How much further do you have to scratch and claw to make it to your next stop? You turn and look at the road behind and it seems like all the yuck of the past is on your heels, chasing you down. There is literally nowhere to run. That’s the absolute best time to do the only thing you really can do, Battle Baby! Battle Kid! Get through this moment. The next moment is coming no matter if you are ready for it or not.

When you decide to battle, what has changed? Your circumstances? Nope. It’s still the same game and you might be down a point or two. What has changed is that you have decided to purposefully stand up, face forward and stay in the game.

Right now I am up to bat, I have two strikes against me and my heart wont stop racing. I am pretty terrified of failing and I have a lot of people watching me, depending on me. Somewhere from the stands I hear a voice. Battle Baby! Battle Kid! There are a lot of “babies” and “kids” around but I know this time, that was for me. Head up, shoulders back, heart pounding loudly in my ears, knees knocking….ready to battle.

Finding Light In My Darkness

I am not completely new to this world of blogging, but it has been many years, so I am taking this on as a brand new project with a new vision. I would love to say “new me”, it sounds so contemporary and optimistic, but let’s be real here, I am me. I am the me that I have always been. What’s new is that I strive to live my life in the light, in the sunshine and brightness that comes with finding every silver lining, every positive outlook, every single sliver of light that can only be recognized by living with the contrasting darkness.

As far back as I can recall I have always felt a darkness around me. Or perhaps it was more like the darkness was in me. Darkness was me. Darkness was. I never understood or labelled what I felt, but I knew that my feelings mainly fluctuated between morose and flat. Through the years my relationship with the darkness was ever changing, sometimes it was a love affair, I embraced it and identified well with being gloomy. Other times I denied the darkness and I stepped in to a strobe light. Stepping in to that well lit room was such a farce and felt extremely disingenuous. The light was bright, but it wasn’t light from within. It wasn’t my light. It wasn’t me. Eventually there was a clinical name to the “melancholy”, it’s name was depression. From there I became Depression. I was a girl named Depression and I was going to do everything I could to feel better, but only for the moment. Those snippets of tanning salon, artificial sunlight came at high costs. My behavior became more perilous, it was about anything that I could do to feel “good” right now. The light was more of a blinding flash when it was gone I was left with unabashed pitch blackness. I lost my way.

Flash forward to 2008. I just had my youngest daughter and my body was trying to destroy itself. For the first time I was faced with a choice. It was suggested by my OB GYN that I might benefit from an anti-depressant. Oddly enough I had never even considered getting help for the dark. I took the meds and I felt a bit better. Over the next few years I started seeing psychiatrists and I was officially “diagnosed”. I was devastated. It seems so absurd now, but I felt like less of a person because I was clinically depressed. I spent a handful of years on different medications and ended up being over medicated. I felt emotionally dead. I took it upon myself to dump my psychiatrist and cut my medications cold turkey. After the withdrawals I felt pretty good. It lasted 6 months and then the dark smashed in to me with  an intensity I had never known. I was in a relationship and suddenly I disappeared. I didn’t want to be part of a relationship, a family or earth for that matter. Fortunately I had enough wisdom to find a new doctor and get the help I needed.

It’s 2017. I am still supplementing with anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. Something else has changed. I made a conscious decision to step in to the light and pull from the light within. I don’t want to live in the darkness anymore. I want to live in the light. With light comes shadow and I understand that. I am always going to have a shadow, my shadow might even be bigger than the light in which I stand, but I am learning to love the light. It’s not first nature for me and I often find myself longing for the comfort of that familiar darkness, but at the end of the day, give me light. This is why I blog. To share, purge, express and hopefully help someone on their journey or maybe to better understand someone in their lives who are also named Depression.