New year’s and Naiveté

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from http://www.trolino.com/

Happy New Year! Are you thinking of setting some new year’s resolutions?

Here are some quality ones.

January 2nd and already – I wanna just plop my bum down on the ground and give up.

I wanna give up, I wanna give up, I wanna give up.

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The cat lies, and I guess I do too. I wish I could catch that red dot too, buddy. From http://www.funny-memes.org/2013/09/if-you-look-into-my-resume-youll-notice.html

I wanna give up like a kid wants fruit roll-up, like a mouse wants cheese, like a cat wants the red dot.

I want someone to just tell me what to do for goodness sake, because I simply cannot think 2 steps ahead right now. It is tempting even to myself to think I’m immature, or that not being able to do a lot of key things by myself is due to some kind of sense of entitlement.

But the thing is, I remember being able to do things. I still am able to sometimes – and then, the relief is huge. It washes over me when some whisper in my mind reminds me what those little steps required to get moving are, or when some unsuspecting soul has to spell it out for me and I finally intellectualize the steps involved to..begin the day, for instance, or more pressingly on my mind right now, to write terrifyingly overdue papers.

I used to do it without even thinking – get up to an alarm, shower, get dressed, grab food, go where I need to go.

You don’t realize the millions of infinitesimal steps that make up the thousand tiny steps that make up the hundreds of small steps that make up your life – you don’t realize you know what they are on autopilot, not until your autopilot is taken over by your constant, low level terror.

You don’t know what you have till it’s gone. You especially don’t know how precious your health is until it fails you.

One more thing I want to talk about – those unsuspecting people I mentioned, the ones who love me so much they want to help. And – who I dearly love back. They are perpetually unsuspecting, these loved ones, forever telling me they will never really know how I feel. Forever bewildered because I seem so capable, that no matter how many times I struggle to do something ordinary as a result of my GAD, it is always a shock to them.

And I am forever stuck acting capable as things begin to crumble – too terrified that if I’m not ‘capable’, I don’t have value. Too terrified that if I’m not healthy, mentally, I don’t have value. Always hoping that tomorrow I’ll be a different person and this anxiety business will be something I can just quickly sweep under the table, no one has to know. Here’s an excellent article describing why new year’s resolutions don’t work, which in fact also explains why this fantasy of mine will never work as well. I won’t be a different person tomorrow. What I’ll be doing this year is continuing to try to come to terms with my limitations.

This is especially challenging given the stigma that mental illness carries.

So here I will personally address my unsuspecting, bewildered family and best friends. The ones (with the exception of boyfriend) with whom I have not been brave enough to share this blog.

I hear you, loved ones, waiting guiltily for the day this all ‘blows over’. When I go ‘back to normal’ and you can ‘stop worrying about me’. I hear you because I have just the same dreams and it all stems from the simple fact that we don’t see mental illness as an illness, not really. It’s there in that stinging phrase – “she lost her mind” – she couldn’t hold on to it, she failed.

She could ‘catch’ it again, that mind of hers, if she really wanted. Come back to her senses. Have some common sense. Buckle down. Pull herself together.

Sting.

To stop seeing my mental illness as a personal failing, as something that really I can just snap out of, is to go against the grain of not only my own underlying beliefs, but to go against the general attitude of society. I know, my beloved unsuspecting ones, that it is just as difficult for you to do, too. Perhaps I am impatient with you because I am so envious of your mental clarity.

You think, “how can I understand? I’m not even sick!”

While I think, “how can you not understand? You’re not even sick!”

I think it’s pretty funny, if I can look at it like that.

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Into the Jaws of Self-Doubt Doom…

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To me, doom is the sketchy area under my sink where all the water from the counter drains. It has probably become a subterranean swamp by now, but its too dark to see or I’m too chicken to properly investigate. Call me back please landlord….

“You learned your anxiety like riding a bike, like…learning to type. You learned it and the connections got stronger and stronger. One thought to the next to the next to DOOM. Now, you have to learn something different. When you’re having an anxiety moment, you’re going to have to stop and pull out a different thought from your back pocket. Stop and say, thinking this way is not helping me right now.”

The nice psychologist explains, and I swallow the lump in my throat.

I do, I do get the gist. But friends, do you know what I focused on in that sentence? Haha.

I don’t know how to type. Or ride a bike. I’m afraid to try because it’s been so long that I haven’t learned to do it that I feel like it will never get done. Kind of like my coursework that’s long overdue…

And suddenly, see, I was having an anxiety moment. But how could I interrupt? This lady was imparting her wisdom to me (for a fee..one arm plus one leg).

Before she turns to make the next appointment, she stops and looks at me.

“Does this sound too overwhelming? You look a little unwell.” She asks.

“No it’s just..some of the things you were saying sort of…made me a bit anxious..” I shot her a weak grin.

And of course, that was all the time we had for today, haha.

If you were wondering about my therapy homework, it was gym, yoga, and reconnecting with friends essentially, last week. This week I’ve got something innnnteresting – mapping out those automatic thoughts that I jump through like a frog on lilypads before hopping directly into the snake’s jaws of self-doubting doom. I’m curious, would anyone like to know about mine and how the process of learning to interrupt them pans out? If no one answers I might keep it to myself – I don’t want to be oversharing and making anyone uncomfortable!

– C.

Morning and Day Anxiety

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It’s 3:55 am, and everything is very still.

My de-stress playlist* is playing gently.

My boyfriend is over, dozing nearby, so kindly, so peacefully, just keeping me company. It’s been a fun day, an unproductive day – you might say. I am behind in school. I am behind on all my courses, with doctor’s notes for the anxiety.

And usually? I feel SUPER MEGA EXTREME GUILT SUPREME about this situation.

But not tonight.

Because tonight? Tonight I got a little thrill from organizing a paragraph in one of my papers that is due. I am a person who loves learning, and lately my anxiety had stripped all of that joy of my school experience, had made of it an impossible test, a loaded die made so that I cannot win. That little thrill means that maybe spending my days purposefully relaxing and trying to reconnect with friends and exercise ARE what I’m supposed to be doing right now. Not a shameless indulgence, a necessary health practice. Maybe I’m getting a little bit of what I lost of myself back.

This morning was rough. I woke up and I didn’t want to get out of bed at all. Through some magic and trickery I did, and – it does work! If you can get out of bed and brush your teeth, the next step – breakfast, work, class, a date with a friend – is never as hard as it seemed before you got out of bed. Another little trick I tried today was dares with myself. “A sad girl doesn’t make smoothies,” I dared, then smugly whipped one up. “A sad girl doesn’t do all the dishes in the sink!”. Then most outrageously, “A sad girl doesn’t wear polka dot pants!!”

I shivered and slid them on, tearing my eyes away from my very cozy sad day sweat pants.

I looked at the clock. It was just before noon. Not bad! I thought. Okay, not sad girl. Time to make that phone call to that course coordinator. It will be okay, I reasoned with myself, a sad girl would have trouble with this – but that’s not who you’re going to be today.

And call I did. But my voice came out small, confused. I was easily torn down, reading so much into the smallest remark, the tiniest hint of negativity was a dagger through me. I got off the phone as quickly as I could, promising to call back.

The anxiety was at full tilt and it was inescapable. I made phone call after phone call. Mom, boyfriend, R., boyfriend, Mom, Mom, MOM. Please call me, please, please, please, I texted my boyfriend as I shifted back into a terrible loop of thoughts, all ending in worthless. I headed to an emergency appointment with a crisis counselor in the community because I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think anything good, anything helpful.

And it helped. She’s calling me in two days to check in.

Then I had lunch with one dear friend, dinner with two others. Had cups of tea and pretended to do homework and giggled at everything.

And just like I’ve been told, feelings and actions go hand in hand. I had fun – and now I can make a step of progress towards this smelly old paper.

Everything will be alright, I remember.

So now I’ll look over this outline. Then I’ll sleep on it, and maybe have ideas for the paragraphs in the morning.

The human mind can do wonderful things, if you are kind to it.

*songza app playlist called Sleepytime Acoustic Guitar, I meditate to it, it’s got such a lovely soft rolling feel to it! Try it out 🙂