Ooooo, That Looks Good!

I have wrecked myself before trying to shop and eat my way through my feelings.

We’re days into cloudy, dreary, wet weather, and it’s somewhat reminiscent of the last year I lived in California. The sun didn’t appear for three months, and I thought I was going to lose my mind. I didn’t know then about seasonal depression, but I got to find out later! I also got to find out about PTSD, anxiety, depression and many of the other mental health concerns that y’all have bravely shared here in the bloggosphere. Look how much I know now!

I also know that I can acknowledge what I am struggling with, and while it doesn’t always make things go away, and sometimes doesn’t even make them feel better, it does let me quit worrying what might be going on and accept how I feel as the experience of this moment or this day or this week. So, I acknowledge that I am experiencing depression, and I don’t need to cope in unhealthy ways, I can recognize it and accept that I may need some self-care, but I do not need to self-indulge.

Because when I experience depression, I want to shop and eat my way through life. It’s like my brain sends out a glittery billboard that says, “TIME TO SHOP FOR ALL THE THINGS AND EAT ALL THE THINGS!!!”

I want everything I see – new makeup, workout gear, shoes, a new purse, cute things generally, my nails done, a stack of books, cooking equipment that I don’t yet own… Haha, I need to stay home and stay off the internet! I also want to eat everything I see, and Instagram is not helping, because so much amazing looking food, and QUESO, and CHOCOLATE, and…

I have wrecked myself before trying to shop and eat my way through my feelings. To throw out my favorite Star Wars quote, “IT’S A TRAP!” It’s a distraction, not a solution, and while I am actually hungry and I have not eaten indulgently today, I don’t need to eat myself sick or buy things to make myself feel temporarily better. I’m sure there’s a good alternative available to me if I put some thought to it, but right now just acknowledging what’s going on is enough.

Letters to Linda – Feeling Overwhelmed

No really, it will be fine if I don’t do that today.

Dear Linda,

I, too, would rather stay in bed and watch tv…pretty much all the time. And I don’t even have that much interest in television, it just usually seems like a better alternative to having to think or having to be alone with my thoughts. Or deal with people, or deadlines, or obligations, or people, or…anything.

I think it’s important to know that there is a difference between feeling overwhelmed and being overwhelmed. They’re very similar, but as I’ve mentioned, anxiety will make you think things that aren’t true, and part of recovery is working toward acknowledging what is the real situation and what is anxiety. Most of the time when you feel overwhelmed, it’s the anxiety talking. And anxiety is loud. Sometimes you really are overwhelmed, and that can happen when you experience a trigger. I have two different approaches, depending on what I identify as my experience.

If I am feeling overwhelmed, and for me that means I feel like I have so much to do and it’s hard and I’ll never get it done and PANIC, I have to stop and assess – rationally – what is the least amount I can do today? What has to be done and what can wait? What will be a real problem if I don’t complete that today, or attend today, or do today? What can I do tomorrow or a different day and it will be fine?

No really, it will be fine if I don’t do that today.

Usually if I stop and assess rather than let anxiety dictate my to-do list, things become much more manageable and less scary. Then I push aside things that do not have to happen today and see about getting started with what does have to be done. And the rule is only one thing at a time until I finish. This way I reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed, I feel more in control and things feel more manageable and achievable – which makes me feel better, which makes things easier to do.

If I am being overwhelmed (by anxiety), it’s a different experience. For me it’s usually a PTSD trigger, it has nothing to do with how much I have on my plate and everything to do with my brain being flooded with whatever my neurons just went wild about. I used to keep going and try to force myself to work or clean or ANYTHING to not address it, which was not a healthy thing to do. These days, I acknowledge that I got triggered, I find a place to rest, I drop everything, I may or may not call someone in my support circle, and I rest until it passes. Sometimes that’s ten minutes, sometimes it’s four hours, doesn’t matter, it’s time I need to recover.

Yes, I can still go to class or meetings or drive or function when I’m being overwhelmed, and I do if I really have to. It’s a judgement call every time. But if I stop and rest rather than pushing myself and not taking that time out, I recover so much faster and so much better than if I ignore it. I’m taking care of myself when I do this and acknowledging that my condition is legitimate and deserving of care and space, rather than telling myself I’m not worth it. If you knew I was triggered, you would help me get to a safe place and do what you could to see that I was comfortable and cared for. Do the same for you!

What a Difference a Good Day Makes

If non-anxiety people get to wake up feeling like this more days than not, no wonder it’s hard to understand mental health challenges. I feel great!

I’m more grateful this morning because I feel good after a few weeks of feeling horrible. And because I’m not waiting till later (when anxiety might return) to do good things for me. I could have wallowed in my bed half the morning and given myself “a break”, but I got up early, did a 15 min yoga flow and got to it. I haven’t grumbled or cursed once!

Since I have tended for years to swing between poles and overdo it on the good days, I’m a bit more cautious this time (finally!) No 15 mile hikes for me, no DOING ALL THE THINGS, but I did start with a bit of exercise (hiking in the desert showed me just how weak my muscles are compared to what I would like to be able to do) and I am drinking tea and eating cake for breakfast (sounds worse than it is – no frosting) and rolling calmly into the morning.

I have noticeably less inflammation today, my joints and muscles don’t hurt and I’m not as puffy. That’s always a really good sign. So, ya know, onward!

Burnt. Toast.

“It’s just what you do all the time.”

I’m back from my brief stint in relative seclusion, and I have nothing left today. Everyone is going to get “no” as a response. Everyone.

I deeply enjoyed my weekend in the desert. I did not enjoy coming back to sub-freezing temps, and that short break was enough to highlight the things in my life that are really weighing on me.

It really bothers me that no one asks me how I’m doing. No one close to me, that is. If they do, it’s a surface level question, and any response I have that isn’t “great!” gets dropped as though I didn’t just say “I’m not doing well today.” My people aren’t checking in with me. Strangers and acquaintances, sure, but not my family and close friends. No one asked how my flight was, and I’m scared to death of flying. No one celebrated with me that I didn’t have to take Xanax for either flight. My Mom wanted details of my trip while I was hauling my luggage upstairs. Yes, I want to give you every detail of my weekend while I’m struggling to drag a suitcase and a couple of small bags up to my room. Can it wait ten minutes?

I hide most of what I experience because sometimes I don’t even understand it, and because I have yet to see it help for me to say what’s going on. “I’m having a bad day” or any other version of it gets met with the appearance of indifference. I can understand it must be hard to look at me or talk to me and know that I don’t blurt out what I feel, I need time to work out how to talk about it. If I ever did blurt it out, I would terrify everyone, because I exist in a painful reality. There would be screaming and yelling and probably a few punches thrown. So I keep it in, and I don’t get the time to slowly release it to someone. And they otherwise don’t see it so…it’ doesn’t exist? And I’m fine. And I can do anything. And Ashley is so strong and capable.

I am because I don’t have an option. There is no space in your life for me to be anything else. I do what I have to do to survive.

Therapy was rough this morning. I cried a lot. When we got to the root of my tears, it was that I don’t feel like I matter. I have been busting my ass for a lot of people, and don’t feel like I’m getting any of that in return. My business partner picked me up from the airport in the cold yesterday, and that was the most someone has gone out of the way for me in…ever? As much as I can grouse about him, he can hear what I need and just do it, no questions, no judgment and no making it about him. He said such a kind thing to me yesterday when I thanked him for picking me up, “It’s just what you do all the time.”

I’ve been driving around, working with clients, writing documents, getting us more work, taking care of my increasingly frail grandma, trying to keep the chaos at home to a dull roar and being emotionally supportive to the point that I feel burned up. I wanted to say “no” to everyone today. I don’t want to answer calls or respond to emails. I certainly didn’t want to comfort my grandma or work on my business partner’s project to help him finish or be supportive of David while he swoops in long enough to be supported and encouraged then disappears again to go help someone else. Anyone else but me. Because for whatever reason, me not having a good day only merits an, “I hope you feel better.”

Well shit, I hope I feel better too. It’d be nice if I didn’t have to do it alone…

Fat, Sick and In My Happy Place

I didn’t take the time to decompress the way I needed to so that I could fully embrace being here.

Y’all, my weight gain has hit a level that I finally had to notice. And I’m still congested and occasionally coughing. But I’m in the desert, the sky is clear, the temps are cool and warm and the air is wonderfully dry. Plus every color makes me happy. There is some good energy here. And I’m not sure I’m open to it yet.

I ran around like a mad woman yesterday to get a project proposal delivered on time, then had lunch and a walk with David before I hit the airport. I didn’t take the time to decompress the way I needed to so that I could fully embrace being here. The negative stayed with me, the stress and the being sick with whatever the hell I have and the realization that I couldn’t avoid anymore, that I am feeling pretty fat.

It would be easier to enjoy rockin’ my body if I had the clothes for my larger size, but I am pushing the limits of what I own and this is not a time I want to shop for more. And it just doesn’t feel good. Not much feels good at the moment.

Ashley wrote a post-vacay post via Pressing reset (or maybe just pause) that covered it.

I didn’t take the time to get ready to vacay, so I’m spending the first part of it recognizing that and deciding what to do about it. Yes, let it go and all that, right? I have PTSD, so the fact that I am even able to think through and acknowledge all of this (I did run away, but still have to work today so am sitting in my friend’s office working away before we head out on a hike) while I still have obligations and responsibilities to fulfill.

So here’s to taking a day to figure it out, reset, reframe, clear my desk and be ready to rest tonight and enjoy the hell outta tomorrow…while seeing if I can’t maybe also enjoy the hell outta today.

Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification of all kinds is where we are right now.

I’m a planner. Short term sacrifice for long term gain is my comfort zone, and has been since I can remember. I have to make a concerted effort to live in the moment.

Neither David or I are where we want to be at the moment. There is a lot of hard work and being a public face in front of me for me to have the success I want, and there is a lot of red tape and frustration in front of him. It makes being a couple challenging, because there’s a lot of frustration and anxiety in our individual lives that can seep into our couple life. And if anything, I want he and I to be stable, whether or not our lives are.

I’m leaving town today for a trip I’ve had planned since before I met him. It’s in the middle of him enduring a lot of red tape, and I want to be supportive so it’s not the best time to be disappearing into the desert. But I’m going because this is for me, this trip and the timing have a lot to do with recovering from my past and I’m getting this done for me. All of the red tape he’s pushing through is the same in a different way for him.

Delayed gratification of all kinds is where we are right now. It’s a struggle, to balance what we have to get done, to stay connected, to not aim our anger at each other, to leave and stay and talk and get disrupted and just want to disappear for a bit to somewhere peaceful. I’ve got half a mind to just book a flight to New Zealand and bounce outta here ASAP.

But that struggle, that effort, that gritting teeth and putting head down and working late and standing in line and crossing our fingers that we’ll hit a payoff? I’m not going to discount that or shrug it off. Because we’re doing this – together – after less than three months. The hard stuff? We’re handling it now. And I like to think that means good things for later.

“If We Talk Tonight, Make Me Do Yoga First”

The goal is just to do.

As though anyone can “make” me do anything…ha!

But really, David and I had a long chat yesterday about what I want recovery to look like for me for the next few months. All the running around, all the working, all the public appearances, all the family concerns…when it gets to be too much, it tends to stay too much. Balance…priorities…I don’t really feel like that will ever be a struggle I win.

Necessary struggle though, so last night after I got home from an event I was determined to get a longer yoga session in.

When I was walking and practicing yoga last summer I wasn’t very much smaller than I am now, but at least I had the muscle to engage in the exertion. Now I’m laughing at myself while I follow a Slow Vinyasa video because I can barely hold a position without thinking I’ll crash on my face. It’s also really funny to do yoga when you have a lot of body fat, because the very trim yogi is bending in very cool ways and I am thinking, “um, not sure I can move my fat rolls out of the way enough? Also wow I am not very flexible at the moment…” I mean, is that much downward dog necessary? I am holding up a lot of weight here!

I take it all with a sense of humor because, really, I am so damn proud of myself that I stuck to it. By the end of 45 minutes my down dog form was so much better. Side bends looked like me not really bending, I’m pretty sure, but I listened to the intent and engaged the right muscles and kept my sit bones firmly planted. Not hard when you got a booty, lemme tell you!

The goal is just to do. To do and practice and repeat to the point that my brain learns this is a much better thing to do when I have anxiety. I need to reprogram my defaults, and after the last two weeks of high anxiety, that is more clear than before. It’s a series of waves, and now that I’m in a down wave it’s time to do the good things and practice the good habits so that they’re easier next time. I need a different plan when everything goes sideways.

So I did yoga first, then we talked. Now to work on more sleep…