After months in an anxiety hole, this feels so good.
I was on high speed New Year’s Day.
I went to bed NYE finishing off a bottle of Proseco and a grilled cheese sandwich, I woke up feeling a bit hungover and chugged a quart of water while I scrolled around on my phone. My usual Earl Grey with half and half later and I was full of energy and purpose.
I can’t even remember the last time I had energy and purpose.
Either the Proseco had some magic in it, or all of the work, the thought and the decisions I had been making over the previous week converged into some amazing results. I’m also nearly two weeks into tapering off the antidepressant, and I am finding that my energy, creativity and motivation are WAY UP. I had no idea. Anxiety is also up, but I am recognizing and addressing it in ways that I have not been motivated to do before now.
It was too cold out for this kid (I am a hot weather girl), and as much as I had the energy to go run around outside, I decided to channel that energy into inside stuff. Into clearing some of my spaces, making small changes that made me a little happier, following through on the meditation intention I had to release hatefulness, which you can read on my post Restoring Through Releasing Others’ Hatefulness, pulling out my little notebook to start writing down thoughts and experiences, and generally doing things that made me happier and feel more accomplished.
After months in an anxiety hole, this feels so good.
Before I started paying more attention to caring for myself, I would have run around on high speed all day, done all the things, worked myself up and crashed in the evening with a panic attack. Now that I’m beginning to understand the concept of balance a bit better, I worked at the things I wanted to do until I reached a point of satisfaction, then I stopped, sat down and read for a bit. I moved from high energy to low intentionally so that I didn’t crash later. Enough was good enough. Maybe sometimes balance is also stopping to appreciate your hard work. I like this so much better.
In thinking about my usual impatience, speed through life and refusal to pause and enjoy…anything…(I even eat fast), I’ve been thinking about what I could do to balance that a bit.
The chasm between anxiety and sleep was wide last night. Sometimes I can’t make it stop, hence the Xanax, which still took 20 minutes to kick in because I took the lowest dose I could. Breathing, body awareness, addressing my fears with rational answers…it all resulted in tears and increasing pain. Usually means I’ve been triggered, and mastering triggers without chemical intervention is likely to be a long road for me. It’s really disappointing to start doing restorative things for myself and three days or so in have another round of severe anxiety, but as I said yesterday, sleep acts as a reset and I am back at it today, determined to stay the course.
Which brings me to my intention for today – a Slow Day.
In thinking about my usual impatience, speed through life and refusal to pause and enjoy…anything…(I even eat fast), I’ve been thinking about what I could do to balance that a bit. Even on my “days off” I have a separate list of things to accomplish that I blow through so that I can get it all done. Days off aren’t for rest, they’re for getting done the things I didn’t have time to get done while running around at high speed the other days.
This can hardly be beneficial for me.
Slow Day is an intention to set aside one day a month to be in no hurry to do anything. There will be no pressure to perform, no to-do list, no doing anything that I find disagreeable, lots of laying around, lots of slow drinking and slow eating and slow reading (I read fast too, no surprise there) and maybe some slow hiking or walking or yoga. There will be sleeping in and early to bed and maybe some knitting or coloring or other calming activity. Maybe brunch out, because is there anything slower than brunch?
Slow Day seems a good foray into slowing down generally. Slowing my mind, slowing my body, resting, restoring and taking time to meditate (a practice which still escapes me because I don’t slow down long enough to do it.) I will hopefully learn a lot from Slow Day and gain some balance to my crazy. I’ve had a lot more creative energy and problem-solving ability the last few days, so something is working. My resting heart rate is still high, but that’s an indicator not necessarily a goal at the moment.
In the middle of this I am still transitioning off of meds. I am one week into a three week process to taper off the antidepressant I have been on for two years, and some of this may be my body adjusting to the lower dose of chemicals. I’ll just have to wait that one out. Overall I think it’s a really good choice for me, just having a few hiccups on the way. But it got me to Slow Day, so even the hard things give me a reason to be grateful.
I can also have physical manifestations of anxiety that make it hard to sleep.
“I slept in” is my every day this week. I wear a Fitbit (the Tiny Tyrant) for the primary purpose of tracking my sleep, because it says a lot about where I am in the anxiety spectrum..or where I will be soon if I don’t sleep more. I may have said this before, I do well on about 9 hours a night. And if your knee-jerk response to that was to negate the time I find optimal for sleep length, you probably don’t have my brain, so stuff it.
As I am getting into practicing the things that will make be better, as I begin to engage in a lifestyle that helps me heal rather than continues the damage, I have to remember to sleep. It is the only way I reset from anxiety – drugs don’t even do it. And when I am paying enough attention to myself, I need to sleep more after a severe trigger episode like the one I just had. Sleep brings back some balance, some calm and some self-awareness that I can’t get any other way. So right now I’m sleeping as much as my body wants, and scheduling my day once I wake up. I’m calling this a good use of Christmas break.
Sleep doesn’t come easily though when I’m practicing restoration. Once I’m asleep I’m good, but getting there can be a challenge. Bedtime is when I can have anxiety spikes. There’s nothing left to distract me, nothing left to figure out or do…it’s like a gasping chasm between me and rest that has no bridge and no way across. Anxiety loves to simmer as I’m trying to go to sleep, keeping me awake with the lies and uncertainty.
I can also have physical manifestations of anxiety that make it hard to sleep. Last night (and this has happened before), anxiety was cold. I had been comfortably warm watching a football game in just my pajamas. As soon as I lay in bed wanting to sleep, in those same cozy pajamas, in warm fuzzy socks, under a thick blanket, same room temperature, I was shivering with cold and could not get warm. Our experience with temperature is relative, sometimes 60 degrees can feel good and sometimes it can feel chilly. I had no reason to be so cold before sleep other than anxiety. My fingers were like ice and I shivered until at some point I fell asleep, anxious about so many things that are out of my control until I did.
But I slept, I got the reset, I woke up in a warm bed on my own time (I have no end of gratitude for this luxury), and today is a day that is starting off with restoration rather than anxiety.
I’m in my natural state – overextended.
I stay in a constant state of overcommitment. I still haven’t learned that I can’t do as much most days, so I do what I want to do, rather than what would be a better balance. I really love to give my time away. ALL OF IT.
I have zero space for dating, because I hadn’t planned on it. Now I’m dating, and it’s making for some late nights on the phone because that’s when we can catch up and focus on each other.
I am working with my lovely if occasionally annoying group of kids to make crafts to sell at my city’s massive Christmas Stroll this coming weekend in support of an orphanage near Monterrey, Mexico. It’s beyond giving to the less fortunate, it’s about providing for the most vulnerable people – impoverished and abused children. We heard about the booth and promptly offered up all of our creativity and spare nights, and we have been busy. It’s a great bonding time, but sitting on a tile floor painting for 3 hours last night is not without its consequences for me this morning as I creak around. My grouchy old bones are not as willing of participants.
This is on top of work, caring for my grandma, running the house, my brother starting to open up to me, various other holiday commitments for care packages and gatherings, my pro bono work, my volunteer work, and at some point starting to make Christmas happen.
Can I not adult today?
But it’s so worth it. Sacrificial giving is such a fulfilling thing. Not the giving from excess, but giving from having little. It’s part of my practice of gratitude, and I have rest planned as soon as I finish my whirlwind of commitments. I will be grateful for that too!