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.

It’s My Birthday!

This seems to be the year that I can process why I hate my birthday so much.

Last night was hell.

My birthday is a trauma anniversary. Eating is a coping mechanism. Work is a coping mechanism. Isolation is a coping mechanism. Ironically, all things that I can’t always avoid…

I stayed in bed most of the day yesterday and napped in between working. I had nothing left, and in therapy I identified that I felt like I didn’t matter to the people close to me and felt alone. I had forgotten that my birthday was used as a weapon against me in previous years, and it took most of the day for me to consciously remember that, and to realize that I was having a rough day because I was anticipating another horrible birthday. Another day that was supposed to be about me on which I was ignored, abused and made to feel like nothing.

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I ran off to the desert this year and thought through how to reclaim my birthday. I was going to make it about me doing for myself this year, about not relying on others to make the day special. My brain had other ideas, and last night was an emotional post-trauma hell. This morning I’m still shaky, still feeling a bit off. The well wishes started before 6 this morning, which I really appreciate. I still can’t connect to them, and I’m still a bit walled off, and still a bit emotional, but I’m much better, and the crazy has subsided.

I understand that sometimes the brain – and this seems to be true for mine – cannot process trauma until it feels safe to do so. My experience with that is as soon as I think I’ve taken a step forward in recovery and made progress, I get rewarded by the baseball bat of trauma memory. Congrats! You’re doing great in recovery! WHACK! It’s so painful and frustrating and…shit. This seems to be the year that I can process why I hate my birthday so much. Maybe that means a better next year? I was able to sit with the pain last night. I still haven’t needed Xanax this year. Yep, I made it through last night without meds to knock me out so I could avoid it. I took the beating, and today I kinda feel like I got that beating.

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I woke up early to a quiet house. No cards, no acknowledgement that it’s my birthday. It’s expected, my family doesn’t make a big deal out of my birthday. I used to be the one to make a big deal out of it, used to make my own cake and organize my celebration, so I can understand why they don’t. And the point for me is to not rely on others for this. Emotionally, it’s still a letdown, but rationally, I enjoy the quiet morning. It’s raining and cold and I’m temped to not even leave the house today. I can work from the comfort and safety of my bed again, and ignore the world for another day. I can nap again if I need to.

Cause, you know, it’s my birthday!

No Chaos Between Us

That no chaos boundary? I’ve needed that for myself this week.

I learned something new this week. Brains try to fill in incomplete pictures. My brain in particular does this very fast, and generally fills in the unknown with negative. That explains a lot. And now I know why I’d rather have bad news than no news.

David and I have a lot of external chaos as individuals. Family, work, etc. feels like an endless whirling of crazy.  So I set a boundary: no chaos between us.

I have no desire to bring all of that shit into a relationship in which it doesn’t belong. I can’t seem to get anyone else to stop being chaotic, but I need one person that does not perpetuate the cycle, and that’s him. No chaos.

No chaos is more work. Not blowing up, not throwing all of my anxiety at him, not starting fights is work. Holding onto at least one “no chaos day” a week is work. Well, and it’s actual work because it usually is me dragging him with me to go do whatever peaceful and calm field work I need to get done, but the point is to be together, out of our normal chaotic environments, and to find things to enjoy. Plus there’s usually a lot of walking. It’s nice.

That no chaos boundary? I’ve needed that for myself this week. He’s been handling business to move forward and has been…absent. I doubt he would view it that way, but as I’ve been isolating and not able to communicate what I need – and a bit fearful that if I did it would stress him out more – I’m wanting to cause my own chaos. But I can’t, because I said no.

In the relationship that nearly broke me, I was so scared of losing him that I kept an iron grip on the relationship. I had a tightly closed fist, and I fought so hard. For nothing. I’m not going to repeat that mistake, so I hold my relationship with David in an open hand, even when I have to force my hand to stay open. There is a lot of unknown, so my brain is working fast to fill in the blanks, and it fills them in with what it knows. All it knows is negative, so I have to work hard to reprogram, to acknowledge that’s what I’m thinking and tell myself I have no evidence that’s how it is and just to wait and see. I’m spending a lot more time creating a reason for him to stay than reasons not to leave.

And it’s terrifying because I have no idea (too many blanks), but I do know that I don’t want anymore chaos.

Restoring Through Nutrition

My anxiety brain loves carbs and cheese and fat.

I was raised with the command that I clean my plate or else.

I get it, my grandparents lived with a lot of scarcity and wasting food was a big no in my house growing up. I’m sure that contributes heavily to me having issues with food, but not in a way that makes me want to try to open that up and explore it. I think I’ll just toss it in the pile of Things My Parents Didn’t Get Right And I Won’t Repeat.

Having said that, I’ll move to the more present issue at hand in my process of restoring, which is how I eat. I have gained a considerable amount of weight since I was prescribed an antidepressant a little over two years ago, and I can’t reasonably attribute that to eating alone. I am curious to see over the next month as I transition off the drug what my body does. I’ve held off on any intention toward slimming down until I’m fully off the meds. It’s been counter-productive so far.

But it isn’t really about slimming down if I want to do the best thing for me, is it? Maybe my body likes to be fat. And really that’s fine, because my default mode is to think I look good. What I want to get to, and the process I want to engage in is good nutrition practices – feeding my body what it needs to be healthy.

My anxiety brain loves carbs and cheese and fat. It loves them the most, and it loves all three together. If I am even slightly anxious, the impulses kick in and I need all the gooey, carb-y comfort I can get my hands on. I think it must be the trade-off for not being an alcoholic or drug addict. I think I’ve needed some kind of substance to abuse over the years, and I chose food, for better or worse. It’s the one thing you can’t stop, though…

As I’ve been working a lot on myself (mostly my brain) and planning for what will make me better, I’ve intentionally let my brain tell me what it wants to eat. I’m disrupting a few things right now, and changing how I eat and drink is not something I wanted to tackle until I started on other things. I have a tendency to overload, and this time I wanted a slower, more intentional process of transition. I think it’s been a good thing, even if it did mean more Fritos and ranch than was “necessary”.

My intention is to spend some weeks focusing on what I consume and how it affects my mind and body. I would like to consume things that will:

  • Reduce inflamation
  • Improve my gut health
  • Not contribute to anxiety spikes
  • Help me achieve calm
  • Not cause bloating or fatigue
  • Help me build strength
  • Keep my energy up
  • Not disrupt my sleep

Not the typical diet plan, but I’m not looking to diet, I’m looking to take better care of myself, restore my mind and body and address some real health concerns.

For a take on how we fuel our health (or lack thereof) that got me thinking about a different approach to nutrition than I was previously familiar with, I found Brain Maker by David Perlmutter to be thought-provoking and helpful. No affiliate links, just sharing info.

Restoring Through Releasing Other’s Hatefulness

As I work through all of the dark, negative neuron pathways in my brain, I’m finding a lot of neurons have been wired to be resentful about the haters.

I have had some haters.

I don’t really mess with people. I don’t antagonize or badger, I’m not a pot-stirrer. I call it like I see it, but I usually keep those calls to myself because I don’t think the other person will hear what I’m saying and I don’t really see a point in starting conflict. I like to just do my thing, and I’m not really that interested or concerned with what others are doing. I’m not at all nosy, and I rarely pry into someone else’s business. Most of the time I just don’t care that much because I have PTSD to deal with, and that takes up a lot of my energy, but even before that I had dialed pretty far back on interfering where it wasn’t my business.

I’m a high performer. Curve killer, teacher’s pet…I’ve been called all of it. In my mind I just work really hard to do a good job, because if I do have an ego, it’s tied directly to my evaluation of my own performance. Here again though…this is about ME. I spent years not understanding why people got so hateful toward me for what I was doing for myself.

I was skipping along, doing me, and coworkers, teammates and whoever got bent out of shape about it and frequently unleashed some pretty hateful behavior toward me. Mostly passive aggressive shit because cowards don’t confront things head on. I let most of it go because, again, I didn’t care what they were doing (unless they hampered my performance), I was focused on what I was doing.

As I work through all of the dark, negative neuron pathways in my brain, I’m finding a lot of neurons have been wired to be resentful about the haters. I’m holding grudges I didn’t realize I was holding, the hair on the back of my neck still stands up when thoughts of people who have been hateful to me cross my mind. I was in abusive work environments for years, and most of the resentment is from the way I was treated by abusive coworkers. But those days are gone, and it does me no good to hold onto it.

Whatever pain they were acting on, it wasn’t really about me. As the target of a lot of lashing out, I work really hard to not lash out. I’ve blown up twice this year in trigger rants where I let a lot out, but I blew up at a situation, not at a person. I won’t do it, it’s too harmful. And now that I understand that I was the whipping boy for someone else’s pain, it helps to not take it so personally, to release it. I’ll set the intention for a meditation practice, and release the hatefulness so that I can continue to heal my brain.

Restoring Through Sleep

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.

Trying to Not Complain for a Week

What if I took all those frustrations and re-framed them into positive observations? Would it help?

I just about lost my shit this morning when I got home from the store. It rained all morning, and by the time I was hauling a loaded cart out to my car it was pouring. It rained so hard that some of the streets were flooded on my way home, and my street was partly flooded. I unloaded wet bags or groceries and jugs of water (our water tastes weird at the moment), nearly busted my ass slipping on the threshold, got it all put away in my mom’s chaotic kitchen and discovered that the box on the porch was the cane I had ordered from my grandma that we thought hadn’t arrived.

I was checking my Amazon orders last night to see if anything might not arrive this week, and saw that the new walking cane was supposed to have been delivered on Friday. No one had seen the box, so I reported it missing and requested another. From what I can guess, it was delivered to a neighbor and they brought it to my door this morning…4 days later. I couldn’t cancel the Amazon replacement in time to not have them send me one unnecessarily, but…thanks, neighbors. If I get a package by mistake I take it over immediately. I guess I have a spare cane now for someone who need it though.

I was in such a foul mood about all of this and the grocery crazy especially that I was about to lose it. The PTSD thing I live with? Stress can quickly light a short fuse. I stopped myself though and thought, “What if I didn’t complain?”

What if I didn’t complain about this? What if I found the positive, that we can afford all of these groceries and that we needed the rain and that it isn’t also cold and that I got things done early and have plenty of time to start baking for tonight and go to the store again later for my grandma’s stuff and the cake box I need to pick up? What if I didn’t complain for a week? What if I took all those frustrations and re-framed them into positive observations? Would it help? Would it not?

Here goes!