I have been pretty intense this week about sorting myself and my environment out. Brené Brown has a great comment from her therapist, which is rather than put on a shell, get yourself out of the briar patch. I’ve been living in a briar patch and blaming the thorns for being there. Time to get out!
I started purging my belongings yesterday. A quick, temporary move has turned into five years of stuff stored in boxes, stuff that I don’t even remember that I have and certainly a lot that I don’t need or someone else could use. There are some family heirlooms and some things that I will use later in a different living situation, but there is also a lot that I can release: the bag of info and giveaways from a conference I attended over a decade ago. The scraps from handcutting invitation postcards for a program I ran over fifteen years ago. Yep, hoarder tendencies run deep in my family, and I used to keep some weird and unnecessary stuff because I found it painful to throw anything away. Now I understand the weight these things place around your ankles, and how difficult it makes it to get up and walk again when you fall. So out it goes!
I’m halfway done, and that’s enough for now. Usually I will force myself through a task like that until it’s done, and I’ve been forcing myself through some tough stuff already this week. Then I get to Monday and wonder where the weekend went and why I am so exhausted?
So it can wait, I can take a break and rest, because it will still be there to deal with this week, like everything else on my schedule. But I will feel better and be more prepared to handle it.
Yesterday pushed me to my limit. And I don’t like to admit that, because I don’t like to admit I have limits. I’m tough! I can handle anything! But after walking up at 4:30am because a flying, wasp-like insect was banging into surfaces in my bedroom (I thought they slept at night???) and trying to kill it for over half an hour so I could go back to sleep… after getting into a situation fraught with conflict for a new client, after agreeing with my business partner on the procedure for us to separate, after hours of entering hard to find budget numbers for an analysis, after being called to sit outside in the heat to drink a beer when I’d rather nap, AND AFTER FINDING A SCORPION ON THE WALL NEXT TO THE TOILET WHEN I RETURNED FROM A DINNER EVENT…
It took a long time to calm down and sleep. And I’m back up early to do it again today. My nerves are shot to hell and I don’t have a retreat or a safe space (or boundaries?) here. But I’m doing the best I can.
I am learning to be intentional about taking days off. For a long time I would have so much anxiety and distress that I didn’t have much of a choice, I couldn’t get anything done and spent hours in a mental vortex. Rather than giving myself some space, I still struggled with the need to “get stuff done”, and probably made things worse because I felt guilty about my anxiety interfering with my productivity. It’s been a battle for me to accept stopping, pausing and resting because I’m so afraid I’ll fall behind and not catch up.
Having a day in which I don’t accomplish anything and don’t intend to is a radical form of self-acceptance for me. And while my mind still has swirls of “but you could…” or “what if you did…” and “you need to…”, I am pushing those thoughts aside and letting the day be the day.
And on a Monday, I am not behind, I am not scrambling to catch up, I am not in the weeds or faltering, I have a normal workday with requests, requirements and opportunities and a schedule that was not negatively impacted by taking a full day off.
I spent the entire Summer Solstice inside, and most of it in a dimly lit room. I’m grateful that I have so much room for improvement. Yoga was not helpful yesterday, it was activating. So I stopped.
I started listening to Brené Brown’s book The Power of Authenticity yesterday. She’s a shame researcher and a delightfully authentic human. In her work she’s found that we experience shame the same way we experience trauma, and I want to heal from shame as much as I want to heal from trauma. I’m starting to understand why they often go hand in hand.
I wanted to do a yoga session and thought that would be within my bandwidth today. 11 minutes in, I realized I was getting activated on my way to a trigger, I was hot and sweaty but not in an “I’m exercising” way, I wasn’t enjoying it and was actually starting to be rather miserable.
I wanted to push through, because yoga is supposed to be a good thing, it isn’t supposed to be activating, it’s supposed to help me connect to my body, I didn’t want to be a quitter, it wasn’t even a hard practice…also I am too fat to get into some of the poses, I can’t believe I can’t do this right now, I’ll never be able to get my life on track…
Ah. The shame gremlins she talked about. The thoughts that make me = bad and wrong and not good enough.
I stopped the session. Yoga wasn’t right for me yesterday. Maybe because I was in the process of learning about shame and realizing how much shame I feel about my body. Maybe because I needed more rest (I hiked for two hours the day before). Maybe because I needed to experience recognizing what is good for me and what is not good for me and acting on that for myself, not because someone else said that was the way to do it.
I’ve realized over the weekend that I can come across as cold. My guardedness toward potential triggers, being overwhelmed and not being able to control or escape things I don’t like leaves a bit of a snarky shell, and it’s not a good look.
As I’ve given myself the time to rest, sleep and dream so that my brain can get busy processing (and has it been busy processing!), revelations about what things I don’t like about myself are coming to the forefront. So.
I’m not sure how I feel about letting my guard down, but I do know I want to be less cold. I can pretend in social situations in which it feels expedient to be talkative and responsive, but none of that gets below the surface. So.
Time to practice being less cold.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last week.
I use numbing to cope, and have for a long time. Now it makes sense why I don’t miss people, why I don’t feel deep affection for anyone and why a lot of personal affronts don’t upset me.
I live in a near-constant state of OVERWHELMED, and I often wake up already there, which is why mornings can be so challenging for me. Which is why a lot of things are so challenging for me. Why I can get really upset by being asked to do something that is otherwise simple and easily accomplished.
I’ve been dreaming every night lately, and I dream in full technicolor. I’m aware of it and know that my brain is doing a lot of processing while I sleep, but last night I couldn’t get away from a snake, and woke up feeling physically trapped, in pain and disoriented. It was horrible, and I went back to sleep so that I didn’t have to deal with whatever was going on. It’s the first time that has happened, and when I did start to wake up for the day, I was hesitant to do so because I woke up with so much anxiety, and I felt completely overwhelmed before my feet even hit the floor.
I’ve been handling a lot of things I’d been putting off this week, so I may have just adulted too hard. Or the processed trauma is building up in my body and needs to be released. Either way, or any way, one step at a time today until I feel more sturdy on my feet.
That was advice from my therapist, who explained to be that in very simplified terms, people either drain you (introvert) or energize you (extrovert).
People drain me.
One of my new goals as I try to practice a lifestyle that leads (hopefully!) to fewer panic episodes and less anxiety is to be much more mindful about the things that push me over the edge of the panic cliff, and about letting stress build up until my brain freaks out and quits.
I’m in week two of wanting to mostly stay in bed, so this seems like pretty good goals.
I don’t really rest much. I haven’t in years. I don’t take vacations that act like vacations, I don’t schedule down time, I don’t pause – I just speed through life then crash and burn and get up and do it again.
I spoke on a panel yesterday evening about two hours from where I live, so spent a lot of the later part of the day in the car or talking to a room full of people. I really enjoyed it, the topic is of real interest to me and my fellow panelists were very informed on the topic. I stopped for dinner with a friend on the way home, got home at midnight and went to bed.
I woke up at 10:30 this morning. I slept hard.
This evening I’m back at another program, although I’m not speaking at this one, and it’s not quite as far away but it’s very similar. So, trying to learn from yesterday and be mindful of how I feel, I’m taking an hour or two this afternoon to be quiet and still before I hop in the car and go be work me around a lot of people. Then tomorrow I will plan some down time during the day so that I don’t get too rushed and overwhelmed as I recover from this last big PTSD episode.