Airing Out the Bunker

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I realize that is stating the painfully obvious, but I want to acknowledge my absence. I could blow it off on mundane crap and say that I was too busy, but the fact of the matter is I didn’t make time amid the crap to sit down and write. And I have paid the price.

I sat down yesterday and tried to just breathe. My therapist right now is really into mindfulness exercises, and truly, they work well for stopping a panic attack in its track. That said I suck at doing them on my own. Especially when I look around and it seems like the whole of humanity’s shit is piling up around me. Instead, I girder myself inside a bunker, wait for the shitstorm to pass, and inevitably focus on all of the bad things.

... again.

… again.

There is something broken or in need of fixing in every part of my life. Literally everywhere I look, I see something that needs attention or fixing or healing. When I sat down to do my mindfulness exercise, I minded my way right into a full on panic attack. Go me!

The point of this veritable pity party is that I need to draw a line somewhere. I cannot let this get to me the way it has. I’ve been moping, wrapped up in the thoughts of what is going wrong and where I am failing, unable to see anything positive. There are rays of light, for sure. But for the most part, I haven’t let them touch me. And I am worse for that.

Perhaps the mindfulness exercises are working better than I give them credit for because I can see now that it’s a choice. I’m choosing to wallow in the impossibility of my current situation instead of letting the light shine through. Instead of valuing the things that go right. I may not be able to will myself out of a deep depression, but I can choose to open up a freaking window in my bunker and let in the air.

So, that is what I’m doing. Airing out the bunker a bit. Things may in fact be fucked up all around me. There may be more to fix than I am humanly capable of handling at this point, but that doesn’t mean that I am without hope. It doesn’t mean that I have to sit in a cold room wrapped in the thoughts of what is wrong. I can take my own advice and let small victories lift me up.

 

So … Good news: My mom, who had major surgery on Monday is now home and resting comfortably. Though she’s going to need more PT and recovery time than we anticipated, the surgery itself was a success. She’s in less pain now and on her way to recovering fully.

More good news: I opened an Etsy shop offering cross stitch patterns and hand stitched items just in time for the holidays. It allowed me to take something that was just a little hobby and make a bit of money from it. And since it’s my shop, I can be as irreverent as I want to be. For instance, I can sell bookmarks that are lacy and delicate and read “bookwhore.” Because I want to and I think even lacy, delicate people should be allowed to love the dirty words. You feel me, I know you do.

Even more good news: I was nominated for a blog award! Despite my absence! I will be adding a post on Monday describing the blog award and nominating some other blogs that I would recommend to my followers.

It feels fresher and brighter in here already. Little bit of air, little bit of sunshine … it clears the bunker right up, doesn’t it? When I’m in a rough patch, I often find it very difficult to breathe and accept any good. It’s so much easier to focus on the negative and let that stack of bad grow to monstrous proportions. I’m not negating the bad stuff. I’m not saying I should just blithely ignore the problems. But I do need to work on ways to refocus myself. I have friends and a therapist who can help me with that, but honestly? This is something I need to work on for myself. I’m not always going to have someone around who can refocus me and help me breathe.

What do you do when the bad stacks up and looms over you like the big, bad wolf threatening to blow down the walls of your safe space? Does meditation work for you or do you prefer heavy metal blaring in your headphones while you work out? I often prefer the latter, but have lately been unable to work out due to some health issues. It sucks. But, in keeping with allowing in the light, I’m also getting a great chance to heal. <~~~ Look at me all Zen and shit.

and that shit has just GOT to stop.

and that shit has just GOT to stop.

If you’d like to share your secrets, please feel free to share them in the comments. I think this is a problem many who suffer from mental illness face on a regular basis. I’d love to have a conversation about what we can do individually to combat the problem. I will see you soon with my next blog post. Feel free to poke and prod me if I leave you hanging for too long. The bunker can sometimes suck you back in if you’re not careful.

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Celebrate Little (and big) Victories

I love big victories. I mean, we all do, right? I love the days when I can look at what I’ve accomplished and go, damn… the world is lucky to have me.

Yesterday was kind of like that for me. I got to teach a seminar on basic self-defense with fourteen young women. I was nervous; these were teenagers and teens aren’t exactly my best age group. But the day went fantastic and the girls had fun. Most of all, I think they walked away feeling stronger and more prepared. I had a hand in that and it makes me feel pretty awesome.

Now, I’m not exactly saying that I do nothing most days, but there are days when the best thing I did was take a shower and feed the kids takeout. It’s really easy on those days to look at all of the things I didn’t accomplish. In fact, I think even on days when I’m pretty productive I tend to focus on what I didn’t do. And really, don’t we all? Isn’t it so much easier to criticize ourselves with our failures than to praise ourselves for the good we do?

self talk

I don’t think this is a habit linked solely with depression. In fact, I’d argue that our culture kind of teaches us to focus on what more we can do in all aspects of our life. We’re conditioned to never be satisfied because if we are satisfied, we become complacent. And if we become complacent, we will stagnate and never grow. I do, however, think this trend can be exacerbated by depression and turn a normal drive to do better into self-defeating, negative internal talk that is actually quite counterproductive. Let me explain.

As I’ve said numerous times in previous blog posts (Battling Invisible Wraiths, Parenting While Depressed (part 2)), depression is a dirty, dirty liar. It tells us how completely unworthy we are no matter what we do. It tells us that there is nothing we can do to make up for how awful we actually are. Add on to that society’s message that we should never be satisfied and, well … you see the dilemma.

I would like to say that I’ve conquered my inner demons enough to celebrate big victories in my life. I’d like to say that, but dude… that is why I pay my therapist top dollar. The truth is, I struggle with taking credit for even the big victories. It’s like I’ve conditioned myself to brush it off as nothing because, well, I think I am. Nothing, that is. So when all I have to celebrate is not smelling icky? I struggle hardcore.

Now, I’m not looking for reassurance. The one thing I’ve learned in my year and change in therapy is that self-confidence cannot come from outside. People can blow sweet smoke up your ass all day long about how amazing you are and you can find a million and one reasons not to believe them. They’re just being nice. They feel bad for you. You’re burdening them with your self-pity. Oh look! There’s another reason you suck.

Catch my drift?

I decided to write this blog post because teaching that class yesterday was a huge personal victory for me. As I mentioned in my last post, it has been a rough few months for me. Anxiety has been a major bitch recently and it has been preventing me from doing some of my favorite things. I find myself ignoring my phone, refusing play dates, and even skipping teaching at karate, which is one of my favorite things to do in the world. All because the thought of getting out there in front of people is crippling me with anxiety.

So getting up in front of a group of girls I didn’t know was going to be a challenge. I was nervous: about teaching them properly and about having a panic attack in the middle of presentation. In the end, I sucked it up and dealt. I taught, with the help of my best friend at my side, and those girls laughed and learned. And I did it without popping a Xanax or having an anxiety attack.

Win!

change-your-thoughts

And you know what? I still feel like that’s a win today. Which is a huge step for me. Four or five months ago? I’m certain I would have come up with a reason why I shouldn’t be proud of myself. I’m keeping those voices at bay today and I’m counting it as a win.

If you too struggle with allowing yourself a savor victories, do me a favor today. Find something in your day to be proud of. Catch it before the negative voices trounce on it and grasp it tight. Now sit with it for five minutes and think about how amazing it is that you had a win today. Protect that win from the voices in your head telling you it isn’t enough. And when you wake up tomorrow morning, I want that to be the first thing you think of. Can you do that for me?

Come back here tomorrow and tell me how you fared. I promise I’ll do the same for you. Maybe together we can beat back the voices telling us we aren’t enough.

Refilling the Empty Cup: The Danger in Giving it All Away

I’m not good at setting limits. Not when it comes to the people I love or things I care about, anyway. My best, I find, is often not enough to meet all of the needs that are out there. That doesn’t stop me from bleeding myself dry in order to try, however.

Times have been rough for the past month or more. I put on a good face, but inside I’m full of turmoil. I recently left the therapist that I’d been seeing for over a year and took about a month off of therapy. My timing sucked as my month off happened at one of my lowest points ever. But this week I started with a new therapist and it looks promising. It’s draining though, opening up that closet door and letting a stranger poke through all of the skeletons and dig through the dusty drawers.

I find myself exhausted most of the time. Exhausted and exhausting. I literally exhaust myself with my circular thoughts of what I’ve done wrong and how I could be better. This exacerbates my anxiety issues. I just don’t have the reserves to keep it under control and so I’ve been having more panic attacks. Which leave me – even more fucking exhausted.

several days

i feel like this defines anxiety attacks. it feels like several days just up and jump on your back all at once.

Yeah. I’m kind of over all of this shit.

You’d think, then, that I would relish the time I get to replenish. There are things that do that: sitting with a good book and hot coffee in quiet, plugging in my headphones and filling my head with music, sitting with a special friend and having a beer … all of these things help to refill and renew my energy. I just wish I could appreciate those things for longer than the time it takes to do them.

I spent last night with a good friend. Someone I can be totally honest with and put aside the mask completely. We had dinner, drinks, and watched a funny show. It may have honestly been the best medicine in the world even though it was completely mundane. Spending those few hours without the weight of a mask was refreshing. I felt lighter, able to relax for the first time in a week or more.

glad you are alive

it’s great when things that make you glad to be alive are people too.

I woke up however, to discover that in the midst of everything that I needed to accomplish yesterday, I’d forgotten a commitment I’d made. I’d forgotten a lesson I was supposed to teach and left my student waiting without any notice that I wouldn’t be there.

That kind of carelessness is completely unlike me. Promptness and reliability are things I pride myself on, even in the midst of my worst breakdowns. But I let it slide and instead, I took time for myself. It wasn’t a conscious choice, mind you. I didn’t say, hey! Fuck this lesson. I’m going to have dinner with my buddy. No… I just forgot that it was scheduled and did something for myself.

And the guilt is crushing me. I know that it was a mistake. The student is fine. I spoke with them and they completely understood: lesson rescheduled and no one is the worse for it. I know that it could happen to anyone. But it was me. It was my responsibility. And I failed.

Times like this, it becomes so very difficult to silence those voices that say I am not good enough. That I let everyone down. That I don’t deserve friendship, relaxation, or ease. It’s really hard because I feel like that mistake damns me in some way. It’s not rational. I should be able to let it go.

I can’t.

And this is why my cup is almost always near empty and why I feel like what I have to offer is never enough. Because I pour out so much more than I refill.

I’m working on it. I have friends who remind me to take time for myself. They remind me when I feel guilty that refilling the cup allows me to give more. It doesn’t help the guilt.

And this is why I need therapy. *sigh*

peace

peace: what i hope to gain from therapy.