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Trying to have fun, but having to arm wrestle your anxiety first

18 Jan

My husband once did the Ultimate Husband Thing – he surprised me with a trip to Paris over Valentine’s Day.

Yeah. That’s pretty damn savvy of him, isn’t it?

And I really really couldn’t wait to go.

I also all but hoped I’d be struck with rotavirus and wouldn’t be able to go.

See, I have anxiety, and anxiety hates fun. So anxiety takes “Cool trip to Paris” and turns it into “You know, the plane could crash…fiery blaze…explosion…imagine being hurtled to the ground still strapped to your chair, that’ll hurt – not to mention the children you’ll orphan…poor kids, motherless…God, do you know how much that would screw them up for life?”

Seriously.

And then there’s the “My God, what if you get sick while in Paris? How sucky would that be? Totally could happen. Planes are notorious for spreading all sorts of wonderful plagues. You could be stuck in the hotel room with a fever or vomiting or both. What a waste of a trip. My God! What if you get sick while on the plane? How awful would that be?”

Anxiety is called a bitch for a reason.

The thing is, I got on the plane. It didn’t crash. I didn’t get ill. We climbed all the stairs, drank champagne in Paris on Valentine’s Day and saw the Eiffel Tower and I booped the nose of a cherubic statue in the Louvre (it was in the Sensory Gallery and touching was allowed). I saw Van Goghs and Monets and the windmill of the Moulin Rogue. I had a lovely time.

I just didn’t get to enjoy the build up to the trip.

 

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Boop.  [Image Description – Myself, arm extended out to touch the nose of a marble statue of a cherub, his finger in front of his lips, smile on his face]

Last night, I had concert tickets to one of my favorite singers ever. They were a birthday present from my husband (yeah, I know, he’s good with the gifts, isn’t he?). But as the concert loomed, so did that underlying dread. The anxiety started to ramp up. I got cold and clammy. I felt off. I couldn’t eat. I knew it was all anxiety. I knew I felt like I was coming down with an illness but I wasn’t. I knew once I got to the venue, I’d have a great time. But there was a part of me dreading it, wondering if I could just skip it, if maybe I should skip it.

Spoiler – I went to the concert and had a great time. A fan-fecking-tastic time. It was one of those crazy wonderful crowds that just made an already awesome event even more memorable. I left on a high feeling I could do anything and woke up still riding that high.

And a part of me tried to talk myself out of going.

 

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Reader, I went to the concert. And I got the pint of cider and a hat to prove it. [Image description – a pint of cider that looks purple-ish thanks to stage lights, and a black hat with a white embroidered Celtic knot]

But anxiety doesn’t just try to ruin the big things for me. No, the bitch also intercedes daily. Dining out with friends? Well, gee, look at your front tooth – looks a bit discolored, which totally means it’s going to break in half during dinner, so maybe you should play it safe and stay at home (true story – three years later, the tooth is still perfectly fine.) Get your hair colored? OMG, don’t you know everyone will judge you from the stylist at the salon to the cashier at the grocery store? (actual thoughts – reality was the opposite.) Chatting with other moms? Eek. They may discover you’re not actually a good mom. Have people over? Gads no. Your house isn’t nice enough/neat enough/clean enough. Buy myself new shoes? Geez woman, should you be spending such money frivolously?

I put off SO MUCH because my anxiety tells me all the ways I shouldn’t or couldn’t do things. And every day, I’m working to overcome it. Every day, I arm wrestle with negative thoughts and worries. Every damn day.

It’s exhausting.

No, really, it is exhausting. Tiring. Draining. And when you don’t win the wrestling contest, a bit depressing, because now you’re brain’s all “See? Told you. You can’t handle this.”

But I’m tired of living like this. I’m working towards getting back to enjoying life more. Enjoying the parts I like more. Doing more. And then making note of it so I can look back and go “Look! Look at what I did! I totally rocked those times!”

So I’m gonna need a lot of Starbuck’s gift cards, because I’ll also be dragging ass after every victory.

 

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Choices

24 Nov

I was sitting on the kitchen floor, trying to muffle my crying, when my husband found me that Christmas Day about ten year ago.

“Oh my God, what’s wrong?” he asked, his voice full of concern.

My response was a babble of how the kitchen was a mess, how I had spent hours cleaning it for two days so I could have it clean for Christmas, but because my husband and kids decided to make a big breakfast Christmas morning, the kitchen was now a mess again – flour on the counters, dirty pans on the stove, and I was faced with more cleaning before having to prepare Christmas dinner  – which then I’d have to clean up after.

All of this between sobs and whining noises that only the dog could hear.

It was an epic, and well-earned, meltdown on my part. That past year, we’d been coming to terms with the fact that our youngest wasn’t just developmentally delayed, she was disabled. She was disabled to the point that she would probably always need to live with us. Just a couple of weeks before Christmas, she’d been diagnosed with epilepsy. I’d fighting depression and anxiety all year and trying to dig my way out of the messy house that came with it. Having the house clean for Christmas had been important to me. A clean house meant that I had my stuff together, that I was getting control of things, that I was a better mom than what I thought I was. A clean house meant a whole lot of things that it didn’t really mean, but it was important at the time. If my house was clean, then it wouldn’t bother me, and I could relax and enjoy the holiday.

I really wanted to enjoy the day.

Instead, I was sitting on the floor in desperate need of a tissue, hyperventilating.

My husband, who was now also sitting on the floor, apologized for messing up my clean kitchen, and offered to take care of things. I hiccupped about how I still had to cook dinner, and things needed to be started asap or else they wouldn’t be done in time, and maybe how everything was impossible because at that point, everything seemed impossible.

“How about we just order Chinese food?” he suggested.

I blinked at him.

“The kids don’t care about the food, and it’s just us anyway. It would be easier.”

A week later, as I told this story to my therapist, I got to this point, and she leaned in. “And what was your answer?” she asked eagerly.

“I told him to see if the Chinese restaurant was open.” I said.

“Yes! That was the right response!” she cheered.

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And it was. It was exactly the right response. I was there, crushed to the floor with the burden of making a perfect holiday, and was given an escape route. I could have forced myself to reject the easier path, to pull myself together and make the damn Christmas dinner.

Instead, I chose the easier route, and in doing so, I chose to enjoy my day.

I can’t remember if the kitchen ever got cleaned or if we decided to just ignore the mess. I do know that the Chinese restaurant was open, and the kids thought it was great to get Chinese for Christmas dinner. Afterwards, I sat on the couch laughing with our youngest while the older three and my husband had an epic Nerf gun battle through the house. For months afterwards, we found orange darts in odd places.

I had given up my idea of what it should be, and embraced what the day could be.

The kids remember it as one of the best Christmases ever.

Go figure, so do I.

Life is funny – you grow up thinking if you just go to school, find the right job, marry the right person, have babies at the right time, that things will go well for you, and there you are on Christmas Day, with the perfect turkey cooked perfectly, the centerpiece of your perfectly laid out table.

But that’s not how it works for most of us, and you’ll find yourself faced with choices. Complicated, messy choices that are hard. There is no getting around those. Some choices are made for you and you have to go along with them.

And sometimes, you are faced with a choice that is almost ridiculously simple, and yet can change everything. They are the choices that end up as the memories we cherish most.

So as we head into this holiday season, I hope you all are able to make a choice that’s easy and that brings joy. 

 

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

 

Prepping for more than survival

3 Nov

Last winter sucked ass. There’s just no polite way of stating that.

Okay, yes, we’re in Seattle, and the PNW is not know for being the sunniest of places. We know that. But last winter broke records and nearly broke the entire region. There were 9 days of recorded sun from October 1st to March 28th.

9 days of sun. Only three of those were full sunny days. The rest were cloudy, and we had record amounts of rain.

 

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Basically, we were all the 10th Doctor [Gif of David Tennant standing in the rain looking sad]

That alone will make someone a bit twitchy, punchy, and unwilling to leave their couch fort. Add my life’s worth of stress and anxiety and history of depression and I flat out ghosted life at one point. There was a week where I just stayed in bed during the school hours binge watching Netflix because I just couldn’t do anything else.

 

I have since gotten a therapist and a light therapy lamp.

But this past month, even with its gloriously sunny autumn days full of color, I’ve been living with a shadow looming over my shoulder. I realized I was dreading the winter months. Flat out dread people. Not that I was afraid of the gloom, but afraid I wasn’t up for the gloom. I don’t want to ghost out on life again, spend time in bed, waste entire days doing nothing because doing anything is an effort.

It doesn’t help that my life here is a bit lonely. I didn’t realize it, but my therapist pointed it out after I mentioned how I spend my days alone. My friends all work. I spend my daytime hours alone. I can spent five hours of my awake time having only the dogs as company, and then spend my evenings with only Maura for company. And Maura isn’t a conversationalist.

My natural tendency is to cave a little. Built a couch fort and hide. Add record breaking gloom and rain and a crappy social life and there suddenly isn’t enough Vitamin D in the world to break that spiral.

So this year, I’m trying to be proactive. Find reasons to get up, get out the door, things to do when I am home.

Step One was making my space happier and less stressful. The clutter and chaos wasn’t working for me. I’d see the mess and decide I couldn’t do something more “fun” – like write – because I should be cleaning up. But then I would be overwhelmed by the cleaning, or just not wanting to clean, so I’d just waste time online or on Netflix, not doing anything.

So while it was sunny, I tore my house apart, decluttered everything, shifted things that needed shifting, donating things that I didn’t need, crying because OMG, I just made my house worse, wtf have I done? – and then get back to dealing with shit.

And now it’s dealt with. Well, except for the laundry room. But I can shut the door on that.

 

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Took a few months, but this space is back to fabulous [photo of a living room with a blue rug,  green couch, bright green and blue sequin pillows, rocking chair with a polka dot throw, built in shelves full of books and knick knacks, and a fireplace whose mantle is decorated with a large print, deer antlers,  little houses, fish bottles and two green glass lamps]

 

Step Two – I got out my light therapy lamp while it was still sunny. I have it here, just to the left of me at my desk, shining next to my face as I type. And I got a big bottle of gummy Vitamin D. Because Vitamin D deficiency is just a way of life in the PNW.

Step Three – I’m reconsidering my mellow/angsty playlists on Spotify. Not that I don’t love my mellow/angsty playlists. But on a gloomy day, I need something to combat things, and that’s not going to be Adele. Oh, I still can’t go full Justin Timberlake, but maybe some Script and Train.

Step Four – I’m banning myself from crawling back into bed. Step One has made this more possible. There is a difference between watching a couple shows from the sofa and laying in bed.

Step Five – find reasons to leave the house. This is the hardest step because there aren’t a lot of options outside of shopping during the day. But leaving the house is necessary. Getting outside is necessary. Having a reason to dress like a normalish human is necessary.

Step Six – and really, I should list this one higher, is writing. Not just writing, but finishing the edits of the book I’ve been writing. I need to get that done and send it out into the world, because I need to have that accomplishment. Because having been a stay at home mom for 21 years, I have this feeling of being useless. Let’s be frank – stay at home moms are treated like idiots who can only talk about diapers and car pool lines. We have no value outside of our house. And once our kids are grown enough, we’re expected to go back to work. I didn’t do that. I thought about it a couple years ago, finding a part time job, but the reality is that it’d be hard to find a job that fits around Maura’s schedule. And not to brag, but we don’t need the piddly income I’d make (because high paying jobs for women who’ve stayed at home for 21 years are surprisingly few).

I’ve spent my entire adult life talking about getting published. Right now, it seems like it’s been nothing but talk. I’ve not been disciplined enough to get anything done up to now, and quite frankly, life kept throwing shit at me like it was a monkey at the zoo. But now, now I’m close enough I can see it as a reality. I just need to finish.

So yeah, that’s my plan for this winter. Last winter, I spent it just trying to survive. This winter, I’d like to do a little more than that.

And with that sad, I woke up to fecking snow falling.

<headdesk>

 

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[photo of a dark morning, snow falling and sticking onto a patio table with an aqua blue umbrella, on the deck, on the grill…] Ugh. 

 

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