Do Not Insta-Stalk.

It’s 5:30a and I have been wide awake for a couple of hours now.

This isn’t too unusual for me these days. When my head is spinning and I can’t sleep, I usually read for a while, and if I still can’t turn my head off, I will venture into the living room (so Boyfriend can sleep) and watch TV until I fall asleep on the couch.

Tonight, though, I did something really really stupid instead.

I Instagram-staked an ex.

Let’s back up a little bit. Back in March, I realized I hated social media. I realized that it did nothing but rob me of the joy I should feel when I think about my life and all I have. I can’t fathom how many hours I’ve spent looking at photos of other people’s lives and felt that my own was inadequate. Every day, every photo, it was like I was chasing a new dream that I had never even known I wanted. I’d see some beautiful girl who seemed to run around Europe in beautiful clothing for a living, not a care in the world, and feel horrible, wondering why that wasn’t me. Or I’d see the gorgeous, perfect homes with flawlessly designed rooms and perfectly tidy kitchens, and suddenly find that my own home and furniture was totally wrong. Perfect families. Perfect meals. Perfect pets. Perfect trips.

When I was dating (before I met Boyfriend), I would obsessively check and re-check my dude-du-jour’s profile, searching for hints that he was seeing someone else. Hoping he would allude to my existence in his life so I could feel confident in solidifying things. Looking up beautiful ex-girlfriends and comparing myself to them.

I started to post more and more of my own life’s moments. I posted gorgeous photos of my own travels, hiding the fact that I was actually sunburnt and had suffered from heat exhaustion that day. I didn’t post anything about the cost of the trips, and the incredible backload of emails and work I returned to. And I didn’t share the fact that I spent more time hoping people would feel envious of my trip rather than enjoying it in real life as much as I should have.

I posted selfies that had been perfected by apps that cleared the bags under my eyes and wrinkles that had been beginning to show around my eyes. I hid the imperfections of my body or the parts of my outfit that didn’t match the way I’d hoped. I didn’t post the 10 test photos that didn’t make the cut.

I posted a sting of ‘amazing’ events I was attending that suggested that my life was something everyone would want. I hoped to evoke thoughts from people… “Oh look, she’s at a gala! Oh, now she’s on a boat! Oooh, a golf tournament! Wow, that tiny corner of her house with the perfectly staged chair must mean the rest of her home is just as perfect!” I didn’t post the reality that 90% of my time is spent cleaning, working, watching TV, and grocery shopping like everyone else.

I posted photos of my work trips overseas, glamourizing my job and hoping to impress everyone. I didn’t showcase the fact that I was deeply homesick. There are no photos of the fact that I had the flu during a good portion of one of the trips, and spent hours in a hotel bed suffering. There was nothing there to suggest that the work itself involved long hours, stress about the events’ success and the impact it would have on my job, or the fact that some of it was incredibly boring and no better than being strapped to my desk in my home town.

I began to realize that I was doing what everyone else was doing: posting the perfected snippets of my life that suggest it is something more extraordinary than it is. Even though the other reality is that my life is wonderful, and that I don’t need to post stupid photos about it to prove that to myself.

Most importantly, I started to realize that I was hoping that people would feel horrible feelings when they saw my profile: I wanted them to feel jealous.

That was not a good feeling, and it made me feel deeply ashamed.

Without thinking about it for more than a moment, I deleted my Facebook and Instagram (I don’t have other accounts).

I thought I would miss it, and I thought I would eventually creep back. Perhaps I’d log into Facebook for a few minutes one day (since I know it’s actually impossible to actually delete Facebook). Or figure out how to reactivate Instagram to catch up.

But I never did. Since I wasn’t posting, I didn’t care much. And since I wasn’t dating, there was no one I cared enough about to check up on – everyone in my life now is actually present in my life.

Ever since I began this blog, I have had an Instagram account. I feel like it’s a good way to connect with others in the same position I am in. 100% of my @hashtagpanic account has to do with anxiety and depression. I don’t look up celebrity accounts, I don’t have anyone from my personal life on there, and I certainly don’t go looking for trouble.

Until tonight.

Since I couldn’t sleep, I began to scroll through Instagram, and liked some relevant photos. I peered into a couple accounts who’d begun to follow me, and looked up hashtags that aligned with my own interests on there.

I don’t know what it was that made my type in his handle. I wasn’t even thinking about him. I don’t even like him.

But I did it. I stalked an ex. And it did me nothing but harm.

I began to feel all of the horrible feelings I had felt when we were dating. Feeling inadequate, not good enough, lied to. Trying and trying to make a relationship work. God knows I’d had enough of them at that point – I was desperate to make something work, even if, in hindsight, the relationship was terrible.

It led me to see he had a large number of “likes” on one of his photos, and I wanted to see who was paying so much attention to him. I saw links to accounts of girls I recognized but didn’t actually know in high school. They present themselves as having perfect, beautiful lives now. The feelings began to pop up: inadequacy, envy, dissatisfaction.

Then I saw the girl the ex might be dating (who I actually know), and saw that he commented red hearts on a few of her pictures. He never did that for me. I began to feel more jealousy, shame (since she knows I used to date him), and I started to feel like I could never show my face anywhere near this girl again. Anxiety was bubbling up.

I began to think about how this link to him was something I needed to sever – and that the link was through her and only her. I immediately started thinking about all of the things I’d have to change in my life: find a new ladies’ golf group for next year, not attend a mutual friend’s baby shower, steer clear of any event in his industry (it’s a big, trendy industry in my city) so that I’d never have to see them together.

I wasn’t thinking clearly. I tried to calm myself, and think of all these feelings as passing clouds, detach from all of the conclusions I was coming to: they’re dating, he loves her, other people have perfect lives, my life isn’t good enough.

It was just too much. I couldn’t stop the overwhelming overflow of emotions. There were too many, and I was too alone. I nudged Boyfriend, and he hugged me, saying “you having a rough one?” (which is what he typically says when I’m panicking), but he was just too sleepy to really soothe me like he usually does.

So now I am here, on my computer. Getting my thoughts out, trying to see things for what they really are.

Jealousy, Fear, Shame, Inadequacy. They’re all here this morning. Those guys are keeping me company.

But those are just feelings – they’re floating by, and they don’t make up part of my essence. They have nothing to do with my soul. With Me.

I’m trying to take comfort in that, this morning. I’m trying to ignore the tightness in my chest and just quietly observe the crazy thoughts of needing to overhaul my life because of all of these conclusions my Ego has come to.

Because really, all I did was see a couple of pictures. All I did was feel a few feels.

I belong here, in my cozy house. I can feel my cuddly, purring cat curled up next to me and feel needed and important. I feel love when I think about Boyfriend snoozing away blissfully down the hall, and that he’ll still be there for in the morning, not judging, loving me just the way I am.

Love is here. And it’s so much stronger than the other guys.

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Communication.

I am a very good writer.

At work, that is. And please, don’t start picking apart my blog. I write very differently here, and often don’t fully proof-read stuff.

I mentioned in a past post that my Work BFF had encouraged me to connect with my boss. Key word – connect. Not just touch base or email him, but connect with him. Like a human. Composing an email full of feeling isn’t exactly my forte.

When I’m writing an email at work, it is something I perfect. It’s not that I am dispassionate. My essays and papers in university were the same. I learned over the years that it’s necessary to eliminate all emotion wherever possible, and convey only the facts.

I do this for two reasons. One, because my job isn’t typically an emotional one to begin with. Everything is legal, business, policy. I’m conversing with clients, government bodies, professional agencies, and of course, my superiors.

Second, I am a young woman working in a man’s world. This post is not about to get into the politics and feminism (although, for the record, I am proudly feminist). But the reality is, I need to be a little on the aggressive side in order to get the respect I need (and deserve) in order to do my job.

In short, my emails are cold, clinical. Objective.

So, as you could imagine, when I needed to switch gears and write in a subjective voice, it was difficult for me.

Not physically difficult. I mean, I once I began to write with emotion, it just poured out. I actually had to go back and delete some of the superfluous parts so I didn’t come across as any more unstable than I actually am (ha). But the idea of using that tone with my boss? A man whom I want to take me seriously, view me as professional? Someone who’s in charge of my future and my financial wellbeing? My career fulfillment? That was difficult.

I had to be vulnerable.

It took me two days to hit send. I read and re-read that email so many times before I felt it was ready to go. This wasn’t something I could accomplish just by going through the motions. I had to make sure he interpreted it the way I wanted him to.

But I did hit send, and left it up to the universe. I had to let go of what his reaction might be, because it was out of my hands either way. I knew that if I let myself think about it, it would evoke nothing but panic and anxiety.

I napped after I hit send, because I also knew that I wasn’t exactly capable of shutting my thoughts off. I wish I could say that I took this as an opportunity to rework my thinking, shut off my Ego and look at the situation from a place of Trust. But I wasn’t up for it that morning. And that’s okay, because sometimes you just need to call a spade a spade and skip the inevitable.

I can’t say I was thrilled with his response, but I can’t say I was surprised either.

The email was not full of bad news, and he did not say I was being replaced. He accepted a return date I suggested (although I told him it was too early to make any promises).

But he used words and phrases like mitigate, accordingly, by design, undue stress, continuity, efficiency, growth and success.

In other words, he wrote the email the way I used to.

I have to admit that it cut deep, given how personal of a subject it was, and what I revealed to him. How out of my element I was. I was really hoping that if I changed, my vulnerability would be recognized and that he’d dance the same dance with me. I thought he’d meet me at the same level. But he didn’t.

So now I have to accept the fact that I tried, and it didn’t work. I could not draw a human out of my CEO – he is still just presenting as the boss.

I can’t blame him – he needs to be professional and be careful with me. The last thing he needs is to say the wrong thing and end up with some kind of employment lawsuit. I mean really… if I were him, would I be dealing with an unpredictable employee the same way?

I’ve had to deal with ex-employees and employees who have been contemplating quitting. I’ve dealt with coworkers who I considered friends, who were let go, and I had to flip a switch. I get it. I know where he’s coming from, and I feel it too. I feel empathy.

I guess I’ll just need to take that information and plan accordingly.

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Puzzling.

I have been hiding something from you guys… I am a closet nerd.

And I’ve noticed a puzzling pattern when it comes to me being on my own.

The first time it happened, I had just moved to the big city on my own. I’d never left my home town before, but I had accepted a work transfer and figured it would be the adventure of a lifetime.

It was, until I realized I had zero friends, and my social anxiety confined me to my little apartment. There was no adventure. That’s when it happened.

I started to do puzzles.

Not, not online brain-game puzzles. I mean grandma jigsaw puzzles.

It’s socially unacceptable for a 26 year old to spend her days doing a puzzle. But I did, and I loved it.

 

When I moved back to my hometown a few years later, there I was. Back in my own city where I had tons of friends, and promises of a full social life once again. But I quickly realized that things had changed drastically and my friends we now more involved in their own lives, which included spouses and children. I was still kind of on my own.

So I turned to puzzles once more. Gave up my kitchen table for weeks, binged watched girly movies, and puzzled like a maniac.

There’s just something so satisfying about sorting everything out, making sense of things. clicking those pieces together, and building a bigger picture.

Yesterday, Boyfriend insisted that I leave the house, since I’d been hermitting for 4 or 5 days straight. I took a walk to a Starbucks where I read a book for a while, and then made my way to the supermarket to pick up a few grocery items. While I was there, I found a 2,000 piece puzzle and bought it on the spot.

Now, our dining room table is booked for the next couple of weeks.

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My first real photo. I know it’s revealing; please do not stalk me.

I aways start the same way. I start with some basic framework. I find the edge pieces and build the perimeter, then organize the pieces by colour. Then I start small: I don’t try to take on the whole blue sky; that’s overwhelming. No, I start with something that stands out to me, where the colour patterns obviously stand out. One little animal, or a house, or a fence. Something little that gets my head into it, and assures me that I’m making progress, and moving forward. Otherwise, I’d probably just get incredibly frustrated at the process, not get anywhere, and probably dump the entire table on its side at some point.

Oh heyyyy that sounds like a great metaphor for tackling anxietyyyyyy.

It’s true, though. The photo above is a pretty good picture of my state of mine right now. I’ve begun with a little framework, and I’m slowly starting to sort things out. Maybe try tackling one small problem, see how it goes, and feel good about being successful.

I am a work in progress.

I’m not trying to solve all of my anxiety issues at once. I don’t want to get overly frustrated and throw in the towel. I just want to make steady progress, and take things day by day.

Eventually, I think I will get a handle on this stuff.

But meanwhile, I will just bask in my nerd glory and do my puzzle today.

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…But the Drugs Like Me.

I have an on-again off-again relationship with anti-anxiety meds.

And it’s never been because I am against them, or because they hadn’t worked.

I know anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication (same thing, as far as my Dr. says) is a majorly contentious topic. Even when I was looking up memes to put on this post, I kept seeing a picture of a forest that said “this is an antidepressant” with a picture of a pill beneath it that says “this is shit.” That bothers me a lot, because every person is different, and every person will experience something different when on a drug. They will work for some of us, and they will not work for others. Let’s just respect each other on that one, k?

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But I just wanted to discuss the topic. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want!

For me, prescription drugs have, overall, been a positive and life-changing experience for me. I don’t care if it was a placebo effect, or if the drug actually does prevent serotonin from being reabsorbed by nerve cells in the brain. Because for me, those little pills do their job. And I don’t care how.

I was hesitant about disclosing what drug I am on, but I figure it probably isn’t a big deal to tell you that I am on Paxil. Those little pink pills have saved me. It’s been the one drug I have been on the most throughout my life, and I don’t intend to stop taking it any time soon. I am stable (ish) on it, and have way more control over how I go about my life.

I first started taking them in my late teens (see this post). I know a lot of people have experienced too many side effects to bother with them – but for me, they have been worth it. Now, at the age of 33, I am on them again, and still, they are worth the cost (minimal, thanks to my work’s benefits program) and side effects (also very minimal).

Sometimes it can be a real bitch when you’re trying out a new medication. That goes for a lot of meds out there: Even when my doctor prescribed sleeping pills for me, there were a couple that basically made me feel like I had injected caffeine directly into my aorta. Not exactly helpful. Drugs can be finicky. But under the guidance of your medical practitioner, you might be able to find something that works for you.

I can’t remember for sure if the first medication I tried was Paxil. It might be that I tried a couple. I might not have seen any results, or maybe I had too many side effects and tried a couple until I found one that worked well in my system. It’s been a really long time. The thing is, I have tried several different types later on as an adult, so it’s possible that I’m mixed up. It probably doesn’t really matter. All the same, it’s been a bit of a rocky road.

When I was young, I wasn’t that great at taking my medicine. I would forget half of the time, and one time I took six of them in one day because I mistook them for Tylenol 3s. They look nothing alike so to this day I do not know how I made that mistake – I just kept popping them because I still wasn’t getting the pain relief I so desperately needed! Don’t worry, I did call poison control and they said I would be fine, but would probably get pretty sleepy. I ended up napping for like 9 hours straight that day. (Coincidentally, I also have a story about how I took 6 Tylenol 3s – on purpose – since they weren’t kicking in as fast as I needed them to. I would not recommend it unless you like having a hot, itchy head, a frightened coworker, and a very, very deep sleep).

The only major side effect I can remember was that if I did forget to take it, especially for more than one day in a row, I would feel very nauseated. I remember that it would often be so bad that I needed to take them at the exact same time every morning. If it took them even an hour later, I’d feel sick enough to want to vomit. I’d struggle through work, and would even stay home. I was also struggling to take my birth control in a timely manner around that time, so it’s possible that that was the reason for the nausea too. I was very not good at the complexities of timing in those days.

I’m currently on Paxil today, and find that I definitely do not notice that I feel as sick as I used to. I’ve totally forgotten them many times, but never was it so bad that I ever needed to take a sick day because of it. I don’t know if they’ve altered the ingredients over time (I have no clue how things go in the pharmaceutical world), or if my own body chemistry just meshes better with it now. Either way, I don’t care. I’m on them, they work well enough, and I am not sick.

A few years ago, when I had re-started my prescription (after a breakdown – that post is for another day), I was going through a particularly rough patch and wasn’t convinced the drug was doing as good of a job as I’d expected. My doctor had me try a couple of other prescription antidepressants, and fuck. It was horrific.

First, I tried Prozac. Not only did I just plain not feel any better (emotionally), but I was always feeling kind of sick and anxious. Not the combo I was looking for. Plus, the goddamn things were gel-caps – those, to me, are horrible. I can’t handle those things for some reason – I feel like they stick to my tongue and they taste disgusting. But since I felt sick for more than a couple of weeks, my doctor said it was unlikely that that feeling would subside, so he wanted to try something else.

I tried Cymbalta.

Cymbalta and I are no longer on speaking terms.

That stuff was the most wicked stuff I’ve ever taken. When you first start taking an antidepressant, you will normally feel a little out of sorts for the first few days, or even for a week or two. That’s normal; your body is adjusting and the symptoms don’t usually last too long. That was somewhat the case with Prozac and me – except the nausea never truly went away. Same goes for Paxil. Sometimes you’ll feel a little loopy – maybe in a bit of a haze. That’s what Cymbalta was for me. But it never went away. And it was intense.

I felt very alert, and very, very woozy on Cymbalta. The whole time.

One thing with prescription drugs is that you should never stop taking them abruptly, or even try to wean yourself off without talking to your doctor first.

Even when you do switch up prescriptions under the direction of a doctor, things can be shitty.

Cymbalta and me were not getting along. Since I felt super loopy and spaced out, after a couple of weeks, I was done. I went into a walk-in clinic (my doctor works there, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to see him that day), and begged to go back to my safe, predictable Paxil. The doctor said “sure” and said I could simply switch that same day. I had run out of Cymbalta anyway, but still had lots of Paxil at home, so it would be no big deal.

Except it was such a big fucking deal.

The next day, I started experiencing what I can only describe as hard-core withdrawal. As someone who has never taken recreational drugs to the extent that I have been addicted and, uh, jonesin’ (…what’s the lingo here? Sorry, I am not cool.), I figured my ailment was akin to Joaquin Phoenix’s rehab scenes in Walk the Line.

I was now taking my Paxil, as directed, but simply stopped taking my (rather high) dose of Cymbalta. I felt so sick, so spaced out, and incredibly dizzy. I felt like the entire world moved every time I moved my head an inch. I was sitting at my desk at work, unable to focus on anything. I went into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror after holding my head in my hands for a good 10 minutes. I was sweating and my pupils were totally dilated. Very pretty.

I then did what any reasonable person would do: I had someone pick me up and take me to the doctor I Googled my symptoms, convinced I could find myself a cure. As it would turn out, a lot of my symptoms were pretty consistent with symptoms of vertigo. I texted a friend who legitimately has vertigo, and further confirmed my self-diagnosis. Now I was on all fours, moving my head around like a weirdo, trying to mimic the Foster Maneuver.

It didn’t work.

I texted my mom and she was horrified that my doctor hadn’t stepped me down off of my medication, and suggested that I visit a pharmacy to see if they could give me 2-3 pills so I could ease myself off the drug slowly. Clearly I needed some of the drug back in my system so I wouldn’t be so dopesick (thanks, Urban Thesaurus). Luckily for me, there was a pharmacy directly below my office. Off I went. Staggered.

I recall feeling very dazed and confused as I waited in line to speak with the pharmacist. I question whether there was even a line to be standing in. I was studying the label of some Cold FX and trying to figure out how to get myself and my car back home in one piece, since I could barely look at the wall without spinning out. I felt like I had to look at that Cold FX package – I was experiencing some tunnel vision and if I lost focus, I would probably pass out. When I finally got to speak with someone, they (surprisingly) would not hand over random prescription drugs to a random girl who looked incredibly strung out and could not form a cohesive sentence.

Dejected, I went back upstairs and proceeded to [who knows? I was way too high and messed up to even remember. Maybe I worked? Or maybe I napped George Costanza-style under my desk. It’s impossible to know].

I never did talk to my doctor about the withdrawal episode I encountered. It did wear off after a couple of days, and a social-anxiety fiend such as myself was more than happy to take a couple of days off in lieu of dealing with my issue in a reasonable manner.

As I mentioned, I did continue to take my tried-and-true Paxil, and do to this day. There have been a couple of times when my doctor suggested trying other drugs (since my panic attacks do not seem to be willing to chill out, even on Paxil), but for me, it’s been better to stop toying with things and just pop an Ativan when things get tough.

You know, coping at its finest.

Paxil isn’t a cure-all. If it was, I would not be in the midst of a 6-week work hiatus as we speak. But it keeps me level enough to make real life decisions and face most days without too many issues. Paxil ain’t broke (well, not overly), so I don’t try to fix it.

And as Marilyn Manson said, “I don’t like the drugs, but the drugs like me” … kind of.

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Up All Night.

I’ve been up all night lately. It blows.

Before my little breakdown a couple weeks ago, where I ran out of work and to the doctor and sent my life spiralling out of control, I slept relatively well.

A lot of the time, I was able to fall asleep within minutes. I’d sometimes wake up in the middle of the night but there was never really any problems with my sleep. I am about 1,000 years old and like to go to bed early (like 9) and am the type who still feels super tired in the morning. The evening is when I’d do my reading, and I typically couldn’t get through more than 10 pages before I was out like a light. I’d half-woken many, many times with my Kindle imprinted to my face.

Since I’ve been on stress leave, though, everything has changed.

It takes me a long time to fall asleep, and most nights I wake up around 3 or 4a, and often can’t get back to sleep at all. I end up being so exhausted that I nap like it’s my job during the daytime.

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So thoughtful (no pun intended).

I’ve dealt with the falling asleep issue by taking prescription drugs (responsibly!) and that seems to be okay, but it certainly hasn’t helped with the waking up part. Hellll no. There are far too many things to go over in my brain for that!

I think about ALL of the things in my life. No particular order, jumping from topic to topic. It’s exhausting, but my brain is totally tuned in and loving every minute of it. My head acts like a little boy who’s just been given a slingshot and runs off to shoot off everything in sight (apparently this little boy lives in the 50s). I usually start by thinking about work. You don’t even need to read all of this to get the picture:

There are things in my office that are still there that I probably should have taken with me when I left. I have artwork on the wall – man would it be totally humiliating if they fired me and I still had to go in there and struggle with a painting and get out the door without anyone seeing me? Maybe I can get Work BFF to sneak some of my stuff out of there for me so there’s less to do when they fire me. Because they totally want to fire me. Should I look for another job right now? I mean, I need to have a back-up plan. What if not one else hires me and I have to go on regular unemployment? That would just be so embarrassing… admitting that I was let go? How do you even get a job that way? “Reason for leaving last job?” How do you even respond? “Oh I was let go because I had too many panic attacks that affected my job, and they got tired of it so they canned me. But that totally won’t happen if you hired me – I swear.” How do I admit that to my friends and family? I can’t tell anyone – they’ll just judge me. I’m going to have to lie about it and keep covering it up for the rest of my life and be careful not to slip up. I would lose so many friends if they caught me lying… but I need to save face. What should I do? If I tell my friends the truth they will just think I am lazy and unreliable. And they’re right. All I do these days is sleep and not work. Isn’t that what laziness really is? What kind of person can’t handle having a job and just going to it? What the hell is wrong with me? Fuck. I’ve destroyed my life. Why did I go on stress leave? I never should have done that. I should have just swallowed my pride and left everything alone. I should have never acted so impulsively. 

This morning, for instance, I woke at around 2:30 or 3a, and since I couldn’t sleep I decided to do some blog-reading. After an hour or so of that didn’t put me to sleep (I guess I am just that fascinated by others’ lives!), I figured what the hell. I got up, put on some coffee and made myself some breakfast. Then I plunked myself down in the living room and proceeded to have a Grey’s Anatomy marathon until Boyfriend got up.

Obviously, I recognize that coffee would wake me up even more, but since I have no job right now, I didn’t really care about that. I wanted that comfort. And engaging in an addictive TV show probably didn’t help either. I probably should have tried reading some books instead – but I had thrown in the towel and my goal was no longer falling asleep. In the moment, I just wanted what I wanted.

Part of my loves being awake so early. No one else is up for hours, I have the house to myself. Everything is quiet. I have a couple of cats, and they’re happy to snooze away next to me. It’s a calm, comforting feeling. I think having that experience is a good one.

What’s not good is the 5 hour nap I’ll have – like today. What a waste of sunshine (which I imagine won’t be here much longer, what with Winter coming and all). I accomplished nothing today, and feel like a lazy sloth.

Then I just repeat the process. Go to bed early, wake up too early, nap half the day away.

It’s a really difficult process to interrupt. And seeing as I don’t have a schedule to keep me in line, I’m sort of a lost cause.

But to be honest, I think all of this “exhaustion” I am feeling is all in my head.

I think the worst part of my time off is all this time alone in my head. I’m trying very hard to work on myself, but it’s difficult to face things and try something new (i.e. the way I process my thoughts). It’s hard work, and it takes some kind of brain energy that you can’t get from food & sleep. I end up feeling mentally exhausted, and sometimes it feels like it would just be so much easier to revert to my old, familiar ways. To just freak out about everything, feel that everyone is out to get me, and that I don’t deserve anything.

How fucked up is that?

It’s true though – sometimes I’d rather bask in familiarity, because it’s easier. It’s no different than when you want to lose weight. It’s way easier to just lay on the couch and eat burgers all day, even though you know every moment you spend doing that is another step backward. When you try working out and preparing healthy meals, it’s such a foreign concept that it feels like work. Even if you feel better about yourself and your future afterward. It’s easier to lay on the couch.

I need to start treating my head like that and stop lazing around on that proverbial couch. Yes, it’s difficult to sit down and re-work my thought process when I’m facing an obstacle. And it’s hard to practice meditation. It’s way easier to just fall asleep and hide from it all, or let my mind (or Ego, as I should get used to saying) run amok the way it wants to.

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Pictured above, centred: my Ego.

But just like when you’ve spent the day chowing down and feel horrible and disgusting afterward, when I wake from a nap I do not feel good. I feel groggy and afraid of the same problems I was trying to escape.

What I want to do tonight is take a sleeping pill and fall asleep. As I write this, it’s 9:30p. I’ve already been in bed for an hour and a half going through all of my thoughts like they’re an all-you-can-eat buffet. But where did that get me? No where.

It wasn’t until I went and grabbed my laptop and started to examine my thoughts that I began to feel better about myself, and started to see what it is I’m doing to myself. So I am going to finish up this post (it’s long enough anyway hehe), and try meditating for 10 minutes. Maybe I’ll be good at it, and maybe not. But I will try. Then I will go to sleep – without a pill.

If I wake up, I’m going to read my book on mindfulness for a little while, and try to “study” rather than take the easy way out and watch TV.

I think I owe it to myself to try. Just a little bit.

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Job Opportunity.

There is a really great job opportunity being posted on a couple of websites in my city right now. It’s the same job title I currently have, along with all of the same types of tasks. It looks like it was written for me.

Oh wait. It is written for me. Except it’s not.

My employer has placed an ad for my job.

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&#$*%!

Of course, the moment I saw it, my heart dropped. It was not like I was entirely surprised by this; to be honest, I’d been searching my work’s company name on various career websites to see if they’d ever post some kind of ad like this. So on some level, I knew and expected it.

But I certainly was not actually prepared for this. I felt a panic attack coming on. I felt sick to my stomach and my mind began to race. I can recognize it as my Ego saying “THEY WANT TO REPLACE YOU, THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU, AND THEY ARE TRYING TO WEED YOU OUT.” Yes, my Ego talks in all-caps.

But that’s pretty much exactly what I was thinking. That they want me out.

I immediately texted my Work BFF with the link. She is often the one who actually posts job ads for our company, but she had no idea this had been posted. It must have been my boss who did it himself.

As I walked downstairs to tell Boyfriend, I tried really, really hard to remember what my psychologist had told me. She’d gotten me to write down some simple steps in my phone about what to do when I felt a panic attack coming on, or basically whenever I felt I was going to combat.

But the problem is, when I’m defence mode, I am not able to contemplate much else. I was already vaguely aware of other reasons why my boss might have posted the job, but it didn’t matter. My anxiety was telling me it was because they want me out, and it didn’t want to consider any other reasons.

Boyfriend calmed me down. He made sure I could see that maybe my boss has other innocent reasons for posting the ad. They need to replace me because I have a big job. They legally cannot deny me my job when I am ready to return (although they could fire me and offer a severance I guess), because I am on medical leave. It’s not like I quit.

This helped a little. But I was still struggling to find that rational thought process my therapist had gone over with me. I wanted to put that plan into action and try to make it work.

But I was at a loss – not only was it not really ingrained in my memory, but my Ego was so hell bent on being right about them wanting me out, that my Ego was arguing my side instead of trying to take a step back and look at things objectively.

I went back upstairs, and Work BFF called me to talk it over. She offered very similar advice, and after we chatted for a while, I did start to feel better. She suggested that I write my boss an email setting out a plan. He has no idea where my head is at, and the fact that he is not approaching me about things, although it totally sucks, doesn’t mean he is not supportive or doesn’t care. He probably sees me as fragile and is not comfortable with it.

So I did pen an email. I tried to make it as honest and real as possible. I did not write as though I were a computer (I tend to be very formal and use, as Work BFF puts it, ‘big words’ in my letters and emails) so that I would come off as a person. I had her review it, and I am going to send it to him on Monday morning so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Meanwhile, I am studying my little cheat sheet for how to handle my panic attacks. It is difficult work. It’s not easy.

Here is an overview of what I need to do. I haven’t really gotten down to business yet. After I wrote the email, I went into hibernation and napped for a couple of hours, then continued to avoid everything until now. Since writing is one of the best ways I can express myself, and really explore things, I may as well do it here and now.

***

  • Ask myself: how can I see this differently? What am I blind to?

This should slow things down, and shift my focus. The goal is to look at things from a bigger place. But I find it near impossible when my Ego has made up my mind and things feel black & white.

But in this situation – My Ego is blind to any other result except the one he’s come up with. I could see things differently by looking at it from my boss’ perspective, or really, any outsider’s point of view.

  • What feelings are here?

My next step is to recognize my feelings as things that are not a part of me – they are just something that I am experiencing. That’s also really hard to do when you are all revved up. My therapist said it’s important not to say “I am sad,” for example, but rather “I am feeling sad” or “sadness is here.” This way, it’s easier to think of the feelings as passing clouds. They aren’t me.

Today, I was experiencing fear. Fear was telling me that I wasn’t wanted, that I was out of options, that I was not in control.

  • Is what Fear says true?

I need to think about whether Fear is really all-powerful and right about everything. It’s Fear that is doing the talking and making the decisions (along with my unwanted BFF Anxiety). But does Fear really know the absolute truth?

No, not necessarily. I have no way of knowing for certain, but I can say it’s possible that Fear is wrong. Or, at a minimum, it’s only half-true.

Perhaps my boss does want me out. Maybe he doesn’t. But that doesn’t matter: I still have control over how I react and what my next steps are. I still have options, I am still a great employee, and there are 100s of other job opportunities out there for me.

  • What IS true?

It’s important to keep my Ego in check.

This is just a circumstance. The opposite of fear, in this case, is honesty, safety, and most of all Trust.

  • If I look at things from the feeling of Trust, what would I be thinking? Feeling? Doing?

This is to help me realize that there are certainly other viewpoints, and those viewpoints are not coming from scary, pessimistic, negative places.

If I felt safe and trusting, I would be thinking that my boss is just covering his butt. He needs to solve the short-term problem of needing more support in the office while I am away. And if Trust really has an opinion, it’s that he has recognized that I needed help (I had, after all, asked for an assistant in our department in the past). Maybe he can finally see the gap I left, and needed to fill it, and also realizes that if I get hit by a bus, they need someone who can take over. They need someone who can take over even if I’m just on vacation, honestly. Maybe this person isn’t a replacement, but rather an addition.

  • Finally, I need to remember the following. The Self is the one who needs to be doing the talking.

I trust myself. I belong, and I’m wanted. I’m a good employee and I’m useful.

Those make me feel confident, open, and receptive. I feel more physically relaxed when I am experiencing those feelings of openness. I can take my time, and I have a choice.

***

I am still struggling with truly feelings the feelings of safety and trust. On paper, it makes sense. I can write all of that out and it doesn’t really have any holes in it. But it’s difficult to truly realign myself to that thought process.

I think that next time something similar happens, I am going to take out a sheet of paper and write things out. If I do this over and over, even for the small stuff, I will be better at it, and can turn it into an automatic response over time.

Hopefully, I will learn to quiet my Ego and think with my Self.

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Learning Curve.

I’ve been trying for years to attack my anxiety, instead of it attacking me, without a whole lot of success.

The success I have had is linked to calming myself during a panic attack and not allowing it to completely take over. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m quite good at keeping things together, but that’s because I’ve had two decades of practice.

When panic starts to boil, I know the things I need to do to not pass out or totally lose my shit. I need to be alone, and I need to breathe. Those are the two main objectives, and they aren’t too overwhelming. I can remember those. They’ve become second nature. I can stamp out attacks before they come full tilt, which is very, very helpful in leading a regular adult life.

So I’m pretty okay when it comes to like 60% of my attacks.

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See? I’m fine.

The remaining 40% of my attacks? I fall victim to them. And since I still have attacks despite medicine and my past therapy sessions, it means I do need to work on myself.

I need to figure my shit out.

In the past, I’ve spent time with more run-of-the-mill, scientific psychologists. They tend to remind me that anxiety is a caveman response, which I do believe. Our minds have not changed as quickly and as drastically as we have – our evolution has not kept up with our discoveries. Nowadays, we are at the top of the food chain and rarely need to run away from hungry predators or defend our homes the way we did thousands of years ago. Back then, we needed that response to escape, say, a hungry bear. Our adrenaline rushed, our heart beat fast, we zeroed in and focussed on the object of our stress, and either ran or fought. Even our digestion slowed because we needed that energy elsewhere. It saved us.

We needed the fight or flight response, we used it, and then when it was over, it disappeared. The danger was gone, and it’s in part because our response did its job. But the society we’ve created and scientific achievements have eliminated a true need for the fight or flight response. Now, it turns into a disorder.

When we feel unsafe, even for stupid present day reasons (like having to meet new people), our fight or flight response is still hardwired into our brains and comes into play. Even though it’s not exactly that useful. That tunnel vision and racing heart aren’t helping us, it’s making us worse. There’s no where for that energy to go, especially when you’re strapped to a desk, or in the grocery store, or anywhere in public. We can’t run and we can’t fight. It’s all in our heads.

But I know all of this. I understand that my reactions are just evolutionary responses. I know my triggers. I know where my anxiety came from. I have all of the answers.

I needed to see someone who could give me a new approach. And I think I’ve found her.

I’ve been seeing a psychologist who is a little more progressive when it comes to dealing with panic and anxiety.  She has her PhD, so I trust her, and she’s not suggesting that I try and deal with my issues with crystals and Himalayan salt lamps.

Not that there’s anything wrong with those avenues, but they just aren’t for me.

But she’s got some really good ways of dealing with my own mind, and that’s by shifting my Ego out of the way. My Ego, I’ve discovered, is taking centre stage and ruining everything. Because I let him do it.

The single most important thing I’ve learned so far is to detach myself from my anxiety. It’s been kind of a game changer for me. Anxiety is not ME. It’s like a really bad accessory to my Self.

Yes, that’s a capital S “Self”. I’m getting into that Buddhist, yoga, meditation-y kinda stuff. But it makes so much sense. And it’s so beautiful.

My Ego and my Self are very different. My Ego is a maniac who thinks everything is black and white. Good or bad. He’s an extremist. He is the one who chatters on and on in my brain about all of the worst case scenarios, and can’t just BE. He is the worst.

My Self is my conscious self. She is my awareness. She just chills and observes and I equate her with love. She is Me.

Think about it for a moment.

Say something in your head. Say “I can’t shut up”. Say those words in your mind.

You ‘heard’ it, didn’t you? That was your Ego. It wasn’t you. You are the one who heard it, so you aren’t the one who said it.

The first step to realizing this stuff is just to listen and become aware of that chattering voice in your head. Your Ego is the one who responds to ev-er-y-thing out there, and makes flip-flopping judgments in regard to pretty much everything. He’s full of opinions and responses. Just listen to him rattle on:

“Okay, John didn’t text me back. He must be angry with him. I know he’s probably just busy, but, no, I mean he looked at me kind of funny yesterday so many he’s pissed. He’s definitely angry. It must have been something I said… what was it, what was it…. Who knows. John is like everyone else in my life. He doesn’t truly love me anyway, so I shouldn’t even care because….”

I mean, isn’t that how our minds tend to go when you’re anxious and come to the worst conclusions?

The key to starting on this journey is to just notice it. Don’t do anything, don’t try anything, and don’t think too much into it. Just notice that voice rambling on about everything. You’ll start to notice, like I have, that it’s there. And he just has a stupid opinion on everything. It’s almost never true – it’s almost always a distorted perception. A leap to conclusions based on almost no facts.

I am by no means an expert on this stuff. I am a beginner. But I do strongly believe that this might be a major step in the right direction for me. Maybe it’s the key to getting better, and to handling stress better in the future.

My learning will be ongoing. I don’t think it will ever end. I don’t think I’ll turn into the Dalai Lama any time soon, or ever. But I think I might be able to tap into a few things that just might help me perceive life a little differently.

Hopefully my ENORMOUS fan base won’t mind reading about it from time to time 😉

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