Uncategorized

Holiday Affirmations: Day 9

I can’t take full credit for this one, because my husband had to tell me this today.

As you’re making plans and trying to execute them, and then find that you are plagued by anxiety, take a moment to be brutally honest with yourself about why you may be feeling that way. Is the course of action you’ve chosen based on your conceived notions of how others will receive you? Is there something you can do to change that? In the best case scenario, what would make you feel better? Can you compromise your plans to be more in line with your own happiness? Stop and think about it. Anxiety is like a leak; follow it to its source and then figure out what to do, instead of only focusing on the puddles.

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Creative Advice, NaNoWriMo, Personal

It’s Okay

This time last week, I was on top of my game. I had words running off my fingers like honey from a comb. I was making magic, awesome and fierce and unstoppable. I was a musician working on my self-titled album, music flowing through me. I was a wizard over a cauldron of promising toil and trouble.

And then Tuesday happened. The storm.

And then Wednesday happened. The aftermath.

And it hurt. I want to say that I kept moving. That even though someone increased the gravity inside the chambers of my heart, I said, “Nope. Still going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

But I didn’t.

I got depressed, and basically from Thursday through Sunday I didn’t really write anything. I felt like garbage. I was tense and anxious and no matter how much I wanted to will things into existence, everything just shorted out. And I was so mad at myself because I wanted to continue. I wanted to say that I was bigger than everything that was happening. But I wasn’t.

Now, as I’m finally getting back to a state of normalcy, I want to tell you that it’s okay.

It’s okay to lose your way. It’s okay to get angry and upset. It’s okay to rage quit now and then. It’s normal. Don’t beat yourself up over it. No sane self-help book has been written that says, “Self-flagellation is a sure-fire way to get yourself in the state of mind you want to be in!!” It’s okay to step away from your work and have a good cry.

Know that you won’t feel this way forever. It will pass. Even if it’s something indicative of a larger problem that you’re dealing with and even if it’s something that isn’t just going to go away (it rarely is)…your heart is surprisingly buoyant. You won’t always be at the bottom of the ocean. Eventually, you’re going to float back up to the top.

It’s okay. Get back to work when you’re ready.

And you will be ready again. I promise.

mental health, Personal, Uncategorized

Living with Anxiety

This afternoon, I had an episode of anxiety laced with depression.

It wasn’t like it sometimes is, where it’s following in the wake of a runaway stress motorboat. It also didn’t descend over me like a blanket of smoke — the kind where you wake up into it and realize you can neither breathe nor see a few inches past your face.

It came on a beautiful, quiet day, when work wasn’t sucking and I wasn’t at odds with anyone. It came without any provocation, when I had been eating well and stretching and exercising and drinking lots of water. It came like a flaming toilet hurtling from outer space.

It happens. Like shit.

And it’s easy to get angry. I did, scrubbing tears off my cheeks and all but flinging them across the room. Because while one part of my brain was having a meltdown, the other part was standing over top of them going, “Dude, what is wrong with you?”

And there isn’t an answer when this happens. You can sort of take note, recognize it for what it is, but it is literally a whirlpool. And the more you fight, the more tired and aching you get.

A few reminders when you’re going through this (for you as much as me):

  • You are not broken. You are not damaged goods. And accepting that means also accepting that there are no returns.
  • There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Be calm and approach someone you trust and explain the situation. Let the love in, as much as you are concerned about being “annoying” or “clingy.”
  • Breathe. Just give yourself some time and some space. You are okay.
  • This too shall pass.

 

inspiration, Self Dare, Uncategorized

5 Living Reminders

  1. There’s somebody out there who is doing worse than you right now.
  2. If you’re concerned that you’re not as good of a person as you think you are, that puts you ahead of the game (keep exploring that).
  3. In a whirlpool, if you panic, you die. Relax. Ride it out.
  4. Give yourself a little bit of mercy now and then. You’re the only one hearing you say ‘uncle.’
  5. Touch your own heart. Feel it beating. Remember that you’re still here.
Poetry, Writing

Treating Chemical Burns

Smell the morning, like linen and empty notebooks,
And touch the air as it hovers and sparkles, no matter what the clock says,
Spoon the possibility into your coffee.

Cover your ears when the coal train thoughts buzz like insects,
The humming that gets suddenly louder
And stops for a second when everything tenses,
Fleeing and then returning for purchase.

Heed the copper smell of the creeping what-if
That clings to fingers and never concedes to any soap, any balm,
And accept its presence
Because hands still work even when they stink.

The color of the Bad Day isn’t blue
But rather every color and even ones with no name
That are worn on breast pockets and ties
And in flower crowns and tie-dyed necklaces.

Inhale the toxicity of the clenched jaw, the sweaty palms,
Let it linger until you can’t hold it in anymore
And then watch what animals form out of the smoke
As you let go.

You are more than the sum of your beautiful pain.

 

mental health, Self Dare, Uncategorized

5 Tactics to Immediately Help Stress

So you’re stuck at work or at a party or you’re in the middle of a crowded Chipotle, and suddenly it hits you like a summer thunderstorm: stress. Just like that, you go from ‘I think I *will* get guac, even though it’s going to cost extra’ to ‘I’m never going to be able to finish all the things I have going on right now.’ Some people may not be able to wrap their mind around that, but as someone who suffers from anxiety, it happens more often than I would like.

And while you can give people the pointers that work in the long run – exercise, meditation, the right amount of sleep, the corrective dosage of vitamin chill – sometimes that’s not going to be possible in the middle of rush hour.

So here are five methods of dealing with stress on the spot:

  1. Visualization and dialogue: I have found that a very helpful way of dealing with immediate attacks of stress is to imagine it as a person or object that you can talk to. Explain in no uncertain terms that you acknowledge its existence and that you will deal with it in time. Let stress stand next to you in line, but do not let it do the ordering.
  2. Count your breaths: You obviously can’t go into downward dog in the middle of Denny’s, but you can inhale and exhale (and you should be doing that already). My favorite count is a 7-second in and 11-second out.
  3. Focus on details: This is especially helpful if you can find something pleasant to focus on, like a flower or an animal. But put all your attention on an object and list as many details in your head as possible. What color is it? What size? What’s your favorite part of that object? Make up a story about it. Anything to divert your attention from the inside of your own head.
  4. Stockpile your favorite funny things: Jokes, vines, one-liners. You can even keep them programmed into your phone. Look at a few and have a laugh. I find humor is a quick way to distract myself. And if I don’t have anything, I force myself to smile. It works surprisingly well.
  5. Think of your favorite song: A happy song. Upbeat. If you can, sing it or hum it. Dance a little (like no one is watching – even if they are). If you have earbuds, listen to it on your phone. Let it take you to a better time. Enjoy it.

How do you deal with stress on the go? Tell me about it!

5 Things, Self Dare, Uncategorized

5 Reminders for Both of Us

  1. Don’t fight against fear or anxiety or depression. The children that reside in your mind will never understand what you’re saying and will just scream louder. Find things to distract them and go about your business.
  2. Ignore perfection. Complete your daily tasks even if they do not become the stuff of legends. Then get up and do it again.
  3. Saying “I don’t care” is easy. Saying that you will continue to care when it is the hardest option and smiling despite all pains is a miracle. Believe in miracles.
  4. Fight on. Fight hard. Never surrender. Life is an action movie that we think is a rom-com.
  5. When in doubt, carry a supply of sweet treats. Sometimes reinforcements will be necessary.
mental health, Self Dare, Uncategorized

30 Minute Miracles

My day job recently has been…very stressful.

Very stressful.

Sometimes, I finish the work day, and I am in a jumbled state that can only be described as “frazzled.” I cross the finish line and my legs won’t stop. I get to the end of the sentence and I can’t just put down the period and be done.

This is a very stark contrast to how I normally operate, when things are running smoothly: I’m a perfectly functioning automobile heading down life’s interstate. Oh, it’s time to change lanes? I put on my turn signal, move over and boom. Easy.

When I’m stressed out, it’s Fast and Furious, Part Katie’s-Gonna-Kill-Someone.

So I learned something very useful but surprisingly difficult to do: I take 30 minutes and only do things I want to. I close the door to my office. I cross-stitch. I listen to music. I mess around on my computer. I doodle.

I imagine you’re waiting for the ‘difficult’ part here. The activities themselves are pleasant, sure, but it’s the awareness of what is waiting on the other side of the door. There’s this tiny version of me, banging on it with both fists, saying, “Hey! Hey! There’s dinner to make! That laundry isn’t going to put itself away! You do not have time to just be hiding in your room!”

The hell I don’t.

30 minutes. Think about it. How many times have you wasted 30 minutes on an extra episode of a television show? Or hitting the snooze on the clock by your bed?

By taking the time to gather my mental marbles up and put them back in the bag where they belong, I know they aren’t getting lost. I can come at my to-do list reinvigorated.

Give it a try. You have time. I dare you.

mental health, Uncategorized

Effective Combat vs Depression

Remember how I was talking about the whole holiday letdown bit? Yeah, one of the side effects is depression. Not exactly fiery poops or death, but depression really sucks.

I have suffered from depression since puberty, and its hyperactive cousin anxiety has been around even longer than that. Even after that long, I’m still not used to knowing when it’s around. Suddenly, I’m just frustrated and I don’t want to do anything or go anywhere. My mind goes all out to ridiculous places. I suddenly question everything: my job, my home, my friends, my entire life. It’s like everything in me assumes that I made some huge mistake along the way, and now how I feel is a consequence of that.

It’s so not true, y’all.

It’s easy enough to make lists of things to help you out of a funk, but when you don’t realize that that’s where you are, you may as well not have them at all. However, here are some of the things I say to myself that help:

– You are more than this feeling in this moment.

– You do not deserve this anymore than you deserve a headache or the flu.

– You’re not going to remember this. What you will remember is the things you still go and do even when you feel like this.

– Just take one step at a time. Do this thing now. Then do this. It may not be fun, but when it’s over, it’ll be better.

Anybody else struggle with depression? Anything that helps you?

mental health, Personal, Uncategorized

Aftermath!

Phew, guys. That’s all I can say. Phew.

These past two months have been absolutely crazy-go-nuts. In November, I did NaNoWriMo (and won!). In the middle of that was Thanksgiving, which is a big cooking holiday for us, and then everything from Black Friday until, like, this past Saturday was…Christmas.

Christmas, with the making of gifts for friends and family.

Christmas, with the enjoyment of music and movies.

Christmas, with the traveling and visiting (we live in Pittsburgh and our families live in Maryland and Southern Virginia).

Christmas, with the scheduling of all of the above.

And now New Years is in spitting distance, and I’m holding my head like…what just happened and why is 2015 ending I can’t even.

I’m not sure why, but the combination fried rice of making, doing, seeing, being and working has made my brain feel like it’s pretty much just that: scrambled egg in soft grain. With peas and carrots. I can tell that I’ve reached my limit because all my anxiety which is normally just sort of simmering beneath the surface is erupting all Old-Faithful style. This comparison works because Old Faithful is more like Anything But, because it’s not easy to predict when it’s going to happen.

My anxiety manifests itself in obsessive thinking patterns, over-analyzing, and Way Too Big Picture questioning. I get in bed, and I ask my husband, “Do you think I’m where I’m supposed to be? I’m so old. What am I doing? I’m pretty sure the world is ending.” These are not things that one should be thinking about before they sleep. In fact, my anxiety created this bizarre dream in which a Jason Momoa lookalike berated me at length – about my appearance, my life choices, what I was doing with myself.

It is safe to say I woke up confused, perturbed and hurt.

The post-holiday letdown is something I know that other people deal with too. We get so, so wrapped up in the season that when it’s all over, you end up looking around like, “Okay! What’s next?” And the answer is a big slap in the face by baby new year.

So, y’all, if you’re anything like me…be good to yourself right now. Take everything a little bit at a time. Create a to do list and commit to taking care of just one thing every day. Get sleep. Eat well, even when the anxiety demons are all, “Dip the chocolate bar IN the Speculos spread!”

You’ll feel a hell of a lot better in a week. I know it.