Anxiety

Ok, I’m stepping out. I’m going to start trying to post unprompted things in addition to my year of discovery stuff. I’m traveling next week and I want to talk about that here. I might even share the blog with my book of face contacts. We’ll see. It’s a big step sharing my thoughts, but as I said in an earlier post, I tend to overshare and under-share in cycles. I’m still in the under-share place right now but I’m thinking wanting to tell people about my trip will push me to overshare again.

So let’s talk about anxiety. The topic came up with my oldest daughter last night. In this conversation I realized and said out loud that anxiety started at a really early age for me. I should probably unpack this with my therapist. Instead, I think I’ll talk about it here.

I remember very little before about my 11th birthday. The memories I do have feel like out of body experiences. I can’t really tell what I actually remember and what was a story someone told me. For example, I don’t think I actually remember swim lessons when I was 3, but the story was told over and over. Apparently, my mother took me several days and every day I’d get sick to the point of vomiting when I got there. She finally gave up. My entire life I have had these type of experiences. When I’m extremely uncomfortable or nervous, I get a response from my gut. This can last a few hours or a few days.

I do remember my first real panic attack. The girls were babies, both still in diapers. My one time alone was walking to the mailbox, if they both napped at the same time. This was actually pretty uncommon. My oldest didn’t need naps, ever. My youngest fought sleep all times of day and night. I was tired, no doubt. They went to sleep this day though. I walked to the mailbox and found an unexpected bill. Somewhere between the mailbox and my house I started to melt down. I remember sliding into the floor of my kitchen and not being able to breathe or function. Ultimately I called a friend that talked me through it. It scared me to death. Looking back, it seems so silly. Intellectually, it always does. That doesn’t make it any less terrifying and uncontrollable in the moment.

My parents did not believe in drugs for mental health. They didn’t believe in counseling or therapy either. I’m not sure they even believed in “mental health” period. Pretty much their response to anything like that was “suck it up” or pray about it, but mostly the first one. It’s not their fault. I’m pretty sure it is their generation, their own background and the stigma of mental health issues that we’re really only just now starting to deal with as a society. While a lot of emotion was expressed in my childhood, it was controlled and limited, if that makes sense. We talked about love a lot but never acknowledge anxiety or anger or a lot of other things. It’s fair to say I didn’t learn good coping mechanisms.

The fact that I survived my 20’s and 30’s, including a cancer battle, without some kind of intervention is a an absolute miracle. My desire to “look” okay probably pulled me through a lot. I think in general people think I have it all together. I put on a great show.

I melted down at 37. I don’t think I want to talk about why. It doesn’t matter. There was a breaking point. I asked a friend about counseling and got a recommendation. I tried out 2 or 3 before landing with someone that worked. It helped. A lot.

I melted down again at 39. Again, I know why, but don’t want to talk about it. It was then that I said to my GP that I thought I was losing it and she suggested medication. I’ve been on that same medication and dose for 10 years. I don’t know what would happen if I stopped taking it and I have no intention of finding out. About once a year the GP asks how I’m doing and if I need to increase or if I think I could decrease. I don’t.

So life, therapy, medication, self awareness have decreased the anxiety that for many years was truly crippling. I cope now. I can’t remember when I’ve had a break/meltdown/attack. This is good. Oh, I still worry. I have sleep issues and stomach issues on the regular, but I’m so much better than I was.

I wish we could get past the stigma of mental health issues. We wouldn’t make fun or ignore a physical issue… although maybe we do sometimes. We are definitely less likely to though. I think literally everyone could benefit from therapy and whole lot of people could benefit from a prescription.

How Others See You

  • Do you prefer to present a “highlight reel” on your social media accounts, or are you more neutral? Why?

It depends. I think I go through cycles. At times I tell way too much and then I disappear for a while. I think this is probably a good indication of how bad I am at boundaries.

  • Do people sometimes seem to misread your intentions? If so, why do you think that might be?

Now how would I know? I often feel misunderstood, which I guess is at least related to this question. To be more specific, I think my intentions are mostly always good, seeking to find peace or offer help, but I don’t think people always know that.

  • What makes a person look interesting in your eyes? How about success?

I think literally everyone is interesting. I love hearing other’s stories and usually ask a lot of questions when I meet someone new. While I am interested in learning about others’ success, I’m probably even more interested in so much more. I want to know what people try and doesn’t work, what they learn, who has influenced them, what they believe. It is all so fascinating to me.

  • How awesome are you? Serious question! List all the things, big and small, that you love about yourself. Note: try not to make this about what you’ve attained or achieved. Think about it more in terms of traits (confidence, wisdom, kindness, a certain chill factor, etc.)

I think I’m pretty cool. I wouldn’t say awesome. Of course I see way more of my losses than of my wins, but I do love things about myself.

  • I never meet a stranger. I can talk to anyone about anything.
  • I’m a good mom. I’ve always put my kids first and I pretty sure they know they can count of me no matter what.
  • I’m a good problem solver. In crisis and stress, my brain immediately kicks in. Emotions come later.
  • I’m open and kind.
  • I’m a great judge of character, which can be annoying, especially when other people are enamored with someone but I know how it’s gonna turn out. Seriously, I’m never wrong.

Belongings

  • Look around at your belongings until you find something that sparks a strong memory (a family heirloom, a phone that delivered unexpected news, a piece of clothing that you purchased for a special night). Tell the story.

I’m actually not much for “stuff.” I’m sure it traces back to the fact that our house burned when I was 7 and everything was lost. Every. Thing. I’d say the most special things I have now are gifts from or memories with my children. My office is now in my oldest’s old bedroom. Daily I’m reminded of times when my girls were small. Closest to me right now are an elephant picture the girls gave me several years ago and the cutest little elephant candles my youngest gave me for my birthday this year. The memories are way more important than the “stuff.”

  • What was your most prized possession as a kid? Why did you love it?
  • What is your most prized possession now? Why is it so special?

It’s funny. I don’t remember having a prized possession as a kid and I don’t think I have one now.

  • If your residence were on fire, what would you make sure not to leave behind?

My dog. Duh. I’d probably try to grab pictures.

Places

I’m on vacation so this is a good prompt. Honestly, the other topics from the year of exploration are wearing me down. I think that might say something about how closed off I am, even though I pretend I’m not.

  • Did you have a special place that you often went to as a kid? This can be anything from a tree fort to an arcade to a fictional land in a book. Tell us all about it.

My special place as long as I can remember is the beach, any beach. I don’t remember my first trip, but there have been a lot of them. I know we went when I was young, staying in those cheap hotels (that weren’t that cheap) in Panama City Beach. It was basically an annual trek. At some point, we started camping, first in a pop up and then in a bigger camper. I remember feeling free there. My mother loved the beach and was happy there. Looking back, I’m sure that impacted everything else. Somehow rules were looser and the close watch they kept on me at home loosened a bit. I could explore and make friends and walk and bike without restriction. That fed my soul then and continues to now.

There’s a peace for me at the ocean. The salt air and sea breeze truly feed my soul. I love the sun too. My favorite beach days are the ones where I can spend the whole day there, packing a sandwich for lunch, napping, walking, reading. I love the feeling at the end of those days, showering, feeling the slightest sunburn.

  • If you like the outdoors, think of a favorite place and describe it as if you’re an explorer discovering a new land for the first time.

Since the pandemic especially, I have come to truly love my front deck. I mean I liked it before, but now I get to drink coffee most morning there, escape outside during the day sometimes and then enjoy the evenings too. This time of year I love listening to the birds and watching the squirrels. It’s a peaceful place.

What place have you always wanted to visit? Why?

My dream trip is Italy.

Connections

  • Think of a relationship in your past (family, romantic, friendship, professional, etc.) How would your life be different without that connection? Tell a story of this connection.

I think every relationship important and has meaning. Regardless if you’ve known someone a long time, or just met, those people have an effect on you – good and bad.

  • Is there a relationship you spent “too long” in? What made you keep trying?

In general, I stay in all relationships forever. That’s weird. I can’t think of one relationship I’ve actually walked away from. This is good and bad. I don’t believe in burning bridges, which is probably good, but I also let people abuse (maybe not the right word) me for far too long. What’s really interesting is that I *think* I’m leaving things open but often I disappear in my communication from really almost anyone. There’s gotta be something deep going on there. So maybe I don’t stay in relationships forever. Maybe I just abandon them. I should think about this more.

  • What about work relationships? Can you create more connections there?

My work relationships now are just that – work relationships. This is new to me in this and my last job. My job before those was 12 years at one place. I build relationships there that are true friendships that remain today, outside of work. I’m not sure that can happen now. One, I work 100% remotely now. Relationships like that are hard enough to build in person but seemingly impossible now. That said, I’m not sure I’d even want to anymore. It seems to be much “safer” to keep work and personal separate. Maybe I’ll change my mind on this again though.

  • If you are on social media, does it make you feel more or less connected to people (there are no wrong answers here, everyone is different)? Why do you think this is?

I am on social media. I engage most in Facebook (the book of face) and I do mostly enjoy it. I love seeing/reading old friends and keeping up with what they’re doing. I have to balance that at time with the politics. I do wish I didn’t know some things about some people but through the last election cycle I mostly unfollowed and hid those folks. I am conflicted by what I think are the benefits of different opinions and the heartache from it.

Fresh Start

  • Recall a time in your life when you made a fresh start. How did your life change?

There have been a lot of “transitions,” but I’m not sure there’s ever been a complete fresh start. While some things change, many others remain the same. I’ve been married for nearly 30 years. I’ve lived in the same house for 22 years. I have started new jobs though, gotten more education/degrees. One big transition was going from working fairly close to home to working in Atlanta and taking on a big commute. Another big transition is stopping that commute and basically never leaving home.

  • Tell the story of a time that you tried something new.

I try new things a lot. In fact, I like to try new things. My shower is lined with all kinds of shampoo and soap, although I doubt this is the level of risk this question is trying to get at. I think I like stability (living in the same house) while still embracing change. I don’t get attached to “stuff”. I like trying new food.

  • Do you feel like trying new things is harder for you than most people? If so, why do you think that is?

Not at all.

  • Do you have a favorite hobby or activity? What made you get started?

I’ve recently learned my favorite hobby is being busy. I need to work on that. I enjoy reading and have recently found a love of laying in my hammock. I’m setting goals and being intentional about figuring out what is best for me.

  • Can you think of a time when something bad (such as a breakup, tragedy, or job loss) ended up being the catalyst for a beautiful new beginning? Write about it.

Oh boy can I. I’m not sure I want to talk about much of that here, but I can certainly reflect on it. One big change time for me was having and recovering from cancer. It definitely gave me a different perspective. Now, 15 full years later, I see those changes were both good and bad. I learned and changed and even now still feel the effects of that time. I can say the same about relationships.

  • Have you ever read a book, watched a movie, or had a conversation that sparked something in you that changed your life forever? Tell the story.

I read a lovely book about elephants that had a huge impact on me. I know that sounds silly and honestly I can’t even remember the book’s name now, but it really made me think. I came to love elephants – everything about them. I should do a post alone on this. I’ve since begun collecting little elephants and have a tattoo on my thigh. Again, this is a great thinking point for a future deep dive. I love this!

Grief and Loss

I avoid things. I have full on avoided this post for over 2 weeks after I swore I’d write at least every week. It’s time though.

April 2nd was the 1st anniversary of my mother’s death. This year has been like no other. I know so many people lost loved ones this year. Covid. It’s overwhelming when I think about it. Mom did not die because of Covid but how we mourned and how we survived after were greatly impacted. As I’ll discuss below, this isn’t my first loss, but it may very well be the greatest, most difficult. There’s a lot to unpack around it. I hope I can do that here.

  • What is the first experience with grief that you remember?

My baby sister died when I was 5 years old. She was born with multiple problems and lived 19 days. This impacted my parents in insurmountable ways. While I am certain that the whole family needed counseling, no one got any. We didn’t believe in things like that. This loss would impact my entire life, up to and including my mother’s death. That said, I do not actually remember much of anything about it. I remember seeing a picture of me at the hospital looking into the glass of the nursery, but do not remember doing it. I remember my Nanny’s maid, (I think her name was Hattie, but I’m not positive), hugging me tight and telling me when she died and that God didn’t make mistakes. I remember holding my paternal grandmother’s hand as we walked to the cemetary behind the little coffin and her telling me that everything would be okay. I wouldn’t say this was grief though. It was loss – loss that I wouldn’t understand until much later.

The first grief I remember is when my maternal grandfather, Dee, died. I was 12. Until that time, I never thought anyone would ever leave. I’m not sure I knew what death even was. Granddaddy got up early one morning with a headache He got up, took some Bayer Aspirin, and then crawled back in bed with my Granny. She said she rolled on her side, he spooned up next to her, and then she heard him take his last breath. Massive heart attack after a long, full life.

My heart was absolutely broken. I remember crying for days. I wrote a poem for his funeral and sobbed as the preacher read it. I couldn’t imagine how life could go on without this wonderful man.

  • Who is the most important person you’ve lost? Write about them. Recall specific memories.

This troubles me. Important? Everyone I’ve lost is important. I simply can’t distinguish.

  • Is there someone you’ve lost that you’d like to write a letter to? What would you say?

I feel pretty good about my last conversations with everyone. No regrets. Mostly I’d want everyone to know that we’re okay. I’m okay.

  • What is your most recent experience with grief? How is it different from earlier experiences?

My mother’s passing last year is the most recent. People say when you lost your mom it is a different kind of grief. If you know, you know. Now I know. I feel the loss of my mother literally every day. This is kind of odd to me because I didn’t talk to her every day. We weren’t bff’s like some women are with their mothers. We were close. I talked to her a few times a week. I usually called her when something was wrong or I needed help, but I didn’t confide in her about everything. And yet, I feel the loss every day. Our family is forever different. A year later, I do still pick up the phone to call her sometimes or just thing “I need to tell mom about this.” I miss her checking on me. I miss her cooking. I miss the way she kept us all together. I’m sure time will heal some of this. I’m also sure that time won’t heal all of it.

  • What have you gained through loss? This may only apply if enough time has passed to give you the needed perspective.

Perspective and reflection. Losing someone has a way of showing you what is really important. In many ways, it calls on you to reflect. I think that’s what I’ve gained. Perspective and reflection. How do I want to live so that other’s will reflect on how I’ve made their life better? How can I leave a better legacy?