Tuesday, March 25, 2014

finding some strength

Oy. So, the setback I experienced a couple of weekends ago has been very difficult to snap back from. The lack of confidence I have in myself when it comes to achieving positive things is alarming. Yet I can always count on myself to be self-sabotaging or self-loathing. Fabulous recipe for recovery.

So a rough few days, but did manage to force myself out for the usual dog walking and a couple of trips to local stores. Have been keeping myself busy with cooking, cleaning, organizing and the like. I try to take care of myself with regards to appearance, but it sadly comes in last place these days. Exercise rears its head now and then, but not nearly as much as it should. Supposedly, exercise would do wonders for me (if I wasn't so tired from the constant worry and obsessing) so it's something I need to commit to. And I've researched some nutrients and foods that may help calm nerves so we will see what happens.

I talked to God throughout the past few bad days and he didn't steer me wrong. I successfully survived a highly-anticipated psychiatry appointment and trips to Target and Chick-Fil-A that followed. I will count these as victories given that a couple of weeks ago I was in the fetal position in my living room embarrassed because I had a panic attack in my own parents' home.

Therapy continues in home this week, along with some good reading (I researched a couple of self-help books that came widely recommended based on reader reviews)...I also need to stop the "bad" reading i.e. the stories of sufferers that are not helpful and are only harmful (there is a mess of crap out there in the internet world, I'll tell ya.)

Hoping everyone's first week of Spring has been good - I feel as though today gets this week off to a positive start :)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I'm gonna try a different approach tonight. As you may have gathered, my past week and a half as been ROUGH. I feel as though I am at square one in some regards....back to my post-Christmas mess. In other ways though, I am much better off. I've overcome hurdles, received support from both unexpected and anticipated sources, started a medicinal regimen that may finally be a winner, and I am able to snap out of severe panic attacks faster than I used to in the past. Trying not to focus on the heartbreak of the accompanying agoraphobia and the frequency of my attacks.

But I am tired of being so gloomy all of the time. I have been struggling to get myself out of this negative mindset because I don't think it helps the recovery process when setbacks occur. So I am going to try gratitude for a change.

I am grateful that I was able to earn two academic degrees (both above a 3.5 final GPA) before the age of 30. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful that I finally found a partner that is worthy of all the fuss I bestow upon him. I am grateful that no one in my support network has made me feel guilty for what I've endured (yes, there are folks out there who are from the "just get over it" school of thought - sometimes I am guilty of that negative self-talk myself). I am grateful that no matter how bad the panic attack, the feeling is finite. I am grateful for in-house animal therapy thanks to our two wonderful furry companions. As a side note, don't underestimate the power of animal therapy. My cat, Lucky, was around for my last (not as) severe breakdown and I am fully convinced I wouldn't have made it through had it not been for her love.

I am grateful that I've been able to maintain good relationships with many friends that have come in and out of my life, even if life drags us farther apart emotionally and/or physically. I am grateful that I have the privilege of being able to pick and choose foods that aid in my recovery process. I am grateful that I know what I am suffering from and can acknowledge that deep down, I'm not crazy.

I am grateful. Scared, sometimes sad, but grateful. Let's keep that vibe going.


Friday, March 14, 2014

My old life

Going through a severe and debilitating episode of Generalized Anxiety Disorder/Panic Disorder/Agoraphobia has been a grief process of sorts in many ways for me. As I've said before, I was severely depressed in the year leading up until all of this. Apparently, I was a champ in putting on a good front - my parents, coworkers and friends pretty much had no idea and thought my breakdown came out of the blue. Only Mike and a couple of close confidants really knew the depth of it all, and even they didn't really know until now. To an outsider, things in my life were pretty good - working in the field of my choice, making enough money to live comfortably, two years into a committed and faithful partnership with a genuinely nice and good guy....good physical health. And my mental state could have been salvaged with therapy sooner had I known it would be this bad. And now I grieve the loss of that life - the one I picked apart all of the time because I was depressed and had no idea.

Last year was a big one. Switched jobs, lived in three different apartments (all dreadful in their own right), health issues with both pets, reunited with an estranged and very important family member and mended fences with some important relationships that had long been neglected for silly reasons. All good stuff right? Yet I didn't appreciate it. I was angry all of the time in the year before my breakdown. I was angry at myself for "letting myself go" and gaining weight - back in college, I could eat anything and my metabolism took care of it. I was angry at myself for financial decisions I made and wishing I knew then what I know now.

Others were on the receiving end too, but most didn't know it. I was angry with my partner because we hadn't yet figured out an effective way to communicate with one another and it was really hard to do so due to working opposite work shifts. I was angry at my family and they had no idea. Angry at my mom for being a smoker. I worry that I will lose her every day. Angry at my dad for not keeping up with routine physical appointments. Jealous of my brother as he went through his growth process from college student to working professional - he lives at home with my parents and also did so in his years at community college and as an intern before graduation. I spent my twenties doing everything in my power to distance myself from my seemingly boring hometown and the dead-end it was in regards to professional opportunities. Now I yearn for those years back and for more time with my family and loved ones as the reality of human mortality finally hit me. For the past two years, I secretly would fear each time I left my family's home that it would be the last time I saw them.

More and more, I see Facebook blow up with separations and divorces (including my own, for which I was still angry at myself and my ex-spouse for), family deaths and other hardships. Reminders of all the bad stuff, and seeing the marriages and babies that I don't have...nothing good comes of Facebook except an increased awareness of current events and the ability to communicate with those that are far away.

So, I grieve for many things. The life I had where I was able to push away my anxiety and still function normally. Maybe long-term it wasn't a good coping method, but I felt self-sufficient. I grieve that I can't get the time back with my parents that I could have had when I wasn't plagued with agoraphobia. I grieve the loss of my youth in a sense. I'm not especially vain and don't care about turning 30, but I will never get those movie nights at Cinema 6 with my high school friends or the $2 You-Call-It Wednesday night drinks at Shorty's Bar in Kutztown with my RA group again. I have never been able to live in the moment, to soak it in and enjoy it. To relish in it and not worry about what I did/will do wrong.

I hope that through this whole recovery process, I learn the art of mindfulness and truly can start to appreciate it all before it's too late.


Monday, March 10, 2014

A constant struggle

The past few days have been very, very difficult. Perhaps it's when I set high expectations for the days to come, and they don't go as anticipated....maybe that's when I start to feel unraveled and defeated.

This weekend, I pushed myself to go with Mike to my parents house for a nice Saturday lunch, complete with my favorite Chinese takeout from my hometown and my mom's homemade chocolate chip cookies. The morning was surprisingly good. Had a breakfast drink (I have myself in a routine of drinking Carnation Breakfast Essentials because it's good to have something in the AM, even if my appetite isn't raging.). Took a Xanax and kept the morning free of anything stressful. Even made some of my chamomile lavender tea for the road (I swear by it... it makes for a very serene morning). Packed my purse with my panic attack pack, so to speak - a soothing hot water bottle, lavender aromatherapy salve and my iPad loaded with Kindle library books. The first hour of the ride was difficult, but I understood why. For those that weren't aware of this, I hadn't been 10 minutes outside of Quakertown since Christmas. So seeing the big outside world for the first time in over two months was big.

Halfway through the ride, Mike craved an energy drink (God bless my partner for making the morning drive after working 4pm-midnight beforehand) and my thimble bladder couldn't take it. So we stop at a familiar service station off I-380N. Big mistake. Crowded bathroom=me twitching and hyperventilating until we were back on the road. Turns out that in the throes of fight-or-flight, ol' thimble bladder has a bigger capacity than I ever imagined. And this all set the tone for the visit.

I missed my parents so much up until this point (they're about two hours from where I live), and I spent most of the visit on the sofa laying with my water bottle and hating myself. I was too scared to move, scared that the panic wouldn't subside, not wanting to ruin the day or worry my family. Starving but so amped up that I could barely swallow my own saliva let alone the delicious food they arranged for me. Dreading the ride home and wishing immensely that we lived closer to my parents. Being so scared that even my own hometown doesn't feel "home" enough for me to feel safe.

A massive amount of guilt comes along with having an anxiety and panic disorder. Saturday and the days that have followed since have been one big self-hatred fest. Everyone around of me has been so proud that I got out and did what did. But all I can see sometimes is the failure, the loss of normalcy...remembering that at one point in my life, I was brave enough to graduate college and then go on to earn an M.Ed. Brave enough to be an "extreme couponer" of sorts and spend an entire day shopping for our household in search of the best deals. Brave enough to present to groups of 10-100 people and to enjoy it. Brave enough to enjoy my food without worrying how it will affect me. Brave period. I now hide in our small apartment and lean on Mike both physically and emotionally on my excursions out. Victories. Two steps forward.  Followed by a false sense of defeating the disorder, then setback, guilt, another step back...and so it goes. And so it goes.

I firmly believe I was depressed for about a year or more leading up to my breakdown, but to change this much as a person seemingly overnight? I have never felt the rug be pulled out from under my already-unsteady feet that much in all my life. I am grieving the death of who I thought I was and he grief process is not neat or tidy in any way,

Is this negative self-talk toxic to my recovery? Absolutely. Do I know that I'll have an upswing and come out of this dark period to a less dark place? Yes, but it won't be what it was before my breakdown. I have a lot of work to do to get there. I hate that. Even on my "good" days I'm not good.

Two steps forward and one back, or is it the other way around? Not sure tonight.