Sunday, June 29, 2014

...and one step back

The hallmark of having generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder with agoraphobia (in my experience anyway) is that I take two steps forward in my recovery progress, and when I experience a perceived setback in my recovery. it hits hard. Even though I know I'm not back at Square One (i.e. January and being afraid to leave the house and speak to anyone), setback rattle my core in a way I can't articulate and perhaps it's something that only an anxiety sufferer will fully understand. Note: experiencing moderate levels of stress, even for an extended time period, is not the same thing as having a chronic anxiety and panic disorder. It doesn't define me as a person, but it's always been there in the background in one way or another since high school. For those that never read before..long story short is that I experienced a nervous breakdown shortly after Christmas. No one factor that led to it - just a lot of stress and change over the course of a three-year period. Heavy stuff. So for a while, I couldn't handle any stimuli, good or bad. Lost the butterfly feeling for things I once loved (good food, double dates with friends, family visits, etc). Still struggling with that to this day. But I found a job that is flexible enough to complement my recovery and I have an amazing support system and some very effective medicine that I do believe saved me. So functioning again, just experiencing the highs and lows that come with perceived victories and setbacks.

So last week, I had a great therapy appointment. I also spent 20 minutes on the phone setting up a life insurance policy for myself (ah, the joys of self-employment). Being that I was petrified of the phone and most human contact in January, huge victories. But I have a nasty habit of pushing myself just too far when I am on an upswing. So after getting off the phone with Metlife, I took a trip to Target (a store I finally felt comfortable in again with Mike) to buy some shopping list items, none of which were super essential. I knew going into the store that I was overwhelmed, but I couldn't just listen to my body and mind. I pushed myself. And set myself up to fail. And the past few days have been wracked with guilt over that. And guilt over not seeing my family or friends as much because I am just not ready. I went out this weekend and even set foot in the very Target store where my near-attack occurred. Victorious to the outside world. But I can't shake the fear that the breakdown I had and the setbacks that happen have ultimately changed me as a person.

No external factor is to blame for these feelings of self-loathing and guilt; I need to learn how to have self-compassion. But how does one do that? How do I give myself the grace I talked about in my last post? I am really all ears and open to suggestions, because this level of vulnerability is something I m very unaccustomed to. I firmly believe there's beauty in the breakdown (yep, a song lyric from Frou Frou's "Let Go," featured in the movie "Garden State") but the breakdown in itself and the subsequent recovery...well it's very hard. I find incredible difficulty in getting motivated to exercise, meditate and do the things that I know may help along with the medicine and therapy. And it's lonely. I miss my loved ones. I'm just not ready to be all "out there" yet like the Myers-Briggs ESTJ I used to be.

And I wish I knew how to love myself. Hopefully, all in good time.


Friday, June 20, 2014


In therapy this week (an event that still elicits the usual pre-appointment anxiety, but I greatly benefit from it), we talked a lot about grace. How it's important to grant myself grace in an effort to end the cycle of guilt that so many anxiety suffers get trapped in. Guilt for how my anxiety impacts those around me and over the mistakes I've made in my life.

For example, I feel guilt when relationships in my life lose the level of closeness or the prevalence they once had in another season of my life. So I am giving myself and the people I've grown a little distant with the grace to be able to be there for one another no matter how our lives ebb and flow. Most distancing, I've come to learn, happens without intention-life just kind of happens. I've felt very lonely ever since I stopped being a full time student. It's hard to go from being a full time student since the age of five (built in socializing and big fish/small pond) to entering the professional world with a mountain of student debt. But I am giving myself permission to work through the loneliness and come out on the other side a less anxious person. And I am making efforts to slowly reconnect in spite of my recently developed social phobias. I am light years ahead of where I was at the start of the year, so that in itself is a victory.

I am also giving myself the grace to let go of the baggage that comes with being a divorcee. It's a part of my history, but it's not who I am and it doesn't define me. It is OK to work through the baggage, but I can't be weighed down any longer. I need help carrying it all. And thankfully I have a strong and able partner.

Which brings me to my next point. I am giving others grace and have become a great deal more humble since my breakdown. Rather than reacting to others with emotion, I am putting forth  effort towards demonstrating empathy and living in their shoes when possible. Seeing a situation from another's perspective can do wonders. I deserve grace. And so do the people in my life. 

It's like that episode of HIMYM where Ted deals with the baggage of being left at the altar. I think I'm finally ready to let someone help me carry my suitcases and to unpack some things to make the load a little lighter. 

You can blame the rambling nature of this post on my meds-they sure do work, but I can be a bit loopy. ;)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Sometimes you feel like a nut...

So the good news is that I survived being on my own for Mike's first of two conferences this month. It was just me and my beautiful feline child Lucky. I got a lot of work done, cleaned house like no other and read The Pioneer Woman's autobiography. Also crossed off many Pinterest projects from my to-do list. All in all, a success as perceived by the outside world. But I was scared that I regressed back to January me because I didn't have the strength to leave the house alone. Some would say I had the strength to know my own boundaries, but often we are our own worst critic.

I wasn't ready to face the outside world while one of my support pillars was five hours away. Kinda knew that would happen, but I set myself up to fail, by expecting to somehow cure myself while he was gone. I also wasn't ready to see close friends alone again. Anxiety is a lonely illness; it's such a contradiction that I am lonesome, yet scared to be alone around people that I would normally consider good friends and pleasant company. I have worked up to social events including Mike in-house (Parks and Rec Netflix binges, anyone?) and shopping/task-based outings close to the apartment...but there is still a lot of "scary" stuff out there.

It's so difficult to redirect my thought processes to be positive and self-supporting when I am  frustrated that my recovery process is going slower than expected. Before I broke down, I was go-go-go...perhaps part of the problem that led to the breakdown in the first place! But nonetheless, I thrived on being goal oriented, task focused and social. Now I am a whole new me and I don't yet know what is best for the new me. Trying to figure that out is easy on some days; on others it feels like learning how to walk and talk again. 

While I feel the waves of support from friends and family, this illness causes a loneliness and feeling of grief over the loss of my old self that is a heavy cross to bear. While I averwhwlmingly thankful for and do recognize all of the good in my life, I'm still really devastated and learning how to walk through life again. During these times when my partner in crime is physically gone for work, the "bad thoughts" rear their ugly head and I am predisposed to focus more on those thoughts than the real, balanced and often positive affirming thoughts. 

Still trying though. Every day. And whatever you're dealing with (we're all dealing with our own crosses, after all), I encourage you all to do the same. Don't let yourself be too lonely. And don't be afraid to pray and have faith in the way that suits you best. <3