Tag Archive | Anxiety

Waiting To Exhale

Jenny Perlin

My hands shook as I put the toothpaste on my toothbrush this morning. I realized every muscle in my body was tense and aching. My fists are always clinched. My arms always crossed tight over my chest.

And then I realized I never exhale. I hold air in my lungs like I hold so many of my feelings in my heart.

I’m dying for a rest – a break.

Almost ten years ago, I left my husband. There were months of planning and worry. I saved money. I rented an apartment. I consulted a lawyer. I bought new furniture. I moved out while he was at work. I left him a note. All of this without him knowing it was happening.

When it was finally over, I remember sitting on the back steps of the science building at work smoking a cigarette with a friend. The sun was warm. The quiet privacy between the holly bushes that flanked the steps and under the blooming magnolia trees was precious. As we talked and laughed, my legs started feeling funny. I wasn’t sure what was happening.

And then I realized the muscles in my quads were relaxing for the first time in months.

Oh, how I need that moment again.

Nothing used to be better for that reboot than a few drinks or twelve. Drinking was better than any of the meds the psychiatrist has prescribed. And here I had to go ruin such a simple cure by being an alcoholic.

I’m waiting by the phone
Waiting for you to call me up and tell me I’m not alone
I’m waiting by the phone
Waiting for you to call me up and tell me I’m not alone

Hello, speak up, is there somebody there?
These hang ups are getting me down
In a world frozen over with over exposure
Let’s talk it over, let’s go out and paint the town

Cause I’m waiting by the phone
Waiting for you to call me up and tell me I’m not alone
Cause I want somebody to shove
I need somebody to shove
I want somebody to shove me

Lawd Knows I Can’t Change

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Reading back over my blog the last few days, I see that nothing has really changed for me over the last year and a half. Meds have kept me from feeling as bad physically (’cause y’all, heartbreak and sadness and depression physically hurt!), but I still whine about and wrestle with all the same things about myself. Is there something I like about feeling like shit and wallowing in so much self-pity?

Why do I have an urge to continue spewing the same problems all over the internet for people to read? It must be exhausting, annoying and incredibly boring to read the same stuff from me over and over.

I do still believe somewhere deep and misguided inside of me that if I share my “this girl is fucked in the head” issues enough, someone will come along, say or do the thing I’ve been missing, and suddenly I will be healed! I’ll be a new person! I will be whole and satisfied – finally!

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But I know nobody can fix me – my heart and all the things I hate about myself and my life.

I say that over and over, but I don’t know how to change myself. I don’t even know if I want to change. If I have to change into an extrovert, is that still me? If I LIKE myself am I still me?

Where do you even start trying to change your life? I can’t afford to quit a good job with benefits to go live in the woods in a cabin, chop my own firewood, shovel cow shit and read books. I’m exhausted by the thought of joining groups of people I don’t know. Match.com and eHarmony were a huge disappointment and waste of money. I’m not really interested in anything anymore except church and theology and things I want to control. And I’ve pretty much given up on finding someone to love me because it just hurts way, way too much.

So how do I affect change in myself? How do I even know who I want to be? How do I change the way I think? How do I change my feelings? How do I change all these negative emotions? How do I learn to like myself? How do I learn to feel like this life is even worth living?

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Added: I don’t even know WHY I’m so unhappy. That makes it hard to change too.

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Shut Up, Brain!

I’ve been sleeping on the broken-down couch in front of the TV every night for the last year. One day about 18 months ago, the person I was seeing got up, took a shower and went home; and all of a sudden, sleeping in the bed alone was just too much.

I was also in the middle of my deep depressed place, and on the couch in front of the TV was my safe place. All my friends kept me company there and soothed me after it got dark: Peggy Hill, Blossom, Niles Crane, Dorthy Zabornak, Sam Malone. They kept me in a level, fuzzed zone where my brain didn’t have to think about anything but jokes. As long as I was still awake and watching TV, then it wasn’t the next day yet and I didn’t have to get up and face the real world again.

But the couch hurts and I’m feeling stronger, so I thought I’d give the bed another try. It was so dark and quiet. It felt so amazing to stretch out across the mattress instead of squnching up with a hip falling between the couch cushions and a crick in my neck.

I lay there for a minute feeling so comfortable and relaxed. One cat was spooning me and the other was chewing my hair. This could work!

And then I thought about Boo, and about Boy 1 and Boy 2, and eHarmony guy, and what I want my life to look like, and whether I should quit trying to have romantic relationships, and whether I should try to quit giving a shit about anything at all. And I thought about Lost Boy, and I thought about suicide, and I thought about driving across country, and I thought about my family, and I thought about living alone in a cabin in the woods. I thought about “a walk in the woods” being right outside the back door. And I thought about living out of a van. And I wondered how I’d get rid of the condo. And I thought about writing. And I thought about New Year’s Eve. And I thought about being alone. And I thought about being old alone. And I worried about money. And I worried about what it would be like to quit my job. And I worried about what the consequences would be if I really did the things I wanted to. And I worried about men and I worried about me and I wondered why I’m so bad at being a woman and why I’m so bad at being grown and I worried about my cats and I worried about my mom…

And I then I got up, laid down on the couch and turned on the TV. Shhh. Shhh. Quiet now. Yep. Yep. Yep. Mmmhummm.

The Sad Crept In

I managed to hold it off until the day before Christmas Eve, but the sad sat down hard on my chest this morning. Driving  in to the office about 7:45, alone in my car, Paul Anka was on the radio singing “Rudolph,” all the Christmas lights were shining through the gloomy fog in Centennial Park, and the SkyView ferris wheel was lit up and spinning.

And suddenly it felt like everything joyful and festive and hopeful and good in me was sucked out and only an incredible emptiness was left. I was suddenly acutely aware of my aloneness.

What is it about Christmas that does this? I’m no more alone than I am any other time of year. And I’m not “alone.” The office is full of people today. I’ll be with my family tomorrow. (And for me, gratefully, unlike some, I love being with my family.) But when I could’ve left the office this morning after my 9:00 meeting was over, I didn’t want to. The idea seems cold and empty and dark and – alone.

I tried to alleviate the “alone” this year. I invited someone to come to Christmas Eve at my mom’s with me (and to various other Christmas events as well) – but… well… yeah… you know. And maybe that makes me feel more alone too, when you try to not be alone and those attempts are rejected.

I know there’s got to be more to this feeling that descends on me this time every year. And I’m so glad that it’s only happened a few days before Christmas this time. (For the last couple of years, it hit at Thanksgiving and didn’t let up until Christmas was over.) But even a couple of days of feeling like this sucks!

I read a great article yesterday that feels very true to what I’m feeling. (And I can’t remember where it was so I can link to it, dammit!) But basically it said that feeling anxious about being alone is evolutionary. As cavemen (and women), if you were alone, you weren’t safe.

That’s very much what my aloneness feels like; the emotion feels like vulnerability and insecurity and danger.

I always feel guilty when I feel like this around the holidays. I have so much and I am so blessed. I’m not a big evangelist or testifier, but I truly believe if God hadn’t interceded in my life, I could very well be homeless, whoring, or dead right now from my alcoholism. I have found an amazing church that fits my incredibly liberal beliefs socially and theologically – five blocks from my house. More importantly, that church has become a home and a family for me. I have an amazing family of birth and amazing friends. I have stumbled accidentally into a comfortable career that allows me to provide for myself. I could go on and on.

There are people who ARE homeless. Children who are hungry. I have a friend who’s sitting death watch over his mother right now. There are people who’ve been disowned by their families. There are people wrestling mightily with addictions. There are people in prison. There are people in sexual slavery. There are people in abusive relationships. I could go on and on.

I don’t feel like I deserve to feel sad, but still I do.

I guess one of the hardest things is that (at least most years) I don’t want to just wish away the holiday. When I’m sad or upset about some event at other times of the year, I just tell myself that it’ll be over soon. But I really like Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve at my mom’s where my immediate family eats ham sandwiches in front of the TV, then opens stockings, then move to the living room where we listen to Christmas music on the stereo while we exchange gifts one by one. So I guess I feel very conflicted about loving it and wanting it to be over (or maybe just wanting to not feel sad) at the same time.

I think if I could ferret out exactly why I feel like this, I could make it better. Meanwhile, I have a man pinging me on eHarmony. He sounds interesting. We have a lot in common. He has pretty eyes. But when I get ready to respond to his questions, I’m terrified and can’t bring myself to do it. So maybe I DO want to be alone.

Can you simultaneously want to be alone and want to not alone at the same time. I can’t decide which one is scarier.

I’m living in a limbo of fear and anxiety. Ho ho ho.

Have Yourself An Anxious Little Christmas

I just want to share how much more manageable my holiday anxiety has been this year – probably better than it’s been in about 15 years. I’m sure being on Paxil for a year has helped a lot, and the realizations I had last month about my expectations for the holidays seem to have made a big difference as well.

Staying busy helps too. Frankly, I was so depressed last Christmas that it was hard for me to get off the couch and do anything. That doesn’t help my blues at all. I think the Lamotrigene prescription has helped here. It’s a mood stabilizer that’s made my highs lower and my lows higher. Not getting so low that I can’t function makes it easier to do the things that keep me from being so blue and anxious.

Being ABLE to be busier has helped so much. I was busy training and racing until the first week of December ended. I’ve been running sound for almost all the Sunday services and the Christmas cantata this month. I’ve also done a couple of funerals and a wedding.

I went to a ridiculous Christmas party for the church youth group last weekend where we played Dance Central 3 and the adults spent way too much time huddled in a corner laughing and playing with Poo Dough.

Then I drove five teenagers home from the party. They listened to the Classic Hip Hop channel on Sirius and marveled at songs they’d never heard before – songs from 1994 – before they were born…. (Seriously?) And they wrote profound Christmas wishes like “Poop” in the fog on my windows. Good times.

Just being with people, staying busy and laughing (the opposite of what you want to do when you’re depressed) makes such a big difference in how I feel. I think the mood stabilizer keeps me above that low end threshold that makes it hard to care if I’m taking care of myself or even to do it even when I want to.

I usually try to take some time off running at this time of year to let my body rest and heal some, but that time off is really bad timing for my anxiety. Even after my busy weekend, I was feeling the holiday squinkiness sneak in last Sunday night. But I did something I wasn’t able to do last year, I made myself get up early before work on Monday morning and run because I knew it would help. (And it did.) I knew it would help last year too, but I couldn’t get myself to do it.

I’ve also been wrestling with my feelings for Boo for the last couple of years. When I was in the depths of my depression last year, I got to the point where I couldn’t feel anything at all. When I started coming out of that, I had feelings again, but I had trouble figuring out exactly what those feelings were and what they were about.

I feel like I’ve about sorted all that out. For the last year I’ve assumed any bad feeling I have is sadness and unrequited love about that relationship. And so if I felt something bad, I thought it was about Boo, which made me think too hard and too much about Boo, which made me feel bad, which made me think too hard and too much about Boo, which made me feel bad….

But I had a big moment in therapy back in the spring when I realized that what I have always thought was the feeling I experience of “being in love” is very much the same feeling I have when I’m feeling anxiety. (This may be an important realization…. *snork*)

I still haven’t figured out why I feel like it’s so important to me to hang on to Boo. He’s never really done much to reciprocate those feelings I have for him. But there’s obviously something deep-seated in my need to hang onto him in some fashion and in the fears I have of letting my hopes for us go.

I wrote in a recent post that I wished “I had the courage to give up.”

For me, having the courage to let things go means being brave enough to stand on my own without having to use things and people as crutches, without having to try and control the outcome of every single thing in my life. I’m starting to feel like I’m strong enough to try and begin letting the Boo thing go.

I need to believe and trust that it’s the healthiest thing I can do. The Mr. Spock part of me knows that’s true. The disgusting, weak, clingy, needy, girly part of me is still afraid. That makes me a little anxious.

But that’s OK. I am better. And this Christmas is better – even when the anxiety still creeps in.

All I know is that I have my running clothes sitting out for tomorrow morning. I will run. I will breathe. I will calm my mind. I will keep getting better. I will keep getting stronger. And maybe one day I’ll even find something to value in the weak, clingy, needy, girly part of me.

And to you, I hope if you’re depressed or anxious or lonely or scared this Christmas, that you’ll know you’re not alone. Love is all around you, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Just keep slogging through and know that it won’t always be like this. We’ll hold each other up until then.

Much love, friends!

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Everything Changed

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I’ve always loved the holidays – the lights, the gifts, the music, the television specials, the anticipation! And I still love all those things, but a confluence of several factors including my divorce and the death of my dad have changed things. There is an empty place in my heart.

The holidays are supposed to be a time for joyful gatherings. But I always feel like a giant zit under a magnifying glass when I’m alone there these days. I rarely feel self-conscious, but inevitably I do at holiday parties.

I feel it particularly strongly at family gatherings. Except for my widowed mother and grandmother, I’m the only one not coupled up and the only adult without kids. It makes me feel like Forrest Gump at the Black Panther party, and like I screwed up all the things you’re supposed to be and do as a grown-up. Here I am, 46 years old and alone at the holidays without any “family.” And it’s my fault for quitting and walking away from my marriage because I thought I could find something better.

Disney and Hallmark and all the others have conspired to make me believe in happy endings, in love stories, in holiday magic. I have daydreamed countless scenarios where my magical holiday ending finally happens. My imaginary stories are so romantic, full of kisses and Christmas lights and love!

But a life’s true story isn’t wrapped up tightly in a bow after two hours. There are very few happy endings. And there are many, many sad and lonely people.

Every year at the holidays, I swear this time will be different. I’m going to beat the holiday blues. I’m going to love myself. I will be enough. I’ll have more gratitude. I will find joy.

I will not have a prolonged anxiety attack from Thanksgiving Eve through Christmas Eve.

So far on night one of the countdown, I’m not starting out too well…

Molestation: The Questions That Linger

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Peeling back one layer and healing it exposes the next. As we go deeper, a girl may say, ‘You know, I’ve never told anyone about this because I was too embarrassed (or because it didn’t seem important… she was afraid… she didn’t think anyone would believe her… or she thought it was her fault). But I think you should know.’

If these traumas are mentioned at all early on in counseling, it’s typically in conjunction with, ‘But that was years ago and I’m over it now.’ The hidden message behind this tough talk is often, ‘ I have spent a lot of energy and time trying to numb myself from feelings and to forget anything associated with this painful event. I would rather not talk about it. I choose to ignore these painful emotions rather than confront them, because I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t survive those overwhelming feelings.'”

The White Umbrella, Mary Frances Bowley, pp. 84-85

I still ask myself…

 – Why didn’t anybody in my family believe his previous accusers and keep it from happening to me?

 – Am I making it a bigger deal than I really should?

 – Why did it never occur to me to tell?

 – If I had told would it have protected his other victims?

 – What kind of monster would DO these things to children year after year?

 – I know there are things about the molestation I don’t remember. What are they? What if they’re horrific?

 – Why didn’t I stop him?

 – Is this the cause of so many of my insecurities and self-doubt and self-loathing, or do I just use it as an excuse to feel sorry for myself?

 – Is it the reason I have so many problems in relationships, or do I just use it as an excuse to cover up my shortcomings? 

 – Why do I still get so anxious – heart pounding, short of breath – when I think about it?

 – What would the resolution to this even be or look like in my life?

 – Do I have to forgive?

 – Do I have to stop being angry?

Isn’t it easier, less painful and less self-destructive to just keep repressing it and numbing it, to not pick at that scab?

I’m Tired – So, So Tired…

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And then this happened…

Run Away

One day I just packed my car and left my life behind. It didn’t turn out well.

But today I have a very real urge to do the same thing.

I don’t want to face this day.

I hate conflict. I hate argument. I hate feeling like I’m in trouble even if I don’t know why.

I want to jump in my car and drive as far in the opposite direction from my office as I can possibly go.

I am not brave.

I am scared. I am sad. I am angry.

This is why I drank. I would give anything to not have to “feel” this day.

Anxiety, Isolation And Alienation

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I had a dentist’s appointment this morning. She pulled out a sliver of bone that had sloughed off my jaw bone and was erupting from my gum. Then she immediately sent me to the oral surgeon to check on the possibility of oral cancer. As I sat in his waiting room, I thought, “Who would I call first if I found out I was sick?” And I couldn’t think of anybody. Oh, sure. I’d tell my family, but I’d want to talk about it with someone else first. I have plenty of friends I could call, but I couldn’t think of who I’d want to call. Who I wouldn’t be embarrased to call. Who I trusted enough to call. (Sorry, y’all.)

I have a meeting with my contentious boss in the morning that I’m sweating, and I’m still feeling anxious and scared about going to Savannah next week and running my marathon.

One of the problems with anxiety (at least with mine) is that when I’m nervous or unhappy, I want somebody to be there for me. But the anxiety and depression make me want to isolate myself and not see or talk to anybody. So I lay here feeling anxious and depressed and lonely, and at the same time, wish I wasn’t dealing with it all alone. Then I feel bad, which makes me anxious and depressed, which makes me lonely, which makes me sad, which makes me want to isolate, which makes me anxious and depressed…

I got home this afternoon and just wished I had a guy to listen to me and hold me and comfort me and fix everything – make it all better. And I realized again that’s the unrealistic expectation I always have, particularly in romantic relationships – the expectation that somebody else can fix what’s wrong with me. When they don’t, I’m disappointed.

I know I can’t make everything better. I’ve been an abject failure at that.

It’s just so confusing to hate feeling alone and wanting to talk with somebody, but at the same time, not wanting to deal with people at all.

I’m so tired.