New Paths to Comfort

Last night, my daughter just wanted a treat after dance, because it had been a hard practice. I totally get it, but right now, in my life, comfort cannot be taken from food. So we talked it out and had lots of hugs and I sang her songs.

Everything was kosher.

Lately, I struggle to find comfort. A soft blanket, pretty candles, a clean home – these were once things I found comforting. I just don’t anymore.

This is probably going to sound stupid, but I really long for a comfy couch. Our couches literally have holes in them and I’m tired of their awfulness. I don’t even want to sit on them.

We also have ants, despite the cleanish home that I’ve been pouring myself into. There is nothing like sitting on a couch and having an ant crawl on you.

Yet, I think some of this is symbolic. I can’t find comfort, not because of an icky couch, but because sitting is no longer comforting. Perhaps what I really need besides the cozy is an afternoon in the sun doing yoga. Maybe the ants represent the way worry crawls on me and ruins my zen. Maybe I need time in guided meditation away from the creepy crawly thoughts.

Most of all, I recognize these feelings, because I felt them long ago when I was not depressed. I didn’t care for them then so I squashed them.

I had better take care of them now.

*Side note: Yoga in the sun did help. I also poured myself into making the couch nice, which worked. Turns out the ants were following the scent of food Evan had deposited deep down in the couch. Facepalm. Though I still find worry crawls on me….**

Candidly,

Ash

Real Life

Phew. It’s anxiety today. Man, it’s anxiety a lot of days.

I’m tired of anxiety. I think I’m starting to have anxiety about whether my anxiety will ever pass.

Why does anxiety feel like running around in circles? It feels like I’m running around putting out fires constantly, except there are no actual fires. I’m putting out imaginary fires. THAT is frustrating.

And futile.

Lately, I’ve been longing to have a job besides mom. You know, something to consume my time. The idea of going somewhere, working and having my focus be work is really appealing. I think I’m desiring a way to take my mind off of my family things.

The family things are heavy.

I’m homeschooling our oldest. She had a terrible year of bullying and just needs some recovery time. But, god damn, its a lot of responsibility to parent someone AND make sure they learn algebra.

The toddler toddles and whines and is currently attempting to roll up the 8′ x 10′ rug onto himself. He’ll probably get stuck soon…

I get a call, text, email about Evan every day. It’s okay, nothing too catastrophic, but I feel like I’m the teacher’s personal OnStar representative. Like she can just hit the button and I’m there. I suppose I should implement boundaries. I tried that last year…that’s when he got suspended. Sigh…

I think this just might be life.

Yesterday, Tess asked me “Why can’t things be less stressful?” She was referring to her dance class where she is learning something new every single week. It’s stressful for her. In my sage wisdom,¬† I responded that she wouldn’t become a better dancer without the stress. Someday, once she knows this whole dance, it will go back to being just fun and free. Until then, its stressful.

Maybe life feels so stressful to me, because I’m learning something new. My new medicine has my mood swings controlled and so I’m finally feeling what I’m told is “normal”. Except it feels damn stressful, because I can feel all the things and numbing doesn’t work like it once did.

But maybe, if I take my own advice and learn to handle this anxiety and stress? Maybe then there will come a time when I can dance the routine of life with fun and freedom.

Until then, I’m just learning how to cope.

Candidly,

Ash

Letting Go of Worry

I don’t know what to write today. More about how I’m anxious? It’s getting old.

Sometimes I wish that I could control what thoughts come into my mind. Unfortunately, there is a significant body of evidence out there which says most of our hardwiring is completed by age eight. I can’t control the thoughts that come to my mind.

I can, however, choose which ones to focus on. I can choose to let go of a thought.

While that is powerful and a worthy topic, I just want to talk about the fact that choosing gets old. I can choose to let a thought go, only for it to return moments later. It doesn’t mean my earlier choice wasn’t true or with full effort. It’s just part of the process. Thoughts come and thoughts go. Choosing to let go has gotten easier. Choosing to let go on repeat?

That is hard shit right there.

This morning I was reminded by a friend of the words in I Peter 5:7

Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you.

Literally translated, the word “cast” actually means “to throw upon”. Throw all of your cares and worries upon Him. I don’t know about you, but throwing seems a lot better than casting. Casting reminds me of fishing. If you cast your line or net into the water, then you also bring it back in (presumably with fish on it). I don’t particularly want my worries to come back.

But how do we throw our worries instead of casting them?

In many Christian traditions, a person will go to the chapel to pray for loved ones. Upon praying, they will then light a candle and allow it to burn as a symbol of their ongoing request being received into God’s hands. I love this symbolism.

I think maybe when I’m throwing off my worries to God, I might start finding a way to symbolize the worry leaving my hands and entering His. Maybe I’ll burn candles or maybe I’ll pour water down the drain of my sink. Maybe I’ll jot the worries down and then toss them in the trash.

Maybe, maybe this will help.

If not, then I’ll still be over here trying to let go, again and again.

Candidly,

Ash

Humanity is Hard

Butterflies are in my stomach frequently these days. It’s a new feeling, because my mind is aware of all that is happening around me…and it’s freaking out.

This could be called anxiety, but I’ve sat with it some and realized it’s simply my brain trying to cope with new information.

It started about a week ago when we increased the dose on a medication that has been working well for me.

The first thing that happened is that I started to find the games on my phone boring, which I admitted was probably a good thing. Then, I noticed that I couldn’t nap on command, my body was too aware and awake to zone out.

This is when I realized, “Holy crap! I’ve been zoning out A LOT!”

But now that I’m not zoning out, I’m also aware of things like boredom. My brain has a tendency to think boredom is actually bore-DOOM. It knows that if I’m bored then there is space for something to happen. Emotions can happen!

So I began busying myself, even when I didn’t want to be busy, because bore-doom needed to be avoided. Unfortunately, this, like my phone and napping, no longer kept those emotions nicely suppressed.

So now, I have this medicine that is helping me feel like a human being again…and the truth is, I’m not sure I want to be human being. It’s hard! I prefer zombie mode.

But I’m sitting with it, sticking with it, not running. Gently pressing into this wealth of feeling and trying not to be overcome. I wait for the shoe to drop with the next wave of unfamiliar emotions, the nerves in my stomach tightening with the sensation of butterflies.

The butterflies will pass. The pain/fear/anger/sadness or whatever emotion will come.

Then, it will pass. The feelings will pass. I will still be here.

Yes, I can handle this. I think…

Candidly,

Ash

Hang-ups and Issues

Maybe if I sit down and write here, then the anxiety will go away.

It’s debilitating. I have had it all day. Shortness of breath. Inability to sit still. Inability to choose a task. Catastrophic thinking. Stop.

I want to talk about the catastrophic thinking.

Damn, I’m good at it.

On my way to Panera Bread, I was almost convinced that if I ordered Mac ‘n Cheese, then I would have a terrible time writing, wouldn’t get my favorite table and would have to leave early. All because of Mac ‘n Cheese.

I didn’t order Mac ‘n Cheese.

Thankfully, it wasn’t to avoid some fictional catastrophe in my head. I ordered something else to be healthy. Maybe. Maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself.

Maybe I don’t really need to analyze this.

I’m a stellar catastrophizer. Catastrophizer isn’t a word.

It should be.

Definition? Ashley.

I literally agonized over the decision on where to write.

I have a few haunts. I drove around aimlessly for 35 minutes trying to dismantle the catastrophes associated with each place. I finally worked through (I think) my Mac ‘n Cheese catastrophe well enough to force myself in the building and to the table.

Now I sit here.

What to write? Besides my obvious hang-ups.

Well, sometimes hang-ups are all writers have. They make good plot lines.

In fiction.

In reality? They look a little crazy.

Candidly,

ASh

Learning is Enough

I don’t know what it is about a toddler that just sucks the life out of me. Actually, toddlers aren’t so bad as long as you stick to an exact routine, never leave the house and always give them what they want.

Let’s face it though – that’s not happening.

Today, I’m worn out from yesterday. We attended a four hour pool party with the toddler. Basically, that is my definition of hell. Maybe its my propensity for anxiety, but I’m terrified the child will drown. Add in that he seems to have no fear of anything and that alone could do me in. Added to all of this was the wonderful opportunity to meet new people. This was a kick-off party for the school year. You know, where everyone knows someone and they are reunited. Unless you are brand new, in which case, you get to meet everyone for the first time…in a swimsuit.

Because we all have so much confidence when wearing a swimsuit.

It was {not} great.

My nerves were on edge the whole time. I tried to stick to my health plan. I felt really proud at the beginning when I ate fruit, veggies and humus instead of fried chicken. Then, the bastards, I mean really awesome planner people that I love, brought out brownies and cookies. After consuming a brownie, I realized I had ventured into stress eating to cope with the environs. I pressed on for another hour, but eventually gave up and we went home early.

I’m not proud of how I handled my anxiety. It occurred to me on the way home that not once did I deep breathe or use any of the coping mechanisms I’ve learned. I knew the day would be stressful and not aligned with my health plan, but did I take any steps to prepare?

Nope, not one.

But I’m learning.

Sometimes, it has to be enough to just learn from an experience. I struggle to let it be, but I’m working on it this time around.

Next time?

I’ll set a timer on my phone to take a break in the bathroom every half hour to breathe. I’ll bring a treat that is on my health plan so that I’m not tempted by brownies and cookies. I might even see if someone else can take the tiger, I mean toddler, for the day.

Yes, sometimes learning has to be enough. After all, if I’m not learning, then how am I evolving and growing?

Good things to remember.

Candidly,

Ash

The Shape of Emptiness

When was the first time you felt empty? When did you notice a void in your life? I think these attributes – emptiness, meaninglessness, void – they can be feelings too. I remember the first time I felt meaningless. I had gotten in trouble for something and was sent to my room. I felt so badly that I took a belt down in my closet and tried to hit myself with it. I want to say that this memory was about the age of eight, but I fear it may have been even younger.

Emptiness came later. I was in at least eighth grade. I sat desperately reading  my Bible, devotional journals. I was looking to God to fill a hole in my heart. I wish my faith, my devotion had filled that hole, but there was a problem with that pursuit.

The hole wasn’t God-shaped.

There is a saying I’ve heard at some point in my life (not sure when or where). It goes, “Everyone has a God-shaped hole inside of them.” Perhaps that is why I devoted so much time and energy to pursuing him early on.

I thought God would fix me.

Now, in my head, I hear an angelic chorus singing, “God didn’t fix you, because you didn’t need fixing.” Okay, not an actual chorus, but it is what I imagine a good Christian would say or think while reading this story. I really wish that they would be right – that I don’t need fixing. I really do.

Some Things Remain Broken

If there is anything that I have learned from adulthood, then it is that some things can’t be repaired. I have seen it with our son’s autism, my mental health and our finances. I imagine a lot of people would simply say that I’ve lost hope. I don’t think that is true, because, believe me, I really dream of waking up to my son’s words and songs. I dream of a year in which depression does not affect me 330 days out of 365. I dream of a world in which we have a home to live in with a mortgage we are able to pay.

Oh yes, I hope.

Yet, I would be stupid not to prepare for a future in which my son needs full-time care. Facts are facts. If he hasn’t spoken by the age of nine, then things aren’t looking good for independent living. My depression? They say that the first time you have a season of depression that you should remain on medication for at least a year. The second bout of depression should be met with 3-5 years of medication. The third time? You should remain on medication for life. They also classify your depression as MAJOR and a legit DISORDER. I qualify for lifetime medication. I.E. This is thing is MAJOR and DISORDERED.

Some things remain broken. My friend has a dead plant in the landscaping at her new house. Initially, she thought to pull the ugly sucker out and replace it with something pretty. Then, she texted me a picture of it and said, “I’m keeping it”. You see, for her (and me) the dead plant reminds us that ugly and beautiful coexist, pain and joy coexist. Perhaps broken and whole can coexist too.

Sitting with Emptiness

In my life, I’m learning to sit with emptiness. You see, I’ve realized that I’ve been trying to fill it for years and years. I’ve tried relationships, careers and jobs, schooling, children, religion, success, popularity, leadership, etc. The truth is that I’ve been trying to fill the empty space with a square puzzle piece.

I’m guessing my emptiness is upwards of a dodecahedron. That’s the largest 3D shape I can recall.

**Excuse me, I just looked up the spelling for dodecahedron and discovered it is actually a polyhedron. Are polyhedrons different than 3D shapes? What is a polyhedron? More than one face, my search tells me. Well, I’ve concluded that most, if not all, 3D shapes are polyhedrons. Geometry has never been my strong suit. Is this geometry? God, I hope so. End digression.**

You can’t fill your emptiness until you understand it, know its dimensions. In order to know those things, you can’t be trying to solve for ‘X’ or running back and forth with objects to randomly fill the space. You have to stop. Be present.

Experience emptiness.

And all I have to say about experiencing emptiness is this….

Damn it! Pain is coming, confusion is coming. This is going to hurt like hell!

Panic aside…

Pain is a teacher. Confusion isn’t a crucifix. And Hell was made for rebels.

Candidly,

Ash

P.S. I wrote this post while listening to “Hold On” by Sarah McLachlan.