The Sound of Anxiety

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax. 

This has been my mantra of late. Anything that helps my foot stop tapping incessantly is kosher. Seriously, I’ll be sitting and reading to relax and my foot taps. It drives me nuts! 

I swear its like my leg has been possessed by some march written in cut time. Think “76 Trombones led the big parade…” from the music man. Except faster. 

I try anything to distract from the tapping, which means I’ve been doing lots of cleaning. (Yet, we are still being invaded by bugs seeking homes for the winter.) The incessant tapping has led to incessant doing and I feel no better. 

The funny thing is when I stop my toe from tapping my thigh and calf will begin clinching to the beat. 

 The beat is anxiety. 

It’s a crazed jazz mashup with a sousaphone march. This is how anxiety feels. 

I think the hardest part of anxiety is that it doesn’t really stop. Sure, there are times when I’m overly anxious about a circumstance or event. Then, there are also times when I’m twitching for no reason at all. My brain seems to think we are being chased by a bear or something. 

There is no bear! No catastrophe. 

Just the grating of radio static. Anxiety is noise when there is no sound. It’s desperately waiting for the world to end, but then discovering that the world will go on and on for thousands of years. Meanwhile, you are still waiting. 

Still tapping your foot to music that isn’t there.

 

Candidly,

Ash

Sepia-toned Rainbows

I worry that my medication affects my ability to write. It has me so stable that I don’t feel those highs and lows anymore. I miss them. I never thought I would miss those vicious swings, but I do.

The rational part of me says this stability is a good thing. I really can’t argue with her. She points out things like functioning well and making good decisions. She tries to remind me that I wanted to die so badly that a lot of times I needed someone with me. She has lots of good points.

Then there is the side of me that feels things. I don’t want to call it the irrational side, because I don’t think feeling is irrational. She says to observe my life and see if I notice the beautiful things just as much as the difficult things. I don’t. I see glasses half empty all around. She says to pause and see if you can sit in silence doing nothing. I can’t. She says to whisper sweet nothings and play with the children. I can’t.

I believe this is the point where maybe someone who is bi-polar considers going off the medication or cutting back.

It’s so hard to live life in sepia tones when you’ve been full spectrum for so long.

Perhaps this is the hard part of being diagnosed at 34 years old. I have lived a good amount of life in the struggle and in the beautiful. What if stable isn’t what I want? What if I want the ups and downs?

What if I can’t have them?

Candidly,

Ash

Small Hurts, Big Lessons

I scratched my eye.

It hurts and waters and, in general, makes life miserable. Who would have thought that something so small could make such big waves in my life?

This reminds me that even our smallest hurts, pains and fears must be recognized and felt. Like the splinter that is never removed, they can become infected and an even larger pain.

I think this is part of what happened with me. I never attended to the small hurts and pains in life. I think of the disappointment I’ve often felt in myself, how I didn’t want to feel it. Instead I became angry with myself as a way to mask the pain, but this only made the pain greater.

My therapist once described it as hurting myself, then taking out a hammer and hitting myself again.

Pain on top of pain.

I think disappointment with myself has been the most difficult small pain in my life. The hardest thing to sit with and feel.

I’m still learning, but I need these reminders. Reminders not to belittle myself, to feel the pain and let it guide me.

Because pain can be a guide.

Pointing us toward change, showing us our sensitivities, teaching us what works and doesn’t work.

Yes, the scratch may hurt, but I’ve learned not to wear my contacts for months on end. I’ve learned to give my eye a break so it can be healthy.

Maybe I can feel the scratches to my heart, but learn to take care of myself in a greater way.

Candidly,

Ash

In the Doldrums of Toddler-dom

Today, I wish that I had some sage advice or interesting perspective on raising a toddler. Did you know that you can comfort these little creatures and they will still cry for what seems like an eternity?

I sad. I sad. No. I sad.

This is my morning dialogue with the two-year-old. Its set to the tune of scattered breathing, sniffles and full-on wailing.

What troubles the child?

I gave him fruit loops for breakfast. I have no idea why this is displeasing, but it seems to be the issue. He walks in front of the pantry, bangs on the door, then collapses onto the floor in a fit that rivals the appearance of exorcism.

Why does the answer have to be no? Why can’t I just go offering things up from the pantry like a bonafide waitress?

Some people say that you should always look for ways to say “Yes” to your children. You know, to say yes when you can, because these are small humans here. Their requests are usually simple and accommodate-able. Also, something about picking and choosing your battles.

Others say that children need to hear “No” frequently so they can become accustomed to it. In other words, so they don’t freak out when their parent says ‘No” in public.

Well, these are all really interesting theories of parenthood. This morning, I simply don’t feel that fruit loops should  be boycotted and I don’t want to make a different breakfast. This morning I’m a “get what you get, don’t throw a fit” sort-of parent.

I’m not always this way. Just when I feel depleted, which as of late is a thing. You see, I’m starting to feel a bit held captive here in this house with this small person. Frankly, that’s perfectly reasonable and normal for stay-at-home parents.

I’m sorry, future Rhese, that I wasn’t 100 percent all of the time. At least you learned the lesson of limitations early.

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

Raw Edges and Strong Cores

At some point in May, I had the idea for this post, but tabled it. I had other ideas to pursue and  knew I would eventually get around to writing it. Then, June happened and with it the return of all four kiddos being home each and everyday. The first week, I tried to write, but didn’t make it to the laptop until late at night. I figured I would take a break and let the summer be what it was going to be. Maybe I would even pursue that niggling idea of vlogging that was in the back of my brain.

Then, after a month, every single day felt like drudgery and stress resonated inside of me. At the end of the day, I would feel this incompleteness even though I had done many things. I knew that my writing, my voice, was too pent up, but I didn’t want to sit down to do it. I told myself that I was simply waiting for the children to return to school. This didn’t last long as an excuse, because soon it was apparent that I needed to write – something, anything. Yet, I held off, knowing that the inevitable writing also brings about the inevitable bleeding. Cathartic bleeding it is, but bleeding none the less.

So here I am, sitting, ready to bleed before you.

Raw Edges

I was trying to be healthy, slicing the fruits and vegetables early in the week, prepping healthy meals and snacks.

It was drudgery.

Why didn’t The Man create vegetables pre-sliced? I mean, fruit I don’t mind slicing, because it is enticing to the palate. But vegetables? No, those are no fun. As I moved from cauliflower to carrots, I reminded myself of how awful the baby carrots are and that the real thing is so much better and tastier.

It was utter drudgery.

I watched as I peeled the damn things and tried to remember the advice about everyday tasks given by Thomas Moore. If you look deep enough, sit still enough with them, then you can peel back their mundaneness into significance by seeing the metaphor, the imagery of soulfulness.

“Mumbo-jumbo.” I thought to myself sardonically. “Be more zen.” I then chastised myself.

Okay, so what could peeling carrots stand for in the soulful life. I ruminated peel after peel.

Carrots don’t have thick skin or rinds. They are firm from the inside out. Strong, if you will. Strong and ugly. I mean, we don’t have to peel a carrot in order to eat it, but it will never stop looking (or tasting) much like dirt if we don’t. I wonder if the strong among us don’t taste like dirt until something or someone comes along that sloughs off the ugliness.

“Hmmm. Not a bad little metaphor.” I smiled to myself. “What else?”

I sat with it. I wasn’t coming up with anything else at all. Yet, as I sloughed off layer after layer of the carrots, getting rid of the dirt divets and knotty elements, I felt less drudgery. In fact, something cathartic was taking place, something similar to how I feel when I write.

Strong Cores

A shedding of the dirt of life, smoothing of rough edges – that’s what was happening.

Yes, this was very similar to writing for me. Underneath everything, I find in myself strength when writing.

And so, as I return to writing early (before the summer ends). I remember carrots and that sitting down at this page is not all bleeding, but rather exfoliation. A scrubbing, unburdening, cleansing act of the soul to reveal my strong core.

Candidly,

Ash

Accept & Adapt

I’m not much of a sports person. I’ve confessed my lack of understanding when it comes to the running fad. It’s not that I wasn’t introduced to sports when I was young or that I was completely awful at them (I wasn’t completely good at them either). I just find them lacking meaning. Or I struggle to find the meaning. One of the two.

I’m an introvert (will I ever stop writing that sentence?). I’d rather do things on my own to be quite honest. Doing things with other people is exhausting. Maybe this is why I like writing? Sure, someone can critique or edit things, but the actual act of writing? Solo mission.

Sports tend to be a team effort. Sure, there are exceptions – golf, bowling, etc. Some people argue those aren’t even sports at all. Regardless, one of the things I don’t like about sports are the variables. When I played basketball, we would practice plays every single day. Then, we would play in a game and everything would be chucked out the window, because the defense would do something that made our play ineffective. The coach (usually my dad) would call us into a huddle and come up with something completely new. And so our team would adapt.

Here is where it gets tricky for me. I’m not a good adapter. Sure, in my youth, I would go along with things and try my best to adjust. I’d run the play as it was drawn on the little white board and then, suddenly, I’d have the ball and be clueless. Truly, if I could have yelled “Ahhh!”, dropped the ball and run out the room, then I would have.

In the game of life, I have similar issues. Routine is really beneficial to me most of the time. Actually, I like to call it rhythm, because that is a more creative word for something pretty mundane. Yet, things happen. Sick people, depression, behavior problems, job impositions, etc. Maintaining a rhythm is akin to playing a flute in the midst of a heavy metal rock band. Sure, I might be playing to the beat, but nobody is hearing me and my work feels futile. Maintaining rhythm is an inglorious feat.

Just Adapt

I love the people who think rhythm is easy. It is for them. They flow with the fluctuations of life, letting go of what is not serving them. Such beautiful, fortunate people. I’m not one of them. Typically, when I talk to these people about my inability to adapt, then they will say something like “You just have to make yourself do it.” I stare at them like they have a third eye. In fact, I’m fairly certain they do have a third eye. How else can their resilience be explained? Surely, they are super humans.

I am not a super human.

Usually, when something throws me off my game, then I internally have a meltdown. My inner persona is screaming “What is happening here?!?!” while clutching her head and turning in circles. On the exterior? Smile. Smile. Smile. No one knows you are freaking out. Smile. Smile. Smile.

But First, Acceptance.

I am slowly discovering that problem probably isn’t so much about adaptation. The problem is my inability to accept change. Calling it a problem feels icky. Let’s find a new word.  Juxtaposition? Challenge? Opportunity.

My opportunity is trying to accept change. Remember inner persona girl screaming and clutching her head. She needs a moment. She also needs a steady hand, a comforter. Because I’m smiling on the outside, my inner persona gets ignored almost all the time. I’m the only one who can see her. I’m her only hero.

I’ve got options. I can tell someone what she’s doing, letting them know that the smile is just a mask. I’m getting better at this. The number of creepy conversations my husband has had with smiley, crazy girl should earn him a medal. Other options include listening to her, metaphorically stroking her back with deep breathing, encouraging her, reminding her of her strengths. Also, holding up a giant sign in front of her that says…

Everything’s not lost.

Once she has accepted what is happening, she’s actually quite resourceful. More resourceful than I anticipated she could be. Her adaptability is stellar. She just needs to accept things first. I wonder why that is so hard for her? Oh, that’s right!

I’ve been ignoring her for decades.

Well, I’m guessing it will take some time to help her learn the path of acceptance.

Here’s to the journey!

Candidly,

Ash