A fighter, A survivor, A hope

I haven’t used this space much lately, but I need to talk. My meds are in check, my therapist and I are working well together, my family life is getting better and my depression has been pretty low grade and predictable. I have been setting boundaries, giving myself space to rest, think, and create.

But I am a loner. I am friendless. I push people away. I don’t like most people. They always seem to want something from me. They have expectations. They don’t get me and I don’t blame them. If you mess with me, I will shut that shit down. If you are patient and open and curious and can relate to being a survivor and have taken a look at your life and don’t project your shit on me, I will let you in. A little bit at a time. But that hasn’t happened much lately.

I am a fighter, and I have been dragged down by other people’s toxic shit for too long. I have been used and abused. And I got out, I have healed to a good extent, but I am extremely protective. I won’t be manipulated, I won’t follow your rules, I reject what society expects from a woman. I am not passive anymore and I won’t be put in a box.

Some people feel they are entitled to be a part of my life (my mother) and they are wrong. Some people keep trying even though they will never be trusted again by me. Some friendships are neutral and casual and don’t go very deep, and that is ok. Some family members have cut me off because of the boundaries I have set and that’s ok too.

But I am alone with my thoughts often and sometimes that makes me crazy. The sadness and loss seep in and I check out for a while because it’s too much to feel. Then slowly clarity will come and I will understand what is bothering me or triggering me or making me angry or protective, defensive or hyper vigilant.

If you have struggled with your relationship to you mom, listen to this: Healing the Mother Wound and check out the other episodes of Summer Innanen’s podcast

If you need a good song to listen to, try this one –

Or this one –

If you are a parent with mental illness read To my daughter growing up in the shadow of my mental illness

There are always other voices to listen to instead of the negative ones in my brain or those awful, soul sucking people around me that want to make me small and and powerless.

I’m not giving up. My behavior might appear strange and cold to others, and I might feel alone sometimes, but I am a fighter and a survivor. All the things I did to survive won’t go away even though I might hate myself for them, or wish I didn’t have to make those choices. But I did and they have allowed me to survive.

Someday in this lifetime it will be more than survival, or maybe it won’t. Someday I might get the chance to experience the comfort and companionship of a good friend, someday I might be ready for that.

Taking Care

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http://tryingtobegood.com

Emelia Symington Fedy

Sharing this little gem of wisdom and vulnerability. It is just what I needed to hear today to continue to nurture and honor those feelings that scare me and cause panic to grip my chest. It also made me feel less alone in this struggle to really listen to what I am feeling.

Really tuning in and hearing what we are feeling and becoming friends with those difficult emotions is hard work. Saying No when we don’t want to go to another party or volunteer for one more thing at school. Saying No Thanks when we are feeling pressured or manipulated or unsafe with someone. Nurturing and caring for ourselves instead of shutting down our feelings and powering through just for the sake of someone else’s agenda. This is what I am intent on doing these days.

Because when I work with what comes up hour by hour, I am more in tune with myself. I feel more connected and have less depression and more energy. It might not be what I had planned on doing that day and sometimes I’d so much rather ignore those nagging feelings and just get the shit done that I am “supposed” to do. It means going with my inner flow instead of struggling against it all the time, building trust with myself and knowing that I can take care of myself and rely on my emotions to guide me.

All that to say that in this time of making resolutions and thinking about what it is I would like to do differently or do more of, I am mindful that these ideas aren’t hard and fast goals, but gentle reminders of what direction I want to go in. There is no hurry and there are no deadlines when it comes to mental health (the pressure makes it worse!).

So although I wanted to do some yoga, declutter the attic and the kitchen today, clean the bathrooms and vacuum, run about 4 different errands and take some time to knit and relax, my body is telling me to take it slow, to take care of my sore neck and throat, to rest a bit and ride the waves of PMS. To be more internal and in tune with what my body is experiencing.

Instead, I have tidied a bit, taken care of a few things that are approaching a deadline and have settled into a nest in my chair with a blanket, tea and some winter sunshine to write a bit. I have my diffuser going with essential oils and all my projects sitting in a basket next to me waiting for when I need them. Soon enough a flurry of activity will swell up around me after the school day ends and when that happens, I will stay in tune with my feelings, do my best and let the rest fall away until another day.

And I feel pretty good about that

Ho, Ho, NO!

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http://blogs.psychcentral.com/childhood-neglect/2016/12/holiday-help-for-the-emotionally-neglected/

I got this article in my inbox this morning and it summed up how I am feeling right now. I am highly symptomatic and am fully dreading the next few weeks. I want to hide, to disappear, to be alone and do absolutely nothing for days on end.

One of the biggest struggles I have is staying in touch with my feelings. They are intense and often scary to experience, so the fast paced holiday activities tend to force me into my numb place. And then things get worse, I make bad decisions, I stop connecting to how I feel and then I cannot take good care of myself.

If I take it slowly and really try to stay in tune with myself, I feel like I am missing out on all the festive activities that are happening around me. And that makes me feel isolated and alone.

So how do I approach these next few weeks without spinning out of control and freezing up into a stress induced coma?

I wish I knew. I am not taking big social risks right now and that feels right, even though that might mean turning down holiday parties. I really need to stay in my safe zone. I’d love to connect to others who feel the same way and are also struggling but I haven’t found that community in my everyday life.

If I can stay calm and take it day by day, making choices that feel right to me, I think that’s the best I can do. Unfortunately, staying calm has gotten harder lately and the panic attacks are getting worse.

I’m really not in a position to get out there and socialize to try to overcome my anxiety. I am in survival mode, keeping the ptsd and the anxiety and depression at bay. To keep the stress to a minimum I need to continue to stay grounded and that takes most of my energy. Holidays come and go and in January life will settle into a regular rhythm again. I claim my right to participate as little as I want and not obsess about who that may disappoint.

I am finding joy in my knitting and a little bit of yoga, in taking photos of the changing season and finding quiet, sunny places to sit and settle myself. It seems like a monumental challenge to stay in this pleasant place and not get distracted or feel sorry for myself, but I’m sticking to it as much as possible even if that means I only minimally acknowledge the traditional holiday experience. It’s the spirt that counts anyway and I am determined to live in as much joy and peace as possible.

I would love it if you would share your simple pleasures during this often painful time of year, whatever it may be. I think I am going to watch the entire series of Harry Potter in the next few weeks and maybe splurge on a holiday flavored latte, chai or specialty tea 🙂 What things bring you joy and peace when you are struggling?

Holiday Anxiety, Sadness and Isolation

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The holiday’s seem to be on everyone’s mind. Things like baking cookies, decorating the tree, going to parties, watching Christmas movies, opening advent calendars, spending time with family, putting lights on the house, shopping at the mall, buying gifts and feeling all warm and fuzzy.

Many people love the holidays, I mean LOVE! But for me (and many others) the holidays bring depression, anxiety and stress. It’s not just the expectations of what the holidays are supposed to be like or the extra activities that are abuzz around me, but the sense of isolation I feel during this time.

I feel lonely and sad, isolated and disconnected. It’s a time when the experience of being unable to attach to others is amplified, and it is simply painful. The deep feeling of not being able to trust others to keep me emotionally safe makes me feel more hopeless than ever.

The emotional neglect, loss and grief in my life that I have tried so hard to overcome and to heal from feels fruitless and I struggle to cope with feelings of insecurity and low self worth. For what are the holidays except feeling close to others?

I try to focus on what I can do: continue to take care of myself, participate in activities when I can, think about how I can bring joy to those I love and appreciate the progress that I have made.

But it is hard.

And I want to isolate.

So I am struggling these days and finding it hard to stay on track. I feel like I am back peddling and that might just be part of this process of healing. Feeling sad is ok, feeling the old losses is ok, making room for them to just be is ok.

I’m going to try to tune out of the things that stress me out (even thought they are everywhere right now) and focus on something else as painful as that is, because yes, I do want to enjoy the holidays too. I can’t even think of anything that might bring me joy right now, but maybe simply surviving is all I can focus on.

I know a lot of us struggle during this season and we can be really hard on ourselves. It is also the season of peace and hope and I’m holding on to that

That Panicky Feeling

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I just went through a major panic attack about an hour ago. I started feeling it coming on and took my medication for it and it kept escalating. I was supposed to go out with a few friends to see a comedy show, but had to cancel at the last minute. I just didn’t want to leave my house and go out into the dark and drive away from what seems like relative safety at home. It is such a tug of war when something like this comes up because I want to go and laugh and be with friends but there is this looming, amorphous dread swirling around my body – SOMETHING BAD MIGHT HAPPEN.

It really makes me sad for the part of me that thought I could plan a night out and just simply get ready and walk out the door. It has happened so many times before that I am almost used to it, but today I felt how much I wanted to feel good interacting with people without anxiety.

Before I cancelled, I drank some calming tea, googled Yoga for Panic Attacks and followed along for 20 minutes and cried. It broke it all open -the struggle is real folks.

Good for me for trying, and I’ll try again next time. And the time after that.

During the short yoga practice there was a few moments of thinking about gratitude – what am I grateful for today or yesterday or this past week?

I am thankful for finding a sense of safety in my home, thankful for a chance to try again tomorrow. Thankful for feeling some emotions, thankful that I could be gentle with myself.

Now how to cope with the post panic attack uneasiness.  What can I do to help myself feel safe and comforted and put back together?

It’s all about feeling safe, contained, grounded and reassured, calming the body, letting go of what happened and accepting where I am now without judgement.

A short list of things I have on hand that might help me feel better (if even for a few minutes). I will try a few of these tonight.

Lavender essential oil

Hot Cocoa

A warm shower

Yoga stretches

Some simple knitting

TV shows/ Movies

A warm blanket and pillow

A stuffed animal or doll to snuggle with – a person would do too 🙂 if I wasn’t on my own tonight

Warm soup (if my appetite comes back)

Fresh air

And finally, a good night’s sleep

And then we start again tomorrow, with a little hope, a little gratitude and a lot of bravery.

Shifts and Changes

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It’s been three months since I last had a binge/purge episode. I’m far enough away from the bulimic behavior to start addressing things like body image, exercise and intuitive eating in a reasonable way, but it has been rough.

Bulimia was my coping skill for uncomfortable feelings, it numbed everything, made it go away for a while. The food was a focus, a ritual, a safe haven from the chaos of the world of emotions inside me. Without it, I am learning how to care for myself in depression, anxiety and hopelessness as well as venturing to follow my instincts and trying to honor my needs, desires and hopes.

My voice is still pretty buried, hard to decipher and fearful, but I can hear it a little better these days. I’m determined to let it bubble up in my dreams and thoughts and writing. One day it will be a little stronger and louder and I will come to understand myself better.

I read about the idea of Maitri in Pema Chodron’s  The Places That Scare You which means:

  • Unconditional friendliness with ourselves
  • Complete acceptance of ourselves
  • Loyalty to self
  • Self compassion

This is no easy task when your thoughts are “I hate my body” or “I’m lazy and worthless.” But beyond these thoughts are a place of acceptance and a chance to fully embody myself, in all of its contradictions, ugly and messy feelings, in all of its imperfections, and I can glimpse that now and want that for myself. And in some ways, I am excited to see and be who I really am, though it is rife with fear and anxiety.

I have had some bulimic ideation, obsessive thinking about what I might eat and purge, but so far I have not acted on those thoughts. And I have not dissociated either, which means I am beginning to accept the idea that things change and then they change again, meaning the thoughts and feelings will pass and change and then change again, if I can hold on and get through the darkest hours.

The seasonal change into autumn has has been difficult. My energy has been low and I fear that deep depression is right around the corner. I am trying to think of ways to cope with less energy, less sunlight and colder weather. I am trying to have things to look forward to, make plans that might keep my spirits up. I am trying to deal with feelings of apathy and inability to feel pleasure. I am trying to accept this state of flux and uncertainty, reminding myself that this is not permanent, that things change and then they change again.

Any suggestions on how to cope with and get through Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) would be welcome. I do have a light box and have found that even a little bit of gentle exercise helps, but if anyone else is suffering and has found ways to feel better even for an hour or two, I’d love to hear your experiences. How do you enjoy fall? What rituals help you transition from sunshine and warm days to crisp weather and falling leaves? How can I celebrate this change instead of shutting down? Where can I find meaning in this change of energy, in the earth’s rotation, in this cycle of the seasons? Holidays tend to stress me out, but I’d like to do things differently this time around, to keep my voice and find the light that fuels me.

Safety and Containment

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What is life without pain? I’ve had some glimpses – a white flowing silk, draped around me. The glowing light from above, moving through my body, soothing my nerves. The bliss, the glory, the wholeness.

Then the body starts aching again, the dull feeling in my brain returns. I fracture. The ribbon of darkness wraps itself around me tightly, and I cannot breath anymore.

Grief washes over me, again and again. Guilt like a nonstop bullet train runs full steam through me. Fears and feelings I cannot understand knot together, sticky like melted taffy. Pull one and the rest comes too, messy and hard to contain. All the shame and fear, panic and disconnect rush out and overwhelm the system.

Containment

Safety

Acceptance

Grounding

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This is what I reach for to remind myself I am ok, that the shadows will disperse and the mind will clear eventually. That one by one, these feeling can be let in when I am safe and ready. That clarity will come when I am calm, whenever that is. That I will be free again for a while to see the beauty of the weeping willow at the edge of the river, the little turtle sunning itself on a rock, to walk barefoot through puddles of rain and soak my feet in cold lake water. I will be able to feel the soft texture of moss and the smooth edges of shells and rocks, to hear the trees swaying in the wind and feel the breeze ease across my face. The pain will not last forever