Anxiety · Depression

Not What She Seems

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This week has been terrible.  Last week was good, this one is awful.  It is my last week of work before I fall into the abyss of not working, and I am a nervous wreck about it.  My good-bye party was held on Tuesday and I left it in tears.  My mind keeps spinning around and around, racing with all sorts of terrible thoughts about the immediate and distant future.  Even though I am moving back to my old hometown, even though I have another job lined up, I can only think awful things.

I would be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking about suicide a lot lately.

Nobody would ever, ever, ever suspect that I think these things.  Everyone keeps saying how nice I am, how happy I look all the time at work, how wonderful that everything is working out for me and how excited I must be to move back home after ten years.  How fortunate, they say, for my new workplace, to have someone like me, who loves their job so much and never misses a day of work.  How lucky that I have a husband who adores me and takes care of me, and friends and family who love and support me.

They don’t know that in the cracks between my day, the moments when I’m not doing anything or just driving or on the treadmill at the gym, all I can think of is, maybe I should just cut my wrists and be done with it all.

And honestly, after nine months of this shit, of looking forward every day to crawling into bed at night for the sweetness of oblivion, it is goddamn tempting.

That’s me.  The luckiest woman in the world.  The happiest woman.  The one you work with, your best friend, the one who seems to have her life completely together.  This is what she thinks.  This is how she lives her life inside, every minute of every day.

 

Anxiety · Depression · Sensitivity

A (negative) HSP week

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Source: Introvert Doodles

I really needed this comic this week.  It has been a bad few days, where nothing seemed to go right.  It rained all week, everyone called in sick to work, library patrons were extremely demanding and I felt miserable and full of PMS.  I am back to having an upset stomach and tight chest at the end of the day now.  I found the noise from people just unbearable: the screaming, whiny kids, the obnoxious teenagers, the loud cell phone talkers, the constant allergy sneezes.  I just wanted to stuff cotton in my ears and retreat to a private, quiet space.

I am really looking forward to leaving this all behind.

Healing · Sensitivity

Journeys

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Cruise ship, California, April 2017

I have been away for most of this month.  I took a much-needed vacation on a cruise ship that traveled the California coast.  Something that would have been impossible for me to do six months ago was suddenly attainable.  I survived.

Here are things I enjoyed about the journey, and helped me heal:  being away from stress and responsibility.  Spending time with people I cared about.  Being around others (more difficult to think dark thoughts).  Eating lots of delicious food.  Swimming and going on long walks every single day.  The feeling of the ship’s engine and the swaying of the boat lulling me gently to sleep every night.  Warm, dry, sunny weather. Getting to see places that I have only ever dreamed about seeing.  Listening to classical concerts on the ship and letting the music sweep me away.

Here are things that stressed me out: Feeling bored and restless during the late afternoons on the ship.  The constant crowds: oh my lord were there crowds, everywhere.  Having to wait in line all the dang time.  Really boring rich old people on the ship.  Worrying that I wasn’t enjoying myself “enough.”

But I made it.  I came back a bit tired, mostly relaxed, and more confident in my ability to navigate the world and survive outside of my routine (something I find very stressful).  I did enjoy being spoiled a bit, and having everyone wait on me hand and foot, although not without a lot of guilt over my first world privilege. (I at least treated the staff with courtesy, unlike a lot of my fellow passengers).

I didn’t feel a lot of creative energy on the ship and I couldn’t muster up too many daydreams.  The closest I got was having a cocktail  in one of the lounges while listening to classical music and pretending I was in an Agatha Christie mystery.   But I did form memories that will provide inspiration for the future.  Plus, I got to see dolphins playing one morning alongside the ship!

Before my husband and I left, we got our house ready for sale.  It was an extremely anxiety and depression-inducing week before the trip, as travel always makes me anxious and selling one’s house is no picnic.  This week has been stressful, too. I’m still jet-lagged and haven’t been able to spend time in the house because of all the viewings.

There is also the anticipatory anxiety of moving, which has been plaguing me ever since the start of my mental health episode.  Part of the reason I am moving is to get away from my current work/life situation and return to my hometown after ten years of being away.  I already have a job lined up (which happened for me on my trip) so that at least is a weight off my shoulders.

I am also slowly weaning myself off my medication.  I was initially hesitant to get off it at all, thinking I was better off just taking it forever.  But at my doctor’s advice I am going off it at a glacial pace.  I am currently at 5 mgs every other day, down from 10 every day this winter, and I plan on spacing them out to every three days soon.  At first going to a half dose was horrible.  I felt a similar level of anxiety to what I felt in the fall, with racing thoughts, nightmares, flu-like symptoms, etc.   Now at least I know what is going on and am able to account for it.  The transitioning gets easier every day.

I will be glad when my house sells and I don’t have to worry about strangers traipsing through my house all the time.  I have to keep trying to carve out relax time for myself, but it is difficult.  Sometimes all I get is a quick nighttime bath or ten minutes with the bunnies.

Anxiety · Depression · Healing

The slowly changing seasons

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Artwork by my mom

As this is the second time in my life I’ve been seriously affected by anxiety, I have noticed a pattern in the progression.  I am attempting to chronicle it here, not just for my own future reference, but in the hopes that it might help someone else too.

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It approaches in stealth mode.  I don’t feel it coming.  Once in a while I’ll feel a tightness in my chest, or feel down for no reason.  It builds in a way that I don’t really notice, slowly over weeks and months.  As time goes by, I feel more and more a shortness of breath and a growing sense of unreality.  My normal mode starts to become angry and helpless.  My body becomes affected with everything from nausea to uncontrollable twitching.  However, in this stage I am still able to enjoy things when I am relaxed.  Up until the tipping point.

Once the tipping point is reached, the dark thoughts begin to enter my head.  I lose all sense of reality.  My body is completely possessed, with panic attacks, racing heart and nightmares all the time.  I cling desperately to everything that is familiar, unable to leave my narrow comfort zone.  The thought of getting better again feels impossible.

In this dark place, there is no pleasure, there is only survival.  There are days when it feels easier to end it all rather than continue in this hideous state.  Somehow, though, I manage to hang on by my fingernails, dangling over the edge of the cliff.  This is the absolute bottom, when all I can do is cry for help.  I take medication, I go to therapy, I reach out to everyone I know and trust to help me through.

Then, slowly, a change begins to happen.  From somewhere deep inside a crack of hope begins to appear.  Just a single crack, one day.  Maybe the next day it’s gone.  Maybe it’s even gone for a week.  Then later on, it appears again, perhaps for an hour.  Then a few days later, for half a day.  A few months pass, and you have one amazing day where everything works out right and the hope is blooming.

After that you have more bad days.  Then another good one.  Then a bad week, and two good days.  You’re whipping back and forth between hope and despair.  But the hope is winning out.  It starts bleeding into the bad days.

Months have gone by.  The crack is now a wide opening of sun.  Most days are good now, but during some you walk in the shadow.  The shadows are growing smaller, though, and it’s easier to see the sun beyond them.  They are like snow melting in the spring.  You nervously walk around them.  Sometimes you have to go through them.  It sucks but it’s getting easier.

Eventually, you notice the season has changed completely.  You no longer tremble in fear of the shadow.  This is the point where you say, Life is Good.   Every so often you encounter the shadows again.  There are always clouds moving across your sky, even on the best days.  But now you know what they are.  You look at them and say, bring it on, shadow.  I survived worse.

Anxiety

I can’t relax

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Abstract, January 2017

(The following was written on a cranky Sunday evening, during a very pessimistic mood.)

It’s the middle of a three-day weekend and I am already itching to get back to work.  I know that sounds terrible, but that’s how I feel.

I feel like the only person in the world who can’t relax.  I’m the only person who hates the fact that I get a three-day weekend every other week.  We are required to work longer days to earn that extra day, and I think it’s stupid.  I want to work five days like everyone else.

I don’t understand people who don’t want to work.  What do they do all day?  I would start cutting myself if I couldn’t work.  I love working.  I have a job with a lot of responsibility and I love going in each day and having people who rely on me and lots to do and making a difference in my community.  My mood always elevates the day I go back to work and is really high by Thursday or Friday when I’ve been working for awhile and in the work zone.

Relaxing?  Not for me.  I mean, I get that it’s important.  I am just not interested in relaxing the way other people do.  I like having a bath before bed and reading a good book.  That’s all I need to relax.

But Sunday afternoons?  I’m ready to start banging my head against the wall.  By then my housework is done and I’ve already read and watched what I wanted.  I don’t need any more time off.  I want to be out doing and talking to people at work.  I can’t imagine enjoying things people are supposed to love doing on Sunday afternoons, like golfing or mowing your lawn.  I get bored thinking about it.

Summer?  Forget about it.  I hate summer.  I spend the other nine months of the year dreading it.  It’s awful.  There is absolutely nothing pleasant about summer.  The heat gives me a constant headache, I can’t sleep properly, it’s noisy, and everyone is outside telling you that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t want to be outside enjoying it too.  Being me in the summer is like having the cranky, restless stage of the flu every single day.  Spring, fall and winter are great.  Summer is hell.  Again, I’m an HSP.  Extreme heat feels like being shoved in an oven and stabbed with steak knives.

Why am I writing this now?  Well, because I try so hard to make weekends work for me.  I try to fill them with to-do lists and exercise.  I try to do fun things too, like art and listening to music and eating out and watching movies and meeting friends for coffee.  Every Friday when I drive home from work, I think, I’ve got it this time.  I’ve got this weekend.  And every weekend, inevitably, my good mood deflates the longer it’s been since I was at work, and I start to feel lonely and restless.

The only time I’ve ever been able to get around this is when I’m on a trip.  Somehow, being away from my house makes everything different.

I have a constant, recurring anxious vision of myself retired, old and alone, my mind stagnating, my days filled with tedium and boredom and anxiety.  I just can’t seem to get this image out of my head. It has been haunting me, stalking me relentlessly, since I had my nervous breakdown.  I don’t know how to get rid of it.  I know I am a good thirty years away from retiring, but in my mind I’m already living that life.  It sounds crazy, but I have been trying to think up ways I can keep working until the day I die.  I’ll volunteer all day if I have to.

So many people I work with can’t wait to retire.  I don’t know why.  Everyone I know who has retired loves it, and I honestly don’t know how they do it.  I don’t know how they get through every single day completely adrift and unstructured.  I need, crave, thrive on routine and structure and responsibility.

Nobody at work who read this would every suspect it was me who wrote it.  I know they all think I’m someone who has it all figured out, who lives a charmed life, who has her shit together and never doubts herself of gets anxieties.  They don’t know that I’d rather be them.  I’d rather be a screw-up at work and be happy at home and not mind free time than feel like a neurotic, depressed mess when I’m outside my work environment.

Sensitivity

The sound of silence

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Maybe I’m just aware more now of my sensitivity, but boy, sounds seem to bug me a lot lately.  I’ve really been noticing music in public places and it always grates on me.  But the people sounds are worst.

Today I had a few errands to run at the Dollar Store and Wal-Mart.  (I know. Wal-Mart on a Sunday.  Bad idea).  Everywhere I went, there were moms and their kids.

Now, I don’t have children.  And today just reinforced why.  I honestly don’t think I could put up with the constant noise of them.  The constant high-pitched whining was awful.  “Moooommmmyyyy.”  It never ended.  And those were the good kids.  There was also the classic, “I’m BORED, can we go now?” and the screaming and tantrums.

I couldn’t wait to get in my car.  The radio was on, and I couldn’t find a station that didn’t bother me.  So I switched it off, enclosed in the quiet, happy bubble of my car.

Aaaahhhh.  It felt like a little piece of paradise.  The sun was shining, all I could hear was the faint sound of my engine, and I had left behind all the noisy people to go home to my peaceful house and peaceful bunnies.

Quiet: it’s good for your mental health.