A Social Anxiety Hell

That’s what I was dealing with last week Thursday.

The hell that is a waiting room where my social anxiety was triggered big time – while waiting for my therapist.
How’s that for a little irony? Triggered while at the place where I’m supposed to work on my issues.
(Okay, maybe it’s not really irony, but I can’t think of a better word at the moment.)

I checked in and after filling out my paperwork I sat at a section of 3 connected chairs. There was a gal sitting at the far right end so I, like a human being ought to, left the middle chair empty and sat in the far left chair.

Then about 10 more people came in (it’s a large office with about 25 chairs in the waiting room) and one of them was coughing and sniffling but I didn’t think much of it – it is winter after all.

So, I kept scrolling through social media on my phone as I often do to tamp down the anxiety in a public place. A couple people came over and sat nearby.

Scroll, scroll, scroll a little faster, but still okay.

And then, after she checked in coughing-sniffling-lady came over and SAT RIGHT BETWEEN ME AND THE GAL AT THE FAR RIGHT.
She took the middle seat in a section of three chairs when two of those chairs were already occupied.
She was so close that I swear she was looking at my phone, so I had to shut it down because it’s not fair to my friends who were sharing their personal lives with me, not knowing I had weird sick person sitting almost on top of me, spying on them.

What the actual hell is this? Is that woman a sadist?

I mean, come on, can we have a little humanity here?

  1.  You’re coughing and sniffling, so you’re clearly sick, why are you sitting close to anyone at all when there are loads of other chairs not near other people where you can not spread your cold/flu
  2. Even if you weren’t sick, if there are other options why are you choosing to sit at the middle chair connected to two other chairs that are occupied by strangers???
  3. I bet she is that person who goes into a public restroom and goes into the stall right next to an occupied one instead of skipping a stall

It was “only” a couple minutes later that my therapist came to get me, but it felt like hours.
And you know that deodorant commercial that talks about stress sweat smelling worse than regular sweat – it does, and damn that woman probably didn’t even have to smell me because she was sick. GAH.

 

(btw – this is me calmed down about the situation, if you can believe it. It took a week before I could sit down and put it into words without flipping out and starting to sweat again.)

 

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Home is Where the…

Lately I don’t know how to finish that sentence.

A few years ago I found myself living in the city I’d grown up in and feeling stifled by everything. I was in a job that had a career trajectory that was far from what I wanted to be in life. I was living in apartments, and had no desire to live in a house because it felt too permanent.
Everywhere I went someone knew someone in my family so I was always someone’s sister/daughter/aunt – and I hated it.
I didn’t know how to describe myself in any other way. If I tried something new my family would know about it in days (and they’d all talk about it with family friends, cousins, aunts & uncles, etc) so then the next six months of my life would be about explaining that I wasn’t “into” whatever-it-was-that-I-tried, it was just something I was trying.

Like I said, stifling.

So, I left my job and went back to school. Money was tight, no it was more than tight. I was trying to stretch every dollar into at least ten dollars worth. There were a few months where some utility service got interrupted. But it was better than the soul crushing job that I’d had previously. But I was still not quite happy.

So, I moved to a new city, with the help of family who wanted an excuse to invest in real estate in the new town. And I loved my house. A small bungalow in the heart of town, to call it charming didn’t do it justice.
I found myself searching for connections with people now that I didn’t have that familial connection of everyone knowing someone in my family.

And I found a job that really feeds my soul – I just wish it paid better, but for now it pays the bills and allows me to work from home so the good outweighs the bad. Especially since the job moved with me, I didn’t have to search for a new job as well as move my life.

Anyway, after 5 years living in the house of my dreams, I found myself needing to move back to the city I grew up in. And I was ready to leave the small town I’d been living in, but I wouldn’t have chosen this city to move to. But when my mom died and my father’s alzheimer’s dementia started speeding up the choice was made for me.

So, I’m in a condo now, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but it’s very different from my 109 year old house that had charm coming out the seams. This condo is very cookie cutter, and in a part of the city where everything is a trek to get to, and it’s an adjustment I’m trying to make.

I’ve yet to settle in, even though I’ve lived here nearly a year, and there are still boxes to be unpacked. And I don’t know if I’ll ever do either of those because this place feels like a temporary port in the storm. I’m nearly 100% sure I’ll move after Dad’s dementia ends his life. I’m here because I need to care for him, but I wouldn’t have chosen it if it weren’t for the need to be close.

Sometimes I spend hours looking at homes & condos for sale online, trying to decide if I should stay in this city when the choice is mine again.
And I don’t know.
And maybe that’s okay – for now.

Until the choice becomes mine again, and until I figure out how to finish the statement “Home is where the…”

Brain Dead (CBS)

Have you ever watched the short lived CBS tv show Brain Dead?

I’ve had it on my list of shows to someday, eventually, watch for a long time now.
And I finally was given some unplanned free time this weekend, so I started watching it.

And it’s weird, a little funny – it may have been a little more funny a year and a half ago when it originally aired because it’s also a little bit predictive of our political culture and that feeling of “Oh God, this could be today” takes a bit of the humor out of it for me.

And when I say it was a little bit predictive, I don’t mean that I literally believe that politician’s brains are being eaten by alien space bugs. I mean it’s…

So. On. The. Nose.

Definitely a show before it’s time.

If you like satire, and a little drama and weirdness then it’s worth a watch.

a week in pictures (week 2)

Week 2=plants, plants, plants.

I bought 4 new plants this week, I think I have a problem and should be kept away from the hothouses in town.

Monday January 8 – this little guy looks so sad and wilty, but I swear he’s healthy and growing, promise

Tuesday January 9 – I still haven’t put away my Christmas bowls/platters/mugs/etc, they are sitting on the end of my kitchen counter staring at me, waiting. But, one of my excuses is that I can’t decide if these particular bowls are Christmas or just winter. I have only used them at Christmas in previous years, but there’s a missing bowl (it was a set of 3, but I sent my brother home with some leftover dip in one last year and I never got it back…grrr) and I just think they’re so happy that I want to keep them out. What do you think – too Christmasy?

Wednesday January 10 – I can not get enough of eggs this week it seems, every day for breakfast it’s been eggs & toast and I always want more for lunch and have had to resist the idea

Thursday January 11 – I bought two new plants (pathos & aloe) and a couple plant pots and a terrarium on Thursday, but just wait, it turns out I wasn’t done there

Friday January 12 – Friday was totally uninspiring for me, I snoozed this alarm from 7am-11:30 before I gave up and just took a photo of the alarm so I could count it as done

Saturday January 13 – More plant shopping on Saturday (an orchid and a succulent I don’t know the name of). I think I have an obsession because just a couple hours after buying these I was resisting going back for a couple more.
Anyway, while I was there Saturday I found this beautiful Christmas ornament , it’s so sparkly! And 50% off.

Sunday January 14 – I re-potted the pathos Sunday morning. It turns out I still don’t have the right pot for the aloe, so it has yet to be potted, but I’m on the lookout for one (an excuse to go back to the greenhouse soon!)

An extra goodie on my instagram (I haven’t put much there yet, but I will) – I stopped by Starbucks on Saturday and found their restroom is prettier than anything in my home. And that’s just a little bit funny & a little bit sad.

my sister and I

That title makes it sound a bit like we had some shared life. We didn’t really.

We shared a house. We shared brothers. We shared the same set of parents. And we even shared a bedroom for a year.

But we most certainly did not share a life.

My sister was the only girl for 12 years, and although everyone tells me that she was excited to finally have a sister after 4 brothers, I never felt that from her. Really, when I came along I was just a doll for her to play with when she wanted then fling in the corner when she was done.
And that’s basically what our relationship has been like, forever.

I wish we had a better relationship. I wish we could be “like sisters”. But we’re not. And I’ve recently come to the realization that I don’t believe we ever will be close.

I was working on that theme today in my therapy session. And it was interesting because I was so very tired that I couldn’t censor myself, which wasn’t fun, but it was a good thing to have happen in a therapy session.
It gave me the chance to hear some things come out of my own mouth that I hadn’t even admitted to my own (conscious) self.

And not all of them were pleasant to realize – like the fact that I set up part of this challenging relationship by expecting her to try and be someone she has never shown herself to be. And then being hurt & upset when she isn’t the version of a sister that I want her to be.

That’s not fair to either of us. And I need to stop doing that.

What I need to work on being able to do is to accept her as she is, and not let her into my brain quite so much that I’m affected by her being who she is.
I want to be able to go into a family event without having any emotional armor on and be able to leave the same event without being affected by the judgement that I often feel coming from her now.

It’s time to put that at the top of my to-do list – and more importantly be able to check off that damned list.

A new day…

I know clips like this are all over the internet, and in the news, but I really don’t think it can be overshared.

Women standing together is a force that can not be stopped if we don’t allow it to be stopped. The world has not yet seen the power women contain, we must learn to support each other like this more.
Others don’t have to lose so that we can win.

My Own Personal Brand of Anxiety

Anxiety is not logical, it’s a chemical response to stimuli which is misunderstood as a threat by the (physical) brain.

We’ve all experienced some level of anxiety, where it became a problem for me is when I stopped being able to identify reasons for it to be presenting in my life. And when I started avoiding life because I simply want to avoid the things that will typically stimulate the anxiety.

I am not trying to say my anxiety is worse than anyone else, or that I’m the queen of all things anxiety; I’m just relaying my own experiences in the hopes that if someone else recognizes these in themselves but didn’t know that it’s more than just  “in their head”, that they can know that there are others with these feelings, and help is out there.

  • jumping at the sound of a doorbell, knocking on my door, footsteps on the sidewalk, even the buzz of a text message, let alone my phone ringing
  • fearing someone will ask me any questions about my own personal life – what if I am wrong? They’ll hate/despise me, or judge me as vapid, or silly/dumb for life
  • I stopped cleaning my house, a subconscious decision that would be used as a way to keep people at arms length
  • I found myself becoming irrationally frustrated or upset with things not going the way I expected; it’s not that I expected everything to go the way I WANTED it, it’s more about things not going a way that I’d thought they would go, so even things that went my way could piss my off
  • my ability to carry on conversations easily disappeared, I was so concerned with looking “stupid” that I actually became “stupid” sounding; there wasn’t a flow to my thoughts & words, my way of speaking became stilted and halting, I had to think about every word that came out of my mouth
  • I started dressing as plainly as possible – solid & muted colors, nothing that looked good on me. I wanted to blend in, not stand out in any way
  • not being able to read a book, or even a long-form article – I found myself too flighty to concentrate on following a story that was longer than a few paragraphs

There were more signs & symptoms, but these were at the top of the list if things that affected my life the most.

Sometimes, when my anxiety hits at a time when I can’t take any meds, all I can do is breath to help relieve some of the intensity. I know it sounds silly, but it really does help. Take 5 minutes and…

a week in pictures (week 1)

I’m trying a photo a day challenge again this year. I’m not posting them daily though, I’m just posting them weekly as that’s where I failed last year, I just didn’t get them edited/culled/posted daily so I gave up.

Sigh.

This year I’m shooting daily, editing/culling/posting weekly in an effort to complete my challenge.

Here’s week 1…

Monday Jan 1: it’s been so very cold lately (it continued for the most of the week), typically I’ll wear my scarf/mittens when I’m cleaning off the car and then I’ll take them off, not this week

Tuesday Jan 2: as much as I love technology, I’m still a paper planner kind of a chick; and I’m taking a page from that planner and making it my theme for the year

Wednesday Jan 3: my neighborhood is usually as dull as a butter knife, especially at 4:30 am when I get up to start my day; today I woke up to search lights shining and loads of cars pulling up down the street. I don’t mind saying I was a little freaked out and called the P.D. to find out what was going on – it was a lot less dramatic than it looked thankfully

(at 4:30, before I’d had any coffee or put on my glasses it actually looked more like this…)

Thursday Jan 4: I continue to be amazed just how much more I am enjoying winter now that I don’t have to shovel  & drive in it everyday

Friday Jan 5: clementines & plants, the freshness & color ruling my life these winter days

Saturday Jan 6: sorry for the crappy snapshot, but grocery pick up is my happy place some days, my shopping list is the order and the order is ready when I want to pick it up

Sunday Jan 7: I’d already been up for an hour. On a Sunday. Why? Well, I’d had a creepy nightmare all night and I even though I could have used a couple more hours of sleep, I just did not want to go back to that

to sleep, to dream (a stream of sort-of-consciousness)

It’s Friday night. 9:18pm.

That doesn’t seem too late really, but I’m normally up at 4am, so it’s a little late for me.

But that’s not what I intended to write about tonight. Actually I didn’t intend to write at all, but I thought maybe I would since I’m awake anyway.

Any-way, it is late for me to be awake and at my computer. And I’m an insomniac. A real, certified, diagnosed insomniac. Not the kind that can’t go to sleep, I’m the kind of insomniac that can’t stay asleep. I can fall asleep initially, and I get about 2-3 hours of good sleep, then some small thing wakes me up – like my cat meowing, my bladder needing to be voided, or you know, breathing too deeply (my lungs, not my bladder, it’s not that talented that it can breath). And then I can’t go back to sleep. But I try, and for a few hours I’ll turn on a podcast and put a mask over my eyes to block out any light that might keep me awake, or I may turn on a movie or tv show I’ve seen a million times so I can close my eyes and just let the ambient noise distract my brain from all the anxiety it’s creating without my permission. But I never really go back to sleep.

It was really bad for a while in the last year, understandably there were some things on my mind with each of my parents failing health (healths?), and moving, and selling a house, and you know, life.

Then I went to my old therapist and he got me in touch with a great PA so I gave in and went back on meds – and now I sleep with the assistance of a small round tablet called Ambien. And I’m taking it on a really regular basis – like 5 times a week, only missing a couple days a week as some way to prove to myself that I’m still in charge of my life. And sometimes on those days I can get 5-6 hours, which isn’t really long enough but it’s certainly longer than I had been getting a few months ago. If I try for that third day of no Ambien thought I find myself looking at the clock at 2am trying to decide how to entertain my errant mind while still resting my body.

So lately I’ve been trying to figure out when I need to take the med and when I just take it because I’m afraid of not sleeping. I plan my sleep like I plan meetings for work. For example, if it’s the night before a big day of meetings or busy doctors schedules then I am absolutely taking an Ambien – that’s an easy decision.
And on Saturdays, when I don’t have to do anything other than cook for and spend time with Dad I don’t worry about how much sleep I’m not going to get. It’s another easy decision.
The not so easy decision occurs on the nights where I have something going the next day, but it’s not a heavily scheduled day, so if I don’t sleep great I’ll be okay. The concern is what if I don’t get even 5 minutes more sleep than that initial couple hours. But if I don’t decide to take the Ambien by 8pm then I’m screwed because I won’t have metabolized it in time to get up and going for work in the morning. So, I basically create an inevitable outcome of not sleeping on those nights.

But, now that I’ve sort of caught up* on my lack of sleep, I’ve started wondering if I’m relying on the sleep meds more than I ought to. Is it really better to take less Xanax during the day by taking Ambien every night? Would I be better off not taking the Ambien more than 3 nights a week, but then on the other nights possibly taking a Xanax at 2am when I’ve woken up and letting that lull me into a dozing state of rest.

Anyway, tonight is one of those nights that I struggle with deciding on taking my sleep medicine, and I definitely was talking myself into my fear that I won’t sleep through the night.
So, sorry for the extra rambling, the Ambien is clearly beginning to enter my system and I had best lay my head down on my pillow and enter recovery mode.

*can you ever really catch up on missed sleep?

what I learned in ’17

  • life goes on – even when horrible things happen in life, and even when I really didn’t want it to go on, it did & it does & it will continue to go on
  • people don’t understand unless they’ve been there – they think they understand, but they don’t. And that’s okay, they don’t have to understand if they’re there for me anyway
  • friends need to be needed – trying to make things better for friends by not being a burden can itself be a burden
  • being creative breeds the ability to be more creative – there’s a purpose to crappy art, it leads to good art
  • It’s time for me to open up my world and work to share the real me with the world, even if others don’t agree with me