Wednesday, April 9, 2014

please don't ruin me

I am an optimist. Or I used to be. No - I am still. I AM DETERMINED TO REMAIN AN OPTIMIST!

Here's the thing. I love believing in people. I believe in the romance of second chances. Rose-colored glasses for all! But as I get older, I see the world calls that "being naive".

The horrible thing is that most of my experiences back this world view.

To me, this is truly devastating. This RUINS me.

So much of who I am is wrapped up in this belief - in redemption and grace changing people's lives.

So . . . if it doesn't change people's lives . . . then - what?

A few years ago, I was a part of an "intervention" of sorts for a loved one. It was a nightmare. To have to look this person that you would do anything for in the eye and say if they did not do "X, Y, and Z" that you could no longer do anything for them. Of course, that's not a great synopsis of what was said - but still, I felt like a monster. The eyes I looked into were that of someone beholding the cruelest of beings.

Part of me wanted this method to fail. I wanted ultimatum's everywhere to fail and only endless mercy to prosper.

But it didn't fail - exactly. It was terrible for awhile. But this person, over time, picked themselves up by their bootstraps. I watched with mixed joy and horror as this "pulling away" motivated my loved one to succeed . . . completely separate from me and my life-changing grace and pardons.

I'm still not completely sold on this method. It is still the last of resorts in my mind. (One of the many reasons why I would not make a good counselor.)

I have seen some of that life-altering grace extended, over and over. But it doesn't seem to be "working". The life is not being altered. Will the loved ones be pressed to help at all costs - even the soul-sucking option of pulling away all support in hopes that this person will then stand on their own two feet?

I understand that we are humans. We are giving second chances to humans. Second chances are being given to us (humans). Of course, we're going to occasionally, if not more so, screw up.

I suppose, my point, if I have one is that I am scared by the notion that grace is not magic . . . but isn't it? Grace given not in order to motivate someone or to really have any end in sight. Just grace being offered. This must be supernatural, a boon to the soul (both to the giver and the receiver).

I suppose this unselfish grace - the grace that wants nothing in return for it - can (and sometimes must) coexist with other motivational methods. This kind of grace speaks to our deeper selves, our spirit. Ultimatums (depending on the specifics, I suppose) do not negate the grace that is offered. Right? Right.

Well I just walked myself right through that thought process - so maybe I would be a good counselor after all.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Finding Relief

After 3 weeks of weird symptoms, I am almost back to baseline.

To sum up, I've been dealing with decreased appetite, significant weight loss, terrible sleep, dry heaving/vomiting, feeling like there is a lump in my throat that won't go away, and just generalized weakness. At the beginning, I thought this was all just anxiety. It's not my normal anxiety, but I thought maybe I just really did myself in this time.

However, I did some digging and went to my doctor with reflux as a possible idea. He put me on prescription-strength Prilosec and said to try it for a week and see what happens. I've still got the occasional lump in the throat feelings, which may be just inflammation/damage from the recent acid. I'm also still having to take something extra for sleep, but hopefully not for long.

I have the option of going ahead and seeing a specialist to see if I need my esophagus dilated (ugh). But we'll just wait and see if that needs to happen.

I've had the past week off with the original plan to go to Nashville for a songwriter's seminar. But I just didn't feel good about going - even though at the time we thought we had all our business together. It turns out just before my week off, our renter backed out of moving into our rental house and I started to feel really weird/ill.

I am very grateful that I listened to myself and stayed here. I am very grateful that I am starting to feel better, and that I had some time off to just not work.

Now I need to re-prioritize some things and figure out how to try to decrease stress and increase some rest and relaxation in my daily life.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

before the (porcelain) throne

I really want to be able to put a positive spin on this post, but I'm just not sure I can do that honestly. It's been a weird couple of weeks. Even since my last post - it's gotten weirder. I've been waking up consistently between 2-5am every night (Ambien or no Ambien). I started dry heaving every morning for a week, which just within the last 3 days turned into vomiting. I've still had almost no appetite, and have probably lost close to 10 pounds (not a good thing for me).

I thought that this might be side effects from the Cymbalta I started last week, but I've been off of it for 4-5 days. Maybe it is just plain ole anxiety - these things aren't unheard of. But I got my hopes up last night thinking it was GERD or something involving acid reflux. It fit perfectly. Decreased appetite and weight loss - check. Fullness in the throat - check. Vomiting on an empty stomach without nausea - check. So last night I ate some cereal before bed, tried to sleep at a 45 degree angle all night, and took a Zantac before bed. But I woke up at 2am - vomited. Woke up at 6am - vomited. Woke up at 9am - vomited. WHAT IS UP?! I guess it could still be GERD, or a combination of GERD and anxiety - who knows. One thing I know is that I'm not pregnant.

I have some time off this week, and there are many things I should be working on - but I'm SO tired. I just want this figured out. I feel extremely guilty for being so useless for so long. My husband is having to pick up some major slack. My daughter is probably wondering why I'm no fun.

I guess the silver lining is I hardly have time or energy to be anxious.

I have still found comfort in God and for that I am extremely grateful.

Friday, August 23, 2013

faith vs fear

Wednesday I wrote a blog post about my journey to the doctor and also my journey in faith. But I ended up not posting it - thinking it wasn't "figured out" enough.

I will say that for the past couple of years, while still believing in God, I have told myself that I don't need to do anything to stay close to His heart. After all, church people can be some of the meanest-hearted people you'll ever meet. So not much church-going here, nor Bible-reading, nor praying, nor any of the things you are told to do as a Christian. And guess what? I wasn't a worse person for it.

However, the past couple of weeks, my anxiety/fear has had me in turmoil. I've been almost debilitated by thoughts of something happening to my child or my family or me. As a hospice nurse and a nurse at a long term care facility for children, I am no stranger to death and dying. But lately, I hear something in passing about an accident or something on the news, and I completely spiral into a very creative hypothetical situation that I assure myself would be the end of my rope. The thought of dying really scared me. Not just dying, but not knowing how I'm going to die. Basically fear of the unknown.

But Wednesday I prayed. I prayed to feel God's presence and peace. I prayed for strength and wisdom. I prayed for comfort for a family that has weighed heavy on my mind - their oldest child has been battling cancer for 9 years and it looked as though they had run out of options.

I don't know a lot of things about God. But I do believe that though we may not see God do physical miracles, healings, and works - I believe He helps to heal hearts.

Today I learned that the boy I have been praying for died last night. I can't imagine what the family is feeling, but again I prayed for God's peace and comfort for them. And I had the strangest thing happen. Instead of spiraling into "what if's" about my child and my family going through the same situation, I pictured this boy restored in Heaven and I smiled.

Do I still fear the unknown? Yes. But I am so glad I can gain peace and comfort in praying to a God who helps heal hearts. Peace that passes all understanding - that's what I want so badly.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Baby Steps

My 3-day weekend ends tomorrow. I'm pretty positive that is a good thing. I've had nothing but time to let thoughts spiral. It's still been a positive weekend, because I've learned a lot about how to go forward. I've been trying to make proactive decisions, not just avoiding things. Last night on a whim, Steven and I took Davie to a citywide family-friendly gathering at the park. I don't do a lot of things in groups without planning, so this was a good step for me. We had a great time.

I slept well last night and set my alarm for 8am. I got right up, got dressed, and the family went on a long walk in the neighborhood. I tried to schedule in little doable events throughout the day. Yes, one of those events was to lay in the hammock. But another one was to take a yoga class at the YMCA. Davie and I went to the grocery store. I played guitar and did puzzles with Davie in between.

I haven't been eating much this weekend, and I confirmed at the gym what I suspected - weight loss, fairly significant for such a short span of time. So I've also been trying to eat little bits throughout the day.

Today I haven't had any panic attack symptoms. I know I shouldn't be keeping score of that. I have had  some mild-moderate symptoms of anxiety - a near-constant chest tightness/lump in throat/pounding heart thing. Everything checks out with my nurse gadgets - blood pressure and heart rate are normal, so I'm not that worried about it. I just tell myself "Isn't it interesting how in tune you are with the normal functions of your body right now? Your heart always beats at this rate, but you can feel it right now because your senses are heightened in anxiety. Your chest feels tense when you are carrying anxiety. It's interesting how that lump in your throat doesn't keep you from breathing normally and efficiently or swallowing food and drink." And when I say these things to myself, those things start to subside a bit more.

So all in all, I'm looking forward to my work week. I'm also looking forward to setting up an appointment with my doctor to fill him in. I'm not currently on a routine anti-anxiety med - I just have Xanax to use when I need it. I try not to use it unless it really feels like an emergency. For example, I haven't used even one this whole weekend. I've probably used one in the past 4 weeks. I'm not against medication. I'm just against side effects and withdrawal symptoms. I might also ask him if he can check my thyroid levels. There's still a little part of me that would like to be able to say, "OH! It was only an overactive thyroid. That explains everything!" But I know what I've been learning this weekend can help me in any situation, and that if this is just truly anxiety, I can overcome.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Paper Tiger

Face. Accept. Float. Let time pass. 

If you do this, you will recover. 

 -from Hope and Help for your Nerves by Dr. Claire Weekes

I went to sleep later than usual last night, but with some help from my local pharmacist, I slept peacefully. I laid in bed for a long time this morning. I had nothing more to do, so I just laid in bed and read and thought and . . . brooded. I was actually reading a chapter that was telling me to NOT lay in bed in the morning. Emotionally/mentally, I had a rough start to the day. Again, I felt like I was on the verge of an all-out panic attack - like if I just let my mind wander to the wrong subject, it would be over.

Then I read an excerpt that said - yes, rest is important, but equally so is occupying yourself. NOT brooding. This is a hard thing to reconcile for me, being an introvert. I really like to be by myself and to be sitting still, but apparently it sometimes makes anxiety worse. So instead of wallowing in bed, I went with the family on a short bike ride and then to the bookstore. By the time we got back, I was feeling physically worn out, but mentally/emotionally stable.

Today I tried to follow the 4 instructions from the book. When I felt a weird physical symptom that sometimes accompanies a panic attack, instead of distracting myself or fleeing the situation and instead of worrying about what came next and next after that, I FACED it. I told myself, "Your left foot feels cold and prickly. This is because of the adrenalin in your system. Isn't that interesting? Nothing bad is going to happen because your foot is tingly. If you wait a little while longer it will go back to normal." And guess what? It did! None of the other symptoms that usually follow even got started. Those physical symptoms were just paper tigers.

Now, I must remind myself, if for some reason in the next day, week, month, or year, that symptom leads to another symptom - that it is okay. I will still face it. I will accept it. I will float through the process and let time pass, until it is over. Then my body will be less and less sensitive to those physical symptoms.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fight or Flight?

Last summer, I came home one morning from working the night shift, to someone robbing my house. My husband was out of state, and my daughter was staying with my sister.

I am an enigma. I can be so irrationally anxious about silly things, but then when a car is backed into my driveway - I automatically assume they are just waiting for a neighbor. I almost made it into the house, when Burglar A honked the horn to alert Burglar B of my arrival. Long story short, when it came down to it, my body went Fight instead of Flight.

Looking back, it was a comical scene. Me reaching through the open window of their getaway car, and shaking this man's shoulder yelling "HEY! What are you doing?!?!" over and over again - and him slapfighting my hand away like a middle school girl. Me diving at his horn and honking it incessantly trying to alert my neighbors, and him peeling out of my driveway nearly taking me with him.

All this to say, I've got my modes flipped. That situation would have been better fitted to Flight. Run back to my car, call the cops, be safe. But my body didn't do that for some reason, and it could've cost me a lot more than a sore arm.

Then there are situations like this morning, riding in the back of my own car with my own little family to take my daughter to her first day of kindergarten. Something about the situation caused me anxiety. Maybe it was that we HAD to take her to kindergarten - meaning it wouldn't have been okay for me to not go, or to have a panic attack in the backseat. Apparently the only necessary ingredient for panic attacks, is a situation/environment where it would be really inconvenient to have one. Boom- you got yourself a panic attack.

At that point, I felt like the only thing that could make the terror subside, would be to get out of the car, run through a field, or to turn around and go home. Flight.

I don't think Fight is the answer either though. I think I'm supposed to Float. When I feel those symptoms starting up, I'm supposed to acknowledge it and Float until it's over (a VERY difficult thing to do), and then congratulate myself when it's over.

I've been reading a book over this whole subject. The book said this may get worse before it gets better, because of the amount of focus put on the problem as you are reading and trying to work through it. I didn't realize to what extent. I didn't realize I wouldn't be able to take a nap on a day when I have literally nothing to do, because I snap awake after 30 seconds with my heart racing.

Part of me really wants to go back to what I was doing. Making all my decisions based on avoidance. I was a happy little introvert who said "no" to almost all social engagements. Maybe if I were an extrovert, I would be more motivated to work through these issues. But I've convinced myself that I don't like to do certain things . . . when it may be that I am just afraid. But the part of me that loves my husband and daughter says I have to keep trying.