Category Archives: anxiety

Past Perfect

When I was a young mother I was already thinking of the time when I would be a grandmother.  I imagined giving those future babies things that my own babies had used, and so I saved certain items for that purpose.

Then I did become a grandmother and took out the items I had saved only to find that I could not part with them yet.

The receiving blankets looked too shabby and worn to give as a gift.  But I still loved them.  The sweaters still looked so beautiful that I didn’t want them to get lost in the mountain of gifts that many babies today receive.  And…. I still loved them for what they meant to me.

Those baby days will always be uniquely dear to me because of how rare it has been that life has felt good and right.  My little pile of baby things is concrete evidence of that truth.

See how easy it would be to slide into compulsive hoarding?

I am however greatly improved since my 2013 breakdown.  Now I often have enough energy and imagination that I can dig into the corners of my house and make reasonable decisions about what to keep, what to give away, and what to throw away.

A couple weeks ago I chose to work on the top shelf of my linen closet where I store some inherited quilts and the little pile of baby things.  My fresh eye still saw how shabby the blankets look.  But my fresh mind got the idea that I could remake them and then keep them for my great-grandchildren or donate them.

It’s a messy thing to unravel old crochet work!  It’s very linty!  The yarn is not so good either but still usable.

I found that I had to concentrate on every step of the project because the yarn kind of sticks to itself.  Unraveling is tricky, rolling it back up is tricky, and re-crocheting it is tricky.  I had to take breaks and let the world back into my brain again.

By the time I got a new little blanket made I realized that the project was acting as an exercise in meditation.  My hands, the yarn, and the crocheting all helped me focus on the moment and let the rest of the world fall away for awhile.

Last night I started my third such project and it still helps me focus my mind in the same way meditation does.  I think I’m on to something here.

Such a weird little way into healing.  But it’s working so I’m going to keep going.

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Filed under anxiety, art therapy, emotional health, family, grief, growth, healing, history, meditation, motherhood, progress, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized

Cranky

Holiday season is finally over with!  Yay!!

For us, it started with a dead boiler on an 11-degree-day the night before Thanksgiving.  It was a very old boiler that had given very little trouble over the years, so it was probably overdue for replacement.

Somehow, though, I had let myself hope that it would kindly last until the next owners of this house could replace it.  I let myself think that it would be the one expensive part of this house that we would NOT have to pay for.  Wrong!!!

Oh well.  The new furnace is tiny and cute and works like a dream, aaaaand since we had just paid off one loan, the finances were kind of seamless.  We merely exchanged one recipient of our money for another.  Nothing really changed as far as the day-to-day operation of this household.

Once December hit, however, my depression ramped up.  Again with the hopes–I thought maybe I was so sleepy because of the stress of the boiler incident.  December days are darker and I was busier with extra chores and grandchildren.  But the day after Christmas I suddenly perked up and was able to stay awake all day long with no naps.  My spirit was lighter and my motivation came back.  So, yeah, depression was the culprit for my symptoms.

Christmas hasn’t really been my thing for many decades.  But I feel like I have to participate and so I suppress the annoyance and resentment and voila! you have a perfect recipe for depression.  That’s good to know, right?

On the healing side of things:  for New Year’s Day we ate lunch out and then went to a state park because I wanted to see the rushing river water there.

The river and its waterfall did not disappoint.  It was a gorgeous sight.  I recorded a few short videos and took a handful of pictures so I could remember, though my phone cannot do it justice.

There is something about a crashing waterfall with its veiled figures of mist rising up and away that calls me.  I just like to watch.  I have no interest in white water rafting or otherwise actually getting in there.  It’s just beautiful to see.  It soothes me.

Now we come to today.  It is the first day of being back to the normal routine.  It feels a little heavy.  Now I have no real distractions to prevent me from doing the things I’ve been thinking about for weeks.  Yet I’m still wandering around aimlessly and having to force myself to pick something to work on.

It is so easy to fall into anxiety with this life I have chosen.  Old habits of worry, high standards, what-will-people-think-itis–all firmly ingrained in my brain.  I still have to remember not to do any of that and that it is okay to just be my natural self.  I still have to remember who my natural self is because it doesn’t actually feel natural all the time.

I just feel cranky.  I think maybe it’s like that crankiness you feel when you’re getting better from a cold or the flu.  Maybe crankiness can be a sign of improving mental and emotional health as well.

Cranky or not though, 2018 is done with, and I’m ready for 2019 and whatever it brings.

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Filed under anxiety, blogging, depression, emotional health, growth, healing, human nature, journey, motivation, pressure, progress, self-care, self-respect, stress, Uncategorized, wellness

Spreading My Wings

Last Friday we went to our local arts organization to check out an exhibit that I am participating in.  The theme is Disturbed, which I thought was right up my alley, and I had submitted a black and white photograph of a moth on a window screen.

Surprisingly enough, I won Guest Judge’s Favorite–first place among about a dozen and a half other artworks.

This is only the second time I have submitted artwork of mine and it felt like a great accomplishment just getting it framed and submitted.  I wasn’t even sure I was going to do it this time as I was feeling frazzled and pressured by other things going on in my life.  But step by step I eventually got my act together and brought the picture in on the very last day they were accepting submissions.

Of course I ended up missing the opening reception for the show as I would’ve had to go alone and I didn’t want to do that.

I wonder what my reaction would have been if I’d been mingling in the crowd all by my lonesome when the ribbon was awarded?  Whatever total shock looks like, I guess!!!

As it was, I received an email with the good news and spent the next week savoring my accomplishment and telling only my husband.  It was like a little reward to every so often remind myself:  Someone liked my photograph better than all the others in the show!  How about that?  I don’t have to apologize for doing well.  I don’t have to explain what the picture meant.  Somebody liked it enough to hang a ribbon on it.  Somebody who doesn’t even know me thought it was really cool.

My photograph will be shown in the current exhibit until December and then move onto to another facility for others to see for a few more months after that.  By the time I get it back, there will have been a couple more exhibits for me to submit my work to.

This recognition was not necessary for me to keep going, but it did give me a little boost.  It makes me feel like I’m on the right path for now.  Actually, this feels like a new path for the first time in my life.

Which feels like a good reason to hope again.

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Filed under anxiety, art therapy, emotional health, growth, healing, journey, motivation, progress, self-respect, social phobia, Uncategorized

My Aunt Louise

Aunt Louise is the oldest of four sisters.  In her day, she was very beautiful with a beaming smile.  She was also quite awkward in many ways.  As an example, when she graduated high school, her fiance still had a year to go, so she kept going to school and audited classes so she’d have something to do while she waited for him to graduate.  She didn’t feel free and excited and have all these girlfriends to do things with.  She waited for her fiance to graduate high school.

The following year, they did indeed get married.

In the wedding photo she looks quite happy.  He looks kind of bashful.  The article in the paper is typical for 1949 with descriptions of what everyone wore and the several bridal showers she was given, including one given by the office girls of the place she worked.

Her life afterwards turned out to be very, very difficult and sad:  dysfunctional marriage, death of a three-year-old daughter, poverty, divorce, more poverty, then a good husband who died years ago, abusive relationship in her later years, and finally death of another daughter from brain cancer.

I would read the wedding article sometimes and wonder where it all went wrong….

Aunt Louise is due to turn 90 this coming January and my mother recently remarked that she has been quite talkative the last few times they were together.  Louise has said surprising things such as:  the reason she never worked after getting married was because not one person had liked her at the job she had.  She knew it the very first day she walked in the door.  They hated her at first sight.

How strange.  I wouldn’t have guessed that she was hated at her job.  According to her wedding announcement she had worked there for two years and “the office girls” had even given her a wedding shower.

I had always thought she had two lives.  The one before marriage and the one afterwards.  Instead, those “two lives” were part of a familiar pattern.

Her life turned out like all the other women’s lives in this family.  A beginning seemingly full of promise and light, beauty and hope.  Smart, sensitive, active girls who end up as victims on some level wondering where it all went wrong.

I suspect the clues to the future were right there all along.  We just missed them in the quest to do the right thing, please the people around us, be good girls, and basically give away our power until there was no more to give.

There are more women’s stories in my family and I hope I can do them justice.

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Filed under anxiety, decisions, depression, dysfunction, emotional health, enemies, family, first impressions, getting along, grief, history, human nature, journey, love, opinion, social phobia, Uncategorized, wellness, work

Princess Stella

Many moons ago I wrote about the cat my sister was giving me, even though I didn’t really want it, but I didn’t really tell her that, so… it was pretty much my own fault I would be taking in a cat I didn’t want.

The cat’s name was Stella and she was a princess.  She came into my house in September and immediately took over.  Other than those first moments out of the cat carrier, her paws never touched the floors.  Instead, she leaped through the air and flew from table top to counter top to buffet top to… you get the idea.

Although I am aware that MY cats occasionally sneak onto these forbidden surfaces, they wouldn’t dare do it in front of me because it is against the rules at my house.

And so my cats were stunned and hurt to see Princess Stella getting away with these shocking maneuvers.  She basically took over the house, all their special spots and hiding places, and she took over me, their human mother.  And she lorded it over them.

Hour by hour, day by day, they became more hurt and dejected.  They started staying outside as much as possible to avoid the princess.  And I felt guiltier and angrier about it by the minute.

I began to see that a pattern from childhood had repeated itself in the present day and I needed to break that pattern.

This cat, that I never wanted in the first place, was clearly not working out.  I had to tell my sister “no” for the first time in my life.  I had to do it fast and I had to mean it.  In spite of the possibly good intentions she had, in spite of the trouble and expense she had gone to, in spite of my almost-out-of-control panic that had been triggered by this situation, I had to say that the princess was just not fitting in and would have to go.

Ah, sweet emotional illness…. I was a wreck.

But I did it!!!  I gave that damn cat back!  It’s kind of funny now, but at the time it was completely stressful and traumatic.

Even now, seven months later, I consider the whole episode to be a significant turning point in my development as a human being with a sense of agency.  It gives me something to build on as I move forward in life.  And it gives me a way to know better what I want for myself and to believe that I deserve to have what I want.

In a strange way, I owe this turning point to a little black and white cat.  Thank you Princess Stella!

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Afraid to do Things

When I was a little girl, my parents took me to a nearby art gallery, www.albrightknox.org, for a tour.  I remember coming home and NEEDING to make a painting.

My father gave me a piece of wood from his workshop and some house paint and a brush to use for my masterpiece.  And I still remember thinking that even just a plain, two-color abstract painting was really hard to do!!  At the gallery I had seen paintings that looked like nothing!  Just squares of one or two colors!  But I guess there was more to it than I thought.

I have been wanting to visit the gallery again for quite some time.  All that wonderful art less than an hour away from my house.  But something always comes up and I still haven’t gone.

Then a few days ago, when I was feeling restless for the millionth time, a thought came to me.

I could just go to the gallery by myself.  Technically, I have a lot of freedom since I don’t work.  I don’t have to go with somebody.  It would be during the day.  It would be safe.  I could go at my own pace, lingering if I want or racing through the place if I want.  I could eat in the gallery cafe and have museum-y food to choose from instead of Wendy’s or Burger King.  It’s easy to get directions ahead of time.  I have money for parking and admission.  Nothing is really stopping me.

Except that I get scared now when I think of doing things.  Before I could just force myself to do things even if it made me anxious.  Now, not so much.

Someone I grew up with in the old neighborhood flies to San Francisco every year all by herself and she thinks of it as her time to heal, re-charge, and be 100% herself.  And I envy her those trips.  I want that for myself.

I’m not used to thinking of doing something and then just doing it without first considering the millions of possibilities and needs of the whole rest of the world.  Without “awfulizing” the whole endeavor first.  Without remembering past failures.  Without remembering past triumphs and thinking, those days are long gone.  And while this sounds like a ponderous process, it actually is so natural and automatic for me that I can do it without even realizing what is happening.

Ah, sweet Clinical Depression and Chronic Anxiety, you are terrible companions and it is high time I break up with you.

The gallery is closed on Mondays so tomorrow is my first opportunity to take what I hope is the first of many such field trips.

I hope that it feels good to do this and to be there.

I really hope this idea means I am turning the next corner.

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Oh What a Night

Last night I checked on my passport a final time in preparation for today’s trip to Canada for a baby shower with a good friend.  Imagine my surprise to discover that my passport had in fact expired two months ago.  My first thought was, oh, she is going to be furious at me.  Mistake number one.

There was no other option but to message her about what happened and apologize.  We generally text with each other so it never occurred to me to call her.  Mistake number two.

There was no answer, so I texted again twenty minutes later.  No response.

Waited up until midnight in case she got her messages late.

Went to bed with my phone so I wouldn’t miss her message.

Worry grew and grew with each passing hour of no response.

Texted again at 9 am this morning.  Waited an hour and still no response.

My anxiety was really ramping up by this point.

She’s not speaking to me!  Oh no!  It was just an oversight.  Nooooo!  This seems familiar to me.  I remember two past friendships that were ruined by similar thoughtless mistakes on my part.  But that was in high school and there was hell to pay for those mistakes.  And it clearly left an impression on me.

Then something else came to the surface of my boiling thoughts and memories.  My mother does this to me.  She does it to everyone, really.  Innocent and thoughtless mistakes can never be forgiven.  Ever.  Because her feelings get so badly hurt.

Grudges will be carried to the grave.  Ten, twenty, thirty years later, an innocent and thoughtless misstep will be thrown back at the offender like a lightning bolt and nothing can ever be the same again.  Healing and forgiveness never happen.  An uneasy truce can be established and that’s the best one can hope for.  That or the end of the relationship.

I sent one more message to my possibly former friend at 10 am and the phone rings immediately after.  She wasn’t mad.  She just hadn’t checked her phone in twelve hours.

I told her what I thought was going on.  No, no, no!  She was not mad at me.  She wouldn’t get that angry over something so small.  Don’t worry, get some rest, do some yoga.  It’ll be okay.  When I tell the others at the baby shower about your passport, they will probably laugh.  Who even thinks about a passport for Canada anyway, right???  It will be fine.

Maybe there aren’t any mistakes.  Maybe things get mixed up sometimes and then you work it out and get past it.  And then you leave it in the past once and for all.

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Filed under anxiety, family, friends, getting along, history, social phobia, stress, Uncategorized