Category Archives: planning

Getting Overwhelmed

I woke up “early” today, at 9:39 am to be precise, and I am, in this moment, trying to transition from the anxiety of nighttime to the, hopefully, calm state of daytime.

Sometimes it feels like my brain is my own worst enemy.  For example…

Yesterday turned out pretty cool. A friend and I drove to Rochester to pick up our t-shirts that we will wear when we belly dance on Saturday in a Shimmy Mob for the first and last time. But oh, the stresses attached to this endeavor.

My friend found this program last year when it was too late to sign-up, so we vowed to sign-up this year. In the meantime, we split from our troupe and had to deal with that issue all year.

Naturally, when the time came to sign up for Shimmy Mob, our old troupe suddenly decided to participate here in our little town while we decided to join the team in Rochester. Awkward!

Then the choreography turned out to be a bear to learn, meaning that we had to put our own personal dancing on hold for the past two months. We had questions for our out-of-town team that were hard to get answers for. Well, we could have just stayed with our old troupe for that!

It was looking like everything would be last possible minute and that was quite stressful.

Then yesterday we got word that we could pick up our t-shirts early. Yippee! We would know early if they fit and could actually do something about it if they didn’t. We’d know what color so we could plan accessories accordingly. We could talk to a team member instead of meeting them all for the first time on Saturday. And as a bonus, she lived in a part of the city I have been to frequently, so our trip was uneventful in a good way and I could have that added feeling of accomplishment yesterday.

Every day I wonder if normal people just take things like this in stride and waste not a moment of thought or worry on tasks such as yesterday’s undertaking: The Great T-shirt Unveiling!

Years ago I was one of those people who could just drive to “the city”, meet a new person, get a t-shirt, drive home, and let the experience melt into the past without dwelling on it. How I miss those days and that self.

There has to be a happy medium somewhere in there. Maybe that is a definition of wellness: Doing things with some kind of presence of mind and without getting stuck in the fear and worry.

Saturday will come and go as does every other day of my life. Shimmy Mob will be memorable for what happens and for what I learned. It will turn out to be not as bad as it felt at times while we struggled with someone else’s choreography. And I will have no desire to try it again. Not because it was hard but because my time will be better spent on my own creativity which I tend to put on a back burner far too often in this life.

Then again, nobody knows what next year will be like and maybe it will be something else altogether.

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Roots of Anxiety

This morning I checked in with Facebook as usual and saw that my belly dance troupe is looking for a head count for two upcoming gigs.  One is on August 3 and the second is on August 27.

I was instantly triggered.  It seems my anxiety over this issue of troupe performances is only increasing rather than healing.  I withdrew from a performance on July 30.  That one is big and I was never asked for any input–probably because they already suspected what my response would be.  “Don’t sign up for it if no one is going to make rehearsals a priority” because that’s how I roll.  They signed up for it, got accepted, and sure enough rehearsals are sparsely attended.

Once the troupe was committed to it, I spoke to the teacher about my anxiety and not wanting my entire summer to be ruined with stress, as it was last year, so I wanted to play it by ear and decide my participation closer to the event.  I thought that was a good solution.   I know the dances, would come to rehearsals, and would fit myself in where needed without disruption.  I thought she heard me.

Within days of that conversation a head count was called for and no consideration or acknowledgement of my concerns was part of the request.  Since an answer was wanted ASAP, my answer had to be no.

I know my situation has been discussed by others and there seems to be almost zero understanding.  Disappointing to be sure.

Today I am thinking my anxiety for this particular situation is mostly due to anger.  Anger which I do not know how to process or express in a healthy way.  Zero clue.  Except maybe for writing about it.

The anger stems from powerlessness.  The powerlessness stems from being disregarded, not listened to, or ever agreed with.  Not being supported or understood.  Saying what I think and being dismissed.  Then someone else says the same thing and it’s suddenly a great idea.

There is subtle bullying at rehearsals.  Favoritism.  And I know enough about many of the people to have an idea that these behaviors come from their own issues and foibles.  Nothing personal about it all.  Except that it does play out in my life so that part of it is very personal.  I suppose I have unwittingly made it personal.

I never really knew I had any power at all.  I’ve always been “other” oriented which is basically giving away your power.

I have seen where there were disagreements and other dancers say, Oh, I don’t care, I’m doing what I want.  And then they do.  And they move on from the issue.  Nothing really changes, but no one seems to care all that much.  What is it like to live life caring so little?  Easy, it must be very easy.

If I weren’t emotionally ill, maybe none of it would effect me so heavily.  It would be easier to let go of things.  In fact, if I were healthy, maybe I would just try and find another belly dance class to participate in because the reality of it is this:  I don’t fit in and I can’t fake it anymore.  I mainly stay with this group because of my friend that I choreograph with and a couple other friends who are beginners and just starting to build some “bellydanceconfidence”.  Class itself hasn’t been fun for me in a very long time.  Nothing is fun when you only do it for other people.

I have not answered the Facebook head count query yet.  I guess my answer has to be no again.  This is not a group of people who can support me while I heal at least not during performance season.  I kind of already knew that but it is still very disappointing.

Life is so completely frustrating with emotional illness in the mix.

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Graceful Exit

I have belly dance tonight and I don’t want to go.  It has not been fun for me in quite some time.

As usually happens in my life, either I have outgrown them or they have outgrown me.  Usually when that happens, there is a sudden break.  Something ugly happens or I have to just quit and people end up being shocked and hurt.  Bridges get burned.

The graceful exit is something I have had to teach myself.  It’s hard being a bridge burner in a small town!!!  But I didn’t really think I would have to do it with the belly dancing.  Belly dancing,  and this troupe, has meant a lot to me and I just didn’t foresee things evolving the way they have.

There are factions now.  Roughly split between younger and older.  One group wants big venues and recognition.  One group likes the learning and fellowship and exercise.  One group seems able to successfully do both with little stress.  Our teacher wants to be the good guy and try to please all and offend none.  But she really, really is drawn to the big venue and recognition group.  And everybody brings to it personal issues that are as individual as can be.

Then there is me.  I really thought that if I explained myself (and what I need because of my anxiety and what I will try to do to support the group) that it would work.  I imagined that they in turn would help me find my way.

That did not happen.

I am disappointed.  While I am certainly not quitting, I am now on something of a break while I wait for the opportunity that will welcome me within my limitations and help me to thrive in some way.

Tonight I’m going to rehearsal as moral support for my friend who has been left in charge while the teacher is overseas.  Also, I have a finished sewing project to bring in for another dancer.  So, there is that.

One big reason that I have declined to participate in an upcoming big performance, in a very large venue, is that I remembered the incredible stress from last year when much of the troupe made little effort to come to rehearsals, etc.  I vividly remember having to perform a dance that was not polished and it actually flopped.  It was a pretty big venue where we wanted to do really well.  We older ones had begged and begged ahead of time, and warned and warned, but nobody listened.  Everybody acted like it was no big deal, like we were being unreasonable.

When we started up again in the fall, I made several suggestions to fix a couple of the big problems and got dismissed each time.  I shut-up about it.

So, imagine my surprise this year when someone else made the same suggestions and they were embraced!   Of course, now there is much less time to work with.  Those very same dancers are now soooo nervous and verrrry eager to have extra rehearsals.

Oh, at first they said the same old things–it’ll be fine, it’ll all come together, it always does…. Then suddenly they got high standards.  There’s only a few weeks until the gig!!!  And they are starting to be critical of the weaker dancers to the point they don’t want to include them.  Hmmm.  We have always been inclusive before and supportive.  But now that they are calling all the shots, things have changed.

It’s insulting and disappointing.  But I am taking it as a valuable learning experience.  I don’t think I have burned any bridges, though I feel certain that I am being misunderstood.

The graceful exit is not the simple solution I thought it would be.  There is still a lot on my mind and a lot of work to do to salvage something out of this.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out.

 

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Anxiety is a Bear

There are occasions when I doubt my decision to do this emotional illness journey without medication or therapy.

Like at 3:43 this morning.

My anxiety was so all encompassing that I felt nauseous and heavy and claustrophobic.  Untethered.

My usual tricks didn’t help a lot.  I was determined to stay in bed rather than go downstairs and surf the internet.  This left me with changing my sleep position, welcoming a cat into bed, getting some water, holding onto my piece of obsidian as a sort of shield and chanting to myself, “It’ll be alright, you’ll be fine, you are fine, it’s just anxiety…”

I don’t know what worked, but I eventually got back to sleep and dreamed a bit.

I woke up feeling unhappy and overwhelmed but more clear-headed than I felt during the dark before the dawn.

It occurred to me that I had let life get a little out of control lately.  For the past few weeks I have said to myself, ooh this week is a little busier than I like, but it will be okay.  Before I knew it, I was back to promising away my time and my space to my own detriment.  Such a long-standing habit!  So easy to fall back into.

Maybe the anxiety bear is now my friend because it is my own red flag for lack of self-care. Or maybe it’s a white flag.  Surrender, Gale. Stop fighting.  Start listening to your too quiet self.  Start valuing your own voice.

So, I texted my friend to say that today would not be a good one for dance practice.  That made me feel a bit lighter.  So, then I was motivated to catch up on paperwork.  One of my quirks is that I enjoy doing paperwork and getting it in order.  I made a really good civil servant in my day.  Too bad the bosses of this era do not appreciate such things….

I remembered to hydrate and eat a little something.  Soaked in the tub and got dressed.  Accomplishments!

The soak in the tub alerted me to a plumbing mishap from the big job we had done yesterday.  I didn’t panic and go into despair.  I was able to figure it out and get it taken care of.  And now that is all in order too.

What I am doing is letting my illness be its own medication.  What are my symptoms telling me?  What bad habits and decisions may have contributed?  Is this behavior the same thing I have been doing for decades hoping for a different result each time?  What can my madness teach me about doing things differently?

This is a slow method, but I think it is leading to genuine change.

 

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Loose Ends

One of the sources of my anxiety is the lack of completion in my life.  Everything is half-started or half-finished or however you want to look at it.  The yard, the house, my hobbies, obligations, wishes, desires.  It’s everywhere I look and everywhere I go.

It’s overwhelming.

I made a decision that I would start finishing things.  It didn’t matter what it was or how small a project.  The idea was that finishing things would be satisfying.  Satisfaction would ease my anxiety.  And so I began my quest.

There was a bag of baby yarn that had been bothering me for a couple years.  There was a couple of untouched skeins in there and many scraps and partial skeins wound into balls.  Uneven amounts of each colors.  Some with sparkle and some were plain.  But I looked in the bag and determined there was enough yarn to make one baby blanket.  If I made the blanket now, then when someone has a baby, I already have a gift.  If no baby is born in my circle for a couple of decades, then I have a gift for my first great-grandchild.  I finished the blanket a couple weeks ago and it did feel so very satisfying.

Next project was going to be a cross stitch throw.  I pulled out the bag it was in expecting to organize myself for a few minutes and begin.  Ha!  Inside that project were six more tucked away.  Damn!  For some reason, I put away the throw and selected a bell pull instead.  It was farther along, so perhaps that is why I picked it for completion.

That project is fairly aggravating but I’m working on it every day anyway and interspersing it with tinier projects so I don’t lose hope.

One of those tinier projects is a pillow I set aside about twenty years ago.  Yep, it has been sitting in a drawer for twenty years.  I pulled it out with fresh eyes and thought to myself, are you kidding???  It was almost finished!  Why in the world did you put it away???  It took me all of 15 minutes to sew the edges, stuff it, and close up the opening.  Yes, this is what I’m dealing with.

It turns out I was right about this being a way to heal my anxiety.  I feel satisfied and accomplished.  I feel encouraged and motivated.  My mind is feeling a bit like its old self.  There are times during each day that I actually look forward to some aspect of my life.

If I weren’t as healed as I am, this would probably not be possible yet, this tying-up of loose ends.  Basic self-care is crucial when it comes to mental illness.  A certain amount of healing is necessary to be able to move forward even a little bit.  Permitting myself to live this way is an important component.  Not judging myself is very important as well.

So there was ground-work that had to be laid in order for me to take this next step.  And this step, this finishing of things, is also part of the healing package.  It brings me back to myself, who I used to be and what I used to do.

I lost myself over the years.  I became completely externally focused.  I didn’t know how to do my life any other way and I did that until I had nothing left to give.

How glad I am that I am no longer living like that.  I will never again live my life that way.  Before, disappointing others was the worst thing I could do.  Now, disappointing myself would be the worst thing I could do.

Today’s project to finish was a very tiny one indeed.  We have a cupboard with a very stiff door on it.  The knob was hard to grip so opening the door was a pain all these years we have lived in this house.  I went to the hardware store, bought a new ceramic knob with a good edge on it, came home, and installed it in one minute.  Voila!  The cupboard door is no longer hard to open.  Since it’s where I keep some of my half-finished projects, I can be proud of myself and satisfied every time I open that door from now on.

I think I came up with a good plan for myself.

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Triggers

I have come a long way in the past three years, just about, since I walked off the Terrible Job.  At that time I was a shadow of myself.  Clinical depression, anxiety, incredible work-related stress from a toxic job environment, PTSD, unresolved grief issues…. all that and more! left me in a very fragile condition.  The moment I walked out that door was the first moment of real self-care that I had ever attempted in my life.  And that is what I have been doing ever since.

Lately, I have been able to exercise a certain amount of detachment when it comes to what is going on with symptoms of my mental and emotional illnesses.

For example, this past week I learned that other people had been invited to events that I might have expected we would also be invited to.  However, we were not invited.  Both times it bothered me but for different reasons.  And one of the “slights” hurt a whole lot more than the other one, even though that one was not actually personal in nature and was completely understandable.

That’s how triggers work.  Crap from the past that was stuffed way, way down gets unexpectedly dredged up, and the emotions are just as painful now, even out of context, as they might have been back in the day.  If only there had been a safe way to express them at the time of the original hurt.  But there wasn’t a safe way or even a known way to express the emotions.  So someone like me will place them into something like suspended animation forever and just carry them around for years and years without realizing that those emotions are just biding their time.  In an unguarded moment, they come back to life and once again you have to decide what to do with them.

Decisions about emotions sounds strange.  But that is what I did subconsciously in the past and that is what I must now do deliberately in the present.  In the past I had to stuff things down because I was overwhelmed and because I was mainly on my own to figure out these things in the trenches.  It was a way to go.  I don’t have to stuff things down now.  I have space to work in and I even have some skills.  These skills are very new but they are there.

This detachment that I am able to feel these days is a very useful skill for now.  It allowed me to sit with some very, very uncomfortable feelings for a couple of days.  Then I felt able to look at the situation and see other possible scenarios to explain why we were left out.  I acknowledged that maybe we were actually left out because nothing had actually been planned ahead of time.  Other personalities were thrown into the mix and nothing could be done about it at the last minute.

Once I got that far, I was able to talk about what happened.  That was not very satisfying but it was another chance to organize my ideas about being left out.

A day or two after that, I wrote out what happened and how it made me feel.  That was hard because I still want to judge myself.  There is still that voice which wants to tell me, you are not worthy of being included therefore you are foolish to be hurt when you’re not included.  Not a good or accurate message at all but that voice is so persistant!!!

After I wrote it all out, I felt quite a bit better the next day.  A couple days later we got an unexpected invitation from the same source and there it was:  the physical, visible, undeniable proof that my voice is a liar.  We are worthy, we are loved, we mean something, we matter.

What an awful lot of hard work it is to heal and grow in spite of the burden of mental and emotional illness.  This is why it is a priority for me.  It is very hard work and I do not have the stamina to do this while also working and being out there in the world at the level I used to be able to be.

As frustrating as it is to be working on the triggers, I am seeing progress.  I used to just get lost in my stronger emotions.  Now  I am seeing a fairly clear way through them, which gives me reason to hope.

 

 

 

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Truth!

On Super Bowl Sunday I learned the truth about something that happened twenty-three years ago.

Back then a decision was made without my knowledge or input and which affected my life in, what I have supposed to be, a negative way.  Of course, I’ll never know for sure that there might have been an easier and more satisfying path than the one I am on.  But I think it was a good possibility.

As stories were being told around the dinner table before the football game started, there was one story I had never heard before.  I thought I had heard all the stories, the funny ones, the embarrassing ones, the somewhat scary ones.  But this one was new to me.

As soon as the story was told, I knew in my heart that I was hearing the reason for why that decision was made twenty-three years ago.  It made more sense than anything else I had been told prior to this moment.

Actually, it makes “that decision” seem quite sensible on some level.

If I had been told at the time it happened, I like to think I would have been understanding.  I usually am supportive when people tell me their troubles.

I still would have disagreed about the decision that was made as a result.  But it seems to me from this vantage point that perhaps a compromise could have been reached.  Maybe it didn’t have to be a jump off the cliff kind of decision.  Maybe clearer minds might have prevailed.

Of course we always did fly by the seat of our pants, due to lacking any kind of problem-solving skills and emotional maturity.

I’ve always been a big fan of truth.  But I don’t always have the truth to work with, which really burns my butt sometimes.

Now that this thing was told, and now that I know what this thing was and the whole world failed to explode, I have to wonder if we have gotten onto a new path.  It seems like maybe we have.  This feels new on a very deep level.

I have not actually tried to talk about it since the telling of the story.  People tell me things when they want to tell me, not when I want to hear it.  I was raised by poor communicators and I have collected poor communicators for much of my adult life, which makes sense.  I plan to just wait and see.

It would be nice if it turns out that the truth really does set you free.

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