Category Archives: pressure

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.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under anxiety, art therapy, decision making, decisions, depression, emotional health, growth, healing, journey, motivation, planning, pressure, progress, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized

In Defense of Me

I had a little text exchange earlier today.

My sister sent me a picture and two videos of the kitten she is giving me in the fall.  I did not want a new cat as I have three and that is enough.  But my sister cleverly sent a picture first and then asked me if I would like to have a new kitten.  She would pay for all the shots, the spaying, and bring her to me from N. Carolina since they were coming up anyway.  It was a cute cat, and my sister always gets her way, and one of my cats is 19, so how long would I have to wait to be back down to three cats anyway.  So, I said yes.

Now my sister sends regular updates via text, which is considerate, I suppose.

Today I felt compelled to thank her for her efforts which are allowing me to see my kitten grow up even though she is hundreds of miles away.

Instead of responding with a “you’re welcome” she texted back with “You’re welcome to come down and see her and bring her back with you.”

Gahhhhhhh!

Why would I want to drive myself all the way down to Asheville, NC to pick up a cat (that I probably shouldn’t have said yes to) when you’re coming up to New York anyway in September???  In fact, all of this was your idea to begin with.  In fact, about a hundred whyshouldI’s raced through my mind when she responded the way she did.

The safest answer I could come up with was, it wasn’t in the budget to make a big trip this year.

Her answer:  Budget?  It’s a couple of tanks of gas!  We have plenty of room for you.

Gahhhhhhhh!

This convo was exactly like nearly every exchange with my mother.  No matter what I say in answer to any question, large or small, my answer is up for grabs, correction, improvement.  How did these people get so far into my brain?  Why do I have to defend everything all the time????

It’s the boundaries again.  I never learned good boundaries.  Neither did they.  But they are okay with it and I am not.

I can not be okay with poor boundaries.  I will never get better if I don’t firm up the boundaries.

And why am I still thinking about it and turning it over and over in my mind an hour later?

I get so stuck sometimes.

I probably should have sucked it up weeks ago and turned down the kitten even though she is super cute.  But I didn’t and now I am entangled.

My answer that shut down the exchange: I would have to fly.  That’s a hell of a drive and I’m not up to it these days.

She had nothing but an “oh, okay” for that one.

Score!

Such small successes in this journey, but I’ll take it.

7 Comments

Filed under anxiety, boundaries, bullies, decision making, decisions, dysfunction, family, getting along, growth, history, honesty, journey, pressure, progress, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized

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.

10 Comments

Filed under anxiety, art therapy, decision making, depression, emotional health, exercise, friends, growth, healing, human nature, planning, pressure, progress, stress, Uncategorized, wellness

Weeping Willow

One morning last week I let the cat in through the back door and then just leaned against the window panes for a bit and absent-mindedly stared at the autumn all around.

On the west side of our back yard is an old apple tree and the compost pile.  In the center is a little flower bed.  And to the east is a huge old willow tree.  Except on this day it was lying on its side with roots in the air and branches and limbs strewn over ours and our neighbors’ lawns.

I love our trees the same way I love our pets.  Seeing the tree destroyed like that made me want to find a way to set it back up and let it somehow live for a few more years.  Magical thinking.

Later on I went outside and was able to look inside the termite damaged trunk.  There was a cool spray of dust from the roots slowly falling around me while I was in there.  Then I walked around checking out the full  length of our old willow and found dozens of bees freaking out near the ground under some limbs.  I guess their lives got mightily disrupted because of this.

It must have fallen during the night.  Neither my husband nor I heard a thing.  It was a complete surprise.

We’ve lived here for twenty-three years, so there are some memories attached to this willow.  We had a tire swing in it for awhile.  Our cats had chased squirrels up and down it over the years.  Lots of birds nested there, naturally.  One time, my husband set part of it on fire!  By accident, of course. And another time it lost about half its limbs due to a freak October ice storm.  That tree just might have had a more interesting life than I have had so far.

My husband and his friend made quick work of it with their chainsaws the other day and I have checked out the new piles of future bonfire wood a couple times.  It is kind of satisfying to see the orderliness of it.  Plus, we both thought this clean-up would take months (having had experience with only cheap, crappy chainsaws in the past).  Instead it took only a few hours with a couple of new, deluxe chainsaws.

Since the carving up, I haven’t been out there at all.  I’ve been busy and other things have been on my mind.  When I do see the tree from a window every so often, it still surprises me but not with the same twist in my gut as on the first day.

This is the kind of thing my life is about now.  And for the time being, or maybe forever, I prefer it to the tedious grind of being out there in the world of work, side by side with mostly strangers, and letting the external pressures of every single thing in the universe take over my poor brain.

3 Comments

Filed under anxiety, depression, emotional health, family, grief, growth, healing, love, pressure, self-care, social phobia, Uncategorized, work

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.

4 Comments

Filed under anxiety, art therapy, boundaries, decision making, depression, dysfunction, emotional health, growth, healing, history, journey, motivation, planning, pressure, progress, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized

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.

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under anxiety, boundaries, decision making, decisions, depression, dysfunction, emotional health, family, friends, getting along, grief, growth, healing, history, human nature, injustice, planning, pressure, progress, PTSD, self-care, Uncategorized

My Dance

Quite some time ago I found a YouTube video of a gorgeous belly dance choreographed by Rachel Brice to a song called “Glide” by Felix’s Machines. The song and the dance were mesmerizing and I wanted to learn it and have our troupe learn it to perform at a Steampunk Festival we have performed at twice before.

I watched it over and over again to break down the steps. It was so intense! I had five full pages of notes. Finally I concluded it would have to be a much simpler choreography for us to be able to learn it.

Since I don’t know how to do choreography, the project floundered for quite some time. But I had talked about doing it often enough that I kind of thought there was a small expectation that I would bring a dance to the troupe one day.

Lately, life in the troupe has gotten a bit stressful. “Creative differences” is the best way to describe it without getting negative and personal.

In order to cope, I and one of the other dancers, who feels the same way as I do, decided to work on my Felix’s Machines dance in earnest, on our own, and really polish it and have it ready in plenty of time for the Steampunk Festival this August. At least there would be something about the show that we could feel confident about!

The first time we got together, we picked a different song on the same CD that we could start from scratch with. The song is called “Machines 140207”. We spent two hours working on it and came up with about 50 seconds worth of steps.

This week we got together for about three hours and choreographed another 50 seconds worth.

It was awkward at first and there was some disagreement at times as well. But we got through all that. It has turned out to be so satisfying.

The dance is coming out very well. It flows and goes nicely with the music and it has special touches in it as I wanted. My idea was that because this music is made by machines then the dancers should mimic machines but in a subtle way.

I think my friend was worried at first that I was trying to pack the dance with complicated moves and she wanted to rely on tried and true steps so we could learn it. And I didn’t want the tried and trues as they seemed too easy and dull to me.

But! She figured out what I wanted to do and I figured out what she wanted to do and it is coming together so well.

I suspect we can finish the dance in our next session and then spend much time polishing it and planning our costumes. We can perform with confidence when the time comes.

It has been such a long, long time since I have been involved in something this creative. Working this well with someone is also a very, very rare experience.

Since, in general, my life is not going all that great lately, this project has come at a very good time and has made the other stuff less trying.

It’s not that new bad things are coming along. The reason life seems not so great lately is because I have made the decision to allow “stuff” to rise up to the surface and then allow myself to experience the emotions without judgment and without rushing it along. It’s just hard work most of the time. It’s not fun and it wears me out. But I believe it must be done.

“My” dance and the belly dancing in general are a nice little break from the tough emotional work I am doing. I have had the idea for a long time that art and creativity would be key for me. I just did not know exactly how it would work.

I am figuring out my healing work just about the same way I am figuring out how to choreograph a dance.

1 Comment

Filed under anxiety, art therapy, decisions, depression, emotional health, healing, pressure, self-care