Category Archives: stress

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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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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Scarred for Life!

I read an article recently that discusses what happens to children who have been traumatized at certain crucial stages of development when they grow up.  The author’s opinion was that trauma during the terrible twos and again during puberty had a permanent effect on the individual.

Awhile back I read a different article about a study.  The study involved a group of children who had been bullied at certain ages and checked in with them at intervals for their entire lives.  The study reached the same conclusion–that particular childhood stages were very vulnerable for psychological damage and that the damage is virtually permanent.  The bullied children as adults tended to remain unsuccessful outsiders throughout adulthood no matter what.

Well, I could have told them that!

It’s kind of nice to know that the way I turned out is not my fault.  I did not choose to hang onto the past and fear the future.  I did not choose to wallow in grief or get lost in worry and anxiety.  Instead, this is basically what I became “made of” due to the timing of events and how those events mixed with my “self” during my childhood and youth.

This means to me that my task is not about weaknesses or flaws.  I don’t need a cure.  I need to accept who I am now.  I need healing and purpose.  My task is to keep finding my way.

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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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Time Travel?

My life story contains some traumatic turning points.  In between those turning points I have often managed to sail along somewhat smoothly and occasionally even thrive.  In order to do that, however, I was drawing against my reserves.  Little did I know that I would eventually come up dry.  And that is where I find myself these days.

When I quit the Terrible Job, I kept looking for causes of my troubles because that seemed like a way to find a solution.  There was a lot of “I chose this, because that happened” and “when that happened, I began to believe this” and so on.

I worked my way back in time and kept asking myself “Is this where it went wrong, is this when I reached a point of no return?”

It seemed to me that at age 13 I still had a chance to make a happy life for myself.  At that age, I still thought I was pretty cool and equal to everyone else, even though there were people in my life who would beg to differ.  There had been some childhood problems and issues but it seemed recoverable in a way that my life from age 14 did not.

I believe that an important part of my personality became “frozen” at whatever developmental stage I had reached by age 14.

This means that from that point on, each challenge in my life was approached and possibly solved in the way a 14-year-old might try and solve it.  Even when I had learned better ways, there was still that freaked-out 14-year-old in the background pulling some of the strings.

I used to say 14 is really awkward at 40.  If that is true, then how much more awkward is it at 54???  It does feel weird, I promise you that.

People in my life that had a proper youth, at least as far as I can know that, seem to be better off as adults than I have ever been.  They can roll with the punches and eventually bounce back.  They seem to have an understanding of human nature that I skipped right over.  They don’t beat themselves up endlessly.  They forgive themselves.  They are satisfied more or less with what they have and have accomplished.  I’m not saying they have it easier.  I’m saying they have resilience.

I want that resilience for myself.  I have to build it from scratch, though.  Thirteen-year-old me just might be able to help.

I want to combine the knowledge I have gathered through 54 years of experience with the kind of person I was before my life derailed.  Sort of like– if only I knew then what I know now–but in reverse.

I am making steady progress and continue to feel different inside which enables me to start making different and healthier decisions.  It’s incredible to me how slow this process is and I have to keep reminding myself just how long it took me to get to this point.  A long, long time!!!  So, just keep going, that’s all I can do.

 

 

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