Tag Archives: boundaries

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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Anxiety Epiphany

For quite some time now I have been saying that I am a person who has clinical depression, anxiety and PTSD.  I have been considering these conditions to be three separate illnesses with three separate needs for healing.

While puzzling out my own issues that have caused problems in my life over and over again through the years, I have also thought a great deal about people in my circle that have had a formative impact on me.  They also seem to have mental and emotional health issues.  In all my reading and research, though, I couldn’t really figure out what specifically I was dealing with.

Could I really, all by my lonesome, know that many narcissists???  They are out there for sure and I have met some.  But would it really be like half the people I know???

Probably not.

I started noticing that some of these people, who are very self-preoccupied, actually carry around phenomenal amounts of anxiety and have serious control issues.  Would being anxious all the time cause a person to be so caught up in their own inner world and emotions that they have an effect on others around them that is similar to narcissism?

Well, that’s what I’m thinking.

Then  I did some more thinking about my own anxiety symptoms.  I have had them since childhood off and on.  Those symptoms started before my first experience with depression.  And then it occurred to me that the two may be related.  That maybe my anxiety has actually caused me to  either end up with depression or to begin dealing with life in a way that causes or mimics depression.  This would be a way to protect myself from the unpleasant sensations of anxiety.  It would be a way to feel less afraid which is what anxiety makes you feel.

At any rate, my current thinking is that if I concentrate on easing and treating the anxiety, then the depression will ease somewhat naturally.  I also think that a person with anxiety would be more prone to dealing with trauma by turning it into PTSD.  My anxiety-ridden body is made in such a way that PTSD is almost inevitable.

I thought of this a few weeks ago and since then have made efforts every day to consider anxiety first when I’m feeling a certain way or when I am having certain problems dealing with every day life.

Changing my approach in this way has somewhat freed up my mind from the near constant analysis I have been making over causes of my depression.  I have really been stuck in the past because of that.

This new approach has also helped me to lose interest in being a victim.  It has helped me to be able to look inward for my solutions instead of always waiting for others to start being nicer or more supportive.

It will be pretty awesome if I am right about this because treating the cause of something is always better than just treating the symptoms.  So, in this case, if I have found out the real cause of my problems, then I am really on my way to health and wholeness.

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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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The Cat’s in the Cradle

Before I begin this post, I want to say that I am not looking for advice or a solution.  This is truly just a sorting-my-thoughts kind of essay.  It is still just very hard for me to know what to do when people in  my life don’t cooperate and don’t explain things to me. Some of the most important people in my life are so incredibly frustrating for me to relate to.  So here goes….

I want us to visit our son in California.  It has been three years since we were there.  Money is a big issue and is the reason why I decided not to go in 2015.

People ask why he doesn’t come here.  Well, he hates it here.  And money.

The last visit from him was in 2004 when my father died.  I will always appreciate that he came for the funeral when what he really wanted was to visit while my father was still alive.  Unfortunately, the end came faster than expected.  One day I’m calling him to say, hurry home.  And the very next day I’m calling to say, you can take your time, he is gone.

I suppose it is time for me to let go of that guilt.  Nobody told me how fast these things can go and I just didn’t know.

We have pretty bad communication with each other.  It has always been that way.  I can put a really good spin on it.  He calls for our birthdays and holidays!  Yay!  Those calls have been some of our best conversations!  Yay!  But this year we received no calls for the holidays and he has not returned the calls we made to him.  It has been over six months since our last word from him.

Our letters have not been returned so he has not moved someplace new.  That damn silence, which I have such a hard time with, is back.

I remember his adolescence was a whole bunch of silence.  I would yell at him, “Talk to me!!!!!  What is going on????”  Of course, that just made it worse.

While I can see the good things in his life, and there are several, I will probably always wish our relationship was simpler and felt more natural.

I am proud of how smart and independent he is.  I admire the kind of person he is.  But it is nearly impossible to c0nnect.

So, we’ve been trying to work out a visit for 2016.  Since he is not responding to our calls and letters, I might have to conclude that he is not up for a visit and also is not up for telling us that.

I suppose it’s nice that he is possibly trying to spare our feelings.

Maybe he has things going on that he doesn’t want to tell us about or burden us with.

It could be anything really.

I feel like such a martyr for even writing about this.

And maybe he will call soon and I will find out I worried for nothing.

This is just way too much maybe.

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Enough Time Goes By

Last night my belly dance troupe held its annual Christmas Hafla (belly dance gathering).  We’ve had about five of them.  This year was our third one held a local bar that one of our dancers works at.

I was so keyed-up beforehand that I felt nauseous.  As many times as I have performed in public, that sickish feeling seems to be necessary on some level.  Maybe it is a gathering of all my energies.  It passes once the food is set up and the pool table moved out of the way and the music starts and we are dancing.

There was something different about how I felt, though, compared to previous years.  I felt more centered in my body.  There was less of a “people pleasing” element to me just being there.  More of a detachment.

I think it was a healthy detachment.  More of a “this is where I leave off and that is where you begin” kind of detachment.

Usually I do a lot of nervous laughing in between songs and sometimes even during a dance.  That didn’t happen last night.  Yet, I can say I did have fun.  Less laughing and more being actually present in the moment.

My choreography partner and I performed the dance we choreographed ourselves this year and we received a lot of positive feedback.  I felt really strong while dancing it.

We finished our second choreography this week.  It goes with a Christmas song and we had hoped to have it ready for the Hafla.  But there just wasn’t enough time.  We will polish it to perfection and unveil it next Christmas.  No pressure!!!

So anyway, this is one more example of the kind of progress I have made this year in comparison to where I was last Christmas season.  It is reassuring to have something to measure in a journey that is all about going with the flow.  These things take a lot of time and I am fortunate to be able to spend my time in this way.

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Silence Means No

Several years ago I was dozing through a televised football game when one of the commentators said, “Well, silence means ‘no.'” I had no idea what they had been talking about that led one of them to say that, but it woke me right up.

Silence means no. How could I have lived this long and not known that??? A former football player knew that! I must say this is probably the first thing I have ever learned from a former football player.

Silence has always been an issue for me. I don’t mean “quiet.” I like the quiet. I mean that silence as an answer or response has always been a problem for me.

When I was a kid, if I said “bye” to someone before they left, I expected to be answered back. If the person failed to answer me, I would feel abandoned.

When I would bring up an important topic to someone and they either didn’t answer at all or changed the subject to one they cared about, I would feel humiliated. This happened to me a lot and still does!

If I liked a boy and they ignored me, I felt rejected.

If I didn’t understand things and couldn’t find out what was going on, I would fill in the answers that made the most sense to me. And I would act on that. Even though it was often just my imagination at work.

There are dozens and dozens of examples from my life I could list but I think this gives a good idea of what I mean.

Lately I have been experimenting with the use of “silence as no” in my own favor. I have always been one to jump in with some kind of answer or response in almost every situation I have found myself in. I have, as a result, taken on way too much responsibility for way too long.

My dance troupe is experiencing “growing pains” and “creative differences” this year. One thing that keeps happening is that some members are kind of slacking off. This leaves just a very few of us who attend nearly every class and can be relied upon. So, naturally, we are being taken for granted. Yes, I am disappointed to have that dynamic rear its ugly head in my dance troupe, my favorite and most special activity. But human nature is everywhere that humans are.

It still feels really odd not to respond to a Facebook post asking, for example, if someone will “take the lead” in arranging a venue, for example, or running the class because the teacher is unable or unavailable. The phrasing of these requests feels directed at me and one or two other dependables.

Sometimes the posts seem manipulative. For example, today the post was, in so many words, “I just heard ‘such and such a venue’ still wants belly dancers.” Someone, not me, asked for the date and time. The answer: “I don’t know, I haven’t heard from anyone in several weeks.” Ummm, so how is it that you just heard they still need us???

At any rate, one of the dependables went ahead and researched the issue and posted what she learned. She “took the lead”!

Maybe it is not the troupe that is experiencing growing pains and creative differences, maybe it is just me. Quite often lately, I am left feeling manipulated and even a bit pushed around. During our most recent class, I felt incredibly pushed around and had no idea why it was happening and what I could do about it. I fumbled through and just did what I thought I was being asked to do but it felt very awkward and I went home as soon as I possibly could and felt very out of sorts. There seems to be many layers uncovering themselves inside of me lately and I don’t know for sure when I am being treated poorly or when I am being triggered. Perhaps both.

I am disappointed that I have not come far enough yet to be able to take such things in stride since there is a good possibility that this is simply a part of a typically messy life. Even so, I am VERY disappointed that these scenarios keep happening. It has reminded me of how things ALWAYS end up for me in my jobs. Since I cannot seem to behave in a way that draws respect from others, I end up withdrawing. It just feels like things get broken when I do that.

Several years ago, I actually took a break from the troupe that lasted several months. My main problem at that time was exhaustion from the terrible job. When I came back, it was okay and I stepped back into my place pretty smoothly.

The other day, when I mentioned to my friend, one of the dependables, that maybe I should step back a bit, she panicked and said, “Oh, no! Don’t do that! I’m depending on you!!!” Oy vey! Not that! I reassured her that I didn’t mean taking a big break, I just meant maybe I need to be less reliable so I don’t get taken for granted.

I wish I had better answers for myself and I wish this process was a little more pleasant. I will continue to work out the possibilities in “silence means no” because it is obvious to me that I have hit upon something important here that I can in fact work with.

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