Overcoming our own thoughts

Overcoming our own thoughts

https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2018/05/26/overcoming-our-own-thoughts/
— Read on druidlife.wordpress.com/2018/05/26/overcoming-our-own-thoughts/

This raises a very good point about internal vs external sources of stress and anxiety.

When I’m going through a rough patch, I sometimes have a hard time sorting out how much is in my head/body responses and how much is in my environment. Often, I’ve found, it’s both, and they feed on each other and get all tangled up. The first step is sorting out which is which.

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#AtoZChallenge — Negotiating Normal

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across.


Normal. What the hell is that, anyway?

Stomperdad

I’m not a parent (to the extent that cats don’t count), but I agree wholeheartedly with Stomperdad’s post.

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First new frames (and lenses) in five years! Man I’d gotten used to crappy vision.

What the hell is normal?

When I was a kid spending weekdays at my maternal grandparents’ house, except for Wednesdays at my paternal grandparents’ house, was normal. By seventh grade, wearing glasses full time was normal. In college, queer relationships and me actually dating became normal. When I met my partner, dogs became normal, and when we got our first kitten together, cats became normal. Until the end of last year, exhaustion and existential misery was normal, but then I quit my job and now writing every day and feeling both healthier and happier has taken its place.

Part of growing up — which I am in no way done with, even though I’m turning thirty in a couple weeks — is trying to figure out what your personal normal is, and finding your equilibrium within it.

Our lives include one negotiation after another. When we negotiate, we are attempting to obtain or bring about some end by way of discussion or other means, including non-verbal communication.

Fandango

Anxiety is also normal for me. It has been since… I don’t know, probably second grade, at least, but I didn’t realize or acknowledge it until college when I was so apathetic and sad about nothing particularly specific that I made an appointment with one of the school therapists. After several sessions, she suggested I consider anti-anxiety medication and gave me a referral to a therapist, which I never did anything about because I have anxiety about swallowing pills.

2017-06-19 09.33.21
Cats in the washing machine is not normal. Remove all cats prior to starting a wash.

The year after that, I started getting sinus headaches in the fall and spring, so bad that swallowing Advil one half at a time became normal. (That primed me for trying anti-anxiety meds later in life. At this point, I’ve worked my way up to actually swallowing pills whole. … Most of the time.)

 

It wasn’t until after college and after meeting my current partner that I went back into therapy and started questioning my normal. Asking myself, why do I think this way? And, Do I have to keep doing this?

I wish I had the kind of parents who had been able to see this in me and help me with it when I was younger. They’re good parents, and I love them, but they’re computer engineers and just not super emotional people — that’s part of why examining my feelings and what they came from didn’t come naturally.

Normal changes, that’s why no one knows really knows what it is. And Fandango is right, we negotiate our way through it daily. With our environment, with other people, even with ourselves.

What’s your normal like?

#AtoZChallenge — It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across. 


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Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages and Karen Hume’s RAW NEWS framework as examples of a daily routine to support your creativity
— Read on profoundjourney.com/routine-never-too-late-a-z-challenge/


The post I’m featuring today is one I stumbled across through the comments on a blog I follow.

I’m turning thirty in about two weeks, so it’s not like I’m in danger of a midlife crisis quite yet. But I did hit the ejector seat button on my job about eight months ago… and in some ways it’s like I’m learning how to live all over again. Like Karen, “I didn’t do much of anything other than sleep and destress for quite a while,” but now I’m much happier, getting a healthier amount of sleep, being more active throughout the day, and eating a lot better.

Have I settled on my ideal routine yet? Not quite. Every morning I make a list of three things I want to accomplish in the coming day (though sometimes I make the list the night before, or at the end of the day if I forgot and just want to acknowledge that I actually got stuff done). Every night I make a list of three things I’m grateful for (and usually at least one of those things is about food, haha). If I haven’t done either of those by 10pm or so, my Grid Diary app reminds me.

These are important habits, and they’ve helped me a lot with just getting my mind back to a good place and keep it there, but I wouldn’t mind adding to my routine.

“I would be relieved if I made time to….”

  • Write more. 

And to be fair, I have been doing more of this since November thanks to NaNoWriMo. I write when I’m inspired, but I can’t decide if it would motivate me more to carve out a specific Writing Time or if it would just inspire me to procrastinate more.

When I finish my current fanfiction masterpiece I’ll get back to the novels I want to publish someday.

  • Meditate more.

Seriously, I’ve been saying this for years. A few years ago, when my partner went to London for twelve months, I found a meditation group at an LGBT center near my parents house and started going once a week. It was amazing and relaxing and it got me out of the house to interact with new people, which I don’t do on my own very often. I told my therapist at the time about it, and she told me about a meditation-based anxiety group she was running, which was also great.

When we moved up here, I half heartedly looked for other groups to join but couldn’t find anything I felt comfortable with, and the Calm app on it’s own has not been enough to keep me on track. What little breathing exercises I have done recently have all been very short and only thanks to the promptings of the Aloe Bud app I’m helping beta test.

… Actually, I just remembered my old therapist gave me a bunch of cds with meditation recordings. I should get those on my new computer!

  • Go on more walks.

I will do this, once the weather dries up a bit. Because seriously, walks in the rain can be okay if you have an umbrella and a neighborhood with sidewalks, but I currently have neither of those. I’ve been gradually bumping up my daily step goal and am currently at 6k a day — taking long summer walks would be really good for that.

  • Apply to more jobs.

I’ve been a lot better about this in the past week. I guess the A to Z Challenge productivity is catching? But basically, I keep forgetting what day it is and I’m starting to go a little stir crazy. I need to find a job again!


What about your routines? Are there any new habits that you want to start building up?

A Month in Review: August 2017

August was both stressful and a huge relief, because I finally did something huge that I’ve been needing to do for the sake of my health — both mental and insurance. Certain things about the company culture were seriously wearing me down, to the point where it was becoming harder to get out of bed on workdays. On top of that I’ve had some unexpected medical adventures and, given the current political crap, it’s really made me feel the urgency of finding of a job with health benefits.

So I put in my two week’s notice and my last day was on August 31st! At the same time my partner was starting a new job in a winery tasting room (I’m so proud!!!) and doing so well there while also being super supportive of my decisions. The fact that at least one of us is currently employed has, I think, helped us avoid a lot of the tensions that would have come from both of us being anxious and together literally all the time.

Freedom from my old job allows me to do a lot of new things. I’ve started volunteering at the local library. I’m going to get all my shit at home organized, throw out things I don’t need, and start cooking more. I’m going to be healthier, eat better, exercise more, lose weight. I’m going to play with the cats more often, because they’re such needy, demanding little buggers when they have a mind to be. It’s going to be a month of planning and prepping, and getting things done.

In the meantime, here’s what I am currently:

Writing

… In small quantities, but more than I have in a while. I feel like that’s going to pick up speed in the coming weeks. I keep having all these new ideas for the novel WIPs I’ve worked on in the past two Novembers, and I’m still pondering what I will do for this year’s NaNoWriMo. Start something new? Work on one or both of the things I’ve already got going?

Planning

… A trip to visit my brother in October. My partner and I are going to road trip the ten hours to his place in Nevada, in part because the nearest airport is an hour’s drive anyway. He’s already bought the three of us tickets for a haunted train ride, he’s so excited. It’s adorable.

Making

2017-09-02 20.41.35… Pies. I promised my mom an apple pie when I visited for her birthday party over Labor Day weekend, so I made the dough the night before driving down but forgot to take it with me. After I got there I made more dough and did an apple pie anyway, but I still have two discs of dough to experiment with now. Savory pie experiments, here I come! Because if I do open top pies, I can do two.

Fun fact about gluten free flours: Bob’s Red Mill baking mix produces a pie dough that, while still raw, tastes heavily of chickpea. Not a favorite flavor of mine, although it cooks out just fine. The pie pictured above looks like a hot mess partly because I baked it in a toaster oven (it was way too hot inside that house to fire up the big oven) and because I used pure brown rice flour, also Bob’s Red Mill.

I’d tried white rice flour before and thought brown rice would be different, but not really. It was better, but rice flours produce a pie dough with a very sand-like texture. The main difference between white and brown is that the former was impossible to roll out and I just had to press it into the pie dish, while the latter rolled out well enough but didn’t stay together in the transfer from rolling surface to dish. So. Let that be a warning to gluten free bakers out there!

(The pie tasted damn good though.)

Anticipating

… Getting to know my local library better. I’ve volunteered to help with shelving on Mondays, since that’s a day they need the most help right now. In the long term I hope to get a job at the library, making this a strategic move in addition to something I also find really fun. And I get to cross it off on my bucket list!

Reading

Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco. I’m really liking it and I really, really want to know what happens next. Great choice for my first new audiobook in a while.

Watching

… The new season of American Horror Story! Or I will be soon, anyway.

Feeling

… So very frickin happy. I feel happier than I’ve felt in months, and more in control of my life than I have in a long time.

Needing

… A job with vision coverage. I haven’t been to an optometrist in like four years. By this point I’m sure my prescription could use an update. I mean, health and dental are of primary importance and this is sort of secondary, but it would be really nice.

Loving

2017-09-03 11.33.58… The brave new me. Because not only did I leave my job but, despite my fear of needles and pain, I got a tattoo! My partner tells me I was very brave.

It’s a two inch turtle on my shoulder, a honu. That’s what I’ve always had in mind for “if I ever get a tattoo” because I’ve always loved turtles (from my first stuffed animal to swimming near them on family trips to Hawaii) and I love the simplicity of the design. When I was in college I fell in love with the webcomic XKCD and started drawing my own expressive stick figures, including little comic strips here and there, mostly for whatever fandom I happened to belong to at the time. My big project one year for a drawing class was a six foot wide, four foot tall mural design on paper in graphite and black light pen, consisting primarily of words and stick figures (lots of lines). I never did finish it because it was a lot of fiddly bits — writing the words in blacklight marker, filling in around them with pencil to reveal them as negative space, and that’s literally what ALL of the lines were made up of.

I guess if I ever get a second tattoo it’ll be something that I designed in the same style, although I think for a tattoo the words would be better in positive rather than negative space. Or I don’t know. Either way it would probably hurt more than this one did, soooooo we’ll see about that.

Hating

… The crazy heat wave we’ve been having. One day it was so hot that movement just wasn’t worth the effort. (It has since cooled off tremendously and even rained. Yay rain!)

Hoping

… For a job at the library. While I’ve always wanted to volunteer and never before had the time, I do have a bit of an ulterior motive. The compensation and benefits for full time library employees are good. I like books. I deeply enjoy shelving things and making everything neat and orderly. I want to use my volunteer time getting to know people and making connections that might really help me out with applying. (Of course, I will apply to other things too, but this is really what I have my fingers crossed for.)

Self-Care for People Trying to Adult Good

This guide was meant specifically to help people with ADHD and ADD. While I don’t have either of those (as far as I know, I am increasingly less and less sure of anything about myself these days), some of the self-care tips struck me as Really Good Ideas. Halfway through reading it I stopped and downloaded the Grid Diary app. Sam’s examples of his own questions he’s set for himself to answer at the beginning and end of every day are, after some slight tweaking, a good reminder for me to be more mindful. Some of these are (tweaks included):

  • What are some strategies I can use to be effective and get shit done today?
  • What’s one way I can support my mental health today?
  • Am I worried about anything?

And one suggested by the app, which I decided to keep:

  • What problem did I encounter today? How did I solve the problem?

As Sam comments in there somewhere, these tips won’t be perfect for everyone but work for him as he spends a lot of time on his phone anyway. My partner, who most likely does have ADD, swears by bullet journals and didn’t seem as interested in this app as I am when I mentioned it — but then I’m more of a phone person, and any time I spend on my phone that’s not noodling away on Candy Crush Soda Saga or Solitaire Tri Peaks is probably a good thing.

 

That’s when I knew: I didn’t want to live like this anymore.

via ADHD Survival Guide: How I Stopped Procrastinating and Got My Sh!t Together — Let’s Queer Things Up!

Walking With Giants

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. Your words have helped me feel a little lighter, a little more inspired. Plus, I had a kitty lounging on my chest and purring for quite a while this morning, which was nice.

The day after I made that post, we had already planned to go to a nearby redwood forrest and do a nature walk. My energy felt so sapped that I almost didn’t want to go, but between my partner’s infectious enthusiasm as sheer momentum I went. This particular park has an amphitheater area that we’re considering as a wedding venue, and I really wanted to see it. Temperatures have sometimes climbed to the 100s recently and that day was no exception, but at least the forest was full of shade.

“Green spaces are known to be good for mental health, and beyond that, there’s the powerful business of encountering.” —Nimue Brown

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With that, I felt a little better too. And this past weekend, as a delayed birthday present, my mom took my to Disneyland! It was very hot and very crowded, but even that helped clear my mind of non-immediate concerns. The Jungle Cruise was still there, despite some rumors we had heard of it being closed down permanently, and Space Mountain and Indiana Jones were as wildly enjoyable as ever. Plus, Disney is astonishingly good at accommodating allergies and I found gluten free bread here and there when I least expected it. (Grilled cheese and tomato soup, om nom nom!) Not for nothing is it called the Happiest Place on Earth, and although most of the happy glow wore off once I came home and returned to real life I do feel better for the three days of mental relief. I am extraordinarily lucky and grateful for that.

I don’t think I’m depressed. There are a lot of things I need to adjust in my life to get to a better mental place — I am too stressed, I am too anxious, I am worried about my upcoming endoscopy and the single Ativan I will take to keep myself calm that day, I don’t get enough exercise, I don’t eat enough protein, and I need to carry on with purging gluten from my system.

For the first three, I have started talking to a therapist again. I’m going to try and get back into meditation and breathing exercises, which might be a little easier to remember to do once the endoscopy is over and done with. I’m also taking some steps to reduce the stress in my environment… Work stuff. It’s a process.

For the last three, I have my Fitbit. I bought it for myself a few months ago and have been gradually bumping my step goal up from 5k as I build better daily habits. Currently my goal is 7k and I’m doing a pretty good job of hitting it. The app also tracks exercise and food/calorie/macronutrient intake. In the past week I’ve been using it as a food journal, in case I need to look back and figure out if I ate anything that wasn’t gluten free by accident. It tells me what percent of calories are from protein, too, so I can be more mindful of that.

There are probably other things I can do, but this is where I’m starting. I’m already taking vitamin D every day along with my anti-anxiety medication, which I believe isn’t giving me as much burnout from side effects as it was a few weeks ago. When I remember, I take gummy multi-vitamins. Once I get though the endoscopy, perhaps I will turn more of my focus towards meditation, vitamins, and writing more often.

And my partner and I definitely plan on taking more nature walks. We even bought matching water bottles for the purpose. 😊

Overall, I am not at my best, but I am better. I hope all of you are doing okay.

“Heal yourself first. Get what you need, do what you need to, first, always first, but after you have made some progress and stored up some strength yourself, go out and help the rest of the world heal.” — Lisa

Life is a Complex Matter

Happy 4th of July! I must admit that right now I am not the proudest I have ever been of my country — more like, rolling my eyes real hard — but a federal holiday is a paid day off work and that at least is worth celebrating. Today there was less car exhaust in the air during usual rush hour time, and that’s worth some happy thoughts as well.

This Independence Day I would love to declare independence from the bad vibes and depression that’s been clinging to me for a while now, but I can’t. The dark clouds over my head are there and pretending they aren’t won’t get me any less stormed on.

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”  — Walt Disney

In the past several months I feel as though my anxiety has gotten worse, and being toldI tested positive for celiac disease hasn’t helped. My jaw feels tight and at times almost clicky again. I’m back to flinching when I’m a passenger on the freeway and someone cuts in front of us. I am borderline apathetic about getting up every morning, partly because I don’t want to move and partly because I feel queasy.

I can’t just overlook these things. They’re too big, some days it’s hard to see anything else. All I can do is remember the buts.

  • I might have celiacs, BUT that means that maybe going gluten free will help me loose weight. (If nothing else, a GF bagel is smaller than a regular one, and similar upsides to portions.)
  • I might have celiacs, BUT that could explain some of my recent spikes in anxiety and insomnia, and offer hope that they’ll settle again soon.
  • I might feel queasy more often and easily now, BUT that’s probably because my sertraline dose was increased three weeks ago, so my body will probably adjust soon and that’ll go away.
  • I might feel queasy more often and easily now, BUT maybe that just means I shouldn’t drink any more alcohol until my body settles down a bit. (Because I’m really, really sick of getting hit with a hangover an hour after having two drinks.)
  • Sometimes I feel way too stressed and panicky and like I have no way of changing any of the stressful factors in my environment, BUT I have my partner to support me and, if I really need it, lavender pills to help calm me down. That at least clears some space in my head to think.

In theory, lists like these will help me stay more level. I don’t know if it’s working. I think it might be… but I’ll have to wait and see.

Monday Musings #13 — Morning Pages

Good morning! Yesterday I hit my 100th post, and to celebrate I spent the rest of the day changing my blog theme and adding a guest blogger contact page (if anyone would like to submit anything). Today I’ve armored up against the week, however flimsily, with earrings, a t-shirt I’ve had since preschool, and the knowledge that I won’t have a two hour commute to get home tonight. It’s a start, anyway.

I tend to do that. Sometimes I armor myself with optimism, or with exhaustion, or occasionally a dreary “it is what it is so just deal with it” realism that neither worsens nor betters the situation. Often, I try to armor myself with rituals. A cup of tea in the morning. Meditation. Sunday gratitudes. Taking walks. Listening to audiobooks in the car. Remembering to floss. You’d be surprised how many times you might be able to tell yourself that you can handle anything just as long as your teeth feel clean.

It’s a toss-up whether or not most of this does any good. At least I haven’t had any cavities in a long time, and the meditation does help. I should do it more often — that and taking walks. But I’m always on the lookout for new good habits, just in case they are good and, importantly, just in case they’ll stick. Continue reading “Monday Musings #13 — Morning Pages”

Monday Musings #12 – Coffee Shop Self-Care

I don’t often sit in coffee shops. While the free wifi that’s pretty commonly available these days helps, I always feel self-conscious and anxious when setting out to do so. What if I can’t find a comfortable place to sit? What will I do with all my stuff when I have to go to the bathroom? What do I do about food if I’m there for a long time, take snacks (if I have any) or just spend money there? If I take my laptop, what if I can’t get a seat near a plug? Or what if I do, but lose it as soon as I get up to use the bathroom? And let’s be honest, do I really even want to use a public bathroom?

But today I’m just on my phone, and while I’m vaguely concerned about the battery I am temporarily without a charger besides the one in my car so it doesn’t matter if there are seats near the outlets. I ended up with one of the comfy chairs. The music has settled into a tolerable background noise. Today is a paid day off thanks to the holiday, and I have nowhere in particular to be. Well, at least not yet.

So I’m spending the day just chilling. This mornings I woke up at (gasp) 6:30am to have an early breakfast with my brother and parents, and see him off before his drive back to Nevada. Then I went back to bed. When I woke up again, I dusted off one of the half hour yoga recordings and did a (mostly) standing series of meditation stretches. Although that was mildly exhausting it returned to me some of the sense of unwinding that I felt after getting that massage the other week – where the masseuse recommended I do neck and shoulder stretches before bed and first thing every morning. This is the first time I’ve actually done so and I’m going to try and do it more often.

Over the past few weeks I feel like everything has been set to Fast Forward. Work feels as though it’s demanding that I move at breakneck speed, although I feel as though everything I do is more like treading water and I cannot explain that contradiction to myself – I’m pretty sure it’s all in my head. I’ve recently read the suggestion that one of the symptoms of depression is becoming a workaholic, and that seems to ring true because I feel so frantic to get something, anything done and that’s the easiest arena for accomplishment. In my personal life, situations keep escalating in the blink of an eye – this one I know this is all in my head and I’m spacing through a lot of what’s happening for various reasons.

Continue reading “Monday Musings #12 – Coffee Shop Self-Care”