Category Archives: depression

Oprah and Elizabeth Gilbert

10401219_53874611937_6380_nI confess, I like Oprah. I think she truly wants people to understand themselves better. I think she wants the world to be a happy place. I think she’s right on track with her Super Soul Sunday series. So much wisdom from so many people from all over the world. I always feel like I’m searching for who I am, what my purpose is in this world, and all that fun stuff.

I could not pass up taking the How to Uncover the Talents Only You Can Offer The World: A little exercise to put you on the path to self-knowledge exercise on Oprah’s website. I’m taking this quiz mostly because of the very first question.

1. What did you love to do in junior high? (That’s me in 9th grade) My best friend Tina and I embodied all things Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. We might not have dressed like Bill and Ted but we certainly spoke like them. I was Bill and she was Ted. We’d address each other as Bill and Ted. “Ted, it’s bogus that you can’t come to the party on Saturday!” “Bill, surely it is.” We even performed as Bill and Ted in our English class while reading our synopsis of the previous day’s class.

2. Why do you think you really loved that activity? (Maybe reading gave you a glimpse into others’ lives, or running track freed your mind and put you in the zone.) I loved being part of Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure in Enterprise, AL because Tina understood, accepted and encouraged my goofiness. It made her laugh. It made me laugh. It made other people laugh. I was extremely happy.

3. What gives you that much joy now? I still absolutely love making people laugh. And I still absolutely love making silly voices and doing bad impressions.

4. What deeper desire do you think that activity fulfills for you? It makes me happy to see other people happy. When I’m laughing I’m not worrying about anything. Inevitably if I’ve made someone else laugh I’m laughing too.

5. If you had six months to spend any way you’d like, what would you do? I would take a class in improv.

6. What were the last three things you read, watched, or saw that fascinated you? What do they have in common? (If it’s a detective novel, a nature documentary, and an investigative report about campaign funds, maybe you love to delve deeply into a subject to examine it from every angle.) I watched too many YouTube videos of Ricky Gervais because I love his laugh. It’s infectious and he’s a comic genius. I’m listening to upbeat music that has a lot of sass (Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass). The things I’m choosing to participate in are all upbeat and lively things. Things that makes me feel really good.

7. What are three adjectives your friends would use to describe you? Quirky, definitely. Funny, hopefully. Sincere.

8. What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself? Weird. Silly. Sincere.

9. Name the things that most relax you, excite you, move you, and delight you. Relax me: reading, sitting at the beach, yoga. Excite me: good movies (especially Sci-Fi), knowing that I have something fun coming up (a trip to Atlanta to see my Adult BFF Sarah so we can decorate for Halloween). Move me: reading, music, looking at art. Delight me: seeing someone’s joy coming through. laughing, swapping stories about life.

10. What do you consider your best quality? Are you showing it off as often as you could? I think my best quality is my desire to make the people around me happy. Not to placate them to my detriment. I like happy people. I like helping people be happy. Sometimes my depression gets in the way and I forget that if I’m laughing I can’t be depressed. I also hold back around people I don’t know very well because I’m afraid I’m not as neat as I think I am. I am still learning even after almost 40 years that what other people think about me is their business and not mine. I need to be me and not what other people think I need to be like.

The Skinny. The Low Down. The Thing We Don’t Talk About.

I did not go on my trip to see Sarah in Philadelphia. I’ve been trying to figure out how to say that and the reason why for the last few days, only to be spared from thinking about it while I had the worst head cold ever last week.

While I don’t need to justify to anyone other than Sarah and myself, I feel that visibility about how an anxiety disorder can wreck things is something that I should share.

Double Trouble!

Double Trouble! That’s me on the left and Sarah on the right. What the heck am I wearing? A purple tank top? WTH?

Two weeks ago when I picked up my blog again, school being the biggest reason I don’t write in it, I posted a couple of times about the trip and my worries. That week I had also been given some bad news about my health that require huge changes (with little support for how to make those changes by my doctor). So by Wednesday of that week I was so in a tizzy that my anxiety was acting out in other ways besides the usual panic attacks.

This is something I’ve been able to track – sometimes when I’m really anxious about something I will instead project my anxiety onto something else instead of the thing I’m actually anxious about. Why? I have no idea. This time it was school. I’m on the quarter system so I go to school for 10 weeks and then have a couple of weeks off before the next quarter begins. I’ve been going to school since September 2011. All four quarters: Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer.

The stress of school, working full time, and trying to not let that stress interfere with my relationship with my husband is really hard. I sometimes fail miserably and the balance goes all wonky. I was only into week 2 when my anxiety about the trip started. I should have really considered my school schedule along with my trip before I made any plans. But as someone with my disorder, I often feel guilty that my anxiety and depression keep other people from having any fun with me. The “People Pleaser” in me comes out in full force instead of being honest.

So I had crying break down. I did a couple of stupid things – remember I’m projecting my anxiety – and emailed some professors and classmates about the “unfairness” of a class we are required to take. I’m so embarrassed. It was a stupid email. Finally my husband asked me, “What is really going on?” And that’s when I broke. We decided together and later validated by Sarah and my therapist that the trip just wasn’t in my cards just yet. Oh its there, and its going to happen but maybe not when I’m not going to school and working and maybe not after I’ve gotten some crappy news that equally makes me anxious but also depresses me.

So there it is. I didn’t go. I ended up catching a horrible head cold and spent my vacation time in bed. But it was the best stay-cation ever. I really needed the rest and the sleep I got. I’m back at work today. Yesterday I did some homework. I feel a little more clear headed than I did a week ago.

I’m also not stressing about school. The class is crap. That’s how I feel about it. I know several other people in my class who feel the same way, so at least I’m not alone. I also talked to my professor and he knows how badly I’m struggling and has offered to help me as much as possible – as long as I ask for the help. So we’ll see. I’m shooting for a C in that class. It’s not an A or a B but its realistic. Finger’s crossed. Six more weeks to go.

Still Trying

I still have so much anxiety about this trip. I wish I didn’t. It would be really nice to be excited about the trip. I’m debating on making a list of what makes me anxious about this trip. In my head all the reasons are absolutely ridiculous, which makes sense for an agoraphobic. None of our reasons for fears are sound.

Instead of making a list of the things I’m afraid of, at least I’m not making that list tonight, I’ll make a list of things I’m actually excited about. Maybe that will help me feel better.

1. Seeing my best friend. I mean, duh!
2. Getting out of FLORIDA!!! I know that people who don’t live in Florida think Florida is sunshine and beaches and Disney. But my Florida, the real Florida of non-vacations, is oak tree pollen, year round vegetation that blooms and expels this hideous yellow pollen that coats cars, standing water, buildings, anything standing still (even ponds that aren’t still!). And I’m allergic to it. Year round I’m sneezing, I’m itchy, I’m sniffling. At my worst, like this past weekend, my eyes swell up, I get hives, and I’m drugged to the gills with Benadryl and can’t get out of bed.
3. Being in cool temperatures! Florida is still hot in October. Sometimes we will get a nice couple of cool evenings at the end of the month, but that usually happens every other year. Last year was our nice, cool evenings. This year it will be hot. I’ve checked the Philadelphia weather every day and getting excited about having to possibly wear a hoodie or fluffy, fuzzy socks.
4. Chilling out. Vacations are always nice. It’ll be a working vacation as I still have homework I have to do but it won’t be working all day and homework all night….then again

crap this list is becoming less about what I’m excited about and more about the things that make me anxious. CRAP! Okay, okay. Maybe this post should be about what I actually have control over.

1. What I eat. I can control what I eat so I won’t trigger an IBS flare up.
2. Doing my homework. I have this week to buckle down and do the best that I can with my homework. I think I need to schedule office hours with my technical drawing professor because that’s the class that’s throwing me for a loop. Okay, so that’s a good plan.
3. Just talk to Sarah about needing time to do homework. She is taking some art classes herself and suggested I bring my sketch book with me. I guess I thought I’d be doing less technical drawing (it says drawing for design – a lot of us were under the impression that we were taking a graphic design specific drawing class, not a technical drawing class).
4. Make sure I’m drinking lots of water. Been drinking too much soda – a no no for those with anxiety and depression.
5. Call my therapist and talk to her. That’s the first thing I’m going to do tomorrow. She’s pretty cool. I’m hoping she’ll give me some tips. I have lots of tools for calming down in a panic attack and some ideas on how to calm anxiety; but sometimes I just need to re-hear it.

Ugh. I hate this. I hate this illness so much. I hate how it can twist normal worries into catastrophes. Or even non-worries into worries and then catastrophes.

You know, I would love, LOVE to hang on to this one thing that makes me excited. I’m a photographer. Well, I like to think I’m a photographer. I love iphone-ography too. I’ve seen some really amazing photographs taken on phones. I use my iPhone more than I use my DSLR. Anyway, I want to take pictures of myself in the airport. In the plane. Of the clouds outside the window. Of Sarah and I at the airport. And then do it all again on the way home. That, for some reason, is something I think is marvelous. A lot of the artists I follow on Instagram take photos of their adventures from start to finish. I remember thinking a while ago how I’d like to have an adventure I could document start to finish. Guess I’m getting my wish granted.

 

Bi-Annual Panic Attack Celebration!

I hadn’t realized until just this evening that I was due for my Bi-Annual Panic Attack Celebration! As soon as I remembered it was high time to celebrate my agoraphobia I put on my party hat and let myself have a whale of a time panicking.

Good times!

I don’t schedule these celebrations. It’s so much more fun to celebrate panic unawares ahead of time then plan for it. Granted, it doesn’t give me much time to decorate or prepare some good eats, but, honestly, when panicking food and decorations is the last thing on my mind. I guess I could look at my on the spot panic attack celebrations as a fantastic money-saving tip.

The only downside to these celebrations is the real panic attack. I guess I should have realized, and probably knew one was on the way, that a panic attack was headed my way. Things have been rough, to say the least; and I’m about to undertake an adventure that I would never have been able to do 12 years ago. Scratch that…an adventure I could not do Fall 2011, which may have even cost me my then job in the long run.

My best friend, Sarah, lives in Philadelphia. Mike and I visited her once in 2011. We had a really wonderful time. It was my first long road trip since my agoraphobia diagnosis in 2001. We had a rough trip to South Carolina in 2009*. But we had one really nice trip to Virginia in 2010*. Our long road trip to Pennsylvania to visit Sarah and my family for Christmas 2011 was really, really good. Not a single panic attack. Not even an anxiety attack. The trip was really wonderful. I road public transportation. Spent a full day wandering around with Sarah and Mike around Philly. Took a mini-road trip with just Sarah from Philly to Williamsport. And then Mike and I had the return trip from Williamsport back to Florida. The whole trip was wonderful. In fact, it was the best I had felt both physically and mentally in a really long time.

Since then we have taken mini-road trips to Savannah to see my parents. I’ve even been able to drive good portions of the way without succumbing to my road-narcalepsy. Each trip I venture out further from my parent’s house bit by bit enjoying the freedom of being agoraphobia free without even realizing that I am at that moment agoraphobic.

But even though I have all these major successes I still have at least one major panic attack every six months. With everything as it is right now my various issues at this time, at that moment came together to create my perfect mental storm.

As the wave of panic flooded through me, the wave of cold sweats and hot flashes through my body, I held on to enough sanity to recognize and evaluate what was happening to me. This is something I’ve only been able to do over the last year. In the midst of the panic I reminded myself of where I was, that I was safe, and that it was actually OKAY to panic right now. I’ve been sick. I’ve had some bad news about my health come up this past week. I have a lot of work to do to get better. I’m about to get on a plane by myself twice! Yeah, lots of stressful things going on. I gave myself the permission to panic, to ride the wave of panic to its end.

In the 10 minutes (maybe even less) from the beginning to end of the attack I nurtured myself. Afterwards, I pampered myself by cooling off with a nice cold rag on my forehead and doing the things I was planning to do before the attack hit.

I’m still going to Philadelphia. As Mike reminded me, there is nothing to be afraid of by going to see the second most trusted person in my life. A couple of weeks ago I admitted to Sarah my fear she simply said, “Don’t worry. I’ll be at the airport.” Mike and Sarah are my heroes. Sarah recently flew to India by herself to see a friend of ours get married. Mike travels a lot for his job.

It’s not just important for me to go to Philadelphia to see my best friend, its important to go as part of the ongoing process of curing the agoraphobia. Sure, I’m “cured” when I’m in my safe place. But to keep getting better I have to move beyond that. So I am going to Philadelphia. I may go under the influence of Clonazepam, but I am getting on that plane to see Sarah and getting back on that plane to come home to see Mike. And I’m going to not only survive this adventure, I’m going to enjoy it!

*Dates might be screwy because of my agoraphobia and depression – each have the tendency to create a Swiss cheese effect in my memory.

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Post panic attack – tired and disheveled