Back, Back, and Back Again: The 2018 Edition

It’s a strange feeling when strangers cheer on things you abandoned at the bottom of your to-do list almost a year ago. Notifications ping my inbox every so often with appreciation for this blog. My reaction to them waffles between touched and guilty as I haven’t even thought about writing new posts in ages. But there is so much I could say, and so much that would be useful to others.

So, I’m going to try. My schedule is bloated right now with the weight of an entirely new life. Since I last posted almost everything has changed, minus my awful habits, self-defeating coping mechanisms, and faith in myself. All of those are still awful. But what has changed? Well…

  • I left my partner of six years in October 2017. I still love him. He still loves me. But we were killing each other. There’s so much trauma between us–in our pasts together and separately–so much pain and conflict and grief that there was no room left for anything but a revolving door of disaster, drama, and the peace that came from ignoring the issues. We have a lot of work to do on ourselves and our lives independently before we can even pretend to be healthy friends again, let alone partners. He’s still my favorite person, even though we’ve agreed not to speak for a while to give us time to think, heal and grow. It hurts, but five months out, I’m more stable. Admittedly, this is after another complete mental collapse, massive aggression spikes and toxic levels of depression. At this point, I’m confident saying I’ve grown deeper roots and sense an impending upward growth spurt coming on.
  • I transferred to a university and I’m not FINALLY pursuing my BA in communication with a minor in linguistics.
  • I drive in the city on the regular. Traffics’ only redeemable quality is that it allows for more music. Parallel parking is a spatial puzzle I have not mastered but I haven’t gotten a ticket for it or hit another car yet so there’s that…
  • I have entered into neurotherapy (there will likely be a whole post on this in the future), I’m seeing a new counselor on top of my psychiatrist, I’m working with a nutritionist to find the source of my GI issues, tons of testing is being done for my health issues, and I’m trying to be more physically active.
  • I’ve deepened my spiritual exploration and now run a private group dedicated to it, fostering a like-minded community that nurtures its members and our growth.
  • And the big one…I FUCKING MOVED OUT. *Throws confetti everywhere* I have my own house and live alone. I suppose I could pretend this means I’m a fixed boomerang, but until I’m supporting myself in full, I simply won’t believe that. Fiscally the situation hasn’t really changed, and my parents are still carrying my deadweight while I’m in school. That is the definition of privilege and I’m struggling a lot with the copious amounts of guilt attached to it. It increases the pressure to succeed and make money. Unfortunately, this is also giving me tunnel vision. Money seems more important than the things that fulfill me, and I know that’s not the right choice.

With all these changes, I have a lot of fodder for the blog. I can tell you about handling car issues, numerous lessons learned while moving, how to handle household issues, tending to chores, dealing with the paranoia of living alone, cleaning tactics, balancing home/school/work/health, etc. With luck, these posts will come semi-regularly in the future, but given I’m also drowning in school deadlines with it being the madrush between midterms and finals, it may be a bit before that actually happens. Also I’m finally forcing myself to take a full course load despite anxiety and poor time management, because frankly, I just want to be done. Of course, I may still go to grad school, which is its own special hell, but we’ll see. For now, know that I’m still alive, and with more help than I can bear to receive, moving forward.

If there’s anything you want to know about specifically, want more information on, or think I should write about, please drop it in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. Feedback keeps me motivated to write, so honestly, any likes or comments you post would be doing me a big favor.

-L.

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Anxiety

My chest coils, churning that icy pre-post-permanent adrenal response. It’s not permanent. Right? It just feels like it. I’ve been coasting on the edge of another anxiety attack since coming down from the first. Monday consisted of 13 hours of my autonomic nervous system getting stuck on overdrive. This hasn’t happened in a long time. But it’s familiar enough.

If you don’t know the feeling I’m talking about, imagine you’re in a group. Work, school, social, political—doesn’t really matter. Now imagine that group is chatting about something and suddenly decides that they’re going to present on the topic to a larger group.

NOSE-GOES!

Nose wha…shit. You’re it. Podium’s waiting. Gogogogo! Chest tight yet? No? Okay. You’re scared of heights: welcome to the rollercoaster. You’re scared of spiders: don’t look down. You’re scared flying: please fasten your seat belts. You’re scared of dying: dearly beloved, we are gathered here today. You’re scared. You. Are. Scared.

Welcome to anxiety. Except here’s the kicker: you don’t always get to know why you’re scared. You don’t always get to see cause, but you sure as shit get to live in the effect. I get to live in the effect. That’s been this week. Luckily, I’ve been to this party before. I’ve tapped the keg, know where the bathroom is, and yes, you can hide your purse behind that chair. I know anxiety, I know my anxiety. I just haven’t seen it in a while.

I’ve been medicated for it since 2007. Anti-anxiety medication let me start college, which petrified me. I managed to chill out a lot since then, particularly in the past year or so. Staying home alone doesn’t lead to a panicked spiral, Kermit-flailing, or weapon-snatching at the first stray noise. I figured out my fear of being alone was actually a psychological manifestation of my fear of my own inability to take care of myself. The more competent I became, the more it receded. And I don’t me martial-arts competent, just general competency. That wasn’t the only factor, though.

Meditation has also been huge. And of course, self-care. But sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes I realize that I went from slight nerves, to manic joy, to wow-that’s-a-lot-of-work-and-I-don’t-know-how-to-use-this-site-and-what-is-that-and-wait-how-many-assignments-are-there-and-they’re-all-do-the-same-day-and-FUCK. Seriously, fuck. Even typing this I’m tense. The adrenaline is fluttering, the icy-breathlessness is haunting my chest, and there’s a pressure on my collarbone like a thumb, pressing, pressing, pushing me back into my chair.

As you can imagine, it sucks. But again, my sideways luck strikes. I know why it’s happening. Superficially, and obviously, it’s my workload. I’m taking two sizeable Communication courses with teachers who believe in academic rigor (not a bad thing, just intimidating), one five-credit French course online (it involves quizzes, tests, fill-in-the-blank, discussion posts in French, a digital textbook, a metric shit ton of audio files, written lectures, a couple of essays, interactive slideshows and I can’t get the French keyboard I installed to work), trying to move out, trying to gain life skills, trying to drum up more editing business, sacrificing relationship time, trying to get this whole AM/sleep thing sorted, attempting to combat health issues and insecurities, and of course, writing two blogs and a book. But that’s just the surface.

It explains the stress, but not the anxiety itself. You see, I’m a recovering perfectionist. The idea of getting less than an A disturbs me, and the idea of not doing my best results in lip twitches, while the idea of my best not being good enough? Well, that’s the kicker, isn’t it? This is a lot of work. What if I can’t manage it? What if I drop the ball? What if I don’t complete it? What if I can’t understand it? What if I fuck it all up again? What if I fuck it all up again? Again. That’s the source. I’ve let myself down so many times. And I’m actually succeeding right now. I’m mostly on track. I’m getting better. And that’s fucking terrifying. Even me writing two posts a week is scary.

It used to be not doing things that upset me. I’d hide from the mountain of work and will it away. If I failed because I didn’t do it, then I failed because I didn’t do it, not because the work wasn’t good enough. I controlled the failure and protected my worth. But now I’m controlling the success, and that involves way more moving parts than failure. Success is also more finite and impermanent. For me, it’s also more abstract because I’m consistently moving the goal post. I’ll never be done succeeding. There will always be more to do, which means I’m stuck like this. I’m with the switch ON.

I can’t take a break. I can’t turn it off. To turn it off, to relax, that risks backsliding. I know me. I don’t want to work, and if I lose momentum, I’ll stop, I’ll curl up and escape into fiction and pretend that things will get better without applying effort. They won’t. They can’t. But after so long conditioning myself to avoid, hide, and only perform in small, violent bursts of procrastinator panic, consistency is fucking exhausting and terrifying.

When I wrote the first draft of this Thursday, I spent the majority of the day on social media and talking to my coworker. I was invited to things (to help the literary magazine I used to edit, as they’re short staffed; to a slam poetry thing yesterday). I avoided work. Then when I decided to start, bleakness settled in. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to work.

Yesterday passed in a similar state, except I let avoidance win. I tried to convince myself that it was rest, and maybe it was, but then it carried over into today. I’m only just now, at midnight settling in to work, and my schedule swung again. I’ll be trying to get to bed early, but I know I have to do things first. There’s just so much. I’m struggling not to look up and out at the miles of unchartered territory I have to traverse to succeed. Hell, even the easily mapped stuff makes me woozy.

Between my life and the state of the country, of the world, it’s constant overwhelm. I’m trying to stay logical about it. I know thinking about it only makes it worse, just as typing this all did (but that realization was worth the strife). The only thing that helps is looking down and focusing on the actionable steps, occasionally looking up to note my progress and make any necessary adjustments. It’s a struggle. Fear is infectious and not easily cured. Work is the only solution.

This is something. This is work. A month ago, I wasn’t writing. I’ve written over 15,000 words since then. That matters. Going to classes matters. Just as I matter, regardless of passing or failing or the quality of my essays, or the skills I obtain. My worth is not dependent upon any of this. The problem is, only the logical side of my brain believes that, and even it adds caveats. If I do nothing, what can I be worth? But what’s the point of that argument? I am doing things. And now you see the problem. What I know isn’t the same as what I believe, or what my instincts twitch toward. This is anxiety. It doesn’t care about logic or reason. This is the entrance to the rat’s nest snarling up my mind. The deeper you go, the more things get caught in the brambles.

Anybody have some shears?