Insomnia and The Snooze Button

Button by Sean McGrathLast week I had a rotten case of insomnia. I did everything I could think of – I had my favorite sheets on the bed, my favorite comfy pjs, I went to bed at reasonable times… all for naught. Each night the same thing would happen: my head would hit the pillow, I’d fall fast asleep beautifully, and then at 1:00AM BING! I’d wake up. And not just a quick “need to pee” wake up – I was wide awake for the rest of the night. Since I am regularly getting up at 5:00AM to work out, that meant I was getting roughly 3 hours of sleep a night. I’ve written before that I’m one of those people who needs at least 8 hours of sleep, so it was a bad situation. Fortunately, I was able to function pretty well, considering, but I was getting to the end of my rope.

My best gal Cee suggested taking an allergy med at night. My boyfriend Julian suggested getting away up to my cabin for the weekend, and a coworker suggested lavender oil. I took all three of them up on their advice.

Cee noticed that I was getting a sore throat and suggested that since we are having a particularly wet autumn (and I am very allergic to leaf pollen and mold) that my allergies might be kicking in at night and keeping me awake without my really knowing it. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try taking my allergy med at night, and sure enough, the next night I did get better sleep. Whether that was from the allergy med or my insomnia just finally letting up, I don’t know, but either way I appreciated the sleep.

Julian knows that the cabin is my place to rest and rejuvenate, and by the end of a week with very little sleep, he thought I could use some time away. The cabin is also awesome for naps. (What is it about cabins and couches and naps? They just go together.) Anyway, I think he was right. I went “up North” and pretty much spent the whole weekend relaxing, reading books, taking long walks and longer naps. It was perfect! Just what I needed.

I also have a coworker who is getting into using essential oils. She suggested rubbing a little lavender oil between my palms and then inhaling it before bed. I figured it couldn’t hurt – and I already owned lavender oil – so I gave it a shot. I have to say, I did find it soothing. I felt like the night I used it my sleep was very peaceful. I liked it.

So, I’ve started getting my sleep again. Then yesterday I read this article over on fitisafeministissue.com: Snoozing the snooze button, that’s my resolution for this week. It’s a great post about the perils of using the snooze button, with links to other anti-snooze button articles. This is the part that got me: (From Why Your Snooze Button is Evil)

Research into the science of willpower finds that we wake up with a robust supply of self-discipline that is then depleted by decision-making during the day (see my related post, Can You Learn Willpower?). The snooze button turns the simple act of getting out of bed into a willpower-sapping episode of trench warfare. I’ll give you 9 minutes if you promise not to take so long in the shower. I’ll give you 9 more minutes if you don’t eat breakfast. Eventually, your ability to invest that willpower in meaningful tasks later on is shot.

Here’s something I noticed – when I first started getting up early, I was pretty energetic about it. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to leave a nice warm bed, but still, I was able to get up fairly easily. Lately though, it’s been a real struggle. I thought it was a combination of the novelty of 5:30AM boxing classes starting to wear off and my insomnia. (Even though I was wide awake, I still hit the snooze, trying to get a just a few minutes of sleep.) But reading that bit about willpower… something in that really rang true to me. I decided to join the author of the post in making a resolution not to use the snooze.

Today was my first day, and as weird as it sounds, it actually was easier to get out of bed. It’s so counterintuitive, but it worked. (At least this morning, I’ll let you know how the rest of the week goes.) I set my alarm later – closer to the time I actually get up when using the snooze and when the alarm went off, I laid there for a minute to wake up, then got out of bed. No hitting the snooze. I was able to get my stuff together and was out the door in no time – and I felt a lot less groggy. Maybe it is just because I’m mostly caught up on sleep, but whatever it is – anything to make a morning easier – I’ll take it!

 

Photo credit: Sean McGrath via flickr

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Fear and Planning

frozen lakeMy dad had a volcanic temper. By volcanic I mean that it was powerful, unpredictable, and it hurt everything in its way. I’m not a doctor, so I hesitate to make an armchair diagnosis, but I suspect a history of untreated mental illness. He had long mood swings with big highs and big lows. He had an addictive personality – he drank copiously and his heavy smoking is ultimately what killed him at age 59. And then, of course, there was the temper.

I loved my dad. Despite what I said above, he was also smart, funny and could fix absolutely anything. He and I liked the same kind of books and movies. We liked to fish, cook and work on projects together. I still miss him.

However, when you grow up with someone with an explosive temper, life becomes tricky. The thing with my dad was that he was absolutely great when it came to big things. My sister and I both have smashed a few cars in our days, and every time, he came to our rescue and was nothing but supportive. However, if something small happened that offended him in someway, well, Lord help you. Here’s a quick example: I was in high school and my mother had bought me a beautiful pale grey mohair sweater. I loved that sweater and wore it as often as I could. I got home from school one day and was just lounging around watching tv. My dad, who happened to have the day off, was working on a woodworking project in the basement. He came up and asked if I could give him a hand and hold some boards while he cut them. I told him I would – but I had to first change my sweater. I didn’t want a bunch of sawdust on it. My dad threw a fit – went nuts. Accused me of being lazy and said things along the line of, “See if I ever help you out with anything again.” After the tantrum? He didn’t speak to me for over a week. I was fourteen.

This is what I grew up with. One of my first childhood memories is walking up and down the block in front of my house with my mother. I was less than 4 years old. It was a cloudy, cold spring day. Neither of us had coats. She held my hand as we circled our street over and over. Why? Because my parents had gotten in an argument. Mom took me out of the house so I didn’t hear dad yell. When she left, he nailed the front door shut.

Yes, you read that right – he not only locked the door – he nailed the front door shut so his young wife and 4 year old daughter couldn’t come back in the house.

Growing up the way I did, I quickly realized that I couldn’t trust anyone. When you are a kid and you have no idea what will set dad off this time, and your mom doesn’t know how to stop it – or defend you – you just learn to rely on yourself. That’s what I did. My mother claims I came out of the womb independent, and that is roughly true. I think it was a combination of genetics and good old fashioned fear that made me learn how to take care of myself.

I don’t blame my mom. Maybe when I was a kid she tried to stop him – I don’t know. Stopping him when he was on a roll though was like trying to stop a freight train. If she got in his way, he’d just flatten her too. I should say – he never raised a fist to me. His abuse was purely emotional. I don’t actually like the word abuse – at the time it didn’t exactly feel that way, it just “was what it was,” but I know now as an adult, it was no way to treat a child. The worst part of his temper was that he knew exactly what to say to you to get you in the guts. It wasn’t just yelling or name calling, it was saying the one thing or two that he knew would make you cry. And he could do it every time.

My mother’s coping mechanism was just to stop talking. She’d leave the room and just not say anything. It wasn’t particularly effective when the anger was directed at her – and it wasn’t at all effective if the anger was directed at me or my sister. Nonetheless, that seemed to be all she knew how to do.

So, what does this mean for me? He’s been gone for over 12 years, why write about this now? This off-kilter childhood of mine is part of what made me into the woman I am. One result is that I don’t trust easily. Relationships, friendships, they are like giant frozen lakes. I move across them slowly, always testing for weak ice. It takes a long time before I truly trust a friend. Honestly, I don’t mind if there is weak ice – I just want to know where it is. For example, I have a friend who is never on time. If I didn’t know that about her – and that it had nothing to do with me – I could be really hurt when she doesn’t show when she says she will. It could seem personal and unreliable, but because I do know it, I can still have faith in her… just not in her punctuality.

My friendships are all with people who are self sufficient. It makes me nervous to be needed too much. I’m not the type that will call regularly, or email, or even set up coffee dates. I may go months without seeing my friends. It isn’t personal. It’s just that I have so much to take care of, but only so much time, energy and willpower. They understand that about me. The also know I don’t do surprises well, I don’t like unexpected company and I sometimes have a hard time with unexpected changes in plans. I like my scheduled plans, my routines, my lists and systems. Since I am responsible for everything in my life, I need those systems to keep everything going.

I don’t ask for help easily, but when I do, I don’t actually expect that I will get it. On the other hand, I feel my own responsibilities very strongly. I take care of the people I love and I hate letting them down. I am loyal and I do my best to balance my time with others with my much needed time alone. I love long talks with friends and loved ones, but I need time alone just to breathe.

I feel very strongly that every responsibility in my life – my career, my homes, my health, my dog, my relationships, they are all on me to maintain. I cannot expect to lean on anyone. It can be a lonely place sometimes, but at least I never pull the rug out from under my own feet.

This is the first time in my life that I have looked at this stuff objectively. It’s how I’ve looked at life as long as I can remember, but now I’m seeing why – and how this is a perfectly logical reaction to what I faced as a kid. There are thousands of ways I could have handled it, (I’m sure each person who has had experiences like mine has dealt with it in their own way,) but this is it for me. Since I’ve been spending time examining my life, I’m seeing connections that I had only guessed at before. How this all fits in with my health and fitness, my plans for the future and this blog that I write… I have no idea, but it does, somehow. I’m going to keep exploring it and let you know what I find out.

 

Photo credit: bjaglin via flickr

 

The Call of the Gym

Not my bag, but I regularly haul one around that looks a lot like it!

Not my bag, but I regularly haul one around that looks a lot like it!

Recently my boyfriend Julian and I were spending the day running some errands. We were having a nice day, but somewhere in the middle of Costco, I lost my good mood. I’m not really sure what happened. I’m not a huge fan of crowds. I don’t mind speaking in public in front of people, but large groups of people milling about can get under my skin, and Costco can be crazy. Or it might have just been a little “shopper’s fatigue.” In any case, I started feeling grumpy, and my good mood disappeared. (I do hope whoever found it, dusted it off and enjoyed a very pleasant rest of their day!)

Julian saw I wasn’t quite myself and asked me what was up. I said something I never thought I would say in my lifetime. “I need to go to the gym.” In that moment, I wanted to feel better and the only thing I could think of that would give me immediate results was working out. Fortunately I had signed up for a class later that day.

Before I started losing weight, I thought gyms were stupid. In my mind they were expensive, embarrassing, sweaty levels of hell that only the super athletic dared to tread. I have a friend who loves the fitness classes at her gym and would often talk about how great they were. Frankly, I thought she was nuts. About the only thing that sounded more hellish than working out in a gym… was working out with other people. Double yuck.

…and now for my birthday I bought myself an unlimited membership to a fitness studio, where all they offer is classes… and I love it.

I was thinking about this the other night. Just why do I love going to my studio so much? Here’s what I came up with:

  • Okay, the first and most obvious thing is that working out releases endorphins. Endorphins reduce feelings of pain and improve positive feelings. So basically, it changes your body chemistry. All I know is that when I am done, I am sweaty and happy. My voice lifts, my eyes are brighter and I’m tired but feeling great. But you know, I heard about all this happiness before I started working out and it in no way motivated to try it for myself. What I didn’t know was…
  • The atmosphere in the studio is great. I was always worried about people who were better than me judging me or just feeling stupid because I didn’t know what I was doing. What I have found is the opposite. If anyone judges me, I haven’t seen it. Instead, everyone I have met, from the instructors to my fellow classmates have been nothing but supportive, helpful, and fun to be around. Some of my instructors are tough, but they also take the time to come over and show me how to improve my technique. My classmates laugh with me and are great about offering a high five or a boxing glove fist bump after a particularly hard round. There are people at all levels, from the classic blonde who works out like a machine to the older guy who dutifully huffs and puffs his way through. All sizes, sexes, colors and fitness levels seem to be there. It’s great.
  • At the studio, I am responsible for no one but myself. In my day to day life, my job and my former volunteer work, I’m a manager of people. I am responsible for their happiness, their work, their problems, and so on. I enjoy being a leader, but it is also really nice to go somewhere where the only person I need to worry about is me.
  • The zen-like state of exercising is awesome. The classes I like the most are so hard that I don’t have time to think about anything but what I am doing at that exact moment in time. There is something really freeing in that.
  • I am feeling more self confident every time I go. The joy of being a beginner is that it doesn’t take much to see an improvement! 🙂 But seriously, every class is an opportunity to improve and I can feel that. Each time I leave, I feel a little stronger and a little better. It’s not just brawn – it is also brains. I love school and love learning, and this is a version of that.
  • I’m meeting some new people. Like most people over 20, my social circles are pretty developed. I don’t meet a lot of new folks. There are people at this studio that I already knew slightly and a lot more I haven’t met yet. We don’t have time for long conversations or anything, usually it’s no more than a few minutes between classes, but it’s nice. I have an amazing circle of friends, I am not looking to expand that, but getting these new acquaintances is fun.
  • I can work out regardless of the weather. I love biking, kayaking, hiking and walks, but last year I felt like my blog became a constant weather report because unless the weather was good, I couldn’t work out. Now it doesn’t matter. But I am frequently biking to the classes which is fun!
  • I don’t have to run. I still haven’t found the love for running. I do it, but I haven’t discovered the runner’s bliss that so many of my fellow bloggers have. That’s okay – I can get a great work out that I enjoy. I am determined to keep the weight off and get stronger, but I can only do it if I find things I enjoy. For me, this is it right now.
  • Working out keeps the thunderclouds at bay. Whether it is a short term case of grumpiness or helping with my depression and anxiety, exercise is a healthy way to keep all that to a more manageable level. I’ve mentioned before that one of the side effects of depression and anxiety is body aches. They also really undermine your motivation and make you feel tired. Recently I was under a big cloud and ended up canceling two of my classes. After actually making it to a third class, I realized that canceling the other two had been a mistake. I felt so much better afterwards, I wish I had done it sooner. That’s when I made a vow that it is okay to cancel if a special event comes up or if I am just plain out sore and exhausted, but if that soreness and tiredness is from mental stuff rather than physical, I have to get up and go to the gym. It’s just worth it to feel better.

 

 

Photo credit: Dean Jarvey from flickr

Depression and Me

Rain washed fenceI’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. I planned to write it shortly after the one on anxiety, but just about that time I learned of the death of Robin Williams. Not wanting to look like I was comparing myself to Mr. Williams, or add to the already numerous articles about depression, I decided to wait a bit. I want to be very, very clear, what I am describing is my personal experience with depression. I am not in anyway comparing myself to anyone. Nor should you take my experiences as gospel for what other people feel. It’s very much an individual thing. Here’s what it feels like to me:

  • My blood feels like it was replaced with cement. It’s hard to move, hard to even get up out of a chair. Activities that I do every day suddenly seem overwhelming.
  • Likewise, my brain feels like it is coated in molasses. The synapses feel like they just aren’t firing like they should – like everything has to pass through goo to work. My thoughts are slowed down. It’s an effort to think. I even talk slower.

Here is something important – I don’t feel sad. Because the symptoms mimic sadness, I think it is something that is misunderstood about depression. Mostly, I’m apathetic. Sadness and emotions? They take too much work. When I am depressed, I don’t have the energy for emotions.

You see, I think “Depression” needs a new definition. Thinking about depression as sadness is the wrong way to look at it. Here’s a better way: imagine there is a pipeline that pumps happiness, joie de vivre, energy and motivation into you. Everything you do during the day uses a bit of that energy, but it is okay, there is more coming in all the time. Now, imagine that someone has “depressed” a button or a plunger that stoppers that pipeline. All you are left with is a tiny, tiny pool of energy at the pit of your stomach. Your instinct is to protect that pool since every single thing that you need to do draws from that pool: from getting out of bed, to getting dressed to eating food. It all sucks that energy away. It feels like if enough energy is sucked away, you won’t have enough to breathe, or even keep your heart beating. To make things worse, you have absolutely no idea when the depression will go away and the energy will return.

The thing about sadness is that it eventually goes away. The body can only sustain true grief for so long before it turns into other things – anger, frustration, even gallows humor. Depression is different, there is no way of knowing when it will end. It feels like it is coming from the outside – as though someone else is inflicting this – and you don’t know why. It’s heartbreaking. It is also so frustrating to know that something that was so easy a few days ago, suddenly seems so hard.

I’ll give you an example – I’m sort of a foodie. I love great food and I enjoy eating. I’m also a planner, so I have preplanned out what meals I have available for the week. It’s not so strict as to be a daily plan, but it’s a list of what’s ready to make in the fridge. Recently I had a morning where I woke up depressed. I won’t go through what it took to get up and get going, but when I got to the kitchen I realized I didn’t have the energy to make breakfast. I thought I’d have yogurt instead. And I found myself standing there, looking at the silverware drawer, completely drained by the very idea of how much energy it would take to get out a spoon. A spoon! It isn’t like my silverware drawer is in a safe! This thought actually ran through my head, “Why bother? And I am just going to have to eat again later.” It all seemed so pointless. And believe me, eating has never seemed pointless before! In fact, I am convinced that that is why most “comfort food” are things that are easily chewed and don’t require many utensils. Think about it. Comfort food used to mean the casseroles and foods of our childhood, but it’s grown to mean things like fast food. I swear that’s because no one who is depressed has the energy to make a roast or their mother’s apple pie – they barely have enough to pull through the drive through. (I don’t actually eat fast food, even when depressed, but I get it. Boy, do I get it.)

Here’s one more example – I drive a stick shift car. I don’t usually think anything about it. If I do, it’s that I love my little rocket ship of a car, but when I am depressed, the idea of having to go from second to third and back again, just seems ridiculous. It’s so draining!

I have a lot of things to be grateful for, however. For me, depression is a fairly recent thing. It is not something I have suffered with my whole life. I also have a wonderful group of people in my life who are incredibly supportive, including my boyfriend who has been awesome. I’m getting help, I am privileged enough to have a job that affords me good health insurance and I’m seeing a therapist. My truly bleak days have become fewer and fewer.

There is one other thing I am grateful for – my love of fitness classes. They help tremendously. I’ll write about it more later, (I have a whole post planned on this subject,) but I’m finding that regular exercise is helping me keep the thunderclouds at bay. I’m glad I discovered that while I am still all new and excited about it, rather than when things had become routine. I’m not sure it would have been quite as effective.

If you know someone who is depressed, give them a hug, bring them a meal, and give them a ton of credit. They are probably doing the very, very best they can.

Photo credit: Priyambada Nath via flickr

Falling Out of Love with Fall

Hermes admires some Fall decor.

Hermes admires some Fall decor.

I used to love Autumn. Summer was my enemy. It was always too hot, too sticky and too sunny. When the weather started to turn, I was in heaven. The cooler nights and walking through falling leaves made me happy. I felt settled. This year, all that has changed.

This year I embraced summer. I ran, hiked, biked, kayaked, swam – even tried stand up paddleboarding. For the first time since being a kid, I’m actually tan. I’ve loved being this active and being out in the sun. Autumn, however, has come very suddenly to the Midwest. For the past week or so it’s been cold, rainy and windy. Since getting a dog, I feel much more attuned to the seasons. I am outside every morning and every night with him and I notice the shortening of the days more than I used to. I see the fading flowers and the landscaping changing, and I notice the flocks of birds moving south. I keep an eye on the weather. I watch out for thunderstorms (since my pooch is petrified of them,) and I now have to dress for the temperature. I’m already adding more and more layers.

I’m finding my mood is getting dark too. I talked to my therapist about it and she suggested reframing the season, to find things to love about autumn again. I thought it was good advice – it doesn’t make sense to try and fight Mother Nature, she always wins. So, replaced all my desktop photos of the lake this summer at the cottage with photos of pretty Fall foliage.  I took my hot pink toenail polish off and replaced it with a silly OPI color called “Wooden Shoe Like to Know?” I’ve started putting funny little Fall window clings on my door – not as decor for people coming in, but to make me smile when I leave. I bought some new candles in scents called “Harvest Apple” and “Flannel” and have been lighting them when I get home. (No “Pumpkin Spice” though… I have to draw the line somewhere.) I’ve even started pulling out my favorite sweaters.

I’m trying. Sometimes “fake it ’til you make it” is all you can do. I am very grateful for my fitness classes right now, though. Last year I had trouble staying active this time of year, this year I am actually ramping up. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

This Is Life

My heaven.

My heaven.

Recently I took a week off and went up to my cabin. The cabin is a fantastic place for doing what I love; I spent a part of each day hiking with my dog, kayaking, biking, cooking, napping and reading. It’s a little like heaven. The cabin is also good for thinking. There are fewer distractions, plus it is much easier to think about life when I am well rested and relaxed then when I am running from one thing to the next.

Yesterday I wrote about coming to accept that I don’t have a “big dream.” That was something I spent a lot of time thinking about. One morning I took the kayak out and spent time thinking about passion. We all are familiar with people who have always known what they wanted. They have a drive and a passion and go after it with determination. Then there are others that have dreams that they wish they could do, but have accepted that they may not become reality. I have a dear friend who recently said that if she was given millions of dollars she would open a wildlife sanctuary in Africa. She said it with such conviction that I was impressed, even though we both know that for a variety of very good reasons she probably won’t make it happen in this lifetime.

Then there is me. When I thought about what I would do with millions, my first thoughts were mighty mundane: install insulation in the attic, build a sleeping porch on the cabin, take a trip to Ireland, and so on. What didn’t pop up was some big dream. It is frustrating because I am a planner. This is why I am very successful at my job. I am very good at identifying goals, mapping strategies, making budgets, setting goals and figuring out the best way to achieve them. Not having a big goal or an endpoint is difficult for me. I keep struggling because I feel like I should be working towards something… I just don’t know what.

Then a thought hit me… what if I had already achieved my goals? I have a pretty darn good life; I have an amazing network of people I love and who care about me in return, I have not one, but two, houses filled with books (and one is by the water!), I have a silly but awesome hound dog and my life is filled with doing things I love. The last couple of years I have been working on my weight and my health, and I finally feel good about that too. Sure, not everything is perfect: I never have enough time with my loved ones, one of the houses… no both houses, have roofs that leak, my dog has had a string of very expensive illnesses, and so on. But what is perfect? There isn’t such a thing. Even if you have the perfect house, for example, entropy will come in and things will break (or the roof will leak.) It’s true with everything in life – stuff happens, things go sideways, and even if they don’t, we change ourselves. So what was “perfect” five years ago may not be perfect today.

It slowly came to me that I have been spending a lot of time thinking about “what’s next?” (it is originally why I started this blog,) and I haven’t been taking time to enjoy what I have right now. And at that exact moment, I looked up to discover that I had paddled halfway around the lake in deep thought staring at my knees! I hadn’t been enjoying the beauty around me. It brought home the point perfectly. After that, I tried to take off the thinking cap and instead be very “in the moment” and really enjoy the rest of the trip.

life movesLater, when I got back to the cabin, my first thought was from Ferris Buller’s Day Off. Remember this:

But it didn’t quite fit with how I was feeling. It’s not that life is fast or short or long, it’s that This Is Life. Right now. Everything I do is part of my life. Even the things that don’t seem like “life” like going to the grocery store, sitting at a doctor’s office, brushing my teeth – it is all my life. I’m not just putting in time waiting for something better to come along, this is my life right now, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I’m not saying that I’ll never have a big life changing dream. Anything can happen. But I keep running in mental circles trying to build a foundation for an unknown future, and frankly, it’s exhausting. I’m realizing I need to bring my focus my closer. I can work on smaller goals – like fixing at least one of the leaking roofs and figuring out how to spend more time doing what I love. I have what I need, it’s more of a matter of enjoying the here and now.

This Is Life.

Thoughts on Therapy

I saw a little guy like this in my garden the other day. It is sheer joy to watch them.

I saw a little guy like this in my garden the other day. It is sheer joy to watch them.

Therapy… I want to write about it, but I am not sure what to say. Let’s start with some basics. It took me a few calls and a fair amount of time on my insurance company’s website to find someone. I’m delighted that my insurance covered it. The last time I saw a therapist, (during my divorce,) they didn’t, and I had to pay out of pocket. It’s pretty pricey that way, worth it, but pricey.

That first time I saw a therapist, the center was in an old converted Victorian home. The waiting room was the former dining room and it still had the chandelier and an oak dining table. My therapist’s office was in the den. It had bookshelves, a fireplace, heavy, thick furniture and hunting pictures on the walls. Her big wooden desk was in a bay window that overlooked a cherry tree. In short, it was exactly what movies lead you to think a therapist’s office should look like.

This time it’s a little different. This facility feels much more like a doctor’s office, and for good reason – they offer a lot more than counseling. They do occupational and physical therapy, sleep studies, neurological testing… all sorts of things. So, their waiting room is just like any doctor’s office waiting room. Perhaps it is a little more modern, but it’s your basic “chairs and magazines” set up.

My therapist is a woman. I like her well enough. We’ve met twice now. The first time, her office was in a doctor’s exam room, except that instead of a table she had chairs. The second time she had moved offices. Now she has a suite with a big window, actual art on the walls and comfortable seating. It turns out that the first office was temporary while the other was undergoing renovations.

Does it matter? To me, yes. I’ve mentioned many times that I do freelance work. That work is in theatre. And to me, set decoration, props… they all matter. If I am seeing a therapist, I want it to feel like I am seeing a therapist, not like I am getting a physical! (I was effusive in complimenting her on her new location.)

I feel like we have gotten a good start. We talked about what I’ve been feeling and she asked some good questions. She’s given me some techniques to try when I’m feeling anxious and some things to think about.

What I am dealing with is – I feel walled in. Normally, I’m a fiercely independent and confident woman, but I feel like circumstances have got me in a rut. I think that is what is causing anxiety. The hard part is that I know the steps to take to get out of the rut, (or at least some of them) but I can’t seem to find it in myself to take them. I’m hoping she’ll help me figure out what’s holding me back.

Here’s the thing about therapy – it doesn’t “fix” you. How I think about it is this: Anxiety feels like a giant pile of rocks sitting on my chest. Therapy does not remove any of those rocks, but it does loosen them a little. And a huge pile of slightly loose rocks is a lot more manageable than a giant pile of rocks cemented together. If even one rock loosens, it feels like there is hope. There is a solution somewhere. As long as the cement holds though, it’s almost impossible to imagine change. I don’t expect my therapist to have all the answers. What I hope is that she’ll poke at a few of the “absolutes” and turn the impossibles into merely “really difficult.” Really difficult I can handle.

 

Photo credit: Kevin Cole via flickr

New Starts

bird on a branchI’ve been a little trepidatious about starting Stage 2 of my New Rules of Lifting for Women plan. There are two things making me nervous: 1) I’m not familiar with some of the exercises and 2) I’m not sure how long the routine is going to take, so I am not sure how to plan my morning. So, I did a “practice run”! I chose the lightest weights possible (an empty bar, for example,) and just ran through the motions. I did the full sets so I could see how long it took. I gave myself a half hour and I ran out of time. I’m sure I will be faster once I have done it a time or two, but that is all good to know. I’m always such a Nervous Nelly, but it is better that than not being able to lift because I pulled a muscle doing something stupid!

My doctor’s appointment is a week away. I’m hanging in there, but I am really looking forward to getting this process going. I am just so sensitive to everything. Someone asked me a question the other day – a perfectly innocent question with no negative connotations meant – but it spurred a long crying jag. I’m so tired of feeling this way.

….AGH! While in the middle of typing this, my doctor’s office called. They wanted to reschedule my appointment out to July 15th! Apparently my doctor is going to be gone next week. (I’ve decide to believe that she has an emergency trip to some disaster stricken location to provide aid to people in desperate need, because if she is rescheduling for a vacation I’ll scream. Doctors should know their schedules in advance.) I pretty much lost it on the phone with the receptionist, who fortunately, understood. She talked to the doc and managed to squeeze me in the following Monday at 7:45AM. She apologized for it being early – heck, I don’t care if it was 3:00AM if it meant I could start getting some help.

Okay, time for some chamomile tea…

Over the last week I have been doing an online health coaching dealie-do that my insurance company offers. It’s surprisingly useful, but some of the suggestions about eating habits and exercise make me grin. Things like “Try just going around the block once a day,” make me I giggle. I know it is really helpful for many people, but it is definitely a suggestion from a computer. C’mon website dealie-do – don’t you remember 5 screens ago when I filled in that I walk an hour a day 7 days a week? …and this is why computers will never replace human therapists.

 

 

 

 

Asking for Help

Iblue stars really liked this article on GoKaleo about weight loss and self compassion: Self-compassion: an Excuse to be Fat? No. It fits in with some things I’ve been thinking about myself. I’ve mentioned a few times over the past couple of months that I’ve been under some stress. After a gentle nudge from my boyfriend, I think it is time to do something about it. I set up an appointment with my doctor. I am hoping to get a referral to a therapist so I can work some of this stuff out.

I’m a pretty introspective gal. I’m not afraid of the long look inward, but sometimes it is good to have a guide. I was in therapy once before and it was incredibly helpful. I am good at asking myself tough questions, but the beauty of a great therapist is that they ask the questions you never think to ask. They challenge your beliefs, sometimes in ways that seem so obvious (in retrospect) that it is annoying, but usually really helpful.

I’m feeling a bit stuck in my life, like certain parts are in a rut. I know what I have to do to change those parts… and yet I don’t do them. Something is holding me back. I feel weighted down, and this weight is keeping me from moving forward. (Or moving forward at a glacial pace.) It’s causing anxiety and frustration.

I’ve been trying to get back to my healthy eating and exercising, and that does really help. As I type this, I am munching on a simple salad made from organic lettuce and greens plucked straight from my garden. I spritzed on some lemon juice and it takes like summer. These simple pleasures feed my heart, belly and soul. Lifting weights (hit a new personal record last week!) gives me added confidence and assurance. I’m not running off the rails, I just need a hand with my map.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

This is Your Brain on Stress

Brain overload

Basically, this is my brain.

It’s been a strange week here in Long View Hill land.

I mentioned that there are changes happening at our office. We have a new executive here who will eventually, if all goes well, be our boss. For now, he’s been brought in at roughly my level. This has caused all my fellow upper managers (who are all men) to start acting like silverback gorillas. There’s been all sorts of posturing, roaring and beating of chests as they try to prove who’s the cleverest. For one of my coworkers, his roaring consists of walking in circles, humming tonelessly and singing “do do DEE dooo…” over and over. It’s not a very effective roar, but it’s what he’s got. As you can guess, it’s messing with the energy in the office and everyone is jumpy and on edge.

Normally, I would be drawn into this sandbox too, (and I fight dirty,) but I have other fish to fry. One of my employees is leaving – she’s up and moving out-of-state – and I have a very short time to fill her rather fabulous shoes. I posted the position online and had over 80 responses in 24 hours.* So, I’ve been phone interviewing, setting up face-to-face interviews, writing rejection emails and just generally trying to keep all the balls in the air. All day long I am listening to what candidates say, trying to figure out what they aren’t saying, asking lots of questions, and making decisions. My brain is in overdrive and at the end of every day this week it’s turned to complete mush. In fact, when New Executive came over and asked if he could meet with me, I said “Nope. Not today, not tomorrow, and probably not next week either.” Maybe not my most politic move, but an honest one. Besides, if he wants to pick my brain, he needs to do it when there is a brain there to pick.

On top of all this, I took a seminar on Thursday on one of the big web-based software packages we use. Overall, it was a pretty good class. I think that it will really help me in my day-to-day job, and if I need to move on, it’s a skill I will be able to use elsewhere. I’m really glad I took it, but of course, it came during this week and it was a lot of thinking, remembering and learning new skills. More brain mush. Now, it’s like oatmeal.

And I hate oatmeal.

Oh, and did I mention that in two weeks I have to go out of town for a trade show? And this is normally the week we prep for it?

Yeah…

One good thing so far is that the weather is now a balmy 20 degrees, so I’ve been able to do full, long walks with the pooch. The ice and sub zero temps were forcing us indoors, but the last couple of days we’ve done real walks and it’s really helped. Funny, exercise is what I want to do the least when I am stressed, but it is also the one thing that really makes a difference. Long walks help in particular because I can work through thoughts, sort stuff out and categorize the day. I like that.

I started this blog because I wanted to figure out a life’s journey for myself. I thought I would have plenty of time to think about it and work towards it, but I am getting the feeling that 2014 is going to be a even bigger year of change than 2013 was!

 

 

* Favorite names of applicants: Precious, Precious, (yes, there were two of them), Diamond, Lacy, Charee and Charlsie. I’ve decided to hire them all and start a girl band instead! We will be awesome.

 

Photo credit: State Farm on flickr