Sunday, January 1, 2017

Thoughts on thoughts part two

I’m tired of writing posts like these. I’m ready to tell a different story – here, in my mind, in my writing, to other people. But I still have this story to tell, because every story needs an ending. And so I have this,  that if I get back to where I’ve been again, I can find my way out. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked up the escalator between the food court and my side of State Street, coke from Mcdonalds in hand, thinking about finishing this post. Thinking about how much better I’m getting at not…thinking.

It gets sorta meta. Ahem.

But that’s really what it’s come down to. In the summer time, I sort of set myself on a mission to figure out a way to “accept” my anxiety. It led me to do all sorts of things – drink lots of water, eat breakfast before work, take lots of snacks, change how I used my asthma inhaler, read books, do art projects, journal my food. All searching for the answer to why I still couldn’t get on the freeway in the morning without my heart racing. Or to finally figuring out the initial event almost a year previous. Like a key that would unlock the gate. Sigh
Exhausting. That’s what I discovered the most. Figuring out what causes anxiety is exhausting, and causes one to think about the anxiety on an almost obsessive level. Because I felt terror at feeling that feeling again, but nothing I did could keep me from feeling it. And coming up with scenarios to prevent it – yep, just more meta thinking.  It’s also a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you think you can’t, you can’t. Shrug.

In November, I found a website, I can’t even remember where it was. But it told me what I needed to hear – there is no answer. No key. Doesn’t matter what you eat. Or if you drink enough. I mean, those things can totally influence it. But they are correlations and not causations and where it really starts is in the story that I tell myself about the pounding heart. I can’t stop my initial reactions to certain stressors. As any anxiety book, website, professional, whoever, will tell you – it’s hard wired. Fight or flight. But the story I tell myself? That’s all me.

It sounds, well, corny and all that, but I watched this webinar about getting hooked on your thoughts right after I found the website that told me there wasn’t an answer to anxiety. Have you ever driven through Las Vegas at night time and saw the Luxor Hotel? How the top floor turns into a massive cone of light? It was sort of like that. A giant light that couldn’t be turned away went on and I looked back on my ruminating habits and and how they were making me more anxious and unhappy and how they always had and that they would keep doing so as long as I kept encouraging them.

 I went to yoga one day and the teacher started the class by telling us that we could turn out the outside world for an hour, that I was safe in the 4 corners of my pink yoga mat. I thought a lot about that during the hour. At some point I started saying this mantra: You are safe with yourself. The first time I said it, I wanted to shy away from it, because I hadn’t felt safe with myself for 1.5 years. Every time I got on the freeway by myself. Every time I felt short of breath. Every time I stood up and felt dizzy or light headed. Catastrophe was waiting. (I know, dramatic. Eye roll!)

So I’ve been telling myself a new story. That I’m safe with myself. And when I lose myself in a story that causes me stress, I try to remember to drop the story line and find myself in the moment I’m in. Not the moment that I imagine myself to be in, that probably won’t happen. I’ve started trying to believe that if something bad does happen – because shit happens – that I’ll deal with it at that time, I’ll fight like hell in whatever situation that is, because I can’t prepare myself for every scary event, and trying to is killing all the normal events that I’m actually living. 

It’s working. It isn’t foolproof, but I’m feeling so much more like myself. I feel off when big, emotional events happen, like Christmas Eve. We went snowshoeing. I was super anxious on the mountain (because we were on a hiking trail that was steep and I felt so vulnerable that my kids were there and it’s snowy and I imagined bad things happening, and then they act like the boys they are and I just panicked, hard, until I realized all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other up and then down and, again, fight like hell if something bad happened.) I didn’t drink as much water as I should have, and then I had a big dose of caffeine without any food. I went home and felt like the world was just out of reach, because on top of the exhaustion and caffeination and hunger, I was also worried about a family tradition that we weren’t doing that day, one that had endured a lot of drama and reconciliation followed by more drama, only to finally fall apart this year because we just couldn’t be the ones to do it anymore. So I did what I could to address the physical part and didn’t let the emotional part get to me as much. I said out loud what was bothering me and even though it didn’t change it, it didn’t have to roll around in my head anymore, creating more stories and imagined dialogues and angry feelings directed at me from imagined others. And eventually I felt real again and so I took a long shower, ate some clam dip, looked at some goldendoodles on the internet (omg, more on this later!), and enjoyed the real Christmas Eve happening around me.

If you have 45 minutes, click on the webinar above, or here. It’s been so helpful to me. But if it’s not to you, and you are searching, my heart goes out to you, and I hope and pray you find your Luxor cone of light one day.

If you want an excellent book, read Pema Chodron’s The Places that Scare Us. She’s a Buddhist nun and the source that the guy from the webinar mentions. I haven’t done everything she recommends, but her insight is powerful.

I didn’t think this would be so long. But I’m ready to leave it all here, in this post. It’s January 1, 2017, and I want a new story. I hope you never read another anxiety post from me. Not because I never feel anxiety again, that’s unrealistic, but because I don’t need to keep searching and finding and searching again when it’s not working. If I can live more real moments, this post will have been successful.

Here’s to 2017.


Feisty Harriet said...

Checking it out, I love this so much. There is no key. It just is.