My Anxiety

Ok, so when I started writing here, I thought this would just be for story and article ideas, maybe some advice. But on one of my other blogs, where I write about my life a lot more, I had quite a few people message me about their own personal struggles with anxiety. Reading these messages, corresponding with these people, sharing resources…… it really helps me a lot.

So I thought, what if that could help more people? I know personally, I feel a whole lot better knowing there are other people out there who feel the same way I do. Sometimes it’s great to be able to talk to people, to exchange ideas on how to manage anxiety, to compare how we each feel when that dreaded moment of panic starts creeping in. Other times, just reading someone else’s accounts of what they’re going through is enough to help me through things. It’s enough just knowing that I’m not the only one out there feeling this.

So, I’ve decided to be a bit more open on this blog. Maybe it will help me keep it updated a bit more. Maybe it will help others out there who stumble across my ramblings. Whatever it does, Sunshine, this is part of my self-care. And you know how I loves me my self-care!

Untitled Ramblings of a Fragile Mind

I’ve been in a pretty bad place lately. I mean, there are parts of my life that are going great. I have a great boyfriend who is moving in with me; my ex-boyfriend is finally moving out (hopefully); I have some great friends at work. But even all the good seems tainted.

At work, they’ve cut our hours again. Unless a special project or a bit of “creative scheduling” comes up, I get almost no hours. Last week, because we had plannograms to implement, I wound up with 28 hours. This week, I have 9 1/2. Next week is 8 hours. The week after, when the boss has a bunch of shifts scheduled that go against our collective agreement (so, they may change) I have 25 hours. We lost one of our highest seniority casual workers to a full-time position, so we thought we’d be getting more hours once he leaves. Instead, they’re bringing in another high seniority casual worker, meaning everyone below her is going to get screwed on hours.

Things with the boyfriend aren’t all sunshine and unicorn farts either. We had a big argument a few weeks ago, and it’s created a big problem with me. I have a seriously hard time trusting him now. I’ve been trying to get some info from him (when he moves in, I’ll be in charge of all of our collective bills, so I need to know what he owes and what bills he has), and he keeps blowing all of that off.

And then there’s just the general job hunting I’ve been doing for what seems like forever. This week, Facebook was full of pictures and posts about people graduating, people getting awesome jobs (in their fields too!!), and people just generally doing awesome things with their lives. And I’m sitting here like, “Well, I have 2 whole shifts this week, so I’m not a complete loser…… I guess”. I’ve been turned down for more jobs than I can count, while everyone else around me just seems to be moving up farther and farther in life.

What’s the point of all this rambling?

Like I said, I’ve been in a really bad place lately with all of this on my mind. I wake up at 1 in the morning in a full-out panic attack, worrying about bills and lies and resume templates. I started drinking more than usual (which I didn’t think was possible for a while there). I was existing on microwave pizza snacks, potato chips, and cheap wine. And I started back up with some old, horrible, harmful habits.

You know what really doesn’t help at times like this? When people try to force you to cheer up, or “buck up” as I’ve been told.

“Don’t you know there are people out there who have it worse?”

“Are you really going to act like a child and mope?”

“Act your age, not your shoesize?”

What was so childish, so horrible, that I was doing? A little bit of self-care. No matter what people tell you, you are never too old for your favourite methods of self-care. I like to throw on music that matches my mood. Lately, that’s been a lot of 21 Pilots, some old emo standards, and a few weepy songs from back in my goth days. Sometimes I journal a bit. Some days, if I have the time, I’ll just wander aimlessly around the neighbourhood for hours. Day before yesterday, I scrubbed all the walls in my house.

No one thing will work for everyone. Hell, no one thing will work for one person all the time. Some days, I need to blast some Ministry and Black Daliah Murder and walk for an hour or two. Other days, I need to put on some old Prodigy and scrub the stove until it sparkles.

Your self-care is whatever you need to do to help you through your darkness, to keep away harmful habits, and to push you forward when you’re feeling healed.

And don’t forget: self-harm is not always physical. Self-harm is not all cuts and scars. You can’t always see self-harm. Don’t let others fool you into thinking that harmful thoughts, sudden dangerous actions, or a sense that you can’t be harmed (and acting accordingly) isn’t harmful to you. Just because you’re scars are on the inside doesn’t make them any less valid, just a little less noticeable to everyone else.

 

 

**if you have thoughts of physically harming yourself, feel suicidal, or start taking dangerouse risks (walking into traffic, jumping off high surfaces, cheating death in any way), please seek help. http://commongroundhelps.org/ has phone numbers, texting services, and an online chat for anyone seeking help.

Make Yourself Memorable

As I’ve said before, I work in customer service at a very popular store near the university campus. I have friends in the area come through my line all the time. We’ll chat a bit, catch up, maybe make plans with each other. Other times, it’s people I haven’t seen in quite a while. Sure, we have each other on Facebook and have liked each other’s statuses from time to time, but we haven’t actually talked in ages.

A few weeks back, a young man came into the store. It took me a second to recognize him before I remembered him from his old fraternity. Back in school, we used to hang out at the DJ table at his frat parties, get goofy on the dance floor, and keep an eye on the other party-goers. We had what I thought were many a good talk at charity events, and would see each other regularly at greek events on campus. He wasn’t a very close friend, but a good enough acquaintance that I was happy to see him that day. When I walked over to say hi, he didn’t remember me. I brought up a few events we had worked at together, parties we were both at, a few memorable times we had……. and still, nothing. It wasn’t until I mentioned a certain friend that he had that light bulb moment. “Of course, you’re Becky’s friend! I remember Becky? How is she?”

Sadly, this happens a lot. I spent the fist part of my university career living with my best friend. We did everything together. When we weren’t in class, we were usually together. Having a lot of the same friends, this was pretty easy. We already went to the same parties, the same events, and the same bars. Living together AND being BFFs, it just made sense to just go to these things together.

After I moved out, not much changed. Sure, we weren’t sleeping under the same roof, but we were still together all the time. We joined some of the same clubs, sat on the same committees, even took a few classes together. Soon, people saw us as a pair, and our roles in this pair became clear: I was the Garth to her Wayne. She was the one everyone knew, everyone remembered, everyone talked to. I was just sort of…… there. Sure, I had a good time, and made a few good friends. But to everyone else, I was just sort of Becky’s shadow. Even when I ventured out without her, people asked me where she was.

Now, all these years later, this is coming back to haunt me. It turns out, I don’t have an identity of my own. I’m not anything to anyone. I’m nothing memorable. I’m just….. there. And you know what? It really, really sucks. People I used to know just two years ago look right through me, and only remember me once I mention Becky. And it’s not just the first time they run into me that this happens. The guy who came into my store? It turns out he lives across the street from me, and sees me pretty much every day from his study window. He still had no clue who I am, though.

I’m really not sure what kind of advice I can offer to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. I mean, obviously I more than failed at being someone who people remember. If anyone out there has any advice on how NOT to let this happen, please tell me! Because this really sucks. It hurts to realize that no one wants to remember you. It hurts knowing that you are just an afterthought when a certain someone else isn’t right there with you. And it hurts knowing that what you thought were great memories with great people were really just meh-times for them, not worthy of ever remembering again.

Taking Time For You

As I said on Friday, you need to slow down. Yes, you. The one reading this right now.

I know sitting at your computer, reading random ramblings on WordPress, doesn’t seem like something you need to slow down from. But what else are you doing? Are you at work? Studying? Writing a paper? How many tabs do you have open right now, and be honest with yourself. While you’re reading this, you’re probably reading 3 or 4 other websites, have a notebook open somewhere near you, maybe an open book or stack of paperwork, and are thinking about what you need to get done later on today.

Is that really relaxing?

I had a friend, after my health crisis in University, try to get me to meditate. It had always worked for her in the past, helping her relax when her brain wouldn’t slow down. I followed her steps, met with her meditation group, lit the candles and chanted the mantras. All that happened for me was I wound up sitting there for an hour, wondering how much other stuff I could have gotten done in that time. While the dozen or so people around me seemed to transform from tightly wound workaholics to completely relaxed and chilled out, I was more stressed afterwards than when I got there.

Another friend brought me to yoga. Again, this was something she swore by. I already did stretching and random yoga poses at home while watching tv, so it seemed like something I could get into. Instead, I was a miserable stress case. Again, my brain wouldn’t shut off, just like in meditation. But this time, on top of that, I was worrying about the yoga poses. Being a yoga noob, I couldn’t pull off any of the advanced (or even intermediate) poses that I thought looked so easy. I stressed myself out over being so unflexible, and out of shape. Then I got stressed because I was sure unflexible wasn’t a real word, but I couldn’t think of a real word to mean what I thought. Again, I left more stressed out than when I got there.

So, after losing myself in thought on my walk to work one day, I came up with my own relaxation method. I like to daydream. I’m always lost in though while I walk, remembering parts of dreams or story ideas. I’d daydream about saving my co-workers from armed robbers, or learning to cook a fish dish so amazing that Gordon Ramsay shows up on my doorstep in a Speedo to try it. When people offered me rides places, I turned them down so that I could walk and get lost in my thoughts for a bit.

Daydreams are my escape. I can imagine winning the lottery, or the boyfriend taking me to the petting zoo, or my awesome co-worker just being goofy and making me laugh. I can imagine the fantastic or the ordinary, the impossible or the probable. In my head, there are ninjas, samurai, hobbits, narwhals, dragons, and even Batman (or a reasonable (and half naked) facsimile thereof). The world inside my head is awesome, and it’s all mine!

So, every night, no matter how much I have to do or how stressed I am, I go to that world. I imagine Batman coming to save me from danger, and then me having to save him when the danger gets a little out of control, and then him getting to thank me. What a better way to end the day then with that image in my head as I get ready for bed?

My method might not work for everyone. That’s why it’s my method. I made it for me, because it works best for me. As I said, meditation and yoga work great for some people. Other people need books, or a massage, or a sensory deprivation tank. The main thing is you need to find what works for YOU. Only you know what you need.

A Few Words on Self-Care

I’m not going to lie: life can really suck sometimes. It seems like you are constantly on the go, never getting any time for yourself. Then, the rare time you do get a few hours free, you’re so overwhelmed with all the things you need to get done that you can’t just sit and relax. Day in, day out, it’s just go-go-go……….. until one day, it feels like you can’t go anymore.

That, my friends, is burnout. And we all get it at some point.

And yes, it really really sucks.

As I said Wednesday, my schedule is a little crazy right now. There are days, when I finally get a little me-time, when I multi-task my relaxing. I will watch TV, flip through Cosmo, read a book, have a glass or two of wine, and take notes for writing projects, all at the same time. And it’s really not healthy.

There will come a time when all of this go-go-go will start to get to you. It will be harder to get out of bed in the morning, and harder to fall asleep at night. Maybe you won’t be able to quiet your brain at night, or turn it back on when you need it most. You’ll spend your free moments making to-do lists, going over what you need to get done.

At one point in my University career, my health and body just gave up. I was taking 4 classes a semester, working two on-campus jobs (research assistant, and teaching assistant). I was on the Board of Directors for an activist group, and headed up their Fundraising and Events Planning committee. I volunteered in our campus Academic Advising Centre. I helped run Welcome Week events, gave talks to parents of prospective students, recruited students for multiple on-campus organizations, volunteered at local Fraternity events, joined the association for my major AND the one for one of my minors, and did independent research into what I had wanted to do a Psych Thesis on.

Then my health got in the way. First was the ear infection that winter, which got so bad it gave me random bouts of vertigo. This resulted in me passing out in a 7-11 near campus, and having to be rushed my ambulance to the hospital.  Then, the food poisoning hit me that summer. After spending 7 months researching e.coli as part of my job, I got a mild case of it. And by mild, I mean I spent 4 days in the bathroom, and had to be put on an IV for fluids more than once in a two week span. The real kicker came at the end of the summer, when I was gearing up for the next school year.

In the midst of thesis advisor meetings, preliminary research, summer class finals, a new workout regime, Welcome Week preparations, and a long-distance relationship, my mother had to rush me to the hospital. One day I woke up, and was so weak I couldn’t get out of bed. It took me 45 minutes to crawl across my bedroom, and down the hall less than 8 feet to the bathroom. Once there, all I could do was vomit. Then the headache started. I was put in isolation at the hospital for three days, while they gave me morphine and dilauded to try and stop the pain in my head (and they didn’t work, either). After blood work, a lumbar puncture, brain scans, and a fever of 105, the doctor told me it looked like West Nile.

This was my wake-up. I had to slow down, or else my recovery could kill me. I was under strict orders not to exercise, or over exert myself. I dropped down to 3 classes, and eventually dropped my Thesis due to the stress. I started planning more, procrastinating less, and getting things done bit by bit instead of a giant panic all at once. I even (mostly) gave up my all-nighters. Instead of trying to run committees I had no interest in and didn’t even like being a part of, I stayed home and watched Buffy on Netflix with the boyfriend (once he was back in town for school).

Basically, I gave up what I didn’t need. Why bother staying a part of an organization I was getting nothing out of, and wasn’t fully contributing to, when I could focus on the things that mattered most? When I had some health set-backs (most likely due to that fever that wouldn’t break causing a bit of damage that needed time to heal), I didn’t have to worry about getting in touch with 40 people to cover all my extra-curriculars while I was in hospital. I could just focus on being healthy.

Today, I still have a hectic schedule. I take time for me now, though. I’ll watch Netflix on my phone on my lunch break. I’ll make a point of painting my nails once or twice a week, so I’m forced to relax while they dry. Once a month, I take a half-day on a Sunday to just do all the stupid beauty crap I would normally put off, like dyeing my hair and putting on a face mask.And I take 20 minutes each night, right before bed, to just sit in my room, alone, and daydream.

I take care of me, now. And you should do the same for you, too. Yes, you can have your packed schedule, and your Do-It-All mentality. But you also need to have a Don’t-Work-Yourself-Into-An-Early-Grave mentality. When you start to feel worn down, that is your body’s way of telling you slow down a bit. So schedule in some time to relax, do a little something for you each day.

In the immortal words of the 90’s sexiest FBI agent, Dale Cooper, “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”

Damn good coffee!

Share The Load

I know, I’ve been quiet for a while now. I’m on assignment on a temp job, working 8:30am until 4:30pm, which means I’m up and out of bed at 6am. Some days, after a full 8 hours in the office, I have my awesome night job, which is 5:15pm until 9:15pm. Weekends are filled with my awesome night job, doing ALL the laundry and grocery shopping, catching up on chores, and having a little too much wine with my dinner.

There are days where I leave the house at 8am and don’t get home until a little after 10pm. That’s 14 hours of work and commute. Add to that the 2 hours of prepping for the day in the morning, and night time prep for the next day (and for bed), and studying for my product knowledge tests for my night job…… and I’m running on empty here. There have been days when I don’t have to go to my night job, and just go home and collapse on my bed for a few hours out of sheer exhaustion.

(It also doesn’t help that the boyfriend seems to be dreaming that he’s a chainsaw or a motorcycle every night, complete with impressions right in my ear. That really cuts into what little sleep I can get each night.)

Needless to say, I can’t keep up with everything I did around the house when I was only working 12 hours a week. And honestly, with 4 other people living there, I shouldn’t have to.

You see, as much as one of my roommates would argue against this, I am the main roommate when it comes to cleaning things up. Yes, he likes to scrub the bathroom and wash the towels and clean the counters. But I am the only one who sweeps, vacuums, mops, washing crud off the walls, organizes the cupboards so things can fit in them, cleans the fridge (even when it’s someone else who spills stuff in there), or does anything else that everyone else should be doing.

And it’s driving me up the wall.

I may have mentioned before that the two roommates who live in our basement (we refer to them as The Tweedles: TweedleDee and TweedleDumbass) don’t exactly clean. They leave food dried to the counters and stove, wash their dishes with cold water, and leave crud stuck to the outside of pots and pans. Last week, while the school was on Winter Break, I had to go into the basement to check the seal on their shower…… and I broke out in hives. I’m allergic to mold, and their bathroom is full of it. It hasn’t been cleaned since they moved in this past September! Their bathroom was also, for some reason, full of cups, glasses, silverware, and bowls. They have bags of garbage piled up in their common room (which they have claimed completely as their own, and use as a giant laundry hamper now).

Last night, after coming home from a very long 14 hour day, I walked in on them using MY dish soap and sponges to clean off their dinner plates. Then, they left dirty pots, pans, and glasses all over the food-encrusted counter.

And I have bloody-well had enough!

No one should have the burden of caring for a shared house/apartment/dorm room/shared van down by the river all by themselves. If there are multiple people living in a space, then there should be multiple people cleaning and caring for that space. It’s not hard: clean up after yourself! Divide up the larger jobs, like mopping and vacuuming, and do your share.

So if you seem to have a cleaning fairy that swoops in and cleans up all your messes for you, wake up! If you’re not cleaning up after yourself, then someone else is. Unless you are paying that person do clean for you, they are not your maid. So be a grown-up, and clean up your own damn messes.