Tag Archives: worry

You Are Here.

loss

How did I get here? That’s what I have been asking myself for the last few months. I am on, what I hope is, the tail-end of the year from hell.

In January my partner’s passive aggressive ex blatantly let me know that she was still after him. He and I had been together for over four years at that point. I have been putting up with her bullshit for over four years, hoping she would not only catch a clue, but that she would give up her childish, manipulative, passive aggressive games. To find out so obviously that she was still hanging on and still happy to make my life hell was not a good start to my 2019.

In March we went on a vacation that included air BnB’s with scented plug-ins that inflamed my multiple chemical sensitivities, sending my health into a downward spiral and making it a necessity to wear a mask for several months. I still carry it around with me, because it only takes a few seconds of smelling someone’s synthetic perfume—or even clothes washed in scented laundry detergent—to make my skin start burning and itching and the coughing start.

Soon after returning from our trip, it became evident that it was time for my old cat and dog to be helped into their next life. I couldn’t justify putting one of them down without the other, because they were both in pain—despite both being on pain meds—were both old, and were both peeing all over the house. I was exhausted mentally and physically, trying to take care of them, not stress them out, keep my partner soothed about animals peeing in the house all the time, and trying to take care of myself.

So, in April I called our veterinarian and discussed it with her. She agreed with my sad conclusion and said she’d come to the house so they wouldn’t have to be stressed with any travel.

It was one of the saddest days of my life. I still mourn their leaving and am crying right now as I type. I miss my weenie-boy, Mr. Stormy, and Miss Bella the crazy, one-eyed, feral, pirate cat.

In May, I received a nasty email from someone who had never had the decency or balls to confront me in person, like an adult, to tell me about all the (apparently) horrible things I’d done to her. She told me how bad a person I am/was and then proceeded to tell me what I should do to remedy my many problems. She advised that for the sake of everyone around me, I should quit my job and not inflict myself upon them anymore.

She wrote it as a nice, this-is-for-your-own-good type of letter—you know, that passive aggressive, “sweet” style that ensures that anyone besides me reading it would assume she really did have my best interest at heart. I never responded, but it sent me into a new tailspin.

Meanwhile, I was still grieving the loss of my pets, and my health was still suffering. I couldn’t seem to get back to my own “normal” on the scent issue. Every little sniff of perfume, laundry detergent (clothes folks were wearing), cologne, scented plug-in, etc. sent me back down the proverbial rabbit hole. I ended up having to wear my mask almost all the time when out in public (this is not a fun thing to do, trust me).

Another “meanwhile” came in the form of having to navigate constant big transitions at work this year—with dangerous undercurrents of mistrust and, what still feels like, hate. The stress of having people always think the worst of me has taken a huge toll on my life, happiness, and confidence.

As fallout from losing my pets, in the summer I visited an ex from years ago to get to see his cat—one of Miss Bella’s kittens from years ago. I just needed to be in the presence of something Bella had created. I missed having pets so much. The house felt so empty and weird, and I couldn’t seem to get over how empty my life felt without my fur babies.

Mr. Maui lived with my daughter and me until he was about four years old, then we asked my ex if he wanted to take him. I found out when I visited him that my ex’s early-onset dementia had progressed to such a state that he did not recognize me. A few weeks later, I found out he was being moved out of his home of 40 years to a memory care facility, and it broke my heart to think of him losing his life that way. I began grieving again—or maybe just added another loss to the pile.

Then in August, my partner of five years told me he was going through what looked and sounded like a personal existential crisis. He began examining his life, and began the exhausting work of figuring out what he needs to do with himself, his life, what his purpose is, etc., to the degree that we are not living together, so that he has the space and time to figure things out—even though he continually (in the face of my over the proverbial top, stressed-out worrying) assures me that we are still a couple.

Despite his assurances, my (normal for women) over-active amygdala continues to talk me into losing faith, and I have difficulty believing anything positive right now.

It is October now, and I ride my bike as much, as long, and as far as I can each day to keep from imploding, to keep from disappearing. When in doubt, pedal it out, right? That has worked for me for years. It is still a good practice. Last week while riding the Poudre Trail, the question surfaced again, “How did I get here?”

How did I let my life slip into this unhappy, unhealthy, unnatural state? I must have been so very oblivious and/or asleep to have let this happen on this large of a scale. I know I am responsible for my life, but it feels like, somewhere along the way, I handed the tiller over to someone who doesn’t give a fuck about all those sandbars and rocks up ahead in this stormy, choppy sea. I’ve been crashing into them for months now, limping along trying to survive each hit, each ding, each rupture. I’m taking on too water.

I am tired. I don’t sleep well—or I sleep way too much. I am raw and stressed; I cry all the time. I am fearful. I am depressed. It takes gargantuan effort to reply to normal, simple, everyday questions without shattering and flying into tiny little shards of grief, sadness, anger, oblivion, & regret:  the shrapnel of too much stress for way too long without a break and no relief in sight.

I spend my time alternating between working my ass off to stay busy and preoccupied, numbing-out by watching too much Netflix, working on my own shit when I’m able (self-hypnosis, BWRT, EFT, EMDR, I’d like to buy a vowel, Alex), trying to meditate and remember those things (where are they?!) that make me happy, not giving a shit what anyone thinks about anything I do or say, caring way too much about what everyone thinks about what I say and do, wanting to move far away and try that stupid geographical fix thing (which everyone knows does not work), breathing, sleeping as much as possible, staying home as much as possible, going out to do things I (might) love to do, (did I mention the crying thing?), obsessively watching the movie Interstellar, and talking to amazing girlfriends who are sweet and funny and make me laugh—even at myself.

How did I get here?

While pedaling, the answer came, “It doesn’t matter HOW you got here. YOU ARE HERE. How are you going to get OUT of here? That is the important question now.”

I saw myself inside my head under a big, black, not-to-proportion “You are here” arrow on a directional map.

Yes, there I am. Under that big arrow. You are here. How the fuck am I gonna get out of here? I don’t know.

Yet.

“That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.”  ~REM, Out of Time

The Story I am Making Up in My Head.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” ~Maggie Kuhn, Social Activist

When we allow for vulnerability and reach out to others, offering our love, offering our real self, and people ignore, shame, or reject us, it is easy to feel crushed. It is easy to decide to let that feeling of being crushed keep us from showing up.

And it feels like self-preservation to withdraw and shut down—to lock that door to our heart. We are embarrassed, crushed—sometimes even ashamed, because we dared to think we were worthy of connection and love and that person’s reaction (or lack thereof) seems to have proven those things untrue.

But remember that when we do shut down and withdraw from life, love, and people, we also withdraw from the self. We shut down our connection not only to other people and their love, we also shut down our connection to Source and to our big “S” self.

Brene Brown’s research has shown us that when we numb the bad things, we also numb the good stuff too. We cannot selectively numb ourselves.

So that act of extreme courage it takes to allow yourself to be vulnerable again after being rejected and feeling crushed, is actually an essential, necessary act. It is what we must do—unless we want to end up walking through life like a zombie.

It has to be done. We have to allow vulnerability again. Even in the face of possible repeated rejection. Otherwise, we cannot live that wholehearted, albeit painful, life we desire—because we would be closing the door to joy along with the pain.

And what about those people who continue to reject and shame me? Why would I continue to be around them? And are they really rejecting me or is that just the story I am making up in my own head?

In her book, Rising Strong, Dr. Brown introduces a brilliant life hack that has proven so very useful, simple—and non-threatening. She talks about how it might be beneficial to do a bit of spelunking into our first, knee-jerk reaction to find out what button is actually being pushed. Then, instead of choosing to believe those stores and be angry/hurt/shamed, she suggests we (kindly) share the stories we are making up in our own minds.

She even suggests we use those very words, “The story I’m making up in my head when I felt you mentally withdraw from me is that you think I’m a bad mother because I forgot it was my day to pick up the kids.”

Then the other person is invited to share the story they are making up in their head. This hack is proving itself invaluable, because it means I don’t have to accuse anyone of anything. Instead, I am readily admitting I am probably not correct and please correct me if that is the case, but here’s what my over-active left amydala is telling me.

So instead of an accusation, it becomes a conversation about how real and vulnerable we are trying to be and how we are sometimes incorrect about each other, about life, about how your brain works differently from mine—and about how I fit into your life, thoughts, and heart.

Because I am finding when I share my made-up stories, I find out that they are mostly incorrect. So it’s not that you think I am a bad mom. Instead, you explain, you were preoccupied in thinking about the kids’ pick-up schedule and whether you could manage to pick them up one more day a week in order to give me some more wiggle room in my own schedule.

In other words, you were actually trying to help me.

What stories are you making up in your own head—about me, about yourself, about your partner, your boss, your child, the friend who seemed curt with you the last time you talked?

Managing Anxiety and Why Women Worry More than Men.

DTS_Photography_Movie1small“The amygdala, once triggered, sends distress signals to the other key parts of your brain.”

During an argument this week, my frustrated man asked, “Why are you so negative? Why do you always want to talk about what bad things might happen?”

I did not have an answer for him.

And to prove him correct, I immediately mentally checked-out of our conversation and began worrying that I must be flawed somehow. Something must be wrong with me and my way of thinking to make me worry so much. Is it a childhood thing? I wasn’t breastfed, after all.

I’m just naturally pessimistic? Mercury is retrograde? I’m too old? Too young? The moon is full? Maybe it was the recent eclipse! Is it because I didn’t have enough fish oil this week? Too much B12?

Didn’t get enough sleep? Too much sleep, maybe? My chakras are unbalanced? I ate too much starch? My moon is in Taurus? I lost my keys, my cat ran away, the sun got in my eyes, my shoe came untied, and I was really missing my mom that day?

Oh my gawd! What if I have a brain tumor?!

Ladies, sound familiar?

Enter the Amygdala

“The job of the amygdala is to manage the storage of memories according to the strength of the emotional reaction associated with the memory.

The right amygdala, primarily responsible for action, is generally more active in men than in women. The left amygdala, on the other hand, is primarily responsible for storage of the details of traumatic memories and prompts more thought than action. This amygdala is more active than the right in women, and in persons of both genders who have anxiety disorders.

The amygdala, once triggered, sends distress signals to the other key parts of your brain.”

Ahaaaa! Well that certainly sheds some light on the situation, doesn’t it?

With this knowledge, you are already miles ahead of everyone else when it comes to managing anxiety/fear/worry.

Your Personal Toolkit

Anxiety related issues present themselves in nearly all the clients I see. For anyone (not just women) who is experiencing inappropriate anxiety, arm yourself with this amygdala knowledge and come up with your own personal worry/anxiety toolkit.

When the worries/fears begin to get out of control you will want to interrupt the anxiety pattern.

1. Say to yourself, “Stop. This is just the product of my overactive amygdala/brain.”
2. Do some bilateral stimulation—whether physically or audibly. Watch Melissa’s video below to learn how to do it and/or Youtube is full of great music to do this very thing if you listen with earbuds. Listen to it while reading, meditating, checking your emails, etc.
3. Don’t feed the fears by continuing to think in that anxious direction. Distract yourself with other, good, thoughts or activities. Have some ready to go. Make a list so you can have a ready, go-to distraction. Read them. Let yourself relax into the good feelings for a while.
4. Use Brene Brown‘s latest life hack out of her book, Rising Strong: Gently talk about the story you are making up in you own head and get feedback from the other person to clarify and learn what both of you are really feeling/thinking.
5. Consider reprogramming your habits easily with an effective therapy tool like BrainWorking Recursive Therapy (BWRT). It works completely and quickly. It’s my favorite tool—for myself and clients.

For Our Male Counterparts

…women tend to think that whatever bad thing that is happening now will continue forever. While they often think a good thing will disappear in a moment. We lack perspective since the worry part of our brain – the amygdala – is more active than in men. It can make us lose faith. ~The Queen’s Code, by Alison Armstrong

Yes, I can relate to the “make us lose faith” thing—much to the frustration of my sweet, patient man who is always kindly reassuring me. Thank God he is such a good man.

Gentlemen, this is very important!

Just listen. Don’t argue. Don’t try and stop us from getting “out of control.” Don’t take it personally. It is not personal—even when it seems that way.

Well actually, we do think it’s personally about you, and we will present it that way. But really, it is not. Please extend grace to us in these situations.

It’s our bloody amygdala!

Simply let us rant, cry, worry and complain—even if it seems to be directed squarely at you—then take us in your arms, let us cry/yell/sigh/etc. and then resolutely and with supreme confidence, say, “Baby, it’s all going to be alright.”

“One of the deepest feminine pleasures is when a man stands full, present, and unreactive in the midst of his woman’s emotional storms. When he stays present with her, and loves her through the layers of wildness and closure, then she feels his trustability, and she can relax.” ~ David Deida, The Way of the Superior Man

And when we whine (or yell), “No, it won’t be alright,” say it again. Hold us tight so we can feel your strength. Let us unwind in your arms.

An argument will be diverted and our amygdala will thank you.

So whether anxiety is a pattern for you or if you are simply experiencing some stress/anxiety because of a specific, temporary situation, experiment with these tools and let me know how you fare.

A version published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.