Worry, Concern, Apprehension

Anxiety: “The state of feeling nervous or worried that something bad is going to happen.”–Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. The Mayo Clinic defines anxiety as an “intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired may occur.”

Have you ever had an anxiety attack? Not a panic attack–where you truly feel like you’re dying–but a sudden feeling of anxiousness and worry and maybe have trouble breathing? For the past few days, since we came back from our “vacation,” I’ve had a few of these attacks. This “vacation” was time away from home, but not nearly enough relaxing. There was a LOT of stress between the actual traveling (slept in an airport, spent 7 hours in another one) and visiting family and honestly…me being me. Trying to make everyone happy at least some of the time is what I tend to do in ALL situations–family, friends, work. And this was a visit to some family we haven’t seen in a while and I knew it was bound to be stressful but…was it really any worse than any other visit?

After arriving home (10 hours later than we were supposed to) and enjoying sleeping in my own bed again, I felt a bit off. Again, that’s to be expected. Post vacation blues are a real thing, hence my large brownie for breakfast that next morning. I spent several hours doing laundry, emptying suitcases, vacuuming, and feeling productive. Then I headed to my scheduled therapy appointment…and completely lost it.

I’ve been told that sometimes when you completely relax, emotions and memories and pain can all rise to the surface because your body and mind are no longer going at top speed. And although I didn’t get a lot of that relaxing time, I did have at least a few hours where I just swam in the sun or dozed in a dark, cool room or walked along a secluded lakeside path. But I thought about so little during those times nor did I think of much again until I sat in my therapist’s office. And even then I just FELT everything. I was completely overwhelmed with grief and confusion and loss and maybe wishing for something I can’t have?

I don’t know.

All I know is that I couldn’t leave my therapist’s office. I could not stand up. I did not know how to leave, how to take one step in front of the other and walk out her door. I was sobbing and asked her to give me an assignment because I knew if I had one thing to focus on, I could at least leave her office and get to my car. So she did, and somehow I left the building.

The next afternoon I was on my way to drop my son off at the mall when all of a sudden the noises I could hear were literally taking my breath away. The radio was on, my son was talking, his phone might have been playing something, we just passed a bunch of kids on bikes…it all became too much. I had to pull over, shut off the radio and asked him to just stop for a minute so I could breathe. I closed my eyes, took a few breaths, and I was better. He asked if I was ok, and I said not really, but would be. I cried a few miles later and we talked about how this trip, this “vacation” affected us both. The horrible traveling really got to my son, as well as the heat and possibly a bit too much visiting. 🙂 He then played us some 80s music as we continued on to the mall and we both felt immensely better.

On Sunday I had planned to run and boost up my endorphins. But a friend called and needed my husband and I, and honestly, I was glad he did. Focusing on someone else’s problems and/or pain is a great way to distract you from your own! It also resolved some issues that have lingered for nearly 30 years, so I’m grateful for that and the fact we were able to help and be there for our friend.

But today, as I drove my son to school, anxiety overwhelmed me once again. There was no music, no noise, no talking even. I didn’t need to pull over this time, but I did need to take many deep breaths and try to just focus on the road. Once I dropped my son off, I called my doctor and asked to double my antianxiety meds. (I’m currently on the lowest dose possible and have been for nearly two years.) He said I could, so tonight I’ll give it a shot and see how the next few weeks go.

I started to write this tonight to try and figure out what is going on in my brain. I don’t know if I’m much closer to any answer, but it felt good to get something out on “paper.” Although my therapy can be tremendously helpful, my secondary form of therapy, aka blogging, can also clarify situations, problems, ideas or emotions enough for me to at least carry on until I can figure things out.

So…as always…thank you for listening. If you ever feel this high level of anxiety, please reach out to get some help, ok? Even if it’s just to talk to someone for a little bit. You can always reach out to me, too. You don’t have to know me but know I can listen. I’m not a professional so please reach out to a counselor or therapist if that’s what you need, but if you need a sounding board, I’m happy to help.

Take care, all. ❤

Vacay

In a few days, my family and I will be going on our first vacation together in at least four years, and our first flight together in 8 years. Our son was two feet shorter back then. Now that we’re all over 6 feet tall, we will not be sitting three in a row unless there’s an aisle between us! To say that I have been excited to go somewhere warm and away from work for a few days is an understatement. BUT, I am also trying to tamp down my expectations.

This is the first week I’ll be away from my work without having a full staff at my library. I take my responsibility as the director of a small library very seriously. This community counts on me and the library to provide them with not only a place to “be” and go to, but to provide a wide range of services. That, in itself, can be problematic since our role as the library has increased responsibilities or rather increased expectations from the community, yet without an increased staff or budget. But you know what? That is a discussion for a different day. Instead, let me just say that I’ll be worried about my staff and volunteers while I’m gone. They are incredibly good, kind people, but as many of you know, working with the public can be very stressful–even with kind, well-intentioned patrons. I have supplied the staff with loads of candy, lots of instructions for weird things that could happen, and my cell phone number. Really that’s all I can do, right? That and have faith and confidence in their abilities.

Which I most definitely do.

So why the hell am I worrying?

Now as the actual vacation goes, that’s a crapshoot. There will be lots of visiting my husband’s family, a little sightseeing, and hopefully some relaxing alone time, pool time and running time. But again, I must lower my expectations. Some plans have already changed and I need to just let it all go. Deep breaths, go with the flow, at least I’m not in a war zone, first world problems, etc.

But for just a minute, I’m going to whine and bitch and wish that for the first vacation I’ve taken in years, I could truly relax and not think about much except myself and my own joy. Am I selfish? Not always, but sometimes yes damn it, I am! And you should be, too. For a day or a week, it’s ok to think about JUST yourself so you can think about and take care of every other fucking person around you for the rest of the year. Call it self-care or survival, but it’s something we all need to do sometimes.

So…maybe for one day in the next week, I will do just that. I’ll take a day for me and only me. And if not? I have a therapy session all set to go the day I get back from vacation.

Cheers to all of you, friends. Thank you for listening to my bitch post, because that’s really all this was. If you take nothing else from it, just take my gratitude for being here. I know there are so many horrible things happening in the world and this country and to my friends to be honest, but sometimes it’s also ok to just sit in your own shit for a minute. Then you pick yourself up, clean yourself off, and keep going. ❤ And now that I’ve sat in my shit for more than a few minutes, I can move on. Hugs to you all.

Burning Down the House

I’ve had this Talking Heads song circling through my brain for the past week:

Burning Down the House

“My house
Is out of the ordinary
That’s right
Don’t wanna hurt nobody
Some things sure can sweep me off my feet
Burning down the house

No visible means of support
And you have not seen nothin’ yet”

When David Byrne wrote the lyrics, “the title phrase was a metaphor for destroying something safe that entrapped you. I envisioned the song as an expression of liberation, to break free from whatever was holding you back.”

When I first started to write this post, I couldn’t say that Byrne’s definition was what I was feeling. I was feeling burnt out and broken for sure. But breaking free? Maybe. I did want to burn everything down but not necessarily to start again. Just burn it all down and walk away.

I had several nightmares last week, which I haven’t had in a very long time. In one dream I was a passenger in a car that was going too fast and about to crash (easy to analyze that–I felt and feel like everything is out of my control), but I don’t know what happened in the other dream. I just woke up at 3:30am scared with my heart pounding. You know, the usual. Then I had a very unsatisfying therapy session on Friday. I just felt like I was spinning my wheels, talking about shit I had talked about before but won’t do anything about. I even felt like my therapist was a little frustrated with me, although she tried not to show it. (Of course, I was also her last client on a Friday evening and I bet she just wanted to get the hell out of there and go home!) That night I ended up burying what I was feeling in a bag of guacamole-flavored chips. I’ve been very good about not emotionally eating for months, but I blew it out of the water that night.

But now it’s a few days later. I finally finished a few things at work and let a few other things go. I know you should never try to be everything to everyone, either personally or professionally. But I suck at it. After all of the trauma my family has faced in the past 5 years, and all the kindness we received during that time, I do make an effort to help my friends when they’re hurting or even if they just need someone to listen. Does it take its toll? Sometimes, but it’s more the combination of being a good friend while trying to run a library that also tries to be everything to everyone—which you just shouldn’t do. Take it from a librarian of a small, rural library who has kept committing to programs and events and being on committees and boards while still running the library with a temporarily smaller staff. It’s nuts and things have fallen through the cracks. Don’t do it.

We all have to implement boundaries in our work, our relationships, and within ourselves. How many committees are you willing to participate on? How late in the evening will you keep texting or talking to a friend? Do you really need to get up at 7am on Saturday to fit all of your chores and errands in while still squeezing in a run? Or can you skip sweeping the floors and sleep in?

Tonight I can finally start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I go on vacation in four weeks. I have one large report to write still, but only two more programs to facilitate before then. I don’t have an exact date for my upcoming distal pancreatectomy and possible splenectomy, but I know it will be in June, and my body scans and extra vaccines are being scheduled. Life is moving along. Not always in ways I want them to, but that’s what life typically is, right?

Just hang in there, everyone. The world is shit right now I know. I have to stop watching the news and read about what’s going on instead, otherwise I end up crying every morning. Stay informed but if you have to distance yourself then do it. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You have to put on your oxygen mask before helping your neighbor, right? So do that. Take care of yourself then you’ll be able to help others.

Hugs to you all, friends. Let’s try to survive another day. ❤

Finding Community

Let me begin with thanking so many of you for sending your good thoughts, vibes and prayers my family’s way last week. My husband got through his heart surgery and everything looks great. Two stents were placed in his arteries instead of one, since they found a clogged artery they didn’t know about, but now blood is actually getting to a majority of his heart. His energy has skyrocketed and I think he may be on his way back to the living. Now he just needs to clean up his act by eating right and exercising. Not everyone gets a second chance, so hopefully with encouragement he’ll be ok and take advantage of this rare opportunity.

And now…back to running. 😉

Sundays are typically my long run days. I was up to 10 miles a few weeks ago, but ratcheted it down to just 4, then have slowly been building back up again. Today was a 10K (6.2 miles) day, and although I felt good and ready when I left my house, the feeling didn’t last. I had a hot flash around mile 1, which is a weird thing to have when you’re already sweating. I felt completely depleted by the end of mile 2. I almost called my husband to ask him to bring me a banana or maybe drive me back home, but then in my head I heard my friend Heather say, “I take walking breaks. It’s really ok!” So I stopped beating myself up and walked for a few minutes and sipped from my electrolyte drink that tasted awful. But the combo gave me a bit of energy and I pushed on. By 2.5 miles, I started to feel better. I was tremendously slow and walked up nearly every hill (except the giant hill I tried to run up and then realized I was so hunched over that I could touch the ground), but the run was finally feeling good.

I was ok with being slow today, but I wanted to feel good. I wanted those endorphins to kick in. Hell, I just wanted to feel like myself. I’ve had so many moments in the past few years when I don’t feel like me. Do you ever have that? Like you feel out of sorts, like something isn’t right but you don’t know what that is? Now that I’m perimenopausal, I certainly feel like that more and more. It’s not just the physical–the hot flashes, the 15-20 pound weight gain since 2017, the occasional lethargy. But also the mental and emotional changes and challenges that are not necessarily due to perimenopause–the occasional emotional outburst, the grief, the anger, the stress of so much loss–and trying to find a way to not only take care of myself (which admittedly I’ve been pretty bad at), but also to take care of my son and husband AND to be a support for my friends and the rest of my family.

After living through the deaths of my brother and parents, watching my husband nearly die twice and supporting a stressed and grieving child, then managing to get through (and currently going through) all the logistical shit people don’t tell you about (burials, funerals, wills, estates, financial loss while recovering from illness), I have learned a lot. But I also received a HUGE load of emotional support from my friends and family. And I want to give that back in spades. I know I still don’t have the right words to say to someone after a loved one dies, but I often say that I’m here if you need anything and often suggest a meal or time together or even $20 if I have it. I don’t say any of that unless I mean it. Occasionally someone will take me up on it and ask for help. And I’m grateful. When I was desperate, I did reach out to my friends and asked for help. Nearly every time they were more than happy to lend a hand or an ear. That’s what being a friend is. (And more than once I did NOT ask for any assistance, yet some friends helped me anyway. Because they are that awesome.)

Reach out to your friends and family this week. Contact the ones you want to. I give you permission to not bother with those folks who continually disappoint or hurt you. I know that the holidays can mean being forced to spend time with people you might not want to. Admittedly, I had a great family and loved to spend time with them. Not all the time, mind you, but enough. I know our family was lucky that way. But if you don’t have that kind of family but one that is toxic and treats you badly, I hope you get to have dinner with your chosen family this week. If you can’t do that, then please find SOMETHING that makes you happy this week, ok? Preferably nothing that can harm you. Go for a hike, pet a cat, read a great book, have a glass of good wine, walk a dog, eat pie, bake a pie, have sex, go for a run, buy new shoes–whatever makes you feel good!

And if you need a hand or an ear, I’ll do my best to lend you one or the other. I’ll try to be here for you, as you’ve been there for me.

Until then, I’ll try to keep running amidst hot flashes and cold mornings. You’d think they’d cancel each other, right? Sadly, no, but at least your voices in my head will keep me going. (I’m standing up straight, Sonya!)

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. ❤

Just Run

It’s been a wacky few weeks at work and home. There seems to be a lot of anger and fear drifting from place to place and person to person. Tension is high yet I don’t feel stressed until the evening, when my chest feels tight and I realize I haven’t taken a deep breath for much of the day.

Except when I run.

The anniversary of my mother’s death was a few days ago and the days leading up to it, I didn’t think much about it. I tried to push my emotions down deep and the memories away.

And then I ran.

During a typical 5k weekday morning run, I kept feeling this odd pressure one inch above my right wrist. It felt just like my mother wrapping her fingers around my arm, like when we would compare how skinny our wrists were. We could both easily wrap our fingers around each others forearms with our fingers touching because we both had (and have) bird arms. I ran down the road and kept glancing at my right arm. I started to laugh out loud until a sob escaped my lips.

But I kept running.

Tonight, after seeing Facebook memories of my mother keep popping up on my phone, I decided I had too much energy to burn off and went for an early evening run at 5pm. It was another weird day filled with putting out fires and forgetting my wallet and going to dentist appointments and a failed attempt to get my son a flu shot. So a run sounded good, even though I usually despise afternoon or evening runs. My body and mind are typically too tired during that time of day, but today I thought I could handle it.

The first mile and a half were lovely. The light streaming through the colorful leaves at that time of day were gorgeous. Then as I was passing this swamp:

Something made a HUGE splash and scared the shit out of me. I actually screamed. No idea if something fell from a tree, if it was a bullfrog, or just the Swamp Thing. Whatever it was, it completely threw me off. My usual turn-off is just up the hill from here and I made it there but I immediately ran out of gas. I started to trudge along for a few minutes, then walked for a minute. My breathing was off and I thought I might have to call home. I started to think about what I ate today and realized it wasn’t much. I felt depleted because I didn’t have any fuel left. Or so I thought.

I took it easy for the next mile, ran fairly slowly, watched five chickens hanging out in a field. Then for my last half mile, my second wind gusted through me and I flew home. I felt so light and free and fierce. The feeling was fleeting, but I tried to capture it:

I expect life to be busy and somewhat stressful for the next few months. I hope things will get better, but I will also try to remember that I don’t have control over everything. I will try to find that inner ferocity that I forget I have but something my mother exuded. Although I’m not good at letting shit go, I’ll do my best.

And sometimes I’ll say “fuck it all” and just run.

Talk to Someone

Five months after my brother died and just weeks after I moved my mother in with my family, I decided to talk to a counselor–the first time in over 12 years. But just trying to work out the logistics to get to that appointment stressed me out so much that I remember screaming in my car on the way there. I kept saying “I am never going to fucking do this again!” I only went to the counselor twice because she was absolutely horrible when it came to grief. At one point I was crying in her office, telling her how much I missed Phil, and what does she say? “He’s still with you, Holly.”

Really?!? Can I sit and talk to him and he talks back? Is he going to tell me a joke and give me advice on raising my son? Will he still be at my son’s high school graduation that he tried so fucking hard to live for? No, you goddamned bitch, HE’S. NOT. HERE.

Of course, me being the person I was (not sure I’m still that person), I just nodded and whispered, “I know.” Inside, though, I immediately deflated. (The anger came later.) I knew she would not be able to help me. On a side note, she was extremely helpful in helping with some issues with my mom and her jackass boyfriend. So the counselor was not useless at least.

Since those counseling sessions, I’ve only pondered finding someone else to talk to. After Dad’s death and especially after Mom’s, I thought, “Ok. You might want to talk with someone, Holly. This is a lot of shit to deal with.” I was so exhausted by fucking everything that I passed out momentarily in my kitchen after my mother’s celebration of life, with my poor son freaking out and calling his father who was out of state at the time. But I still didn’t ask for help. I barely even took time off of work. Then my husband nearly died, and once he came home I encouraged HIM to go to counseling. (When you’re in a coma for a while, there are many gaps in memory and events and it’s difficult for your brain to fill that time in.) Instead, I became HIS counselor and tried to help him sort out what happened to him and what was happening in my world at that time. But I didn’t go and talk to anyone then either. I started drinking most nights–just one drink–but I felt like I *needed* it, along with my anti-depressant. Hell, I often swallowed my pill with a swig of wine! (And no, this is not advisable.) Then, of course, the pandemic hit and didn’t everyone need a therapist at that point? I looked into Betterhelp.org, but they wanted to match me with a male counselor who, in my mind looked like either a serial killer or a child molester.

Yup. He looked like Kevin Spacey.

So, no. I decided to not go that route. Instead I read books like “Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life” by Christie Tate and listened to Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, a podcast about mental health. And, of course, I kept running.

But we all know how that last thing turned out, right? Yeah. So then I started to worry about what I was eating and without running would I start binging or restricting food? I mentioned in my last post that I reached out to a dietician, but after thinking about it, I knew I needed more help than that. So I did a little search on counselors in the area that specialized in eating disorders. Then lo and behold, one of my dear friends from my past was a counselor for this very thing. When I saw her name, I immediately called and left a message. I knew she couldn’t be my counselor, but I trust her and knew she’d have someone in mind.

Then St. Patrick’s Day came–the anniversary of Dad’s death. And then I read a book that reminded me of my brother and I sobbed while eating lunch at work. Then I found one of my mother’s tote bags and it still smelled like her. And then…and then…and then…

You, readers, have been my sounding board for years now and although it certainly helps me to hear advice and anecdotes and to feel the love you’ve shared and showed me, I know I need to do something else, too. So when I talked to my friend, I asked her to help me find someone that could help me with MANY problems/issues/dilemmas, or in other words, life. I’ve only corresponded with this new counselor once, just so she has an idea of what I want to work on, but I won’t get to actually talk or meet with her until May. But, you know, once I had a name and heard her voice and read her email, it gave me this little high. Kind of like when you’re about to go on a first date and you have butterflies and possibly high expectations (I am trying to squash those) but more than anything, you’re filled with hope. This person you’re about to meet could possibly change your life for the better. And in this case, maybe help ME change MY life for the better.

We’ll see. Until then, I will carry on. Because that’s what I do. Because that’s what we all do, right? I can’t say I “keep calm and carry on” because my bursts of anger refute that phrase, but maybe you do? Whether you’re calm and serene, or pissy like me, let’s just keep going, ok?

LET’S. KEEP. GOING.

How Can I Help You?

If you run or walk outside a lot in rural areas, you know there’s danger–people not seeing you or purposely trying to hit you with their cars, biting dogs, bears, you get the idea. I’ve had the misfortune to face all of those things. But tonight, as I took a pre-dinner walk to clear my head, I saw a truck pull over on the side of the road up ahead of me. First thought? This guy is going to try and hurt me. But I’ve got my phone, I’m not far from home and I can run. Then I hear a car coming up behind me on the other side and realize this guy is being incredibly courteous and kind. Once the car passes, the truck pulls back on the road and the driver gives me a big smile and wave. I yell, “Thank you!” because seriously, that shit never happens.

I continue my walk and can feel my eyes prickle with tears because I just want to sit down and cry all because of this kind gesture by a neighbor. But why is that? I don’t think people have been horrible to me lately, although there’s certainly judgments thrown around constantly and many by me. When I’m out with a mask, some people look at me oddly or with that frown. If I see you without a mask I know I look at you with that same frown. And it’s all just exhausting, isn’t it? I never thought of myself as being so judgmental before (although maybe I was?), but now I’m just….I’m really awful.

I’ve always had anger issues, but no one knew about them because I ate that anger. Just in the past decade have I been able to scream my anger out or sometimes run it out and occasionally breathe it out. I can (mostly) deal with it. But now? I feel so much anger and disgust and sometimes hatred towards people I never felt anything at all for before. Why do I care? Is it because their actions can hurt me or my family or my friends? Or maybe because they already have?

I read many of my friends’ social media posts and I feel so fucking helpless. I don’t know how to help them. Many of my friends are teachers and when I read how scared and frustrated they are, I just want to hug them and tell them this will work itself out and be ok, but I can’t. I physically am not allowed or able to hug any of them and this will definitely not work itself out. This will not “just go away” any time soon. Especially since no one can talk to one another if they have differing opinions on how to solve this mess. (Although it would be nice if we could all agree that facts are FACTS and not opinions.)

My friends who are parents, especially with little ones, are struggling just as much with all of this. Their posts and shared articles are just as fucking heartbreaking. I hear my friends that have adult children say how grateful they are to not have to deal with the education piece or having to stay at home and care for their child because they just don’t know how they could do it and still work.

Exactly.

How do you do it? Friends have cut their work hours, some have upped their anti-anxiety and anti-depressant meds or have finally begun taking them. Some are drinking more, eating more, crying more. (And I’ve done a little bit of all of these things as well as let my kid spend way too many hours in front of a computer.)

So what the hell are we going to do?

I don’t know. I wish I had some amazing piece of wisdom right here, but I don’t. I have sent wine to a few friends, cards to others, and messages or emails to some. If you own a business and want me to buy something, I’ll do my best to do that to help you keep afloat. If you need any of my librarian skills like pointing you in the right direction for forms you need to fill out or reading material to help you relax or what movie will help you cry then I can do that, too. But mostly I just listen. I don’t know what else I can do, but listen to you and truly hear you. I will respond if you want me to, or just nod my head in agreement and virtually hug you.

I do hope that some day, when the world is different but maybe feels a bit safer, I still like the person I’ve become. Right now I’m not so sure. I think at this moment I’m too selfish, self-centered and judgmental to really like who I am. Or maybe that’s the person I’ve become due to all the losses in my life. Either way, this pandemic has become a pivotal moment in our lives and it would be impossible to not be affected by it. I just hope that when all is said and done, I and you, too, will not have regrets about our words and actions towards others, and that we’ll be ok.

Let’s just be ok.

How do YOU relax?

Change can be a good thing, but it can also bring about so much stress. For the past two weeks, the stress at work AND at home has increased. The work stress is due to a variety of reasons, one being the extra work due to lack of staff. I needed to learn to not internalize everyone else’s opinions, let some things go, and just do what I thought was the right thing. Once I made up my mind to do just that, my tension eased a bit.

I didn’t think I was that stressed about home. Having my husband unemployed is indeed stressful, but I thought I was handling it well. Until I realized that driving home every night, my chest would feel tight. Of course driving to work my chest also felt tight, so maybe it was driving? But then during the weekends, driving anywhere I felt fine. Ok. Home and work are stressing me out. Maybe so much that they’re affecting my health? Hopefully not, but let’s fix this now before it becomes a real problem, shall we?

I’ve started doing a few things that make me happy. I’m not running at the moment, but I’m marching and jogging in my living room while watching Netflix. In particular, I’ve been watching “Tidying Up” with Marie Kondo. You know, the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up book? Marie goes around to a bunch of homes in California and helps couples or families tidy their homes. Oh my gosh, it made me so happy!! I hate clutter and love tidiness so watching these people find what sparked joy for them sparked joy for me!

I’ve also started to drink more herbal tea. Preferably in large mugs with Wonder Woman or funny sayings on them. Something that makes me smile.

But the tightness in my chest has continued. I’ve even noticed it as I’m starting my walk/march/jog. This morning I could barely breathe as I started to exercise, so I ramped it up and ran in place, hoping the sweat and exertion would help my body fix itself. It didn’t really work. But then I started to watch a comedy special on Netflix.

Ali Wong, Hilarious and Crude Comedian

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Ali Wong, but this woman is a riot. I think many women like her more than men because of what she talks about. She can be totally nasty and crude but completely honest in her portrayal of women’s bodies. She talks about how our bodies are used up by the babies we have or how we love our children more than anything but can’t wait to get away from them for a day (particularly when they’re babies or toddlers). So I’m watching her special and am laughing while jogging. I have to walk for a bit because I just can’t laugh that much while jogging. When my 30 minutes are up, I stretch in another room and my husband and I chat. I have no idea what we talk about, but we’re totally razzing each other and I’m laughing so hard my laughs become silent while my whole body shakes. You know what I mean? It’s absolutely fantastic! I realized I hadn’t laughed that much for a really long time.

So when it’s time to go for work, my chest isn’t tight. I’m comfortable in my body and my breath and I feel like me again. All because I laughed until I nearly peed myself.

Admittedly as I’m writing this, it’s nearly bedtime and my chest is a bit tight again and I have to keep taking deep breaths to feel ok, but I suppose this is a process, right?

Now I’m asking you, my friends, what do you do to relax? How do you keep the stress from hurting you? Or do you sometimes just eat, drink or smoke too much to ease the tension and THEN find a way of not hurting your body? Or do you throw your hands up and say “Fuck it all!” and dive into that pint of ice cream?

Looking forward to hearing from you all and your fabulous suggestions! (Or your stress stories because misery totally loves company and I’d love to hear those, too.) ❤

Looking for No Regrets

I wish I was that person that had no regrets. They exist, don’t they? I have regretted things that I have said and chances I did not take both personally and professionally. But if there’s anything this past few years has taught me, it’s to try and have fewer and fewer regrets in life. I am striving to have more integrity, to do what I say, to do what I think is right. I don’t always succeed, but it’s a goal.

Most of my weekends are filled with familial obligations. I visit my mom each Saturday, hang out with my dad for half a day on Sundays every few weeks, take my boy to various sports activities, attempt to clean my house, and cram in a few precious hours of family time with my husband and my son. I used to get pretty stressed about all of this. It’s not a lot of down time, and I am a person that needs that time away from people, even my own family, just to decompress and unplug from the world. But a few months ago, I had a brief conversation with a colleague about our weekends, and she told me that she understood the stress I was feeling, but since she lost both of her parents she’d rather have those stressful times with them than not have them at all. And just this week, my dear friend lost her mom after a few stressful years of rehab and nursing homes…and her heart is broken.

I don’t want to have any regrets when it comes to my parents’ final years. I’ve been to hell and back with my mom this past year and have felt every emotion there is about her and her situation, but right now I know she’s safe and ok and I’ve mostly stopped beating myself over the fact that she has to be in a home. When I went to visit her today, she was so sweet, not just with me, but her fellow residents. There’s one woman I know Mom doesn’t like, but Mom was so kind to her today. It’s something I haven’t seen in a long time. Later, we went to Mom’s room to chat, eat cookies and drink coffee (three of Mom’s favorite things to do) and after we sat on her bed, Mom dug out her brush and started to brush my hair. I’m not sure why, but she had the urge to do so and I let her. It was really quite lovely. I’m not sure Mom has done that since I was a kid. My sister brushed my hair or helped me with my hair more times than Mom did, so this was a bit of a treat for us both.

Then I thought of my dear friend and her mom. So I closed my eyes and just tried to live in the moment.

And I did.

So no regrets today. I hope you had a “No Regrets” day today, too. ❤

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Stress is a Killer

Let me begin by thanking all of you readers and your thoughtful comments and suggestions when it came to my mom and her care. As of 5 days ago, she is finally in a safe place. Unfortunately, it was after an incident where “Jack” had to be asked, by the police, to leave Mom’s house.  This was followed by two weeks of me stopping by every other day, checking on Mom, giving her meds, watching to make sure she ate, and horrible conversations with her about moving somewhere where she could be safe and taken care of.  You can imagine how those went, right? Not good.

After talking with Mom’s nurse and social worker, and having them tell me that it was really ok to lie to Mom and tell her she had an appointment when, in fact, she was moving, I ended up doing just that. The facility Mom has moved to also knew what was happening and they’ve had to do this type of thing before. The move is for the safety of the person. My emotional health was irrelevant but Mom’s safety was the most important thing I had to keep focusing on. And I did.

Once we were inside the facility and the director told Mom she was staying there for a while, Mom first got angry and headed for the door. Eventually she followed us to her room, sat on a bed, put her head in her hands and sobbed.

It was absolutely fucking awful.

In many ways this was worse than in January, when Mom moved to a different facility. Maybe because I was by myself this time? But in other ways I knew in my heart and soul that this was the best we could do. She would be safe from herself and at least one other. She would be eating 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. She would have other people around to talk with and to. And she’s only 25 minutes from where I live and much closer to other members of the family.

After driving back to her home that day and getting many of her things, then visiting a bit with her after placing family photos around her room, I left her in a good space. She was listening to music with other residents and was enjoying herself.  Then on the ride home, I had a sudden pain in my pancreas.

I’ve had pancreatitis twice now and I know what it feels like. I wondered if last year’s bout was stress-induced, and now, I really think it was and is. I didn’t think I internalized my stress. I talk about it, commiserate with those in similar situations, and attempt to exercise most days to relieve my stress. Obviously I’m doing something awful to my body and I have no idea how to handle my stress. So, to avoid going into the hospital, I’ve drastically reduced my food intake. I’ve lost 4 pounds in 4 days. As much as I’d like to lose a little weight, this isn’t the way I wanted to do it.  But it’s worked so far in keeping me out of the hospital. (I really think this might be some bad karma coming into play. I’ve tried to keep my weight down for my entire adulthood, obsessed over it for too many days to count, and now, here I am, losing weight and not really wanting to. It’s like the Gypsy from Stephen King’s Thinner is after me!) Not sure I can keep up with it for many more days, so I’m slowly increasing my food and testing how I feel. This doesn’t mean I’ll stay out of the hospital, but I have hope. I’m also running a mile a day thanks to Runner’s World “Summer Run Streak” challenge and my friend, Sonya. It might not be the wisest thing to do on such little food, but it gets me outside and out of my head for those few minutes. (Make that 12 minutes since I am definitely running slowly.) I’ve also attempted meditating (that helps get me to sleep) and have tried to take LOTS of deep breaths.

 

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Stressed much?

One of the most difficult things about Mom being where she is are the phone calls. Yesterday Mom had such a great day and told me she was “happy” to be there. That was pretty amazing and something I never heard when she was at the other place. And yet at 8:30 this morning I got a phone call from Mom, asking me to pick her up. I told her she needed to stay there. When she asked why, I told her because of her dementia. She then denied she had it. I should have known better. I never should have brought that up and just said she needed to stay for her health for a few days. Today I learned that this is called a “fiblet”. It is a “necessary white lie to redirect loved ones or discourage them from detrimental behavior.” The term “geriatric fiblet” was created at the 2000 World Alzheimer’s Conference. Who knew?

I went back to see Mom this afternoon since she asked me to visit during that awful phone call. I said I would. My husband told me I didn’t need to go. We had already had an eventful day, going to Mom’s house and taking care of a few things there, as well as dealing with the stress of having to meet “Jack” and hand over the cat. But since Mom is only 25 minutes away, I decided that I needed to do it for me. So I did and it was a brief but lovely visit. So tonight I can sleep well (barring no pancreas pain) and not worry.

That is the hope anyway.