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. ūüôā 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.

Our Spending Moratorium

Tomorrow, my family and I begin a one year spending moratorium. Originally I was calling it a “spending holiday” as in, taking a holiday from spending, but that phrase sounded fun and as my husband pointed out, this will not be fun. At all. Yet it’s absolutely necessary.

Like many American families, we have way too much debt. Besides a mortgage¬†we have¬†a smidge of credit card debt, a loan to pay off even older debt, and a home equity loan¬†we used to purchase and¬†install¬†heat pumps. Ok, let’s be honest here. That last loan is really a second mortgage. I just hate calling it that because it makes me want to throw up. Plus there’s the usual monthly bills and essentials like gas and food.¬† Meanwhile our car is hanging on by a thread, and I mean that literally. I was hoping we wouldn’t have to put any more money into it for the next year, but the way it’s sounding and shaking, I’m thinking it needs to go back to the garage and hope they can fix it.

Not only do we need to pay for all I mentioned, but we’re trying desperately to go on a 9-day vacation next autumn, including a short Disney cruise and 5 days at Disney World. 2017 is a¬†big year for us. The boy turns 10 in the spring, my husband and¬†I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in the summer and my husband will turn 50 in the fall. Those are some big-ass milestones and we want to celebrate appropriately!

So what does a spending moratorium mean exactly? Well, no more spending frivolously.¬†I can’t say that I am particularly frivolous with money. I do try to be conscious of what I spend. (My husband, on the other hand,¬†is not quite as conscious. Yet just talking about this moratorium has made him much more so.)¬†I buy a coffee maybe once a week, otberwise I always make it at home or work. I don’t buy books or movies or music. I do buy clothes occasionally, but since my weight has pretty much stabilized, I don’t really *need* to buy anything.¬†¬†BUT, I do like to buy the occasional gift for family and friends, even when I really can’t afford to. I also go over budget on our grocery bill every single week. I justify the over spending by saying, “Hey. I don’t travel, I don’t go out, so I’m going to buy whatever I want¬†for food to have in the house.” But now that¬†has to stop.

I want to feel like we’re not drowning. I want to feel like we’re in control of our lives even a little tiny bit. And I want to go on that damn vacation.¬†I want to escape this life for just a little bit and try to enjoy ourselves, but I want to do that without this heavy burden to carry. A burden I realize we created but one¬†we are¬†ready and willing to cast off. No matter how painful. And I *know* this will be painful.

dollars_beltins

Does this mean we’ll stop living for the next year? No. I will still buy running shoes every¬†six months so my feet don’t fall off. I’ll still buy my husband another pair of work pants since I mistakenly bleached his other ones. We’ll still give our son his allowance each week as long as he does his chores. And we will all still go see¬†the movie, Rogue One:¬†A Star Wars Story¬†in December because it would be insane not to. (It’s the one movie we’ll see in the theater this year.) But it does mean that if we run out of¬†coffee on Wednesday, I won’t pick it up until Friday.¬† (Let’s all hope this doesn’t happen because it will be disastrous for everyone.)¬† If all of my underwear or socks have holes in them, I will keep wearing them until they disintegrate.¬†As my kid grows out of clothes, we will not go to department stores but to Goodwill and thrift stores¬†to find something¬†he can wear. ¬†The moratorium means we’ll all need to plan better,¬†live with what we have or find very inexpensive alternatives for what we need.¬†Which is what we should be doing anyway, right?

This also means no more gift giving or a drastically reduced version of it. Each child we typically buy gifts for will each¬†get $5 and¬†possibly a¬†book for both Christmas and their birthdays. (Our own kid will be an exception, but he is aware that he will need to save for most of what he wants.) All of the adults in our families will get a pat on the back, a heartfelt note of how awesome they are¬†and possibly a homemade goodie. And Christmas cards? Well, this one is really difficult for me. I *love* sending and receiving Christmas cards. I will still send some, but only to those not online. That’s literally only a handful of folks. I may post my holiday letter on Facebook¬†so the usual suspects can still read it, but they just won’t get it in the mail this year.¬† This bit of the moratorium is what really hurts me. I know it sounds silly and¬†very corny, but¬†it brings me great joy to send those cards and letters out. I don’t think it’s the fact that I’m telling everyone about what we’ve been up to, although that’s nice, too, but I love hearing about everyone else’s lives and what *they’ve* been up to.¬† I get all cozy on my couch with a¬†cup of tea or coffee and I read those letters and cards and notes and think about those friends and family that I don’t get to see face-to-face anymore.¬† I¬†block out a little time to spend with them. It’s like a little gift to myself.

Over the next year, if you ask me to join you for lunch or an outing of some sort, please forgive me if I say “no.” It’s not that I don’t want to, but I just can’t. Most of my friends are totally cool with me just saying that I can’t afford it right now because we’ve all been there or are currently there. I don’t expect people to buy my way into places, either. If there’s something I want to do that I’m willing to sell something or give up food for, then I’ll do it. This is not a cry for donations or assistance. This is just me setting the ground rules for how my family and I need to live for the next year.

This will not be easy. It will not be fun, although it may be more fun for me than for others. I love paying¬†my bills and knowing they’re paid for and we owe nothing else that week. The hard part is realizing there isn’t enough money left for all the groceries you intended to buy….or the wine you really, really need….ok, really, really want.¬† (cue Spice Girls music)

If you have any tips for me on how to save money or make a little extra cash, I’m all ears.¬† Admittedly, I won’t do things like get an extra job or do something that will take even more time away from my child. I’m not¬†quite that desperate¬†yet. But suggestions¬†like buying no-brand food¬†items, ripping dryer sheets in half,¬†or baking my own¬†bread (all of which I do) are all helpful.¬†If there’s something you do that has helped you save money, please let me know. I want my head *above* water for a change.

drowning