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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

There are pluses and minuses to living alone. At times it can be a solitary existence, but if you spin that correctly it can also mean time spent doing things you enjoy, when you want to enjoy them. Simple pleasures such as picking up a good book at three in the afternoon in your most lived in sweats, and wiling away a couple of hours, or having a bowl of Cheerios and bananas for dinner. It also gives you the latitude to decorate your nest as you please without having to ask “do you like this chair” or “what do you think of this color for the living room wall”? Rick and I shared a lot of things, our taste in decorating wasn’t one of them. Where Rick leaned toward sleek clean lines and modern decor, I bent much more in the direction of cozy country chic designs, making picking out artwork, furniture, and even dishes a matter of initiating compromise on both sides. In our first house, the decor was much more Rick’s style than mine. As it was his house, that should not be surprising. However, when we moved in our first house together his style sort of blended with mine creating an interesting, but not unappealing (at least to us) eclectic mix.

In a recent blog, I mentioned my current pining for ocean breezes and salty air. I also mentioned I had finally purchased a new bed. Both came together as I began to rethink the room once the new furniture was in place. As the ideas flowed and the design ideas progressed, I brought the sea to the room and love, love, love the end result. Was I left to my own devices and didn’t have a life to live, I would climb up on that oh so comfy mattress, sink into my bank of pillows, and simply “be” for the next five years. Unfortunately, I would be doing my “be-ing” on the street before long so feel I need to do more with my time than wallow about swathed in cotton all day.

A friend of mine called this morning. She was telling me her granddaughter, a recent high school graduate, is headed to UC Santa Barbara this fall along with her childhood best buddy. The girls drove up from the LA area last weekend with their parents to sign a lease on an off campus apartment where they will make their home during their first year at school. How exciting. I have to admit as she was filling me in on the details of the girls college plans, I felt a pang or two of envy. The whole college experience is something I missed out on. Not because it wasn’t available to me, but rather because I chose another option. Though I believe you should be grateful for what you have, and not spend time lamenting what you do not, I have always wondered what going off to college might have looked like. I managed to jam nearly a full year of college credits in between raising two toddlers and a full time job, but that is not the same as heading off to school with no outside encumbrances. For me there were no late night parties, sorority sisters, or football games. I was all about diapers, bills and a husband.

Part of having children early in life is it will likely leave you an empty nester at a relatively young age. Now, this may be far less true nowadays, particularly here in California. The cost of housing has become so prohibitive and housing availability so tight, a lot of adult children are still living under their parent’s roof just to make ends meet. Both my children were out on their own by the time I celebrated my fortieth birthday, with my first grandchild arriving on the scene the year I turned forty-two. That was a red letter year for me. I got married that year, yes again, and was living in West Virginia when my sweet little granddaughter was born. At around the time she turned six weeks old, I could no longer wait for our first introduction. I purchased a ticket, and hopped on a plane at Yeager Airport in Charleston and flew non-stop to San Jose. For me this was a big event in several ways. Since moving from Alabama to West Virginia I had inexplicably been suffering from anxiety attacks. I had never dealt with them before, and once they abated, thankfully, never have since. At the time, however, they were a driving power in my life. When I would shop at a large box store such as Sam’s Club, for example, being inside that cavernous warehouse brought about an immediate claustrophobic reaction in me. As I went further into the belly of the beast, my heart would begin to pound, my ears take to ringing, and my forehead would develop lines of sweat. Suddenly, I would get the overwhelming urge to run out of the building, and would have to find an exit in order to gather my breath. These annoying responses went on for about two years before I finally got a grip on them and was able to pack them away in my memory chest. Once, when visiting my kids in California I joined them on a trip to Disneyland. Disneyland, as you can imagine, is not the ideal place to find yourself when dealing with claustrophobia. Being inside in the dark on rides is sort of their claim to fame. For those of you who have been there and gone on Space Mountain you will understand exactly what I am saying here. Somehow I muddled through. At the time they were featuring the 3-D movie Captain EO, starring Michael Jackson, in their Magic Eye Theater in Tomorrowland. The theater itself was massive on the inside. We were handed 3-D glasses on entering the building, and were seated in the middle of the center row with people stretched out on either side. When the doors shut and the dark was absolute. Mommy. The movie started, and I could feel my heart rate moving up the scale with the music. Using all the tools my doctor had given me, I worked on taking my mind off what my body was doing and concentrating on what was going on on the screen. The 3-D glasses allow the viewer to capture all the amazing effects giving the impression images are right in front of your face. For me, this was the last straw. Dark closed in, and glasses off, gasping like a wide mouth bass in the bottom of the boat, I stood up and told my son-in-law I had to leave. “Leave, now?”, he said, but I was already saying “excuse, me. pardon, me”, all the way across the aisle. An employee grabbed me y the arm asking what in a whisper exactly what I thought I was doing. Unable to explain myself, but after seeing my face, she just guided me to an exit. A bit embarrassing to say the least. Outside people were staring at me as red faced I sucked at the air hoping to grab a little oxygen. For any of you who have ever had an anxiety attack, you will understand the feelings I am describing. It is a fight or flight reaction your body goes into when faced with danger. Though Captain EO posed no danger at all to my psyche, the closing doors triggered my body into action. After a while, I learned to manage the anxiety. First, you have to acknowledge to yourself that you are having a panic attack, then remind yourself there is actually no imminent danger. Next, you have to breathe in and out slowly to calm yourself down. It really is amazing the power of the mind. Probably says a lot as to why it is said a positive attitude can effect a cancer outcome, or how negative thoughts can create illness.

At any rate, after that long detour into my psyche, when my granddaughter was born this is what I was managing. Getting on a plane, basically a long tube where you are closed in and hermetically sealed, was a problem for me. When the doors were closed and the cheerful flight attendant was robotically reciting the safety rules, the pounding in my chest once again resumed, sounding like a kettle drum inside my ears. Oh-oh. All I could think about is imagining myself standing at the door to the cockpit, beating loudly, and screaming, “OUT, I NEED TO GET OUT”! Thankfully, they serve liquor on planes so I managed to survive the flight without total public humiliation, well at least with the panic attacks. By the time I arrived in San Jose my tongue and lips had agreed they could no longer form words and I could no longer feel my feet. When I got up to get my carry on bag out of the overhead bin, I had to be accosted by the flight attendant two seats down the aisle to be informed the bag I had retrieved belonged to the lady in the seat across from me and mine was still up in the compartment Whoops. Could have been worse, I could have borrowed her husband or somebody’s child. Probably wouldn’t have noticed the difference. Ach.

It was grand to be there once I sobered up. Seeing your grandchildren for the first time is nearly the event greeting your own is, though with less participation and less responsibility on your part. I have to say being part of the audience rather than one of the key players, can prove far less stressful. On my arrival at my daughter’s house, a sweet little pink bundle was placed in my arms. A tiny girl with a serious head of dark hair stared up at me as if to say, “Hi, Nana” and I was hooked. Always I have loved children. Their innate ability to accept the most ludicrous of scenarios as full of possibilities and adventures, their unchecked honestly (no matter how painful), and their wide eyed fascination with anything and everything populating their world. Like my cat, who always seems to find her way into my blogs, you can give a child a cardboard box and they will see a fort, a suit of armor, or perhaps even a sled gliding down an icy hill. As we get older and decorum and proper adult behavior become expected of us, we lose that childish innocence and overt joy. Too bad we couldn’t pack it away like a cloud of fireflies in a Mason jar to be pulled out of reserve for darker days.

We do survive things, we humans. Crises come and crises go. People float into our lives, some sticking like jelly to the wall, and others slipping away after a while and disappearing from sight. There are so many mysteries yet to unfold. I wonder at times what life will look like forty years in the future, or even a century away. I will not be here to write about it, but would love to be a fly on the wall to see what state the world is in as time marches along. I hope we open our eyes to climate change and start seriously taking responsibility for our part in keeping this world safe for our children, and grandchildren and theirs. Each of us has a hand in how we impact our environment and hopefully we can reverse some of the damage already done or at the very least prevent further damage in the future.

Have a safe and productive day. TGIF!!

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Fear was instilled in humans to keep us from harm. Without fear we would not have the urge to run should a hungry animal pursue us or know to get away from the forest if a fire erupted. When afraid, our bodies react to protect ourselves, which is the natural way of things. Fear can also be that nagging voice in our mind telling us to be afraid of something that could happen but isn’t real at the moment and, in fact, may never occur. This type of fear can be debilitating and keep us “stuck” where we are rather than moving forward.

Let’s be honest, the world is a strange and scary place these days. Fear seems to be all around us, hovering like an uninvited party guest at the hors d’oeuvres table. People have different reactions when frightened, or so it appears to me. Some people actually seem to get energized by the sensation. I can recall my oldest granddaughter, Bre, when small, loved to be scared. Playing hide and seek she would open closets and doors ever so slowly before peeking in, then whisper, “Boo man, you in dere? When her mama would jump out and yell “Boo”, Bre would excitedly yell “Do it again!” Lately when in social situations I hear her little voice and feel the Boo Man is definitely is in dere and he is alive and flourishing, and I’m not the least bit excited.

It’s hard enough for adults to handle all that is going on with this virus, but kids are a different story. Hopefully we have the maturity to handle it, although from what I’ve observed this definitely isn’t always the case. I’m glad I’m not trying to raise children during this pandemic. So many uncertain questions linger about their future. What to do about school in the coming year is a huge issue. If your school district enforces distance learning, how does that look in your home? For people who do still have jobs to go to, who will take care of their kids while they’re at work if the child care providers are sick or afraid of getting sick? For those parents home schooling for the first time, how do you step in to give your children the education required without any training? I guarantee if my two would have had to depend on their mother for their mathematics training they would be holding up the line at the grocery store trying to figure out how to make change for a twenty. If children do go back to school will it be a safe environment? Even if children, as purported, don’t seem to pass the virus as quickly, will teachers be compromised entering the classroom with their students? Good Lord. Makes me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head, and my children are long grown.

It is easy to become fearful with all the unknowns. It is hard to manage a situation if you can see no light at the end of the tunnel. Watching people yesterday at the grocery store effectively avoiding one another, made me reflect on how quickly fear can spread in such an environment. Fear is an insidious emotion. Sneaking in unseen, it can quickly permeate every nook and cranny of your psyche rendering you nearly immobile. Certainly with an invisible enemy attacking our population there is a lot to be concerned about. To not be apprehensive at the moment might make less sense. However, allowing fear to rule the day, can also be dangerous to your well being.

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Aside from the fear of the unknown, or an instinctual fear of death or being hurt there are other kinds of fear to contend with. Sometimes we purposely put ourselves in the position of being scared just to feel the goosebumps rise along the base of our necks. Horror movies are a perfect example of this. Some of them I’ve watched have kept me up long after Dracula was staked and tucked away in his coffin for the night. My recommendations to exclude from your viewing list if you value a good night’s sleep might be Pet Cemetery, Pumpkinhead (that was at least a three nighter), Nightmare on Elm Street the series, and Hellraiser the series. Even the psychological thrillers can have you sleeping with one eye open. Vlad isn’t likely to show up in your closet of an evening but Norman Bates type personalities actually do exist in our society and could well be hiding behind your winter coat. Perhaps this type of fear inducer can be more real. The first time I saw Psycho through the gaps in my fingers, I didn’t take a shower for months after watching Janet Leigh come to a slippery end.

There are also fears, or perhaps more phobias, with no obvious basis for their existence but nevertheless very real to those suffering from them. Phobias are interesting and a bit odd. While reading up on the different phobias some stood out. There was a woman deathly afraid of string. Really? Some people were terrified of textures such as plastic, leather, or even terry cloth. Colors evoke terror in some while another person might have an irrational fear of books, or an flee in terror when seeing a Guinea pig. I was amazed at the number of phobias listed. Myself, I suffer from a bee phobia. Not just bees, but all creatures “bee-like” in nature, to include wasps, hornets, and bumblebees. Being careful around such insects makes some sense. Bees can sting, and a bee sting is often uncomfortable, causing itching and swelling. Wasps can sting repeatedly taking the discomfort to a higher level. If you are allergic to bees, a bee sting can be serious, even fatal. Killer bees have taken down a cow over the years, and humans have been known to be killed by marauding swarms of bees. So if one is sitting on your leg or flying around your head a bit of alarm is not unexpected. For me, it goes deeper. Bees immediately get my alarm system on full alert. TV stunts where men allow a swarm of bees to cover their bodies or simply wear them on their face as a beard can have me hiding under the sink in the kitchen. People who do this, to me, fall under the definition of insanity. I feel the exterminators called in to cut down a hornet’s nest from the eaves of a house or remove a mattress sized bee hive out of the corner of someone’s attic need to be knighted. Not a job for me today, and tomorrow isn’t looking good either. In a situation such as that, after the compulsory wetting of pants, I would probably simply die of terror where I stood and the bees would be left to have their way with me.

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How we deal with our fear has everything to do with whether we handle our fears, or our fears handle us. In my case, if a wasp is flying in my personal space I manage the situation brilliantly by running about in circles like a lunatic, screaming, then swatting at myself uncontrollably until I pass out. I do not recommend this as a course of action for you to take when learning to get a grip on whatever it is puts the fear of God in you. These days even the bee situation is in a manageable state. If one gets in the house if it is a honey bee I catch and release, but if it’s a wasp that baby goes down if it takes a can of Aqua Net to make it happen. This, by the way works. It immobilizes their wings and they will drop to the floor. My household hint for the day.

Blessedly, other than an irrational fear of buzzing insects, these days I am relatively anxiety free. In a world where so many people are taking this pill and that to keep their anxieties at bay, I consider this a pretty positive statement to make about myself. (Unless, of course, a bee should enter the room, then all bets are off.) The only time I’ve ever succumbed to anxiety was when living in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in my early forties. My ex-husband and I traveled all over the country at the time with his job. In the two years prior to moving to Alabama we had moved three times to three different states. The stress, I believe, was finally beginning to catch up with me.

Let me begin by saying aside from not being fond of bees, I am also not a fan of humid environments. My first few days living in the southern states I resembled a wide mouth bass lying on the bottom of a boat, mouth open, eyes bulging, lungs searching for any hint of oxygen. For those of you who saw the movie The Abyss with Ed Harris, I liken the feeling to the scene where they are in the diving suits having to breathe in pink oxygenated fluid. Finally, about a month into living with the extreme humidity, my body began to adapt somewhat.  Truth is, I never actually got completely used to that sticky sort of heat, but I did manage to learn to live with it. My husband attributed my difficulties breathing to being a “northerner” by birth, and never learning to sweat properly. Up until that discussion, I hadn’t realized perspiring well was a learned art form. However, one does have to be open to exploring all avenues of thought when suffocating every day.

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Several weeks after we found a house and settled in I decided to go shopping at the local mall. Once inside, I came across a boutique clothing store that looked quite promising. Locating some items I liked, a sales clerk showed me to a dressing room. Pulling on a pair of pants the lights suddenly went off leaving me standing in total darkness. Without warning, my heart began to pound in my ears and the sweat that had eluded me prior to this time began exuding through my pores. The doctor I spoke to later about the experience called this a “flight or fight” response. To break that down simply, your body senses danger (perceived or an illusion) and produces hormones that prepare you to either stay and fight or run off like a coward. I chose door number two. Half in and half out of my own pants I bolted out of the door like a horse shooting out of the starting gate at Daytona. Mouth agape, I sprinted across the mall. Fairly sure I was having a heart attack that would render me unconscious at any moment, I pushed the exit door open and stepped out into the parking  lot. Miraculously, the palpitations quickly reduced to a whimper and the sweating, other than my normal variety, ceased in a minute. What happened, my mind said? Checking my parts, I seemed in tact and found I had no idea what the answer to that question might be.

The following week I was in Sam’s Club when the overwhelming urge to take flight overcame me as in the previous incident and racing to the exit once again caused the symptoms to ease up. Hmmmmm. Finally, after an unfortunate elevator incident where I nearly grabbed this guy’s tie next to me and threatened him with bodily harm if he didn’t get me out of there, I consulted a doctor. The diagnosis, anxiety attacks. Really? Are you sure I’m not just crazy? I’m sure there’s got to be some of that in there. The attacks continued for the next year or so but I learned to manage them with some therapy thrown in for good measure. My doctor taught me, for those of you dealing with this, to first identify what was happening, then breathe deeply and slowly, and finally ride it out. Whether this works for you is anybody’s guess but it worked for me, as I said after a while. Even as I write this I can feel those uneasy feelings at my nerve ends, but I’ve got this.

I believe I’m managing this virus situation as best I can, and I’m sure you’ve got this too. When I was going through my anxiety there was only me, and that felt kind of isolating. In an odd way with this global illness we are all floating about in the same stew. There is something unifying at least in that fact. One thing I have learned from all the experiences I have had, is that this too will come to pass. Life will circle around to find it’s comfort zone once again, and the world will right itself. Hope you are safe and well. Stay tuned.

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