A PTSD Triggered Morning

Morning of November 27th

Wide awake and pitch black. A quick look at the bedside clock reveals it’s only 4:40am. I still have over another hour to sleep.

My mind races with things I’m excited to do today. I don’t know how I could get them done, but I want to try to fit them in if at all possible. I would love to start the holiday baking. I have a scarf to finish and several more origami boxes for gifts to make. And definitely squeeze in a run. An appointment and work are the anchors of what I need to work around. I mentally strategize about how to make the fun stuff happen. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back this crazy thought process was Clue #1 that I was anxious and trying to vet my energy in a positive way.

Then I remember it’s my husband Daren’s Birthday! Maybe I should get up and make scones to surprise him with? I can do that, then maybe run before logging into work since I’m teleworking today. That would be a fine start to the day.

I forgo the attempt to go back to sleep and decide on birthday scones. Clue #2 that I wasn’t quite right should have been when I went into the bathroom for my Ayurvedic morning routine and I didn’t quite screw a cap back on one of my oils before picking it up again… by the cap. Ugh what a yucky mess. 

I stumble downstairs in the dark all set to make blueberry scones. The three cats are milling for breakfast and are so very underfoot, the sink is sort of full and the dishwasher needs to be emptied, I need to clear these things to bake – all are in my way. 

My heart starts to race. Clue #3. Things not going the way I expect. I take a deep breath and remind myself that nothing I am doing is truly necessary, has a deadline, and are only things I would like to do and are in no way vital.

For a few minutes I feel calm and present as I put everything away, feed the cats and rush over to open the blinds. Why am I rushing??? Clue #4.

I also notice that last night we left a mess of pillows and blankets strewn all about the living room. Pet toys are everywhere. And there is a cat puke to boot! I realize I’m rushing and that opening blinds can take place after I start to bake. Why do I need to keep reminding myself to slow down this morning? Clue #5.

I walk very slowly on purpose back to the kitchen and begin taking out the ingredients and supplies. I preheat the oven. Start the coffee maker (how could I not have done that first thing? Clue #6), and start to assemble what I hope to be scones in a short 20 minutes or so.

Moments later my heart starts to race again. My breath is erratic. Clue #7.

Something is SO wrong. But what? Why last Wednesday evening did my son Tom snap at me when I asked him to keep the dog’s training collar on? I immediately get angry about this even though I didn’t at the time. The look of disgust on his face 10 minutes later when I asked him politely if something was wrong while I was in this same kitchen at this same counter, assembling the makings of a Thanksgiving dish. The look on his face was followed by a loud, angry statement about how he doesn’t appreciate coming home from work and being talked to like that. I quickly looked over to Daren at the time who had his back turned pretending not to hear the conversation.

Like what?” I asked. 

“Forget it ma!, I’m taking the dog for a walk”  as he stormed out the door.

How dare he? At the time I almost laughed it off. Immediately after the door slammed behind Tom, I asked my husband if I said anything wrong. He affirmed I had not in the very least. Hours later while at his girlfriend’s house, Tom texted me to say he was sorry about snapping earlier and that he loves me. The whole episode was just NOT a big deal. So why am I so upset this morning? Clue #8.

I start mixing the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to overmix. As I prepare the counter with a light dusting of flour before turning this beautifully slightly moistened dough to the floured surface, I consider how much I cannot stand when someone accuses me of something I didn’t do, then yells or gets mad at me for it! Kind of the way my oldest step-son stormed out of the house and sent a rash of nasty texts after falsely accusing me of throwing away pieces of his mother’s wedding cake one morning a few months back. Immediately following that incident my husband scratched his head along with me and assured me I did nothing wrong, but after a few days if it was ever brought up again he appeared nervous and shifty; looking like he really doesn’t want me to bring it up ever again. Did he talk to his son? What on earth about that changed his mind so drastically about this incident?

Now my heart is REALLY racing. I feel as if my life is at stake and I need to fight for it! Why am I even thinking about this now? Clue #9

I continue to work, but my hands are shaking, I can’t concentrate. Clue #10.

I want to bring these things up with my son and husband. Unearth them and find out what they were thinking long after the fact, as soon as I see them today– Clue #11.

There are two ways this story could go

  1. I could do just that – what I wanted to do. Talk to them about it. And how might that go? I know how this story ends, but it wouldn’t matter because I don’t want to feel the terror, anxiety and anger I feel right now about it. I want these feelings to go away pronto. I’ll sound angry, because I am angry and super crazy anxious. I’ll let them know I can’t sound kind and gentle when I’m anxious like this – but it will not matter to them. All they will see is an angry mom/wife. They will be defensive. I will plead that I’m just trying to understand and want to talk. They won’t understand me or why I’m bringing it up. I don’t know why either. All I know is that I’m infuriated about this. I’m infuriated about being accused of things I didn’t do and then being treated poorly because of these said non-existent things.
  2. I could remember that I have PTSD and I missed a lot of clues that I was so obviously anxious this morning, I woke up anxious and at some point became triggered in the kitchen.

This morning thankfully I went with the latter option. In fact as soon as I came to terms with the very real fact that I have PTSD last summer it was an option at almost all moments when I had this feeling that something was just terribly wrong and at some point it started to feel like my life was at stake. My issue nowadays is that I always feel terrible when I miss the earlier clues. Sometimes I can catch them and breath or take a medication. But today I missed them all before I was fully triggered. 

As I begin kneading the dough I thought more deeply about what I’m really, really feeling. I was likely triggered by Tom’s reaction simply by being in the kitchen in same way with the same light while it was dark outside. That trigger lead to thinking about my step-son months ago, but it really led all the way deep down into the child inside me that became frozen in a certain state 40+ years ago.

Being accused of something that wasn’t my fault, something I didn’t do, or something I couldn’t have possibly known was the norm. It often led to consequences where I was abused, sometimes very badly. My mom was often a bystander, not wanting to be abused herself. She would often look away or side with my father (the perpetrator). Someone standing by while I was unfairly accused hurt even more. Even though he didn’t mean it, Daren keeping his back turned or refusing to talk to me about the supposed wedding cake incident feels like a bystander not helping the child inside me in need.

Since this past summer I learned that long-term childhood abuse is particularly complex if it was at the hands of a caregiver, because as a child your actual survival is at stake. You need your caregivers to live. That terrified part of me has become frozen in time. I often handle situations like this and a handful of others that would have led to abuse in a similar manner. During the initial encounter I’m very strong. I act as if nothing is wrong, as I had to do as a child just to get through the episode. Crying wasn’t allowed, even while getting hit- in fact it made things worse. I learned to deal with an incident by being strong and doing whatever I need to do. The hurt, terror and anger always came later and still does until this day when an old wound is rubbed, some time has passed, and my body feels safe and I’m re-triggered. Which often enough strangely leads me to feel as if I’m in survival mode. My heart, my breath, the crazed thoughts. My lower brain’s alarm signals to me that I need to fight for my rights, get out, get even, I’m being wronged, etc. 

We all have that lower brain (the reptilian one without higher rational thought-like a crocodile). Mine recognizes triggers that were necessary for survival long ago and all our lower brains possess the ability to shut down the executive functioning portion of the brain if survival really is at stake when we need to flight, flight or freeze. It’s how we are built. The problem with PTSD is that sometimes the danger is only perceived and not even real. If the person doesn’t catch it, they have an episode which isn’t pretty. When I’m already anxious before I’m triggered I’m far more likely to not notice. 

While folding blueberries into the scone dough, my higher and lower brain were in conflict. The part that I innately identify as me (more or less the higher, rational thinking part of the brain) was telling myself I was alright, I’m only in my kitchen; totally safe- I am and will be ok.

This part of my physical symptoms of being triggered are where adrenaline has entirely flooded my body. I can feel it’s desperate need to be released. I start to boil with heat. I hyperventilate and often cry uncontrollably. The next few hours are always recovery. Sometimes this happens often – several days in a row. I’m told it’s normal as you are going through PTSD treatment to go through time periods like this. When a childhood trauma victim feel safe as an adult- however many years or decades later, the body begins healing itself through bringing up old cellular memories in order to rid the body of deep-rooted habits/reactions/etc that no longer serve it.

I put the scones in the oven and set the timer. I’m lost. What was I going to do next? Did I make the coffee yet? I’m dazed, I’m confused, I’m sad… I’m just overwhelmingly dysfunctional. Daren comes down. Today I can explain my full thought process. We hug. I cry. I can hardly pick up a cup without almost dropping it. The scones are ready. We enjoy them although I can’t finish even one.

Sounds crazy? Yes, I know. But overall, I’m feeling better day by day. I know I need to go through this to get over/past/through – however it’s best phrased “it”. I continue to be patient and greet whatever arises, being careful to not get suckered into false alarms. That’s the trickiest part. 

But I’m OK. I’m enjoying the healing, one cell at a time.

On childhood trauma

Social Media Disclaimer:

Many people often ask me why I so freely share my troubles. I share because I’ve found shame for so long in not being perfect. I’ve felt for too long like damaged goods I’ve learned none of us could ever be perfect and to even try to entertain such a thing or put on that façade is a set up for failure and takes WAY too much energy. We all suffer and we can only gain strength with connection. So I’m living the change I’d like to see by normalizing what is after all very normal.

On Navigating with Love

There are some experiences in life that seem almost magical or other worldly as they happen. Sometimes it is when you meet someone and you get a sense of ‘deja vu’ or a flash of unexplained feelings. Or when you hear or read something that just seems to strike some sort a cord within you about its unexplainable truth.
One of the dozen or so times this happened to me is when I had first read that the soul is the connection to divine (God, nature or whatever you chose to call all that is). I was so moved by this simple statement. The truth of it was so obvious to me at the moment, that it sparked one of those other worldly flash feelings. The article discussed how the soul doesn’t dish out advice like our loud, animal mind brains do. But if you ignore or quiet the monkey brain and ask your soul for advice, the right answer is always there waiting to be heard. 
Wow. Yes. 
I knew that somewhere but didn’t realize it until then. A few hours later after mulling it over I posted something on Facebook about it- a short quote I made up as my own interpretation of this. It had very few “likes”. Guess my Facebook tribe didn’t get it. 
Not long after I heard a podcast about the moral compass. The speaker explained how we experience negative emotions (depression, hopelessness, anxiety, etc) when we aren’t living according to our moral compass.
Right- that makes sense too! And in my own interpretation I understood that moral compass connection to be through the soul which is connected to all that is. When we can’t hear or follow that sound advice and live against it, we feel unhappy.
Then, not long after I started to better understand the deeper meaning of the yoga I was attracted to. The focused attention of breath and movement quieted the monkey mind. Meditation and quieting the mind is a ticket to really hearing sound moral advice from my soul- that without question always knows the right and loving way to be in this world.
I feel so inspired to write this morning because when I opened my email amongst the midst of things was the start of a sentence that caught my eye strong enough for me to open it. It read “God does what God is: Love. God does not love you if and when you change. God loves you so that you can change!”The email was a few paragraphs long. It is a daily mediation that I signed up for from the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr who wrote a book I recently finished called Falling Upward. 
The email this morning brought the message of the soul and compass home for me. The email referenced one of the famous lines of the Bible where man is created in the likeness and image of God (the divine, nature, whatever you connect to spiritually). That likeness is LOVE.
One paragraph states “Love is who you are. When you don’t live according to love, you are outside of being. You’re basically not real or true to yourself. When you love, you are acting according to your deepest being, your deepest truth. You are operating according to your dignity.
Love… Love it. To me that says it all.
Maybe, just maybe… the allegory of the apple and ensuing suffering was having doubt about pure love. Not living by the advice of the soul. Not having faith in all that is. 
The soul knows. Perhaps we should listen a bit closer. It’s always there- the good angel on our shoulder, NOT jumping up and down loudly like a child with a pitch fork such as the little fiery red guy on the other shoulder. Maybe listening to it really is a key away from fear & suffering.
Hey… it’s worth a try! 

On the Fluctuating Gunas (The What???)

Today I woke up anxious. Physically I had a slight tightness in my chest. My heart felt like it was a little heavy, but the worst was my breath. I couldn’t help but sigh every few moments. Obviously releasing some kind of tension. I felt slightly lost. Not sure where my life is going. Not but an hour later I was laughing and feeling like wherever my life is going it doesn’t matter and I’ll get there as I need to.

These are the “Gunas”. Fluctuations that are normal in the universe. They are everywhere. In the weather, in our moods. It’s a universal law. What goes up must come down. What swings one way will swing the other.

The Gunas are a term I learned in yoga teacher training and were often discussed. It’s now a part of my regular vocabulary and thought process. We don’t stay in one mood forever. Nothing stays in its state forever. We are supposed to feel good and bad. It should be expected that good things as well as bad things will happen. Fighting it is what leads to suffering. In Buddhism a key tenant is that any attachment causes suffering. Even attachment to feeling one way (like happy), being attached to an outcome you want, or any objects/feelings/desires/etc. The Hindu tradition (yoga’s roots) describes the same concept but in a different way.

From Yogapedia: https://www.yogapedia.com

A guna is an attribute of nature, according to Hindu philosophy. In Hinduism, there are three gunas that have always existed in the world in both all living and non-living things:

• Tamas (darkness, destructive, death)

• Rajas (energy, passion, birth)

• Sattva (goodness, purity, light)

Here in our Western world we are not taught to think in this way. We seem to feel that if something goes wrong or we don’t feel well (mentally, physically or spiritually), that something is wrong with us. Imagine we were taught that both elation and depression are normal and to be expected? Neither will stay. Both are an experience of being alive. The more we attach to any experience (the good or the bad ones), the more we will ‘suffer’. Suffering really meaning anything from disappointment to despair.

I’m signed up for daily emails from Richard Rohr. He is a Franciscan priest that wrote many books on spirituality. I recently finished “Falling Upward” which was amazing! Much of it was about how we need to fall in order to learn and grow. How opposite things are complementary and part of life. I will paste a quote from the Tuesday mediation.

“If we are going to talk about light, then we must also talk about darkness, because they only have meaning in relation to one another. All things on earth are a mixture of darkness and light, and it is not good to pretend that they are totally separate!”

Understanding the Gunas is one of the many ways I am learning to accept life as it is. When I remember them when I’m feeling down I almost embrace it as the full experience of life. Not always, but more & more often.

They have helped me- and if you have read this and are willing to try, perhaps that can help you or a loved one too!

Peace & Namste

Life in the Slow Lane

Today I woke up feeling good. On 7/11/18, 2 months and 2 days ago, I had just one of the worst evenings of my life. The following few days were even more difficult. These last 2 months have been a journey that I realize is life-long and I’m in no rush to finish. I’m enjoying and embracing every step forward and every obstacle that prohibits steps forward, or that even sets me a few back. Obstacles and set backs are really necessary learning experiences.

Today I’m in gratitude. I might not be in an hour, but for now I am and I’m incredibly grateful.

I could write for hours about how I got here (I promise I won’t). The biggest contributor was my childhood and the mal-adaptive strategies [albeit very normal] I developed early on to deal with life while my brain was forming. One of my newly favorite psychology writers Van Der Kolk calls it Developmental Traumatic Disorder (DTD). This diagnostic explanation is fairly new in the world of Psych. It didn’t quite make it to the DSM 5 which is latest edition of the manual by which mental health clinicians diagnose and bill for disorders. For now the closest diagnosis is PTSD, which DTD is branch of. Particularly for me, for now it’s Delayed Onset, Complex PTSD. It turns out I’m just another statistic and if someone were watching closely, everything that happened to me could have been predicted.

I’ve been through a gamut of emotions the past few months. Many before 7/11, but even more, and much more intensely since. Crazily, but also not surprisingly this episode took place just 2 days and exactly 25 years after what was one of the most transformational days of my life at the time when I was 17. I’d written about it before in My Mom. It’s one of my trigger dates, something I don’t think I fully believed in until this summer. I didn’t consciously recognize the significance of how the date triggered me, but my body did. The Body Keeps the Score.It really does.

What I realized most profoundly this summer is that I have PTSD. I really do. Two and a half years ago I had my first panic attack. I was immediately diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Disorder. Last summer the PTSD diagnosis was added. While I remember telling people about it, somehow I didn’t realize how important it was to my mental recovery to embrace and work on it. In fact, when the true awareness hit me like a ton of bricks just less than a week after 7/11 this year, I was surprised to realize that I’d been sharing and telling people about it prior to then. A few days ago I re-read something I added to my blog page in May “About Me”, and it was there too! Why wasn’t I working on it?

I wasn’t working on my trauma and PTSD for many reasons. Because it wasn’t urgent and didn’t seem important. Because no one tells you that it’s important. In fact, no one can; it’s something you have to discover on your own when your body is ready. Also because I didn’t have the time or the life style until now. That is why I’m in gratitude this morning. I’m moving in the slow lane and I love it.

From a young age I moved fast. I always had excessive energy. I never understood how anyone could sit at a meeting or in a class and not fidget. I was just always bursting out of my skin. Driving… I had to be in the fast line. I was constantly assessing for traffic, changing lanes with the flow. Heart always racing. Breath always erratic. I was always, always, always looking for more efficient ways to do things. From driving to folding laundry to cleaning… to redesigning whole work groups and even departments at my job. I was good at it. It was a great outlet for my energy. I was efficient and I helped others to be as well. A good use of my talents. Or so I thought.

Now I’m living in the slow lane. I still have the habit of moving fast, but I catch myself at least 80% or so of the time when I realize that for no good reason my heart is in a lurch or my breath isn’t steady. I stop it and slow down. I manage my breath. I smell the roses. I ground myself in the present and it’s SO much better. I think about that quote about how nothing or everything is a miracle, and see things as beautiful. Even ugly things. I wish we could teach our children this from a young age. Instead we are programmed to ‘succeed’, to do more & faster, to have it all, to do it all. We are programmed to think we are a failure if we don’t meet this criteria. On paper by this methodology I was a huge success.

Take two driven people like my husband and myself, put them together, and what do you have? It’s debatable. 7 years ago I would have thought a match made in heaven. In fact at our wedding we incorporated the Japanese term of kaizen (continuous improvement) into our vows. Ugh… how I cringe now. All I can think of is U2’s lyrics in the song ‘Moment of Surrender’

The stone was semi precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

I do believe in continuous improvement, but not in the way it was taught to me (faster, better, do more, etc). I believe it the slow movement. That less is more. That slowing down and even stillness is where the magic of life lies. Take a look at the pets in our lives. They are content with doing less, watching the world outside the window for hours just as it is. Accepting us for who we are. Not caring about how we are dressed or what fancy letters come after our name. They are in a sense more human from a sense of connection than we are. I have four pets. I didn’t even have time to pet them before. I would shoo them away when they came to climb on me when I collapsed on the couch after 16 hours of non-stop movement. We had to have our dog in day care just to get exercise and go out because no one was home long enough to play with him or take him out. Picking him up and dropping him off was another burdened activity on the check-list. Why have pets, kids, a house (2 in our case), a garden, etc – when there was no time to put any love or life into any of it? It’s been a slow realization for me that none of this makes sense. That I was living by a clock and not a compass. It took even longer to do anything meaningful about it. I’m still on that journey and in no rush to any finish line. The unfolding is a beautiful experience that I’m embracing wildly.

I wrote a few paragraphs back that I could write for hours about how I got here. Everyone has their own journey, their own stories, their own level of awareness, and their own (hopefully) point in their life – more often than not in the second half of it, in which they proverbially “wake up”.

My own story started on March 1, 2012. At work I enrolled in a Franklin Covey industry based class for the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was a 2-day seminar that set the path of a new life for me. At the time I was recently remarried and my husband and I were just finishing up the renovations we worked on non-stopfor 2 months in our new home. I felt SO alive during those renovations. I loved working on the house. We often stayed up until 1 or 2am in the morning on work nights and didn’t feel the least bit exhausted in the morning.

Once the renovations were finishing up I started to feel trapped, bored, and useless. Something I wasn’t accustomed to feeling. Since my husband and I moved in together with our kids the year before I felt like I was mentally unraveling. The renovations were a pleasant distraction. I began going to a bible study at the hospital where I work which one of my vanpool mates hosted. I hung onto many of the teachings and words, learning new language to explain what I was feeling. The Covey class used similar language but explained it in a different way that opened me up in a special fashion. Three things I really connected with was the concept of a paradigm that we see the world through, that I make my own independent choices constantly, and that to feel in line with who you are; we should be living by a compass and not a clock. Wow. This was mind blowing and life changing for me.

Shortly after I explored the bible much more. Then I ran into a Bishop Spong book quite by accident (I honestly cannot remember which one). I was never religious, but grew up Catholic and felt like it was a sin to question anything that didn’t make sense. As soon as my mind took me to those questioning places, guilt kicked in and I pushed it away. The John Shelby Spong book provided the freedom to question what made no sense and shift the focus to something that did in a more mystical, metaphysical way where it allmade sense. From there I found podcasts on the Centers for Spiritual Living to help time pass while having to drive to Bedford, MA quite often for work in 2 ½ hours each direction. Those podcasts prompted me to read the ghastly large book by Ernest Holmes called “The Science of Mind”. The world was opening and unfolding in ways I could have never dreamed. From there for some unknown reason I started taking yoga classes, which spoke the same type of language. Then I would listen to Alan Watts during my lunch walks and long commutes. All different words, but the same beautiful, timeless messages that make sense.

Years later in January 2016 I loved yoga and this way of thinking so much, I started yoga teacher training. My regular life with work, the kids, pets, blended family, commute, and constant RUSH was becoming unsustainable. Why was I adding a full weekend a month commitment to this training? I don’t know but I just felt compelled.

For some reason I thought in yoga teacher training I would learn more about the poses, teaching, and the actual class. Instead, like the Franklin Covey class years before it became a personal journey. I quickly decided that it was a necessity to meditate regularly. Once I started quieting my mind and relaxing regularly, I realized that is how a body should feel and how I lived for the previous 40 years was anything but calm. It started to become unbearable to not feel calm. Combine that with what I now realize is a few PTSD triggers from work at the time, it’s absolutely no surprise that I had my first panic attack exactly when I did and they escalated from there; completely out of control. My body was releasing 40 years worth of emotion that was bubbling just under the surface. The same energy that kept me moving, grooving and successful; was the same energy that was keeping me stressed and mentally unaware that I was damaging myself by not dealing with the trauma that has plagued my mind, body and spirit.

The past two and a half years since have been transformational. A lot of bad and negative things arose, but more positive, learning experiences than anything bad. You have to go through it to move through it. It sounds simple, but it’s much harder than it sounds. It wasn’t until now that I’ve given myself the time and opportunity to heal. But you have to make the time. Your life has to allow it. You have to slow down.

This past summer was rough. I spent hours upon hours writing and allowing myself to remember and experience the anguish of old memories. Many were the same memories that came up during what I now know as PTSD episodes, but I’d felt too ashamed, embarrassed or dramatic to explore. In writing, crying, thinking, gardening, exercising, waking up in the middle of the night, reading, etc – I started to explore my triggers and where they came from. It made sense. I learned more about how the brain is wired and why I seemed to lose control at times. I logged and shared trigger dates with my family. I allowed myself to feel all that I’ve always pushed away and thought I moved past years ago. It was always there waiting for me to deal with it. I just didn’t slow down enough to hear it.

Today I feel good. Over coffee this morning I saw my husband petting one of the cats who was purring where he shouldn’t be (on a counter). When my husband moved his hand away to finish getting ready for work, our cat Gilmore bipped him on the hand – asking for more petting, which Daren provided. We are in a place where we have time to pet our cats. I am thankful I am in a job where if I woke up in the middle of the night and didn’t sleep for hours that the pressure of getting dressed and driving to the office with a smile is not there because I can telework and I’m part-time. I’m thankful for the mental health breakdown this summer. I spent so much time on the days I wasn’t working living like my pets. I napped in the middle of the day if I needed to. I only ate when I was hungry. If I felt like the sun was calling me, I read and wrote outside. If I felt the urge to move I went for a walk, run or bike ride. Listening to my body helped me to attune to what it’s telling me in other ways too. Our bodies are a walking, living, physical communication device. It’s a compass of that path we should be on.

This summer I also listened to the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People CDs that I was provided with from that class back in March of 2012. Listening to the late Stephen Covey’s voice felt like listening to an old friend with sound, sage, timeless advice. I also spent quite a bit of time doing those old exercises again. I created a mission statement, thought about my values and principles, my ‘rocks’, how I communicate with people, how I think and how I live. I thought about the life that I want to program. My own talents. Not the talents the world has barked at me – like designing things bigger better and faster, but what I wanted to be when I was a kid with no restrictions and what that meant. The imprint I want to leave on the world.

These aren’t overnight answers. If I thought for a New York second that I know them right now I’d be fooling myself. I’ll be working on them for the rest of my life. I’m trying diligently to listen to the compass. If we quiet ourselves enough, and ask our inner selves for advice, the most profound wisdom is all there, right within us. Our bodies know what we need. They keep the score.

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My dog Koji who teaches me all sorts of invaluable lessons without saying a word
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Bored at home after carpal tunnel surgery of my right hand this past Monday (9/10), I decided to try to open my right brain by painting with my left hand
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My left handed drawing depicting what is supposed to be a sunset
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This one started left-handed by I switched to using my wrapped surgical hand to clean it up (majorly). It’s a rendition of a little knickknack my step-kids gave me for the holidays several years back by one of my favorite fun modern artists (Miami artist Roberto Britto)

On Understanding Panic Disorder

I almost don’t know how to start this. “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year” (1)

I am one of those 18.1% who suffer. When I’m in panic it’s almost as if a doppelgängertook over my body. So many people do not understand what happens and that the person has no control over how they feel. Stress and cortisol flood the body.

Last night I had a panic attack. I actually had several in the past week, and 4 or 5 just yesterday alone. What made my last two particularly long and painful is that other people were home and weren’t reacting compassionately. They live with me and don’t quite understand what I go through, how painful it is, and how little to no control I have over how I feel or can possibly react. I can empathize and understand that it can be scary to someone else – really I can. I don’t want to be in full-blown panic either, believe me – way MOREso than the people around me don’t want to see it.

A key driver is understanding. Panic disorder with panic attacks is not something that can be helped at the moment or have a lid put on it. What makes it all so much worse is when those around you and in society judge you and falsely believe mental health issues are something that can be helped (2). I’m writing this because if my own household doesn’t quite understand what this is about, how can any one else? I need to do my part in spreading awareness.

I didn’t know much about true anxiety either. Why should I? We throw the word around a lot. Many of us live with low -evel anxiety constantly. As a society we are mostly all anxious. Anxiety and Panic Disorder is a little different. “This is not to be confused with nervousness — what most people experience in normal situations. Nervousness and anxiety can both cause similar symptoms, but normal nervousness such as how one feels before making a big presentation or applying for a job differs from anxiety in that it’s rational.” (3) Some things can be helped or talked away from. Normal nervousness is one.

I’ve read a lot about anxiety in the past two years since I’ve been diagnosed. Stress is prevalent in our culture. A large part is due to technology and the bombardment of information. Also, the ability for others to reach into our lives at any moment day or night through social media, texting, email, etc. When I was younger and we had a house phone attached to a wall, either going to someone’s house or calling on that phone was the only way to let the outside in. When you left work everyone was shutdown for the day. No one was on texts and emails creating new things to sort through when you got to work – what you left it as the day before is how it was when you arrived the next morning. These things cause constant low-level stress. A text at 9pm makes our hearts beat faster and creates a false sense of urgency to pick up the phone to read it. Whether the message is from a loved one or your boss, the body reacts as if it’s in danger (heart rate, quickened breath, maybe stomach in knots). While we all might experience that quick burst of anxiety when the cell phone dings at 9pm, after a few minutes it goes away. For those of us with an anxiety disorder it not only doesn’t go away, it escalates.

This article describes it better than I can-

Picture this: you’re asleep at night when suddenly you wake up to the sound of someone breaking into your house. What do you do? You panic, like every sane human being would. You start to sweat, you breathe heavily or struggle to breathe, you feel nauseous, your heart races, there’s a heavy pressure in your chest, so on and so forth.

Now picture something else: all of those symptoms happening when you aren’t actually in any danger. No one is breaking into your house. Nothing is about to harm you or is currently harming you. Your body suddenly just starts to panic anyway. That is a panic attack.”

With panic disorder, the body for no real and current reason goes into full fight or flight mode. It differs for everyone, but for me in particular I’m often triggered by something externally that was threatening in the past. Many times I cannot initially identify the trigger. It is almost impossible too when the brain is flooded and the executive functioning goes offline.

Panic attacks arouse the body to a peak level of excitement which makes the individual feel not in control of him or herself. The mind is preparing for a false fight or flight mode, forcing the body to take over to help the victim face or run from the perceived danger, real or not.” (4) The reptilian brain that all land creatures have to flee or fight is what takes over. Rational thinking is completely shut down. It’s not the time to start figuring out the cause or rationalizing with the individual.

I want to feel normal and not panic more than anything. Riding it out, medicine and therapy are helpful, but it took years for the body to become dysfunctional to this point; it likely will not go away overnight.

I can tell you what makes it worse for me –

  1. Being with someone during a panic attack that doesn’t understand and gets annoyed or mad if they can’t help me. I can’t be helped at that point. Someone in my face rationalizing it for me feels condescending. Shunning me at that point feels humiliating and akin to abandonment. I’m humiliated enough. Standing in judgment only makes it worse.
  2. Another horror is trying to hide it to not scare other people. I feel further trapped. I’ve had panic attacks on an airplane, in restaurants, at work, while driving, while getting ready for bed, when waking up… Of course no one wants to see or hear it, but other people hiding or pretending nothing is going on just makes me feel like a freak creature that needs to be avoided.
  3. Last but not least on is the shame of having to hide a huge piece of yourself to others. Our society doesn’t look kindly to Mental Health issues. Before suffering myself, I too thought it was the sign of a weak mind and something you can control. Last summer I spent a full month in an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). But forbid I let people know. My own step kids and extended family were kept in the dark. I was afraid to tell people at work why I was on FMLA. It may sound silly or it may not, but if I felt that way I would be willing to bet I’m not the only one.

May is Mental Health Awareness month (5). If you don’t suffer from any mental health issues (Yay You!), it’s very likely you know someone who does; you just don’t know they do. Let’s all do our part to bring awareness and be compassionate to one another to avoid shame, humiliation and judgment. We are all human. Let’s treat one another as such.

Peace.

  1. Anxiety and Depression Association of America https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics#
  2. We Need to Talk. Our Society Has an Issue With Anxiety and Mental Health. https://futurism.com/we-need-to-talk-our-society-has-an-issue-with-anxiety-and-mental-health/amp/
  3. https://medium.com/@gtinari/how-to-handle-someone-elses-anxiety-or-panic-attacks-51ee63f5c23bHow to Handle Someone Else’s Anxiety or Panic Attacks
  4. How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack https://m-wikihow-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/m.wikihow.com/Help-Someone-Having-a-Panic-Attack?amp=1&amp_js_v=0.1&usqp=mq331AQECAEoAQ%3D%3D#origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&prerenderSize=1&visibilityState=prerender&paddingTop=54&p2r=0&horizontalScrolling=0&csi=1&aoh=15272981860562&viewerUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Famp%2Fs%2Fm.wikihow.com%2FHelp-Someone-Having-a-Panic-Attack%253famp%3D1&history=1&storage=1&cid=1&cap=swipe%2CnavigateTo%2Ccid%2Cfragment%2CreplaceUrl
  5. Mental Health America http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/doppelganger/”>Doppelgänger</a&gt;

 https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/doppelganger/

Lexapro Journal (Continued)

I’m writing this blog as an update to the Lexapro 100 day Journal one that I wrote back in 2016.

I don’t blog that often, but when I do check the statistics for the number of readers, I see that between 3 and 15 people each day read this article. It is the only article that picks up any traction after the first few days post publishing. I has received more hits recently, so I’m not sure if it show up higher on search engines; but in any case it’s amounted to a few thousand people who have at least opened it. Doesn’t mean they read it through though!

When I tried to go off Lexapro just a little over a year ago, I wrote another blog entitled Lexapro Rollercoaster. I haven’t written anything about it since. I’ve been approached by so many people (some I know well & others hardly at all) who have read my blogs. Folks have asked for advice, inquired how I’m doing, or wanted to share that they or someone they love has experienced the same thing. Because I see that a few thousand strangers have read some of this as well, I wanted to follow-up as Lexapro wasn’t my answer.

I didn’t particularly have a love affair with Lexapro. I started it in March 2016. It seemed at first to be to a miracle drug. After several months the side effects kicked in. Particularly they were the two I was most afraid of – decreased interest in sexual activities and weight gain. Initially I thought it was a fluke and both would pass. But as pounds kept adding on and I felt less and less inclined to indulge in carnal activities, I knew it was the medication.

In January 2017 I didn’t feel like I needed Lexapro any longer. I felt stable emotionally. My primary care provider talked me through tapering off. It was a little difficult because I felt physically sick, but that passed after a few days. A few days later I felt off kilter emotionally again. I went back on Lexapro the same way I went off, but this time I held the dose steady at 5mg to test out how that made me feel. I immediately felt better, as I had the first time I went on. At 5mg I didn’t have the unwanted side effects. Fortunately my BMI had always been on the low side, and even with all the weight gain I was still in a normal range. I didn’t lose any weight, but I didn’t gain more either. The other department I feared was also in check. But my moods weren’t steady. I could get hyped up at anxious about almost nothing, and angry at the drop of a hat. I felt off balance. Nowhere near as badly as I originally did, but not as great as I did at 15mg either.

I believed with some meditation and a deeper yoga practice I could keep taking 5mg, feel better and go off completely. I set a soft goal to go off Lexapro before the start of summer in June. But I didn’t deepen my yoga or meditation practices. I didn’t have time to, I was as busy as ever. Although I cut down my professional hours at work; I taught as much yoga as I could without being picky and I wasn’t even doing my own practice. My husband and I started renting out our second home in Branford and I was managing all the rentals and turnovers. Even though I changed the stressors in my life, I unknowingly added different ones back in.

In May that year I took a 50-hour training in domestic violence and sexual assault in order to teach yoga at safe houses in Connecticut. One evening during a presentation about PTSD, I realized with unbelievable clarity that the slide I was looking at described me perfectly. Until then I have prided myself for rising above being a childhood victim of domestic violence and putting it behind me. It wasn’t until that evening I realized I was indeed affected by my past. The ground slightly shifted beneath me, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

My emotions became more tumultuous after that. If I was more aware of myself I may have noticed Lexapro really wasn’t helping anymore. One evening in July I had the worst emotional breakdown I ever had. I knew I needed help in a different way. After a little research I filled out some FMLA paperwork and cleared my calendar so I could spend a month in intensive outpatient mental health treatment.

Under the care of the facility, I started to decrease my 5mg of Lexapro daily to once every other day until I went off completely. I felt great. I had no responsibilities during this month other than to care for myself. I journaled daily after my sessions. For the first time ever, I had the time and was willing to really think about how I feel, where my assumptions and habits formed, and how I got to be where I was mentally, physically and emotionally. I was able to sit and question whether or not I wanted to do those things or if they were just maladaptive habits I had from childhood. I made conscious, well-thought out decisions about what I wanted to do, what I wanted to keep in my life and what I wanted to let go.

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I needed follow-up after the program with some type of regular treatment. I’ve gone to weekly couch talk therapy for years on an off and never found it helpful. With the advice from the program I just completed, I researched local therapists that specialized in the exercises we used that I found most helpful. I messaged a few by reaching out and providing a short background about myself. It was easy to discern who I might have a connection with through upfront written communication. I settled on someone local that I thought might work.

When I finally met my new therapist, before she asked me anything about myself; she explained some practices and tools she uses and why. She described the energy and meridian lines that run through our bodies and explained that most people start to question their lives after they meet their goals toward success (or the second half of life). She didn’t need to go on any further, I was sold. Energy, questioning life and it’s purpose, Pema Chodron quotes on the wall, a jiggle jar on the table, a semi-organized non-dusty dank/dark room… This is the therapist I was looking for and never knew it. Additionally, since I had just finished a month long intensive therapy treatment, I knew exactly what things I needed to work on and where they came from. For the first time I felt like I had clear therapy goals and found someone who spoke my language and could help me.

Around the same time I started therapy, I started a 9 month advanced yoga teacher training. This training wasn’t all that different from the standard 200 hour teacher training, but it was far more in depth. This time, having a new-found goal of self-care and making time for myself, I was actually deepening my own yoga practices. I also started a daily sadhana (spiritual practice).

I was only in the training a few weeks and saw my new therapist a handful of times before taking several weeks off for a trip I had previously planned with my husband. I was off medication and only using some new techniques and my sadhana practice to keep everything in check. It was going very well.

Once we returned from vacation I had to cancel my next therapy appointment. I got busy and fell back into the older routine of not making time for myself. After just a few days of skipping sadhana and not doing the therapy exercises, I was completely off balance. It took a full week of being back on the wagon before I felt like myself again. Two more weeks passed and I again made the decision to skip my practices for a few days because I became busy with the holidays. Again, not shortly after I felt incredibly unstable.

For a myriad of reasons I didn’t have a therapy appointment scheduled for several weeks. One day during work when I felt like I was completely unraveling, I called my PCP for an appointment to discuss anti-anxiety meds again. I received an appointment for me the next morning. I spent the evening online looking up various medications that I might ask about. I didn’t want to use Lexapro again and was fearful about gaining even more weight or losing that loving feeling again.

When my provider asked why I went off Lexapro, she asked me to consider Effexor (Venlafaxine). It’s not for everybody, but most patients don’t report weight gain or sexual side effects. I had nothing to lose.

The first evening I took Effexor I felt incredibly sick and disoriented. My husband said I looked and sounded drugged. The next morning I woke up feeling like I had a really terrible hangover. I was groggy, dizzy and nauseous. Sometime around dinner the next evening I didn’t feel dizzy if I wasn’t moving. I was able to eat. I was almost feeling normal by the time I was ready to take the next pill. The next pill brought the same side effects, but they were about half as bad as the evening before. The following day by lunchtime I felt as good as I did at dinner the previous evening. On the third morning I had some vertigo for just a few short hours. I have since experienced zero effects.

Exactly one week after beginning Effexor, I made a nice dinner for my husband and I. We enjoyed it with some wine. As we were cleaning up and getting ready to watch a movie, I was dancing around doing silly kicks and laughing. My husband said I looked and sounded really happy. To which I replied “You know what? I am!” He said it must be the wine. I laughed it off but thought about how we have wine often but I often don’t feel that way. I considered that it might be the meds. I hadn’t felt that good in a long, long time. Before I started “waking up”, having anxiety, questioning the second half of life, giving myself time to contemplate the trauma that I made myself too busy to think about…. I felt like my old self, minus all the stress.

The next day I realized I felt just as good. I felt good the day after that as well, and so forth for the next several weeks. Sometime in January I became busy again and starting skipping self-care. Like the previous experiences, I wasn’t myself. However, this time it took just two days of practice to feel good again. Then again two weeks later I skipped my self-care and practices three days in a row. Not surprisingly I fell right back into the hands of anxiety and stress. It was then I realized that I need to continue to make self-care a priority.

It’s been approximately 2 straight months since I have felt balanced without excessive anxiety. I continue to take Effexor, go to therapy and do the “work” and self-examination it takes to improve mental stability.

Thanks to the program I spent a month in last summer, yoga, and therapy – I’ve received the reinforced message that it is not only ok, but necessary to take care of yourself. I know some people take that too far, but for me taking it too far was never even close to an option. It was almost a necessary survival tactic to stay so busy that I would never have time to relive some of the trauma I was trying to avoid until my body was ready to process it. Instead of running from it, I’ve learned it’s not going to hurt me and sitting with it is the only way to get through it. Sitting with [dis]-ease has only become easier and helped me in all types of other areas of my life.

I still don’t have a magic answer for anyone looking for help. Lexapro was my start. I have my own personal combined strategy that is feasible and working for the time being. For anyone struggling with anxiety or depression – there is no magic pill. It has taken me two years to find something I can keep up with and works. I had to look to where it was coming from. For me that was a strain of PTSD. I had to figure out what works for my body. And I had to find a therapist that I really feels can understand the issues that I struggle with. I hope to sustain some level of sanity while I heal and deal with old issues that have plagued me. I truly am happy and feel more better and better each day. I trust there is something for everyone and it won’t look anything like what helps me. Like I said, unfortunately there really are no magic pills.

Anxiety vs Anxiety Disorders Infographic.png

Lexapro “Rollercoaster” Journal

 

Friday, January 13, 2017

8:53pm

Well… I just took my first reduced dose. Fingers crossed. It was an awesome medication. It did exactly what I needed. But now it’s time to stop.

 

Reason #1 weight gain. I gained 11 pounds since I started 10 months ago. 7 of those were in the past 4 months. My BMI is still only 23 point something but it’s disconcerting that week after week the scale goes up at least 1/2 lb. I was ok with it at first. I feel stronger than ever and have been more physically active and at the top of my physical fitness game than ever. But the past few weeks my clothes have been getting tighter and tighter. And that is not ok. I practically live in leggings and yoga pants now, but even those are getting tight. Super warning sign. I’ve been on amazing money saving kick. A whole new wardrobe to accommodate my fat Lexapro ass isn’t part of the plan.

 

Reason #2 is decreased libido. Not ok, I don’t feel like myself in that regard. Enough said.

 

I’ve been considering going off for a while. I knew I had an appointment today with my primary care provider. I had this appointment since last September. The side effects weren’t too bad until the last month of two. I wanted to get thru the holidays and settled with my new job. I wanted a good destressifying (likely not a real word) routine, the new VRBO property totally set and posted, a solid yoga/meditation/pranayama/mantra/daily spiritual practice set up. I have most of this now 90% there, but I need to admit to myself that realistically it’s probably not going to get better than this. I had an appointment today and decided to start tonight.

 

I’ve been reading online about the experience of going off. Brain zaps, depression, feeling out of it, head aches, nausea… to name a few. I’m ready for it. I’m done now. It did it’s job. It cleared my mind and helped me to see what I needed to do to live a more stress free life. And I did it! I’m proud. That life is in place as much as it probably will be and I’m ready to start this slow 6 week trickling down process.

 

Bring it on!

 

 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

5:45am

The morning of day 4. I have slept like a log since I was pregnant with Thomas over 20 years ago. The past few weeks with not having to get up everyday I have been sleeping 9-10 hours. It’s been amazing! But last night as tired as I was I couldn’t stay asleep more than 5-10 min at a time. Holy cow now. I didn’t even think to relate it to a withdrawal symptom until Daren mentioned it. Then I just came downstairs now and got this overwhelming sense of dizziness and nausea. I had to lay down. Ugh… I don’t want to feel like this.

 

Until last night I was going to journal about the good things I’ve felt so far. 3 namely and I have a hard time believing in the less than 48 hours that I cut back the dosage from 15 to 10mg that I can feel anything positive. But the first thing I noticed immediately was how less hungry I feel. Secondly Sun morning I woke up and my stomach felt flatter than it has since last summer. Despite not eating so well Sat night. And lastly I am having these incredible bursts of creative energy. I did so many things (recreational/income bearing) the past few days it’s not been like me since before I started experiencing symptoms of anxiety since before I met Daren.

 

But this morning sucks. I can hardly see the words I’m typing. I’m uncoordinated, dizzy, nauseous and exhausted. Not to mention incredibly UNmotivated or creative.

 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

3:40pm

Well… today I feel fabulous. Yesterday morning was the absolute pits. I had constant hot & cold flashes. I was so sick to my stomach & SO unbelievably tired. It was a hazard for me to be on the road. I didn’t want to call out sick. I only started my new job a few weeks ago. And I’m glad I didn’t because by about 8:30 I felt pretty normal. By noon I was 100% myself. Last night I took NyQuil because not only did I have post nasal drip that was keeping me up and restless the night before, but I didn’t want to chance not sleeping again. I of course slept long & deep. I didn’t wake up at all until the alarm. And once I did I felt so awake and rested. I was slightly concerned I would feel dizzy and sick standing up and moving about, but it never happened.

 

So far so good. I’m suppose to stay on 10mg for 2 full weeks, but my prescriber did say that was a slow wean and if I felt good I could speed it up. IF I’m still feeling this good by Fri eve I will consider going down to 5mg. That would be nice! I’ll see.

 

And one other amazing thing that I’m not sure is a coincidence, but the scale lowered 5 full pounds since last week. I wasn’t this light since last September. Fingers crossed it’s not a fluke!

 

Friday, January 20, 2017

7:42am

1 week on 10mg and other than a few hours of feeling sick on Tuesday I’ve had no other side effects.

 

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, the placebo effect, or something real; but I lost 6 pounds somehow in the past week and my creativity level KICKED up. Sunday morning I was suddenly inspired to really amp up my LLC. I was thinking about where I might be able to provide yoga (library, park, local businesses, etc)… when it dawned on me we have 340 rarely used completely finished space in our walk out basement. There is a bathroom & sauna attached. No overhead… what could I lose??? I immediately set to work playing with the website I paid for randomly on the fly back in Dec when I filed for the LLC and got in fire. My creative juices have been flowing ever since. I’m making crafts, finding new uses for things that otherwise would have been discarded.

 

My PCP said to do 2 weeks on 10mg and it’s really up to me if I feel ok to cut back to 5 a little sooner. 1 week seems like a nice number. Think tonight I will take only 5 and see what happens.

 

Wish me luck

 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

7:21pm

Day 9. So far so good. Feel steady, balanced, creative. 3 of those pounds came back, so somewhat of a fluke there, but otherwise I’m feeling great. Last week it was 4 days after I cut back I felt sick so I’m prepared this time just in case. I hope nothing sooner because I have a yoga dem/interview tomorrow eve and want to feel on my game. Starting up a yoga business and going off these mess at the same time may not have been my brightest idea, but so far it’s going smoothly. Yee hah!!!

 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

5:31pm

Day 11, but Day 4 on 5mg and not a single sign of sickness or withdrawal. I got that yoga gig last night right there on the spot. I start 3/1 on Wednesday evenings at 5pm. I have another interview tomorrow at a chiropractor’s office in Hamden. It’s Sarah’s provider and she mentioned her friend who teaches yoga. He wanted to meet me and asked her to have me call his assistant. I did and I’m going to see to what this might be about tomorrow. Wish me luck!!

 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

12:06pm

This is the first day I feel really crummy. I’ve been feeling crummy since Friday, but I thought it was because I didn’t get enough sleep. Yesterday I had that same tired feeling and I didn’t get the best night sleep, but today after a totally long restorative rest I still have that surreal kind of feeling like I haven’t slept. I’m dizzy and just overall slumpy.

 

I’ve been on only 5mg since last Friday last week. I took my last 5 Thursday night. Friday was the first night without Lexapro since last March. Last night I was totally on the fence with deciding if I should do one day on one day off for a week, but I’d love to just get this over with so I didn’t take it. Today I woke up feeling super yucky. I also woke up with anxiety. It is going in reverse for me in that what was happening to me when I started it is now happening to me in the reverse way. I had that feeling of my body having anxiety and my brain asking why. Before the lex at all my body & brain were in sink. Like day 2 they started to disconnect. I hope the next step on going off isn’t reconnection.

 

Once I noticed the feeling I immediately sat down and did some pranayama practice (breathing). It helped immensely for about 5 minutes and then I felt anxious again. I talked to Daren about how I was feeling and two particular things that were bugging me… and then I felt better. Until the headache started about an hour after that. He is now with Devin at a hockey game. I’ve been working on Tom’s room and the basement (moving stuff around & getting ready to paint the new little yoga studio). But I had to just stop. I’m so exhausted and dizzy. No more physical anxiety, just withdrawal side effects. This sucks because I have such will, but my body just isn’t cooperating. And the one thing I really learned this past year is to honor my body. At times it’s important to listen to the body or it will shut down on you. And other times it’s important to listen to the brain- like this morning when the body was anxious for no good reason. Maybe a nap will help. Koji got when I laid down in Tom’s room before I wrote this. He immediately jumped up and laid next to me- falling asleep instantly. He is my little buddy, following me around the house all day. I love this Stinky black doggie.

 

No weight gain or loss lately. I did get another gig with the chiropractor too! I start on 2/28 on Tuesday nights at 5pm. Very excited. Between the two classes I hope to fill in my home studio, these two I just signed up for this week, the one I teach at work, and the domestic violence volunteering I am finished taking on anything new. The VRBO site has suddenly picked up in the past week and I need to go down there in Friday’s to turn the house over between guests. I’m so excited to just get started on all these things. First guests this weekend and just a few loose ends to tie up. And I’m aiming to have a yoga open house next Sun. I just need to take a break right now and let my body recover/process out these meds.

 

Scared the anxiety will come back but I do feel strong enough to recognize it before it takes a hold of me and reach into my toolbox of things to combat it in the early stages. Worst case scenario is I got back on the Lexapro because I know it works.

 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

8:35am

The past few days have been a rollercoaster to say the very least. I cracked Monday afternoon. I took 5mg. And I feel better already. I feel a bit disappointed, but at the same time kind of thankful. It was a nice wake up call.

 

Sunday was the last time I journaled while laying down with Koji. I actually felt a lot better after that. I went down to the new studio area and started prepping the walls and taping so we could paint. About half way through I became super dizzy again. I finished up anyway and decided I need to stop for the day. I went to take a shower and just started feeling worse and worse. In the shower I felt overwhelmingly dizzy and nauseous. After I came out I couldn’t even get dressed. I didn’t want to. I grabbed a robe and laid down. I felt so out of it. Everything that touched me annoyed me. I had to even take the hair band off my wrist that I always wear because it felt so tight and constricting. I usually put lotion on the minute I come out of the shower because my skin is so dry; but I couldn’t imagine even adding moisturizer to my skin. Everything felt insane. My own skin was uncomfortable.

 

Daren came home from Devin’s hockey game just as I was laying down. He asked me how I felt and I just burst into tears. OK… I thought, here comes the full withdrawal experience. My husband was very sweet to me and said he wanted to paint. He asked if I would like to keep him company down there. I said yes, but it took me forever to go through the process of just putting on clothes. I went down to meet him and suddenly felt like I was starving. I could hardly move. Every time I turned my head the room spun behind me. But I gathered a bunch of random stuff to bring down to my trip to the basement. A bag of popcorn, edamame, chocolate chips and a cold IPA. Holy confusion. I couldn’t remember what I was doing one moment to the next.

 

Within a half an hour I felt better. There was a distinct 10-15 minute period where it felt like there were a serious of moments where a fog was just lifting and the world was becoming clearer and clearer. We warmed up some frozen homemade pasta sauce for dinner and boiled some pasta and I felt great. Maybe I had just gone through the worse of it. But not long after dinner when I was considering walking Koji, the thought seemed so laborious and I realized I was getting dizzy again. Oh well… I thought tomorrow is another day.

 

Monday morning I woke up & felt phenomenal. No head ache, no anxiety either in my body or mind. I thought I had this. I had my coffee, went through my normal morning routine and headed upstairs to get ready for work. While standing at the sink I started thinking about some unsolved blended family issues and things that happened over the weekend that we could have handled so much better with the kids, and all of a sudden my anxiety KICKED up. Body and mind this time, together. The whole shebang… The exact way I felt before I ever took Lexapro. The way I used to feel all the time. I noticed it right away and thought – if I can only talk to Daren and let him know that I’m anxious and tell him about what I’ll be ok. That is what I always wanted to do, just talk about an issue and work it out with my husband. I thought I would try….

 

No go. Daren doesn’t understand when I’m anxious. Even when I tell him. He says I’m too angry to talk to and I try so hard to explain that I’m not angry. There is such a difference I feel between those two emotions and I get even more anxious when he says I’m angry. My heart beats faster, my mind races faster. I shake internally. So it wasn’t a pleasant conversation. The moment my voice goes over a normal tone he fears the kids will hear us and tells me to quiet down. I never know how to handle that. I am so freakin’ anxious that speaking low is practically impossible, and not talking about what I’m anxious about seems even harder. He walked out the bedroom door. I was left in the same tizzy I felt all the time just less than a year ago.

 

I left to go to work. Now I was dizzy and nauseous again – lovely symptoms to add to my anxiety. As I was driving my mind was racing with confusion and then I just burst out crying. Then I was worried. Should I have done one day on – one day off of the meds? What if I go back? – will I experience all this all over again? Is it the withdrawal making me anxious or my anxiety making me anxious? Withdrawal symptoms do include anxiety.

 

What was clear to me was that I felt EXACTLY how I felt before I started the medicine. Same thoughts, same aggravation. In the midst of this worry, trying to decide if I should take a pill that night and crying… I didn’t realize the crying got worse and I started to hyperventilate. I noticed I was shaking, my heart was racing even faster and I had to pull over to the side of the road. I let myself cry and then I had a panic attack. Holy “s”… 3 nights off and I already had a panic attack.

 

I got to work and left by 9:30. I couldn’t stay. Everything started to calm down mentally but physically I was so dizzy and ungrounded. I went home and laid down on the couch and instead of sleeping, which my body was desperately pleasing for, I typed two long heart felt emails to Daren. After I sent them and I laid there, a cat on my legs and a dog on the floor next to me I realized too much of how I feel is just too closely related to how I felt before Lexapro. Even the act of writing and sending long explanatory emails was something I hadn’t done in a long time.

 

I slightly worried I would be someone who needs medicine for the rest of my life. That all the yoga and spiritual practices was a bunch of hooey and didn’t work. But then I considered the following:

 

1) I didn’t follow my provider’s instructions on tapering down. I felt so good I thought I could handle accelerating it on my own.

 

2) I wasn’t exercising lately or even walking at all. Not even walking the dog at night. I had been so busy with getting the rental home ready and working on things for the yoga studio that exercise had gone to the wayside.

 

3) In fact everything had gone to the wayside. I’m not eating well. I’m not doing my morning aryuvedic practices, my breathing practices, or meditating. And other than Michele’s Thu eve Yin class, I hadn’t taken anyone else’s yoga classes or done yoga outside of teaching it for weeks. I wasn’t even doing the hooey that I do know works for me.

 

4) Most importantly was that I didn’t completely deal with some of the stressors that caused me to tailspin last year. When I went to see my provider and told her I would like to go off the meds, she naturally asked me about why and what I’ve done to change things in my life so I can live without them. I told her about how I now work part time and I’m partaking in hobbies and investment activities that I absolutely love and fill me up rather than drain me. But then she asked about my blended family life. That was one of my chief complaints last year. I said it was better, which was true. But to be honest, nothing has changed. The Lexapro just numbed me to not care about it as much. And it took going off to realize that these things that I was stressed about when it comes to these issues are still there and very much alive. I didn’t work with Daren to collaborate on the best way to deal with things – and it was the first thing to come creeping back just 3 days later.

 

Without doing any exercise, spiritual practice, or dealing with one of the largest contributors of my stress; I’m not sure why I thought I could live anxiety free now. Monday afternoon I got up off the couch and took 5mg. I wanted to get set and in a comfortable routine again before going cold turkey. I wasn’t ready. I have been neglecting the life style and practices I put in place to feel better, and took to working equally as hard but on different things. I also now know what Daren and I have to work through with the blended family issues. I want to stay on 5mg until I have these things under control. It was my provider’s only concern, and she was right.

 

I struggled emotionally all through Monday- day and night. Yesterday I woke up and felt COMPLETELY anxiety free physically and mentally. But I still had some obnoxious withdrawal symptoms. Namely the dizziness. That has been the worse for me. I was describing to a friend on Monday that it feels like I haven’t slept – and although eating, drinking tea, laying down, even trying to sleep seem like they might help; nothing helps. It’s such an uncomfortable feeling.

 

And today after my 2nd dose of 5mg last night, I almost feel completely normal. A little queasiness, but overall so so so much better. I know what I need to work on and what I need to do in my life to remain mostly stress free. Going off for just 3 stinking days helped me to see that.

 

I share this because when I have questions about what is normal and what isn’t; and when I feel like I am derailing and I look to the Internet in desperation for any sign of anyone or any institution who understands… I find little only nuggets here and there of anything I can relate to. I share this because maybe it can be someone else’s nugget. Whether you do know me in real life or not, I’m not as perfect and put together as I might always look. But like all humans I try to show up in the world the best I can, and in general that me who shows up is a pretty happy person who wants to help and connect with others through my own passions and experiences.

 

5mg is my magic little helper for now. I know when I try to go off again when I decide I’m ready to try again in a few weeks or months, I will go through some of the side effects again. But maybe this time I’ll be a little smarter about doing the things that help me feel better & actually listen to how my provider tells me to do it. And if I’m a person who needs this forever – maybe I should just accept that and not fight the tide. We’ll see!

 

Peace, Esterina

 

Running 

Monday, July 18, 2016 around 8:15pm

Daren and I are on a small little puddle jumper plane to Toronto enroute to Vancouver for the week for a conference of his. We have been rushing all afternoon to make this flight. Once we arrived at the gate it was delayed. We grabbed a quick bite of some apps and an IPA only to learn the plane was leaving on time somehow. We rushed back to the gate and jumped on the plane. I was stressing the whole drive home from work today realizing how poorly my organization treats its employees. I don’t know if I want to work for an organization like that any longer. As soon as we sat down in our seats I was incredibly thirsty and had severe indigestion from scarfing down unhealthy food and rushing around. Then as soon as the plane took off and my body started to vibrate, it was like a wave of emotions were free to course through my body. I started to sob uncontrollably below the sound of the loud engines and had my first panic attack in the last 5 weeks. Daren held me tight and stroked my hair asking me to talk to him. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure what was wrong. Finally he asked if it was those jokers at work and I realized it was. My job really got to me today. Upon that realization I broke down even more, now aware of what it was. The release of pent up emotions was a welcome relief to the burden of stress that was building up over the past week. Daren encouraged me to think about leaving my job again. And then he pointed out the beautiful sunset that we were flying right into at the moment. Literally right now I am flying off into the sunset. Is it time for a change?

Wednesday, July, 20, 2016 8:33am

Just taking a break after a 3 mile run on a beautiful pedestrian pathway in Vancouver, BC. What a beautiful morning. The temperature is only 62 degrees. I’m sitting on the water in Stanley park. I’m so lucky to be alive and have this opportunity to explore a new city and travel. As I was running I was thinking about the Gwen Stefani song “Running”. It’s playing in my mind now. One day back in April on the way home from work, I heard this song for the first time in years, and for some reason it made me cry. I thought about Daren and how since the moment I met him we have been literally running. The pace of my life picked up 10 fold and not all for good reason or measure. My stress started to grow then. And it accumulated until I literally crashed and fell down after 6 years now. Blending a family is not easy. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and it has both broken and built us. We are stronger than ever has as individuals and a couple but the path was an ugly and very difficult one. I wish someone would have told me how difficult it was going to be and assisted us through the changes we were inevitably going to go through. It’s really time to stop running. Can I possibly help other new divorcees navigate a new marriage? What does the future hold for me?

As I was jogging this morning I was also thinking about the term way finder. It popped into my mind yesterday when Daren and I were walking around the city talking about my job and other potential opportunities to explore. I have been feeling as if I’m on the cusp of something new for a few months now. I’m in no rush to make hard and fast decisions about what new might be because I’m enjoying this journey of self discovery so much. The one decision that was clear to me yesterday however was that I need to stay at my job for now and continue to fight for an alternative work schedule. Not just for myself, but for others who will need this after me in the days to come.

I remember one summer when I was a preteen and my aunt Fran and grandmother took my brothers, cousins and I to Seaside Heights on the Jersey shore. During sunset walking toward the one upside down roller coaster on the beach my cousin Camille and I were determined to ride, we passed one of those palm reader booths on the boardwalk. My cousin pointed it out as we walked a little closer and was talking about what she knew about palms. The palm reader herself was standing at the door. As my cousin was talking, the lady looked right at me and through me. She said “Your eyes… You are an Indigo child”. I had no idea or care what that meant and hadn’t thought about it much that day or until a few years ago. In 2012 I started to spiritually awaken. It’s a whole experience and story in and of itself, but I did learn in the metaphysical sense that an Indigo child is a way finder and someone who fights for what they believe in if it will better society. I don’t want in any way to label myself or be anything, but I do identify with seeing past the surface and having a feeling about what is incredibly the right thing to do. I want to go the mat for the alternative work schedule option that employees have the right to be considered for. And I want this experience to propel me to perhaps take charge of my life in other ways and tap into my talents and deep rooted things that I love.

When I was 18 and was a week away from graduating boot camp, I once again found myself on the Jersey shore, this time at Wildwood. My company (X-ray 144) was out on a day of liberty in our uniforms enjoying the boardwalk in late September 1994. I was walking again on the boardwalk with my closest shipmate from boot camp. Her name was Cindy and we just met a few weeks before in MEPS on 8/8/94. We ended up getting stationed with on the USCGC Boutwell and driving across the country together. That late September day Cindy convinced me we should see a Palm reader. We separately went in and had our palms read. I walked out thinking none of what the gypsy predicted would be possible. She said I would be getting married soon to someone I hadn’t met yet. I would have two marriages in my life and I would successfully own my own business. I had a boyfriend in high school at the time I had no intention of breaking up with anytime soon. I did not want to ever experience a divorce and I certainly didn’t want my own business. I have watched my parents and grandmother struggle with their own businesses and never having health insurance or vacation days and I didn’t want that. It was why I joined the military. But… A few weeks later I met my first husband. We married when I was 19 and had two children within the next few years.

A few years down the road In my early 20s, I was back in Long Island visiting my family and my mother had somehow become involved with an eccentric group of individuals and kept asking me to go get my palm read. I didn’t go, but she somehow talked my brother Frankie into going while I was still visiting. Frankie came back and told me the women mentioned me a lot during his palm reading. Me?? How odd. She asked if he had a sister and talked about how I thought I was above other people and fight for things. I was rather insulted by this woman who never even laid eyes on me. He also threw in there that she said I would have my own business. Even stranger. Frankie seemed equally insulted. He said he told her clearly you don’t know my sister. She is one of the most humble people I know and she hates the idea of owning a business, even though he himself has encouraged me to think about such a thing (what we were taught as kids). Funny… I never thought myself to be someone who would grow a backbone and think it’s ok to be different to fight for what I believe in and not sit back quietly with the others. I’m not afraid to put my life or job or anything on the line to do the right thing. And I did end up in a second marriage. So far these crazy gypsy predictions have been spot on. What’s next?

A way finder? A business owner? Tapping into my loves and talents. The world and possibilities are endless. I did end up in a second marriage. With an awesome partner that fought right through the hard times with me, and is just as open as I am about trying new things and taking risks for something you are passionate about. To do that and explore it I personally need to slow down and enjoy this most amazing journey and gift of life. I’ll continue to run for exercise and keep the old ticker in shape, but no more in my life. Thank you panic attacks for being my warning signal about what I can handle and helping me to stop and literally see the gorgeous sunset I’m flowing right into as my life is changing in the most beautiful ways.

So many people have been a part of my life for a reason and I’m thankful for every single one of them. These days I’m the most thankful for my husband. For with him I am most inspired and feel free and loved and able to get through this crazy fun amazing world.

Slower is better. Time is really our enemy. Time and money, separation, being on the run…. (Thanks Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon!) I could write a whole book about the meaning of that album, maybe some other day. For now I need to run back 3 miles to the hotel and shower to enjoy my super slow in no rush to get anywhere day, while I continue my journey of contemplating how to be my best self in the world using what I have been given by this beautiful and expansive universe. Namaste.

No Doubt lyrics (because they inspired me to stop, sit on a bench and write this morning while on a long jog)

Run, running all the time

Running to the future

With you right by my side

 

Me, I’m the one you chose

Out of all the people

You wanted me the most

And I’m so sorry that I’ve fallen

Help me up, let’s keep on running

Don’t let me fall out of love



Running, running, as fast as we can

Do you think we’ll make it?

(Do you think we’ll make it?)

We’re running, keep holding my hand

So we don’t get separated

 

Be, be the one I need

Be the one I trust most

Don’t stop inspiring me

 

Sometimes it’s hard to keep on running

We work so much to keep it going

Don’t make me want to give up

 

Running, running as fast as we can

I really hope we make it

(Do you think we’ll make it?)

We’re running, keep holding my hand

So we don’t get separated


The view I’m seeing as I write this while sitting on a dedicated bench. Thank you Jean Mary Kendall Eligh and your family. I have enjoyed a piece of your memory today. ☮