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/

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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

 

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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

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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. ☮

 

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Lexapro 100 day journal

Wow… 100 days. I went to see my primary care provider this afternoon for a follow-up on my anxiety and refill on my SSRI. I noted to myself that I have not journaled in a long time about my experience with Lexapro and came home to do so. I put the date I started and today’s date into Excel to see how many days it’s been – since I completely lost count; and to my utter surprise it’s 100 days exactly today. I feel like things are under control. I get anxious occasionally and I did have a panic attack last Wednesday at work. But the last time before that I had a panic attack was 5 weeks prior to then, but it was an incredibly stressful morning. As I told my provider this afternoon, I almost need to feel slightly anxious every so often because it’s my body’s trigger to slow down. If I went up any more on my dose I might not feel anxious at all and push myself too far. I’m in a good place.

And slow down I have! I am smelling the roses. I catch myself unnecessarily trying t o beat the clock for no good reason and I stop to consciously appreciate the present moment, no matter how unpleasant (except for traffic… I have NOT mastered feeling ok with the present in traffic). I am on my back deck. I can hear the trees blowing in the wind. I am not taking appreciating life for granted. I hope I always feel this way. I’m going to try to make an effort because life is better slower and in gratitude. I spent the day weeding the garden with my feet in the dirt. I thought about weeds and good and evil & cleaning/purging and how we need to do that with our minds by meditating reguarly. You can’t weed on occasion and expect weeds will not grow. You can’t clean every so often and think your home will not get dirty. As above so below – you cannot meditate every once in a while and expect to walk around with a clear head and zen outlook.

I loved the journey since I started medication. Someone told me to journal about it and I did. I was so afraid to start my medication. I kept the meds a few days before I began and read about it online obsessively. I was afraid of not feeling like myself. A girl wrote about how she had been on Lexapro for a year. She was artsy and creative and had incredible mood swings before she started the drug. She said she drew and painted so much more passionately before she started and now wondered if she should go off and be her real self again. That scared me. But the 5-10% of people or so who had good things to say, and didn’t have a nightmare of an experience said they were glad to actually feel like their old self again. That is what I wanted. I like being passionate & creative and all that jazz, but I did want to feel like myself. What would be the worse thing? It would be a nightmare and I’d go off and be in the same place I was? My biggest fear was losing myself, but actually – I found myself again. And I’m all the better for it.

 

March 16, 2016; 10:16pm

And here goes 

About to take my first dose of lexapro. I may be miserable the next few days and worse off. I’m officially someone diagnosed with a mental health condition and I need meds. I pray it works because I so desperately want to feel better. This may be the last of the real Esterina. I love myself. I’m sorry I lost it. I will be better. And here goes…

 

March 18, 2016; 5:44pm 

Lexapro – Day 2

I am a person who is in touch with themselves. Deeply. I can already feel a difference. This morning when I woke up, it was the first time I woke up and didn’t have the sense of impending doom looming over me in a long time. It was amazing! But I know it’s not working yet because after a few minutes of lying in bed I started my normal anxiety. Only this time it felt different. I was short of breath, but somehow it wasn’t causing pain in my head. It was like it was cut off from my head or something. Then I read a text from Daren that he sent last night. I could hardly see it. The words and font looked kind of different, smaller if anything and a little sharper. I went down to the kitchen and prepared a fresh juice. I went back upstairs to reply to Daren’s texts. It wasn’t until he started making rigmarole plans with different pick-ups and hockey bags and complicated collaboration that the anxiety really started. Only it didn’t even come close to a panic attack. 

Today at work I was able to focus. Focus on one thing at a time. Not as well as I’d like but I was SO SO SO productive. It was crazy! I had energy I hadn’t had in years. Is this what drugs really do? No wonder these are prescription drugs. I almost want to up my dose to the 10 I’m not supposed to start until at least Sunday, but I’ll hold off. 

Driving home felt good. Usually I’m numb and kind of miserable. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I was happy, but I was pretty ‘unmiserable’. 

I laughed like I did when I was younger twice in the past two days. Once about an hour after I took my first pill. I immediately felt a sense of chill about 5-10 minutes later. I did have a few margaritas with Gretchen and Lucy earlier in the evening. I know I’m not supposed to drink and take this, but I didn’t want to say no to hanging with them, especially while Daren was away and I haven’t seen them in so long. And I was suffering SO much with anxiety I didn’t want to wait even another day until I started the journey. So I took it that night. I felt a little chill as I drifted off into bed. I thought back to the day and remembered a funny incident at work. Haha!!! I couldn’t stop laughing. It was like when I was a kid or teenager before I got married and had kids… when I’d laugh all the time. Then yesterday the same thing happened in a meeting. It was a construction meeting and one of the police officers was describing an area that someone requested we do construction in. He was describing the half wall they were asking for and the reason being he said was… he didn’t know the medical term – but it was to give the patients a “shot in the buttocks”. OMG, I started laughing but stopped. I was holding back – I mean this is a professional meeting & all right? I’d heard this shot in the butt story before. Then when someone else was referring to it a few minutes later and he said “to give these shots in the butt” I started laughing again. And like when I was young. I knew it was inappropriate but I was giggling uncontrollably anyway. I couldn’t stop and it was almost embarrassing. Everyone looked at me when I really busted up. With tears streaming down my face. I said “I’m so sorry I’m laughing about this like a 5 year old”. And they all started laughing too. It felt so good. It felt like me raw. What’s funny is that it is me raw. I guess that is what it feels like to have my brain more in balance. 

I NEVER really time off from work. But over the past year or two I’ve probably taken between 6-8 mental health days with some other excuse. I always felt guilty as if I was cheating the system or something. I do it so nicely too. I make sure my work is done, my meetings are covered, I often get online & work throughout the day and answer questions. But overall I felt guilty. Truth is though, I do have a mental health condition and needed those mental health days. My reactions and feelings aren’t normal. I truly am suffering. It took having my first panic attack to realize how unstable I felt. While I don’t treasure them, I do in some way for getting me to realize I really was at a breaking point and needed help. I need help. It feels good to say that. And as long as this medication keeps improving and there are little to no (and fingers crossed for no) side effects then I’m SO happy I’m taking the steps to feel mentally healthy again. I cried coming home from the doctor when the med was prescribed. I felt like a loser. Now I don’t. I read somewhere where someone wrote coming out with a mental health disorder to other people felt worse than coming out of the closet. I felt like I could sympathize. I stared at the bottle. I read the instructions for a medicine the first time ever. I read everything I could get my hands on online about Lexapro. I was scared. When I finally made the decision to start taking it I was kind of excited and not scared anymore. I’m glad I waited the time out because now it feels right. Fingers crossed it’s only on the up & up from here. I want to be me again. 

March 21, 2016; 5:35am 

Lexapro – Day 5

Tired is all I can say. I have no energy. Saturday morning I woke up in full on Fight or Flight mode, only my thoughts were rational and I didn’t try to figure out what was the matter with or try to talk to Daren about all that is wrong in our lives & the world. It was just obvious that my body was reacting to absolutely nothing and I had to let it ride out. My mind didn’t follow it. It was nice, but unsettling. I can’t believe the medication would work so quickly. Saturday late afternoon when I went to take a shower, about 2 minutes into it I was hit a giant wave of exhaustion. Crazy exhausted. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make it out of the shower safely. I did though. Daren came up and made sure I was able to get dressed. Then I went downstairs to the couch and kind of didn’t move most of the night. I got up for about 15 min to eat dinner, but had to lay back down. I slept for about 2 hours before dinner. Then again through most of the movie we watched. Sat night I know I looked at the clock before I fell into a deep sleep in bed, and it was 10:50. I woke up at 7:50, a full 9 hours later! But I was still tired. Saturday evening I switched from 5mg to 10mg. I was expecting to wake up with some wooziness and nausea, but didn’t. I was just super lethargic.

I forced myself out of bed and downstairs for some green tea. Stupidly Daren and I started our quarterly detox too. Probably a bad idea to be detoxing and starting a new medication. I started to gain some energy around noon. I made all the dinners for the week and cleaned up the kitchen & house a bit. Then I took Koji on a very mild 2 mile walk. But when I came home I was exhausted again. I went to take a shower (a very quick one because no one was home and I was afraid I’d fall asleep in there). Then I went to the couch. I couldn’t really fall asleep and I had no motivation to do anything. I had a mini panic attack. I’m not even sure why. I was incredibly depressed and crying on the couch. I was thinking about putting real clothes on today to go to work (no yoga pants) and it just made me so sad. I felt like I couldn’t deal with life. At that time I felt pangs of anxiety, but nothing fight or flight like within me. It was more like depression to be honest. No beating heart or doom & gloom thoughts. I got up to eat and right back to the couch. Until bed. I slept like a log. I had a hard time getting up for work today, but here I am.

 I feel drugged up. I really do. My motor skills are slower than usual. I’m SO tired. I can’t say enough about how little energy I have. And I’m really hungry. Don’t know if it’s the meds or the detox, but just hungry. I hope this wears away. I’m having a hard time caring about anything, especially work. I hope this balances out. Good vibes & lots of love.

 

March 25, 2016; 5:40am

Lexapro – Day 9

I’ve been SO depressed. I had no energy the past few days. I have been FORCING myself to walk. I drank pink wine & had chocolate last night. I had such forceful cravings. I should be getting my period so that might be it too. Plus I have heard Lex can make your anxiety and depression a little worse. I’ve felt my body in fight or flight a LOT, but my mind has not always taken me there. It has a few times. It’s been a rough few days since I’ve last written. 

Today I’m feeling great so far. I’ve only been up a for a little bit though. I got up & stretched and I put on a mask and gave myself a mani & pedi. I feel good. I feel solid. I still feel anxiousness in my head, but I just feel happy. I want to stay here (as I know everyone does). I NEED to work peace and meditation into my day everyday. It helps. I feel good. Namaste.

 

March 28, 2016; 12:24pm

Lexapro – Day 12

I had an absolutely terrible weekend at first. I mean terrible. I felt great on Friday. Like my old self. I was productive at work as I was the Friday before. I had a beer Friday night at the Wolfpack game and felt ok for a while. I started feeling a little depressed and by the time we got home I wanted to kill someone. I was so anxious about our ridiculous lives. None of the kids were supposed to be with us, but 3 of them suddenly were. I fell asleep right away but woke up to Kieran taking a shower at 12:15 in the morning. His mother left his belongings behind my car earlier that evening, and then Gabby ran them over while we weren’t home when she borrowed my car. She had to have the neighbors come over and help bail the crap out from under the car. Once I woke up and couldn’t fall back to sleep my blood started to boil and my anxiety kicked in. I lost it. I had a panic attack. The next morning on the couch I had another. Overall I’m not really feeling better yet. Today at work I haven’t really done a thing this morning. I’m so completely unmotivated. I know that doctors sometimes prescribe Xanax or something for breakthrough panic until the SSRI starts to kick in. I’m in a weird place. I have my fingers crossed this works. Every passing day I hope I’m one day closer. I did have the energy to get up & do some yoga stretching this morning.

 I know I sound a little rambly. I can’t wait to have motivation again. I did have it on Friday. Today I’m moving in slow motion. I was better this morning. I even did my 5 minutes of meditation that I always intend to do. I did it on Friday too. I really did give me a good sense of peace and inner stillness. Just now I’m SO tired. I’m tired. I’m not doing anything useful for the world. I don’t know what to say. I want to feel better. I just want to feel better. I really do.

 

March 30, 2016; 5:32am

Lexapro – Day 14

One thing I have been forgetting to mention is the very realistic dreams. People seem to use the word vivid but to me they just seem real. Like it’s real life and I wake up confused about whether or not something actually happened.

One of the things that recently happened to me last Tuesday is that several of my pills went down the sink. I ordered a pill box so that wouldn’t happen. It had 4.5 stars on Amazon so I chose it. It came on Friday (I think… maybe Saturday?) and I’ve been using it ever since. I’m not completely impressed with it. I just thought it would be easier than twisting off that terrible cap every time. Then last night I dreamt of this pill box. The days of the week wouldn’t close. The pills were falling out all in my make-up bag. I thought to myself that I needed to write a bad review and in my mind I thought as a consolidation the company would be mailing me a new one. I wasn’t going to get another one, I was just going to put the pills in a plastic bag instead. Vivid dreams. Realistic really.

 

April 1, 2016; 5:21am

Lexapro – Day 16

Yesterday was the first day I felt good all day. I think waking up & doing yoga first thing had something to do with it. I’ve also been meditating every morning at work for 5 minutes before starting the day. I’ve been opening the the window and looking out. Hearing the sounds of West Haven waking up. Feeling the cool morning air. Even the day it was raining. It was nice. Today I am in Newington. There is no window. I will try to meditate anyway at 8:15 when morning report starts and I know no one will bother me. 

Yesterday I felt kind of normal or what I imagine other people feel as normal. I caught myself catching my breath a few times and taking deep sighs, but I didn’t try to follow my body to why I felt stressed and just kept saying to myself that I shouldn’t water the weeds (of thoughts). It helped yesterday. It doesn’t always. Hopefully it’s the lex and then hopefully I can remap my brain to do that all the time.

This morning was the first time in 2 weeks that I woke up and didn’t have stress coursing through my veins with my heart beating. I’m trying not to think too much about it because it can go any second, AND thinking about it causes more stress usually. Please God/Universe/Almighty…. I need a clear mind. Peace. Tranquility.

 

April 4, 2016; 5:40pm

Lexapro – Day 19

Today I feel really good. Saturday I felt overall nothing. Not depressed. Not happy. Just nothing. Unmotivated too. I kind of did almost nothing. I did change out my summer and winter clothes though. Not having the feeling of being too attached to doing anything else or the outcome helped me to just concentrate on what I was doing and do it well. Time flew by. It was kind of nice and it felt nice to look back and see the progress I made with the clothes change. Something simple and it made me feel accomplished. Then for some reason on the way down to Shannon’s wine party later that afternoon, listening to music I perked up. I perked up so much I was singing to the music. It felt nice. After that I went out with Mirta and Elizabeth. We went to J. Timothy’s. I was kind of mellow. I feel like I’m losing my mind sometimes. I feel duller somehow.

Yesterday I woke up pretty motivated. We slept in until after 9 I think. A good night’s sleep felt really nice. I didn’t do much of anything yesterday at all. I made a few foods in the morning to prep for the week. I took my time. Again not being attached to an outcome feels nice. Then I touched up all the white trim around the house. Sometime in the morning while cooking, most of us were at home but all split up doing various things around the house. I was suddenly incredibly motivated to talk to Kieran and Devin about odd blended family situation. What I’m forgetting to write is that on Friday right after I wrote in here Daren copied me on an email to his ex. She was vague about Keiran’s plans so I asked to clarify something. Well…. she went nuts and spouted back that I’m the step-parent and there is no reason I should communicate about her kids plans. I just wrote back again and said I’d like to know what is going on in my own house.

One of the main things I’m learning about myself is that a situation doesn’t bother me as it’s happening; it’s usually down the road hours or a few days later that I’m affected. I think it was because it was how I coped with domestic violence as I was growing up. At the time of an unpleasant experience I am strong and normal. Only later do I allow myself to process. So, as I was happily cooking Sunday morning, I started to process what felt like an unnecessary attack on Friday. I was in a good mood and just felt like I could talk to the kids. Daren was supposed to come home sooner than I thought with Devin so I was kind of waiting for them. But a lot of time passed and I didn’t have the opportunity when I was ready to talk it so I missed it. I really wanted to air things out though, so I thought I would write down everything I wanted to talk to them about and chat together after dinner. Then I thought the kids might get upset and misconstrue my words, so I thought I’d send an email ahead of time so there were no misinterpretations. I thought about what I might write for hours while I cooked and painted. I finally sat down and the thoughts were just pouring out of me. I imagined their mom one day reading it in case they got upset and forwarded it to her, so I was very PC.

 When I was finished, I felt spent. I sent it to Daren first for his advice. I had no idea how he would react. I asked him to read it and disappeared to take a shower. I felt a huge release and a little panicky. I think a few weeks ago before the lexapro I might have had a panic attack. But I didn’t. I did feel shaky though. Daren came upstairs after my shower to tell me that it was beautiful and that I should sent it right away. I did. Then he told the boys to read it. Kieran did, Devin had some kind of mishap with receiving it. We kind of openly talked about a few things after dinner after Gabby left the table. Then I left Daren and Kieran to talk while I took Koji out for a walk. I know I left the door open for them to talk about some stuff more openly than likely they ever have since I’ve known them at least.

 After that I was kind of numbish again. It’s nice to be numb. I thought I would be upset not feeling so hard, but it’s kind of peaceful. This morning I woke up with more energy than I’ve had in long time. I did about 15 minutes of yoga, no meditation. Had coffee. Actually listened to music again & sang! And I’ve been moderately motivated at work. Not as much as I normally am, but much more than last week. That’s how I am! Thanks for listening.

 

April 7, 2016; 5:56pm

Lexapro – Day 22

I’m so so so tired of not feeling like myself. I’m tired of feeling blah and uninspired. I’ve been escaping with reading. I don’t want to deal with my bullshit life. I don’t know what to do anymore.

I’m not doing well. I can’t say this medication is working. I had no control over my mind today or my emotions. What can I say?

 

April 22, 2016; 5:21am

Lexapro – Day 37

Let today be the start of something new. It’s earth day. We had a beautiful full moon last night & now one this morning. I’ve felt good the past few days. I want to somehow get out of working at the VA, at least full time. I know it doesn’t work for me anymore and I’m just not that interested in the politics of it anymore. Not sure what to do. Wish me luck in discovering whatever it is.

 

April 27, 2016; 12:49pm

Lexapro – Day 42

What inspired me to write is the walk I just took. I’m walking much faster and with much more gusto. I have been walking since 2003 at lunch nearly every day in rain, snow or shine. I have been walking with gusto for years. I never stopped walking, but I did stop walking with gusto. I still took the stairs, but never with conscious thought anymore. Walking the stairs made me pant. I’m not panting anymore 🙂 I don’t even know when that happened :-). I can’t smile enough about this.

 Everything else in my life stayed the same. It’s my body that is different and calmer. I am enjoying the little things more. Things that used to stress me out matter a bit less, but excitingly enough I’m more excited and engaged with them if that makes any sense.

 What likely stopped me from completely falling to pieces are the good habits that I had already. Like taking the stairs, walking daily. Getting up early to stretch and having a quiet cup of coffee. Eating fairly well. I had lost any and all motivation. I hated doing all those things. But the act of doing them out of habit helped me not to delve into a downward spiral. I’m proud of myself for not giving up and just going through the motions even though I wasn’t there and couldn’t care less about it. It still helped even though I couldn’t feel it at the time.

 All else is ok. I am not loving my job like I never had before. Not since the early days in the Coast Guard as a non-rate have I stared at the clock and mentally counted the hours and minutes until I would get to leave. It’s been a while. It kind of stinks. I liked being engaged more, but I feel a call to do something more. I wrote about my experience with stress in my blog esterinaanderson.com. It was cathartic. I had it posted to facebook. I’m not sure if I already journaled this or not, so I may be repeating myself – lol. Just wanted to catch up. 6 weeks. Feeling good.

 

May 12, 2016; 12:37pm

Lexapro – Day 57

Happy happy lunch break. It’s been a while since I’ve written about my lex experience regularly these days. I’ve been feeling better. My physical anxiety has not gotten better – only mental. I can think so much more clearly. The biggest thing I did yesterday was actually write to my acting boss & the director to ask to work part-time and if that’s not possible I understand that they will have to replace me. I basically said in a very nice way it’s part-time or I just can’t. I told them about my stress. I told them it sounds like I’m sharing something personal but I’ve shared it publicly. I haven’t heard back yet, but I do have an appointment (requested by the director himself) for today at 2pm. It has to be about my email I imagine.

The strange thing is that I’m not worried about this meeting at all. What is the worst thing that can happen? They fire me and I stay home & relax and garden, take care of Koji, read, cook dinners for the family, pick up kids who need rides. Shop for our food and not have it delivered? Clean my own house & not have a service come?  Like normal people… 

I can think about opening a yoga studio and start an hour bank in my town. I’m still fairly young, I have skills that are worthy, and I have motivation to do good for the world. If I can’t do it at my job where I’d like to, I’ll do it somewhere else. That I know for sure.

In some weird way, I’m really oddly not tied to the outcome as much as I may have once been. Is it the lexapro? The yoga?  My intentions I’m a bit better about setting? I don’t know… but I’m happy and I threw something out there that I can’t take back, and whatever happens it won’t be what I’m doing now… and that makes me SO happy. Hugs & lots of love to all beings.

 

June 24, 2016; 7:51pm

And as I read back through all of this and previously journaled day 100; I’m in an awesome place. I still don’t know what’s going on with my job! I’m working 3 days a week for now, but don’t know if it will be in my current position or any myriad of possibilities. Who knows? I’m ready for anything! It’s been a while since 3/16 when I journaled “here goes”. No regrets! For anyone ever wondering if it’s worth its, for me… it was.

 

March 29, 2018; 1:14pm

The story didn’t end here. I no longer take this medication. It’s been a journey… And I’m in a better place because of it. Lexapro Journal (Continued)

 

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The connection and beauty of two negative recent events in my life 

I have a deeper appreciation for life and moving about throughout the day, as I’ve never had before. Two things happened in the past few months that helped me to come to this realization. I started taking an SSRI and I had outpatient knee surgery. Two different things for completely different reasons, but in all honesty both were because I was moving through life too quickly and absentmindedly. Both have completely slowed me down and fattened me up (just a little!) And it’s not all a bad thing.

Back in March I literally lost my marbles and thankfully became completely aware that fooling myself into sleeping more or doing more yoga or meditating more often were going to be my cure. Truthfully, I was unable to do any of those things anymore where I was able to enjoy them. Yoga while it felt good physically did not slow my thoughts or help me to ‘just be’ like it used to. Meditation was a joke. My old tricks for going within and being still did not work any longer. I sat there diligently, but was unable to stop the racing in my head.

I did all I could to keep up with my life. I was (and still am) the most organized person I know. Trust me when I say that everything was as efficient as can be. No time management tips would help, I would read them and feel like I could write a better article and even had tips for the author. Stretched thin. No room for error. One miscommunication between a family member and the whole string of well planned events and pick-ups would fall apart. No way to live.

A few days before the marble losing I went to a routine Thursday morning report out for my organization’s senior leadership. As usual I prepared at the last minute, was in a rush, but put together something beautiful and well coordinated. I went into the usual conference room. My employee pulled up the presentation while I pulled up my rolling chair under the dark large oval wooden conference room table. SLAM! I hit my right knee really hard on one of the legs of the table. All around oohs, ouches, “I heard that”, “you didn’t need that knee, haha” went around. I shrugged it off and trekked on. About 24 hours later I was meeting with my small department of 4 and realized my knee hurt. I wondered why as I plowed through a packed, quick agenda. As I was talking and rubbing my knee I remembered that I hit it the day before and slightly wondered why it took so long to hurt. That night we went out to dinner with some friends at a ski lodge and it hurt even more.

The next day Daren and I went into NY city for the evening and we were so busy and so stressed that I didn’t have time to think about my knee. It was the next morning that seemingly out of no where I had my first well overdue panic attack. While I cried the whole way home I did notice my knee hurt, but it wasn’t until past 9pm the next night while getting ready for bed that I even noticed how swollen and red it was. Daren was at a hockey practice, I wanted him to look at it, but I was asleep before he even got home.

Long story short, the next few weeks were filled with panic attacks and knee aspirations. The panic got worst faster. I realized I had to start medicine. I had no where else to cut back. And have you ever tried “relaxing” while in a non-stop adrenaline rush? If you haven’t, take my word that it doesn’t work. I noticed once I started the SSRI how often my body was in fight or flight while my brain started to calm down. Wow, I lived like this all the time? Head starting to chill, body still reacting to outside stressors and knee getting worse.

I first went to a walk in urgent care 5 days after the impact where I was urged to watch my knee for a few days. Don’t run on it, don’t lean on it, call the orthopedist in a week if it doesn’t get better. It didn’t stop swelling, but it stopped hurting. So I didn’t listen and ran on it and did yoga on it and didn’t call the orthopedist for 3 weeks. Who has time for this? At first I was getting it aspirated every two weeks and I would wonder if I should even go back because the swelling stayed down… at least of course a day or two before my next scheduled appointment. Then it started to swell sooner and I was going for weekly knee drains. The 2nd to last time I went, it was swollen when I took my bandage off the same night. And the next time I went to the orthopedist I nearly fainted from the lightheartedness of the doctor trying to massage the fluid out of my knee into the needle. Nothing was coming out anymore. Some kind of wall built up in my knee and no routine procedures were going to help it any longer. I needed to consider surgery or live with this wall that created a big puffy golf ball knee.

It’s funny because I feel like the knee mirrored a really rapid physical rendition of the mental decomposition that I experienced over the past few years. I was in too much of a rush, not paying attention, & unknowingly hurting myself. Then ignoring all of the early warning signs and doing the least amount possible to tend to a deteriorating condition because I was busy, I had important things to do damn it. Until I hit a wall both mentally at first and then one actually built up in my knee. An impenetrable wall that needed medical interventions to break down. Both happened within days of each other. It wasn’t until I really had no choice but to live with the pain or deal with it medically that I realized my decisions to live like I do is harming me. My body is all I have, why wasn’t I taking care of it?
I had some medication adjustments, a rough few weeks. Far and fewer panic attacks. And finally outpatient knee surgery last Monday. I’m not believing that I am a changed woman yet, but I’ve had the MOST relaxing weeks of my life.

Since March I have rediscovered the library. I’ve been reading a book a week or so. Fiction books. Nothing intellectual or about business or world religions or how to live more simply… Just fiction books with no meaning. I’ve also started having bi-weekly massages. Daren and I have been spending more time at home, in our house, making the outside pretty for the spring and sipping cocktails in the evening while reading or watching tv. Fun tv. Not documentaries or the history channel. We watch the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. I’ve started coloring mandalas thanks to a few of my girlfriends who got me the most coolest yogic pack of goodies for my birthday. I’ve been frequenting the shops right in my town and enjoying what is so close around me. The natural food store, the eastern/Polynesian based massage parlor, the local taverns. I have discovered I love craft beer and IPAs. I often go to the coffee shop in my town now too. There is a green tea matcha latte I just love there. And when I have time I’ll bring a book or my computer and write for fun… like I’m doing right now on the beach, on Long Island. In my old stomping ground where just the roads and trees and weeds look like home. I’ve been going back to sleep in the mornings when I don’t have to rush off for work. The lexapro has made me less anxious and some might say more lazy. In all of my adult life I was raring to go the moment I opened my eyes. Did my body feel tired? Hell yes. But there was so much to do, even on the weekends. Weeds were growing, dishes were in the sink from the night before, there were pets to feed, exercise to keep myself moving, shopping, cleaning, kid shuttling, food to make, some place to go or person to meet or emergency to tend to. The list goes on. Who had time to sleep? I’d be wasting it. My dad taught me that as a young kid. We weren’t allowed to sleep in. In his Italian accent he’d bang on our doors and tell us we were “sleeping your lifes off”.

But now those things I just had to get up for didn’t seem so important. They could wait. They would be there yes, but they didn’t loom over my head like before. When I have given myself permission to try in the past I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep. But now I spontaneously just do. Even when I intend to get up, sometimes I do and other times I can hear my body; and it tells me that it would like to sleep a little longer. And I’m a better person for it.

However, this past week took the cake in slowing down and chilling out. I had the surgery on Monday. It didn’t hurt too much at first. I got dressed and walked into the house from the car. I sat on the back deck with a book and my leg up. And I slept. For hours. I’m sure it was the anesthesia, but gosh it felt good. I woke up in time for dinner. We ate on the porch with my leg up. It was starting to hurt a little more. I asked Daren if we could walk Koji. I wanted to move but by the time we made it across the street I was really faint. Daren helped me back in and onto the couch. I stayed there the rest of the evening with some tea and the company of my family, the pets and Game of Thrones. I felt faint going upstairs for bed, in the middle of the night when I had to get up to use the bathroom and again the next morning when I came downstairs for coffee. I stayed home from work that day. Daren set me up with my computer, some books, tea, and the remotes. I slept even more. The house was nice and quiet. The animals slept all around me. I got up a few times and made some lunch and decided to get my shoes (extremely slowly) on to walk down the street. No more faint feeling. Nice & slow. I had no where to go and nothing to do and realized for the first time in a long time that it had been several days since I felt any kind of stress. My body too… No stress. No pumping heart or fight or flight. Just homeostasis.

Our cul de sac looked so sweet shining in the sun after a morning full of rain. I hardly walk down my own street or know my neighbors. Their houses look so much like ours but they all have their own unique little decorations and landscaping.

A co-worker offered to pick me up the next day. I accepted the offer. I walked slow into work. And moved slowly all day. I had to wonder why I always felt the need to take on too much, rush around or cram it all in? I took my bandages off on Thursday and really noticed the difference in my legs while on the ferry in Friday on the way down to Long Island for Memorial Day weekend. I saw and felt the swelling of the right leg and curves of the other. My feet, my nails, the differences in my knees. Yesterday morning in the shower I was amazed at the great beauty of legs in general. The veins, the joints, how they bend and move and carry us through life. I’m so lucky to have working legs. Anyone who has them is lucky. We take them for granted. I made myself some breakfast and ate in the sunroom while watching the birds. I was in awe of the food. I had an egg white omelette with mushrooms and some blueberries and raspberries on the side. I was thinking about each single raspberry and how with some water and the sun each little bump grew very slowly over the course of each day until they were perfectly ripened and picked off the vine. I ate each berry one at a time marveling in the sweet taste that I so often take for granted. I want to and need to slow down.
We spent the day outside yesterday. I figured out how to do 60 minutes of yoga and not need to lean on my knees or bend them more than 45 degrees. Food tastes wonderful. The trees are so alive with their new spring leaves. With each passing day that the SSRI helps me relax and my knee is healing I’m so thankful for life and I can feel the ever so subtle differences in my healing. Both mentally and physically. One little piece of healing at a time. The same way that each little raspberry grows a little piece of each bump each day. Life is so beautiful. I want to bask in it and kiss it, dance with it and roll around and laugh with it.

This morning I woke up at 6:30 when Daren got up to drive Kieran to his new job at the country club. I felt inspired and started to write this. Then I stopped. Instead of writing I just wanted to experience! I opened the blinds to one of the windows in Daren’s old bedroom and saw the sunny trees and just listened to the sounds of different birds. I laid back down and enjoyed the silence and birds and serenity. I started to get sleepy and pulled up the covers to go back to sleep. I want to turn over a new leaf and be more with nature. I did ask to cut back some hours at work and thankfully the powers that be said yes. I want to feel this way without a knee slowing me down or medication in my body. That means I need to do things a little differently. We all need to live a little more and “do” a little less. Be present a little more and absent a lot less. Every single stinking moment is important and it’s our choice to live in it and be grateful for it, or be absent and regret the past. I’m so ready to live more in the here and now and so thankful I am learning this before I let my life slip away another minute. Namaste.

 

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My struggle with stress

The familiar heart pounding experience sets in. My whole body tenses. I have a slight shake, and I kind of feel like I’m slightly rocking back and forth in the upper part of my body. My temples tense and kind of pulsate. Fear grips me. A slight bit of heat overcomes me. My body is in full on fight or flight mode. One would think I see a tiger that is about to eat me and I need to make a quick life saving decision. But the truth of the matter is all that I’m doing is checking my work email right now.

I feel like I’m doing too many things. In general. I feel stressed. Like all the time. Today is Wednesday, April 20th. I just came back from a most awesome yet very demanding week of visiting colleges with my husband and daughter. I was pretty relaxed all week. It is an unusual feeling for me. The noise in my head was shut down a few times. Totally quiet. Usually there is a myriad of several demanding things competing for my attention. And even on the rare occasions when there isn’t such as when I’m driving, getting ready to go to bed or uncommonly watching tv, there is still a background static of things I should be doing, forgot about, am worried about, want to look up… the list goes on.

This week it was mostly quiet in my head. It felt great. Maybe what normal non-stressed, anxiety ridden people feel like. Perhaps I’m changing I foolishly think to myself. That thought was shattered yesterday when my flight was delayed in Dallas. It was just me and Gabby coming home with many things to do as soon as we got home. First the connection was tight. I started to tense up then when I realized this only after the plane landed and I looked down at the next boarding pass. I mentally started to plot the route out of the deplaning process to the next gate. I watch with increasing frustration as people move out ever so so slowly. Stopping as they are pulling down their overhead luggage and talking to another passenger as if they cannot do two things at once and suddenly this very trivial conversation about the weather outside is more important. People with wheelchairs and strollers seem to just jump in our way, getting in as if they have all the time in the world. Stopping to laugh and admire the child who is running off and not getting in the stroller while blocking a plane full of people behind them. Gabby and I finally make it into the terminal only to realize we are in terminal A and need to be in terminal C. We are both starving. We stop at Starbucks knowing we will be a few minutes late to the start of boarding time, but agree it’s more important to grab food since we didn’t have time for breakfast and it was almost noon. Starbucks is painstakingly slow too. The girl making my smoothie is moving at molasses pace and kept stopping to flirt with an American Airlines employee who is leaning over the counter to talk to her. She doesn’t even look at me when she hands me the drink and says “have a nice day”. My blood started completely racing. We book on out of there and rush to the gate only to see there is a 10-minute delay. My mind starts mentally calculating what a 10-minute delay will do when we get home. I find that we can still be 45 minutes late and will have plenty of time to pick up the dog from where he is being boarded. Gabby and I find a seat quite far from the gate and take a moment to breath. I return a phone call to the dentist, write a thank you to the friends we just stayed with, and wrote a restaurant review. 15 minutes pass. Then 20. Radio silence from the airline. Only 10 minutes more. Then 10 more. Then it’s unknown. The stress really sets in. I call Koji’s boarding place to add another night. I go through all my work email. I start to mentally plot how to best carry in the bags, go through the mail, scrape cat litter, get the laundry rolling and shower before work tomorrow. I have a grocery delivery coming that will likely also get delayed if this plane doesn’t take off soon. My mind is racing. I can’t read or meditate or do any of the things that one would do to chill. Suddenly I get the idea to calculate whether or not I want to “waste” another vacation day tomorrow. As I weigh the options I notice my muscles and jaw relax at the thought. I text my boss and start to unwind just a bit. I will be ok. I’m still stressed but at a lower level. Gabby is stressed and has all her homework pulled out in the terminal and is balancing it on her legs. She later tells me she was on the verge of tears. My real life starts to set back into my thoughts. The quiet is gone. I’m back to my normal stressed baseline.

Life right? Most people have similar experiences or far worse. First world problems. They are so silly in comparison to disease and starvation. I struggle to realize this. Telling myself this doesn’t quiet the noise in my head. My husband and I are both outside of the home for work at least 11+ hours per day. We have 4 kids between the two of us. One is at college now and is a huge help when home. Another drives which made life so much easier. The 3 living at home are in 3 different schools. 2 of the schools are 30 minutes away in the opposite direction from each other and without transportation services for the two younger kids that don’t drive. One of the kids is in hockey at least 4 days a week and anyone familiar with the sport knows it’s actually a lifestyle. The other two play sports and one still needs rides quite often. We have 3 cats, a dog and 3 fish. We have ex-spouses with complicated schedules and arguments over legal issues. My husband’s ex travels quite often and doesn’t communicate well. She lives ½ hour away and the kids often forget things they absolutely need in either house. My ex recently moved over an hour away out of state and insists my 16-year old daughter drive herself up there every other weekend as if he still lived down the road. It makes me nervous for her to drive so far and on highways with a new license. She stresses about her homework and not being able to see friends when she goes up there. Weekends are filled with trips to these schools, sports and friends all in towns quite far from our home; prepping food, taking care of the lawn and garden, trying to squeeze in some personal exercise, getting the dog out of the house to burn out some of his high energy, maintaining the home and fixing whatever needs fixing. If we use a weekend to get away or visit the older one in college we need to squeeze this other stuff in elsewhere during the week between concerts, sports practice, dinner meetings, after work medical, dental, and veterinary appointments. Not to mention during the week there is getting dinner on the table, laundry, homework, lunch prepping, mail, phone messages, some crisis to avert or bill to straighten out or package to pack up and squeeze in sending out or returning. Every new thing elevates my stress just a little more. I mostly capitalize on it to plot the next course of action in the most effective streamlined possible way. Work is the same. As new emails pop in, calendar items are added, thoughts to explore from my well meaning co-workers and superiors are piled on; my heart pounds, I tense, and I breath erratically. I try to avoid people in the halls or in my suite who want to chat or connect over something mutual because I don’t have the time. I’m thinking 20 steps ahead at how I’m going to accomplish it all and stopping to smell the roses and have human interaction wasn’t part of the plan. I feel like I must look like a walking lunatic; however I’m always surprised to hear that people think I’m friendly and outgoing, seem to have all the time in the world and pull it all together so seamlessly.

I am so ingrained in this system that when I have a few minutes to read at night before bed or a moment to catch my breath and enjoy an afternoon out on the weekend or time with friends that I feel like I must be crazy to think I have a hectic life because look I have time now and I’m not stressed. All in all, that is probably like 5% of my life. It’s so enjoyable that it keeps me going the other crazy 95%. 95% of the time I’m in fight or flight mode.

Thanks to my decision to take today off to unwind and catch up, this morning I woke up softly and did not have to rush. I felt relaxed and well rested. I had coffee, checked Facebook, and responded to my texts with time, attention and enjoyment. When I left to pick up the dog I had the most lovely 9-minute ride. I felt the sun on my skin, the air coming through the window. I looked at the trees and bushes. I heard other people’s music. I was SO in the moment. I was not rushed, sort of like the people getting off the plane yesterday. While I waited for the dog and saw people dropping off their pets for daycare in a rush and in tights, heels, and neck hugging ties all stressed out that it was taking so long I felt thankful that wasn’t me today. Koji and I drove home in peace. We had nowhere to be. He oscillated between having his head out the window and coming over to me to give doggie love. We got home. I fed him and enjoyed watching him enjoying being home. We went upstairs to keep the laundry moving. He sat at my feet while I folded the big, messy, unruly pile into nice neat beautifully folded laundry. My bedroom windows were open. The sun was shining in. I folded the laundry with love. Looking at my clothes, the stitching, the lace… I never noticed these things before. My husband’s shirt he wore on Friday, his running clothes. I thought about him in them and how much I love him. When I went to put the towels away in the bathroom I noticed the pictures on the wall. I hardly see them. I remember the day Daren and I bought them in Marshalls a few years ago. They are pictures of tranquil beach scenes from a porch front. They match the blue and white walls and trim. My bathroom looked picturesque itself this morning with the sun shining in the windows. The plants on the window sills were sitting there alongside the candles. I hardly ever notice them. We rushedly water them every week as we cross off a chore on the list. We don’t lite those candles, but gosh they are pretty. We don’t have time. I want that time. I put away the laundry and feel inspired to write about this. I feel good, calm, peaceful, happy.

I walk downstairs and pull out my computer. I look at my to do list I made for today. I took the day off to catch up so there is quite a bit to do. The list starts to make my heart pound. I pull up my work email to put on my out of office and decide to go through all the new emails that arrived since the airport yesterday since it will make my job of going back to work easier tomorrow. I look at my calendar too for tomorrow. I have back-to-back meetings ALL day except for 2 hours. There were things to prep for that I should be doing. There is an email string with some friends of mine from work about a happy hour that keeps interrupting me in a good way but an interruption none-the-less. I start to stress. And then I stopped. I stopped and starting writing. It’s what my heart wants to do.

This is how I live. I thought it was normal to feel like this all of the time. For the past 4-5 years I have been telling my husband how stressed I feel. As I started to discover spirituality and yoga I felt the intense need to slow down. As I started to realize how incongruent most of my day is in comparison to what my heart wants to do I started to feel more stress ironically. I began reading up on things where I feel a natural call like helping those less fortunate, fighting for womens and minority rights, animal rights, educating our society on thinking of others, the homeless… Not doing these things felt wrong as I got in my car everyday to start my soul sucking commute to work. I make a salary I’m proud of and have a job that helps society, but the money made gets poured right back into the society I’m not sure I believe in any longer and “bettering” the kids. I had to start wondering all what for. What are the kids getting better at? Learning how to run around like crazy lunatics in the hope for “success”? 2 of them are seriously stressed as young teenagers already. What is success? Is it making a lot of money and doing the same for your offspring? Spending so much time feeling like you do a good job at work that enjoying life, human interaction, the family & pets are the last thing you have time for? Because we are so busy we use a grocery delivery service, a maid service and our dog goes to daycare. We order everything online. I don’t see my house and my belongings as I wipe the dust from a scenic picture I picked out. I don’t see the joy in my dog’s face as he runs free with other dogs. I’m not the one playing catch with him, I’m only reading about how much fun he had on the report card I get from his daycare. I’m watching the kid’s sporting events mentally calculating the time and how I’m going to get everything crammed in. When I fall down in an exhausted heap at the end of the night on the couch to watch tv for a few moments before I know I will drift off and a cat immediately jumps on me to sit in view of the tv, and starts purring; I am slightly annoyed rather than overjoyed that this little bundle of love wants anything to do with me after feeding them twice that day and scraping their litter was nothing more than another chore to cross off the to-do list.

I enjoy very little of what I work for anymore. I’m stressed all the time. I wake up many mornings already in fight or flight as soon as my eyes open. Daren will ask me what is wrong and I’ll tell him I’m stressed and anxious. I go downstairs to squeeze in my daily exercise at 4:45 am and try to enjoy a cup of coffee, but I feel like a beast and try not to snap at my well meaning family as they seemingly pile more information and requests on me.

As I said, I thought it was normal. It all came to a head a few weeks ago though. While driving to New York city after a long Saturday afternoon of running the kids around, watching Gabby’s fencing match, and knowing she is driving to Massachusetts alone; Daren and I had some time to catch up on home business we needed to exchange. A few disturbing conversations with the kids, I had slight worry from a semi-argument I had with Tommy earlier that week, and there was the possibility of another pending lawsuit with Daren’s ex. To boot we were running late to catch our show at the Opera and I wasn’t sure we would even have time to eat before the show. I felt the old familiar pangs of stress. But often times I don’t have time to address them so I ignore them. This particular night I didn’t want to engage in these conversations. Daren passed them along to me as one might pass along information at a meeting to their employees that they needed to know. I just listened and stared out the window trying to control my breathing and thinking about how to deal with all of this tomorrow after we come home from the city. Well at 2am I woke up in a panic. I often do. I put all the worries aside for the evening and they woke me up. Luckily this time I fell back to sleep. At 7am Daren and I both woke up. I had one of those mornings where I had the fight or flight feeling as soon as I opened my eyes. Daren was trying to have a nice sunny conversation that I was ignoring as I tried to understand why I felt so stinking anxious. He asks me what is wrong. I tell him I’m anxious. He tells me I’m always anxious. He doesn’t understand this and this is normal dialogue for us. Only that day something different happened. Because there was no house to take care of and place to rush off to, as we got ready to leave without too much distraction I started to get more and more anxious. It got so bad I had a panic attack. It was the first time I had one. I wasn’t scared, I knew exactly what I was. I rode it out. It passed but I had an unsettled feeling for the whole ride home and cried most of the way. Daren could not understand what was wrong. All I could explain is that I was anxious. He asked about what. I tell him about the various things and he says that is just life. I don’t want this to be my life. We have choices about how to live. I live how I’ve been told we should live and I’ve been confused ever since I started questioning this. Two days later while driving to work I started to feel myself working up to a panic attack again while thinking about the upcoming day. I kept control of it. I walked up the stairs to work and the act of being slightly breathless put me right into another panic attack. No one was at work yet so I went right into my office, pulled the curtain and closed the door. I rocked myself back to a normal state after about 10 minutes of hyperventilating and crying. Two days later the same thing happened again. And then it happened the next night, and then the morning after. The next Wednesday evening after Date Night and Daren and I sat in the car outside of the restaurant, I thought about how the night went so fast and I never had time to talk to him about how we can possibly change our lifestyle to ease up on life on the sooner side rather than waiting until the youngest kid graduates in 5+ years… I had the worst panic attack yet. 3 of the kids were home. We were late. I didn’t want them to see me such a wreck. I wasn’t sure what to do.

I knew I had to take the next day off and go to the doctor. I didn’t want drugs. I can control this. I’ll do more yoga, try to actually meditate before bed every night and not just once a week. I’ll start a regular pranayama practice. I’ll figure out later where to squeeze it in. While I’m off I might as well book the hotels for Gabby’s college search week, set up my new phone because the screen cracked on my old one, and do the 90 other things I never get around to do. I took the next day off too for two more needed appointments including having my dental bondings replaced. I felt like I was able to get stuff done and catch up. I knew I’d be fine if I could only catch up. I was a new woman. We had no kids that weekend but still did quite a bit of game visiting and kid shuffling. I also had my monthly yoga teacher training. None-the-less I was fairly relaxed and felt caught up. Daren barely recognized the nice, funny, chill girl he met and fell in love with. Monday the stress began again. Another panic attack. Tuesday I went to my PCP and decided I need help. I did not want anti-anxiety drugs but at this point I felt it could possibly be the only way out. I strategically scheduled this appointment to coincide with Gabby’s annual physical to take the least amount of time off from work as humanly possible. As I waited for her to come out, I started reading about Lexapro. I panicked even more seeing that it could cause weight gain and doesn’t always work. I waited days before starting. I was so afraid. I had an official diagnosis now and was so embarrassed by this. I could never let anyone know, they wouldn’t understand. What would the kids or our exes think? My in-laws? People at work? What if I gain weight? What if it I become dependent? I was having anxiety about taking an anti-anxiety drug.

What helped me come to a decision was the VERY few people online who said it worked. The ones who said they had no sexual side effects, no weight gain and that they can’t believe they suffered so long while this was an option to feel normal again. Some posted about how they came off the meds and learned to better manage their lives while on it a few months. They were my inspiration. I wanted that too. After much hesitation I took my first pill. I started to journal about my experience. It has been a rollercoaster. I did have some side effects but they are starting to get under control. It’s only been 5 weeks, and I’m kind of starting to feel better. I still feel my body in fight or flight, but my mind isn’t following as much of the time. It has less of a stigma to me now and I’m less afraid to tell people about my struggle. I’ve since learned that 1 in 3 people suffer from anxiety. We are out of balance because our world is out of balance. It’s a choice about whether or not to participate in this out of balance world. I need to start working in the lifestyle changes now and making different decisions. Today was a start by deciding not to try to cram in going to work, getting my sweet dog and not having him spend another day at the kennel, and taking the time to write about my experience and not just get on with my to do list. I would like to evaluate all the choices I make and how I spend my time. I want to enjoy my life. See the beauty in my pets and home. Be able to talk to humans that reach out to my without thinking about what I’m not doing. Notice the sun and how it falls upon the trees far more often. I want to be contributing to the world in a new way that doesn’t include being a part of the problem of rushing to the next thing to make money that you need to spend just to keep up with your life.

I feel a call to change and contribute my talents and passions in a new way. I’m not sure how yet. I’m not sure I want to share this but I probably will. Hopefully this is the start of a new journey. I feel peace and love right now. The stress I had when I started writing has lifted. I am home with my very happy doggie. I want to flip the current status and feel peace 95% of the time and stress for 5% of it. I want others to have that too. The world would be such a better place if we did that, and we all pitched in to help the world to do that. I know it’s possible, it just has to be. Namaste.

Koji enjoying being home:

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