Anxiety Management

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! It has been an up and down sort of week. We had a lovely time with my husband’s family on Saturday (it always warms my heart when my gluten-free self can eat everything on the table, and it was delicious). Then on Sunday night, I got super sick with a stomach bug out of nowhere. I powered through work for most of the day on Monday (I did end up signing out a little early in the afternoon). Tuesday I took the day off because I had a physical in the morning and I didn’t know how I’d feel after getting poked and prodded, and I also got my flu shot and my covid booster while I was there. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have found this doctor – she is so affirming and pragmatic and it’s such a relief not to have to educate my doctor or be continuously advocating for myself in a medical setting.

This afternoon I have an intake call with a potential new therapist. I’m tentatively hopeful that this will be a good fit and that I’ll be able to get back to working with someone on expanding my toolkit for dealing with anxiety. I also started on blood pressure medication this week, which I am hoping will also help with the anxiety, since anxiety and high blood pressure tend to create a horrible feedback loop (I’m anxious, and my blood pressure is high, which my body interprets as anxiety, etc.). A friend listed out all the things I have going on right now in a text to me this morning, and it really put it into perspective that yes, it does make sense that I’m under some stress and should be utilizing every resource I can to manage it. So that was a good reminder.

I learned yesterday that the university that partners with the seminary I’m starting at next month to do the Spiritual Direction courses is actually discontinuing their Spiritual Direction program, but that it shouldn’t impact my journey – next semester is the last cohort of new students they’re taking for the program. So that’s an additional level of stress that I’m processing. Fingers crossed I’m able to finish all the courses I need to there before the program closes (slated for 2025, so my chances should be pretty good).

Today and tomorrow I’m going to be spending a significant portion of my time between meetings writing performance assessments for my direct reports. I think it’ll actually go pretty smoothly, but getting started is always the hard part with these. I’m grateful for these rockstars and I want them to know they’re doing well, but I also want to give whatever constructive feedback I can to help them continue to grow and excel.

That about does it for this week. As always, here’s your weekly dose of Nova:

All the News

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday! This blog is going up a little late today because it is Veterans Day here in the US and that means I have the day off, and I decided to let myself sleep in. It’s been a long week and I have so much to share.

First things first: I got accepted into seminary! I am meeting with someone this afternoon to go over the plan for classes for next semester. I’m so excited. Definitely also nervous, but mostly excited. Since I’m sure some of you are curious about what in the world is going through my head that I feel like seminary is a thing I want to try, I thought I’d share the “personal statement” I submitted with my application:

I am not necessarily the first person you’d expect to be interested in pursuing a seminary degree. I’m queer, trans, nonbinary, more-or-less agnostic, and have a complicated history with religion, to say the least – I was raised in a church tradition that I thought was safe when I was younger, but that does not accept the fullness of who I am as an adult.

I am, however, often the first person my friends and chosen family turn to when they need a listening ear and some insight. I am called upon for pragmatic opinions as well as intuitive tarot readings. I don’t follow an organized spiritual tradition, but am deeply interested in life’s big questions, even if I don’t feel the need to have the answers to them like I did earlier in my life.

I believe that everyone deserves to be able to make meaning out of “big life stuff” in a way that works for them, and to connect to something larger than themselves if they want to. I am deeply committed to creating and holding safe spaces for people to ask questions and try on a variety of answers. Rather than running from the unknowable, I see it as an opportunity for play and experimentation.

I have watched several friends go through spiritual direction certificate programs and/or pursue ordination in their chosen spiritual tradition, and they have each opened my eyes to new and different ways of engaging with that “something larger,” through everything from music to tarot to roleplaying games and beyond. I carry each of those relationships and experiences and ideas with me into this course of study, and I am excited to see what new ways I might find to engage with spirituality.

While I don’t intend to pursue a career in spiritual direction, I am hoping that this degree will give me a better toolkit to come alongside fellow travelers in the world and hold those open spaces of safety, to engage with a variety of spiritual traditions with openness and curiosity, and to find my own opportunities for further spiritual growth.

So, with that excitement out of the way, on to the other news of the week.

Right around the time that I got the email saying I’d gotten into United on Friday afternoon, we discovered that Nova had managed to chew up and swallow 2-3 inches worth of a beef shank bone we’d given her a little earlier. She’s had these bones before and has only ever gnawed on them, never tried to actually eat them, so I thought she’d be fine and we weren’t paying very close attention until we realized the bone was significantly shorter than it had started out.

(Before I go any further, I want you to know that this story has a happy ending. Nova is fine.)

We called our regular vet, who was about to close for the day and suggested we call an emergency vet. We tried three different places before I found somewhere that was opening in a little over an hour. We decided to drive there and be there right when they opened. Thankfully they were able to see us; they did X-rays and discovered a few pieces of bone in her stomach, but thought they were a size and shape that she should be able to pass on her own. We went home with instructions to follow up with our regular vet in the morning.

We did that – they did follow-up X-rays and there were still pieces of bone in her stomach, but she seemed okay otherwise and they were hopeful that she’d be okay passing things on her own. Sunday passed pretty much without incident – she was a little slow and sleepy but she seemed like she was starting to feel better.

And then Monday morning she refused to eat and had to be practically dragged out the door to go outside. When she remained lethargic and was clearly uncomfortable all morning, we called our vet again, and they recommended we take her back to an emergency vet. We called three different places again and finally got through to the U of M veterinary center, who agreed to see her.

More X-rays, more exams, a lot of waiting. The conclusion was that the bones had made it out of her stomach and had broken down enough that they didn’t show up on X-rays anymore, but her GI tract was just really irritated from processing all of that, which was why she wasn’t feeling well. We went home almost 6 hours later, exhausted but less worried than we had been.

The last couple of days she has been noticeably improving – she’s still pretty tired (and annoyed about that), but she’s clearly feeling much better. She hates getting the medicine I have to give her via syringe 3 times a day to help calm her GI tract down, but she hasn’t murdered me in my sleep yet and we only have a couple of days left of that. I have spent SO. MUCH. MONEY. on her in the past week, and it’s been so scary not knowing if she was going to need surgery. But she’s worth it. (We also signed her up for pet insurance in the middle of all of this, which of course covers none of this week’s adventures but should cover us the next time our sweet little trash goblin decides to eat something that’s not food.)

Thank you for coming on this journey with me! I’ll close this one out with a couple of photos of Nova’s recent convalescent naps:

Reset

Hello, dear readers, and welcome once again to Thursday. I’m all out of sorts and confused about what day it is, but according to my phone, it is, in fact, Thursday.

I had a really lovely weekend, but I did not budget my energy well, and I was paying for it by Tuesday morning. Basically, on Saturday afternoon I decided on a whim to take myself to the Renaissance Festival, which was fun (it would have been more fun with a friend, but it was still delightful), but was more time around people than I’ve spent in a long time. And then Sunday evening we went over to my in-laws’ house to hang out with them and some extended family who were in town, which was also delightful, but was something I did not totally register was going to be happening when I decided to go to the Ren Fest (even though it was on the calendar and had been for a few weeks). Monday I was so. tired. And Tuesday morning was a major struggle, to the point that I finally reached out to my boss and asked if I could take that afternoon and all of Wednesday off to reset.

It sort of worked. Tuesday afternoon I napped for a couple hours. Yesterday I finished the second really good book in a really great series. We also took Nova to her first vet visit (which she was great at – the vet gave her an A++).

Nova was a very good girl at the vet!

I was able to make it to my desk on time this morning, which felt like an accomplishment. I’m still not feeling 100%, but a lot of that can probably be blamed on allergies. I’m glad I was able to take the time I needed to recover, and I’m trying not to beat myself up for not doing a better job of taking care of myself in the first place. I’m tired of being tired. I’m also realizing (thanks to a friend pointing it out on Facebook) that it might be a seasonal thing, and I should probably look into getting a sun lamp for my office.

Anyway, that’s it from me this week. I hope you’re all hanging in there. Take care of yourselves and each other.

AnxietyBrain

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! It’s a bit of a weird week here. I’m feeling a bit off my game anyway, and my husband is back in Chicago getting our old apartment fully cleaned out and turning in keys to the landlord there, so I’m alone in a new space, which feels a little strange.

The week started out with discovering a handful of fraudulent authorization charges (thankfully for $0, but still from places I have definitely not attempted to spend money) on my debit card. When I called to cancel the card, the customer service rep “ma’am-ed” me at the end of literally every sentence. When they asked if I wanted to order a new card over the phone or go into a branch and get one instantly in person, I said I’d go to a branch (mostly because I wanted to escape the rampant misgendering and because it sounded faster)…only to realize my bank doesn’t have any branches in downtown St. Paul. I texted a few friends to see if anyone could take me to the bank (we don’t have a car yet), and my college bestie came through. We got to the bank, I went in, and was informed that their card machine had gone down and it was a company-wide problem, so I’d have to come back another day. (Thankfully, I was at least able to get coffee with my friend before we headed home, and it was lovely to see her, so the trip wasn’t a total waste of our time.) I’m planning to have an adventure on the light rail train Saturday morning to try again.

I’ve been rather anxious this week, I think largely because I have some projects I’ve been procrastinating on that I can’t procrastinate on any longer, and I’m regretting my procrastination pretty intensely. Anxiety is a tricky thing – sometimes it can be catalyzing and motivating to some degree, but often it’s just paralyzing, which gets you into the feedback loop of “I didn’t get this thing done earlier and now I’m anxious it won’t get done but my anxiety is making me avoid the thing further and now it’s even less likely to get done…” So that’s a thing I’m working my way through.

Last night I got to go out for drinks with one of my oldest friends (the friend I ran into on the street last week), and it was so wonderful. I love having friends I can just jump back into conversation with even though we haven’t really sat down for a chat in years. We ended up hanging out for a couple of hours, and honestly one of the best parts of the whole time together was realizing how far we’ve come in the time that we’ve known each other. We’re both in really good places overall right now, and it was great to be able to celebrate that.

I think that’s it from me this week. I really am loving our new space as we get settled in. I hope your weeks are treating you gently and that you’re all hanging in there.

Counting Down

Hello, dear readers! It is Thursday, and the last Thursday I will wake up in this apartment. Next Wednesday we are packing all our stuff up in a truck and driving to Minnesota, and next Thursday we’re moving into our new apartment!

Related sidebar: there will probably not be a blog next week.

I am a tightly-coiled ball of anxiety this week. I’m struggling to focus on anything aside from the boxes that need filling and the other little administrative tasks that need doing related to the move. But unlike some past instances of anxiety at this level, I’m not totally paralyzed by it, and I haven’t succumbed to the idea that this is just my life now. I know this is temporary, and that I will get through it and come out the other side relatively unscathed. And that’s a nice feeling.

I’m taking all of next week off from work, both to give myself extra time to help my husband finish packing, and to give us the chance to maybe visit a few favorite Chicago spots to say farewell.

It’s weird saying goodbye. I’ve never been great at goodbyes in general, but…I don’t know. Leaving Chicago feels like a big deal. When we moved away from Minnesota to Chicago, it was different – we knew we’d be moving back eventually, and for me at least, there were things in Minnesota I needed distance from. But now returning to Minnesota, while I know that I’ll be back to visit Chicago as often as I can manage it, I don’t know if this will ever end up being a place that I live again. I don’t currently think it’s in the cards, but I guess we’ll find out. Chicago has been a great home for the past 9 years. So many people I love so dearly are here. I made incredible friends. I figured out a lot of what it meant to be Alyx while I was here, and I’m sure that would have been a very different journey without Chicago. I started writing songs again in Chicago, and actually performed them for people – for strangers! I’m sure the next week is going to bring its fair share of tears as we say goodbye to our life here.

At the same time, I’m really excited to be returning to Minnesota. I’m so excited about our new apartment, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic space for us to grow into. There are friends in Minnesota that I’ve missed terribly who will be minutes away now. We’ll hopefully get to be more involved in our nephews’ lives. I’ve already heard from several friends I’d not talked to in a long time who want to reconnect. I think it’s going to be good to be closer to family. While Chicago feels like home to me now, Illinois doesn’t. Minnesota, on the other hand, is home in a sense I can feel in my bones. I noticed it the most when we were driving back from Song School the first year we went. We were swinging through Minnesota on the way home because we’d borrowed my father-in-law’s car for the trip, and the second we crossed the state line into Minnesota, my whole body relaxed, even though logically I knew I was no safer in that part of the state than it had been in South Dakota. I’ve noticed it since then, too, on road trips back to visit family. Minnesota is in my bones, and it’s calling me home.

Like I said, probably no blog next week (unless I’m really on top of things and write it early, but don’t hold your breath). Next time I write, I will officially be in my new place! I hope you’re all continuing to hang in there. Please take care of yourselves and each other.

It’s Too Darn Hot

Greetings, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday. I am extremely scatterbrained this week. It’s been so hot and sticky here in the Midwest (and I shouldn’t even complain, because it hasn’t been as bad in Chicago as it’s been in the Twin Cities), which always makes me a little crabby. I overheat pretty easily and humidity does weird things to my joints and it’s just hard to focus when you feel like you’re melting. Even though my desk is basically directly in front of our window AC, it’s still pretty humid in our apartment, and it’s like my body knows that it’s hot outside and is responding to that instead of the cool air I keep trying to plant myself in front of.

We’re moving in three weeks and I’m trying (with middling success) not to panic about everything that needs to get packed between now and then. I know it’ll all come together, and we’ve done a good job of making lists and keeping track of all the logistical details, but there’s this part of my brain that is absolutely convinced that I’ve forgotten some major detail somewhere along the line. Anxiety, woo!

This weekend we have a handful of social things set up that I’m looking forward to. And in between packing and socializing I’m trying to decompress with Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing on my Switch Lite (I was knitting a sweater but it is obviously way too warm to have a pile of wool in my lap right now). I don’t play a lot of video games and I don’t play any of them very well, but it’s good to have a thing I can do where my hands are busy but I’m not doom scrolling.

I think I’m going to keep this one short, because I have already gotten distracted after basically every sentence I’ve written, and I don’t have a lot of other coherent thoughts. I hope you’re all hanging in there. I’ll leave you with a clip of the inspiration for the title of this blog post. I’ve seen Kiss Me, Kate exactly once, probably close to 20 years ago, but fragments of this song get stuck in my head every time the temperature rises to uncomfortable levels:

I remember literally nothing else from this movie, but this song spoke to me lol

Community and Celebration

Hello, dear readers! We’ve reached another Thursday. I hope you’re all safe and healthy, and for those of you in places that got hit with the blizzard over the weekend, I hope your heat is working. (Thankfully, ours is, but I know some of our friends have not been so lucky.)

I have been thinking a lot this week about community. But before I get into that, let me back up a bit.

A couple of years ago, I came across the idea of creating your own holidays – not just creating traditions for existing holidays, but making up holidays that make sense to you. I loved that thought. In an effort to be more connected to the changing seasons in the world around me, I’d been halfheartedly trying to follow the “wheel of the year” observed by a lot of neo-pagan traditions, which marks the solstices, equinoxes, and four points between each of those. The thing is, though…while some of the correspondences associated with these holidays made sense, a lot of it is based on an agricultural calendar for a climate I don’t live in, so it didn’t feel super applicable to my life.

Fast-forward to about six months ago: after toying with writing up some holidays off and on, I finally sat down with my husband and we came up with a list of holidays that made sense to us, using the dates of the “wheel of the year” but making the holidays themselves more meaningful. The idea is to be more attuned to time changing, and giving ourselves regular time to reflect. (I told my therapist about this in our session this week and she got so excited about the idea. I might make a zine about it at some point.)

We designated February 1 as Midwinter, and placed the focus of this holiday on honoring and connecting with the communities that help us get through the darker time of the year. For me, there are a handful of distinct communities I’m part of that have been doing so much to keep me grounded, both in the physically darker winter and in the metaphorically darker times we’ve been living through. I did a lot of reaching out on Monday to those people, both in my own observation of Midwinter and in an effort to step up my practice of telling people I love and appreciate them. It felt really great.

In therapy on Monday, I talked a lot about how I sometimes feel guilty for the fact that things are going well for me right now, when I know the world is on fire and a lot of people that I care about are struggling. But I realized a few things as we hashed things out in that session:

  • I am allowed to feel joy.
  • My joy doesn’t mean I’m minimizing what anyone else is going through.
  • The people in my life want to celebrate with me, just like I want to celebrate with them when they’re happy.

When I was younger, I ended up in some pretty messed up, codependent friendships (which I hesitate to even call friendships anymore, but I don’t know what else to call them), where me being happy was interpreted as me not caring about the other person’s pain, and I’m still hanging onto some of that baggage. But the reality is that in healthy relationships, you hold space for each other’s joy and pain. I realized I was holding myself to a different standard than what I’d hold anyone else to. Like, if I’m struggling and one of my friends has something amazing happen to them, I absolutely want to celebrate with them! And I know that they’ll still empathize with me in whatever I’m going through.

So here are some things I am celebrating right now, and I hope that you’ll join me in celebrating them:

  • I got a promotion at work! This is the good news I’ve alluded to in a couple of past posts, but it was officially announced to the company on Monday, so now I feel like I can talk about it here. I’m now a team lead – for the first time in my professional life, I have people reporting directly to me. It’s a big step forward for me, and while I am a little bit overwhelmed by it, mostly I am just excited to be able to support this team of rockstars that I work with.
  • FAWM is underway! And it’s been hugely successful for me so far – we’re four days in and I’ve written five songs. So far my practice of getting up early and writing before work is paying off – I’ve gotten a song done before starting work every day this week, and I also managed to write another last night after dinner. I’m really happy with how the songs are turning out in general, too, which is fun.
  • I’m just in a really good place emotionally right now. For those who might be newer to this blog, you may or may not know that I have a Bipolar II Disorder diagnosis, as well as a history of some pretty significant anxiety issues. I’ve been working with my therapist to see this things in a light that’s less pathologizing and more just a matter of regulating the energy in my nervous system, and I’m in a more stable place than I think I’ve been since…I don’t even know, way back in childhood.

What about you, readers? What are things that you’re celebrating right now? Or, if you don’t feel like you have much cause for celebration at the moment, what’s weighing heavy on you right now? I’d love to hear from you.

Making Space

Hello, dear readers – it’s Thursday again. I hope you’re all hanging in there. This past week was a long one as we waited to hear who won the US presidential election. It was a lot. It…continues to be a lot.

I realized over the course of the last few weeks that my anxiety was getting progressively harder to manage. This is pretty understandable, given the state of *gestures vaguely at everything*, but I hit the point early this week where I decided I had to do something. I’ve cut back a little bit on coffee, but that’s not really the direction I want to take – while the caffeine can be unpredictable in how it affects me, I find my morning coffee making ritual pretty steadying. When talking with my therapist on Monday, I finally admitted that I’ve noticed that time I spend on social media directly correlates to exponential spikes in my anxiety.

So, I’m taking a little break this week. I’ve signed out of Facebook on all of my devices and set up a 1 minute time limit in case I do hop back on. I’ve set a 15 minute time limit on Instagram and moved the app to a less convenient place on my phone’s home screen. And I think it’s helping. While I do get a little twitchy sometimes when I start to fall into autopilot and navigate toward Facebook and then realize I can’t do that, for the most part I don’t miss it. We’ll see how I’m feeling by the end of the week – I committed to staying off for a week starting Tuesday, and I’m going to reassess early next week if I want to go longer.

I also had the day off yesterday, for Veterans Day. That was also helpful on the anxiety front – I slept in and was pretty lazy for most of the day, which was (mostly) what I needed (it probably would have been a better long-term decision to work on some housework, but oh well).

So that’s where I’m at this week – trying to create some space so that my anxious brain and body can hopefully relax a little bit. I hope you’re all doing what you need to in order to take care of yourselves and your communities right now.

Ugh

Hello, dear readers, and my apologies for the late blog today. I intended to write a post last night, knowing that I probably wouldn’t get a chance to this morning unless I got up particularly early, and then I forgot. And then this morning didn’t really go as planned, either.

CONTENT WARNING: Medical stuff, including vague descriptions involving needles. Nothing graphic, but I won’t be offended if you’re not up for reading about this.

The original plan this morning was pretty straightforward: go get an MRI done, then go get labs drawn, then come home and enjoy the rest of my afternoon.

Some backstory here: about ten years ago I had some weird medical stuff come up, and one of the investigative steps taken at that time was an MRI of my brain. There was a very small spot of some sort that showed up on my pituitary gland, but a couple of subsequent MRIs revealed no changes to that spot, and the symptoms went away, and so I sort of tried to forget about all of that.

Fast forward to now, and I’m having some as-yet-unexplained symptoms that are mostly just annoying, but this whole situation that happened ten years ago came up in the course of talking things through with my doctor, and we decided it would probably be a good idea to have another MRI done, just to be safe (also, I don’t have a copy of the original MRI and it’s been long enough that the clinic where I got that done has probably purged the records, so we want to establish a new baseline). So, I took today off from work and scheduled the MRI for this morning.

Only…I didn’t wake up early enough to be very hydrated before I left the house, and that was a mistake. They were able to do the first part of the MRI (without contrast), but when they went to inject me with the contrast solution, my veins (which are hard to hit at the best of times) were super constricted, and every time they hit one it basically collapsed on itself when they tried to start the injection. So, after three attempts to find a workable vein, they sent me home to hydrate, and told me to come back later this afternoon.

It was discouraging, to say the least. I was struggling to stay calm when they first put me in the machine – I almost pressed the call button to ask them to let me out, because I didn’t know how I was going to make it the full 20+ minutes in that claustrophobic space. But I closed my eyes and breathed and counted and wiggled my toes (which were outside of the machine), and somehow got over the initial panic. Still, after that, I was REALLY hoping I could just get it all over with at once.

I’ve decided not to get the labs done today – I need to be hydrated for those, too, and at this point I don’t think I have time to sufficiently hydrate, get labs drawn, and go back for MRI part two (to say nothing of the fact that I’ve already been stuck enough times today). I drank some coffee, which I know was probably counter-productive on the vein front, but which was necessary for my own sanity, and now I’m focusing on drinking water and keeping my arms warm so that, hopefully, when I go back in a few hours, my veins will cooperate. I’m trying to find the bright spots – at least I took the whole day off from work, instead of just the morning like I was originally planning – but it’s just not how I want to be spending my day.

Anyway, all that to say that I’m glad it’s almost the weekend. We’ve just about made it through another week – go team! Please keep wearing your masks and washing your hands, and please vote. If you’re in IL, I highly recommend this voter guide.

Out of Sorts

Hi friends. I’ll be honest with you – I am not totally sure what to write about this week and definitely considered skipping blogging altogether. But if I skip one week, it’ll be that much easier to skip another, and next thing you know I won’t be blogging anymore, and that would be a bummer. This blog is something I’ve committed to keeping up and have followed through on for a long time, and I’m not ready to let it go yet. So, here we are.

I am out of sorts today. I didn’t sleep well last night – I woke up several times and had trouble getting back to sleep, I had weird dreams (and, just before I woke up, one really heartbreaking dream that I unfortunately remembered pretty vividly upon waking), at one point I moved in the wrong way and now I’m achy…I really just want to go back to bed and try again. That’s not an option, though, so here I am, at my desk, trying to get work done despite the drowsiness.

It’s been the sort of pandemic week where all the days blend together. And I’m just…tired. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that on Tuesday I had to leave the house three separate times, which was pretty anxiety-inducing – I don’t go out much at all these days and am really trying to minimize risk/exposure, and three times in one day felt extraordinarily excessive. The first of those times was to go get some necessary lab work done, which meant taking two Lyfts and being in a clinic, and that was…a lot. (The good news is that all my labs came back normal. The bad news is that I still have no idea what’s causing the minor-but-annoying symptoms that necessitated the labs in the first place.)

Anyway, time is weird and possibly doesn’t exist, I want to go back to bed, and in and around all of that I’m super grateful that I have a stable job that I generally like and that pays me enough that we’re okay right now. It’s hard to feel motivated when the world is (in some places literally) on fire, but I’m trying. And that’s really all I can do right now.

I hope you’re all hanging in there. Wear your masks, wash your hands, and figure out how to vote early and safely. It’s a wild, scary world we’re living in – let’s do what we can to help each other out.