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.

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.

Brief Ramblings

Hello, dear readers! It’s Thursday. I thought it was Thursday on Tuesday this week, so that was disappointing. But we’ve made it! It’s Thursday, which means it’s almost Friday, and then there’s a long weekend, which will be nice even if time is meaningless and I won’t really be doing anything different except not working on Monday.

I don’t have a lot to say this week. We appear to be getting into another round of allergies, because I am very sniffly and my eyes itch, so that’s unfortunate. But it’s great to see everything come back to life outside, even if it makes me sneeze.

Work has been a mixed bag this week – I’m still at the point where some days I feel really on top of things and other days I feel like I’m drowning. Currently I’m pretty on top of things, which is good. We’ll see how that continues.

I’m still anxious a lot of the time. My partner will sometimes ask what I’m anxious about, and all I can say is “the world.” There’s nothing super specific, but everything feels like a lot right now. I’m trying to hang onto the bright spots – I have a stable job that pays well; I’m not facing this alone/my partner is literally the only person I’d want to be stuck with 24/7; I have regular virtual social interaction with people I love, even if I’m not seeing them in person. These things are important and I don’t want to take them for granted. It’s all still a lot, though.

Learning is Hard

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday – I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that keeping track of what day it is during this pandemic is not getting any easier over time.

It’s been a week. Last Friday I got totally overwhelmed by work – I just couldn’t get on top of my cases, and I felt like every time I figured out one thing, something else went wrong (or I turned out to be wrong about the earlier thing I had thought was taken care of). It made for a very frustrating end of the work week, and I was dreading getting back into it on Monday.

Monday was also hard. I continued to feel like I was drowning, and actually had an anxiety attack partway through the day. Thankfully, as the day went on, my team stepped in and helped me with a few things, and that made a big difference. I’m still learning that I can ask for help here.

The last couple of days have been a little better – I feel like I’m getting a better handle on things and doing a better job of asking for help when I need it.

Despite work being overwhelming, there have been some bright spots. Friday night was the second session of a D&D game that we decided to move from every other week to every week, and that was super fun. I’m looking forward to getting to know these characters and the world we’re exploring better.

I love that we have a weekend routine of sorts that gets us out of bed now. On Saturdays we have virtual brunch with a friend in our old neighborhood, and it’s a really lovely way to set the tone for the rest of the weekend. We’ve also been rewatching the Star Wars films with some friends on the weekends (via conference call), and that’s been delightful. We started with the original trilogy, and then moved on to the prequels – we were going to watch Episode III this past weekend, but Episodes I and II were so much worse than we remembered, we gave up and skipped to Episode VII, which I think was the right choice.

I also talked with my parents over the weekend for the first time since…well, since we started staying home, so about two months. We’d be texting regularly, but historically I used to call them when I was commuting or walking between places, and since that’s not really happening right now, I’d lost my mental trigger to pick up the phone. It was good to catch up and I think we’re going to try to do that more regularly now.

And the second session of my mandolin class was last night, which was also delightful. I didn’t practice as much during the week as I intended, but I’m managing to keep up. As an extra fun little challenge, I’ve been transcribing any tablature our instructor sends out into standard notation so I can get better at reading sheet music.

Anyway, I hope you’re all hanging in there. What a weird time it is to be alive. I have a lot to be grateful for right now, and I’m trying not to take that for granted.

What Day Is It?

Greetings, readers, from my home to yours. (I really hope you’re all at home. This is what we need to do to keep each other safe right now.)

It’s a weird time. The fact that I am working helps give me a bit of structure, but I’ll be honest, I’m having a hard time keeping track of my days. Everything’s sort of blending together. I missed my usual 9am deadline for posting this morning because I kind of forgot it was Thursday.

I’ve gotten my first two support tickets at my new job, so I’m actually doing work now instead of just reading about how to do work, which is a nice change of pace. I’m learning a lot and ending pretty much every day exhausted from the amount of information I’m taking in.

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Chicago, so after work I ordered a pizza for pickup. As I walked to the restaurant, I was…alarmed by how many people do not seem to be taking the social distancing thing seriously. It was a toss up – some people that I passed were considerate and moved to the opposite side of the sidewalk or the grass so we could maintain 6ft of distance…a lot of people did not. I went pretty quickly from enjoying the beautiful weather to just being really anxious.

There’s a musician acquaintance of mine who lives in northern Italy. He’s been posting about some of his experiences in English for his American friends. The posts are incredibly sobering. I worry about him every day…and I worry about us, here in America, because we’re just not responding well to this crisis.

I’m worried a lot of the time right now. I worry about my nephew, who has asthma. I worry about my mom, who’s a nurse and at an age where she’s probably more vulnerable to this thing. I worry about my friends and family members who are out of work right now, or who are still having to go to work rather than working from home. I try not to worry too much about myself, but I’m allergic to many things outside right now, and every time I cough or sniffle I have to suppress the urge to panic.

But I’m also trying to find the light in all of this. We’re connecting with a lot of people virtually. Last weekend we had virtual brunch with a friend that we have regular brunch with every couple of weeks via Google Hangouts. I played Monsterhearts 2 with friends on a Discord server. We had a little song circle with Song School friends in California via Zoom. We’re in frequent contact with family and friends and I feel really held by the communities I’m a part of, even as I do my best to hold them. If anything good comes of this mess, I think it’s going to be a greater sense of connection. I am so grateful to live in this time where physical isolation doesn’t have to be social/emotional isolation. While it is hard to balance not being glued to a screen reading the news and using that screen to stay connected, I think it’s worth it.

I hope you’re all hanging in there (and staying at home). Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. If we’re going to get through this, it’ll be together (from our own places of residence) or not at all.

I’m writing this post on Thursday morning from my armchair at home, rather than from the bus. I have been feeling increasingly crummy every day this week, and this morning I finally woke up feeling definitively sick, so I’m going to work from home and keep my germs to myself.

So, this is going to be a short post today, because my brain is pretty foggy. Usually when I’m feeling like I have nothing to talk about, I go for some sort of list post. So…let’s go with three things I’m grateful for today:

  1. I can work from home. My boss told me I could just take an actual sick day if I wanted to, and I know that I technically can…but I’m almost out of sick time and I have to save my vacation time for Christmas travel. I’m glad to be in a position where it’s possible to do my job remotely when my body doesn’t feel up to commuting.
  2. Things are going better with my family. We’ve worked through the most recent round of hurt and seem to be closer to being on the same page, which feels nice.
  3. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here yet, but thanks to the adjustments that were made to my med regimen over the summer, my anxiety is much better controlled. So much so, in fact, that I’m able to drink regular coffee again! It had been about two years since I’d been able to handle that much caffeine. As I sit here and sip my coffee this morning, I am grateful for that.

Anxious Days

I’m having an anxious week, and I don’t really know why.

It might be the regular stress of the upcoming holidays.

It might be the minor (but still stressful) drama and health issues happening with my team at work.

It might also just be my brain.

In any case, my body decided yesterday that it was a great time to develop an eye twitch. And not just one eye, but both, sporadically, all day. Obviously I’m a huge fan of this development.

There have been bright spots this week, mostly revolving around music – a songwriting classmate’s concert, meeting new musician friends, having the new song I’d talked myself out of liking go over okay in class on Tuesday. Unfortunately, all of it has been underpinned by this frantic activity in my brain.

It’s not even that I’m anxious about some specific, concrete thing. (I guess that’s why they call it Generalized Anxiety Disorder.) I just can’t get my brain to shut off.

I’m also really, really tired. These two things are probably related.

I feel like I’ve been drinking excessive amounts of coffee – I’m jittery, my eyes are twitching, I feel wired and like I’m crashing simultaneously. Only, I drink decaf coffee these days. This appears to be entirely fabricated within the confines of my brain.

Taking Care

The people who know me best know that my brain never really stops racing.

This is still true, despite the fact that as of yesterday I’ve spent ten minutes a day meditating (using Headspace) for 27 days straight.

It remains true despite the fact that I am spending large swaths of my life feeling exhausted.

Last week, I mentioned that I was getting back into embroidery for the first time in about a decade. Last week, I embroidered the corners of nine handkerchiefs in six days:

I embroidered all of these between Monday and Sunday.

I embroidered all of these between Monday and Sunday.

It feels a little silly, and I have some complex feelings about indulging in a craft that doesn’t have a lot of practical application. When I knit, 99% of the time it’s something I am going to use, or give to someone else in the hopes that they use it. I knit beautiful things, but I knit beautiful things with a purpose – things that I will wear, or that my nephew will play with, or things to snuggle under. Embroidery doesn’t really make anything, it just makes existing things prettier. Which is, I recognize, a perfectly valid reason to do a thing, and my internal resistance to the idea of doing something that a part of me finds “frivolous” is likely largely rooted in misogyny and the devaluation of things deemed “women’s work” by society. So that’s my own bullshit to work through. And it’s (clearly) not stopping me from doing it.

A large part of the reason why I keep making one tiny stitch after the other is the fact that embroidery requires focus. Not so much that it feels strenuous, but enough that it occupies a significant portion of my mind. I noticed pretty early on in the week that when I was carefully stitching away, following the lines of the patterns, that my brain slowed down. I didn’t stop worrying altogether. The anxiety was still there. But the cacophony of thoughts quieted down to a more manageable volume. It gave me a little space to process some of the ideas pinging around in my skull.

Of course, there’s the rest of my life that still needs living, and I can’t continue to let the time I take out to embroider consume the time I need to get things done around the house, get knitting projects with deadlines done, and otherwise take care of myself.

So this weekend, I have a massage scheduled for the first time since October (I haven’t been in since just before I had surgery!), and I have an appointment with my new therapist. Because embroidery is a great coping technique in its right (and is certainly a less expensive coping mechanism than some that I’ve used over the years), but it can’t be the only tool I have tucked into my belt. I want very badly to get involved in whatever forms of resistance I can, but I also need to be realistic about the fact that I’ve been finding it difficult to do much above and beyond my regularly scheduled activities. I can’t take care of the rest of the world if I’m not taking care of myself first.

The weekend won’t be without its own anxieties (I have a gig scheduled for Monday night, and I’m planning to play the songs I’ve written in the 8-week class that just ended yesterday, so I have a lot of polishing and practicing to do), but I am determined to do what I can to get my brain in a better place, both in the short-term and into the future, uncertain though it certainly is.

Brains Can Be Sneaky

Being Bipolar is an adventure.

Sometimes, I can feel the shifts in the cycle coming, like the ache in my joints when the weather changes, only the ache is in my brain and it feels less like an ache and more like an electrical current under my skull.

Other times, it jumps out from behind a corner, beats me up, takes my lunch money, and leaves me wondering what in the world happened to get me here.

This week has been an example of the latter. I have so many things to be excited about, and so much to work on to get there, and yet DepressedBrain has decided to come to visit. I’m so tired all the time, and I’m spending way more time than seems necessary feeling paralyzed by the sadness.

With DepressedBrain has come what feels like a particularly paranoid iteration of AnxietyBrain. My internal monologue seems to get stuck on an endless stream of worst-case scenarios if I let my mind wander. Which, as you might imagine, is a super fun time while waiting to find out if my insurance is going to cover this otherwise extraordinarily expensive surgery that’s now less than a month away.

Still, it does feel like things are falling into place, and I am tentatively hopeful that everything is going to work out.