Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday, Therapy Day

If you are a regular participant in therapy, you know there are those rare sessions when you get clarity and you see something you never saw before. And it is clear as can be. And it's a breakthrough. And then you are like, you idiot, why did it take you 11 years to see this? And then you ask your therapist, "You knew this all along, didn't you?" And of course the therapist says, "Yes." And then you shake your head and know that you just completed a huge step on your journey. So today was one of those days.

We were discussing my job quest and how I have been having meetings with women- at least once a week- whose careers I respect. Women who can offer me advice and help me network in my current place of business. I knew my therapist would be proud of me for doing this. It is waaaaaay out of my comfort zone. It is somethingI am doing without preparing for really. Because the more I prepare the more ways Anxiety can find its way into my brain. So I am just showing up, being me, and asking questions I really want to know the answers to. I am trying to find a path and hoping that these woman can help me forge it. They are already taking time out to meet with me, which is huge, and I respect them so much for even doing that. Helping a stranger.

Anyway, back to the point.  I don't remember how the sentence came out of my mouth, or what exactly led up to it, but in a nutshell I had a realization. I have been in this job so long because I fear going into a new environment and having people (a) not like me or (b) judge me.  In my current job I am safe. I know people like me. I know they accept me. I know that I have earned their trust and respect and no one is going to tear me down. But at a new job. With new people. People may not like me at all. They may be displeased with who I am once they get to know me. They may regret hiring me. And THAT, my friends, has what has kept me sitting in the same job for over a decade.

I will be 40 in 14 days. 40. And I still crave acceptance. My therapist of course asks where that fear comes from, and it comes from growing up poor, and people making fun of me for living in a trailer, and being fat. I was actually teased for those things. That actually happened. My self worth was destroyed before I even hit first grade.  But I have grown out of that. I need to quit thinking that is who I am.  I DO NOT live in a trailer. I AM NOT obese. I realized the things I didn't like about myself and I clawed my way out of it, and that should be commended. I WILL commend myself on breaking the cycle.  I did that. I am proud.

I will not get mad at myself for the things I have done in the past. I made excuses to stay in my current job. They were safety behaviors. BUT they were the right decisions for me at that time.  I will remember that, I am mad at Anxiety, NOT myself. Because I AM MOVING FORWARD. Anxiety is the one who wants to keep me in the safety zone. Anxiety will not win.

I have to be proud of who I am today.  I am a loving mother. I am a fantastic wife. I am an avid and happy exerciser. I am a loyal friend. I am an impartial therapist to my friends and coworkers. I am shoulder to cry on.  I am a fierce competitor. I am strong both mentally and physically. I can do hard things and I WILL DO HARD THINGS.  Now that I know that I let fear beat me for all of these years, I now know my enemy. Yes, it is Anxiety, but it is also Fear.  Those bitches go hand-in-hand. I will win this battle.  I will not choose "safe." I will choose rewarding! I will choose life!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Because Wentworth Miller Speaks Truth

The following entry is not mine. It is from a post on Wentworth Miller's Facebook page. Anxiety and Depression can sometimes go hand in hand. Their tactics...very similar.

This. This below. This is how I feel when it comes to self-talk. The bank full of 40 years worth of vicious coins. I have those. They may not scream "death," but they scream ugly.  They scream negative. They scream loser. They scream that I will fail at all things, because underneath the shiny outside, I am all rotten and decay on the inside.

Thank you, Mr. Miller for speaking out on mental health and inspiring those of us who struggle daily to function


A Good Talking To by Wentworth Miller

"There is no such thing as a neutral word... Either you are speaking life... Or you are speaking death..."

I heard somebody say that once. And I've never forgotten it.

I've had a lot of death spoken into me over the years. Harsh words. From multiple directions. Aimed in my direction. And at some point in there I guess I grabbed the baton. Started speaking death into myself.

There are things I've said to myself, about myself, in my car/apartment/shower that I wouldn't dream of repeating in public. That if I saw written in a book or heard on TV I'd think, "horrible." "Abusive." "Not okay." Words that speak - that have literally encouraged - death.

If I heard a parent say to their kid the things I used to say to myself on a regular basis, I'd call the cops. See to it that child was removed from the home.

And that's just what I've said out loud.

In my head it's a whole other story.

In my head I host a perpetual chorus, a gaggle of voices - some strident, some seductive, some sounding like specific individuals and others like nobody in particular - that can be relied on to say the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time. Disabling me. Unmanning me. Reminding me of my place (small, in the shadows) in the scheme of things.

I know this is true for other people too. Because I've heard them make the same complaint. They've got voices in their heads they can't get rid of. Try as they might. Bigoted. Belittling. Shaming. Voices that sound suspiciously like their parents or their peers. Like a former teacher or boss. Or maybe an ex. Or exes plural.

Well if you're one of those people I've got bad news for you. I don't think those voices are going away. I don't think there's any cutting them off or tuning them out. I think they're there to stay.

Speaking death.

So what to do?

The picture I always picture is a bank vault, stacked floor to ceiling with coins, all of them slicked with something black and shiny. Viscous. And each of these coins represents a word. And that word is death.

And there are thousands of them. These coins. Saved up over the 40+ years I've been alive on this planet.

And this vault - this account - is in my name. It belongs to me. Interest constantly accruing.

But there's a second vault. Same dimensions but nearly empty. Just a handful of coins lying in the corner.

And these are made of gold. And they speak life.

Some of these gold coins were put here by others. The rest were put here by me. But their number is few.

I've come to believe it's my duty - my responsibility - to fill this second vault. My duty to speak life into myself until these gold coins balance and finally outnumber the coins in that other vault. The ones that speak death.

Okay. Great. How is that done?

Every day, several times a day, I say nice things to myself.


I talk to myself.

I talk to myself about the things in my life that I appreciate. The people and the experiences I'm grateful for. What I'd like to see happen for me and for those I care about.

I speak words that are warm. Generous. Forgiving. Words that speak less to "self-esteem" and more to self-compassion. I speak to myself like I'd speak to a cherished friend. Or like I'd want that cherished friend to speak to me.

I do it in the car, I do it in the apartment, I do it in the shower.

You can call it prayer. You can call it positive affirmation. You can call it cornball.

I call it life-saving. Or maybe life savings.

When I first started this practice I didn't even necessarily believe most of the loving things I would say to myself. But belief isn't necessary. Repetition is.

Repetition, for me, is the key.

You see I'm fairly positive I didn't come into this world believing that I was too much or less than or not enough. I don't think I came into this world with a hateful chorus echoing in my head. It was by virtue of repetition, because I heard these lies over and over again, that I eventually came to believe - or at least be open to the possibility - that they were true.

Well if that's the case I can play that game too. I can use the same principle - repetition - to balance the scales.

So I've been saying nice things to myself. Lots of them. All the time. Things that won't be revealed here because they're private. They belong to me and me alone.

But I'll tell you something miraculous. Some of the things I've been saying to myself (most of which I didn't, at first, believe to be true) I've started hearing in my head. Unsolicited. It would seem I've added a few new members to that mental chorus. Because now, when the more veteran members start in with their nagging/limiting/discrediting, someone answers back.

It's like I'm creating a new theme song for myself. Slowly but surely. An upgraded mental playlist offering support and assurance instead of sabotage and upset.

(On a side note, this is pretty much the same thing I do as an actor. When I get a new part I take the lines - written by someone else, about a character and a story completely unrelated to me - and I memorize them by repeating them out loud. With every repetition these foreign words and phrases become more and more familiar, gathering weight and meaning and texture until they're a part of me. Personalized. Ready to be spoken and brought to life when the cameras roll.)

I'll be honest with you - I'm not always in the mood to say nice things to myself. Sometimes I'm tired. Sometimes, yes, it feels a little silly. Sometimes it feels like I'm just going through the motions, like there's nothing behind the words as I say them. No energy. No passion. No enthusiasm. Sometimes they're just... words.

But on those days when I find I'm not in the mood, when it feels like I can't be bothered to give breath to my loving thoughts and wants for myself and others, I think of the death vault. Its dark coins stacked high. Four decades' worth. I think about how long it's going to take me to balance that out. How many deposits I'll need to make in that other vault, the one that speaks life. I remind myself that I've got my work cut out for me. And that I'd better get to it.

Then I open my mouth to speak. And when I speak, I speak life.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Be who you are. You are not everyone's cup of tea and that is OK."

"Be who you are. You are not everyone's cup of tea and that is OK."

For real????  That sentence. That one up there in bold. The one I retyped.  ^^^^ That is one of the hardest things to accept if you suffer from Anxiety.  Saying that it is okay for people to not like you, what is that all about??  I mean, obviously someone not liking you is bad. Isn't it? Anxiety paints my world in vibrant blacks and whites. Liked = white = good.  Not liked = black = bad. 

I don't even know if it is possible for me to learn that ^^^ especially because I don't know if I am my own cup of tea. One of the things I do know about myself is that I am completely self-aware of all of my flaws. Anxiety told me. Anxiety has a list and because Anxiety is a squatter in my brain, I have the list. It's pinned on the wall of my cerebral cortex or something, like a poster from my favorite band on my tween bedroom wall. 

Anxiety tells me that my flaws are greater than my gifts. Even more clever than that, Anxiety tells me how my gifts can be considered flaws.  Anxiety is a master mind of turning a positive into a negative.  Oh how I wish I could use my mental powers for good instead of evil.  Baby steps.

Let's rephrase:

Be who you are.  Become your own cup of tea, then you will be OK.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Notes from a Therapist

I have a friend I don't get to ever see. She lives in San Jose, California. She is one of my idols. I am sure she has no clue as to how much I adore her.  She has a soul that will always make her a special, enduring friend in my heart. She is good. She is sunshine. I love her dearly and aspire to be like her.  Her mom says she has been like that since she was little, which makes me think about the "nurture or nature" phenomenon.  Maybe we are all predisposed as to who we are, which in her case is a ray of sunshine, and in my case is chattering teeth.

Anyway, because of the Wonderful World of Facebook, I found out she has started blogging again. Her blog has always been one of my favorites and I am going to add it to the sidebar for those who need some Vitamin D.  It's called "The Gladdest Thing Under the Sun," named after her favorite poem.  Today's post is entitled "Boring Things My Therapist Has Said To Me."  I was like, WHAT?! TJ needs a therapist? That shit's whack.  But then I became curious, what kind of advice does someone like TJ need?  Here is her list.


1.  Go outside for a few minutes each day.
2.  Remember what worked before.  Do that again.
3.  Lower your expectations for yourself.
4.  Leave some things un-done now and then.
5.  Take a walk whenever you can.
6.  Create something to look forward to.
7.  When you're anxious something bad will happen, tell yourself, "That's highly unlikely."
8.  Get some exercise.
9.  Put alone time on your calendar.
10.  Find a tiny step to take, and take it.

11. There are tiny pieces of your day that you have some control over.  Make them work for you.

AND here is a picture of her actual list from her iPhone. It is slightly different.

The hell? TJ's list mentions Anxiety. The hell you say. I read her list thinking that it would be more like you know, #1 or #8, but never anything related to anxiety.

I have to say, I have my own list that I keep in my iPhone.  Shall we look?


  1. Accept that you will always have emotions and you won't keep them in a bubble. It is OK when they spill out sometimes. You are not a robot.
  2. Actively evaluate where are your thoughts and feelings, and where are my behaviors? Emotional v. Rational.
  3. Make lists.  In other words, get the chaos out of your head and put it on paper where you can check things off and see accomplishments.
  4. Be aware of All or Nothing thinking. Look for options in the middle.
  5. You can only control your 50% in life and in situations.  Do what you can, and put the uncontrollable out of your mind. 
  6. You should not worry about how your feelings can make others feel.  That is not on me.  My feelings cannot invade someone else's space unless THEY let them. (example: I can share with my husband and shouldn't always worry that I am bringing him down just because I am down.)
  7. Ask yourself, do you want to be content, or do you want to be happy?  Don't fear change. 
  8. Baby steps. 

I am stealing from TJ's phone list and adding #9.

9.  SO much of anxiety is not having control over our lives, but we have control over pieces of it each day.

The pieces. I think those are what I should focus on right now. Because if I look at the days they are long. So are the hours. And, of course, the minutes.  A friend of mine suggested a book for me yesterday, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankle, Holocaust survivor. I find that I learn more from others than from myself. Viktor seems like a good candidate to teach me a lesson about worry and anxiety.  From the Amazon write-up, "Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose."

Anxiety is suffering. Anxiety is pain. Anxiety is a thief who steals away your ability to cope and deal with even the minutia of life.  Lists from therapists and words of wisdom are our weapons to use in the battle.  Me v. My Brain, as always.  Hopefully my stockpile of ammunition will eventually outweigh my disease.  I am, as always, a work in progress.

Friday, April 1, 2016

No Small Talk. Ever.

I went to a funeral recently. It was a low attendance funeral. Funerals suck by default, but the actual service for this one was pleasant, and the eulogies were sweet and poignant. It's the aftermath that got me. Few people - people I love and normally would cut up with- were there. However, because we were at a funeral, the social norms are different than our normal everyday setting. I couldn't joke or kid. Somber talk only because that is what is appropriate. I can't do it. I had nothing to say. I left all heightened and needing a Valium. I couldn't come down from my amped up state. It sucked. It ruined my day.

Today I passed someone I really like in the hallway. He asked me how I am doing. I said fine. My face said not fine. He tilted his head in inquiry. Okay, so I am not fine, but I cannot tell you all of the reasons that I am not fine. Because I tell too many people. I get verbal diarrhea when I start in on why I am not fine. You will know everything about me and it will end in me feeling sorry for myself because I cannot get out of this job and into a new one because I am not good enough and made poor life decisions.  Damn you, small talk!

I am convinced that my job is doing me in emotionally. Too much down time. Too much idleness. Too much self-reflection. I pray that God will put me on a different path soon. If I weren't a working mother who needs to pay the rent and provide insurance I would walk out the door today. Rational thought tells me to work, "fuck that get money" and pay for your insurance, fool. Emotional thought says walk out today, go home and clean your house and raise your kids and find your path.  Of course, I cannot ever figure out if leaving is really what is best for me mentally or if it is a safety behavior. My therapist says if it makes you feel good it is probably a safety behavior. Ugh.

I feel like all of my thoughts are scattered today. If you are still reading this, thanks. You might be as desperate as I am. We should be friends, or not, since we would only feed each other's anxiety.  Side note: I used to think that we needed Anxiety support groups until I realized we would stand up and say all of our what-ifs, and then everybody else in the room could just add to those so we would descend down the wormhole more rapidly as a group than in our own in isolation. To my fellow sufferers I say, fight the good fight, it's lonely out here on the field. But this battle, we have to win this one on our own.