1 July! It Comes Around!

Have you ever noticed how life is a series of never-ending circles?  So many events seem to happen at the same time each year.  Never  the same but often life changing.  This has been brought more clearly into focus by an app called Timehop, that takes me back over the last, however many years I’ve been attached to this thing called Social Media, and shares with me the things I deemed sharable with the world!

In my world, 1 July is a significant day ….

6 Years ago – I was sick!  Nothing much has changed there!!

5 Years ago –  All of my Boys were in Europe having the adventure of their lives.

4 Years ago – I was travelling with my darling God daughter, Abigail and her family to the country, to spend a weekend with my dear farming friends.

3 Years ago – I put my moisturizer on before I took my glasses off!!!  Not wise!

2 Years ago – I moved out of my home of 21 years and moved into my new Unit.

1 Year ago – I got a beautiful new bed and realised I was suffering from pretty bad anxiety.

Today – I am starting the new financial year with no financial security and very little mental stability and poor general health.

Yes, 1 July has always been an interesting day of reflection and insight for me.  Not counting, of course, the day 3 years ago I decided to put my moisturizer on over my glasses …

For those of you wondering about my job loss.  Due to my fluctuating anxiety and depression and to changing structures within the company, my ability to be a productive staff member was no longer possible.  My bosses and workmates had been carrying and caring for me for about a year (maybe longer) and it was with sadness that we parted ways.  What will remain is the personal care that I have been receiving.  Not only have the friendships developed become forever friendships but my bosses have made room for me to be employed for a few hours a week at the ballet school they run.  This will be enormously helpful, in giving me a stable something to get up and go to each week while I continue to work on my mental health issues.  I am so blessed with people around me, that continually put themselves out to support me.

Now I know you are thinking this when I say Ballet School …

Young ballet dancers at a ballet class standing against the wall listening to the instructions from the ballet teacherUnfortunately, the reality would be much more like this …

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Well, neither are true!

The truth of my work will be more like this …

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And this …

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So life as of 1 July, continues to have its challenges but what amazing things I have to be grateful for?  I have a home and friends and family.  I have food and clothing and transport.  I have doctors and medication and a brain that can still learn things.  I have art and music and animals.  I have sport and books and the internet. I have faith and a growing self belief and peace.

And every 1 July, I know I am alive and will continue to be ready for whatever comes around.

Change!

Today was supposed to be a work day for me but I stayed home, under the covers and listened to all 12 episodes of the podcast Serial.  The problem is that I only have two work days a week, so I can’t really afford to stay at home under the covers on one of those days!  So why did I do it?  I felt really tired.

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At first I thought that my tiredness was totally caused by the worry I have been doing, about my 96 year old mother in law (MIL).  She has been in hospital for several weeks now and gently broaching the subject with her, of moving into a residential care facility has been stressful.  She agreed with the suggestion on the weekend and has totally convinced herself it will be the most wonderful thing for her – and we all agree!  I feel so relieved.

Of course, relief can cause tiredness but as I lay in bed this morning, I wondered if there was something else dragging me down.  I looked around for tell-tale signs and discovered that YES they were all there.  This is what I found.

I have not been out of my house since Friday.  I have very little food in my fridge or cupboards – certainly no healthy food.  I have been online almost every waking minute since Friday but have not actually written anything on my blog.  I have played games and watched junk TV all day everyday and have listened to my newest addiction – Podcasts – most nights.  I have also stopped eating …. everything but breakfast.  Cereal morning, noon and night but now I have run out of milk!  I feel fat and ugly.  I am fat but NOT ugly.  I want to give my Boys money that I don’t have …. they haven’t asked for anything by the way.  I am scared.  I feel sick in my stomach and my hands are shaky.  I am mad at myself.

I feel like I am letting myself and my tribe down.  I set the goal of focussing on the positive things in my life when writing The Mandy Diaries – to make myself feel better and maybe cause a smile or two.  But time after time I find myself typing about my anxieties and short comings.  What a downer for people to read, I say to myself.  Maybe I shouldn’t publish everything I write?

Being as authentic as I can be, is very much how I wish to be seen.  Trying not to be self-absorbed is something I struggle with on an hourly basis.  So here I am, once again writing about my issues and trying to say what some of you might be feeling but can’t or don’t have the opportunity or desire to share.

There is enforced change on the horizon for me.  I don’t even do chosen change very well.  So when change comes with no control on my part ….. RED LIGHTS FLASHING!!!!  AVOID!  AVOID!  

panic-thoughts

I am eventually going to have to return to Adelaide to help the extended family, clear out my MIL’s home of the last 35 years.  I know that it is a hard thing to do.  After a death is difficult enough but to do it in a respectful way when the person is alive is such a responsibility.  I am mad at Adrian for leaving me to struggle through this without him!!  CHANGE!

It is only a month before I no longer have a job anymore.  My work has been the only real bit of structure in my life for a while now and although I am often unable to get there, the people I work for and with are the most caring, thoughtful and encouraging workmates and friends.  There are so many questions to answer about my ability to find and keep a new job, about my eligibility for government support, about my short and long-term financial stability.  CHANGE!

I said YES to attending a hydrotherapy class with a friend, tomorrow night.  I don’t want to go!  I am pretty sure I will die!  Dramatic much …. you think?  I am sure this is why I stopped eating this week.  So I will be thin enough to feel comfortable at the pool!  Thanks mind for thinking so logically! (Rolls eyes and shakes head!)  I don’t want to let my friend or myself down.  I need this.  CHANGE!

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So I will give myself a massive hug.  Write a small grocery list – hopefully I will get through it without the panic attack that occurred last shopping day and go and buy some healthy food and a few treats.  I will once again begin the journey of change with one small step at a time and if I meet you on the road too, know that I am holding out my hand to you, through my blog, because I need your support and because I want to be your support. Maybe we can do CHANGE ….. one stumbling step at a time, together!

Footprints in the sand

Seeing it through

This time last week, I made a commitment to myself, with my psychologist Dr R as a witness, to go to work every Tuesday and Thursday for the next 12 weeks.  It was to be my focus.  Even if it was hard I would still go!  It becomes hard to go to work when my anxiety is high but I want to be able to acknowledge that anxiety, and go anyway.  Sometimes, as has been happening lately, if I am concentrating on a different area of myself, my resolve to get to work encounters roadblocks and before I realise diminishes quite quickly.  I often don’t notice it until too late.   My eating habits and healthy food choices had been my key focus for the last few months because I had been comfortably attending work regularly and without much anxiety.  However, when Dr R suggested a review of how everything was travelling, I suddenly realised that my work attendance had once again dropped off and I was in fact only getting to work on Tuesdays OR Thursdays most weeks not BOTH!  It was for this reason, we decided on a both/and commitment for the next 3 months – food and work.

So here I am.  One week down the track and I am NOT at work today!  And I feel BAD!  What was I thinking?  I knew I was going to fail to keep the agreement.  I always do fail.  We even talked about failing or thinking that I would fail.

I found work quite tough on Tuesday as my closest workmate is away on holiday ….. How dare she????  I got through the work day because my second closest workmate kept coming and checking up on me – making sure I was okay.  My workmates are good like that – they are the same ones that kidnap me on Fridays, for mystery outings.  So why is today different from Tuesday?  Well, the first workmate is still on holiday, although she is thinking about me occasionally. But the second workmate had a medical appointment and was not going to be at work today.  My first thought on hearing that news was …. I can do hard things! (Thankyou, Momastery).

We Can Do Hard Things

Immediately, I found it difficult to sleep last night.  At 1am I was still wide awake, even though I had eaten a healthy dinner, turned off all my electronics early and had a relaxing shower.  Eventually, I went to sleep but woke up at 5am drenched in sweat, trying desperately to find toilet paper!  Yes, you read correctly – toilet paper!  I was dreaming that I was in a park with people everywhere and I was stuck in a toilet with no toilet paper!  Unfortunately, the toilet door was a half or stable door – with the top half removed!  There was no privacy and NO toilet paper!  I’m sure it looked something like this but with the top half of the door completely removed!  There were people all around me …. talking to me!!

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I WAS IN A COMPLETE PANIC!  

When I eventually awoke, I was shaking and dripping with sweat.  Breathing hard and totally confused.  I wanted to crawl under my bed!  Hide!  Escape!  Eventually, I realised I had been dreaming but it took ages before I was settled enough to get up and change from my damp pj’s and go make a cuppa.  That is what panic and anxiety does to me.

I knew then that I wasn’t going to work.  But how was I going to explain it to Dr R?   And my workmates, who I knew would feel guilty for not being there for me?  And myself?  Mostly, myself!  I thought about why it is important to go to work.  My need for independence, freedom and stability.  How going to work gives me the much desired social interaction and rebuilds my confidence.

It is not Dr R’s fault that I didn’t go to work.  It isn’t my workmates fault either.  You know what?  It isn’t my FAULT either!  But it is my responsibility to understand what happens to me when I don’t and when I do.  It’s my responsibility to remember my goals and commitments in relation to improving my ability to not be controlled by my failure story.  I choose to acknowledge that not sticking to my commitment does reinforce the negative self belief and stories my internal voice tells me.  I now know this adds to my stress levels and is not helpful to dwell on.  It certainly leaves me with a stuck feeling.

Today I choose to allow myself a bump in the road.  I choose to alter my commitment to 11 weeks attendance at work on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I choose to be happy that I stayed at work last Tuesday when it was hard and uncomfortable.  I choose to move on and look forward to next week with confidence.

Meanwhile, here are some beautiful Autumn leaves sent to me from my friend on holiday in Canberra.  Did I mention that I really, truly, ruly hate envy her for having a real Autumn?

Photo sent from workmates holiday to make me jealous!
Photo sent from workmate on holiday to make me jealous!

Anxiety – Not Today!

I have been so good for so long.  I have been stretching myself and pretty much living a full life, with few boundaries caused by my anxiety.  And then it happens –

I wake at 3 am with that dreaded ball of molten liquid sitting in my gut!  I feel that if I don’t move to the bathroom, I may have an accident but my body doesn’t want to be moving.  It wants to be still and hiding in bed.  I think of the diffusion strategies I have been taught and begin the internal self talk.  After a few minutes, I feel the heat subside enough for me to get to the bathroom.  Accident prevented.

I return to bed but I leave the light on and find some music to listen to – anything to distract myself.  Not today …. The questions flow thick and fast.  What are you concerned about?  What could happen?  Why?  Always why?  Of course there is no why, it just is!  My heart rate begins to speed up, so I concentrate on my breath.  It calms enough for me to doze but when I next wake I feel sick in my stomach.  I get up and make a cup of tea but I am angry with myself!

Today is supposed to be a work day and then I have tickets to attend the Rod Stewart Concert tonight.  I did not prepare myself well enough.  I have things to do to help me plan and have control on days like this.  I didn’t complete them all ahead of time.  I didn’t put out my clothes to wear to work but I did make sure that I had a healthy lunch prepared.

The Easter weekend had been a mixture of alone time and contact with people time.  That was good.  I got myself to the football – all by myself on Friday night.  That was good.  I ate, at least, 2 healthy meals during the long weekend.  Not enough?  Probably not!  Exercise – probably not enough!  Fresh air and sunshine – probably not enough!  TV – too much.  Computer – too much.  Junk food – too much!

Now my mind is racing, so I sip my tea and concentrate on my breathing.  I begin to calm down enough to tell myself that all of these things can’t be changed but I can do better from now on.  I go to find my cat.  Stroking Fev soothes me and she begins to purr.  I take her back to bed with me and we snuggle down and I fall asleep at last.

I wake late and I feel hung over but I am still aware of that hot mess in the pit of my stomach.  It remains but doesn’t feel like it is controlling me.  At the moment, anyway.  I stop to decide what I really want to do today and quickly come to the conclusion, that if I want to give myself the best chance of getting to the concert tonight, work will not happen today.  I refuse to allow the guilt that is beginning to rise inside me, to be given any freedom to grow!

Today, must be about kindness to myself.  It must be about rest and recovery – it is not a good day for unreal expectations for myself.  Time to give myself a hug.  Time to eat well and go outside for a bit and do a bit more exercise and nap when I need too.   Allowing the negative feelings space but quickly moving on and listening to the positive messages I have inside me.

And only then, I will have the strength to go, with my friends, to the Concert I was so looking forward too.   I know how to take care of myself!

I will be ready for you, Rod!  Will you be ready for me?

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P.S: Anxiety Girl Cartoon by Natalie Dee