Saturday, March 15, 2014

Do you see me?

Early on when I was first dealing with my panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, full time school, and being a nanny to a 7 month old 55 hours a week I would get overwhelmed and lonely. Weird, eh?
True story.
Another true story is that sometimes I would take little Lia out to a coffee shop, the library, Gymboree, or the store and just hope and hope and hope that someone would see us and talk to me.
A lot of the last year has been spent alone or with a little tiny bundle of joy and needs. It was alienating and odd. My life up to that point had been consistent with PEOPLE. And while being around people often triggered my panic attacks I still needed it. And sometimes it got unbearable. It felt like my life wasn’t real. Nobody saw what I was doing 90% of the time… was it even really happening?
And so, out I would go. Desperate for eye contact, a head nod, a “hello”, an acknowledgement that I was in fact a real, breathing, human.
Do you see me?
Do you see me?
Do you see me?
Today, a year later from when the worst of it all began I was walking around Fred Meyer shopping for dinner and I noticed how quickly people averted their eyes.
We don’t really like talking to each other. We don’t even necessarily love to say hi to a stranger. It can feel awkward, uncomfortable, forced. But today I was aware of how good, healing, and healthy it can be just to look at someone in the eye.
Because sometimes we just need to be seen.

Friday, January 24, 2014

She wiped the dust off, but to dust she returned.

Today was the day we remembered my grandmother, Helen Thorson. Grandma.

It was one of the more surreal moments of my life and I stayed on the surface of it all as much as I could. I laughed, I joked, I remembered, I spoke, I cried (briefly.) The things we do. The experiences that bind us. Today we gathered for a death, but talked of new life, new jobs, new engagements, moves, and more. Many of us had not been in the same place for years, by choice or by circumstance.

Over ten years ago we stopped gathering together for Christmas Eve. My family's story is.... complicated. It was always with mourning that my grandma traveled each year to different houses at different points to drop off her famous Norwegian lefse, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and more. Today I laughed with her... She finally got us altogether. She won, in the end. She kind of always did.

The past few years of her life were very difficult. Through credit cards and social security she supported a son of hers and a grandson, whom none of us particularly care for. The son is... borderline destructive and very intimidating. Always up for a fight. Thus, visits to grandma/mom slowed and dwindled almost to a stop. She was lonely, mentally unstable, physically declining. The great and terrible things of old age. It's hard to remember that. It's hard to realize that.

Today though, we came together and celebrated the absolutely amazing woman that my grandmother was. We laughed about her ornery tricks... scaring my long deceased grandpa by pretending he shot her while ketchup blood ran down her thighs, decorating the town's statues with Santa hats at the ripe age of 80. At midnight. We laughed about yard sales, long road trips, family gatherings. My grandma raised her children from the time of 1968 on, alone. She was a matriarch in the fullest sense of the word.

There are three words I used to describe my grandma today as I spoke before the gathered. She was stubborn, encouraging, and adventurous. These are three attributes I will expand on in coming posts. A woman who lived nearly 91 years deserves many words about her. This is only the beginning.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Let me tell you this.

Come here. Please.
Sit down. No, not there, the good chair. Are you comfortable? Good. Anything else you need? Water? Tea? Coffee? Wine?
Sit with me for a moment. Take a second to sit with me and hear my story.

But wait. Still sit. But... can I trust you? Am I safe with you? Will you be quick to judge? Quick to write me off? Quick to react how other have reacted, which sent me into panic attacks, anxiety attacks, rage? If so, maybe I'll wait. Bide my time. Find others to talk with. But. If you are ready. I will pull up my own chair and sit with you.

I want you to know. I want you to understand. I want you to understand me. But. I'm afraid.

Who are you? Who are you in my life? Who are you as a person? A Christian? I'm so. Very. Afraid.

With love,
Me.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

It's not God's fault.

I often sit in bitterness. Still. A year later. Angry about being sexually harassed. Angry that very few people came to my aide. Angry that Christianity is such a patriarchy that we assume to believe men quicker than women. Angry that victims fall prey to the torment of not only their abuser but generally most other people. We were "asking for it" in one way or another. Not true.

Because this happened to me in a "Christian setting" it has been hard for me to separate my bitterness toward those people with bitterness toward God. Mostly because phrases such as, "I hope you find forgiveness from God, too" were tossed around so easily. Wounding me on a deeper level than you can begin to imagine.

I'm no longer comfortable with "Christianity." I shy away from anyone who claims to be a believer. I'm not alone. I'm not in the minority. "Christianese" will haunt me forever. I will for a very long time shy away from anyone claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit, or claiming to say what they are saying in the name of the Lord. And I will run like all hell from people saying they "have a feeling from the Lord."

But.
Today.
Just now.
I realized that it's not God's fault.



And that's an important step.

Friday, November 8, 2013

I had a dream once...

I had a dream once and in it I wrote the most amazing piece of poetry ever. The words fell upon my soul and said exactly what I have been feeling these past months. The dream was only a week ago. It is frustrating to wake up and not recall the words in any form. It makes me wonder what power of creativity lurks beneath my waking moments. That if I could harness what I create in my dreams who would I be? What hearts could I touch? Could my own be at peace?

Questions without answer. This is part and parcel of my life these days.

Today my anxiety and panic manifested itself in the belief that my nerves in my leg (which felt they were on fire) were creating a blood cot and sending it to my brain to give me a brain aneurysm to bring my death. Sadly, this one isn't new. But I was so, completely, absolutely convinced for about three hours of my imminent demise. (Which is much better than two months ago when it would have been from the moment I woke up until the moment I finally fell asleep.)

This week my therapist and I discussed mortality and my fear of my own death. We are working on using it as a positive force in my life. We talked about how as one becomes more aware and in tune with their death that person CAN become less petty, more loving, more honest, more tender. When faced with the reality of each moment not being a given then the fact that our spouse or friends or parents do something annoying diminishes in the light of the importance of here and now being possibly the last moment shared with that loved one. He wrote a blog post saying pettiness shrinks in the light of death. I like that idea. I like that my panic and my anxiety CAN give me the power to be more aware of my moments with loved ones.

I used to get angry at my parents when I was younger and without fail would get over my anger within an hour. And every time I would pray, hope, will it the best I could that my last interaction with them would not be one of anger. I was obsessive with stories about people's regret and deep remorse over losing a loved one after an angry fight. It terrified me and fascinated me. It has always kept me in line with my interactions with people. My fear of death really has guided me far more than I ever understood until the past couple of weeks.

Right now I'm rolling around in my mind the idea of pettiness. How terrible we treat each other as human beings. How fleeting everything really is in this life. I'm thinking that if we could harness the reality of today not being promised, let alone tomorrow, then perhaps we'd be more kind, quicker to forgive, more patient with people's questions, gentler with one another's hearts. I know I'm a bleeding heart for the world at large, but it burdens me deeply that WE are so insensitive and rough with the lives of others, with the souls of others. And I do say we, for I am not excused. It burdens me deeply that WE always think WE are right and THEY are wrong. It kills me that we are quick to accuse and slow to admit our own failings.

I had a dream once that I wrote the most amazing piece of poetry ever. If I could, that's what I would share with you instead. Something tender, uplifting, beautiful, positive. But since it was but a fleeting moment in my subconscious I can only share with you what my waking mind finds itself doting on. It's something at least.

My deep joy of the day: Dinner and movies with friends. It's odd and so refreshing that Newberg is FINALLY feeling like normal life. A place where I'm not on edge. With people I feel comfortable and cozy with.

My surface joy of the day: Cinnamon Whiskey and Ginger Ale is a surprisingly delicious drink.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

If I'm being honest, it's tough being honest.

Most of these days I don't know any longer what exactly I believe about God, Christianity, the Church, or myself in relation to all of those things. It's terrifying.

I've had answers for as long as they've been fed into me. I am realizing now, there are answers... but then there are questions. Deep, longing, beautiful, painful, honest questions. Questions I am not allowed to voice to most people because their answers would be quick, sharp, commanding. What I need now are the answers of silence, understanding, patience, and listening.

Very few people, perhaps actually only three, know of my questionswithoutimmediateanswersthatperhapsrequirelongtermexamining. Already, I've been confronted with the worry over my soul being lost. I can only shake my head in wonder that this has become a cruel form of Christian "love" and "concern."

I need time and I need space. Oh and by the way, I have neither.

I'm not living the life I want. I work 57 hours a week when you count in my drive time. In addition I am taking 14 credits of classes. In addition I am trying to be a good fiance, a good friend, go to therapy and grow to accept my anxiety, clean my house, grocery shop, cook, eat well, working out has become a distant friend, actually being healthy is becoming secondary to what meal do I have time for today? And it's just NOT WORKING. It's not. And I don't enjoy it. There's no balance. It feels like I'm trying to capture the wind.

As I drove home tonight, trying to accept the anxiety I was feeling, I thought to myself that if I were just getting a normal amount of sleep each night I'd be better equipped to handle my panic, my questions, my broken and shattered heart. But in order to do that I'd have to stop working so much or stop school. And it just doesn't feel like there is a way out, I feel trapped in my own life. How is it that I got here? How have I lost myself so thoroughly. I know the answers. I know the reasons. They are varied and plentiful. And it is what it is.

Can I get out? Can I become peaceful again? Can I find time to sit and breathe just once without thoughts of what I should/could/would be doing instead? (For example right now I should be cleaning up dinner, I could be cleaning my house, I would be doing homework if I didn't feel so unsettled.)

UGH.

A big fatty, ugh. I hate that my thoughts are so negative.

My deep joy of the day? Meeting for coffee with a new friend while Lia slept peacefully beside me. We talked of books, schooling systems, our lives, our hobbies, our joys, our sorrows. We met in the silliest/craziest way imaginable (cue a terrible man who hit on both of us at Starbucks.) And it's been a beautiful friendship. So, for that, I am thankful.

My surface joy of the day? Eating red wine hamburgers with caramelized onions and goat cheese for dinner along with roasted cauliflower and a glass of good, red wine.

There are things to be thankful for, things that keep me going. And to these I nod my head in deep gratitude and hope for the best moving forward.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Acceptance

I just had my first "accepted" panic attack.

Two weeks ago I started with a new therapist. He is a Zen Buddhist of Jewish heritage. We are working on a mindfulness therapy called ACT or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It is absolutely opposite of everything I've tried doing and have read these past 11 months of personal hell.

Instead of trying to control my thoughts of panic and anxiety, I am learning to accept them as a normal part of my human experience. Instead of narrowing the lens of what is an acceptable experience, I am expanding it.

So. I sit and I experience the panic attack. I experience the flooding of blood throughout my body. I experience the drastic increased heart rate. I experience my stomach dropping out from me. I experience the dry mouth. I experience the multiple and rapid thoughts of death, dying, emergency room visits. I experience the numbness that comes from experiencing shortness of breath. I experience the lightheaded and dizzy feelings from experiencing shortness of breath. I experience being unable to talk for fear of making things worse. I experience it and accept it as a normal range of what is human behavior for me.

It's honestly a lot less stressful than trying to push it away and keep it at bay. This panic attack (which generally tips into a prolonged anxiety attack) lasted for only 15 minutes. And now I am calm. Tired, because panic attacks are exhausting, but calm.

My therapist wants me to become bored with having panic attacks. He wants me to have so many that I'm literally saying, "Eh, whatever." I know it probably seems insane to be so accepting of something so intensely damaging and painful to my emotional state of being and my physical state of being, but there's something about it that works.

Acceptance. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing. It is the powerful drive of any relationship... We know we are loved when we are accepted into someone's home, someone's embrace, someone's life. We know we are loved by God for he accepts us, as we are, into his Kingdom, here and now.

I feel at peace when I accept myself and when I accept that I am accepted. I am learning that it takes me a little longer to do my homework, my housework, my life because I have panic attacks, I have anxiety. It makes me no better or worse than before or to come. I just am. Who I am. Right here and now. That's a beautiful thing to accept and know.

Here's to a process. A lifelong process.