Nature’s Lesson

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Heavy with age, burden, disease, or maybe split by lightning; this tree was lost and felled, yet it sprouted again and flourishes using its own decay as nourishment.

 

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Enervated by Anxiety

I suffer from anxiety disorders: specifically, I have General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and PTSD. They are my demons. They co-exist, act and react with and upon one another. Every day is a new adventure living with these silent menaces, illnesses not visible to the naked eye, silenced and shunned by society. Everyone has their own story and degrees of affliction, functioning, and coping, but I’m sure we would all agree that, in slang terms, it just plain sucks.

I’ve stated my diagnoses and elaborated on my situation in a few of my prior posts. Their signature is somewhere in almost everything I write. There was a time when I didn’t leave my house due to Agoraphobia associated with panic disorder. Often times I rush home from the store, a drive, a social event, or work (when I was working) in the throws of a panic attack seeking my safe place.

Lately I’ve been improving, slowly and steadily, from what I consider my all time low period of not leaving the house, walking to the corner, or driving.  I can do all three things now to one degree or another. Each one still brings on heightened anxiety, and I still have panic attacks, but I work hard to keep improving my situation.

I am fortunate to have medical care and a therapist I trust, respect, and genuinely like as a person. I look forward to our sessions and each successive stage of treatment. Part of my Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the gradual reintroduction of what were once ordinary tasks such as driving, being in public (especially crowded spaces), public interactions (like shopping), and socializing, all while still being anxious.

I’ve learned ways to reduce anxiety (besides medication) through retraining my thoughts from negative to positive, focusing on reality instead of the anxious story my brain tells me, breath work to calm my body, and mindfulness to pause and appreciate the present moments. I’m learning to let go of the associations of anxiety, panic, trauma, pain, and sadness to places, activities, events, and past situations.

Putting into practice all the things I have learned is hard work, some of the hardest work I’ve ever done, and it’s exacerbated by any physical ailment that happens to come along, such as my recent diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. It’s further complicated by my desire to achieve; I want to be well again. I want to be able to do the things I did with ease only a short time ago, so I work as hard as I can to get out there and function.

It’s hard for me not to minimize what I accomplish because I used to do it every day, but I try and listen to my therapist and celebrate the victories no matter how small. Most days it works and I truly feel a sense of accomplishment completing a task we discussed or meeting a goal from week to week. However, anxiety is inconsistent; other times the victory is bittersweet when followed by a setback or a less successful experience doing the same task. It’s those times that especially get me down and I find it hard to remain positive. I try not to let my mood spiral down, but frankly, it’s all so exhausting. I’m still surprised at how exhausting it can be.

On a good day I feel ready to resume my former life, only to have the next day or hour painfully remind me that I am not yet able. I desperately want to be normal again. I can see it, taste of it, and feel it, yet somehow it remains beyond my reach.

I suppose it’s my own fault. I should consider a return to my prior level of functioning a long term goal, but I continue to cling to it as a short term goal, only to be let down day after day, cursed again by the demons that walk by my side.

Bridge Rising

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Ships of despair sail my waters

in their wake

waves crash against me

but like a bridge I rise

slowly and steadily

balanced with weights and counterweights

upright I remain

while at their pace

the ships pass beneath me

and when they have progressed

I peacefully descend

until I see another approaching

illuminated against the sky

It’s then I will rise again

 

 

 

The Light of a Good Day

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For a long time I wondered what a good day was going to look like.  For me this day looked like the pictures above.  Full of light, color, sky, and the greenery of nature. This day, it was a day last week, went well almost from beginning to end.  I accomplished my CBT assignment and my mood was good.  Mostly, I was filled with an intense appreciation of what was around me in each individual moment, and I simply was.  Too often there is darkness, it is nice to know the light can still find it’s way to me and that I can pause to bask in its glow.

Depression and TMS Afterthoughts

Depression has walked with me for so many years that sometimes I forget we spend so much time together. We’ve been together so long I can’t remember the date we first met. It’s been at least 25 years. We became aquatinted gradually and our relationship evolved into quiet acceptance. We always managed well with medications, even if those medications came and went with increasing regularity.

It’s during times of exacerbation that depression creeps up and reminds me that we’ve never really been apart. Over the years life has thrown me many curveballs and the last four years have been the most challenging of my life. During this time I’ve suffered multiple losses, trauma, the resurgence of anxiety, and the diagnoses of PTSD, and panic disorder.

These conditions are not only at the forefront of my impairment but they present symptoms that often overlap and loop together. Like the chicken and the egg story, it is sometimes hard to know what condition causes what symptom or if one precipitates another.

The final blow to whatever nerves, resolve, energy, and strength I had left within me after walking for so long with these demons and dealing with life’s punches,  was the death of my mother last year. Her death affected me profoundly. I somehow held myself together just long enough to see her final wishes fulfilled then I shut down.

Grief turned to depression which included an amplification of anxiety and frequent panic attacks, which I’ve not had in decades. The culmination of all these things left me incapacitated, unable to work, socialize, or leave the house. It’s from this deep pit that I’ve been attempting to climb out for the past 12-15 months. Sometimes I climb up only to fall back down but I keep getting up again.

It’s hard for me to accept that I may never be the same again. I may never be able to handle the stresses of the job I once loved. I continue to work on my self and hope that I can reclaim my life, if not exactly how it used to be, then something acceptably close.

Its been about two weeks since my very last TMS session. I had my doubts when the doctors told me I might feel improvements after the treatments ceased, but I think I have felt some additional improvements. It’s still inconsistent, and maybe it will stay that way, but It’s something to latch on to. On better days I try to make the most of the good feelings and accomplish CBT tasks and take pleasure where I can find it, whether its a walk admiring nature, spending time with my partner, music, or working on this blog.

i suspect I will re-visit my TMS impressions in a later blog. It isn’t easy for me to describe my feelings, emotions, and the nuances of my conditions but I hope I was able to convey something that might be informative or of use to someone considering the treatment.