Striving to live in the present while coping with past demons without fearing the future. My journey with trauma, grief, anxiety & panic shared by my stories and through the expression of my poetry and photography.
How do you find gratitude in a world of never-ending suffering? How do you find gratitude in your own life if you live with the chaos of anxiety, depression and panic disorders?
Finding gratitude is a journey as individual to each of us just as our lives are uniquely different. For me, when I could easily be consumed by my limitations or simply by the news cycle, I like to check in and make a dedicated effort to see things with a grateful heart.
Some days it’s easy to feel grateful. I may have accomplished a goal, had a pleasant conversation with someone I love, or enjoyed a moment of calm and clarity. On bad days, when everything seems to feel off, whether depressed or hyper anxious, it’s harder to feel grateful. Oftentimes, on hard and challenging days, I need a gentle push back into the here and now to remind me to just be grateful for being exactly as I am. I think it’s those days when I consciously seek to find a moment of bliss and beauty that the feeling of gratitude feels more poignant.
Quietly, I acknowledgement that others are also suffering and that everyone is on their own journey, following their path, enduring their own pain, and walking with their own demons. It’s while in this repose that I can connect with the universe, nature, and all of humanity, sharing my thoughts and healing energies. What I ask of the universe for myself, I ask for all those who suffer. I find comfort in this continuing circle of energy and in the warmth of it’s flowing gratitude.
Just as you share in suffering, you can share in the joy of all that surrounds you. Take at least a few moments each day to pause and feel what is around you. What makes you smile? What stirs your heart? What do you find beautiful and special? What are you grateful for today?
Today, I am grateful for this blog and my ability to let words flow as both an aid to my healing and as an outlet for creativity. I am grateful that my feelings go forth into the universe as energy to be shared.
I hear a little bird outside my door
singing loudly with purpose
there’s no birdsong in reply
so he must be singing to me
once his message is delivered
he moves on
to deliver a message of song at someone else’s door
Anyone who is plagued with anxiety of any form may be familiar with the difficulties of dealing with added stressors and the thoughts, feelings and emotions that intrude and hinder rational thinking.
I live in Florida in the path of Hurricane Irma. Her impending arrival was like a weight that sat on my shoulders, growing heavier each day. As if someone were piling on the weight until I buckled. Stressed beyond my ability to cope while trying to be prepared, I easily lost my thoughts and plans and had to stop, do nothing, and try to remember what it was I was about to do.
I wanted to escape, run, drive, or fly as fast as I could from my home to avoid the arrival of Irma. She veered east so the pressure was off a little. Against all the voices in my head we decide to stay put and hope her course didn’t alter. It did alter and again, while there was still time, we revisited whether to stay or go. Go Go Go, leave this place is all I can hear in my mind. Let’s get out now! I secretly scoured for flights. There are few flights out of the area. Those that remained are priced in the thousands. I checked random cities, any destination would do. I found nothing, or prices of $1500 to $3000 one way to go to Cleveland or Pittsburgh or Detroit; at this point I can’t even remember all the places I checked. They were all out of my price range anyway. Driving is an issue for me and was one of the factors in our continued decision to stay. I was uncertain of my abilities, even in this emergency to drive far from home. There was also the hotel room shortage from here to what seemed like the entire country east of the Mississippi.
So again we decided to stay. We made lists and I prepared while my partner was at work. I overthought everything. What to get, what to do if this happens or that happens. My mind raced 24/7. I couldn’t sleep and could barely eat. I needed extra doses of medication to maintain some semblance of order.
Irma is now on a direct path to our location. I knew we should have left is all I keep hearing in my head. Maybe I could have driven. Maybe I should have tried. Shoulda, woulda, coulda….. all the doubts and scenarios playing in my head like a loop of tape on a reel.
One more opportunity to leave and go stay with family on the other coast presented itself at the last minute. Do we go? Again, a million questions swirled in my mind at once. Is there gas along the route? How long will we be stuck there? Could I even make it? What if the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere? Our window of opportunity was slim, we’d have to leave within a hour to avoid the first rain bands along the way. My mind raced, my heart pounded loudly in my chest. I want to leave but I was afraid to leave. I was petrified in place. I couldn’t be driving, something that’s already difficult, in the rain under these conditions. We decided yet again to stay and the preparations continued. There were shortages now; no water left, gas was hard to find. I toped off anytime I would see a station that had gas. Will we have enough supplies? What can we do to secure our apartment?
It all seemed hopeless. Every moment was filled with regret for not trying to get out of Irma’s path. My thoughts were constantly of impending doom and death. I could already hear the roar of the wind and feel the thunder pounding in my chest. We’d retreat into the bathroom, the most interior room in the house, during the worst of the storm. I imagined windows breaking, debris flying in, and the roof peeling away. I could see and feel our struggle for life in our tiny bathroom. At times I was consumed by the fear.
Irma slows, prolonging the agony of waiting for her arrival. Every moment is panic. Every action is questioned and motivated by fear. Finally it seems as though we’ve done all we can. I still searched for more. We needed more batteries and I wanted nails. Why? In case I had to nail anything, something, to a broken window. I just wanted nails! We searched for nails the day before the storm arrived. I found one box. Intellectually I knew they were useless but emotionally I was relieved and satisfied. I had my nails. We were as ready as we were going to be. We made what little fortifications we could to the apartment and waited. The anticipatory anxiety was agonizing. I was so exhausted I don’t know how I remained standing.
What I’ve written about above is some of what happens to me, and I imagine others, when overwhelmed with added stressors that are above the normal baseline of daily functioning. It doesn’t have to be an impending disaster either, it can be the added stress of having to take my car for repair or somedays it’s just about anything out of the ordinary.
Fear is the enemy and as much as I have progressed in therapy it’s these times that remind me how much work I still have to do. I have the tools, I use them enough daily, but in these times they are forgotten as I slip into the familiar shoes of fear. To re-enter the fear loop I work so hard to break out of is disheartening, but sometimes it’s just how it is. Sometimes all you have learned, all your strategies and all you know to be true is hijacked by the fear and anxiety.
Irma arrived and it was scary, but honestly, her arrival was a relief in a way. The anticipatory anxiety was over, now all I had to do was weather the storm. We huddled through the worse winds in the bathroom, a few frightful hours. Fortunately for us it had shifted position a little and weakened by the time it reached us. The eye passed just to the east of us, yet somehow I think we escaped the worst of Irma’s wrath. It is bad in our area but at our house, in our immediate neighborhood, we were spared heavy damage.
In the end, for me the worse part of Irma was dealing with panic and anxiety. I am grateful that was the worst of my suffering and I hope to learn something from the experience for my future dealings with my demons of fear and anxiety.
My heart goes out to all those who suffered loss of life, safety, and property across Irma’s path as well as Harvey and the wildfires in the west. I send positive thoughts and energy to you all.
Another year has passed, marked on the calendar that is me. Like a blink of an eye or the slow movement of a glacier, depending on the day, mood or perspective.
A year of waiting, my life in limbo. A year of pain, trials, procedures and emotions; non-linear, full of ups and downs, but always returning to purgatory.
For all that is uncertain, the constants of love, support, and my appreciation for those by my side are juxtaposed.
Life unfolds as the universe will have it unfold. I am here, grateful just to be, for I have persisted and continue on the journey that is me.
Luckily, I do not journey alone. I am thankful I am able to give and receive love. I am thankful I can remember to pause and feel the warmth of the sun, see the clouds above me, hear the birdsong and appreciate all the beauty that the universe presents to me daily.
I believe all people enter and leave our lives to love us, befriend us, help us, or teach us something. It’s not unusual for friendships to change over the years, due to distance, life’s circumstances or other reasons. A close friend today might be less close tomorrow and a new friend might quickly become close. Our lives continually change and the people in them change as well.
If we are lucky we have some friends that are family. These are the special friends that no matter how much time or distance separates you, you just pick up right where you left off. Others come into our lives for a short time, burn bright, then fade away. These fleeting friendships serve a purpose, even if that purpose isn’t immediately clear.
It wasn’t that long ago that we kept in touch with our friends in person, by telephone, or by putting pen to paper. If we lost touch then the only way to get back in touch was to make an effort in those same ways.
Today it’s different. We can interact online with our friends, share thoughts, pictures, and update each other on our respective lives. This newfound connectivity has its advantages and disadvantages, which are continually debated.
In my experience it has served to keep me in touch with old friends who, without this technology, would be lost. The flip side of it is that it has reduced communication with closer friends. Picking up a phone and having an actual conversation seems archaic, requires more time and a higher level of commitment than is always convenient. Instead we text or have Facebook exchanges that can be spaced out over hours or even days, allowing for multitasking and living busy lives. Although convenient and less demanding, I do often feel shortchanged by these interactions. Friendship, like every human connection needs nurturing, and nurturing requires commitment, time and dedication. What harm, if any, is being done by not having a more organically committed friendship? Is technology saving us or hurting us?
All this leads me to the inevitable sting of being unfriended. I have a friend, at least I thought we were friends, that I don’t see often. We are separated by distance, and we no longer have the close relationship we once enjoyed. We worked together, spending many hours a day in each others company, and occasionally interacted outside of the workplace. We did, until recently, keep in touch by text and an occasional phone call, and of course we were Facebook friends. I know things change, yet I find I am nonetheless hurt his unfriending me.
There are ways built into Facebook that can limit what you see from someone while still keeping them as friends. A way to avoid unfriending. You don’t have to see someone’s posts in your feed but you can still visit their page, look at pictures, and view whatever posts might interest you, avoiding those that don’t.
This was designed as a way to keep friends you seldom interact with; but has it also become just a step before unfriending? Is it being kind or simply a form of avoidance? Is it better or am I just trying to mitigate my own hurt?
I don’t want this friendship to fade away but I also don’t want to force it to stay. I’m uncertain what, if anything, to do about it. Is this the new way a friendship fades? Has technology just added a layer to the complexities of some friendship’s fleeting nature? I haven’t the answers. All I have is a feeling of being secretly discarded.
I suppose when it comes right down to it I obviously placed more importance on this friendship than the other person and I will have to deal with that fact and the feelings that arise. Although I’m saddened and hurt over losing someone I valued as a friend, at least by their unfriending me they are communicating their intentions, even if passively, that they are less invested than I am at keeping the friendship alive. Knowing how they feel and being cognizant of the impermanence of all things in life will hopefully help lessen the sting of rejection.
I welcome your thoughts, opinions and feelings on this subject.
Time is meaningless, it flies by and it stands still. Time is not kind, in fact, it’s kinda cruel. It’s almost Mother’s Day, the day set aside to honor one’s mother. Honoring one’s mother is a personal preference; not all mothers are worthy of honor, or respect, or love. I don’t know what it’s like for someone on Mother’s Day, or any other day, to have a mother they would rather forget.
I have been fortunate to have a good, kind, and caring mother. She will be gone two years shortly after Mother’s Day. As if Mother’s Day doesn’t hurt me enough by her absence, I have the anniversary of her death to look forward to two weeks later.
The expression “time heals all wounds” is a lie. Time has not dulled the pain I feel. It has not lifted the fog I sometimes find myself in and it has not healed my loss. I miss my mother the same today as I did yesterday and will tomorrow. My grief doesn’t recognize a clock and it has no expiration date. It just is. It ebbs and flows in a cycle beyond my control.
I love and honor my mother no less on the other 364 days of the year. I honor her in the memories I recall, full of life’s laughter and tears. I honor her in the respect I have for all she did for me throughout my life. I honor her by striving to live true to the lessons, wisdom, and morals she instilled in me.
Yet Mother’s Day was and still is special to me. I took pleasure and care to reaffirm my love and gratitude to my mom. Whether I was near or not it was something I looked forward to doing. It didn’t always have to be a brunch, a gift, or even a visit but it was always special words and a special heartfelt expression of love.
I still honor that tradition, just in a different way and right now with more sorrow than happiness because I miss her so much. Although I know I will always miss her, I hope one day those emotions will reverse, but that time hasn’t come yet.
My mother lives in my heart, where she guides me through the pain of grief, and it’s there I honor her every moment of every day.
I started blogging about my illnesses with trepidation a little over a year ago. Blogging has a degree of anonymity, like most things on the internet. One doesn’t necessarily have to reveal their identity if they choose not to. I chose to keep things at arms length.
The more I have written and as my blog morphed into more than just writing about my illnesses, the more at ease I’ve become sharing some of my personal details with the blogging community. I have shared some of my treatment experiences, symptom manifestations, and how I live daily with Anxiety disorders. I’ve shared the things I like in nature, photography, and poems I’ve written. I’ve even posted about my dog.
I still have panic attacks, I still suffer daily with Anxiety, the intensity of which varies day to day and moment to moment. I still have nightmares and flashbacks, I still have PTSD. I still have depression. I named my blog based on how I felt these illnesses effected me and about my continuing journey living with them.
I know there is more to me than my illnesses. I hope I have convened as much in my posts. Since I started interacting more with others in the blogging community I find people addressing me as “demons”. The demons are still by my side but they are not me. I am Michael.