The Natural Disaster Of An Anxious Mind

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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.

Love, light & peace…..always

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EMDR

As I mentioned in a previous post I have been participating in EMDR therapy.  I intended to report on my experiences and progress sooner but it’s taken me a bit of time to, shall we say, settle into the therapy.  It is not an easy therapy, emotionally or physically.  I thought in this first post on the subject I would give a description of he therapy from the web so that you may have an understanding of what it’s about.  You will find some information below with two links to more detailed information.

I am receiving this therapy from my therapist.  The same therapist I have been seeing for 1.5 years for talk and CBT therapies.  Her recommendation and the fact that I trust her led to my agreement to try EMDR.

As it says in the definition of EMDR therapy, our first session was historical and informational in nature.  Following that session we began with relatively benign subject matter to enable me to become accustomed to the way the treatments work.  I had some difficulty visualizing while following her fingers side to side so we agreed after the second session to switch to a different tactile stimulation method.  We use a left – right tapping that I felt more comfortable with.

There is a lot of information on EMDR on the internet, some of it quite subjective.  I tried to link to two sites that presented the treatment in a more factual manner and in the way that is closest to my experience.  In my next piece on EMDR I will go into more detail of my own personal experiences and opinions with the therapy.  Until then, If you are interested in it I encourage you to read a little about it.

 

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.  Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.  EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.  When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health.  If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR therapy.  Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions.  Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR therapy would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy. Over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy.  Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years.

EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment.  Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session.  After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision.  As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level.  For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.”  Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes.  The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them.  Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.

EMDR Definition from EMDR.com

EMDR Information

 

 

I Will Persist In Order To Resist

This country and indeed the world is a horrible place filled with hatred, inequality, misogyny, homophobia, islamophobia, and antisemitic behaviors, just to name a few.

Intolerance rules from the top down and lends justification to those who harbor thoughts to act upon them. It’s a sick and cruel world full of unprovoked shootings and mass carnage with no regard for human or animal life.

The toxicity of this time makes those of us already struggling with anxiety disorders and depression struggle all the more. And it has swelled our ranks with new sufferers at a time when privileged, uncaring, self serving, loathsome government officials want to strip away healthcare. They are causing the need for more but are to selfish, beholden, and blind to see that fact.

America, the self proclaimed bastion of justice and democracy leads the way in this new world order of intolerance, violence and hatred. We are where they want us; splintered, divided and fighting among ourselves. Slowly, democracy, if it ever truly existed, is fading.

For my own well-being I’ve vowed to not engage any longer in negativity. I keep informed and at times it’s a struggle to not virtually engage in the discourse, but it does nothing but cause me more turmoil.

I can only lend my voice to love, harmony, inclusiveness and peace. It is what I must do to survive, heal and thrive. It is what I must do to prepare myself for the bigger fights yet to come, for they loom closer on the horizon each day. When they do come we will all have to choose on which side we stand; love or hate, right or wrong. It is now, and will remain, that simple.

Love, light & peace…..always

“caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

Letting Go

What do you do when you can’t let go of toxic emotions, fear, and endless swirling negative thoughts? What do you do when you can’t let go of pain, from all sources, that keeps you in an endless loop of heartache and misery?

Seriously, I would like to know the secret of truly and fully letting go of something.  I am not sure I ever have completely let go of anything.  This clinging is what has compounded over the years to produce my current state of ill health.

I still suffer from the illnesses I’ve talked about in my posts, which in this post shall be referred to only as the illnesses.  I’m not attempting to take anything away from their cause and effects, rather, I am linking them to a root or major contributing factor in their development.

I came to the realization that in some way they are all rooted in my inability to let go.  To let go of fear, grief, and pain is something I strive to do everyday, with every therapy session and with every thing I read or listen to.  Try as I might it doesn’t seem to be enough.  My intellectual self is aware of the impermanence of life and I try constantly to be present in the moment.  I think I’ve made great strides in that regard.  Yet, I find I cling to the past as a person clings to the edge of a building, afraid to fall.

This clinging to the past, to my grief and to my pain feeds the fear.  I am afraid to fall.  I fear what is around the next corner, my next step, tomorrow and the days beyond.

If I am being honest with myself, my personality is heavily slanted to these behaviors.  I am stubborn, persistent, relentlessly curious, and obsessed with finding answers.   In many ways throughout my life these qualities have served me well professionally and personally.  What once helped propel me through life is now taking my life away,

I can’t change my personality so what I am looking for is a way to adapt my personality traits, how I utilize them, and how I emotionally react to them to better serve the current situation and the person I am now.

I’m participating in a new therapy approach that I believe is guiding me on a path that will enable me to better let go of things.  I’ll have more on my experiences with EMDR in my next post.

Love, light & peace….always

Thoughts Not of Cakes and Candles

 

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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.

Love, Light & Peace…..Always

One Moment of Beauty

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I am always cognizant that we are surrounded by beauty.  Even during the most difficult of times you can find at least one moment of beauty in any given day.  Whether you seek it or not, you’ll find it just the same.  Today it might be the subtle sound of water as it laps at the shore, tomorrow a sunset.   A kind gesture, a strangers smile, whatever it is recognize it for what it is; a moment of pure bliss.

Be of open heart, pause, listen, feel, and experience it in all it’s wonder for each moment is unique. Experience life with gratitude and love no matter your struggles.