Sunday, April 5, 2020

Stay Home

The waves of feelings rush in like the highest waves towering over the Hawaiian sands. Some days I am the professional surfer who can ride it like a champ. The news, statistics and warnings all hit me, but I still find a way to turn and tip my board whatever way I need to stay afloat. Other days, I am the newbie who cannot grab a wave to save her life. The emotions, stress, fear all overtake me until I head home, climb into bed and watch six (yes, I said 6) Sandra Bullock romantic comedies back to back.  I can tell by looking on social media, we're all pretty much feeling the same. Some days are just better than others. 

At the beginning of this pandemic, I was beginning a new chapter of life. I finally found a job that let me make my own schedule, paid well and didn't put me back in an office setting which I had so grown out of. I was pumped to get started and see where this all could lead. Would becoming a Shipt shopper be enough income? Would I like shopping for a living when I don't even like shopping for myself? Would my anxiety be a factor in this type of work environment? All the normal questions crept into my mind and the answer to all of them were YES. Yes, I can earn a hefty income. Yes, I absolutely love shopping for people. It's like a scavenger hunt each time. Plus, you get to see the store in a whole new way and learn about items that you didn't even know existed. Yes, anxiety is just a part of me. As Luka Bloom sang, "No matter where you go, there you are." The blessing about this new adventure is that when I feel anxiety creep in, I can change aisles and distance myself to catch my breath. I don't have to ask permission to take care of myself. The great part about this job is that I can take work when I want. I can bow out when I need a mental health day.  I am no longer chained to a desk and on someone else's schedule. I am free. 

Recently, I ran into the shopper with the most seniority in our area. He has done over 1,000 shops and has the jacket to prove it. His jacket is what actually caught my eye. "1k Shopper" I was in awe of one thousand as I humbly try to climb the mountain to fifty. I introduced myself and he explained that it's not this busy or lucrative normally. He still makes a nice living, but right now the iron is hot and so I got in at just the right time. He was so kind and for the first time in a while I realized that I am not alone. For a while there, I would watch Paul go off to work and on our lunch walks, I'd listen to my Mom talk about her job and I felt alone. I was home and not a part of anything. When I was at my desk job, I dreamed of being home and not having to deal with anyone or anything, but as they say "be careful what you wish for." This introvert who stumbles through life with a fistful of depression and anxiety actually craving to be around people? I was as shocked as anyone. 

Staying home wasn't what I wanted. Even though that has been the goal since October 25th when I bid adieu to my desk job. Now I know the core value I was searching for was freedom. When you learn these things about yourself, you have to settle into the shift. It's not as if *BAM* you are a whole new person overnight. You really have to sit with it and learn how your values and perspective have changed over time. I only now (6 months later) have come to realize what I was truly seeking. Now I get to cultivate this new experience into a journey of finding more pieces of myself. What was so daunting has become a new lease on life. The amount of times I've recreated myself is now at 6. I have had 6 different pivotal moments in my life where I felt like someone new. May seem like too many to some, too few to others, but for me it is just the normal progression of self discovery and growth.

In this time of uncertainty, there will be a lot of growth for all of us. There are things we are going to go through and deal with that we have never dealt with before. I've become a better bread maker because for a little while we couldn't find bread. I finally tried my vegan burger recipe and made a ton of them to freeze so that we didn't waste any ingredients. Paul sharpened his sewing skills and made us both masks to wear when we venture out. Distilleries in the area have started making hand sanitizer. Some restaurants have turned their dining room into makeshift stores where the public can come buy bread, butter and essentials that are going unused due to lack of dining out business. There are so many ways that people are stepping up and making the most of the situation and it's so amazing to see. Looking after those who cannot go out is also a big piece of that. I check in with my Mom almost daily to make sure that she and my Grandma are healthy as well as ensuring they have what they need for their household. It's one thing I can do to be of service and keep them safe. That is now spilling over into my new career as well. It is so rewarding to be out there helping those who have compromised immune systems or want to adhere to the guidelines to stay home because they should not take all four of their kiddos to the grocery store. People are so appreciative and it is true what Phoebe (F-R-I-E-N-D-S reference) says "there is no selfless good deed." Truth to that. It is somewhat selfish because it makes me feel so good. 

Thank you to all the families who are graciously staying home and either sending one parent out to venture for food or ordering groceries in. On the other side of the coin are those families or younger folk who think that this pandemic is a holiday. - Insert steam rising from my head here - STAY HOME. This is not a time to browse through the aisles at Target. This is not a time to try on clothes or grab a new rug for your living room floor. This is not the time to bring your family of 6 to the Toy aisle and let the kids run around so that you can finally tire them out somehow. This is not the time for you and your 4 friends (who are all still living at Cal Poly) to act rowdy, throwing footballs across aisles or taking up the entire game aisle debating what games you should buy because as you so obnoxiously screamed it "we're in a damn quarantine, ya know?!?!?!?!" - Insert eye rolls and people muttering under their breath: well then act like it here - 

Why won't people listen? STAY HOME. STAY HOME. STAY HOME?!?!??! If you are not doing essential work, you should be home. When you go out to the grocery store, you should be getting in and out. Yes, Target is enticing with all it's other aisles, but right now it is best to pretend that Target is a grocery store. Get your essentials and get out. 4-5 friends or 2 parents and their 4 children should not be in the stores right now. Send 2 people or 1 parent. We have cell phones and video chat if you need direction or guidance whilst shopping. THERE IS NO EXCUSE at this point. We all know what is at stake and it so hard on the rest of the people who are just trying to follow the rules. I have no idea what it's like to be a parent, but I have very close friends who have little ones and they are home. Period. It's not fun and they wish they could walk around with their kiddos somewhere stimulating to burn some energy, but that's just NOT our reality right now. And those young folk... I just have no words. It is not partay time. There is no school for a reason. Think about that reason the next time you are thinking of going out and don't take the whole crew. I wish it was a let's go out for a fun outing time, but it's all about staying in. You can get creative and make memories inside. Also, no sports. It seems like a no brainer, but there are folks having full on volleyball, football and soccer games. Yes, IT SUCKS... I know, but just try and envision the germs and sweat you're touching when you catch that ball. Germ city! Just don't do it! 

We have entered a new normal and it is difficult, but what would be more difficult is to hear that you infected a stranger or your friend or family member and they didn't survive. We all have a great responsibility to act in a protective manner for all of humanity. I feel that our collective spirit is changing and for the better. Change always brings discomfort and uncertainty. However, it is so beautiful to watch the caterpillar become a butterfly. We would never ask to go through something like this and nor do we want to lose people to an illness.  Still, to every dark there is a light. To every day there is a night. Innovation and creativity are at an all time high. We are seeing so many people take a step back into themselves. We've been running so fast and not really focusing on what lies within. Now we have been forced to stop. What a blessing in disguise. We get to STAY HOME. We get to realign ourselves and see the world differently. We all get a chance to shift. So many caterpillars are in their cocoons right now. So many butterflies will emerge. What a beautiful day that will be... 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Choices in Uncertain Times

These are uncertain times. I've been fine up till now. No major freak outs. Calm, cool, pragmatic and cautious. I had a panic attack last night which made it so hard to fall asleep. Then I slept for about 4 hours and now I'm up before the sun to try and get through these deep emotions that are rattling me. We're all rattled. We can say we're not, call this a hoax or brush it off and say "if I follow all the rules, nothing is gonna happen to me or my loved ones." Still, grocery store shelves are bare, people are losing their businesses and thousands around the world have lost their lives to this thing. This thing that has so many conspiracy theories around it that it has a back story of its own. Someone else can write that blog. 

We're here now, this is our new reality. However it came to be doesn't change the fact that we are going to have to overcome this. How to overcome it still lingers in the grey area. A different expert, each day, says something different. We know that if we shelter in place, we can "flatten the curve," but that doesn't mean that we can beat it. It is essentially a flu bug that we as humans need to contract to gain immunity. Flattening the curve just means prolonging the inevitable so that hospitals can keep up with those who truly need supportive care. At least that's one take I've heard on it. We currently have 21 cases in San Luis Obispo County and 20 of those people are home battling it out. 1 person needed hospital care. There is no medicine to take at home. You ride it out like the flu. Tylenol, soup and rest. It's pretty much what we all do, yearly, when the flu comes calling. So, why did so many people have to die? 

We hear numbers. As painful as it would be, I prefer to see faces. We get so desensitized to the fact that those 13,000+ people each had a family, a dream, a life. "13,000 and counting" is just one line of data. There are so many strands of data around each one. We are sheltered from information like where they grew up, what their passions were, who they fell in love with, how they made a living, who they called family and how they impacted the world around them. It's just so very heartbreaking and in these modern times, it's just a number on a screen. Not for those communities, not for those countries, but on the nightly news, we hear the number and go "wow," but do we really grasp that heartache? Do we want to? Of course not. Who wants to go down that rabbit hole of despair? Stay positive. Smile. Everything will be all right. It's not all right. I feel it all. I've been trying to push through and get out of feeling this one, but whenever I do that, it eventually comes rushing at me like a tidal wave out of nowhere. That wave drenched me last night. 

My Mom is Immune Compromised. My Grandma is 84 years old. These women are my lifeline. Their kind of love and support has saved me 3 separate times when I thought my world was ending. My story may have ended if not for them and my Mister Paul. There is no judgement, just unconditional love. So, as I sat there last night, the little asshole in my head whispered: "What if you lose them?" We all have that voice in our head that floats in and pretends to be our own voice and stirs up chaos in our brain. I tried to silence it and the tears just came. I sobbed for a good 40 minutes. Then, I just laid there in a state of shock and bliss. I let it out. I finally let myself feel the fear that I told myself I wasn't going to feel. Covering it up with FINE is not the way to go. Nothing is fine. This is unprecedented. Still, I spoke to fear and said "I live in the moment and everyone's here. Everyone's being mindful and careful." That is the information that is most true and real. We are all doing our best in these chaotic times. That is the current status. Beyond this is fear binoculars that only see the worst possibilities. I will NOT look through those lenses. We only have right now. This moment.  

Right now. Well, on Friday the 13th (of all days), Paul and I realized the virus (that shall not be named) was actually something that would be affecting our day to day lives. After he got off work, we ran over to Ralph's to stock up on essentials and the shelves were still healthy. Lots of supplies to choose from. We got a few extra cans of beans and corn and such, but we didn't hoard. We didn't even buy toilet paper. That was not on our radar. To us, toilet Paper isn't essential. So many other ways to clean your bootay. Anyhow, after that shopping trip I went out to dinner with my Mom and Gma for a girl's night to our favorite Mexican restaurant. I didn't know that when I said "goodbye" that night, I wouldn't get to hug them again or see them in person for quite sometime. We are going on day 9. Doesn't seem that long when you type it out like that. We've certainly gone this long without seeing each other in the past, but there's just a heavy cloud over these days. Each day feels like a year. Time moves so slowly. It's the knowing that we CAN'T go see them that is hard. 

On Sunday, March 15th, we heard these words: Those who are immune compromised or over 65 are urged to stay indoors. Just like that, our worlds officially changed. Mom had to stay home from work and her and Gma had to stay inside. I had recently become a Shipt shopper (delivery person mainly for Target, but occasionally  Ralphs, Vons and Smart & Final too). I had always planned to start shopping as a career around the 10th. After a thorough background check and two hours of online training, I started this gig on Saturday, March 14th.  By the time the news hit for everyone with compromised systems to stay inside and have no contact with anyone who could potentially be carrying the virus, I had done a few shopping trips. This meant I couldn't even go visit my Mom or Gma.  When I shop, I am so very cautious: use hand sanitizer, stay ample feet away from people and I get in and get out fairly quickly.  Still, I could have no symptoms and be a carrier for the virus and so I need protect the ones I love. Our new normal is that we can talk and walk separately and we will leave them food on their doorstep when they need something or when I bake a fresh batch of bread. I'm not scared for me. I am scared for them. Well, when I typed that, I called bull because I am scared for them, but it has to do with me. I'm scared of losing my people. Those two ladies are such pillars of my life. I know someday, it's inevitable that we will be separated by galaxies, but I think everyone would agree that this ain't the way to go... 

Well that got dark. On a positive note Shipt shopping is so much fun. It's like a scavenger hunt. The App you use is awesome and had it been any other time, there wouldn't be so much added stress. Having to substitute someone's entire shopping list with what is left is a hard feat, but I honestly find it fascinating and fun. That being said the first few days of shopping, I got some side eye and I even had one lady say some unkind words to me. This girl keeps coming to the store to stock up and hoard is how their face looked or literally what came out of that one lady's mouth to me. I would either open my jacket so they could read the SHIPT across my t shirt or I would explain, (like I did to that elderly woman) that I am shopping for those who cannot go out right now. She was combative and said something about how it "must be nice to be able to afford such a service." Her tone elevated in such a way that I continued on down the aisle. I have things to do and negativity is overflowing enough already. I made a choice to press on. In my life, I have had to press on so often. Career has been a tricky beast for me and I really excel in my passions and personal life when I have a part-time job. My creative passions need to be part of my life. They keep me breathing. I am so excited to have finally found a gig that will potentially afford all that. I love shopping for people. I just didn't expect to being doing it during a pandemic. 

The shelves are empty people. They truly are. Most fresh meats are gone so I have to text the customer that I can substitute for a frozen variety? Or "I'm sorry to report that there are no eggs in the store." It's more time consuming than it will ever have to be, once we get through this pandemic. Right now it is far more rewarding. I'm helping people. Yes, I started this as a means to pay some bills, but now the cards and texts I receive about our helpful service during this crisis is uplifting. Those kind souls cancel out the judges who either think I'm exploiting elders or that I am purposely running around the store to spread germs. I was always going to do this work. It is affording me more income because of the demand, but anyone who REALLY KNOWS ME knows that income has never been the carrot in front of me. I need it to pay bills, but beyond that, I don't care what is resting safely in the confines of my bank account. It's money. It is to be spent to enjoy this life now. Can't take it with you and sure as hell ain't doing any good if it's sitting in the bank and I die tomorrow... That's just my philosophy and honestly please keep your own philosophy. We don't have to match. Just don't force your views on me. I would never do that to you.

Choices. How we live our lives. I've been thinking a lot about it lately. Those kiddos who went to spring break during a pandemic or the family of 4 kids running around Target while Mom and Dad buy groceries just after we were told to shelter in place. It is easy to judge. So easy. I initially judged. What are they thinking? Silly kids not taking anything seriously. So selfish. Why does an entire family have to come to the grocery store the day after there was an official shelter in place order put in place? We don't know what is going on inside those people's minds or hearts. Their fear could whisper to them "rebel, go to the beach anyway" and instead of having the skill set to realize that voice in their head isn't always their own, they listen and own that thought. The family in the store could be so fearful of being apart that they just brought everyone not trying to be selfish or meaning to put anyone else in danger. They may have another skill set, another tool box. 

Recently, I heard someone writing off another for their lack of ability to get something done. It got me thinking of how easy it is for us to sideline commentate. We all do it. Some people just don't catch themselves before letting it all come out of their mouth, potentially hurting someone on the field. Each player has different skills. This is why they have different positions. "You're good with your hands, you be the goalie. You're good at getting right in there, you be a forward." We all have a toolbox. As we go through life we grab more tools, but each tool is specific to the life that is being lived. We cannot expect that everyone has the same set of tools. This comes up a lot when people try and compare traumas. "Well, my life was so much more traumatic than yours" or "I've been through so much more than her, why is she so broken?" Well, not everyone has a supportive family or a chance to go to therapy or the ability to see that internal work is needed. Not everyone has the tools you have in your toolbox. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. The choices we make aren't meant to hurt anyone. Honestly, the majority of people are good. Lend them some tools if you will, but never look down on anyone for not rising to challenges the way you would  (or hope you would). 

There have been deliveries I've made where people were concerned that I was still out there in this pandemic world. They would ask the question as I handed over their grocery bags. They needed their groceries delivered. Who else is gonna do it? I felt that they didn't expect me to be the one delivering the groceries. Once they saw a face to go with the name of their Shipt delivery person, they saw me as human again. They appreciated me for helping them, but they wanted me to be okay. There is an underlying fear. Understandably. I have it myself. Yet, you cannot expect groceries to be delivered and then think the person who delivered said groceries is crazy for going out there.  I don't agree with the fact that she's out there in harm's way because she needs to earn a living. She should have set up her life differently. Some savings or something?!?!?!?  I can see it in some of these faces. I'm an empath. I KNOW. Would this person like to take care of my responsibilities for me? If you're so scared of my being out there in it, then I need an income in order to stay at home. Will you afford me one? I didn't think so... I'm not asking for one. I'm earning one. It's a catch 22 that nobody wants anyone out there, but they need groceries. The reality is that the majority of people don't have a savings account to bail them out. 

I stand by my choices. I support everyone's choices. I only ever have a hard time when others attack my choices because I'm not attacking theirs. It is my life to live and right now I feel of service and I feel so grateful that I have a way to earn money in such uncertain times. This time indoors should be a time we all focus internally. What is so threatened inside of you by not being accepting of the way another lives? Dig into that nugget and you'll most likely discover that you fear that your stance will change. You don't want the way you've done something for 10, 20, 30 years to change. You hold tight to your beliefs and they cannot come undone. Ever. If that is how you feel then why would you ever ask someone else to be more like you? They would have to give up their beliefs and the way they've operated for 10, 20, 30 years. Why them and not you? Why you and not them? We all need to realize we are one human species that are not meant to combat each other, but move together to create a space (a seat at the table) for everyone. The war of words needs to end. It will not make you less of a person to understand another human's way of thinking. If we can focus on anything while holed up inside, focus on this: We all have different tools in our toolbox, we cannot judge anyone who simply is not equipped with the tools we have. Why not lend them the tool they need? Why not be accepting? Choices... 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Little Bites of Bravery

     I woke up early this morning. Bite of bravery. I took my Mister to work. Bite of bravery. I took a shower and got dressed. Bite of bravery. I broke down and cried with apprehension for a solid twenty minutes. I went to the mirror, took deep breaths and kept telling myself: "there is nothing to be afraid of." Bite of bravery. I put on my makeup through trickling tears. Bite of bravery. I got in the car and drove to the interview. Bite of bravery. I walked in and remained calm with the help of deep belly breaths. Bites and bites and bites of bravery. I did it. We'll see what happens, but at least I tried. 
     I have been so sad this week. Truly I've been so sad for most of this year already. My sadness is not just the blues where it's like go take a walk and you'll be cured. I feel the collective. The knot in my throat is the heaviest pull and it drains every ounce of sunshine from my soul. Sounds like depression. Why don't I just go get a pill for that and get better already!?!?!? I know this gets so old to anyone who knows/loves me. I've tried pills and they don't take away that feeling, but just make me feel other sensations on top of it. I have periods when I can navigate the blue waves like a senior sailor taking on the open seas with ease and familiarity. It's just the world is so sad right now. I feel it. It is heavy. 
     I heard Lady Gaga on Oprah's 20/20 tour and I was blown away by her open honesty. I highly recommend checking it out (link below). She struggles mentally every day. She takes little bites of bravery and watches them add up to something big. I identified with so much of what she said. Certain struggles we've had are similar, but the bulk of her struggles, I have never endured. I instantly shame myself for comparing because I am healthy (knock on wood) when it comes to my physicality and I don't have to suffer as she does with daily aches and pains. I struggle in the emotional and mental sense only and so I shame myself. "Why can't you just get your mind right? Why do you have to feel so much? You have it so good, why can't you be okay? You're so weak. No one understands you. You're so damaged. You're not worthy of love." It gets really loud in my head sometimes. 
     This week I stayed in bed for two days/nights. Open honesty here. I felt sick to my stomach, but I did it to myself. I got so intensely emotional after watching Kobe's memorial and it impacted my thought process in my own life for two whole days. I gave up on myself, my home (cleanliness), my sweet Mister and any productivity I had been making in my life. I gave up. I watched F-R-I-E-N-D-S episodes and escaped into that world. May have been wasteful of time, but I thank the stars for shows like Friends or The Office. I deal so much in my feelings that sometimes shutting it down and escaping is exactly what you need. 
     Here I sit at my computer, chasing some dim spark. Something just told me to sit down and just write. Writing has been my salvation and I really wish that I had more confidence in my writing, in myself. I know that if I could just have the confidence to play the part, eventually I'd become whatever I'm meant to become. Though this pesky word "become" unnerves me as well. WE ARE ALL SOMEBODY. I don't need to BECOME anything. I just need to find an avenue to fully share who I am. Need to grab confidence and all my passion projects need to come to life. 
     I have so many ideas and every time I get a good stride going, I self sabotage. I let these feelings take over my life and own me. These same feelings that help me create wonderful bits of poetry like: 
Lost appetite
Nothing new
Wasted night
Already too few
Light beam
By any means
This for that
To an indoor cat
Freedom implied
Door ajar
Promising escape
Silent alarm
Door slams to seal fate

How do I find balance where I keep my feelings tab open to create beauty here and there, but keep my feelings from overtaking me? 
     I know this is who I am supposed to be. Like every single piece of life that I have traveled through was meant to happen exactly as it has. Nothing is in vain. No regrets. I am so grateful for all the experiences, good and bad because they've shaped my deeply feeling heart. It is a blessing to be deep, sensitive, open and highly feeling. The pros outweigh the cons, but these deep dark days empty me until I have nothing for anyone. And then comes the feeling of guilt and shame (again) for not having anything to give. Cliche as it is, you've got to love yourself the way you want someone else to love you. I'm so grateful to have a partner stick by me for almost 13 years. 
     In the process of writing this, I took a phone call and spoke to a beautifully wise voice. She corrected me when I was putting myself down. I said I was being "ridiculous" for having an anxiety attack before a job interview and she said, "it's not ridiculous. You just need to keep tackling it." She was so right... It is NOT ridiculous! Who I am, what I feel, what I go through is valid. I didn't share all these feelings with her. I feel guilty for that now too. I don't know where this "INVALID" stamp got stamped across my forehead. It's such a disservice to my spirit and soul. The thing is, I stamped it on my own head. I may have received messages and insults along the way that added up, but NO ONE else stamped me "INVALID." Only I could have done that. Time to get out the Brillo pads and bleach. Time to remove that label from my psyche. 
     All I can do is take little bites of bravery. Try, try, try. When people who were like superheroes walking on Earth pass away, we are all jolted back to reality. We're not here forever. What good can come from these senseless tragedies? Live better. Be stronger. Love deeper. In their honor, chase life as they would have chased life. Be confident. Have grace. Love yourself. Let go of shame. Try everything. A little bite of bravery at a time... 

Here's a link if you haven't seen Lady Gaga on Oprah's 20/20 tour yet:

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


When something ends, we must sit in it. Sit in the pain or the joy or the feeling of the finite. An ending is not a beginning of anything that ever was. The finite nature of a true ending is hard to grasp and so often we say: “the end is just a chance for a new beginning.” This is a way to make the pain less daunting. We start something else or take on life a different way, but that’s only distracting us from the very nature of what we need to deal in. END… 
Our entire existence is based around two facts: we were born, and we are going to die. When we die there is no beginning for the people left behind. Sure, some could say that their lives without you begin, but there is an END to you. Sounds morbid and painful and that’s why people just don’t want to go there, and I completely understand. I have been terrified of death for as long as I can remember, and that fear has kept me alive. Battling depression and anxiety and just feeling like I completely don’t belong here, sometimes I think that it would be easier to go. To cause the great END, but I am so scared of the other side (the beginning of the celestial life, if there is one) that I would never go there. Plus, I’m an empath and I would hate to cause pain to anyone in my life. Just to be super clear, I’m not suicidal, but I think at some point in all our lives we wonder why we’re here or what would it be like if we weren’t.
Today, I realized that emotions are meant to be felt fully. If we don’t sit in them, they will come back and grab us at some point or another. The craziest thing is that this revelation came after watching THE GOOD PLACE series finale. I had repressed emotions. Sweet little show pulled a powerful punch and had me sobbing in my living room for a good hour. It’s not rare that I cry, but it is rare that I sit in it for this long. It got me thinking how this world has taught us not to feel what we feel. I have spent the better part of 10 years feeling ashamed for my deep brooding. In turn last week, when I was by my Papi’s bedside at the hospital, positivity was so important and I did everything possible to hold back tears. When I heard the news that Kobe Bryant had died, I didn’t want to make it worse, so I held back the tears. I promised myself that I would never change my sensitive ways for anything and yet I turned into a bit of a robot and held my feelings back in these latest situations. I realize a TV show’s end is way different than life or death type scenarios, but THE GOOD PLACE was themed around the afterlife and so it all hit me rather deeply. We move on so fast and don’t process everything we should. I was about to turn on another show. I was sobbing, looking for something to take these thoughts out of my head. Then, I had this HUGE thought rush over me: “You have to sit in this.”
Like I said, I am a BIG deep thinker, an empath and my journal is my best friend. Deep is my avenue and so often that becomes too much for people. You write paragraphs confiding to a friend, hoping for real understanding and you get back an answer like: “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. Take some deep breaths.” Or “Everything will be okay.” I am a lucky girl and I appreciate all who are in my life. There are times when no one understands or they understand, but don’t want to go there with me. It’s hard. Watching Taylor Swift’s MISS AMERICANA documentary on Netflix this passed week, she said something that struck me so deep. Paraphrasing, but its theme was: “I have my Mom and she’s the best to talk to, but there should be someone I could call to understand my exact point of view. There’s no one. I should have someone.” Whether she was talking about a love interest or actually someone who can 100% relate to what she’s going through, I don’t know. Still, that line resonated with me because I guess everyone is ALL ALONE. In some aspect, we are alone. Sit in that. Own that. No one can know what we’ve been through, what we’re going through, how we truly feel. We can have people who listen and care and love us through it, but that feeling of being truly UNDERSTOOD is huge.  
Sit in it.
I wrote the first three paragraphs and I sat some more in this state of enlightenment. This moment is such a gift. It’s grueling with tears streaming down my face and more confusion than understanding but writing down these thoughts and ideas is more exciting than anything else I have ever known. Writing is life. Words are breaths. For a time, I got so into my head and told myself I was a horrible writer, my thoughts and ideas are meaningless and basically, I bullied myself into thinking that what I have to say doesn’t matter. Just as I was saying before that no one can fully understand, these blank pages understand. They have let me write my life on them repeatedly. Whoever reads this will understand pieces and my words will no longer be voids of space. They will be read, maybe criticized or praised, but all that matters is that these words escaped the prison of my mind. My exact experience make these words different than anyone else’s and my continual apologies for who I am are a direct disservice to that uniqueness. I cannot do that anymore.
Last night we watched another TV Show I love (TV is my friend...), A MILLION LITTLE THINGS and there was one line that was so simple, but I so needed to hear it: “You matter.” WE ALL MATTER. Everything we each individually have to say is a direct reflection of the universe. We are all connected, and we are all valid. The universe has created our realities to help us to serve the greater population. Any struggles, beginnings, endings, etc. are to ensure we are equipped with the messages our souls feel compelled to share. SIT IN IT. Don’t change the channel so that the noise takes away the pain. SIT IN IT. Feel your feelings FULLY and heal and grow and love. WE ARE NOT ROBOTS. Feel, no matter who it might make uncomfortable. Be genuine and you will see your world change little by little. To all the empaths out there who feel the pain of others and don’t want to add more to that by showing their own pain. You must show up with your feelings. Your tears may make those around you in pain feel less alone. It may feel like it is your responsibility to make everything okay. It is not... 
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful its ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heart-breaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” – LR Knost

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

I - Be Mindful of What You Put After "I"

     Have you ever sat and just stared at this word "I" before? It is literally one letter and it is so very powerful. It is each of us. We all can say, "I am" or "I like" or "I think" or "I know." For instance, I have been on a journey. I found myself completely unhappy with my day to day ambitions and decided that my life was too short to spend it miserable. The stress of going against who I was every day was also taking a very physical toll on me. I had the worst anxiety of my life as well as skin rashes that came and went with my emotions. It became very clear that I needed to change my life. Over six months, I planned over and over again to quit my job, but I kept moving it back and delaying the actual action of quitting. I would make pro and con lists and rationales about why I should just suck it up and really I had a lack of respect for myself. I didn't think I mattered or that I was good enough to make a different life where I deserved happiness. Then, the universe stepped in. I had gotten to a place where I was just open to whatever the universe thought was best. I literally said OUT LOUD: "I will do whatever you think I should. I am open, give me a sign." 
   What I received wasn't one or two signs, but an avalanche of signs. Little arrows pointing straight to my decision. The signs were subtle to anyone else, but to me they were goose bump inducing and loud! I couldn't ignore them. The first being Jason Mraz posting a snippet of a new song he had written which went like this: "Living your dream is hard work, go on and try it, you might like it!" I then went to an Ingrid Michaelson concert where she sang a song that had these lyrics in it: "I have got to make my own world. Find my own words. Be my own girl. I have got to find that fire that used to fly me so much higher than this. Find my own words." I came across a post-it that I had found a while back that simply said "RETURN" on it. When I had previously found it, I felt the spark of returning to something I used to hold so sacred - my dreams. Still, I shoved it in a drawer and didn't act on it then. I found it again during this time when all the messages in the universe were screaming, "DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. THIS ISN'T WORKING!!!"   
    So, I finally quit my job. I knew I had nowhere to be and so I gave a month's notice so that my employer would have enough time to find a replacement for me. October 25th was my last day and only just in the passed 7 or 8 days have I begun starting to digest it all. I threw out my back the weekend after my birthday (October 31st) and was in bed for about a week and that was the BEST thing that could have ever happened to me. I thought I loved laying around, watching TV and doing nothing more than anything. That is what scared me about choosing a life where I would be the one responsible to slice up my day in a productive way.  I am a great STARTER. I will come up with a plan and lay everything out and do it for about a week or sometimes even a month, but then I lose my motivation and start something else. I have the beginnings of over 30 projects that I need to finish. Things I never even gave a fair shot at coming to fruition. What I found while laying there in pain is I was lonely and hated being so idle. Those who truly know me, know that I am a homebody. Friday nights at 5pm, I was home, Redbox DVDs in hand with a glass of wine and a Digiorno and if possible, I'd be in for the weekend. This may have something to do with my anxiety, but really since I was a little kid, "where's Jennie?" would usually be followed up with "she's writing in her room." It's just me. I adore solitude. So, again, you can see why I was so surprised at how lonely I was for those 9 days in bed with my back out. And this is when I started to shift my energy back to focusing on this "I" word. 
    I have defined myself as someone who values solitude above all else except that wasn't me anymore. I was alone for 9 days and was stir crazy and wanted to see people. Went to three grocery stores just to get some interaction with people and I was more outgoing than I usually am too. I was even making jokes with the cashier and such. I am ever-changing. This started me down a rabbit hole that has profoundly changed my life. I read articles and books and watched videos and listened to audio (books/podcasts) about self evaluation. And here's what I learned, "I" is not concrete. When we attach something to that "I," it's a very concrete statement. I am sensitive. I know Algebra. I think leopard print is tacky. I like Country music. The thing of it is that my feelings are sensitive today and I cannot know all of Algebra. I may sport some leopard print done right in the future and I may not listen to Country Music much anymore. When we define ourselves so tightly to "I" and "I AM!!!" then we give no room or space to be something else which is the purpose of our life's journey. We are meant to grow, evolve, change, shift and bend. 
   Now this may bring up a read flag with folks asking, "What about having a sense of self? You have to know who you are and love yourself in order to be a beacon in the world, right?" To this, I say YES and NO. I think anytime you stand so rigidly, you don't listen to other ideas. It is important to be open otherwise you are going to be formulating your rebuttal while someone else is trying to educate you on their views. That's not listening and it's very egocentric to think that your way is the only way. That's why our world is in such a hard place right now. Everyone thinks they're right and no one will have the talks that inform each other in a kind, constructive way. Agreeing to disagree isn't the norm anymore and instead it's just a firm I'm right and you're wrong! There is a reason there are so many different people on the planet. We are meant to teach and educate each other from our perspectives and it's not to say you will change your stance, but you've got to get open to talking to people and really hearing other takes on this thing we call life. 
    My present thought today (ever shifting and ever changing) is the self is something to work through and overcome. I am tackling all my habits and patterns and figuring out what trauma they are linked to. Once I realized that I felt unheard, unseen, unloved at points in my life which trigger my habits and patterns, I could embrace those feelings and sit in them, honoring them so that I can then let them go. Once you start unraveling all the traumas and seeing how you are NOT defined by them, you become free and I am becoming more free of myself. Instead of saying "I am compassionate" or "I am kind" or "I am sensitive." I take the "I" out of it all together. My purpose is to be a kind, compassionate and sensitive being. We are human and so when we say, "I am compassionate" and we're not compassionate with ourselves or we have a moment with someone else where we weren't as loving as we could have been, we feel shame and start to label ourselves in negative ways. "I'm a jerk" or "I really sucked today" or "I hate myself." If you recognize you weren't at your best and you apologize and process why you acted in such a way, you are doing the work instead of labeling. We always think that labeling others is wrong, but labeling ourselves is probably the most problematic. 
    You are human. You are here. You are ever-changing. You can feel sensitive or feel angry or feel worthless, but feelings DO NOT define you. You are NOT your feelings. When you can align with that idea, you will free up so much space in your heart and your soul for the universe to guide you into a much bigger space of abundance. When we live in the constraints we put on ourselves, we are closed off from so much. When we listen to the constraints others put on us, we are not being true to ourselves. When your inner voice says something like, "you're a failure," and you say back: "you're right." Then, you are believing that your inner voice is an "I." You are believing that you are what you think and there are so many thoughts that come into our heads on a daily basis that have NOTHING to do with us. Don't attach so much to that "I." 
    In closing, I will say that once you start listening to your inner voice as a spectator instead of believing that's your voice, your life will transform. Once you realize that nothing defines you and that you are always a blank canvas, no matter what you've already painted or paint that you've had thrown on you, your way of moving through the day will be lighter and full of excitement. It's a process and it won't happen overnight. The biggest thing to remember is that patience is not needed only outward. You need to allow for patience to live inside of you and your journey too. Stop using the "I AM" and start living in so much more possibility. Don't define yourself because you'll let yourself down if you change and you WILL change. People often say, "Oh she'll/he'll never change," but I have seen so many people in my life change. Saying that a person will never change is defining them. Be mindful of how you place labels on the people in your life as well. I've only begun this work and so in my relationships, I'm sure there will be a shift. It will take time, but the more mindful you are about what you put behind "I am" or "They are," you will see your world open up and everyone, including yourself, can be allowed to just BE in the present moment. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Interview

From the second I listened to the voicemail offering me a chance to come in for an interview, my stomach began to churn and my palms became sweaty. I was smart enough to not allow myself to hesitate too long before calling the number back. This was one opportunity I couldn’t pass up and so I immediately pressed “Call” and tried to take some deep breaths. The woman who answered the phone was one of the sweetest people I have ever had the privilege of talking to. She put me right at ease and set me up for an interview on Tuesday afternoon. I thought, no problem, I’ll go to the interview and just take the rest of the afternoon off and it will be a piece of cake. It was set. I (of course) was bluffing. “No problem?!?!?!” I actually had a huge problem in the shape of confrontation.

 I have not had to interview for something like this in over two and a half years. Also, I had never been to an interview since I was diagnosed with Acute Anxiety Disorder. I was in denial as I typed the appointment into my Google calendar and then I tried to get it off my mind. No Big Deal. Tuesday was then, 8 days away. For the “normal” or “average” person, the interview gets put on your calendar and you have jitters or passing feelings of uncertainty, but it's a doable life event. I now truly realize, I am no longer a “normal” person. As I type “normal,” I get a cringe of guilt and dread for labeling. What is “normal” anyway? There are varying shades of human, there really is NO “normal.” What I mean to depict here is that the type of jitters I get aren’t standard or "normal" as in “I hope I say the right thing,” or “what if they don’t like me?” My jitters are about the unknown factors. “Will I feel claustrophobic in the interview room?” “Will my stomach make an embarrassing noise in a silent lull?” “Will I feel the need to run straight for the restroom?” “Will I not know where the restroom is?”

My anxiety began last year, a few months after I took a supervisory position that I essentially had to create from the ground up. I was the first person to take on the job duties; there was no manual or set of guidelines on how to supervise staff. It was really a “fly by the seat of your pants” type of situation.  We had recently rolled out a new Electronic Health Record operating system and had to essentially teach ourselves how to use the software. On top of all that (like the cherry on top 😊) I had to deal with a lot of personnel issues between my newly acquired staff members. All those issues seemed heightened daily and began to create tension, angst and even more stress. Every day I came into work not knowing what my day would look like and that instability, day in and day out, formed a high level of anxiety over time. During this period, I realized my moods changed and I wasn’t able to function the way I used to. I was not able to sleep, I was eating my emotions and retracting from social activities that once brought me so much joy. So, after a lot of denial, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Acute Anxiety Disorder. It made complete sense, but the fix or "cure" I was given,  just didn’t sit well with me. I was given pills to take and I followed the regimen for a couple weeks, but I hated the way I felt. I didn’t feel like ME. I had apprehensions about stopping the pills, but equally felt the same amount of resistance to taking them. Sharing my issues with colleagues, the kind of feedback I would receive was, “that’s what this place will do to you,” or “join the club.” I knew that those kinds of comments were intended to comfort me and help me to not feel alone, but they did not comfort me. I felt sad and angry that there were so many co-workers struggling each day. I couldn't believe that there was a culture that seemed to accept a workplace or environment that bred anxiety. Why should we all have to adapt to the environment? Why am I taking pills to change my internal make-up so that I could function in this environment? The environment needed the changing, but that's a whole other blog. I stopped taking the pills and tried all kinds of other natural remedies which really helped at times. Essential oils, meditating, drinking tea instead of coffee, walking and getting plenty of rest, but nothing was a cure all. Eventually, I had to do what was best for me and step down from the supervisor position and go back to my admin job. That helped my stress levels A LOT, but the damage (unfortunately) had already been done. I am now a person who suffers from anxiety attacks. My brain is now wired to be on high alert all the time, 24-7.

Eight days. I had eight days between finding out I had an interview to the actual day I had to face the music. Those eight days were excruciating. My brain took the reigns of my life. The overthinking was out of control. I tried to cry it out, breathe it out, write it out, but in the end television was the only thing to keep my mind from completely conquering me. Seinfeld was the biggest help. A show about nothing really did the trick. I watched it episode after episode and would fall asleep on the couch watching it. When I fell asleep while watching, I had deep sleep and that was bliss. However, when I woke up and moved to the bed to be more comfortable, my brain said, “I’ve got you right where I want you.” It conjured up the most insane thoughts and I would be laying there, awake, for the hours until it was time to go to work. Usually that was around 3-4 hours of me just laying there at the mercy of my brain. I went to work and keeping busy there was helpful. Though, I had some added anxiety about keeping the interview a secret because I didn't want anyone to know I was looking elsewhere for employment. You never know how people will react. I finally told my partner in crime at the front desk about it, admitting I was so nervous to go through the interview process. She was so supportive and mirrored what most family and friends say when you tell them you are anxiety ridden over an interview. “You’ll do just fine.” “They’re going to love you.” “Don’t be nervous about what to say.” “You got this!” The thing is, not to sound conceited or overly sure of myself, but it truly has nothing to do with the questions or the actual interview portion. My anxiety is what I call “Irrational anxiety." 

My definition of Irrational anxiety is “the fear of the unknown.” I mean “Irrational” in the truest sense of its definition: “not logical or reasonable.” I am in no way putting down anxiety or writing it off as unreasonable. For me, it’s just a way to explain the difference between having situational or infrequent anxiety which I deem as traditional anxiety versus what I suffer from: nontraditional anxiety. Traditional anxiety might look like nervousness caused by standing up on stage or meeting new people versus nontraditional anxiety which is caused by not knowing what a setting will look like, how much space there will be between you and the other people there, the temperature, the lightning, will this stomach make noises, how far away is the bathroom, will you get flustered trying to find somewhere to park, etc. None of these things really have anything to do with the actual content of the interview or anxiety ridden situation.  For me, once I’ve found the building, parked, checked in, visited the facilities, made my way into the interview room and the interview begins in a spacious, well lit, comfortable environment; then I am okay. I’m going to make it. I get to listen intently to questions I need to respond to and so my brain really can’t take control anymore. It gets frustrating trying to explain this to people who have never experienced non-traditional anxiety, because there’s an air of “buck up and just get through it” that comes across which unintentionally minimizes what it takes to actually get through it. The amount of Pepto Bismol tablets alone would be shocking to some, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get through. It's 90% the build up and 10% the actual situation. It's not just butterflies and rapid heartbeat, but instead: butterflies, gassy tummy, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, sweaty everything, lack of breathe, lack of focus, numbness, and much more... 

As the time shortened between me and the interview, my tears, shortness of breath, lack of sleep, worry and dread heightened tremendously. I tried all my usual tricks; some worked, some didn’t. I knew that I just needed to power through and give myself this chance at a change. It was time for me to move on from the environment that had helped create this anxiety in me and I wanted freedom more than ever. So, I picked the most comfortable (be it a little baggy) but professional outfit I could find and I got dressed for the day. I had to go to work for almost the entire day with the interview gnawing on my brain. I wrote myself some questions in my portfolio to ask the interview panel and I went to work to watch the hours slowly pass by. I drove to the interview singing “On a Roll” by Sugarland to pump myself up, but I was way too early to go in. I sat in the car and tried to settle my nerves. Each passing minute, I grew a little more panicked. “How am I going to get through this?” I popped a couple Peptos in my mouth, swigged some water and at ten till, I walked across the street to the front door. I walked in and was about to state who I was to the receptionist, but was cut off by one of the interviewers who said with a very welcoming smile, “Hey, Jennifer, right?” I nodded yes. “So great to have you here, you’re a little early, I’m going to go grab coffee and then I’ll be ready to go.” I asked if I could use the restroom (though it was a reflex, I didn't need to go) and he told me where it was. “That’ll be perfect, I’ll get my coffee, you use the restroom and we’ll meet right back here.”

The interview was a breeze. It was like talking to two friends. Both interviewers were so passionate about their work and they shared that passion with me. It was more like a discussion and less like an interview. It took place upstairs at a very quaint table with very comfortable chairs. There were just two interviewers, but the table was on the small side and so we were seated rather close to each other, but I snuck some deep breaths and once the conversation started rolling, it rolled on for about forty-five minutes. I had a great feeling about the place and the environment. Seemed low stress and high on positivity. Yes please! Sign me up! They thanked me for coming and told me that I would hear from them about the possibility of a second interview by that coming Friday. I walked out of there higher than a kite. I was soaring and floating on the clouds. What a relief! I did it! I went out for Happy Hour to celebrate and then anxiety reared its ugly head. “A second interview?!??!?!?!” “How are you ever going to make it through all that again?”

Well, they called me, and I was asked to come in for a second interview. The gal that phoned said, “It’ll be a five-person panel, just to get to know you better. I hope you’re okay with a large group like that.” My response was, “no problem.” “No Problem!?!?!?!?” Immediately, all the same feelings came rushing back to me: sweaty palms, rise in heartbeat, churning stomach and racing thoughts. This was Thursday and my second interview was on Monday at 10am. I figured out that to attend the interview, I would just take my lunch early, easy peasy. Again, it went on my calendar and I tried to move on with life. My nerves were heightened with the knowledge of a large panel interview. This was a game changer. I barely slept from Thursday to Monday and I watched a lot of television to take me to another life. Such a powerful way to escape your life for hours on end. Thank you Netflix!

The morning of the second interview, I laid awake from 3am-5:30am and at 5:30am. I worried myself into an oblivion and my toilet and I became better acquainted. Hello Pepto Bismol. Goodbye stomach acid. My Mister (sweet companion in life) took me to work so that he could pick me up for my interview and be by my side to calm me before I went in. He was a life saver. We drove up to the interview location five minutes early; they weren’t ready for me and I was asked to sit and wait. Oh, the agony. I asked if I could use the bathroom and I really didn’t have to go, but it was something to do instead of sitting and waiting. I came out to find that they were ready for me and up the stairs I went again, but this time into a conference room with a huge long table and four friendly faces smiling at me. I shook everyone’s hand and introduced myself and though I talked way too fast and was very nervous with four pairs of eyes on me, I was somewhat at ease as soon as the questions began to roll. I had space to myself. They didn’t close the door of the conference room. The energy was positive and uplifting. It was short and sweet. Done in under a half hour. I did it!

I was told that I would hear by that upcoming Friday (again), either way. The hard part was over and now it was just a waiting game. With each passing day, my anxiety began to melt away, but my anticipation grew and grew. Waiting from Monday until Friday seemed so daunting, but luckily they only made me wait till mid-day Thursday. I couldn't believe it when I got the call that I got the job!  I’m still in shock. I pushed through debilitating anxiety, twice (well more times than that, but specifically to get this job – twice! 😊) and I now have my chance at change. I have learned so much through this experience and feel so accomplished and proud that I pushed myself passed the fear and uncomfortable situations. I also came to the realization that the reason the terms “Anxiety” and “Depression” are usually associated with each other is because anxiety can make you feel down on yourself. I not only was anxiety ridden, but I was depressed and felt like a failure for having such anxiety. The thing is, everyone goes through something at some point in their life. So, we all need to have empathy for each other. Every type of anxiety, every struggle, every feeling is valid. I have put myself down so many times throughout the last few weeks because I just wanted to be “normal” and be able to get through this “normal” life step without all the added chaos of anxiety. My self-reflective tendencies have me evaluating how wrong I have been. Being the exact person you are is the most important thing you can do with your life. Anxiety may leave you feeling helpless or hopeless, but life is a very fluid thing. Just as I did not have anxiety 2 years ago, I may not have it 2 years from now. With all the uncertainties that anxiety brings, the one thing we can be sure of is change. Change is very hard for anyone who suffers from anxiety. So, it's extra important to take the hard steps forward and push yourself. 

           I am not who I was BEFORE anxiety. I have changed. I am stronger in some ways. I am weaker in some ways. I am flawed in new ways. The bottom line is that I am better for it. Change can be debilitating, stressful and emotional, but in all those ways it also shapes you and molds you into the person you are meant to become. I may not be exactly who everyone wishes I would be, but I'm learning to let go of the outside narrative. I may not be exactly who I want to be, but I'm closer than I was a year ago. I've learned that I need to be nicer to myself. The dialogue in my mind has been so harsh and self deflating that I'm trying to ease up. We are hardest on ourselves. Anyone facing anxiety, depression, difficult feelings or hard times, you are NOT alone. Everyone will face something similar at some point in their life. Just because someone doesn't understand your situation now, doesn't mean they never will. Be open, try to help illuminate the feelings and maybe they'll understand a little more. Write it out if you must; that is my avenue of choice. My motto is "get it down on paper, so it won't catch up with me later..." Get it out in some capacity and watch a little bit of that anxiety mountain chip away. You are not climbing alone. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Well Rounded

     I am not okay.  I will definitely be okay, but at the present moment, I am not okay. Truth is that none of us are 100% okay. Not all the time. There will be days that are so amazing and good times that make your heart soar and your smile widen, but those days don't last forever. I am grateful for those days and just because I embrace my negative days as I do my positive ones, doesn't take anything away from the good. It's just the truth of life. There is always change which means there is always a 50/50 chance of lows here and there. 

     I was talking to my coworker the other day about social media and how everyone presents their very best self online. It's not a real representation of life on a day to day basis because it is the highlight reel of all the good moments. She and I both agreed that we like to give a more well rounded approach online. One where we share our struggles as well as our triumphs and we share our boring days as well as our excitement filled days.  I explained that when I've done so, some have called me negative and that presented another piece of the problem. If you watch social media comments, you will see that there are people who are going to tear you down for any way you slice it. No matter what you stand for, no matter what you say, someone is going to see it from the opposite side of the spectrum. So, in the end, all that matters is what you want to be known for. 

     I want to be known for telling my life story from all angles. I love to post pictures of happy times and trips with some of my favorite people: my Mom, Gma and Paul, but those are just like shooting stars in the broader night sky of my life. The stars stuck in my night sky are memories that stay there to keep you striving for more shining moments, but behind all that is a dark sky. All the failures, all the tries that didn't pan out, all the tears, all the heartache and all the downs in life are lost in that dark canvas of night. When you search on Facebook, you see star after star after star and if it's something happening right now, it's a shooting star. We need to show a little bit more of that vast dark. The dark is where character is built. The dark is where you create a star which adds a little bit more light to your world. It's NOT a negative thing. The message that we should all show our best sides, best selfies (that took 20 minutes to get the lighting just right), best days is just a disservice. That message, "put your best face forward," means that there are more than one to choose from? I thought being two-faced was a bad thing? 

     I had a panic attack (a pretty good one) on Friday night when going to see a movie. My favorite theater, sitting on the end of an aisle, but mid way through the movie, I couldn't breathe. At the time, I didn't want to ruin Paul's experience, so I just ducked out to go to the restroom. I didn't have to go to the bathroom, but it was the only quiet place that I could dab a little water on my face and breathe. It took a couple minutes to calm down. I missed 2-3 minutes of the movie and that really bummed me out. Paul was so great and whispered any missed plot to me, but I was still uncomfortable and I've never felt this way before. If anyone knows me, my ALL TIME favorite thing to do in the world is to go to the movies. So, this is why I am NOT OKAY. 

     I've had anxiety and panic attacks from around March of last year (2017). I had taken a promotion and the job and the situations in place at the time were so high stress that I developed anxiety. I went to the doctor and she diagnosed me with acute anxiety and borderline depression. (I've been battling depression on and off for over 15 years) She prescribed me pills that made me feel worse than the anxiety did and so I've just been trying to manage it with other remedies such as breathing, oils, meditation, exercise, etc. What I've come to realize after this latest episode on Friday night in the movie theater is that my anxiety and panic attacks are getting much worse. I have never had that feeling in a movie theater. A couple weeks ago, I had that same fearful feeling come over me just playing cards with family that was in town. I had to excuse myself a couple times just to go to the bathroom to breathe. I have had it happen to me in the grocery store or waiting in line with people standing just a little too close. At the dollar store a couple weeks ago, I just got out of line and left all my stuff in a display at the front of the store.  Paul was so kind to go back in later and buy it all for me. I have anxiety in meetings at work and even at fun activities like potlucks. I have to find a seat by the door and preferably, "can we please just leave the door open?" 

     It's not a feeling of possibly being put on the spot or that I'm not capable to answer questions or unqualified. I feel very secure in my work ability, my knowledge and I've never been one (at least not in the last 10 years) to be too scared to talk in a meeting. So, "what is the problem?" is the common question asked of me. It's a fear of the unknown space. The room and its dimensions, maybe claustrophobia in some aspects. Will somebody sit too close to me and box me in? Will I feel stuck? I already feel stuck because the meeting is from 1pm-2pm and so I have to be in that same space for one hour. If I'm talking or engaged in taking notes or doodling, I'm semi-okay, but if the other people in the room are talking and there's nothing else for me to do, but catch a glimpse of the clock or think of how small my chair is or how warm it's becoming, I will lose my cool. I take peppermints with me everywhere I go. They help me breathe deeper and the peppermint is a natural remedy for upset stomach. I take "Peace and Calming" oil with me and rub it on my wrists and try to inhale the aroma and calm down. Each morning before work, I dab "Valor" oil (which they say is liquid courage) on my wrists and on the back of my neck in hopes that it will set me up for a brave day. Some days it works, some days it does not.    

     I'm not okay. This is not who I thought I'd be at this point in my life, but that's all about to change. I had an epiphany Thursday while doing a task that I passively took on because another person made it so known that they did not like doing said task. My epiphany was that I am a nice person and I do want everyone around me to be happy, but I never add myself to that list. I have given away power for too long. Not the ugly form of power where you control people or feel authoritative over them. I am NOT down for any kind of power in that respect. I'm talking about power to be myself, be worthy of respect and have my voice heard. 

     I am not invisible, I am not silent, I have feelings, I have struggles. I respect everyone else's circumstances, I feel for people, I cry for other's stories and my well of empathy is deep. I am still human. I lashed out a couple weeks ago because I had been keeping my feelings to myself and I couldn't hold it in anymore. I felt horrible, I owned it, apologized and things will never be the same, but that's life. That's real. We make mistakes, we alter our worlds and relationships, but our actions, we own them and apologize if we want any hope of having continued relationships with those same people we've hurt.

    My main message here is that life is messy. Life is NOT Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Life is not a highlight reel. Share your ups and downs so that people can see a well rounded person and not feel so alone. The reason that social media has gotten such a bad rap is because it isolates people to their computer screens and they sit there comparing their present low moment with everyone else's highs. It can be toxic. You'll hear the argument that those people need to think differently or go to counseling. Why should we have to change for a few insecure people. Newsflash - we are all insecure in some way. I have yet to meet a completely secure person. Insecurities and flaws make us human and make us interesting. This affects more people than you realize. You don't have to post every bad thing that happens to you, but show some humility and growth of character. It helps more than you will ever know. 

***Shout out of Ryan China McCarney for posting videos after his panic attacks and giving pointers how to get through them. We need MORE of that!***