b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: calm

What if

What if
You are not your Ego
What if you are not your exterior, your physical form, your reflection
What if you are not the identity you have formed, piece by piece, layer by layer, year after year after year

What if
You are the Light
Bright, piercing, blazing
Larger than the Universe
Connected to everything that is, ever was, ever will be

What if
You are Love
All the oceans combined
Always present, available, infused, no matter what
Surrounding, supporting, solid, strong
It can’t be earned, because it is already there, already given, already received
Already a part of everything, inside and out, every atom

What if
You are Whole and Complete
Nothing missing, nothing cracked, no chips, no gaps, no limping
Underneath the frail, tattered layers of who you think you are
Solid and powerful
Simple and elegant, beautiful and perfect
Every cell exactly where it’s supposed to be
A delight, a joy, a Life
Uniquely formed, special
Exactly as you are
Not defined by society, your parents, your internal record,
But already, before it all, behind it all
A You that is a Gift
Imagine it
It is Truth

This too shall pass

When I am struggling, when I am dragging, when every movement requires monumental effort, it is easy to sink into despair. What I try to remember is a most important truth: this is temporary.

During the first big devastation I did not realize that. It felt permanent. Ongoing and never-ending. No escape. But after I crawled out of that hole, I realized there was an “outside” of it. And during the next crashes I knew I only had to hold on long enough for it to pass. It wasn’t going to last forever. Just hang on tight, relief is coming soon.

The same rules go for happiness. When I feel joy I often mistrust it. What does this mean? What’s going to go wrong to sabotage it? When’s it going to end? I know it will end. I am sad when I am happy, because I know it won’t last. Sometimes I am angry when I’m happy. Why give me a taste of ease just so you can take it away. Why remind me of how feeling good is like, just so I can miss it and long for it when it’s gone.

But thinking this way is a sure fire way to end the happiness before it can even really begin. So I have given myself a goal. Like a piece of delicious chocolate, I want to fully savor the good moments. Close my eyes and taste it on my tongue. Memorize its nuances and embrace it completely. Hold it in my heart, in a place of timelessness, so that when it is gone I can come back there and remember it’s possible, and work to bring it back again.

what brings me peace and balance

This is my third time falling. One might say I’ve gotten good at this. And my third time picking up the pieces and putting myself back together again. This time my recovery is faster. I’m still not sleeping, but I’m not drowning in despair. The anxiety is debilitating and crushing, but it’s not constant – just early mornings, and late afternoons to evenings. I know what I’m doing this time. I’m proficient at recovery. I have my bag of tools that I know work and I can rely on.

For my worst case scenarios, when all other tools fail, I give myself permission to use ativan. I used to tell myself that I can’t/shouldn’t, and trying to hold it together by eliminating that option was a nightmare. Knowing I can, if I need to, makes it easier to hold on without it. But before it gets that bad, I have some other options. I have my meditations. When I start I’m agitated, but over the 15-20 minutes I become still, as if floating. A perfect escape-the-world snack. A brief respite that refills my mental tank just a little bit. If I need to, I will listen to meditations back to back. They work.

Walking. Even when I’m dragging and every step is a monumental effort. Even when my anxiety is high and every minute is filled with panic. Even when I’m feeling devastated and I cry the whole way. By the time I’m done my leg muscles are humming and the endorphins have lifted me out of my mind. My body feels stronger. I sit on my front steps, I watch the tree branches sway, I breath the cool air, and I feel a sense of peace. It may not last. But in that moment I memorize all the sensations. I will put this memory in my pocket and carry it with me.

Journaling. When my brain is full, swirling with thoughts that attack like birds, and I can’t quiet it and I can’t escape, I run to my bedroom and shut the door and I pull out my journal. Then I purge. I vomit up every nasty, horrible thought I have no matter how humiliating. I smear the pages with my words and my tears. No restraint. And when it’s all out and I finally feel emptied, a calm comes over me. And I am able to sort and sift through the situation, and understand it. And once I understand the why, I am able to counter the negative thoughts with realistic and positive solutions. I can see more clearly. I can see my value and my strengths and I can come up with a plan. And once I have a plan I feel stabilized and confident again. And I am ready to open the door and return to my life, my family, and my responsibilities again.

Exodus

It’s Passover today. One of my favorite holidays. The holiday where we tell the story of the Hebrews in slavery and bondage in Egypt and their escape to freedom, to Mount Sinai, and to the Holy Land. We are all slaves to something in our lives. Our cell phones. Unhealthy foods. A job. Unhealthy thoughts or feelings. We enslave ourselves. We are both the prisoner and the guard. We trap ourselves with “shoulds” and unrealistic expectations. I am enslaved by my anxiety.

It sits heavy on my chest like a large parasite, its claws digging deeply through my flesh and wrapped around muscle, tendon and bone. It’s not quite visible. I can see the reflection of its hard shell out of the corner of my eye. It is a physical sensation of weight and pressure. Sometimes it extends to my throat, choking me, gagging me. I can’t breath. I can’t eat. I’m overwhelmed with nausea, struggling for air. When I try to pull it off of me my hands meet with air. It paralyzes me from taking action. I can sit for hours, immobile, waiting for it to leave. But I don’t, not this time.

I force myself to get up and to move, to do. I try to ignore its heaviness. If I can focus elsewhere I can distract myself and I can almost not feel it. How do I escape you? How do I get rid of you? I have a trick.

When I’m at my worst and every muscle is rigid and electrified and my brain is unable to focus on anything but my complete and utter discomfort, instead of rejecting I accept. Who would want to accept this torture?? But I tell it, in my mind, “I accept you. I accept you. I accept you.” That’s the key somehow. My muscles relax and my brain has something positive to focus on. I keep repeating it, it’s my mantra, until my breathing has slowed. It’s still there, that mass, that creature, attached to my chest. But now it’s manageable. I can function again. One foot in front of the other. I will not let it win.

I really need a happy summer memory right now

I know there must have been some happy memories when I was a child. But I don’t remember much. I remember holding a sparkler for the 4th of July, and it burned a hole in my sock. Everything around that memory is a grey blur, no substance. I don’t like the heat anymore, it wears me out, weakens me. If I go to the beach during the day, I hide in the shade…of an umbrella, a lifeguard tower, an air-conditioned restaurant nearby. But at night, the beach is a completely different world. I have many wonderful memories of attending beach bonfires. If I’ve gotten there before sunset, I get to watch the sky darken slowly, burst into brilliant beautiful colors, and then wink into darkness. The wood crackles, the heat is comforting, the smokey smell merges all the memories together. The sand is between my toes and all over my clothes. I’m dirty but I don’t care. There are hot dogs on hanger wires, and marshmallows too. And conversation between good friends as the fire light dances across our faces. I feel at peace. I feel solid. I feel real.

Write about your best vacation ever, why?

The best vacation I’ve ever had was my 1 year dating anniversary with my then-boyfriend, now-husband – Hawaii. A good friend of mine who went about once a year gave me all her inside information so we were able to rent a condo on the North Shore for a week for ridiculously cheap. We ate at the restaurants she recommended and had incredible food with incredible views. And I surprised my husband by renting a convertible, since he had never driven one before and really wanted to. We were ridiculously relaxed. We slept in, did everything leisurely, and were in perfect harmony. The weather was perfect. And all of our pictures looked amazing – some even looked so good that they almost looked fake. The only part that wasn’t perfect was when we went swimming with the sharks. The waves were very active and everyone on the boat ride puked. But we went para-sailing on another day, almost a year after we had gone para-sailing in the Bahamas together, as a new couple – and that made up for it. That year when we visited my in-laws for Christmas and told them about this trip, they teased him and said he should have set the bar lower for an anniversary gift, because how can he possibly top that. We have traveled together since, all over the world in fact, and it’s true, nothing has come close to that Hawaii week of relaxation and adventure.

Would you take the ECT treatment? Why? When?

Yes.

But only as of a couple days ago did I even consider it. Shock treatment. That’s for the real loonies! Well I guess I’m one of those now. Dozens of meds later and I know my brain chemistry is even more out of whack than it was in the beginning – or out of whack in a whole new and exciting way. It’s a lottery, trying these different meds, which one will work? And, to add to the complexity, each one leaves an impact on the brain, altering it – maybe a lot, maybe a little – but none leave without a trace. I could start the list over and who knows, what didn’t work before might fit now. But each time I try one out, the experience of waiting long enough to see the effect, instead of just the side effects, is misery.

“Try this and see you in a week.” Well that week is made up of days, hours, minutes, seconds of torture. So what then. When trying so many different things isn’t working, what then.

I’m desperate. Desperate to feel calm. Desperate to feel any kind of happiness. Desperate to not spend every moment just trying to make it to the next moment, and the moment after that. Desperate enough to let Western Medicine run an electrical current through my brain to generate a seizure – and then see if that works.

Maybe.

What is the greatest negative issue you are currently dealing with? What have you done?

Anxiety. It is a gray loud static that cuts my skin, deafens my ears, coats my veins with sooty fire, and strangles me. It is all consuming. It is everywhere. There is no escape. I can’t even sleep to escape. My one exit is barred. I lay there sweating at night, jolts of adrenaline course through me, my heart beating so loudly in my head I can’t hear anything else.

I am exhausted. My limbs weigh a million pounds. My head is filled with dark clay. Small talk for two minutes leaves me completely drained. Every chance I get I climb onto the couch and listen to my meditations and beg for relief. I never believe it will work, but each time by the end of the meditation I have a small pool of calm, a puddle really, but I’ll take it. I will lay there, not sleeping, but with my eyes closed, trying to focus on that calm and only on that calm. It is the world, for a short while, till the adrenaline jolts start up again, and then it’s time to get up. Time to choose something else from my toolbox, to escape the electrified static that is chasing me.

My therapist might say stop running, turn and surrender. Embrace. Terrifying. It will suck my life out, flatten me, disintegrate me – the me that is trying so hard just to breath. Trying to focus on anything, anything other than the needles in my brain and on my skin. Trying to survive, damnit. In these minutes, these constant minutes, I am alone. In this blizzard I am blindly fumbling and groping from one solid surface to the next.

where I find peace

When I’m working on my garden, my busy busy thoughts fade away. It’s not a very pretty garden, but I think it’s beautiful. All dark greens and dark soil. It is a big pit full of dirt that used to be home to the owner’s jacuzzi. He pulled it out, we filled it with dirt. The first things that started growing were the tomatoes. And they’re still the most active plant. I love pruning them, their leave get so out of control. I might be pruning too much. There’s genuine enjoyment in the cut, cut, cutting. A satisfying crunch and snap. Cleaning and clearing. The body working, the mind on standby. But I’m doing something right, we have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I keep a bowl of them on the kitchen counter, and my daughter walks by and pops them into her mouth. I planted my aloe vera plant, it is spreading beautifully. No pruning there. I planted a small parsley and small celery plant side by side, they are both taller than my daughter now. Those are some very happy plants. I planted a bunch of garlic, but only a couple of them remain. I think it’s too hot outside for them. Inside on the kitchen window sill I have mint, cilantro and snap peas growing happily. And I just planted some radishes and beets, and they’ve already burst forth from the soil. Tending to, and watching these plants grow relaxes me so much. A noisy part of me settles, relaxes and is able to just be. A solid calm comes over me, and it can last for many hours afterwards. Order has been created, in one small corner of my life.