I’m Totally Wasted

Lol. Well, I knew this would happen. Like every project, I get excited and all gung-ho about it for awhile, and then…other things come up and I just…sort of… let the project get buried. Then I start to feel bad and spiral down into a  pit of self-doubt and negativity.

Accept,  I’m not going to do that this time. I DO feel bad, but really, it’s not like I’m getting paid to do this. I have no expectations to meet except my own, so why be so hard on myself? Yeah.This time I think I’m  going to “shake it off, shake it off”. 

Ok.

So I started this post on the day after 4th of July. I really feel like I need to finish it, because, really, what happened that weekend is something that can happen anytime, anywhere. Actually, the same cause/effect scenario repeated itself THIS weekend, so I guess I just validated my point right there.

But enough with this nonsense. Here is the good stuff:

July 5th:

It’s the first day of reality after a long weekend of celebrating freedom with fireworks, alcohol, and general debauchery… and I’m still wasted. I got out of bed this morning and managed to muddle through my responsibilities, but all I want to do is go back to bed and recover like everyone else. Sounds reasonable, right? If only I had participated in illegal shenanigans, channeled my inner pyro, or drank in excess. Truth is I didn’t. Nope.

What I have folks, is an anxiety hangover.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s basically  when your body has been on “high alert” for such an extended period of time that when the “threat” is over (threat meaning whichever anxiety trigger was being pumped) you’re left completely exhausted…drained of any and all energy reserves… just…done. For the most part, I try to avoid my anxiety “triggers” as much as possible. That, combined with the right dose of medication, ensures that I remain balanced enough to function.

Sometimes, though, just like eating an entire quart of Rocky Road ice cream in one sitting, you do things you know you’ll regret later.

It started innocently enough. My husband and I were invited to play games over at a friends house last Friday night. The introvert in me was quick to decline, but the other part of me that hasn’t socialized in MONTHS said I should go, so… we went. When we arrived,
I  took my place at the table and spent the next couple of hours allowing the 5 extroverts around me to dominate the conversation (as per usual), and inwardly wince as they got louder and louder as the night (and the drinking) progressed. *Trigger Warning* I was also trying really hard to not be overwhelmed by the amount of stuff covering every surface in our host’s house. Another *Trigger Warning*.  I could feel the anxiety starting to climb up from the pit of my stomach into my chest, but before it completely unleashed itself, my husband and I were were able to excuse ourselves and get the heck out of dodge. Phew. close call.

The next day, we were invited out to a friend’s lake cabin. The only people we knew were the hosts, which meant we would be hanging out with a group of people we didn’t know for an undetermined amount of time, forcing to make small talk. I knew this going in, but I tried to prepare myself, really I did. From the time we woke up though, to the time we left, I felt agitated. I was irritable, and I couldn’t really figure out why. I thought maybe I was dehydrated, or hungry, but the feeling was still there even after I satiated my thirst and appetite. And it only got worse. The traffic was so bad, what should have been a 20 min. drive turned into an hour, which meant we would be late *trigger warning*. My husband and I decided to pull into a shopping center to pick up some additional items, and upon returning to the car from the brief excursion, it happened. I broke down.

By “breaking down”, I mean crying. The anxiety starts to squeeze your chest so hard, that the only release seems to come in the form of tears. This time, though, I started to laugh, too. “THIS is why I’ve been feeling so agitated/grumpy!” Sometimes, as I found out, you aren’t necessarily aware of the physiological changes that are happening., until it’s too late. Anyway…the crying eventually subsided, and I was in a much better state of mind by the time we arrived at the lake, and it stayed that way for the rest of the evening.

The next morning, though. I woke up feeling completely emotionally and physically drained. It was the kind of exhaustion that no amount of caffeine can cure, and even though I had a whole day of things planned, all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and rest, because

I was, simply, WASTED from an anxiety hangover.

 

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I’m Totally Wasted

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, This One is For You

Before you applaud me for making this grand gesture, I have to admit that I forgot to get a Mother’s Day card and mail it. It’s not the first time, and probably won’t be the last. I am pretty much hit or miss on properly acknowledging birthdays or holidays that pertain to my immediate family. And it’s not because I don’t care, it’s simply because I procrastinate and usually have 50 other things I’m trying to accomplish at the same time. But enough about me… this post is for my Mom, a woman with everlasting patience who never made me feel like I was different, despite my “quirks”.

For those of you who don’t know, I was officially diagnosed with ADHD and general anxiety at the age of 35. I made the choice to medicate, and after a little tinkering with the dosing, I found the perfect balance. I consider it a type of “rebirth” in that I was able to become the person I always wanted to be. Now, The question you’re probably asking, is “why didn’t she receive help when she was a kid, when all the symptoms became apparent?” Simply put, there was no formal diagnosis of ADHD when I was growing up in the late 70s/early 80s. Neither was there even the thought that a kid as young as 12 could possibly have general anxiety disorder. I was just different. I had quirks. And, according to my mother, “Everyone has quirks.”

I have to hand it to her, my mother. Looking back, I can only imagine how exhausting it must of been to raise me. I was constantly on the run, getting into everything and anything, and changing interests faster than people change socks. When I asked her how I was as a baby/toddler, she just smiles and says “you were happy, and busy busy busy- like a BB in a tin can.”

When I got to be school age things didn’t change. I remember being able to do all the after-school activities I wanted. I did tap and ballet classes, piano lessons, arts and crafts… and I was never scolded for wanting to “quit” or discontinue an activity (even though they had invested money for equipment or supplies). I feel so fortunate that I was able to explore all those interests! Mostly though, I think my parents allowed me to do all those things because it gave me a way to burn off the excess energy, and defend against the restlessness and boredom that are common with ADHD.

Speaking of school, although I had to be reminded to do my homework, academics weren’t really a challenge until 7th grade. That was the first time that ADHD interfered with my ability to function in a classroom.  It’s also when the panic attacks and anxiety ramped up, mostly due to a teacher named Mr. Schmidt. He was the first mathmatics teacher I had that taught with his back to the classroom. There was little or no engagement with us, the students, which made it really difficult for me to focus and learn. I had LOVED math prior to that, but overnight, it became the bane of my existence. I went from an “A” grade to a “C” in one semester, and it was devastating. Thankfully, my parents didn’t get angry with the grade change. They could see how hard I was working, and my mom would drive me to school early everyday so I could get extra help from Mr. Schmidt. The struggle with math continued even after I left his classroom, my parents also continued to be understanding, and never made me feel “bad” for my learning deficits.

I could go on and on about how my Mother never made me feel like I was “different”;
From the accommodations in meal planning (due to my food issues), to supporting every sporting and artistic endeavor I ever had,  but for now, I just want to say  thank you, Mom.
Thank you for being patient and kind, and for appreciating ALL  my “quirks”. I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, This One is For You

I’m a Betty in a world full of Veronicas

I’m a tomboy. When I was a kid, I played soccer with the boys instead of attending tea parties with the girls. I gave up wearing dresses in the 2nd grade, and I got matchbox cars instead of Barbies for Christmas. Back then, it wasn’t an issue. My parents weren’t concerned with “gender identification”; instead, they encouraged me to do what I wanted to do, so long as I was happy doing it. I also had lots of friends, both male and female, and nobody seemed to care that I had messy hair, bruised legs, or anything else that came with being a tomboy. But that all changed in Middle School.

Right around 7th grade, there was a dramatic shift in the social dynamics. Girls got boobs, and all of sudden, they became obsessed with hair, makeup, and boys. No one wanted to ride bikes with me anymore, or play soccer for fear of messing up their appearance. The boys that I  hung out with previously were paying more attention to those other girls than me…and I soon became invisible. Needless to say, I had a painful adolescence. The worst part is, even though I may have outwardly acted like “one of the guys” it didn’t keep me from having crushes on my “former” guy friends. So, I tried to get into comic books, hoping that I could find some common ground with the boys again. I tried the classic stories by Marvel & DC…. but instead, I fell in love with the Archie Series.

Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. The premise of the story is simple, if not a bit corny, but I think what attracted me most to the gang at Riverdale High  is that Archie (the main character) found himself in love with 2 girls, whom were complete opposites of each other. Betty Cooper was very much a tomboy, and Veronica was the attractive, well put together gal. Yet, somehow, Archie was eternally torn between the two. Looking back, I think that’s what gave me hope…hope that I would one day find a guy that would appreciate me for who I am, messy hair and all.

I finally met him in my early 30s. Our first date happened on a work night. At the time, I worked in retail, and I’m pretty sure I met him wearing my usual t-shirt/jeans/converse combo. My pigtails were unkempt (and of course, I didn’t have a brush or comb in my bag) and I’m pretty sure I smelled of stale sweat and store grime, but nethertheless,  we spent
5 hours that night getting to know each other over Red Robin burgers and Karaoke. 2 years later we got married. Guess the fact that I didn’t wear make up or care much about “girl” things didn’t matter after all!

And now I am 41… sitting here in a t-shirt and cargo pants. I purposefully get my hair cut into a “low maintenance” style and I STILL have no clue how to apply make up. I have to remind myself to shave my legs and keep my nails in decent shape. But I’m finally comfortable with who I am, and that’s all that matters.

All thanks to a blond hair gal named Betty.

I’m a Betty in a world full of Veronicas

August 18, 2010

People remember certain dates for certain reasons. For some, it could be the date they met their partner, the date they bought their first car, or the date they landed their dream job.  MY date, August 18 2010 is significant for another reason; it’s the day I decided to take control over my ADHD and Generalized Anxiety.

Now, it wasn’t the first time I sought help. When I was diagnosed with ADHD in 1997, I tried one of the ADD medications that was available at the time. I took it everyday, faithfully, for about a year or so. It DID help me focus, and I was able to  improve my college GPA from a 2.6 to a 2.9. BUT, I was a zombie. I lost my creative spark. So when I graduated in the summer of 1998, I decided to quit taking the medication. I felt I had gotten enough control over my behaviors that I could survive. And, I did, for the most part. Treating the anxiety was a different issue. I tried a couple of different medications. The first one wasn’t worth the side effects, and the second one worked pretty well, but it didn’t work 100% (it more or less took the edge off) and I was suffering from minor side effects of it too. Eventually, I discontinued taking the  anti-anxiety meds as well.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010. After losing my job earlier that year, I decided to go back to school, and by March I was enrolled at the local community college. By mid-summer term I was struggling, academically & socially. My behavior modification method (for the ADHD) was no match for the new demands, and I was having a really hard time learning and applying all the new information. This, of course, caused my anxiety to climb to new (and more scary) heights.

But it wasn’t a school related issue that caused me to breakdown down and admit that I needed help. What  the catalyst, then? Planning a 3-day vacation.

I know what you’re thinking… how could anyone breakdown planning a vacation? It’s supposed to be fun! and exciting! Well, not for me. While I LOVE planning, I also have a great fear of the unknown (a major source of my anxiety) so when I was faced with trying to plan a 3 day road trip to San Francisco, I was inundated with so much information and so many possibilities that I became overwhelmed. Add that to the obsessing- obsessing over every option, every detail…after 2 days I was a mess. So much so, that my husband finally told me to STOP. He forbade me from doing anymore planning, because he could see that I was spiraling. And, after suffering a completely exhausting meltdown, I had to agree. We settled on a bare bones itinerary and (gulp!) decided to “wing it” the rest of the time. I was too exhausted to even contest it. So we went on the trip, and I survived, but my my anxiety remained at peak level. The day we got back, I made an appointment with my primary care doctor to see about trying a new medication regimen.

August 18, 2010: I was sitting in my doctor’s office, begging him for help. Now, my doctor is not one to just prescribe meds willy-nilly. He is very thoughtful and concerned about providing the best care possible, so we talked for quite awhile. I described everything I was going through, and how despite my best efforts to control everything via behavior modification, relaxation techniques, etc., nothing was seeming to work anymore. That’s when he looked at me and said, “Ok. Now you’re ready for medication. I applaud your efforts for trying to fix this on your own, but you can’t. You’re dealing with a chemical imbalance in the brain, pure and simple. The only way to fix that is with medication.”
I sat there and just cried with relief. I started on 2 different medications that day, and after a couple of months of tweaking the dosage, I found the perfect balance.

I’ve been on the medications for almost 6 years now, and I have absolutely NO REGRETS. I am an entirely new person, finally being able to experience life the way I always wanted to. I am no longer imprisoned by anxiety and being able to focus on and engage in things long enough to see them come to fruition is amazing. Granted, there was a bit of a learning curve with social skills (I’ll save that for another post) and I still have some other issues that I have to deal with, but for the most part, I can finally breathe…and all because I made the decision to take control over my life again on August 18, 2010.

 

August 18, 2010

Odd Woman Out at the Dinner Table

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Food is a four letter word
.
Literally, yes, but figuratively as well for me. Truth is, the very thought of food, and making decisions about food, starts a whole cycle of anxiety that is just plain exhausting. I eat enough to survive, as evidenced by my more than average hips and thighs, but I can guarantee that I don’t have a “well balanced” diet (unless you can count candy and sugar as all four food groups).

The reason why I have disdain for the whole nourishment process is complicated. Part of it is due to the fact that I suffer from chronic acid reflux (diagnosed at age 12) and chronic constipation (due to a twisted colon). BOTH make it hard to eat certain foods knowing it will cause discomfort and pain during the digestive process. However, the main reason why I have a hard time eating is (deep breath here), I DON’T LIKE THE WAY CERTAIN FOODS FEEL IN MY MOUTH. I also don’t understand why people insist on mixing foods together and serving it that way-on purpose. For example, I will eat corn and instant mashed potatoes separately, but put them together with seasoning? FORGET IT. I won’t even touch it. I also don’t “believe” in gravy, and can’t get over the fact that milk is white (and therefore, do not drink it by itself). I still, on occasion, will spit offending food into a napkin as well and…

I turned 41 years old last week. When I was a kid, there wasn’t the sensitivity towards “picky” eaters like there is today. No offers of therapy or therapeutic intervention… you just sat at the table and ate what was put in front of you, or else. Thankfully, my parents weren’t too pushy… and my mother tried to make meals as least offensive as possible. Except for the dinners that included frozen fish sticks. There was no getting around the fish sticks. The rule was that I had to eat 2 before I could leave the table. I somehow managed to gag them down, but to this very day, I can’t tolerate the sight or smell of seafood.

Most people don’t understand my affliction. They just shake their head and say “get over it” OR they try to empathize by saying “Oh, I don’t like this type of food”… yet they can still eat $30 worth of food at a $10 buffet. I, on the other hand, would rather spend $2 on a meal replacement bar and meet you later. This usually doesn’t go over too well though, socially speaking, so I will spend the $10 on the buffet, load up on fruit and dessert, and spend the rest of the time trying to avoid making disgusted faces at the open pans of  “food”as I walk by. Sitting and making polite dinner conversation is another struggle…since I have to simultaneously focus on not showing how grossed out I am by the mounds of indistinguishable food on the plates of my dinner companions. As you can imagine, this takes a lot of energy and constant vigilance on my part. Perhaps you’re getting a better idea as to why…

Dining out is an emotional and physiological minefield for me. Not only is there the normal fear/anxiety about going to a new restaurant, but there is a greater fear of a menu full of “food” that I don’t recognize. Take for example, this description of a hamburger: “goat cheese tzatziki, romaine, aardvark hot sauce, crystal bakery kaiser roll, with truffle fries” That’s a big NO for me, thanks. I don’t even need to know that those things are. How about the same restaurant’s offering for a “mixed green salad”? “shaved fennel, hazelnut, grana padano, champagne vinaigrette” Grana…what? Why can’t I just get some iceburg lettuce with some chopped up processed ham and ranch dressing? To be honest, if walking out of that restaurant wasn’t an option I would probably excuse myself to the ladies’ room in order to scarf down the meal bar I preemptively packed in my bag. Then, upon returning to the table, I would ask for a diet soda, stating “I had a big lunch” (to avoid actually ordering any food), and try to endure the rest of the acceptable amount of time allotted for dinner. Whoever said dining was a relaxing and enjoyable experience didn’t have food issues, obviously.

Grocery shopping, meal planning… is just as stressful. When I was single, it was easy. I would buy what I liked, and if it meant eating ham and cheese rolls with a bowl of cereal for dinner, who cared? No one was around to judge me. I was getting protein, carbs, and whatever my body needed, however unconventional. But then I got married. To a cook; a culinary artist who could rival anyone on those timed cooking competitions… and what happened? He quickly learned that if he wanted more than a protein shake and a spoonful of peanut butter for meals, he would have to prepare his own food. Which, he has now, for almost 8 years. To his credit, he has gotten me to try a few new things here and there, but mostly when he makes a meal he knows I will eat, he makes sure to separate EVERYTHING on the plate and tries not to “vary” the way he makes it. (The best way to make me reject something is to season or prepare it different than I’m used to). Otherwise, I fend for myself. The down side is, is that if he wants to take me out to eat, he knows he’s stuck with one of my 3 choices. At least he understands that…

 My food issues are MINE and MINE alone.  I have a hard enough time struggling with them by myself, but when other people start to question, or make comments about my eating habits, it makes me feel like more of a freak. Having to justify, say, why I don’t like any part of the Thanksgiving meal is enough for me to decline invitations for holiday gatherings. Pot Lucks? I’d rather have a root canal, but I attend (usually with something I know I can resort to eating if I have to) and try my best to fit in and socialize because I know that is what is expected of me.

Pause.
Deep Breath.

Ok. Rant over. For now, at least. I apologize for the lengthiness of this post, but I know I’m not the only one who struggles with non-traditional food issues. My hope is that I have shed some light on the topic for those who know, or live, with a picky eater. We don’t choose to be fussy for the sake of being fussy. There are legitimate, neurological and physiological reasons why our foods can’t touch, why we prefer french-cut green beans to traditional style, or whatever the issue may be. I just ask that you show more sensitivity and pass less judgement next time you sit down at the dinner table with one of us.

Odd Woman Out at the Dinner Table

1980: The Year of “Star Wars-The Empire Strikes Back”, and My First Panic Attack

I recently asked my mom for some pictures of me from my childhood. The day the envelope came in mail, I sat on the couch with my husband and we went through the pictures one by one as I regaled the stories behind them. We were having a good time of it, until I came across one particular picture.  I took one look at and became silent. “What is it?” he asked. Without looking up, I quietly replied, “This is it. This is the picture from my Kindergarten graduation”… and my hands began to tremble.

The year was 1980. I was too young to see the “new” Star Wars movie in the theater, but old enough to be graduating from Kindergarten that June. Everyone in my class was assigned at least one poem to recite, and I worked really hard to memorize my piece about “Mr. G” (an inflatable alphabet character  from the “Letter People” curriculum that was all the rage in the late 1970s.) My mother had sewn a beautiful dress for me to wear, complete with matching ribbons for my pigtails, and soon I couldn’t wait for the big night.

I went to a small private school, with maybe 28 kids in my Kindergarten class (that was combined morning and afternoon) but when we walked up on stage and took our seats, the meeting hall was full. It seemed that the whole school (preschool through 8th grade) had shown up for the occasion. I scanned the audience and saw my parents sitting in the very back row. I was going to make them so proud!

The ceremony began, and one by one my classmates walked up to the microphone and recited their poems about letter(s) A, B, C, D, E, F…. and then my name was called. I got up from my chair and walked down stage to the microphone. I looked up to see my Dad standing in the back holding up his Kodak Instamatic camera, and when the flash went off, it happened. My heart began to pound so hard my chest hurt… I couldn’t breathe… I started sweating through the layers of fabric and lace… and then the worst thing of all… MY MIND WENT BLANK. I couldn’t remember the poem I had worked so hard to memorize. I just stood there, holding Mr. G’s limp hand, and started to cry.

I was 5 years old, and had just experienced my first panic attack.

Panic attacks are unpredictable. Some people have a one or two, and then never again. In my case, it developed into a full blown panic disorder. Up until August of 2010, I averaged one to two panic attacks A WEEK. It became more and more difficult for me to function- and after one particular episode, I had finally had enough. So on August 18th, 2010, I made an appointment with my doctor to discuss treatment for my  panic disorder as well as my generalized anxiety, and ADHD (both of which I had been diagnosed with in my early 20’s). It was by far the most difficult, yet BEST decision I have ever made.

In retrospect, I don’t know what triggered the episode at my Kindergarten graduation. I do know that after I was brought back to my seat, embarrassed and teary eyed, the panic subsided after a few minutes. It’s a good thing it had, too, because I had a second performance to give that evening. Only this time when my name was called, I marched down stage, grabbed the microphone and recited my poem from beginning to end without any tears.

1980: The Year of “Star Wars-The Empire Strikes Back”, and My First Panic Attack