When Life Gives You Limes, Make Margaritas
Hello again! I’ve been AWOL the last month or so dealing with my father’s health crisis. (Which seemed to precipitate crisises (crises?) in every direction. (I’m sorry but I have to disagree with spell check here, crises just looks weird. ) It always seemed by the time I got home from the hospital or my daughter’s house or work or the million different places I needed to be all at the same time, the last thing I wanted to do was write. Thank God for the wonderfully well stocked Adult Beverage Center at my daughter’s house. Many lives were saved thanks to Mystery Drink Night every night.
I noticed that blogging is a lot like exercising (Those of you who know me, stop laughing. I do too know what exercise looks like. I’ve seen it on TV.) It feels great while you’re doing it, but miss a few days and it gets easier to make up excuses not to do it.
I realize this first year of blogging is basically an exploration for me. I’m still trying to figure out what direction I should go. It’s been a rather stream of consciousness thing, I realize, but hopefully out of that stream will come some fishes of substance. (I’m not drinking, really.) I’ve narrowed down (the word niched annoys the crap out of me for some reason) the topics to the thing that gives me the most joy (painting) and the thing that causes me the most stress (caring for my parents). Lately the parent stress has been quite front and center.
I’m hoping to use the things I learned dealing with my mother’s Parkinson’s (which is to do the exact opposite of everything I did then) and apply that to my father’s current cancer treatments and subsequent side effects. (So far, so goodish)
Caretaker Heal Thyself
I’ve been doing some research on how caretakers can keep themselves healthy and sane and deal with the pressures and anxiety that goes along with caring for a parent. During this time I had an Aha! Moment. There is a strong possibility (make that absolute certainty) that I might (absolutely positively) have a problem with anxiety. (For those of you who know me, please stop pretending to look shocked.)
I was reading a list of general anxiety symptoms from Web MD (of course) and was surprised to find that I can claim
most all of them. For example:
- Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
- An unrealistic view of problems
- Restlessness or a feeling of being “edgy”
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty concentrating
- The need to go to the bathroom frequently
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
- Being easily startled
(Though the bathroom thing might just be because I live in a hot humid climate and drink a lot to keep hydrated. Same goes for the sweating. That and a touch of menopause.)
Mel Robbins is Awesome
So with this in mind, and wondering if there was anything I can do about it now after a lifetime of anxiety ridden instances, I happened to catch a brief snippet of a woman named Mel Robbins on the Today Show. I swear, outside of the fame, money and jetting around the country lifestyle, she could totally be me. She too has a few issues with anxiety and is more than happy to discuss them in front of everyone.
I googled her and found a bunch of her videos on YouTube called Mindset Reset. They literally blew my mind. (I’m still finding pieces under the furniture)
One video was to keep track of all of the negative thoughts I have throughout the day. I have hundreds, all worst case scenarios. No wonder I’m always stuck in flight or fight mode. (emphasis on flight, except where my poor husband is concerned, then its fight all the way.)
If You Think it, You’ll Be it
Apparently, according to her, the mind (and subsequently the body) reacts to negative imagery the same way it reacts to real events. It doesn’t know the difference so responds accordingly. Which explains a lot in my life. All day long, every day, negative thoughts pop up like soap bubbles of terror. (Cool name for a band, by the way) Did I leave the coffee pot on? (insert image of house going up in flames with accompanying heart racing). Did my Dad fall again while I’m at work and unable to pick him up? (Instant image of me walking in on something from a crime scene with accompanying heart racing.) My sister, Kathy, ever the practical one, installed a nanny cam in his living room. Now my heart only races until the image pops up of him snoozing in his chair.
These ideas and images go on all day and into the night. (hence the insomnia) When I get up multiple times during the night (those of you out there of a certain age know why), if I can make it back to bed without opening my eyes, I’m golden. Stub one toe, hit my knee on the dresser, or trip over a dog, then it’s on. My brain pops awake like an overly caffeinated squirrel.
Dad’s on the floor, the grant isn’t coming through, the cat is outside being murdered. (or doing the murdering usually), the tree outside the window is going to fall and kill us all. My brain squirrels (also a cool name for a band) will happily keep me awake for hours. (with accompanying heart racing, of course.)
Oh Celexa, I Miss You So
I was on Celexa when Mom was alive. It was kind of nice living without the brain squirrels. (and it probably kept me out of prison for murder) On Celexa I definitely didn’t feel the anxiety, but I also didn’t feel much of anything else either. While the lows definitely sucked, I missed feeling the highs. I also missed being able to cry during “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I mean, come on. It’s inhuman if you don’t cry when Clarence gets his wings. I had to wean myself off of it due to 3 years of not being able to afford health care (and now having a 5000 dollar deductible because it’s the only one I can afford).
It’s nice to feel again. Puppy commercials make me cry again. Movies make me laugh again. The brain squirrels have taken over again. According to Mel, all of this is learned behavior. If I can learn it, I can unlearn it. I can’t fix something if I don’t know it exists. I am aware of it now (is that what the millennials refer to as “woke”, I wonder?) I have taken the first steps in corralling the brain squirrels. After listening to all 34 of Mel’s videos on the way to work, I already feel calmer and less triggered. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still triggered, just not reacting to said trigger with murderous intent.) It will be interesting if I can keep it up. 57 years of bad habits will be hard to change I realize, but I think I’m up for the challenge.
Anxiety, I know where you live and I’m coming for you. (basically in my own brain, but you get the picture.)