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Checking in here, and just feeling like I’d like to share.

I’m traveling right now. With my husband in NYC and enjoying it very much. We’ve had quite a lot of great Opera to see and the weather has been terrific, and it’s been a wonderful change of scenery to be in the big city.

No real worries about “Swine Flu” or airplanes or anything. But I have noticed a little worry, buzzing around my head like a gnat. Nothing I could name or anything, just the awareness that Worry/Anxiety/Panic or whatever had ‘found’ me here… in my anonymity in The Big Apple.

So, I paused. Simply stood still. Breathed deeply. And refused to go down the road with it. Yes, I may drop dead. Sure. But that’s not going to take me out of my present moment, nor is it going to interrupt my last two days here.

It’s a kind of reaction that has grown out of years of practicing thought-interruption, and so far it has worked. Gently, but it has worked.

It’s my new mantra. Pause. Breathe. Pause.

Carry on.

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I was going to make a comment on the last post from a guest blooger but decided that maybe it was worth putting up a post myself. I was intrigued by this comment: 

“But the difference between positive people and those who let themselves slip into a kind of depression because they worry too much lies in knowing where to draw the line, and not letting yourself cross it.”

This is probably the core of what anxiety is all about.  We are concerned that we are “letting” ourselves slip, or that we are not positive enough.  I find that positiveness cannot be forced.  I am not a positive person, but I can enable myself to be realistic.  I may not be able to say that everything will work out in the end, but I can say that I will cope with what ever comes my way as best I can. 

I do sometimes slip into despression, and at times it does all become too much.  Trying to keep worry at bay is exhausting, but I find rather than fighting my anxiety all the time, that it is often best just to acknowledge that this is me, that it doesn’t make me a bad person, or negative, it’s just who I am.  Funnily enough, this is often enough to ease the anxiety and I can move on.

It is summer here and we are just about to go off on our camping holiday, and I’m anxious!  I have packing to do, and in the back of my mind is the nagging thought that my son is off with his mates at a music festival getting up to goodness only know what!  There is always something to worry about – but so far, I am keeping it all at a reasonable level, and acknowledging that although I am worried about my son driving, and being on busy roads etc, that in the end this is probably just normal behaviour for any mother.  I’m not catastrophising, but I will be glad when he joins us for the rest of the holiday and I will have all my loved ones safe and sound.

Happy New Year. 

Jane

It is ages since I posted anything for this blog – and it would seem that I am not alone!  So I’m wondering what is going on for everyone?  Is it the upcoming election, the financial problems of the West, getting through winter (although that’s only for us in the southern hemisphere), or are we all just too plain busy?

I’ve had a real struggle through winter this year, it has been long, cold, grey and wet.  The arrival of Spring has been a blessing, but not quite enough yet to lift me out of a period of depression and anxiety.  It has been hard to ignore the news, and the fear and the gloom that seems to accompany each bulletin.  What a miserable lot we are! 

I wish I had some words of wisdom, but sometimes it’s about just getting through it all, hanging in there and hoping for the sunshine.  It’s about grabbing a moment of peace, realising that you are laughing, and how wonderful that feels, still getting out for that walk, even though your body would rather curl up and sleep, patting the dog and enjoying the licks, finding the colour red again (I always seem to loose the ability to see red when I am anxious for some reason) and reaching out to others. 

I hope you are all managing ok, and that you are safe and well.

Well, I’m home! 4,617 miles of summer fun. Whew!

It really was a great trip!! We got to see a lot of wonderful things: Shakespeare in Stratford, Ontario. The world’s biggest nickel in Sudbury! We saw museums of Locks and Canals, Cradle of Forestry, mining tours and a host of other wonderful treasures!

We found ourselves in the town that is the home of Popeye! That was cool! And we got to see the wonderful Shipwreck Museum of Lake Superior … (cue Gordon Lightfoot) … and it was a moving experience to see what raging weather can do on those lakes that were calm and beautiful during our trip!

We drove over bridges and mountains. On Interstates and back roads. Stayed in hotels, motels, and B&Bs. Some were great. Some were not!

The great thing was I felt like it was an adventure! I was able to stay present, and in the day – wherever we were. I drank in the weather, the scenery, the friendly people. I ate the fudge!! 🙂

I’m glad to be home…even with the Florida summer heat. But I’m thrilled that we took this trip and that I didn’t let Panic or Anxiety keep me from venturing out!

Life is good – I wish the same for all of you!

We’ve been puttering around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a few days now. Maybe a week?

What a wonderful place, so natural and gorgeous. The Great Lakes are amazing – I’ve now, on this trip, seen all five of them!! And been to museums, nature preserves, cafes with the best homemade pie in the world, and I’ve seen chipmunks, deer, gophers, rabbits and untold birds. Wildflowers are rampant!!

I had my first bit of “Anxiety” today – I wrote about it in a comment on Jane’s post. Luckily I didn’t get too far down that dead-end road!!

We have another four days in Michigan then we’ll turn south. Heading for home.

I’m going to continue staying in the present moment because it just FEELS GOOD!

When you have struggled with various manifestations of anxiety for many years I think it can sometimes be hard to realise if what you are worrying about is normal worrying, or if it is getting into the realm of anxiety.

Everyone worries – or at least I think they do!  However, I believe that I worry more than most, but do I?  I certainly don’t worry about everything, but I have some things that seem to always set me off, and often it will be around health.  But then worrying about one’s health at times is normal isn’t it?  Noticing that funny looking mole would send a lot of us scurrying to the doctor I’m sure, so what makes me anxious and the other person just “normally” worried? 

I suppose it is about how long the anxiety lasts, are there physical manifestations that don’t go away such as sweating, nausia, dizziness etc.  Is the worry the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night?  Is your sleep affected?  Is there a sense of feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope?  Are you leaping to the obvious conclusion and planning your funeral?! 

Unfortunately there is no magic pill to make us never have to worry again.  When you have experienced severe anxiety however, the part that is the most scary is the actual physical and emotional manifestations of a nervous body feeling out of control.  A normal sense of worry can at times be overwhelming – but this does ease – it can be scary – but you see possibilities for hope, it can be all consuming – but time does pass, you might start to feel hopeless – but there is still an awareness of options.

So, I am on a journey of normalisation.  I want to experience the normality of worry, to realise it is ok to feel anxious, but that it doesn’t mean I am unwell, and that time will pass.

While driving to work the other morning, I heard an interesting story on NPR about facial expressions. Researchers were trying to solve a simple question: why is it that all the world’s cultures share facial expressions? Fear always looks like fear. Disgust always looks like disgust. Anger always looks like anger.

One of the theories is that at your facial expressions are not just expressions of emotion, but that they serve a purpose. For example, when you become fearful, your eyes widen and your nostrils become larger. It’s as if your body is saying, “I sense danger. I need to take in more of my environment. I need to be more aware.” By widening the eyes, you see more. By opening the nostrils, you take in more air. It’s a physiological response to fear, and it’s a response that could save your life.

This has some significance for those of us living with chronic anxiety. It’s an important reminder that what we’re experiencing is a physiological response, not just an emotional one. When we have a panic attack, or a period of intense anxiety, we aren’t “just afraid.” Our bodies are actually responding to this stimuli physically.

So what does this mean?

Basically, your body is doing many things to prepare itself for danger. It’s increasing your respiratory rate. Your digestion will likely slow down (or, in severe cases, your bowels or bladder may empty as the body attempts to rid itself of unnecessary distractions like digestive activities). These are all normal responses to fear. But this also means that anxiety heightens your perception. Your eyes will be wider and your senses sharper.

It’s during times like this that we often notice strange things about our bodies. Maybe it’s a new lump. Is it a tumor? Maybe it’s a strange tickle in the throat? Oral cancer? Or maybe it’s just racing thoughts. Am I going insane? What you must always remember, however, is that the fear has affected your perception. You’ve become the panicky equivalent of the Million Dollar Man or Wonder Woman. You’re going to notice these things because your body is responding to the fear. Your body thinks that your increased perception may just save your life — and, if you were being chased by a pack of wolves, it actually might — but in our case, this heightened perception becomes a new source of fear. We interpret these as reasons to be afraid, not responses to fear.

So, the next time you’re in a state of panic and you think that you’ve discovered a new disease or disorder, just remember: you’re in no condition to judge your health when you’re under such stress.

I turn 50 in about six weeks. I’ve always enjoyed my milepost birthdays – and have used them as moments of reflection and gratitude. I’m glad to be growing up and to see what happens as the decades pile up. By the time I was 30 I had three daughters. When I turned 40 I had experienced some deep spiritual growth and was well on my way to recovery from Anxiety and Panic!

I am enjoying watching my children grow up; they seem to be getting more independent every day. All are in school or working and all are living independently. They are just about to wake up and realize that they, too, are growing up! 🙂

But I notice a new thought creeping into the periphery of my awareness. My age. Thoughts about the outer edge of it. I wonder things like “How much longer will I be able to do _____?” or “Who will help me when I can no longer _____?”

Right now I am tending to look at these thoughts like odd flowers that bloom in random places. They don’t seem to be coming from any truth-with-a-capital-T sort of place, nor are they attached to some beloved activity that I can no longer do. Having never been much of a mountain-climber I’m not having to give up that sport. No, these thoughts are mostly about much more mundane things, private even. Things like shaving my legs in the shower. Doing my own laundry (especially underthings).

So far, they are not worries. These thoughts do not bring me to my knees in Panic, and maybe they won’t.

But they are the heralds of a new age. They are subjects and concerns about which I have never thought before. I’m not sure I know what to do with them. Bring them up to someone older? Ask them in some anonymous advice column? Join the Senior Citizens Center in my town?

My experiences with Anxiety and Panic have shown me that the ability to stay detached from the thought – and yet hold it in my consciousness – is an important way to keep my sanity! I do not have to address actual issues of self-care and self-sufficiency today. I can be grateful for the things I can do and for my overall good health.

I can also learn about aging and take some broad-based actions that will help me and my family begin the conversations. This is a comforting thought, actually. There are things I can do, and things I can let go of: fretting being top among those!

So, I’ve sent in my membership registration for AARP and joined the mailing list for Elderhostel. WIth these two choices I have decided to learn from others who are a few steps ahead about what to expect. And, with the Elderhostel program, I can continue to learn new things, to travel and to explore the world around me – activities which have always brought me great joy!

And, I think I am declaring here that I will also try to blog periodically about the road I”m on. Just in case someone else out there in the world is also contemplating these things! It is always so helpful to learn that I am not alone.

I don’t know if anyone reading this blog watches “Brothers and Sisters”. My kids and I are quite addicted to it, and although it is all of the things that I am supposed to hate about TV, and TV drama especially, there is something about this show that keeps us all hooked. My children like to laugh at me and say that I am just like Nora, the mother on the show played by Sally Field. She is what you might call an over-involved mother – she keeps a close eye on all her children (she has 6 I think), interferes dreadfully, but I like to think that she loves them all unconditionally. When the kids laugh at her and say “you’re just like that mum” I do feel a bit defensive I must admit, and find myself saying “but she just loves her kids, what’s wrong with that?”

What I have realised lately is that loving my children goes without saying, but my level of worry about them is something quite different. I want to control any bad things that could possibly occur, and although I am completely aware that to grow and develop they have to experience everything that comes their way, I have realised that this control and worry is not about them it is about me.

I will do anything to stop the anxiety that builds and builds as I ponder and ruminate on the multitude of awful things that could befall them. I have learned that if I try and prevent anything bad happening to them, be it health, driving in cars, emotional entanglements and so on, that my anxiety lessens – but only for a while. There is always something new to worry about. My need to control is not about protecting them, it is about protecting me, and I have realised that I am giving myself all those old messages of “I won’t cope if….”, and teaching them that anxiety is a way of coping, when it’s not.
So, it’s time to stop all this. Out come all my old books and bits and pieces that I have collected over the years that have helped in the past. I am revising and relearning (again). I will get plenty of sleep, I will try and float past all these fears, and to realise that a certain amount of trust, self belief and belief in my children will help me get through this.

This isn’t so much of a post as a query to see if anyone has had experience with this therapy (EMDT).  I know of therapists who use this procedure, but I am curious to hear if anyone has had experience of it themselves, and what the results have been like. 

I am kind of sceptical I must admit, but the brain certainly is an interesting organ, and mine certainly doesn’t always behave in a predictable manner!

"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it." -- Mark Twain

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