Trying to Make Myself Better While Trying to Make You Better

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Trying to Make Myself Better While Trying to Make You Better

I know I have a lot of followers and other bloggers on here who suffer from something. Whether we deal with anxiety, eating disorders, depression, or any other mental “problem”, we know what it feels like to be too much in our own heads, too much controlled by them at times.

I have never in my life been so aware and outspoken about anxiety as I have been recently. I still don’t go screaming my problems from the rooftops, but I definitely have had my fair share of moments where my mouth just runs and words come out that wouldn’t have a few years ago. I am starting to realize even more that we are much more the same than we believe. I may not have anxiety as bad as some, others may have it better off than me, but I know everyone has had the basic feeling of anxiety at some point in their lives.

What I didn’t realize (until yesterday) was that I know more people than I think who suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide. I know that’s not something everyone wants to talk about don’t get me wrong, but I just never realized how close to home it would hit for me.

Over the past few years as a teacher, I have watched many kids who feel so depressed because of their performance in school, something going on with their family, etc. It has always broken my heart piece by piece to watch these students struggle with very little assistance given to them. Let’s face it; while I care, there’s only so much that I can do from a professional standpoint. Even worse, I don’t have the technical training to be able to truly give them advice that I would feel comfortable using. I know our brains are a complicated thing, and I’d hate for anything I said to make a negative difference to a kid who is already struggling.

One year I even had someone who was so depressed, they started dropping suicidal hints left and right. Based on the student’s personality, others thought they were joking. I took it seriously from the start just because mental issues hit so close to home for me. Thank God I did. While I cannot take full credit by any means, my awareness and notification to the proper people may have helped that kid in the long run. Yet every day I felt so fearful that I would never see that child again, that they would do something one evening or weekend that would cause me to lose them from my professional life forever. And that would have killed me.

So recently my sister-in-law started posting about how she wanted to do this Out of the Darkness Walk towards the end of October. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts these walks all over the country to help raise money for their cause. They work on research, advertisement, and raising awareness for those mental issues that lead many people to thoughts of suicide. Their goal is to decrease the suicide rate by 20% by the year 2025.

While I’ve never done anything like this before, I decided I was going to walk with her. The organization gives you the option of simply walking to raise awareness or to walk because you are trying to earn some funds for their cause. While I don’t have a lot of money to spare, I do plan to donate something of my own. Yet, I thought it would be such a waste to try not to raise any money at all.

Which is how I ended up spending quite a bit of time last night sharing information about my cause to my friends via Facebook. I asked that even if they could not donate themselves, that they share with their friends who may be able to. It was through these Facebook chats that I found out that there are even more people close to me who suffer so severely with depression. I did my fair share of feeling depressed and saddened last night. There was a moment where I almost cried. And I did a lot of praying, praying that those who really need this help find some way to get it before it is too late. I also prayed that anyone suffering from this issue never goes so far as to act out their thoughts.

Almost instantly (at least within less than an hour), this cause has become SO important to me that I am having trouble putting all of this into words. So for that reason, I’m just going to shut up now.

What I am going to do is to say that I am just one small, individual, meaningless person in this whole big world. In the long run, the best thing I do to make a positive difference is teach. But I feel like that’s not enough. So I’m going to do this walk, even if no one else walks with us. I’m going to do this walk whether my one single presence at this event makes a difference or not. I am going to walk even if I show up that day with only my meager donation in my hand and no one else’s. I am going to walk because this is important to me. I am going to walk for my kids and my friends and my family. Because I care.

If you are so inclined, feel free to read more about why I walk at my AFSP webpage here. There is a donation button and the option to share my page as well. Again, I know not everyone can give, but anyone who shares or donates even a few dollars will become even more near and dear to my heart!

Hopefully one day we will be able to kill that suicide rate!

With Love,

~B

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Advent or Adventure?

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I know I keep talking about me in all of my posts. There hasn’t been much mention of teaching or anything else lately. To those who follow me for those reasons, I apologize for not providing. However, today I want to look a bit more closely at this Advent season and what it is meaning to me. 

Yesterday, I realized just how low my life feels at moments lately. I know I’ve written about this often, but on Friday it all came to a head and I truly realized how saddening and frustrating my life can feel right now. In my opinion, it’s for good reasons. Though I want to be happy, I just have so many negative things on my mind. I wish I were one of those positive, always happy-go-lucky people that you see out there; unfortunately, my anxiety makes that a super difficult pursuit. I still try but I find myself wondering right now, is there more meaning to this than what I’m seeing and feeling right now? Is there a deeper reason for all of this negative and horrifying news? 

I even posted to my Facebook page at one point that I find myself wondering if just simply knowing more people means that I am going to encounter more negativity. Surely that would make sense right? If I only know, say 5 people, the chances that bad things happen to those 5 people will probably be much smaller than the chances of something happening to people I know if I knew, maybe 20 people. Plus, being a teacher means I know just 120 kids from this school year. Let’s not count my kids from previous years, my coworkers, my family, or my otherwise known friends. It’s actually kind of scary to think about how many people I know. My anxiety does not do well with the thought that I am a bit of a social butterfly now that I have grown up; I’d much rather still sit at home in my pajamas reading books and playing games with my sister. But I digress…

On Friday it came to my attention that knowing more people is probably the reason why so many more negative things are happening right now. I also know that my grandmother’s illness makes any negative thing seem 100 times worse. (Anyone with anxiety can tell you that you become overly dramatic in stressful and tense times in your life. Sitting here, I’m even aware of it, but that doesn’t mean I have the full power to stop that dramatization.) 

So I thought about my list, the list of “bad” things. Without going into detail, here are just some:

  • My grandma is dying of cancer
  • My husband’s grandma is sick
  • My husband’s aunt is sick
  • My coworker just had some kind of procedure done. While I heard it wasn’t a big deal, it hit me kind of hard that something was wrong and I had no idea.
  • One of my students lost their home on Thursday to a house fire. Officials said it easily could have started with her in the house. Thank God everyone is okay, but they’ve lost everything.
  • Three families that I know of have recently lost young children, less than a year old. 
  • I have watched friends mourn for loved ones lost in the past month more times than I can count.

It’s just now that I’m starting to put this picture together, to see the whole story. The illnesses happening in our families right now are unfortunate, but God has given my grandmother such a full life. At least she is not scared of dying, worried about missing out on adventures and things she could or should be doing yet with her life. My husband’s grandma is doing okay for now, and we aren’t even sure that it’s a terminal issue. My coworker emailed me yesterday to let me know that all was well with them. While my student lost her home, no one was injured. She was even strong enough to show up to school the next day to carry on as best as she could. While the families that I know of who have lost children and homes recently may not be close friends, I also know that I have been able to help them through my fundraising efforts. And I know it takes a community to raise the funds that will truly help them, but I am happy that I can at least advertise these events to our student body and get the word out about these families needing help. These actions I take in my own little way will hopefully make their lives better somehow. 

So maybe instead of sitting around being all gloom and doom during this Advent season, I should turn these things into an adventure instead. Instead of hanging on to every Christmas opportunity to try and cheer myself up with twinkling lights and extra cheerful songs, maybe I should really be embracing these negative items and these struggles. Organizing fundraisers and talking to those who have lost doesn’t make me feel like some kind of hero, but it gives me this boost of positive feeling like nothing else does recently. In my time of desperation and worry, helping others makes me feel like things will be okay. It reminds me that at some point, there is light at the end of the tunnel. While I’m not saying this will be the best Advent season ever, this is a great time of change and promise for the Church. Hopefully this is God’s way of bringing my life great change and promise for the future as well. 

I am going to do my best over the next few days to keep my head up. I feel like it’s important that I work harder and stay even more motivated to help others. I have another fundraiser to organize for this week, and even if we don’t raise a ton of money, I need to remember that there are other ways that I can help out as well. Through my actions I am beginning to learn that helping others, donating even a few dollars, and organizing groups of people to do good makes me feel good, makes my life seem good. I hope that this is the path God is asking me to take right now, I hope that I serve all of these families well, and I hope I can find other ways to do even more good in the future. 

For now, this is just an experiment; just a way for me to find some happiness and test the waters of being a truly selfless and giving person. I guarantee I won’t be perfect at it, but I hope that I can find a way to stay positive and incorporate these actions into my life all the time. I hope those around me can see how much I’m struggling and yet how I am still trying to be helpful. As I’ve always said about teaching, if I can affect even one student in the end in some positive way, I have done my job. Maybe now this is the job God has for me. 

If anyone else has gone through similar times or has any advice for me, please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you. 

~B

Stress Headaches and Holidays

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I know that I have not written on here for a while. To anyone who tries to follow me, I apologize. My life has taken many roller coaster style turns recently, and I’m lucky that I’m keeping up. Right now I’m sitting in my kitchen trying my hardest not to think of all the things that I need to get done tonight. And you know what I really want to do? Nothing. I want to do nothing. In reality though, my list looks something like this:

  • Check the mail
  • Feed the dogs
  • Clean the dishes
  • Collect the trash
  • Put out the trash and recycling
  • Make something for dinner or pray my husband wants to cook instead

So I guess the list isn’t too horrible. I’d be done in an hour or so if I tried really hard to just get it all done. But in the life of a teacher, I’ve already done these things today and don’t feel like doing more.

  • Taught 6 classes
  • Graded 60 or so papers
  • Updated all student grades
  • Checked Khan Academy for missing assignments that students turned in late
  • Wrote a list of all ineligible students and not only their current grade in my class but WHY they are failing
  • Covered a class for a coworker, though they just got a study hall so that wasn’t so bad
  • Skipped lunch because I was too busy trying to get the grading done by the end of the day for the ineligibility list (Note: I did manage to snag a piece of carrot cake from the faculty room in about 5 minutes, thanks to my desperation for food and my need to eat something; not the healthiest meal I’ve ever had.)
  • Planned an impromptu review game because suddenly my class wants to play review games instead of going over examples and notes via group discussion
  • Use part of my only free period of the day to help tutor kids who aren’t even in my class (and yes, I still think Precalculus is gross). 
  • More and more and more and more… 

I’m sure my list could go on forever with how many times I ran to the office to pick up paperwork, how many of my kids lost papers today, etc. but that’s not the point here. The point is, in the grand scheme of things, this job can be one of the most exhausting and demanding jobs that I’ve ever had. It can also be the most rewarding, but I know that come December I NEVER want to come straight home and get right back to work with household chores.

Another thing that has been driving me crazy lately is the impossibility of working out! One of the ways that I deal with my anxiety and stress is to exercise, release all those endorphins and things. This has not happened in the past month or so. Not only am I being totally unhealthy (again), but I’m also stuck in a rut where I can’t actually exercise if I want to. I was sick for 2 weeks in a row, and now the cold is either still lingering in my sinuses or I am having major stress headaches. For the past 5 days or so, I have had headaches. To some extent, I’m not surprised, but on another hand it truly pisses me off that having a headache and exercising would just make me feel worse instead of better.

I’m not really sure the reason for all of my stress. I guess I can easily say it’s because my grandma has gotten worse and worse over the past few months. What I cannot determine is why that is suddenly stressing me out so much more now than it has in the past. I guess it’s just really frustrating when people are trying to tell you to prep for a funeral and yet the person in question is still sitting there, living and breathing, even if she can’t remember who you are because she’s so drugged with pain pills. 

I have also recently noticed my insane inability to cry. So many sad and stressful things are happening to me right now; it used to be that I would cry to relieve some of that stress and anxiety. Lately, I have not been able to shed a tear. What makes it worse is I have no idea why I cannot seem to cry. Though I know crying is not a solution to an anxiety-related problem of any kind, I do think not being able to shed a tear is extremely strange and concerning for me. To anyone who knows me, I could be considered a human fountain. I cry often when in stressful, sad, or maddening situations. I’m even one to cry when something makes me truly, overly happy! 

Combining my not crying, my stress headaches, my lack of exercise, and my high-demand job, I am surprised I have not fallen apart yet. I would like a few months to just sit around in my pajamas and watch endless amounts of TV for no apparent reason. Yet I know that won’t be a reality anytime soon, nor will I actually want to waste that much of my life just watching tunes. Still, I’m sitting here coming up with no feasible means of relieving my stress and lessening my anxiety. I have a feeling just that fact alone is making me feel worse. 

I guess I’ll end here since my mind is spinning in circles and I don’t have much else to say. I think I’ll just do what I always try to do and run through a list of anxiety aides that normally help me overcome these issues. Maybe, even if none of them are seeming to help me right now, they can help one of you. 

  • Journal your thoughts, no matter what they are or how horrible they might sound. Even if you sound crazy, the relief after putting thoughts on paper is exhilarating.
  • Exercise- Releasing endorphins really does make you feel better. (I do not suggest this if you have a headache already; I’ve tried, it does not help much.)
  • Read a book- Again, not a good idea with a headache
  • Play a game that will distract you from your reality for a while or find someone else who can simply make you laugh over a joke or something fun
  • Talk to someone- Super good idea if you have the ability to go and see a therapist, but if not confide in someone who you can fully trust to keep your confusion and upset feelings to themselves; no reason to go telling everyone you have anxiety problems. 
  • Cuddle your animals- Except for the fact that my dog just came inside and is muddy almost from head to foot. Looks like I need to add bathing her to the list of things that need done tonight.
  • Watch TV- Mind numbing TV often helps, as long as you don’t watch a show that has someone dying in it while you are concerned about your grandma dying. I’m sure this same idea applies to being anxious about a job and watching a character have the same job as you, etc.
  • Take a nap- This is my go-to when all else fails, but then I realize I won’t sleep well that night if I nap too long. I also know my reality is that the dogs won’t let me sleep or I’ll be so worried about the things I need to do that I can’t get my mind to stop running.
  • Throw yourself into work- This is the best immediate fix that I have found.  By finding something to work on that involves your mind (and your physical being as well) you can check things off your to-do list (which releases stress about the length of your list) and have a good distraction from your own thoughts (which will relieve your anxiety in general). Please note: I have found the downfall of this idea to be that I overwork myself, get too exhausted, and end up having an anxiety episode that I like to call the anxious exhaustion. This occurs when your body and mind are both exhausted but while your body just wants to lay around and rest/sleep, your mind is so tired that it acts like it’s malfunctioning. At times, instead of feeling better or just simply tired, anxious exhaustion makes even the simplest things feel like the end of the world. I’d use this one with caution! 

The Gaps

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I thought that I’d been hurt before, but no one’s ever left me quite this sore…

I’m sitting here listening to Stitches by Shawn Mendes (thanks for the lyric quote above). This song is clearly about love between two people, but it’s describing my feelings right now pretty well. I’m tripping over myself. No joke, this is feeling so true right now.

But I guess the question is why; why do I feel like I’m about to lose my mind, like everything going on right now is just too much? My mom told me today that I just have a lot on my plate, as if that explains why things seem so much worse to me right now than they could. I do not entirely believe her. I have about the same amount on my plate as usual, plus the amount that has been added onto each and every one of my family members right now. I feel like the answer to why is the gaps.

You see, I’ve noticed over the past few days that there are so many gaps in my life that just don’t seem to be fulfilled; there are so many spaces in conversation, in work, in play… they seem like big chasms of question, things I’ll never figure out the answers to.

Let’s start here: My family life. As you hopefully all know by now, my grandma is sick. What most people don’t know is that over the past week, she has gotten significantly worse. I don’t feel like going into details, especially since I feel like this is all I write about anymore. Instead, let me just say that there are spaces here… spaces of time when I would normally be visiting Grandma that are now filled with emptiness and worry. You see, her state has changed so drastically that neither myself nor my parents feel it is in my best interest or even my grandmother’s for me to visit her right now. Let’s not even get started on the fact that half the time I wouldn’t know whether to visit her at home or in the hospital…

Next: My job. I’ve come to realize this week that one of my students has been slipping through grades left and right ever since they were in elementary school. I’ve wondered for months now why their math skills are so low… come to find out, they slipped through those grades like an eel looking for a space to hide out for a while. Only this kid hid out for a really, really long while. Now that they are attending school on a semi-regular basis, it’s apparent that they have a lot of gaps in their learning. The poor child doesn’t know how to line up multi-digit numbers for subtraction and multiplication, let alone the fact that I’m trying to teach them how to introduce letters into their math! Let’s just say that I am horrified by the fact that this kid has slipped through so many fingers. And now, me standing here like a hypocrite, can only say that they are also about ready to slip through mine. You see, I’ve never taught elementary or middle school math. I don’t have the resources, and I honestly am not sure I know how to teach that type of math. I know it sounds stupid coming from a math teacher who has taught everything from Prealgebra to Calc II, but I honestly don’t know how to teach kids to multiply or divide the basics. Some math facts I was just taught to memorize, so I did. It’s never been an issue in my life. I fear that the school doesn’t have the resources, and neither do I for that matter. What will happen to this kid a year or two from now? Then I remember, it’s not like I was the one who let things get this bad; but it still feels like my job to find a miraculous way to fix these holes.

At home this weekend, I’ve found that there are some times when I am really good at keeping it together and there are some times when I am just not. Take Friday for example. I got a call from Mom on the way to work telling me that grandma was going back to the hospital again. Things weren’t looking good, etc. etc. I barely cried. I felt like crying, but I truly couldn’t make myself shed a tear. I was on my way to work, I was focused on my day ahead, and I could not bring myself to cry had I wanted to. Then, fast forward to Saturday morning, when I felt so depressed about the state of stress and disorder in my life, that I’m not sure I climbed out of bed before noon. The vast difference in my demeanor when I’m at home versus when I’m in front of family, friends, or coworkers is extreme. Somehow there’s a disconnect between those interactions in my life and those I have at home, alone or with my husband. I wonder where the disconnect comes from. I also wonder if it’s a good thing or a bad one. I hate feeling like I’m leading two different lives right now, but being able to disconnect from my family life at work seems to help me de-stress a bit during the day. Then, once I get home, I’m all about family and not so much concerned about which kid is emailing me about homework or computer issues, etc.

I don’t know whether any of these things are good or bad. The only thing I do seem to know right now is that things will only be getting worse in the near future, or at least that’s how it seems at the moment. Whether they actually do or not, I’m going to keep pushing myself the same as I have been. It suddenly seems so important for me to fill in these gaps that I’ve started to overcompensate for things. Not so great at helping this kid at my job? Let’s go home and run 3 miles so at least I’ll lose some weight. Not so great at being able to face my emotional fears and see my grandma? I’ll just overcompensate by having every single paper graded every single day before I leave my classroom.

So while I seem put together to many outsiders in my life right now, I am a complete catastrophe waiting to happen. I feel there’s only so long that I can continue to juggle all of these tasks and issues before my arms start to get weak and those balls fall to the ground. Yet I’m going to keep trying because I’m not sure what else I could do at this point. There is no such thing as mental health days off of work, and I’m not sure taking one would make me feel better even if they did exist. I’m also not sure that throwing myself at my work distracts me enough from my family situation, but it’s the best attempt I’ve got going right now.

So for anyone reading this who knows me personally, works with me, etc. Just know that I’m not okay, that things are quite a mess, but that I’m going to keep struggling through. I might be less talkative (since when do I avoid the break room at work, right?), I might seem grouchier or less willing to share the happiness and love, and I might seem like I have two different personalities depending on when you run into me. But trust me when I say this, I’m going to make sure my family pulls through this. I’m going to make sure that I, somehow, someway, pull through this. I’m going to keep praying to God more and more each day, and I’m going to do my best to keep on putting out my best for my kids, my family, and my overall well-being. It seems like a feat I’m clearly going to fail at reaching, but it’s one that I’m not willing to give up on. This is one time in my life when I insist on filling in all the gaps and making everything better. If I don’t try now, I’ll probably just fall apart.

Prayers are appreciated for Grandma, the student who is struggling so bad, and anyone else I know that is going through a painful time. I know I talk on here a lot about my personal issues, but don’t think I can’t see your problems too! And not only do I see them, but please know that I still care. Through it all, my gaps feel less important and more manageable than your’s do. I know how much you are sacrificing right now to take care of our family. You’re the strongest people I know.

 

~B

My Shoes

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I haven’t had the chance to update my friends and family lately about what’s been going on with my life. This is mainly because school is back in session full force. It could also have something to do with the amount of stress that I have been feeling lately; sometimes the last thing I want to do is focus on my own personal life (and problems) by discussing them with people who either try to understand or are going through similar.

I have been wanting to write ever since yesterday morning, when I almost didn’t crawl out of bed. I wanted so bad to call into work. Though I’m not sure what I would have told them, my excuse probably didn’t fall under sick. It was more like I needed a mental health day after having a torturous dream that left me feeling pretty horrible.

I don’t really remember all of the exact details of the dream itself; all I remember was that I woke up scared to death, worried about moving or starting the day. Why? Because in my dream, my family and I were dealing with the death of my grandma. Even though it was just a dream, the “day” didn’t go too well.

Needless to say, maybe grandma being sick is bugging me more than I am letting on. Some days I feel like I should go and see her no matter what else happens, but some days I wonder if I can bring myself to sit there with her, in her home, while she’s getting sick and I’m just trying not to act any different than normal. (People with anxiety often get really quiet or strange in tense situations; unfortunately, visiting grandma has been one of those situations lately.)

In any case, my week has not started off in the best way. In fact, it pretty much sucked to wake up like that on a Monday morning before heading off to a drama-filled, intense day at work. Some days, especially yesterday, I wish my kids could see, could at least try to understand what I’m going through outside of work. They mostly see teachers as these beings who don’t do anything outside of work. You remember being a kid right? When you ran into a teacher in the grocery store or at Walmart, it was weird; why would your teacher need to ever leave the school, right? I remember those days. I wish I could tell my kids, tell their parents exactly what I am going through. I wish I could give them some insight into my personal life, explain to them why I may not be performing at my best right now. Because I am a wife, with two dogs to look after, and a family that I am concerned about 24/7 these days. This is what happens when someone in your family is so horribly ill. Mom has been spending all of her energy keeping her emotions in check and watching over grandma multiple days a week. Dad is so upset and stressed by grandma’s sickness that I don’t even want to see what kind of state he’s in half the time. My sister and I are to the point that we are just trying to keep it together. There are honestly days when my husband doesn’t know how to deal with my emotions… mostly because neither do I.

So as a human, I wish these kids could understand: I care about each and every one of my kids, but in the grand scheme of my life right now, I cannot give them my usual 110%. I wish I could. It kills my heart not to be able to. Yet it upsets me that, even though they may not know what is going on in my life, they can’t take the second or two to realize that maybe there is a good reason why I am not as caught up on my grades as I normally am. Maybe there is a reason why I have stopped sending my work emails to my phone on weekends. Just maybe, there’s a reason why I cannot handle their own personal issues as if they are my own kid. Maybe it’s because I currently cannot handle my own personal issues.

I get it, I do. I want what is best for each of my kids. I want them to know that I am there for them no matter what. I also want them to learn some responsibility and how important it is for them to help themselves. With this said, I just wish I would have been able to explain that yesterday as a kid approached me about grades. But this entire conversation, telling them anything about my personal life right now… it just felt too personal, too unrelated to what was going on with them at the time.

You know, I worked my butt off last night to get grades updated. I probably should have been doing so many other things. Which is why the phone call I got this afternoon as I was packing up my things at work blew me away. Over the weekend, my grandma was taken to the hospital for dehydration, dizziness, etc. She was sent home within a few hours. What I hadn’t realized at the time was how extra sick she had gotten over the past few days.

I won’t go into details about her personal issues right now; I doubt she’d appreciate me sitting here telling the world about her problems. Just trust me when I say she was not doing well. Is not doing well. She told my mom today that she didn’t want her grandkids to see her in her current state. After dad saw her this weekend, he agreed that my emotional state was probably not a good mixture with grandma’s current problems.

I’ve basically been told that it’s best if I don’t see my grandma for at least a couple of days. The doctors and my family are hopeful that the medication she is taking is the reason why she has gotten so much worse. They are hopeful that her sickness should improve at least a bit in the next few days. If so, I should be able to go back and see her.

Yet all I keep thinking tonight is, what happens if they’re wrong? What happens if grandma is just getting worse because she is so burdened with cancer that it’s just going to get worse? What if there is nothing that a doctor or a family member can do, no matter how much we try, how much we care, how much we love her? What if there’s nothing left for us to do?

So I started listening to Christian music on my way home, praying in my head throughout the whole trip. When I got home, I took the dogs on a 3 mile jog to release the tension building up in my mind. After that, I was able to get distracted by some new game my husband showed me in his attempt to make me feel better. (Thank God for him, I think the game helped at least a bit to get me out of my funk.) I haven’t cried, I haven’t fallen apart. Not yet.

Even though today I heard about my mom’s horrific day, how she was almost crying as she talked to me over the phone… even though I found out that even my uncles are having a hard time dealing with seeing grandma so sick… even after I found out that grandma doesn’t really want to see me (even if she’s trying to protect me)… I still haven’t really cried.

I worry it will hit me at one point, hopefully not while I’m at work. I pray that grandma heals and gets better, at least enough that I can go visit again. I pray that the last time I saw her won’t be the honest-to-God last time I ever see her alive.

This, unfortunately, is my current reality. I know people have it worse; my grandma sure has it worse right now. I bet Mom and Dad have it worse right now; she’s their mom for one, and they are the caretakers who see the illness and are exhausted by it first-hand every day. I know there are people who are homeless, who are hungry and ill. I know I am not in the worst situation possible. I, for that reason, am still trying to be grateful. But it’s so hard right now to be grateful for something that still seems so unbearable.

So I guess my message for the day is this: while people going through a rough time often find it hard to complain or discuss their issues, we all have to remember that anyone around us could have it worse off than we could. I need to remember this too, even when it comes to my students.

More than anything, I wish you could take a walk in my shoes. If we could switch for just an hour or two, so that someone without anxiety could see how heavily these types of family-situations can feel so extra horrific, maybe they would better understand why I am so emotional, why I am not my best at work, why I am still trying my hardest but seem to be failing miserably.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

~B

My Life as an Anxious Overachiever

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There are very few people in life who cried over actual spilled milk, yet I bet there are even less who cry over a grocery store flyer and a TGIF ad for two-fer deals on entrees and appetizers. I actually wonder if there are any people who cry over the mail when the mail is such inconsequential papers in the grand scheme of life. These junk pages aren’t even worthy of their own envelopes.

Then I remember: just a few short hours ago, that was me; I was the girl crying over the flyer and advertisement. While I didn’t have any spilled milk, let me just say I did not need one single thing more to set me off. But let’s start at the true beginning.

Last Saturday I got some weird news. A distant relative had a major health issue that landed her in the hospital. She and her family ended up having to mourn the lost of one of their own. Why weird you ask? Not because the relative was so distant, not because it was so shocking… it ended up being real weird because it affected me more than I ever thought it would.

To anyone reading this, I hope that didn’t just sound super selfish. I didn’t mean that I got nosy and pried into their lives; in fact, I haven’t really talked to any of the family much since. I’ve been giving them space. Instead I spent time thinking of them, wishing them well, and praying hard that everything would be alright for them. Let’s face it; we aren’t the closest people ever, but their tragedy touched my heart because in some way, they welcomed me in to parts of their own lives. Even more, the devastation that a person becomes aware of when tragedy strikes anywhere close to home brings their anxiety up and their confidence down.

I trudged through the weekend, trying to enjoy myself and think of things other than the horror that probably ensued that day for those people I care about. Monday came and things at work were strange. Everyone wanted updates and to share concerns. (Long story how that connects to work, but believe me, it encompassed a large part of my conversations that day.) When I made it home, I realized that my husband and I had made plans to go buy a new dryer that night. Our’s had broken sometime over the weekend and we were about to be in desperate need of clean work clothes.

It was about 8:30, the parking lot was dark, the stars may not even have been out. I surely didn’t notice any constellations. My phone kept vibrating; I had been having a text conversation with my sister while we shopped and waited for the Lowe’s appliance guy to run through his paperwork. I finally got tired of it moving in my pocket, so while we were waiting for the dryer to come out to be loaded into the back of the pickup, I pulled it out of my jeans to see what was going on. A family member had texted me to tell me some contact information for the relative I spoke of earlier. I had called my grandma’s house for the number earlier in the day but there was no answer. Not only did I never receive that number from her, but the relative also continued to text me about how bothering my grandmother with things like this while she was trying to come to terms with her disease and inevitable death was something I needed to realize was inappropriate.

Crying my way home on my husband’s lap as I laid across the bench seat of the truck felt like the stupidest thing I had done in a while. I wished many times I had never made that phone call, left that message on my grandma’s machine. The contact information wasn’t that important; in fact, I wasn’t even sure that was the only way for me to get that number. (I ended up getting it from my Uncle later that night as it turns out.) I just couldn’t think how my one phone call had to be such a big deal though. How did the idea of leaving a message turn into me crying over the idea that I had made my grandma sick? How did my outlook on her illness and my relation to her change so suddenly with just some simple words on a screen? The answer is this: I was tired, I was worried about the wellness of others already, and I was stressed after having slept poorly the night before.

In the end, it was silly of me to have broken down like I did, there in the dark Lowe’s parking lot. Yet it made the events of the rest of the week seem even more important, maybe even worse.

Tuesday I spent all day trying to figure out how to stop thinking of my grandma every second. I went through teaching my classes as best as I could, but the thoughts lingered. When I realized it was time to go home, all I wanted was a break. Then I remembered I had to go to see my therapist immediately after work.

I won’t retell the events of that hour-long visit I had. All that’s really important is that I don’t remember ever walking out of therapy feeling worse than I did that day. It wasn’t my therapist’s fault; she was trying to help me get through the thoughts and issues I had been having, she was trying to prepare me for reality as best as she could. Unfortunately, that did not help to alleviate any of my worries or fears.

Going into Wednesday morning, I didn’t think much more could happen. Then we got the news that a coworker had to leave suddenly because of a family emergency. At the time, I could only guess what had happened to their family; unfortunately, the guessing made the anxiety worse. I continued to talk to my family and friends about all that had transpired so far during the week while simply praying to find an escape when I got home that night. I guess it wasn’t the worst day of the week, but I felt the stress climbing like my acid reflux climbs up my throat when I’m feeling particularly ill.

I thought Thursday would be settled enough to help me become less anxious; I was wrong. Thursday was the first day in my recollection that I had cried at my job. Well, at my current job. You see, I had made a mistake; I’m not afraid to admit it, nor am I afraid to tell you that I had been kind of immature in some of my actions. You see, my students continue to leave their lockers hang wide open all day long. Many of them leave their cell phones in their lockers, open for any eye to see. Even more of them leave other valuables unlocked without the realization that anyone, even a visitor, could end up taking something of their’s without it ever being returned. I’ve spent almost the past year and a half closing lockers on a daily basis. Always the same kids, always the same valuables, always the same lockers between every period of the day. Students say they don’t have enough time to unlock their locks in between classes though I’ll never understand why that means they can’t at least close the door…

In any case, my coworkers and I had started to move things. We never removed things from lockers, we just moved a textbook from one shelf to another. We zippered up a backpack that had a calculator and a brand new iphone peeking out of it. Then we closed the door and made sure it was latched just like we have done every other day for years. Maybe this was our way of teasing our kids a bit, but I’d like to think that it was my way of trying to get them to realize that someone, anyone, could be touching or removing their things. Some kids did start to get it; some kids thought the idea was funny. If they forgot to close their locker, they’d have to spend extra seconds finding the textbook that used to always sit in the top left of their locker. It may have been annoying, but they saw the lesson, they tried to learn. There was one kid who wasn’t so understanding… Needless to say, boss man ended up in my room that morning telling me that it was inappropriate for me to touch the kids’ items regardless of whether I had removed any of them or damaged them or not. It was really the first time that I had gotten in trouble at this job, the first time I ever felt a large level of anxiety within this classroom of mine. Along with everything else going on that week, I broke.

I spent at least 30 minutes crying silently to myself, with my husband working on the other end of the speaker phone as I tried to grade some quizzes for my students. It wasn’t so much that I had been yelled at, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t get what he was trying to say… I think I had finally realized the stupidity of the situation, the fact that I had actually spent time trying to teach these kids a lesson about valuables, about material things when all I wanted was for the people around me to be healthy, happy, and safe. At the end of the day, I may sound callus but I don’t really care about any of those cell phones, any of those backpacks or textbooks. I care about my family member who had a funeral to plan, I cared about my grandmother and how she had either gotten more sick or I had missed something in recent weeks that would have helped me to know how sick she truly is, and I especially worried about the coworker who was out of work again on Thursday for some unknown family emergency. I didn’t care about these phones, but I took the time to try to teach the kids (in what I thought was going to be a fun and carefree way) that their lockers needed to be locked. Really, I thought that was an open and shut case. A story that quickly should have ended. I thought the kids would be refreshed by the fact that I hadn’t yelled or babied them like normally happens when an adult tries to teach a teenager a lesson. I know now how it could have been perceived differently, but I wish someone (that kid, my boss) had realized that my actions were honestly not to make their day worse, to break any rules, or to do the wrong or immature thing. It was a bit of inane movement that I thought would result in giggles and lessons.

That day was clearly not the best; I spent the rest of it feeling like an alien in my own classroom; what other actions could be perceived as immature or incorrect? Would I run into my boss again? Would any random meeting be awkward? My anxiety was in third gear, maybe fourth, by that time. I got home successfully but I spent a good long time doing some more crying when I got home. I couldn’t manage to put this into words that day, or any of the other days earlier in the week. I couldn’t explain to anyone how these individual incidents kept piling one on top of another.

Friday was my glory day; Friday was the day things were going to be different. I didn’t think I’d end up saying the same about Saturday… maybe even Sunday. At this point, I just wanted to make it to three o’clock. I wanted a junior to come in and clean my room faster than ever so I could just go home and be away from humans. I think I had started to realize that the more I tried to converse with others, the more stress and issues there were. Friday was not to be my day either… another coworker was called out on family emergency (seriously, does anyone else believe in coincidence or things happening in groups). Then there was the last period class who tried to give me all gray hairs in a single 30 minute period. I had to end up assigning them the extra homework of explaining the word respect and how they had disrespected one another and myself. I asked them to think this weekend about what they needed to do better during their class next week. I had tried moving seats, I had tried gentle reminders, circulating the room… these kids were extremely distracted and extremely hyper that afternoon. I should have done the normal teacher thing and just gave them a Friday afternoon off; stopped teaching either out of the kindness of my heart or because I had reached an unsafe level of frustration. What I did instead was assign them more homework, more grading for me, to try to teach a lesson. I hope they take it seriously. I hope they realize that I’m trying to do good by them. Each and every one of them.

I did make it home finally, and I was able to have a relaxing evening with my mom. We attended a small play based on the story of Anne Frank. One of my students performed as Anne and was ABSOLUTELY amazing. The stress and fears lingered with me that night but I thought some sleep would help.

Today, Saturday, was going to be a good day. I had an event in the morning and a whole span of afternoon hours in which to relax, sleep, and be okay with me. I never thought the walk to prevent suicide would hit me so hard; side-by-side with my sister-in-law and my husband, we walked those two miles. I listened to stories of people who had died or almost killed themselves due to depression and suicidal thoughts. I listened to one man discuss how his major social anxiety led to him attempting to take his own life. I guess I realized then that all this stress isn’t good for me. I realized how desperately I just wanted life to pause for a minute, to just give me one second of rest without a single thought of all of this negative and horrifying news. I just one wanted minute, maybe sitting on my couch, where there wasn’t a thought in my brain or a single image on the TV screen. I wanted just a little bit of time by myself, no human interaction at all. As much as I care about those around me, I wanted for just a bit to truly take care of me.

I got home from the walk today; there was an envelope in the mail from the state tax bureau. They thought I hadn’t paid our taxes in full, that we had lied on our return from last year. I spent probably an hour with my husband trying to figure out where the “missing” money was. Luckily, we found out that it wasn’t missing at all. Unluckily, I finally reached my breaking point. As I cleaned up the papers from the tax debacle and prepared to mail the paperwork in an envelope, I could not find a pen that wouldn’t stop dying on me. I was on the phone with my sister at the time; she probably thought I was insane. I started yelling, pretty sure I threw that pen up against the wall. Then I told her I had to go; I hung up, looked around the room, and realized this: my life was a mess, my week had been one huge snafu, and even worse to me at that moment was the fact that it was a never ending feeling. Even the dog hair on the floor was a nuisance, the mail laying in haphazard piles just more mess to add to my extremely messy life. It was there, standing looking around my kitchen, that I broke.

I think I’m okay now. My husband made me lay down with no option of getting up, doing anything, or seeing any of the mess of my life (physically or in my head). He kept me distracted from the stresses and let me talk out things whenever I felt like voicing my thoughts.

I can’t say I feel better at this point but what I can say is this: my life has been worse, my life has gotten really rough at times. I thought many times in life that my days would be difficult, maybe impossible to get through. Yet each time so far, I have been wrong. There’s always been a tomorrow, there’s always been a light at the end of the tunnel.

I can say right now that I don’t see the light. I don’t think that working an open house at school tomorrow is going to brighten my future or bring me out of my funk. I’m not even convinced that someone will not have another family emergency this week or an issue that stresses me out. Instead, I’m just trying to go with it… I’m going to turn this computer off, lay down on my couch, and relax with my dogs. This is my evening, and if it’s the only evening of relaxation again for another whole week, you’d better believe I’m going to try to make the best of it.

If you suffer from anxiety too, just remember you aren’t alone. If you don’t have anxiety and now think I am totally out of my mind, I’m sorry. I guess detailing every minute thing that happens in my life is just one way of saying to others that I understand, that they can be okay too, that they are not alone. You. Are. Not. Alone.

 

More About My Family

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Tonight, for Grandparents’ Day, my sister and I went to visit my grandma. We were both tired from our long weekend (so excited that my sister and I practically spent the entire weekend together!) but we wanted to at least drop by. I’m quickly realizing that my grandma’s life is… like a ticking time bomb, and while she may not pass anytime soon (hopefully) we can never be too certain.

So besides the cancer that is going on, she fell the other day and broke a vertebrae. They want to do surgery, but grandma is basically against it. She’s got too much going on in her body and doesn’t know how well that would end. So she’s just dealing with the pain and management of all her health as best she can.

But what astonished me tonight more than anything was that we spent about 90 minutes at grandma’s, just talking about the past. I forget how we even got started, so I’m just going to list some things that we discussed. Hopefully I’ll remember more or find out more from her later.

  1. Grandma is mad at the local newspaper. She only gets it on Tuesday and Sundays, but today when she got the news, she noticed that none of the Football Friday events were listed. She told me she’s been having trouble reading through a Nora Roberts book for the past month or so. She’s been trying to use the newspaper and sports stats as entertainment while she cannot seem to focus on her reading. —- A side note here, I have never known my grandma to not have a book beside her that she flies through pretty quickly. Even when she and grandpa were still much more active, I remember her loving to read just like I do.— In any case, I ended up looking up the results of so many different sports games; Penn State, the local leagues, etc. She even tried to watch my kids’ game which was broadcast on TV the other night; she found that one boring to watch too.
  2. My sister tried hogmaw the other day from a lady at her work. She didn’t know what hogmaw was (neither did I), so grandma started to explain about it. Grandma calls it piggy maw, for the record. This was basically a meal that grandma liked, but hated to cook. She said it took the entire day and was extremely tiresome. You see, when the family butchered pigs, they set aside an entire day. My great grandparents on pappy’s side of the family all got together to do about 20 pigs. They started before breakfast, my great grandma would make pancakes (grandma says she was the best cook she ever met!), and then butchering would occur throughout the day. Even when grandma was growing up, she had to help butcher the pigs at her own parent’s house. Her job was to follow her mom around all day; their job was to make sure the men had what they needed, including food. So once the pigs got butchered to a decent extent, the women were in charge of cleaning out the intestines and the stomachs. They would make sausage with the intestines in preparation for cooking it and some potatoes in the stomach to make a hogmaw for dinner. (Pretty gross if you ask me, but I was enraptured by this story.)
  3. Grandma went on to discuss how there were at least five pieces of the pigs that got smoked in their smokehouse. Grandma and grandpa had a smokehouse up until they sold off the farms and got their final house (the house I will always think of as their’s). There were always 2 hams, 2 shoulders, and some bacon from each pig. Grandma was always scared of the smokehouses, she said it creeped her out. She knew in her head that you smothered the fire before leaving the smoker be, but she was still worried that the fire would flare up. Her latest smokehouse was also right next to their house’s front door, just to add to the anxiety. Nothing ever happened though, except for some good smoked pork.
  4. Grandma told me that my great grandma on grandpa’s side always liked to cook with greens. They weren’t a very wealthy family at all (almost poor from the way I interpreted her words), so great grandma would pick dandelions, cabbage, and lettuces from their gardens. It’s funny; grandma thinks that Aunt M.G. (my dad’s aunt) got most of her cooking skills from her mother. When she said that, I immediately flashed back to Aunt M.G. asking me to help her pull dandelions and other things from the front yard throughout the seasons. In any case, great grandma always made her hogmaw with cabbage.
  5. Along with that fact came the fact that my great grandpa (on grandpa’s side) worked quite a few years in Frederick County. Just him and two mules up in the mountains, pulling logs down off the hills. Why? Because he helped to bring the logs down to the county to create the first electric lines that part of Maryland had ever seen. Meanwhile, great grandma would be down the hill with the kids, taking care of the farm and trying to save up money however possible.
  6. Great grandma on grandma’s side was straight up Pennsylvania Dutch. She says almost every meal served at their table (2 parents and 7 kids, just FYI), included some kind of dough. The cooking was heavier and fattier (think Amish foods if you aren’t familiar). I find it interesting that grandma and grandpa came from two very different lines of people, but they all seem like exactly the same line to me. I guess they did have their similarities, but it sounds like grandma may have been much better off in her childhood since they had the means to provide for their family much more easily than grandpa’s seems to have.
  7. Grandma doesn’t know if our generation is better off or if her’s was. While she doesn’t understand this whole Internet phenomenon totally, she says she thinks her life may have been harder. She says it was good to know exactly where your food was coming from, exactly how it had been prepared, etc. but it was a hard and difficult life to go through. She says as a young kid, you just got used to everything because that was how you lived every day. She never thought hogmaw was disgusting or that entire days of butchering were out of the ordinary. At the same time, she wonders about the kids now who grow up not even understanding where milk came from. It’s interesting to see how she wavers between her ideas of “better” just like I do. Some days I feel like I should have grown up in a different era, when things were simpler but people were more honest and worked harder to get what they needed. Days were family oriented and your livelihood came from your farms. In any case, I find it interesting that we both waver back and forth on what we consider to be better between now and then.

In any case, I’ve decided I like the Internet, even if it’s only for this one reason: I never want to forget these conversations with grandma. I want to be able to come back here as often as I want and still imagine her sitting in her favorite chair telling my sister and I these stories on a quiet, rainy Sunday night. And no matter how many more conversations I get to have with her, I am grateful to know that I came from a family who were always so close, loyal, and amazing towards one another. That’s the part I love about my family best; they kept the closeness of the family together even after family butchering days ceased to exist.

For now Internet, happy grandparents day to any grandparents out there!

~B

When it RAINs, it Pours

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This has already been an extremely busy week at work. Disregarding the fact that the Internet wasn’t cooperating for half of the day, the academic gradebook site was also broken today. So what that meant for me was

  1. No way for me to keep up-to-date on my emails unless I killed my phone battery
  2. No way for me to finish my October lesson plan (to submit for my teacher program)
  3. No way for me to write any of my essays (though they aren’t due until March)
  4. A stack of graded papers for which the students have no clue what they scored

It was a long day to say the least.

Actually, though classes have been running smoothly, it’s just been a really long week. And it’s only Tuesday. Go figure.

Though I wanted to stay home tonight and do my own thing, I had a few responsibilities. The main one was to go and see my therapist. (The other was supposed to be to run the dogs, but it’s a good 100000 degrees outside right now, so my breathing is just saying no to that one.)

I don’t know how therapy works for anyone else, but I’ve been going to see someone to talk to every month ever since I was in the sixth grade. That’s when we realized that anxiety was really an issue for me; that’s when we realized I couldn’t just sit by and have these bad days and even worse nights because of my fears about school and death and other weird things that no other normal 6th grader would ever think to worry about.

Needless to say, I think my therapist knows me truly better than anyone else. Even my husband and my parents. Even my best friend (my sister). It’s weird to say that; it’s not like we’re Facebook friends, work together, or even go to the movies on a Friday night. But she does know a TON about my life.

I think she also knows that as the years have progressed, I probably don’t need to talk to her for an hour every month anymore. Sometimes I think she wonders why I bother to show up. Again, I’m not sure how therapy works for anyone else suffering from any type of mental differences, but there are sessions where I just sit and talk about my life the entire time. Sometimes I walk out of that office wondering why I just paid someone so that I could update them on my life without feedback or really much response at all. Then I reflect and realize that sometimes I just need that someone that I can talk to about anything (and honestly everything) in my life. A therapist by definition is someone you can talk to about anything; she not only allows me to do that but knows when I am seeking advice and when I just need that unbiased shoulder to lean on a bit.

**With all of the above being said, my life would not be the same in ANY way without my amazing therapist. So even though I downplayed her part in my health just there, I’m only doing so because some days that is my perspective. She does a lot more than I ever really recognize.**

I guess tonight’s sessions was one of those times that I actually needed some advice. After everything that happened this weekend with my anniversary and grandma’s health, I needed someone to realign my thoughts back to their “correct” path. I needed someone to sympathize with me a bit and remind me that it’s never going to be possible to eliminate these stressors entirely, but there are plenty of ways to handle them.

My current issue? Dealing with the stress that is lingering in the back of my head while I’m at work. For example, teaching a class today, I wanted to yell at a bunch of kids who would not stop messing around and chatting when others were trying to pay attention. By yell, I don’t mean I wanted to tell them to stop (as a decent-ish teacher, I definitely did that); what I mean instead is that I wanted to yell at them to get the heck out of my room and not come back until they realized that they needed to grow up and that not everyone can deal with their immature crap! Obviously, as a teacher, I cannot let that irritation and anger show at any time.

What I realized tonight was that I wasn’t actually angry or upset with those kids. Were they more annoying than I may have liked? Possibly. Could they have been quieter so as not to distract the rest of my students? Definitely. But was my anger actually directed at them? No. At some point today I found myself thinking about all of this weekend’s events and looking ahead to this weekend coming up. All I was craving at the moment was some peace and quiet; no running around for errands, jobs, and puppy playtime until all hours of the night. What I needed at the moment was to know there is a time coming (soon) where I will be able to sit back and relax for more than 20 minutes at a time with no one else on my mind but the book I’m reading, the TV I’m watching, or the adventure that I’m going on. Unfortunately that backfired as I remembered how hectic and sort of messed up this past weekend was. Looking ahead, I realized I’ll spend this entire Labor Day weekend tearing down my old kitchen and replacing it with our new cabinets. (Even the thought of this last makes my stomach twist. I hate change, and while I know we need new cabinets and we are getting exactly what we want for our kitchen, I’m also nervous to see if the change in our own home causes me some anxiousness for even a few days.)

My therapist says it’s okay to have these stresses in the back of your head and to try to cope with them, even while at work. Even though my main responsibility is a bunch of young kids, I need to remember that I need to take care of myself first or I’m no good to them. Even more, I need to realize when things are going awry (as in the above example) and be able to step back and hit a refresh button or to just take a deep breath until I get my head screwed back on straight.

So I was reminded tonight of a method that I was introduced to when I was in sixth or seventh grade. The RAIN strategy.

Image result for rain acronym                                      Borrowed from mindful.org!

 

In any case, I have come to the realization in the last hour or so that I have started using RAIN subconsciously whenever I am having trouble with my anxiety. What I need to remember to do in the future however, is to use RAIN even when I am just feeling slightly stressed or “over” whatever the current situation is that I find myself in. Even my attempt at good happy thoughts today took a sideways turn for the worst; it would have been the perfect opportunity to remind myself of RAIN. Unfortunately, until tonight, I had forgotten to purposely force myself to think using these four steps.

So tomorrow my goal is this: Go into my classroom and find a place to store the RAIN sheet that my therapist gave me. It’s just a tiny slip of paper that can easily sit in my desk drawer or be taped under my keyboard. Yet just knowing that it’s there makes me hopeful that tomorrow will be filled with less negative thoughts and more positive re-directions for my kiddos and my brain. Here’s to hoping!

If anyone reading this has any trouble with anxiety or any other thought processing issue and uses RAIN, I would love to know how well it works for you! I’m looking for advice and examples all the time, so feel free to comment. Until then, I hope this reminder comes to you much faster than my therapist’s reminder came to me. Let’s just hope it’s not too late!

~B

The Beginning of the Second

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Today is a new day. While I don’t often blog two days in a row, I felt I needed to today. If only for the purpose of letting everyone who read yesterday’s post know that things do get better.

That’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve learned with anxiety; even though it may seem like your world is ending or will never feel right again, it always ends up getting better.

I’m not really sure which of my many strategies helped me last night to get over the shock of grandma’s change in condition or my husband’s seeming lack of care about our anniversary. It may have been the writing, it may have been that I picked up a good book and got lost in it for a while. It may even have been the fact that I had a decent cry as I talked to my husband about grandma last night. What I think may be more likely though is that time helped to heal.

As I had time to reflect, I realized my husband would never blow off our plans on purpose. In reality, we didn’t have anything set in stone, so my assumption that we would hang out all weekend was confused with his assumption that we would spend all day together on our actual anniversary. Plus, as I talked to T last night, I realized that time flying by when people are having fun had a lot to do with it too. He actually admitted that he would not have been away from me so long yesterday, but he totally lost track of time. Even more so, I think time had a way of calming my nerves and making everything seem a little more manageable.

You see, sometimes an anxious brain will jump to the craziest conclusions. For example: my husband not spending a few hours with me means he clearly does not love me as much as I love him. Or better yet, the fact that my grandma is running a fever clearly means that she will suddenly die before I get to see her again. It might sound crazy, but anxious brains often travel to the very worst (and possibly most outlandish) assumptions ever.

Luckily, I’m here tonight to say that things did not go as horribly as I made them seem yesterday. Giving my brain time allowed me to come back to the truth of reality and to see that things aren’t all as bad as they seem. I was also able to talk things out with my husband so we could make anniversary plans for last night and today. He also convinced me to leave him at home for a few hours this afternoon to go and see my grandma. I tried to resist at first because I felt bad for being away from him on our anniversary. He didn’t let me get my way though, and I’m glad he was there to remind me what is most important.

Last night played out pretty well. I was still pretty upset when my husband got home, but he decided to take the four of us to our favorite state park. We had a picnic (though we didn’t have picnic food, so we improvised by picking up pizza from a local restaurant), watched as our youngest pup, Zoey, played in the creek for the first time, and took a short hike that we have taken on occasion before. Doing things as a group of four helped me realize how close of a little family I have and how fortunate I am to be able to spend any time with them at all. Going to the park also reminded me that even the simplest things mean the most to me, no fancy food or events required for my happiness.

This morning we woke up and looked through a box I had stored for our first anniversary. There were guest books, cards, and relics from our wedding day and honeymoon to look at. Then we cut our anniversary cake (for breakfast no less!) and found out that it wasn’t as dry and horrible as we thought it would be. As I gave T his gift, he started to light up and smile. Though he didn’t get me anything (miscommunication on both our parts), I was happy that my idea worked out well. Every time I asked him what I should get him, he told me the traditional first anniversary gift was paper. I could not think of a single thing to get the man that involved paper! So I finally settled for writing him a bunch of “Open when” letters for times when I am not around to remind him how loved he is. He opened the first today, which included a summary of our first year together. He has others, which he quickly put in order of how he assumes he’ll end up opening them. (One of the top on the list is “Open When I become anxious and you don’t know what to do about it. Shocker there!)

Around 10, we decided that we wanted to visit the restaurant we ate at on our first “dating” anniversary. We enjoyed the meal that evening and decided to go back. Unfortunately, when I called to reserve a table, no one bothered to tell us that it was a brunch buffet until 2pm on Sundays. When we showed up, we were invited to get our food off the buffet. Not only was that buffet expensive, but it had the weirdest combination of breakfast and entree foods. I am glad to say that my stomach is no longer cut out for buffets (yay for losing weight) but I also feel as though I wasted some of T’s hard earned money by not eating my money’s worth. Oh well…

Though I went to visit grandma tonight (she is doing better than she was yesterday), I came home so we could light our unity candle together and spend some more time before our hectic workweek starts again in a few hours. So overall, though it wasn’t anything super special, I have to say this was a great anniversary.

The thing is, I need to remember who I am. Who we are. While my brain was so muddled on our wedding day because I wanted everything to be so perfect and to feel so happy the entire time, I have to realize that we had a small family wedding for a reason. I have to realize that going to the park yesterday was one of the biggest highlights of my first anniversary. And more than that, I have to realize that there’s a reason that my favorite parts of life are the simple, relaxed, things that we do together. The more I got worked up about trying to make plans for our anniversary, the more fun I think I sucked out of myself in preparation for a weekend that ended up being special anyway. The more I tried to do “fancy” and “special” things, the more my anxiety built up and I got too nervous to want to do much of anything.

So for next year, I need to remember this: my husband loves me and loves doing the same things as I do. We could have taken a bike ride to the shore or even sat at home in our pjs all day, and he would have been just as happy. Though you often think it sounds cheesy in the movies, it is honestly true that all I need, and all my husband needs, in life is to have quality time to spend with each other.

Here’s to another happy year! Thanking all of you who helped me pray yesterday and continuing to ask for prayer in my grandma’s name. Thank you!!

~B