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Facing my fear of public speaking

6 Jul

10:22 pm

And, it’s about time, eh?  It’s only been 13 years!

Seriously.  I’ve had what some call fear, what others call performance anxiety or a social phobia around speaking in front of groups for 13 years–ever since that fateful day in one of my graduate school seminars where I literally lost control of myself and shut down during a group presentation.  I am sure I must have drunk the night before, so there was some element of alcohol involved, which probably served to heighten the feelings of panic.  A few months prior, I had also had my first literal panic attack in another class, so my nerves had already been rewired/primed for panic by the time this incident happened.

What actually happened was what happens now, every time I speak in front of any group, whether comprised of strangers or friends:  my heart starts to beat UNCONTROLLABLY hard; I can’t breathe; I can’t speak; and I feel SO nervous and amped up by all this stuff going on inside my body that I feel like I’m about to pass out.

Before these past few months, I’ve been able to straight up avoid EVER talking in front of groups.  Of course, I’ve had to endure these occasions once in a while–saying goodbye to a group of fellow volunteers on a volunteer project; saying my name and what I do in front of a group of my coworkers–and they have felt utterly horrific.  My heart pounds, my entire body starts shaking, my voice starts wavering, or, I just can’t breathe and start to dart around in place, wishing with my entire being that I could just GET THE EFF out of that room.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I found out that I have to give a (short, probably not a big deal) presentation for my job in front of my (small, only about 20 folks) team at a group meeting in July.  UGH.  I’ve literally been obsessing about it since I found out a few weeks ago–like, extremely nervous at even the thought of standing up, talking, trying to figure out how the heck I’m going to remain standing.  I haven’t even been able to imagine past the first few seconds of my talk.

So, I decided two weeks ago that I just need to resolve this–if not solve my problem, then somehow resolve it.  I made an appointment with a psychiatrist, hoping/thinking that he’d prescribe me either Xanax or some other benzo used for panic attacks.  Come to find out, there are tons of people just like me, and they are all using beta blockers!?  The doc gave me a prescription for a beta blocker; long story short, I went to a public speaking group the other night to “try it out,” and uh, I actually stood in front of a group of strangers willingly and talked my head off–no nerves, no aversion, no shaking voice, no sign that I wasn’t “a natural,” as several people who congratulated me after I came down told me.  (what a fraud, I laughed on the inside; hey, whatever it takes, the other me shot back)

Either the drug worked, or I just didn’t feel that much anxiety in this particular situation.  The people I was speaking in front of were warm and welcoming; strangers; no one related to my job, I thought.  Hmm.  There was no sense of, I have to perform my JOB AS A WRITER, which is connected to this talk, PERFECTLY, or someone somewhere is going to find out what a fraud I am, what an imposter!

I am fairly sure that this drug will help me–it’s already sort of stopped that creeping sense of anxiety I had even just a few days ago, thinking about my work event–to “retrain” my brain, at least a little.  I’ve witnessed that I can get up there and actually talk in front of people without that horrifying sense of fear and panic, and that has somehow already rewired me to feel less nervous about the upcoming work thing.

Still.  What if I was just not nervous enough because these people have nothing to do with work?  Because I don’t care what they think?  Because I felt safe there, and not judged?  It’s interesting to me that this sort of PTSD surrounding talking in front of groups revolves not necessarily around all groups, only groups where I am performing and that performance is based on something that I feel insecure about (apparently, writing).

What surprised me more than this discovery–I kind of knew that this is a form of PTSD; what I didn’t know what how intertwined it is with my sense of imposter syndrome related to writing and journalism–was how empowering and relieving it was to dredge up my drinking past, my panic attack past (related to my drinking past) with an actual psychotherapist!  I haven’t really talked about it in years; I stopped going to AA years ago, too.  It was nice to just get it out there again, in the open.

I am so tired of this old story about my fear of public speaking; I wasn’t always like this, and I have to believe that nothing is impossible, that this story I have told myself for 13 years is not forever truth.  I have to believe that I can tell a new story about myself when it comes to public speaking–and frankly, I AM starting to believe that it could be as simple as some medication and exposure therapy to at least allow myself to survive these public speaking situations.

It just feels good to have finally stopped running from what has obviously affected both my professional and personal life for almost a decade and a half.

Now, we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out at my work even in a few weeks.  Sure, I am dreading it, but with this medication and a few more practice runs at the public speaking group and other events (maybe speaking at an AA meeting?), I might just survive.  (I am not looking to THRIVE as a public speaker at this point, just survive; and that’s good enough for me right now.)

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Making assumptions

9 Jun

12:20 pm

You know how everything in years past came back to drinking and getting sober?  Well, these days, everything seems to be coming back to perimenopause–and you know what?  I am no longer going to be afraid or apologetic writing about it on this blog.  It’s a HUGE reality for me, for women in general, I have to think; and that means it occupies a lot of headspace and takes its toll in many areas of one’s life!?

Perimenopause.  Menopause.  Getting older.  Women’s bodies.  HORMONES.  Of course, I GET it, I get why people are afraid to talk about it!  Women’s issues are taboo, women’s bodies are not our own; we’re not supposed to talk about them lest we start asking questions and become, oh, I don’t know, advocates for our own health!  Really, I get why everyone, women included, are afraid to broach the subject in public forums.

What I don’t get is why they won’t talk about it even in private!?  I mean, do women have THAT far to go that even women themselves won’t talk about it, as if it’s something to loathe, be afraid of, be ashamed by?  You know, it’s not just my own gynecologists, who have brushed me off or implied that I should just get over it, get on with it; it’s my women friends who have gone through it or are going through it, and they either don’t want to talk about it with me/at all, or they try to pass it off as something that isn’t, well, kind of, sort of horrible.

I mean, you are fucking breaking out into a cold sweat before my eyes, and you’re still smiling as if it doesn’t bother you?  I get being positive and all that, but what about being real?

Beyond the physical changes, it means you’re getting old–and, I refuse to believe that I am the only woman who primarily associates this (at least at first, until I get a grip on getting older), with losing my sexuality and losing my youth and all that that entails in our culture!?  I really wish that were the case, actually; I am used to my own paranoia, and it’d be great to know that I am, indeed, the only one who feels this way.  BUT, I really, truly doubt it.

See, I refuse to hide the fact that this is driving me a bit crazy and angry and mad and frustrated and sad; that I’ve wondered if this night heat is THE THING that is worth starting drinking again over (it would be much easier to pass through the three to five hours of night heat if I was drunk); that I’ve always known that the pill offers relief but that it’s SO FAR from matching what is usually happening in a woman’s body that it might well be partly causing my lack of optimism and sometimes-paranoia.

Lately, I feel like I have become a bit paranoid.  For example, I wonder if my coworkers don’t like me, or are annoyed by me.  I am chalking it up to things beyond my control, and to politics–I don’t truly believe that my work is not good.  At home, I have been wondering if my love no longer likes me as a person–again, or course, I truly don’t believe that, and I know that he’s going through some tough transitions now, as am I…

I don’t want to make assumptions anymore, though, about what people want to hear about or talk about–if you’re still reading, that means you do want to hear about this and I’m glad!  I partly attribute this sometimes-paranoia to my hermetic lifestyle–making assumptions involves getting inside your head and not coming out for reality checks, which is usually helped by interacting with friends who normalize your tendency toward outlier (extreme, probably unhealthy) thinking and behavior.  I need more friends.  I need, in a word, to get out more!

I won’t assume that you, my awesome readers, don’t want to hear about my thoughts on perimenopause.  I won’t assume that my man doesn’t like or love me because he told me not to step in horseshit yesterday on our hike (haha–it sounds funny now).  I won’t assume that my coworkers don’t like me because one or two of them have personal issues and are using my writing to play politics in the workplace.

Onward, toward clarity and optimism, I hope.

(I have to say, my burning up at night has gotten a lot better after starting a new pill, with higher dose estrogen, and after making it through the first 10 hellish days on the pack.  I hope that it just keeps getting better from here on out.  I do turn 45 this week–a part of me realizes how young I am, while another part just wants this phase to be over with!)

On boundaries and saying ‘no’

7 Apr

12:40 pm

So, this morning, as I was scrolling Facebook, I became frustrated:

Why do I have to care about you?  Ugh, I should have gone to that thing last night–why am I so lazy, why am I so antisocial? 

And, on and on and on.  I saw in the early years of my sobriety just how much I could overthink and overanalyze, and how this contributed to my unhappiness and dependence on wine to escape my thinking.

It got me thinking about something else, too:  here I was, on a beautiful Sunday morning, and what was I doing but berating myself because I had let my Facebook feed intimidate me!

In getting sober and staying sober, I have come to realize that creating boundaries and saying ‘no’ are essential to my peace of mind.  There are a LOT of things that caused me to binge drink and drink alcoholically, and I never made the connection between that reactive behavior and the bullying forces in my life until I got sober.

In fact, there are a lot of bullies in everyone’s life–whether your friends, parents, or coworkers are consciously aware that they are being bullies is up for debate, though.  And, until I started to understand the concepts of boundaries and saying no–that there could be emotional bullying, and that this is far more prevalent than actual, literal bullying–I didn’t get that I could both say, No, I will not do that, and say no to taking on other people’s stress or expectations of me (or themselves).

It still makes me feel angry when I delve into this aspect of long-term sobriety, and I feel like this is something that will never go away completely because almost everyone out there (including myself) is engaging in some form of bullying–whether it’s dumping their emotional baggage on you, manipulating your weaknesses, or just using your reactions to make themselves feel better.  I have to remind myself, almost daily, that it’s ME who is in control of how I perceive and receive people, and how I react and interact with them–that ultimately, bullying is a two-way street.

Some real-world examples:

Facebook/social media–Before I got sober, I would scroll relentlessly, and I would allow everyone’s story to affect me.  I would internalize my feelings of “not good enough” and “guilty” and “should have, could have, would have” without realizing that one, I didn’t need to feel any of that, and two, I had control over who and what I let into my worldview.  These days, when I feel that coming on, I try to remember that social media is not real life; people posting to social media are not trying to offend me, personally; and if I want to not care, I can choose to not care and close the app.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not really interacting with my so-called friends; I have friends in the here and now, and I can interact with them–and this is healthy, and it is good enough.  These days, I would much rather engage people offline, in the real world, and not on social, email, or text.  And, some days, it’s as simple as closing the app and moving on with my day–and not judging myself to be a bad friend, somehow, because I have chosen to be a spectator on social media and not a player.

Parents–You know, before I got sober, I didn’t have as much frustration toward my parents for their mental health issues as I do now.  I knew that my mom’s difficulty setting emotional boundaries and my dad’s bullying behavior definitely contributed to my drinking, but I didn’t know exactly how.  In any case, I internalized my mom’s pain, and I always tried to please my dad–two things that I have to work very hard at today, every time I talk to them, to NOT do!

These days, I don’t know if I’ve figured out exactly how these family relationships have made me who I am, but in getting sober, I have learned that calling my parents less is OK, that not allowing them to control how I feel is OK, that putting up boundaries and saying no to their projections and expectations is OK–I wish it was different because they are in their 70s and “should know better,” but…

My mom has a lot of health problems these days, and so, our calls are always quite long and tedious. I feel like she feels slighted that I don’t call often, and I feel almost unconsciously judged for having become an alcoholic drinker and for not having had kids; but none of this matters when it comes to me needing to say no to taking on her bad mood or her feelings of helplessness.  In part, I think she wants me to share my own health problems, but I refuse to go down that road because it’s almost as if she relishes that; simply put, I DO NOT relish it.

My dad is an entirely different beast in that the family believes he has multiple actual mental health disorders, and his entire way in the world with everyone has always been about manipulating other people to do what he wants them to do for him, and expectation (I am hard on myself and need to prove my worth, so you should be, too).  I have simply come to the frustrating conclusion recently that nothing will ever change in our relationship except the way that I deal with it.  I have decided that while our conversations won’t change, and while I’ll never likely be able to directly say no to him, I can say no to his expectations–I love our life, and I don’t have to let him lead the conversation toward accomplishment as a measure of success.

Job and school stress–It took me getting sober to see that I was putting a TON of unnecessary expectations and pressure on myself for many, many years.  And, that I don’t have to respond to stress the way people around me are either responding to it or worse, telling me how I “should” respond to it.  It’s like, I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses by wanting that house, or that car, or that “bigger” job–likewise, at work, I don’t have to stress out just because my boss or coworkers are stressing out, necessarily or unnecessarily so.  You don’t have to stress out to care, or to prepare; stress will not help you have fun.  You can (and should!) take long showers, eat nice dinners, go to your yoga class, or hey, even hit the beach (man, I miss it!)–AND get your work done, and be a careful, caring employee who is worthy of her paycheck.  This mentality is really hard to push back against, but I have to push back–if not just in defense of my health, but in defense of my sobriety.

Exhale.  We all have to set boundaries and guard them fiercely, no matter if we’re getting or staying sober.  Likewise, we all get to say ‘no’–and that is a beautiful thing.  I think that is the most empowering aspect to my sobriety, and to my evolving life and lifestyle these days.  As recovering binge drinkers or alcoholics, saying no is essential to our happiness, to our joy, to our continued sobriety.

So…just say no (sometimes)!

The angry insomniac

20 Jan

9:33 pm

Perimenopause is ruining my life.

I actually Googled that the other night–as I was sitting up once again until 5 am, getting more and more, uh, agitated might be the best way of describing it.  Agitated, angry, raging, whatever.

Come to think of it, I don’t know if I’ve EVER felt as angry as I did last night–like, an out of control, desperate anger that not only lingered into the next morning and afternoon, but persisted and felt just as strong upon waking as it did at 5 am!?  I am trying to move on from it, and not hold onto it, but…guys, this feels a little bit WAY too much like a hangover, and I do not like it!

I’ve mentioned that I started experiencing symptoms of perimenopause all the way back in 2013 (when I was 39), but they never really affected my life until the fall of 2015.  It took me until the fall of 2016 to start taking the birth control pill (to even things out–it was amazing and I had no side effects), and not until well, this past year, to really start having “night heat” and insomnia.  Now–and this is what is so damn maddening, especially for someone like myself, an alcoholic control freak–I have no clue if it’s the pill that’s giving me night heat and insomnia, or if it’s the peri.  One thing I do know is that the pill I have just gotten back on in the past few weeks seems to be exacerbating my mental health issues–crying jags, dark thoughts, anger anger anger.  I know I should get off it, but…maybe one more night (I am afraid of that intense body heat at this point, even more than I am of the sleeplessness)…?

So, last night, right on time, my body started to heat up at about 10 pm–it has been doing this for a while, maybe a year on and off; and I’ve fixed it by both going ON and OFF the pill (go figure).  I recently had about two months of continuous heat–it’s like having a fever and the chills, at the same time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; I don’t have hot flashes yet, so these are more like heat flushes that just don’t stop and that seem to come only at night, except for this two-month period where it just didn’t go away.  For some relief, I decided to get on the pill again, and while it has helped some, I have nights where it seems like the pill causes me to both burn up and wake up.  Last night, I was up till 5, and in between all the huffing and puffing, I just got SO ANGRY.  Angrier than I can even define, or have ever felt.

Mind you, I think I HAVE been this desperately, painfully, crazily angry before, but I was blacked on on wine and never actually had to deal with it.  Last night, I just could NOT calm down; I was almost heaving, I felt so angry.  I paced around, cried, heaved silently so my boo couldn’t hear me (he was sleeping); I slammed my fists into my quads, but not hard enough like I did last time to leave marks.  It’s like, I wanted to break things.  I finally fell asleep for a few hours at about 5, and woke to a relatively cooler body.

Though, like when you wake up after a bender, I was still feeling angry.  I went to the gym and pounded out a few miles on the treadmill, which helped but not completely.  By the time we went to see a movie, I felt anxious, and struggled to not have a panic attack throughout the entire length of the film.

Man, it just feels SO much like a hangover–the lack of sleep, the anxiety from the lack of sleep, the fuzzy brain…

I am feeling better now, but, I don’t think, outside from being drunk, I have ever felt more out of control as I did last night and this morning.  Maybe it’s just the lack of sleep, and my reaction to it is anger.  If only it were that simple…

I just want myself back!  I haven’t felt like myself in quite a while, I have to admit.  I am trying to not think about it and hope it just gets better, but I don’t think I can stay on this pill and also have it get better.  I thought I could deal with a few side effects for the relief of not burning up all night, but maybe it’s better to burn up all night?  I am trying to have patience here, but why does it feel like perimenopause is ruining my life (and I don’t even have true hot flashes yet)?  I am going to see my doctor next week, but until then, I guess I’ll really have to work on cultivating a positive space in my mind, reserved for my old self, whenever she happens to come home.  🙂

I’m useless when I don’t sleep

30 Oct

4:41 pm

Ugh.  Are you as useless and mentally scrambled as I am when I don’t sleep the night before?

I’ve been having insomnia on and off this year–it was pretty bad when we first moved to our new home in January, and I attributed it to shifting hormones.  At that point, I had never had insomnia, really, and my experience was that I kept waking (the fuck) up every hour on the hour.  It was maddening.  And it made me very angry!  Seriously, it often felt worse than being hungover.

It went away when I got off the (nasty) pill I was on (I am new to that as well, and had no idea that one tiny contraceptive pill could eff up my entire reality).   It’s started up a little bit again recently, but is more like, I can’t fall asleep until 6 am, at which point, I feel like lead and there is NO POSITION that would hurt me if I fell asleep in it–that’s how tired I am after staring at the ceiling from midnight to 6 am!

I can point to anxiety, I guess, as the culprit, and (hopefully) not hormonal crap (yes, it’s crappy; this shifting hormones shit sucks, and I am going to have to learn grace and patience if I am to make it to old woman-who-wears-purple status).  At the moment, we are planning another move, haven’t yet ironed out all the details, and are sort of doing it because we must (like, we just cannot stay here; it’s not our gig).  We don’t have to be anywhere–I can take my job with me (oh, and I got a new remote job–I start the week after we move!).  That lack of parameter in and of itself can either be liberating or incarcerating, but both freedom and confinement cause me stress, so…  That might be why I’ve been up at night lately.

It’s crazy how crazy I feel when I don’t sleep!?  I mean, it’s interesting to observe myself at night:  the second I feel like I’m going into that mode of being alert and restless (albeit sometimes really tired), I start getting anxious about not sleeping and about the next day being ruined; I start feeling really effing angry, irrationally so; and I start to feel a feverish frustration, like, there is nothing I can do about this except wait, in the freaking dark, alone with my lack of thoughts and my only desire to be unconscious!!!  It is maddening.

But, I am here, today, getting through the day.  I know that I am definitely a control freak, and it’s true that I hate not being able to control this situation and will myself to sleep.  I really don’t do well on lack of sleep–and worse, being ill-rested has all the same hues and tones in my mind as being hungover.  I think it might actually be worse than being hung because at least when you pass out, you do sleep for a few hours in a row; when you’re up at night sober, you might only sleep for an hour in a row, maybe two or three.

I know I’m probably just anxious about all the change happening–new job, a move coming up in a few weeks–but I don’t want to admit it.  If you ask me what I was thinking about last night, I wasn’t.  I wasn’t thinking, or worrying; I was just feeling really angry that my day was going to suck, and that I had no control over that happening.  And, while I have gotten through today, I wish I hadn’t had to drink three coffees just to slog through my work; I wish I had gotten to the gym; I wish I had had more energy to breeze through my work faster so I could get to some personal writing and projects (like, finding an apartment in our new locale!).  BUT, that’s not how it turned out, and I think I need to learn to accept when that happens, to let it go if it doesn’t go the way I want, expect, or plan.  Maybe I need to re-learn the basics of sobriety!

I think my tolerance for lack of sleep, for feeling like I’m hungover (and all the associated anxiety, anger, and frustration that goes with hangovers) is WAY LOW…because I’ve had to endure so many wasted hungover days.  I’ve had to endure so much worse, I keep thinking, why is a day after a night of not sleeping so hard?  It should be really easy, I keep thinking, compared to, let’s just say, sobering up in a jail cell while also having my period and not being able to do anything about that situation for the next 48 hours; or let’s just say, coming out of a blackout and realizing that I have to pack my bags and grab a cab for a 60-minute ride to the airport for an international flight…and I only have an hour to do this?

Being blackout drunk and then, horrifically hungover, are, in fact, MUCH WORSE than not being able to sleep in my warm bed under my sober mind–it’s only painful because I’m used to the good life, to sleeping and waking and feeling high on a restful night’s sleep, and getting my shit done because I am sober and rested!  I’m used to how it should be, how it can be, once you’re sober.

After all, I am grateful that insomnia is all I have to endure now.  This concept alone is what propels me through insomniac nights and the days after:  no matter how hard it feels or seems, it’s really a piece of cake compared to how bad it truly used to be.  And I know that with grace and patience, we will find our way, and handle our situation, and transition to our next locale and phase–all without wine, or hangovers, or regrets (except eating way too many Ritz crackers at 5:30 in the morning).

Recovery…from family time

14 Jul

4:04 pm

I’m back from my 4th of July trip to see my dad and mom, back to back–along with my brother.  And, whoa, Nellie, what a (head) trip, indeed!

See, I’m going to be blunt–and maybe it’s not my place, but I have to talk about it:  both my parents suffer (yes, I know they are in pain, which makes me feel pained) from untreated mental health disorders.  We think my dad has bipolar disorder, I think my mom has anxiety and possibly never-diagnosed OCD, and we know for a fact that they’ve both been treated for depression.  Not a big thang, you know, if everyone involved SEES that they are suffering and makes a CONCERTED EFFORT to get and stay in treatment.  But, you know, they don’t.  They are not.  They try to hide or avoid their issues, and they seem to be too afraid to confront them in order to change.

Of course, I get it!  I could be describing MYSELF when I was in the midst of my drinking disorder!  And, I know it takes what it takes, but…  They are both in their 70s!?  I don’t know what to do most of the time except to practice not reacting the way I want to (in anger) and accept their behavior but try to lead and/or engage them in what I see as “healthier” techniques of relating.  It’s just all very hard when these people are your parents and not some strangers, or even someone else’s parents.  Our shared history and my emotional baggage makes it harder to not react emotionally.

It makes me angry to see both of them not really ever seeming to resolve anything on the inside, but mostly, it is just draining to have to deal with it.  I felt so drained coming home, and it took me days to stop being really angry and reactive and just heavy-hearted and like my brain had been scrambled.  To make matters worse, they had these issues growing up, and they affected me in a big way–it took me years to even realize what bizarre coping mechanisms I had developed let alone start dealing with them so that they stopped negatively impacting all of my own relationships, from personal to professional!

I SO want to just out them sometimes, to yell and scream, to tell them “what is wrong with them.”  But, I don’t.  It just doesn’t seem…worthwhile.  I’ve thought about writing a letter, which would allow me to be more measured and empathetic, but again, it just seems like it might be a waste of time.  Plus, I’m not ready to go there AFTER the letter has been read, as in, I don’t have the desire to be that open right now, as their daughter, and/or the ability to play the role of psychologist.  So, I just leave it–with my mom, I think she is trying to work on some of her problems, and my dad, well, I kind of consider him a lost cause at the moment because he’s manic, and it seems like a hallmark trait of mania is that until the person hits bottom, they honestly don’t believe there is anything wrong with their thoughts and behaviors.

It was great, though, to get caught up on on this stuff, and to be with each other, and to just be real.  And a part of me feels sure that somehow, seeing their kids helps them stabilize a bit, normalizes whatever tangent their emotional or thought disorder has taken them on–I imagine our kid-parent bond as a powerful antidote, at least temporarily, to feeling estranged from themselves; it helps me, in a way, to feel less estranged from life, to reel me back into something bigger than myself, gives me a sense of order again, helps me find “myself” again, at least one that I recognize.  I hope that I’m right, and it makes me realize that I should see them more often (I hadn’t actually seen my mom for two years, and with my dad, it had been a year…but before last year, it was three years!).

You would think that all of this would have made me want to drink, and I admit, there were a few moments when I really did think a glass of wine would make it easier to just escape, to get rid of the bad feelings, to disappear for a while.  Of course, I didn’t; I had plenty of time to think about ALL that I’ve worked for the past six years, and how, really, one drink would lead me back to where I was when I started writing this blog in June, 2012.  I’ve had quite a few moments, too, in the past month or so, when I’ve felt SO FUCKING BORED here, in my new home, that I have wanted to “start drinking again.”  It’s weird how in this case, it’s not a glass of wine I want, but the entire habit, or activity, of “drinking again.”

Not to worry:  they are just thoughts, and I have every reason in the world to NOT start drinking again.  In fact, just this morning, as I was listening to a podcast about a man who lost the use of his lower body from a drinking and driving accident, I just felt so…horrible for him, and disgusted for him, but also grateful for the simple beauty of the GRAND, POWERFUL act of getting sober, of being sober.  It does keep going, and it does get better, and I am still feeling wonder-full about it all–in spite of family pressures, and in spite of the occasional side of boredom that comes with the eggs and toast of life!  (haha)  Have a great Saturday, all!

Bad news and your sobriety

19 Jun

1:38 pm

Welp, we are back from a weeklong “birthday” road trip to see my mom and celebrate my big day (well, 44 isn’t really big except for the fact that I am officially in my mid-40s), and um, yeah:  the seemingly constant stream of bad news and overwhelming cynicism (Drumpf, border nonsense, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain) is just TOO MUCH!?  If you only lived in the world of the news media, you would die, mentally and spiritually.  (Which is why I went into science and health journalism.  And, I’ll be the first to say that being a journalist is one of the most emotionally painful jobs out there, and it may very well have been one factor that contributed to Anthony Bourdain’s unhappiness!)

You need to filter it out.  Take a break.  You just cannot think about it all, and take it all in, all the time.  If you’re trying to stay sober–and even if you’re not–it is OK if not necessary to turn off the proverbial radio.

I had this longass post written about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, but I decided to not post it because, what the eff do I know, right?  I mean, I could wax on and on about what I think about life and lifestyle in USA, Inc.–and how our lack of community, increasing lack of empathy, and overall stress levels and competition cause people to lose sight of what’s really important and worth worrying about–but…

I won’t.  Ultimately, I don’t believe you can help other people become and be happy.  You just cannot help other people gain this hard-won prize (if you’re prone to negative self-talk and depression, it is, indeed, hard won).  You can be there for them, and you can tell them things, and you can try to do things that you think will help them, but every single person is responsible for their own happiness.  And, that’s a lesson that most people have to learn!?  And these days, I think that takes a LOT of work because a lot of us live in tiny, isolated bubbles of individual pursuit, punctuated only here and there by other people.

I’ll be honest:  I stopped going to meetings early on because I just could not stand the pressure of other people’s drinking problems AND my own!  And, that worked for me; it was necessary.  As I came up on SIX YEARS SOBER (more or less) a few days ago–and the anniversary of starting this blog on June 14, 2012–I couldn’t help but feel like, so what?  NOW WHAT?  There is so much cynicism and bad news drawing me away from that wonderful period of my life, those years of rebirth, of continuing to appreciate what I accomplished and that getting sober IS a worthy achievement–it almost makes me want to start on the wine again, if ONLY for a break from it all, you know?  Now, imagine combining that frustration with alcohol, drugs, and/or HUGE amounts of self-imposed pressure (Spade, Bourdain)?

I don’t know much, really, when it comes to helping people with mental health disorders.  And, frankly, I almost want to say, we are all mentally ill or scarred, in one way or another.  I think the urge to commit suicide–when you get to that crossroads in your mind–is an individual thing, different for every person who reaches that point.  It’s a puzzle, that’s for sure.

I am feeling a bit frustrated (and those thoughts of drinking again, I know, I can’t just let go), so I am going to get back on my mental water wagon–gym, yoga, journaling, and hopefully, starting some contract work again soon (grateful beyond belief that more work is looming, even if said work is “boring”–I have yet to reconcile making money with doing something I truly love; and, making money is the only way to ENABLE those dreams, so…I say yes to the work).  And, hopefully, we will eventually stumble upon a place that offers soul food for my insides, which are starting to feel kind of empty here.  (Starting?  We’ve hated this bland desert wasteland from day one!  LOL  In all seriousness, we just don’t feel at home here, and since it’s coming up on almost 6 months that we’ve been here, and we STILL don’t have a sense of wanting to be here–I think we might just call it, collect our losses, and move on.)

Onward, then, with courage; but turn the noise off if you need to (and even if you don’t)!  Your mental landscape, creativity, and spirit will thank you.  I’m not saying don’t acknowledge and think about what’s going on in the outside world, but be mindful of your inner world–and what it needs, wants, and rests upon.

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