Imprint of Anxiety

Hands tense
Muscles tight
Stomach turning

The sun fades
Behind the trees

My heart
How it aches

The pit of my soul
Is trying to break free
From the roots
Which hold me

Hostage in my world

The corners are closing in

Worthless words
Meaningless love

These roots are suffocating me

Time holds no key

My eyes
They are ashamed of me

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Put in Place

The line fades…
…hair falls,
…shadow closes in.
The ears ring…
…door slams,
…heart breaks.
The days few…
…hope little,
…power gone.

Taking what it wants,
…Leaving empty handed,
…Needing what it hasn’t…

…Never alone,
…Never forgotten,
…Never release,
…Never loved…
…And never over.

The color faint…
…fear lingers,
…dark remains.
The pain forever…
…waste builds,
…filth is seen.

The memories felt.

The time frozen.

The life broken.

Banana Milkshakes

When ever I was sick, or hurt, or happy my mom would make me banana milkshakes. She made Texas sheet cake EVERY year on my birthday…because I loved it. When I moved away from home as an adult she brought me homemade chicken noodle soup. My mom, for all her failings, and mine, has tried to mend the broken bits. For me though, the pain and indifference she had made me feel often out weighs her kindness. Perhaps it is because I see so much of her own issues in myself.

My best memories of my early childhood are surrounded by the pain. The ups and downs, her love then her screaming. It wasn’t easy for her. She raised us on her own even when my parents were married, and after my dad left we really gave her a run for her money. Catching snakes and bringing them inside. Stealing her change to go buy rats from the local pet store. My mom never complained about her lot in life, not about my father and his shitty lifestyle, the women, the drinking. She prayed every day for my dad…until the day he died she loved him and still does. She knows more about suffering than I can begin to describe and even though I will never name her…some things are never meant to be repeated.

My mom ‘Que’ was in special ed until her sophomore year, and back in the 1960’s that was very different from today. Retard was a formal word and not an insult, stupid was accepted and belittling of those with special needs was part of daily life. She wore glasses and had a speech impediment. And they left her there until her sophomore year. She married my father and after years of trying to have a child and fostering they adopted me….

I don’t remember very much of my childhood honestly, but I know there was good, I just know it. My mom truly tried to give us everything she could, but you don’t know what you don’t know…

I remember the banana milkshakes. The cold sweet taste in my mouth. The joy of feeling loved in a cup. (Perhaps a look in my broken mirror…why I have such a detestable view of food.) The smell of cake being made. The bitter cocoa filling the air, as I sat in anticipation, excitement. Knowing that with my cough the warmth of homemade goodness was forth coming.

Que is not evil, not hatred personified. She is but one stitch in the misunderstood world surrounding mental illness. She is loved no less for it. She is my mom, and nothing changes that. She is the one I cried out for with heart break, each child I brought into this world. No matter the distance or time not spent will take that from her, me.

Someday she will find herself whole, as will I, and we can meet, mend the fences, for a little bit of heaven.

It can be Different

I wanted to address an issue that some women/men with anxiety/depression experience at some point in their lives. Suicidal thoughts, and at times, the sad reality of taking their own life.

For those that do not suffer from any mental illness I envy you, and I want you to be educated. It only takes one brave action to save a life, and one choice of indifference to lose a life.

For many of us, anxiety is exhausting. Our body longs for rest, peace. Our minds tell us we cannot stop, not even for a moment. Our thoughts are shaped by our fears, unknowns and the agony of our self-inflicted isolation. We do not isolate ourselves because we choose to, rather, it is a means to survive. Our depression makes us feel unworthy of your time, your love.

Often, in our need to remain in control it is at the cost of our ability to find that line that separates health vs. harm. There is no right or wrong way to ‘be’ for us, but we know when we begin to stumble long before you see it. It is not our fault we are this way, it is not something we can just snap out of. It is more and more engrained in us if we feel judged, or like a burden.

If you know someone that has become isolated, stops going out, retreats from his or her normal life, be an advocate for them. They are loved and they need to know it. I have found that it is usually those hurting the most that hide it so very, very well. They can smile while when they feel like they are dying inside. If you know someone struggling, please, reach out. Let them know you’re there.

Me, Myself, Anxiety….

If I move the couch here, I won’t feel like my world is imploding. I can fold my shirt like this and I will remember to wash his dress pants. I will intentionally stack my plates mis-matched and I will have peace in my kitchen. If I just pray enough my heart will stop beating out of my chest. I can’t do all our laundry today…so it’s not going to be done at all. Tuck my sheet like this, and I won’t wake up terrified. Place the lavender candle over there and I can breathe again.

I hope to God my kids don’t think like this. I pray I can wake up one day and everything will be just so, and I can be normal, peaceful, still. I worry my family will be irrevocably damaged by me. Me.

I make doctor appointments I forget, then have a panic attack thinking of a viable excuse to give them for missing it. I lose my keys daily. I lose my wallet all the time. I forget to check binders, homework almost every day. I look out at the mailbox and worry there’s a bill we can’t pay so I don’t drudge through the snow to get it. I try to budget when I shop but what if there’s a storm or a child gets sick, or my husband loses his job? Constantly in a state of hyper vigilance I look out the windows. When my husband isn’t here I always know the quickest route to grab a weapon if someone breaks in, and I know where I will hide my children if someone gets past our dogs. I wake up afraid that someone else has taken my place, and that I am unwanted…without a home.

I’m having a panic attack.

I distinctly recall as a child stealing pictures from our family albums, and putting them in a little red plastic wagon with my favorite Barbie, my brothers favorite toy of the moment, and whatever else was important for that night in case my house caught on fire. (It stayed by my side, always within arms reach.) My dolls were rearranged daily, redressed, hair combed, and even if my bed was only a sleeping bag it was just so, or I didn’t sleep in it, opting for the floor. I brushed my hair 22 times. I got older and that turned into 11, because it was too long to brush 22 times.

I keep having to stop. I have to remind myself to exhale.

I count. I count the leaves on the shelves in my kitchen constantly, in a number always totaling 22. I count the blinds over the tv, always to 33. The screws in the bathroom equal 44, the door is 11 and I wash myself in the shower twice, always adding what I wash to 22. I count letters on packaging to 33, and start over with each of these, until it’s right, until I feel that switch flip in my mind telling me to get up, look away, breathe.

At my worst I can’t control it at all, and if I try to change this cycle I become enraged and act like a child…which I then hate myself for. I yell, get snippy, lash out. I’ve gotten better about it, and now that I understand it’s an issue, I can usually stop it before it starts. At my best, I remind myself that this is not me, and I get up before I start counting, folding, imploding. My worst days are pretty rare now, but there is almost always an unhealthy reason for that. I just have to keep going, I’m not perfect, damn it.

I shouldn’t be telling anyone any of this. My poor kids. I’m such a fuck up. God, let them grow up unique, unlike me in every way.

I still get anxious talking one on one. I have a hard time speaking in the way I would like to and in my mind, I sound like a 13 year old child. I talk quickly, rambling almost, and I sweat…a lot. My palms sweat when I drive. It’s not as bad as it use to be, but if my kids are in the car with me it’s bad enough that I time wiping my palms on my pants by the intersection. At times I can’t watch a movie or read the news. It just makes me anxious. Ordering food is just a dance of avoidance, and I do the dance every time…especially over the phone.

Hi! The name’s Bits, and I’ve got issues.
– No shit.

I struggle with my personal health. I’m not unclean, I’m a 30 something mom with ‘disordered’ eating habits who, because I can, controls her mind by starving her body. It is something I’ve dealt with long before the anxiety. I look in the mirror, shattered and falling to the floor…I see something ugly, something and not someone. At my lowest point I weighed 100 lbs (maybe) and my body was dying. I would wake up gasping for air, very aware that my heart was not beating properly. By the time I realized what was happening, my body had begun to reject food. I would take a bite and throw up, almost immediately. I had hair growing in places it shouldn’t have been, and I wasn’t even eating once a day. I should have gone to a hospital. (Baggy clothes can hide more than just bones.) I had to pace myself to eat an egg a day. After a few weeks I started with bits of bread. (Words cannot express where I was at mentally, but I knew it was bad.) I have broken teeth because of the toll it’s taken on my body and some have fallen out or had to be pulled. I don’t think my husband knows. At least he has never said so, but I know there are times he makes me sit and eat, so maybe he does. (It’s never come up over the years in a conversation…but then again, who wants to talk about it.) I did drugs as a teenager, and not because I wanted to. For a little while it wasn’t even that I was addicted…it stopped me from thinking. Silence. A heavy price for ‘peace of mind’ as they say.

I have a severe anxiety disorder. Emphasis on SEVERE, just in case they miss it…..

I know when it all started, I even remember what I was wearing, what I ate that day. I remember the smell, the taste. The song playing haunts me. I also know what triggered it all over again as a teen, and as an adult. I have found that expressing myself about said ‘things’ or even acknowledging them as fact leads to a depth of despair and extreme panic that I can’t cope with so I just don’t. Not to mention the wrath, judgement and isolation. I am not psycho, nuts, inept, worthless, pathetic, warped or even delusional. I’m not a liar, a whore, or a bitch. I’m just me. At 30 something, I’m still trying to accept myself. I’m also absurdly aware of my thoughts, and the all consuming nature they have. I wish people would educate themselves and/or STFU.

My anxiety and my panic are two very different monsters. My anxiety puts me in a constant state of ‘holy shit my house is going to fall down on top of me’. It’s sweating, clinching my jaw to the point of migraines, curling my toes while I sleep. It is the thoughts that repeat themselves, repeat themselves. The need to know what is going on at all times with those I care for, a sense that something terrible is happening. My heart beats into my neck, and there are times I feel that if I could just find the perfect number, I could count it all away. I forget things, and what I don’t forget I avoid avoid avoid. My panic attacks are consistent with what I think dying would feel like. My heart beats fast and loud in my mind, but heavy, so heavy in my chest. My mouth gets dry, and I feel like I’m falling. I can’t breathe, and sometimes it’s all I can do to just say ‘Jesus’. I can’t form a thought, let alone a prayer for help, and it is usually followed by a few moments of extreme confusion.

I’m not always like the woman described above, and most days I really do manage well, although forgetfulness and nightmares are a constant, and I still have panic attacks but they aren’t every day, or every week. There was a time I remember having them 20+ times a day, and throughout the night. The inability to move, act, breathe, sit, sleep…that was my life. Every day, every hour, and the moments took far too long to pass.

I’m crying, why am I crying?

I have tried medication, but the doses required to find relief were so high that I opted not take them…the physical toll of the side-effects were not worth the benefits they gave me. Therapy was ‘therapeutic’ but for myself, it only allowed me to see how bad my anxiety was and what caused it to begin with. I needed help with the now, not the then. The bible has and continues to be a source of peace and love. (There was a time however, that reading the bible filled me with such guilt, pain, resentment that I didn’t read it for months, and forget my Christian radio station favorites. I just couldn’t.)

It’s hard to find acceptance in a world that has become very eager to push their perceptions on others, and more accurately that their perception is correct. I feel alone when I’m really struggling with my anxiety because my main effort is to maintain ‘the norm’ for those I love. I am not allowed to be anxious. I can’t be myself and therefore don’t know who I am. I don’t struggle with depression because of this, or to be honest, when I do, I now understand it’s a symptom secondary to my anxiety and I don’t let it take hold. Also, having this doesn’t make me a coward, and it doesn’t make me weak. Quite the contrary. I’ve been through hell, and I’m still breathing, heart’s still beating. More importantly, for me, is that it has given me the ability to find happiness wherever I can, and accept those who’s struggles are hidden, except to me. I know their pain, and my heart is their heart.

One day at a time. I feel like I’m attending an AA meeting and I’m the only one who showed. At least the coffee’s good.

I’m here. I’m here and I’ve gotten through another day. It’s not hopeless, empty and filled with deep regret and guilt anymore. Sure, I look in the mirror and see the cracks…oh my brokenness, but…I’m happy, and I’m healing. Clarity. Each day brings new blessings, memories made and cherished. I get to kiss my husband, and hug my kids. My shaking hands no longer hold my heart, God does. My desire to live through it for my kids does. I am learning to be still, even if it feels like it’s killing me. There is life beyond the infinite loop of anxiety, my aching and fearful soul. My life will continue and with each new season I feel a little more like who I was intended to be and less like a walking enigma. One day my story will have a wonderful ending, and maybe the Lord will use me, my life, to help others find their little bit of heaven.