Hello, Old Friend

Whenever I get depressed, I tend to shut out everyone and everything.

That includes hobbies.

When I took a leave of absence from work, the only hobby I kept up was reading. I didn’t go out unless I had an appointment. I didn’t listen to music because I embraced silence.

And, for the most part, I had lost my love for fiber.

When I learned to knit, I became obsessed with the variety of colors, textures, and patterns. Going into a yarn store gave me sensory overload, and I loved it.

And I found that it was the one thing that could ease my anxiety. To focus on a pattern, to make sure I knit the correct number of knits and purls in a row, to not drop any stitches…

To do all this, I had to divert my mind from the panicky thoughts that made me nauseated and shaky to wrapping the yarn around the needle and pulling it through. Over and over.

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The more I knit, the more I loved to knit.

And then I learned to dye fiber and spin the fiber to create yarn. I even sold some!

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Since I had to concentrate on not putting too much twist into the fiber, I wasn’t letting anxious thoughts affect me.

Both hobbies helped me in ways I couldn’t imagine.

But I lost interest in knitting and spinning the way I lost interest in most things. And, instead, I let negative thoughts and feelings take over.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt so out of touch for so long, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that I picked up the needles again.

And today, I put my feet on the pedals and spun some yarn.

Life is very good.

 

25 Years Ago Today…

…my mom and I flew from Rochester, New York, back to my hometown of Houston, Texas. We were able to move in to the house I grew up in, with the same neighbors giving us support.

I remember how it felt to go to school with a lot of the same people, but noticing they saw me in a different light. I was no longer just “Merrie.” I was “Merrie, the one with divorcing parents.” It felt like a stigma.

It was around this time that I started having panic attacks. I know they appeared before we left upstate New York, but they became more prevalent in my life after we left.

Twenty-five years ago I was 13. I still can’t believe I’ve been dealing with panic disorder for this long, but I hope that things are finally taking a turn for the better.

I don’t want to experience panic attacks for another 25 years.

 

An…tici…….pation

I know “can’t” is a four-letter word. I’ve counted the letters.

There are a lot of … that lead me to say “I can’t.” The worst is anticipatory anxiety.

I have been dealing with anticipatory anxiety quite a bit the past few months. I won’t go into the reasons, but this week especially had my brain racing. It could’ve won a marathon.

I was mostly thinking about my high school reunion, which was yesterday. Which I didn’t go to. Which I’m OK with, but there is a part of me that is mad at myself because as much as I want to go and enjoy my life, there is something that is stopping me. I know that something is my thought process, but it is frustrating just the same.

I was having what seemed like nonstop panic attacks the past couple weeks. And then I went to trivia night on Wednesday and the chest pains started. They lasted pretty late into the night. I became even more anxious because what if I had chest pains while I was in Houston? What if I was too nervous to do anything? Would I be able to make it through the night at Lee’s parents’ house? What about the drive home?

On Thursday I felt worse. While I was at work and concentrating on something other than my worries, I was alright. But as soon as I got home, the fear started rising again. I asked Lee that night if he was OK with not going to the reunion. He said he was, but he asked me, “Are YOU ok?” And you know what? I was. I was OK with saying, “I can’t go. I just can’t.”

There are just some things that I can’t do. I’m not saying I will never go to Houston again. Nor am I saying that I won’t attend another high school reunion. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make it to the next one. All I know is that right now, there are too many things going on in my life that I need to take care of here.

I’m grateful for Facebook because I have been able to get back in touch with my high school friends. So even though I wasn’t there in person, I’m still able to find out what is going on in my friends’ lives.

But for now, I’m going to take care of myself and take it one day at a time. I know that I wrote in my last post that I would go even if I felt like it would kill me, but I came to the conclusion that I need to play it a bit safe right now. Too much anticipation, even unwarranted, is not good for my soul.

Sabotage

We bought a piano. It’s a Yamaha Clavinova in Dark Rosewood and it’s gorgeous. I’ve practiced almost every day. I became obsessed with finding my old piano books and ended up in Nostalgiaworld. High school photos, yearbooks, and old journals.

I even found the first journal entry I wrote about my panic attacks:

I would like to ask myself a question: Am I normal? Actually, I don’t really know if I am or not because, for example: after being sick, whenever I go back to school, I get nervous and I don’t know why. The thing is, I shouldn’t be nervous but I still am.

I believe I was in junior high when I wrote that. I don’t think I ever wrote about it again until college, because the rest of the journal is filled with photos of River Phoenix and Michael J. Fox. Ah, celebrity crushes. But I digress…

I’ve been trying to get out more. I’ve been on my “less sugar” diet for about a month now and I really do feel better. I am even more alert. Lee and I have been doing things together and having a great time.

I’ve always wanted to go to a pub quiz. They’re sponsored by a company called Geeks Who Drink. My sister-in-law wanted to go as well, so I agreed to pick her up and be the designated driver. The quiz didn’t start until 8, but a coworker told me to get to the restaurant early in case a lot of people showed up. So the pick-up time of 7 was agreed upon.

I had been talking about this event since the weekend. I knew other people who went and it sounded like so much fun. I was excited.

I came home from work, ate a bowl of cereal to tide me over until we got to the restaurant, and then realized that I had no sleeping pills left. I went into panic mode.

Panic mode is not pretty. Panic mode is pretty gross, really. Panic mode affects my stomach and intestines. That’s about all the details I will go into.

I had a prescription to fill, but the regular pharmacy I go to was going to close any minute so Lee suggested I go to the CVS that’s open until 10 p.m. Lee said he’d even pick up the pills for me.

You would think that knowing this would make me calm. But now, on top of the panic mode, was the mode of “Oh great I feel like crap and now I’m going to this new event with my sister-in-law and what if I get sick in their bathroom or at the restaurant or I have to pull over on the side of the road maybe I should just ask if we could go back to my house and hang out with Lee and Lee could drive her home…” You get the gist.

At my sister-in-law’s house I took a generic Pepto and dicyclamine for my stomach, and a Clonezapam (anti-anxiety) to calm me down.

But my thoughts were still looping in my head. Even after we got to the restaurant, I thought about sabotaging the whole thing and asking Aimi if she would be OK with leaving.

Once the quiz started, I got into the spirit. I was still on edge, but concentrating on the task of answering the questions helped. I think that is why I love puzzle books so much. They give me something other than my panic to focus on.

We had a blast! Our team of two did really well. We were in second place until the last round, and then we ended up in fifth. Out of 15 teams. Not too shabby for our first quiz night!

You read that right. I’m doing it again. I’m not going to sabotage myself and miss out on something great.

But there’s a part of me that is frustrated and angry. Why do I have to go through all these emotional and physical trials by fire each time I want to or need to do something that is out of my comfort zone?

Lee and I are supposed to go to my 20th high school reunion in Houston next weekend and I’m already nervous. I’m trying the breathing exercises and positive visualization, but so far anticipatory anxiety is winning.

But I’m going, damn it. I want to see my friends and my husband’s family and enjoy myself. Even if I feel like it’s going to kill me.