Sit in it, feel what you need to feel

I am in a bit of an emotional slump; January is typically a rough month for me. January represents a new year and new beginnings for most people but frankly it is a reminder of all that I have lost in my life. January was the beginning of the end when my mother was sick, it was the moment when the light bulb went off and it suddenly dawned on me that she might really be dying. My birthday also falls in January and for so many years; my birthdays were simply not joyous occasions.

The reason I am sharing this is because I was inspired by a friend’s Facebook status, where she admitted she was feeling down but that it was hard to talk about it because everyone expects her to be upbeat. Obviously a slew of us replied offering good cheer as well as our ears and shoulders if need be. But my friend is right; overall we do live in a culture that has a problem with anything less than positive, happy and upbeat feelings. In fact we even give bad moments their own label, first world problems. Barbara Ehrenreich did a great job several years ago in Bright Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America of touching upon this very issue. The business of staying positive and upbeat is a growth industry; there are tons of individuals and books out there to help you stay positive, hell at times the happy people start to feel like a damn cult.

The downside of all this good cheer is that sometimes life and circumstances aren’t happy, no matter how positive our thinking. Sometimes bad shit happens, sometimes people disappoint us, sometimes people do lose their homes, kids go hungry, and people even die. But things don’t have to measure on the tragedy scale to be worthy of a bad moment. Sometimes you go Starbucks to treat yourself to a  grande decaf soy vanilla spice latte at 180 degrees, only to realize 15 minutes later, that they didn’t give you soy milk and actually it’s not decaf either. Sure in the grand scheme of things an extra bowel movement and a few hours of discomfort might not kill you, but damn it, the barista fucked up and now you are mad. Many will easily dismiss your irritation about the botched drink as a first world problem, after all you had the $5 to buy that drink which most of us can agree is one of the extras in life.  To that I say so what? You are entitled to your feelings and to be allowed to feel them, no matter what. Just because you are bothered or feeling down about a relatively minor situation doesn’t make it any less worthy of being allowed to feel it than if you had just discovered you had six months or less to live.

Several years ago, I read Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul and it’s the type of book that frankly screams New Age woo-woo, but if you can get past any New Age bias, it offers some nuggets of wisdom.  It was a life changing book for me. One of the biggest takeaways was learning that when we hold on to our feelings and bottle them up rather than allowing ourselves to feel them and let them go, we create additional stress in our lives. In other words it’s okay to feel bad, whether it’s for a large life changing reason or a minor hurt. Too often hanging onto our emotions and not allowing them the space they need creates bigger issues than if we had just said, screw it, I am simply in a bad headspace and giving ourselves the time we need to work through whatever it is we are feeling.

I have come to be a big believer in not only allowing myself but those around me the space they need to feel their emotions. My seven year old occasionally has these moments when she says she just needs to cry, I admit as a parent, I don’t want to see her crying. Clearly if she is crying, we must fix whatever it is that is bothering her? Not so fast anymore, crying is a release and after thinking about it, I realized what am I teaching her if crying is seen as taboo? To say you need a reason to cry is to deny her the right to feel what she feels and from there we head down a slippery slope.

Sometimes, we need to just sit in our feelings and allow them to work through us so that we can let them go and move on and not keep going back to them. It’s okay to not be upbeat and cheerful, hell sometimes you need a day when you acknowledge I am just in a shitty and down mood and that’s okay.

Disclaimer: What I am discussing is not clinical depression, having dealt with clinical depression that is an entirely different beast. In that case, seek professional help.

Superwoman lost her cape….

I should have known, I should have seen it coming especially since I knew I was well over due for the fall but in recent years as I have learned to manage the anxiety that I have struggled with since the age of 19 I got complacent and well that bitch hit me today like a ton of bricks. Depression, my nemesis and the companion to the chronic anxiety that I have lived with now for half my life has decided to rejoin the party and she is not welcomed.

This is the type of post where literally as I type it I wonder am I saying too much. Perhaps I am sharing too much of myself with people I don’t know then I remember a dear friend EH who I lost to suicide many years ago and remember that unspoken truths can become deadly. In EH’s case a happy, calm, helpful façade disguised deep pain that eventually came out when EH took his Chicago Police Dept. issued service revolver and ended his life. Yet the happy façade had cracks, cracks no one chose to see, not even someone in a helping profession who in the past has literally accessed whether or not someone needs mental health assistance.

In my journey with anxiety that later blossomed to include a side of depression, I have worked hard to stabilize myself, at times using medication and therapy, sometimes together and sometimes alone. I have learned my triggers and generally I avoid them at all cost. It is the one reason I have pretty much made the decision not to drive, driving triggers my anxiety, and once I get on the anxiety roller coaster it gets bad. Yes, it is a hard decision to make but my health and well-being rank a little higher than my ability to drive at this stage in my life. Learning to limit the triggers has served me well, throw in the yoga and meditation that I took up over two years ago and well I have been feeling like a brand new person. Sure I have a bad day here and there but nothing that downward dog and pranayama breathing can’t pull me through. I have been Wellbutrin free for years and haven’t even needed a bottle of Rescue Remedy, yeah it was good.

Things started to feel so good that I forgot, I forgot that when I don’t actively know my limits and accept them that I push too hard, too fast, hell I become Superwoman and I have been on a Superwoman high for a while now. Well I woke up this morning to learn my Superwoman cape had been repossessed by the Super Hero plant, leaving me all alone and on the floor in a fetal position. When I woke up this morning, I felt the shift in my bones, that old heaviness, the tightness, the rage and the watery eyes. I knew it when I lashed out at my husband for imagined wrongs and he knew it too, he has been with me too long not to know

Thankfully I am older and wiser and having been down this road before, I know what to do to get myself back on track. Changes… must make changes. For me that means despite the fact that I have been trying to limit how I extend myself I must be more adamant, louder and stand on the table and yell it if need be. It is no longer a matter of feeling bad, but I know if I don’t consistently make time for myself and my needs that stress after a while trips me off and then I am living in anxiety and depression land. I also know that if I can’t get myself back to where I was then I will once more need to submit to the pharmaceutical gods who make products that can rewire me back to the sweet spot.

The decision to not only write this but share it is hard yet for too many years I lived alone in that dark space wearing my happy façade but it took losing someone I considered my rock to learn that there is no shame in admitting our needs and even asking for help. Even Superwoman occasionally misplaces her cape, sometimes she is even puts away in the closet too!

Creeping up

Looks like a gorgeous day here in Maine. I woke up early with plans to attend my Friday yoga class but my body decided to tell me that, that might be a bad idea. Instead I have time to blog , prepare for a meeting this morning and think about how my weight is creeping up again.

The past month, I have been in a funk. All this talk of financial woes has me in a bad a mood and when I get in a bad mood, my default for dealing with stress is to stuff my mouth. I have done well the past year as far as maintaining my almost 50 pound weight loss, until this month I have stayed several pounds under my weight goal. Even now I am still under that number but dangerously close to it and not comfortable with it at all.

Its funny because I have not set out to just stuff my mouth but looking back this month, I have barely ate my usual breakfast of oatmeal. I must confess I hate oatmeal, for almost the past 4 years oatmeal is generally what I eat most mornings. Its a good meal because unlike cold cereal it tends to keep me full and doesn’t have a ton of calories. Problem is there are only so many ways to eat it and after all this time it has started to taste like gruel, but whenever I don’t eat it in the morning, I find myself snacking mid-morning. The only way that does not happen is if I eat a large breakfast but too many mornings of bacon and pancakes or breakfast burritos also seems to add on the weight. Of course the cinnamon rolls I have been getting from the new fabulous bakery down the street from my office aren’t helping either.

Funny thing about weight creeping up is it happens so slowly that at first you don’t notice it. I mean what’s an extra 2-3 lbs? Of course that was the road that led me to gaining weight several years ago. I spent most of my life without a weight problem and when I quit smoking the first time, my new habit became eating…very stereotypical when it comes to not smoking.

Anyway now that the scale has confirmed that indeed my weight is creeping up (I thought my pants had shrunk at first….I know, nice try) its time to work my plan. That means back to a daily exercise routine or at least a daily walk and stopping my new found chip habit. At any given time we have several cases of snack chips in my office so I have been partaking which is really a bad idea.

So Happy Friday to everyone, hopefully the weather will hold up and allow me to get out and start walking again. Of course I will need to walk right past that baker at the Farmers Market in the morning and not buy any of her lovely treats. Though maybe if I walk around in enough circles I can burn off the calories that would be added if I bought one of those amazing Sour Cream Blueberry Coffeecakes!