Self Awareness

Hey everyone! I’m back online after several days of hassling with moving in and unpacking and organizing. Sadly not for myself, but rather a friend who needed some extra help. Anyway, here’s the latest update for me.

As it turns out, the fatigue and depression symptoms I was feeling were adverse side effects of a new medication I had started taking only 5 weeks ago. I only developed this thought on Thursday night around 9:30 pm when I was suddenly alert and feeling more like normal (though half battling a migraine while waiting for the meds to kick in). Given that my entire June had been jam packed with social activities, it was easy for the medicine’s side effects to be masked by general fatigue, since socializing takes its toll on me all the time. However, with how little I actually did this past week, the constant fatigue that was all-encompassing and the eventual depression symptoms seemed out of place with how I normally am.

So the next morning, I called my doctor and told her all about these new symptoms, asking to be taken off the medication or maybe put on a lower dose, since it was technically prescribed for migraine prevention (and it had worked for those four weeks). Thankfully I also had a therapy appointment that morning so when I described my week to my therapist, she also agreed that it was likely a side effect of the medication because I didn’t take it that Friday morning and I felt like normal. Which I really needed because I had to pick up my friend Jerad from the airport and I needed to be alert for that since it was an hour long drive both ways.

My therapist was not only excited that I had done my “homework” (that being a cognitive behavioral exercise in journaling) for when I had these depression-based thoughts, but that I was even able to identify that these weren’t my thoughts. It might have taken several days to do it, but she was impressed by my self awareness and being able to recognize foreign thoughts. That being said, however, achieving even that level of self awareness was a long journey. I’m still working on sorting out my feelings versus others’ feelings that I’m absorbing.

If you’re still working on your own self awareness, that’s perfectly ok! It takes a lot of work, just like any other thing related to the self, such as self esteem and confidence. Trust me, I’m still on that road myself. So this might sound like a broken record, but here’s some tips from someone who’s been there.

1. Don’t underestimate the power of writing. Even if you’re not a fan of writing, just the act of writing down your negative or repetitive thoughts can help calm you down and put you back in focus. If you’re mad about something, write it down and then rip the paper up, or burn it if you’re feeling adventurous and have a way to extinguish the fire if need be. I once wrote an angry letter to a former friend (WITHOUT sending it, of course!), just to air out all my grievances with her and vent my frustration over continuing to let thoughts of her ruin my days, and once I was done writing the letter, I shredded it. I felt so much better afterwards.

2. Find a quiet place. If you work in an office type setting, this might include somewhere like a stairwell no one uses or even the bathroom. Find somewhere quiet to sit down and take several deep breaths. You can close your eyes if you want; I usually find that that helps because it brings your focus solely to your breathing. Take three to four deep breaths, until you’ve calmed down and the thoughts have been reined in. You don’t have to dismiss them entirely, but calming the body down helps you make more rational decisions, especially if the situation made you emotional in the first place. Say, for example, you got passed over for a promotion again and you’re furious about it because you’ve been doing great work since you started, you’re a fast learner, etc. If you really like your job, marching into the boss’s office and yelling at them about it isn’t going to help the situation much. But if you take some time to breathe and calm down, then you have the ability to go into their office and ask them calmly why that other person was chosen instead.

3. Watch an episode or two of your favorite show. If your show’s not on cable or on demand, pop a DVD in and watch a movie instead. Something you’ve seen a hundred times but still enjoy watching. Studies have shown that watching something over and over again brings about a sense of control because you already know what’s going to happen. Once you get that feeling of control and calm back, you can recognize and rationalize the feelings that were upsetting you and figure out why you were feeling them.

That’s it for now! Take care! ❤

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Four Steps for Self Care

Now that I’ve gotten the business writing/sales pitch out of me, I can provide an update on my mental sanity.

Since I started seeing a therapist at the beginning of the year, I’ve learned to use several new coping techniques, most of which have helped me in the moment and slowed or stopped an anxiety attack. But they do nothing for the aftermath of the attack’s buildup or the perceived anxiety that is consistently flowing. As such, after prolonged periods of socializing, I’m beyond exhausted. I’m tired mentally, physically, and emotionally. Coping only does so much.

However, there are some small advantages to my ever-present anxiety. Sometimes I can harness it into productive anxiety and focus my energy into my crafting business. Or like today, for instance, I can use it to take care of mundane household tasks like changing sheets, catching up on shows, and making new posts. And while all of that still drains my energy, at least I have a sense of accomplishment afterwards.

With starting my own business, some of my other hobbies have taken a backseat. My  story writing was one of them, as was my reading list. I’ve been gaming here and there, mostly Zelda games that don’t require much of my time because I know them so well I don’t struggle with them anymore. Mostly when I need some self care, I find a quiet isolated corner and hide there for as long as I can until I’m ready to be around people again. That being said, here are a few things that I do to calm down and take care of myself.

1. Journaling. One of the best ways for me to calm down and manage my chaotic thoughts is simply to write them down, and my therapist would agree with me. In fact, she’s told me she wishes all her clients would take to journaling. In all fairness to her, though, not everyone enjoys writing the way I do so I understand if this isn’t right for everyone. What I find most helpful about journaling, though, is that it helps make whatever’s bothering me more tangible and thus, more manageable. Plus journaling doesn’t require any special items. Just some paper and something to write with. Even if you just jot down a repetitive thought on a Post-It note and throw it away, that can help bring your anxiety down.

2. Yoga and Meditation. As cliche as it might sound, yoga and meditation can slow the mind down. However, I believe that meditation can be done in multiple ways, not just sitting quietly and listening to your breathing. Meditation can be done during any activity you find pleasurable. It could be during a morning run, where all you focus on is putting one foot in front of the other, or what most consider traditional meditation, sitting quietly and breathing to quiet your thoughts. The reason I put yoga together with meditation is because that combination is what works for me. Whatever activity you choose to do, use that to focus only on the activity itself.

3. Take a Nap. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is rest. Find a dark quiet place, grab a cozy blanket and pillow, and lay down for 10 minutes. If you can only spare 5 minutes, then lay down for 5 minutes. You’ll feel refreshed and maybe even ready to take on one of your tasks.

4. Watch YouTube. Find some cute animal videos and watch them. Everyone loves watching puppies and kitties at play and they can calm you down. It’s a small thing, but it can make all the difference.

That’s it for now, but you can always check online for additional tips on self care. If you have your own care routine, kudos to you! I’m off to work on my own self care routine.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block…the bane of writers everywhere. That feeling of wanting to write but not being able to put words to paper (or laptop). It’s beyond frustrating.

I’ve been stuck on and off for several months, and I think the only reason I managed to finish a crucial character profile yesterday was because I sat down and forced myself to do it. Plus, with a little help from my best friend, she helped talk me through the remaining details I needed.

Currently I’m stuck mainly because there’s a five year old running around and she’s very distracting. In a good and a bad way. Good because I love her to death and I love hearing her play and getting to play with her. Bad because she likes to scream as loud as she possibly can and can also be equally loud during a tantrum. Since I’m visiting her and her mommy, my best friend, it’s a bit difficult to get some quiet time during the day except when little one is down for a nap. That, on top of six seasons of My Little Pony, two seasons of Littlest Pet Shop, and feeling stifled in general with my story, has left me in a constant state of writer’s block, and hearing only the voices of the various ponies from MLP.

However, I must admit, I’ve been having fun and this small child has been giving me prime examples of how to show someone being temperamental. She’s the definition of temperamental. Now I just have to translate it to the behavior of a teenager without them sounding angsty. Not sure how I’m going to do that…

Finding the Silver Lining

It’s another one of those days. Those slow days of work that I’m starting to unfortunately get used to. And yesterday, we had a conference call that indicated an eventual possibility of limiting hours so that our night staff has some work to do. Which I totally understand; I wouldn’t want to not have any work at all just because I work nights. But limiting hours means less money coming in and I’m seriously considering looking for other work, even though I have no idea where to start looking because I’ve been doing this for four plus years and I’m no longer well trained to be around people. Plus waiting to get busy again is testing my patience.

So instead of looking at only the negatives here, I’m trying to find the silver lining to this mess and “enjoy the break,” as our supervisors told us. For me, enjoying the break is likely more difficult than for others because of my anxiety issues and needing a set routine as opposed to just going with the flow. But anyway, I guess my silver lining is being able to work more on my crocheting, which I’m also actually thinking about doing as a side business, because if I have all this time, I can get a lot more done than I have in past years because I was purposefully taking my time on those projects. Currently I have three or four blankets in the pipes, one of which I’ve started and had to restart because it ended up being bigger than a king size bed and I only want full size. But I have yarn for three additional blankets, one of which is going to be a reversible blanket, so it’s basically like doing two blankets and sewing them together into one. Additionally, in the past couple weeks, I’ve finished three hats and although I don’t wear hats myself, I’m happy to make them for someone else. I can also do scarves and probably whatever else gets thrown at me. I’m pretty adaptable with crochet items.

I could also do more weekly gaming and free up some of my weekend time for watching anime (or playing catch-up as it is now) or hanging with family. I’m two dungeons away from beating Final Fantasy V, but seeing as the second dungeon is the last dungeon, it’s likely going to require a bit more time than the other ones and I just want to be done with it. I can hardly wait to move on to Final Fantasy VI because it’s one of my absolute favorite games, probably tied for first with Final Fantasy VII. It’s also the one that got me started on Final Fantasy so it has an extra special place in my heart.

And I could probably be doing more writing, especially in working on revisions for my novel, which desperately needs my attention, and there are a couple character profiles I need to finish working out yet.

But most importantly, I need to focus on taking care of myself and getting back to a more normal sense of balance. With my aunts here last week, and my dad home this week, I haven’t really had much time to myself to mellow out since going off my birth control and I still have the lingering twinges of a tension headache and some stiffness in my neck from yesterday. (I also wanted to punch my dad in the nose when he said he should be telling me to “suck it up” whenever I have a migraine or headache of any kind. Even though it might have sounded like joking, it wasn’t funny. You don’t just “suck it up” when you have a migraine. Unless you have really good meds to make them go away, you basically have to wait for a migraine to pass and hope it doesn’t eat up too much of your day because you really can’t do much with a genuine migraine. Or at least I can’t. Nothing helps except laying down in a dark, quiet room.)

So my silver lining in not having much work and being limited on hours is finally getting time to take care of me and make sure my body and soul are nurtured and soothed before I try to take on anything else. As Albus Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Undeniable Proof…Plus an Announcement!

Remember a few posts back when I mentioned I got an unexpected text from Gia wanting to get together and hang out when she came home next? Well, turns out she didn’t want it all that badly because the day she came home has come and gone, and I didn’t get a single text from her. The only reason I know that is because I glanced at her Facebook page, having hidden her from my news feed, and she had already left this morning on her family vacation.

Looks like I was right to abandon this sinking ship.

This little event has given me undeniable proof that I had clearly been putting more effort into this friendship than she was and that the only time she wanted to, or claimed she wanted to see me was when she was already in the area for something else. I mean I get it, it’s a long drive from here to there, but that’s beside the point. Jared is still a ways away and he made time to come visit me just because he wanted to. This friendship street works two ways.

Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t get a text. I went on an adventure this morning just to avoid her because I couldn’t remember what day she said she was coming home and yes, I may have been expecting a text, but I was also planning on ways to make myself unavailable. Clearly this friendship has run its course.

**

Now for the announcement: As I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I stumbled upon a post by one of the literary agents I follow and it said she was looking for interns to commit 10 hours a month for six months, ideally. I read through the specifications of what she was looking for and after discussing it with my best friend, I decided to make the leap and apply for it. Now I know interns don’t get paid usually, but I see this as an opportunity to learn more about the publishing world and also potentially get hands-on coaching lessons from the agent to better my writing. I’m both nervous and excited, because I don’t know what the future holds for me with regards to this internship, but I’m hoping and praying I get it. I’m hoping it’s a stepping stone to the career I’ve always wanted.

Back to Normal

**Possible Trigger Warning. Please read with caution.**

This past week has been a bit nightmarish for me, partly because both of my parents were home on vacation, there wasn’t a lot to do at work, and I wasn’t feeling all that great from Thursday through today (I’m still a little under the weather, but functioning more normally). One of the oh so fun advantages of having a dust allergy is when you play in the dust for spring cleaning, your sinuses flare up for several days. And in my case, literally nothing helps the pain in my face go away, and the one time I tried to take painkillers, I ended up throwing them back up five minutes later because the nausea was so bad. Though I did feel better after that…On top of all this, I’ve been overly lethargic and sleepy and lacking all energy to do much of anything, and I haven’t been able to figure out why, though right now I’m feeling more like myself. It’s possible it was the disruption in my usual schedule, which is the most likely trigger, and this past week got me really thinking on what my unique anxiety related triggers are.

First and foremost, as much as I love them to death, my parents can both be triggers, especially if they are together. For me, their energies can clash, which puts a lot of strain on my mental state. Dad is generally more laidback, calm, and likes to watch tv a lot, but at a volume that is louder than I usually prefer. Mom can be kind of all over the place and chaotic, trying to do half a dozen things all at once and then getting more agitated when she hasn’t gotten any of them done. Having them both together can be like standing in a hurricane of energy with no protection and I found myself more often than not looking for solitude to refocus and re-energize myself. That being said, on any given day, I can be either one of those similar energies. I’ll have days where I want to be super productive and get lots of things done, and then I’ll have days where I just want to lay down and catch up on whatever shows I have recorded.

Second has got to be work, and sometimes lack thereof. For a work from home job, you wouldn’t think it would be all that stressful, but at times it really is. We have deadlines to meet, quality standards to meet in specific time limits, etc.  And when there’s a lack of work, it really upsets my schedule, because I can’t just assume nothing is going to come in during the day. I have to leave my schedule open so I can check periodically through the day for any work that comes through. Like today. I’ll be checking periodically throughout the day. And last July, work was the cause of my two worst anxiety attacks, because they happened within 12 hours of each other, which had never happened before, and has not happened since. The only thing that really helps here is, when there’s no work, to find something to occupy my time, like crocheting, video games, reading, writing, etc. And when there’s a lot of work, it helps to take mini breaks throughout the day not only to give my eyes a rest, but also my mind.

The rest of my triggers are more situational and less all-encompassing. Like large crowds, which I tend to avoid if I can, though doing chores like grocery shopping can be a bit overwhelming if I don’t have a plan for it (like listening to music while I shop). Other triggers can include loud noises (especially if I’ve been sitting in silence or quiet music all day), being around people I don’t know, being around loud and extremely abrasive people, any kind of change to my schedule (not just work related, but things like an impromptu lunch date or unexpected visitors), being around a former abuser (Gia), making phone calls, doctor visits, and pretty much anything that makes me feel pressured to do something or be someone I’m not.

The calming “antidotes” for each of these situations are as varied as the situations themselves. Stuff like phone calls and doctor visits, the best way to get over the anxiety is just to go through with it, which I know doesn’t always work for everyone. However, with phone calls, I generally keep them under three minutes. Journaling and listening to music are my biggest forms of therapy, because I can listen to my soothing (or not so soothing) music and write down everything I’m thinking, just to get it out of my head and stop myself from circling back on it and obsessing over it. Video games are another great form of stress relief for me, as is having my best friend to talk to.

So as this week starts with my parents going back to work, I’m looking forward to going back to a more normal daily routine and less stress on this happy hermit. ❤

Hoarding

**TRIGGER WARNING; Please read with cautious.**

This is kind of an awkward topic for me to discuss, not because I myself am a hoarder, though I will admit I may have some hoarding tendencies. I mean, I have an entire dresser full of random miscellany that some people would probably ask, “Why are you keeping this stuff?” Some of it is books I bought for research that wouldn’t fit on my bookshelf because of how tall they are. Some of it is coffee mugs I can’t use until I move into my own place again. And some of it is random collectibles from my childhood that you can’t find anymore and I can’t bear to part with it. However, all of these things have a place that is out of sight and not cluttering up my room, and I know what’s in each drawer respectively. I have obtained my father’s OCD about organization and I can’t stand a lot of clutter so my room is fairly organized with a minimal amount of chaos, and I do get rid of things from time to time. Like the half a dozen scented candles I’ve never burned that were given to me and I can’t use often because of my mom’s allergies.

That being said, my mom is the total opposite, though her hoarding hasn’t yet gotten to the point of looming towers of stuff and a foot of garbage, etc. But she has a crafting room which used to be an office downstairs. Her crafting stuff has spilled out into the rest of the basement in various locations. Now, her stuff is semi organized because I have tried on multiple occasions to help her sort and organize everything so it has a place in the crafting room, or the large “playpen” which is just like a wire crate on wheels. Yesterday, I was helping her clean again (this being probably the third or fourth time) and I wanted to start small, since I recognize her hoarding and I’m not sure she does and I didn’t want to push too hard because I know it’s not something she can necessarily control. So I decided we would start with the bookshelf, because it’s full of books I’ve never seen her read. Most of the religious type books did leave the room and she’s intending to donate them to a religious organization just two hours from us. Which is good; I honestly wasn’t expecting her to get rid of those. She also found a bunch of books and supplies that went to our local elementary school. I was also watching her go through huge stacks of paper detailing various crochet and quilting patterns, deciding which ones to keep. Now, she did throw a bunch away, but she also kept a few that I separated into two binders for her, one for crochet and one for quilting.

What really bothered me, though, was the fact that she wanted to keep what I estimated at being around 20-30 hardcover books on quilting. I’m not a quilter. My mom is fairly new to quilting; I think she’s made two or three quilts, with help from friends. I couldn’t understand why she wanted to keep ALL of these books and her excuse was, “They have a bunch of cool patterns in them.” My first thought was, “That’s not a reason to keep ALL of them when you have so many other projects to do.” (Although, having read through this again, I realized I might have 10 or so books on writing and improving my writing craft). One of mom’s projects is the “confetti” quilt. -_- She has a small bag of random, tiny, tiny bits of fabric that to a normal person’s eye, looks like garbage. It’s not usable because it’s so small. It’s her bag of “remnants” and I don’t know why she wants to keep them other than for this quilt she hasn’t even started yet. It almost felt like she’s afraid she’ll run out of projects.

But she also has at least 40 projects going on right now and between her job, my grandma, and her work at home like dishes and cooking, she’s stretched pretty damn thin. And I’ve been trying to help out more so she has time for these projects. I’ve done their laundry the last several times. But the thing is, she’ll start a project, leave it for a couple weeks because she’s too busy, forget she has it, and then start on a new one entirely. It’s maddening. So I’m going to try something with her, and we started it yesterday, where I have her make a list of her top five quickest, or highest priority projects, and she’s only allowed to work on one of those five projects at a time. When she’s finished all five, she can add five more to work on. I’m not sure whether it will work, but she’s made the list and agreed to it, so we’ll see what happens. And I’m a huge fan of this to-do list idea; it works great for me and I try not to fret when I don’t finish everything on the list (usually my lists are for daily accomplishments). So I will try to be patient with her, and I know that in starting to sew myself, I can see how this becomes a dangerous and slippery slope, having been in the store picking fabric twice already. But my plan ideally is to use fabric she already has before going to get more, because my mentality is do I need this right now, and am I going to use it right away?

To the untrained eye, her crafting room looks like chaos. To me, it still looks like chaos, but chaos that has been semi organized by me. As a whole, it’s still not ideal, but for now, most everything has a place and it’s not as all over the place as it was. And that’s a good start.