Tag: trauma

No Thank-You, Anxiety

 

anxiety

Ten years ago I think if you would have asked me, I would have told you that I believed that I was an outgoing, people-oriented person. Never-mind the fact that it only took three or four various types of Benzo’s carefully carelessly mixed with any amount of cheap alcohol to render my central nervous system inactive just enough, that I felt like I could interact with other humans without bolting or vomiting…but viola.

After the chemicals dissolved into my bloodstream, I was gently catapulted right out of my metaphorical, safe-place. I would be temporarily transformed into a person who I thought I liked, who was also likable. Deep beneath my scar tissue I was obviously a fucking blast. This way, I was friendly and interpersonal, yet zombie-like and unable to decipher real connection from shallow interaction.

For years living this way satisfied my deep longing for connection. I thought I was filling my empty spaces. Isolation became this sad, empty, arena that I mistakenly thought was my happy place.

Sober, not only have I learned to embrace who God made me to be even if that person pushes the barriers of what it means to be imperfect, my empty spaces are filled and I understand true connection.

Among other characteristics, qualities, and quirks, I am a confident, introverted, personality type who is also supremely awkward, and inept in particular social situations. Overall, I am a person who prefers to escape, and in short, I struggle with some co-occurring anxiety stuff. If I can even smell conflict, confrontation,  or any situation that makes me feel like it could be considered ‘high-stress’ I just prefer to disappear.

My life is calm and I am happy to say, drama free. My boundaries with my family ensure that I am not in any immediate danger, I don’t get screamed at or threatened anymore. No fist fights, no yelling matches, nothing. My relationships are safe and typically dysfunctional.

And it’s beautiful.

Over the years (special thanks to counseling and my healthy boundaries), I have learned about why I experience anxiety and what (mostly who) triggers it. My anxieties have lessened and aren’t as widespread, but there are a few areas where it will still try to rule over and suffocate me.

For instance, I have no problem getting up and sharing my story with large groups. Churches, treatment centers, small groups, meetings. Totally fine. I am confident and even excited to have opportunities like that. I can have a one-on-one conversation with a friend, and can manage having the passing, pleasantry type of interactions just fine.

But when I am thrown into any situation involving an unknown, (e.g., ice-breaker ‘activity’ “Let’s go around the room, state your name, or why you’re here or your favorite _______!”) one by one, in front of a large group of people, or am invited to be a part of a discussion panel or a podcast, I instantly freeze up.

The same feeling washes over me if I am introduced to a stranger and then abruptly left alone, standing there expected to carry on the conversation. (e.g., “Oh, hey Jill, this is my friend Brittany. I just think you two have so much in common!”)

No. No and more no.
Please, just stop.

“Maybe, if I sit still enough or quiet enough, they will skip right over me.”

“Which path can I take from here to make a break for the bathroom in the most unsuspecting, casual, way?” (as if anyone really gives a shit if I get up to use the restroom).

“How can I get out of this?”

If I fail to actually morph into an inanimate object, which most of the time I doesn’t happen, I will stay and participate or try to carry on the conversation for exactly the least amount of time that is socially acceptable.

And somehow I don’t actually die.

I will sweat and my mind and heart will race so rapidly that I have to fix my eyes on something to avoid vomiting, but I try to breathe deep and remind myself that although my feelings and the tingling sensations are very real, my anxieties aren’t logical. It isn’t real, and it will be okay. I am not in actual danger and all of my red flags need to chill. But I still feel terrified,out of control, and have to fight through every natural instinct that still lives within me not to run away.

Sometimes when it is my turn to respond out-loud and unplanned in a group setting my answers take what feels like three whole minutes to come out of my mouth before I start talking. I might mix up my words or stumble around trying to come up with an answer, and if there’s food involved you can bet that I will always shake just enough to drop pieces of lettuce on my shirt as I try to look as calm and casual as whoever I am sitting next to.

If I had to try to explain it to someone I would say it’s different for everyone, and anxiety by definition is a normal phenomenon. It is when you have a disorder that it becomes difficult to manage and to navigate, and even harder to help make sense to those who have never experienced it.

For me it is like a tiny, raging, internal battle for control of my attention. On the outside I might just look like a shy or uninterested person with drops of salad dressing on her shirt who can’t carry on in intelligible conversation.

On the inside I am overwhelmed and distracted by all of the red flags that are unnecessarily popping up warning me of ‘unknown’ things happening; warning me of impending danger that is too close. My body is gearing up for take-off as I silently work to turn off the engines against its wishes.

So. I still find myself battling old demons from time to time, but at least my life isn’t actually in imminent danger so that is something to be grateful for.

And listen.
I struggle.
And I probably look stupid, or maybe that is my anxiety talking.
And I know at times I am misunderstood.
And sometimes I want to wear a sign or hand out cards so that people would stop asking me why I am “so quiet.” (Nope, just talking myself into staying, thanks.)

But most importantly I push myself. I want to quit. I want to run and hide, but I don’t.
I go to ladies events,  holiday parties, birthday parties etc. I play board games with our family that force me to stand up in front of all of them and look really, really, ridiculous and vulnerable (Quelf).
And sometimes I hate it.

I have to talk myself out of staying home, or not participating, or making excuses to avoid going EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Not because I enjoy self-torture, but because I know what my track-record looks like when I choose isolation over interaction.

It’s a dangerous game.

I also know that I cannot make any progress if I don’t make some attempt to try.

I might succeed, and by succeed I mean make it through from start to finish without leaving.

And sometimes I skip one event or invite but try to make it to the next thing.

But I go at my own pace. I go.

I deep into God’s truth and I hold onto the reassurance that His strength is sufficient. I use that strength to resist giving my internal fears one nano-second more of me, my life, or my opportunities to build and engage in my relationships, than I have already missed. I have buckled, and I have given in, and I have cowered in fear, I have hidden, and stayed down, too many times throughout my life for far too long, and have missed so much already.

So no thank you, anxiety.

I might not be able to get rid of you completely in every area of my life, but I will continue to fight through you every single time.

So I encourage you, not to do what I do or to think how i think, or to believe how I believe, but only to challenge yourself a little bit.

Challenge your old ways of thinking or and your comfortably uncomfortable ways of reacting.

Whatever a tweak or a change or a step in a progressive, healthy, direction looks like for you, safely within the confines of your life, do that.

Take tiny little baby steps, but push yourself out there a little bit further than you ever have. If you’re anything like me you will get discouraged, you will take one step forward and ten steps backward, you might get salad on your shirt, or trip over the carpet on your way to run to any other room than the one you are in that has people, but even so, decide those things will not be the reasons that you decide to quit trying altogether.

Because inconsistency is not synonymous with failure. 

Be nice to yourself as you are transforming. Life and change and growth is hard enough.

(Note: As a former substance abuser of all kinds, and a person who spent years addicted and dependent on prescription medication, I choose not to medicate myself for my anxiety disorder(s). My mental health is important, but I do what is best for my life as a whole. It is a personal choice that is best for me. However, I am not advocating for the ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’ technique and barreling through without medication, especially if medication can benefit you and improve your quality of life. I am, however, always an advocate for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.) 

 

5 Common Roadblocks in Recovery

blogpostroadblocks
You know that saying “Nothing worth having comes easy?”
When it comes to being a newly sober person this couldn’t be more true.
A person who is has become chemically dependent on a substance has a tough road ahead when it comes to long-term sobriety. They will need a strong support system behind them.

Here are 5 common road blocks people come face to face with on their quest for living a sober life:

1.) The initial battle with the clock.
Why do they tell us to live one day at a time?
Mostly because when you are detoxing or trying to stay sober, one hour can drag on so long,
to us it feels like a week.

Our body is screaming at all times with zero breaks, it is asking for more.
Sometimes people give into the immense pressure.

In the very beginning stages of sobriety we are fighting like hell. You might not be able to see it, but it’s happening.

We are doing our best to figure out what to do with our feelings, our emotions, the physical triggers, and quieting the psychological triggers without any substances.

It’s like an insane bundle of hot mess, squished inside of a physical body,
a body that is watching the second-hand make its way around all of the numbers, in slow motion.
We can hear it move, we feel it move, and it is moving very slow.

So time can feel like public enemy number one when you’re newly sober.

2.) The fear is overwhelming.
We are afraid that we won’t be able to make it and what that could mean.
We are afraid that we have screwed up way too many times.

There is a real fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown.
Fear of letting people down.
Fear of having to face the past.
Fear of having to face all of these people who are rooting for us, after we let them down…again.
Fear of not being strong enough.
Fear of not knowing what to do next.

 

We are afraid because we don’t have any idea how we are going to face all of it.

3.) We have unrealistic expectations.
We are used to living fast and have become accustomed to instant gratification.
We ended up trading quality of life for a now, now, now way of living.
Most of us assume that positive change will happen as fast as our lives fell apart.Unfortunately, this is not the case and frankly, we start to lose any hope that we might have found when things don’t start to look as pretty as we would like, as fast as we would like.And although change occurs the second that we make the choice to change our lives,
we don’t have the luxury of feeling or seeing any of the changes instantly. So we immediately think that sobriety isn’t working or isn’t for us.Sometimes it can seem easier to revert back to believing that we just aren’t capable,
rather than continuing the hardest, longest, walk of our lives.

4.) Our mistakes loop continuously in our stream of subconscious thoughts.
It might take us years to gain proper perspective to see the damage that we have really caused while we were living the way that we were living,
but don’t assume that we don’t know that we have made a long list of mistakes and have hurt a lot of people.

We know.

This is a huge part of the reason that we keep using when it doesn’t make sense to other people.
We can feel the shame deep in our bones.

Many times, we stay sober just long enough to be reminded of how shitty we are or have been, and all of the harm we have caused, and then, we have heard enough.

5.) Unresolved trauma whispers to us.
Often our emotional baggage and our scars are quieted by drug abuse.
This abuse is what has turned into a this monstrous thing that we are now attempting to gain control of and eradicate. We want to be free of it, and from the pain underneath the surface.
We have experienced things that no one should have to go through.
We are forever changed, and rightfully so.We still have not allowed ourselves to process these things that have left imprints on our lives.
Our hearts are tightly bound with bitterness, resentment, sadness, and often, rage.We keep holding onto these feelings because if we let it go, none of it really mattered. If we choose to forgive, it means that we think it was okay. It feels better to keep it with us, because that way our perpetrator is being punished.

Because we have not accepted, faced, and sorted through the damage the aftermath of our experiences will continue to replay in our mind.

In order for healing to begin and for us to make forward progress, we have to make the courageous choice to put this away.

For good.

By trying to understand the hurdles that many people face in early sobriety, I think that we have a clearer understanding of just how tough this road can be for them and we have a better perspective on what our roles as supporters should look like.

Healing Our Voids.

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C.S Lewis describes lust, as he does every other topic:
His description is not only beautiful- it is complete, intricate, complex and yet somehow he makes it simple.

I have no idea how his heart and mind were so able to mesh concepts in such a way –
but he was so gifted and insightful.

He talks about desires of the flesh and states that as humans when dealing with any ‘pleasure’ that we healthily or unhealthily indulge in-
if we have yet to fill our hearts with Jesus we will eventually find ourselves in this predicament:

“With an ever-increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure.”

This phrase hits it right on the head for me. Yes it describes my personal experience with substance abuse, but long before I ended up struggling with addiction, I was searching.
I really had spent the majority of my life searching for something that would satisfy my craving for loyalty, peace, consistency, someone to love, and a need to let myself accept love.

So maybe, I searched in a bottle for whatever ‘that’ is.
Other people might look in needles, pill bottles, bars, relationships, shopping malls, or casinos trying desperately to fill that void.

That void represents a broken place that we are trying to fix the wrong way.
We are seeking anything that lessens the pain or that gives us the illusion of happiness, even if we know it won’t last.

But as C.S. Lewis said, each time we use these things to fill that gap, it loses some of its luster. Over time it doesn’t do its job anymore and we either try to find more or move on to something more powerful or that takes up more space.

We are all really on a journey of personal experiences and there will come a time that we all have face the hard things. Some of us might be able to elude this for a larger span of time, but eventually, we will all find a place to land.

What I think we are really searching for is a place where we can are safe to feel freedom, to find peace, comfort, and a true sense of self.

 

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