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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

Look Sideways

I love the Old Spice commercial “The Man Your Man Can Smell Like“. It’s awesome because by the time the commercial ends you think “what on earth just happened?!”. I reference this commercial now because I think this is how my life is. I’m focused on something and even though I’m extremely focused on it, there is something happening in the background that I don’t quite understand or don’t realize or don’t pay attention to, and then suddenly I’m stunned that whatever was happening in the background is now front-and-center and has my undivided attention, but I don’t know how it got there!

When I fly out on Wednesday, I will have spent a total of 2 weeks in Toronto, with almost all of it being vacation. During my time here, I got to not only help Elaine out during her wedding, but I’ve also had the opportunity meet with a few friends who I hardly get to see and spend time talking to my parents. Usually when I book a trip back home, I complain that it’s not really a vacation because I usually work out of Toronto to save my vacation days, and I don’t have a lot of time to see other people, but with two weeks here and me actually making an effort to meet up with people, I feel that this trip has been truly a great experience. Every now and then people need to take that step away from their regular path and look sideways and see what’s passing by.

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to meet one on one with Ken and Derek, both friends whom I’ve known since high school and elementary school respectively. They’ve both moved out of their North York homes and into downtown (and fairly close to each other – I walked from one persons place to the other!) and I both are getting married within the year. These are two people that I grew old and grew up with and having this time to sit and talk with them about what they’re doing and how they’re doing was like opening half-closed doors again.

When I look at both of them as they tell me their new life, I can’t help but remember the fourteen year old boy who I hung out with at the park back in the day, or the boy in grade two I used to be really mean to. Ken has since met this wonderful person while I was in Vancouver, and now he’s going to marry her! And while I live my mundane life on the other side of the country, I feel like so many things are happening everywhere, and I want to be a part of it! But I have blinders on, and I just look forward at this line that’s leading me to some hazy destination I can’t figure out yet, and all these things are passing me by. All these people are growing up, and I’m not around to see it and to be a part of it. I’m not there to celebrate in the joys, and to cry in the disappointments. How lonely a life can be when you live for yourself!

This isn’t to say that my life with lonely with A. I am very much in love and happy with my relationship. But I feel as though I haven’t moved anywhere in my life – Derek says I’ve been driving on a highway without knowing the destination for the last four years. And now that I look back I see all the things I’ve missed and all the relationships I’ve let slide, and the worst part is I don’t know what for because I don’t know what my end goal is. Today I have pulled over to the side of the road and looked back at all the exits I could’ve taken as a detour and asked myself why. What am I moving towards? What am I passionate about so much that I’ve given up all these other opportunities. While this answer hasn’t come to me yet, I’ve become aware of the fact that I truly do need to know this in order to feel okay about moving forward again.

So, how does one find their passion?

I feel small

when I’m riding in the back of my parents car and I look out of the window and I see flat land for miles and miles and big looming fluffy clouds overhead. If you think about it, we’re all so tiny on such a big plot of land. One of my favourite things to do is to stand under a tree on a beautiful sunny blue-skied day and look up at the green leaves to see the sparkles of sun peeking through. I’m constantly mesmorized by the fact that the tree has been around for longer than I’ve been alive and still continues to grow so big and so tall that I can stand under one, reach up, and still not touch it’s lowest branch. I love being under a giant tree because it reminds me of how amazing nature is, and I don’t even have to go far to give myself a reality check – even on the streets downtown I can easily find a tree to look up at on any street there. Sometimes I get carried away with amazement that I end up causing people being me to grumble as they suddenly have to dodge a crazy person staring at a tree during rush hour shuffle.

I think I’ve hit a quarter life crisis. And my anxiety and stress is a giant flashing neon sign that both my brain and my body are signalling. I feel small. I feel tiny. I feel scared. I hear about earthquakes and floods all over the world. I read about bombings and riots and suicides. I’m home and in the comfort of my family, but if I look close enough I can see the wrinkles and the slower walking pace and the greater resting frequency and it makes me so terribly sad inside. My mom came and sat with me two nights ago and we talked about when she first moved to Canada and her stories were amazing, and when I thought about all the time that had passed in her life and how she’s one day not going to be here to tell me these stories, I almost burst into tears.

My brain has been telling me that the world is a scary place. Everywhere I stand, I’m constantly checking my body, assessing the danger factors around me, and worrying. In a world where everything is supposedly easier, I’m bombarded by a sudden urgency to make decisions about the rest of my life – where to have children, when to have children, living arrangements, timelines, caretaking. I moved to Vancouver and lived in a bubble of teenage bliss – the kind where you are young and carefree and don’t need to worry about anything because you just want to experience life and not have to make adult decisions. But the time to be an adult is slowly creeping up on me and I don’t feel ready. I come home hoping for the comforts of being a child and I see my beautiful family aging before me. I come home and I don’t recognize streets anymore, I see massive developments where small houses used to be, I see new restaurants where old ones once stood, and I feel like I’ve been sitting in an anchored boat that’s lost in a sea of change. I have a lot of grown up decisions to make, and I need to start sailing forward. It scares me.

I’m waiting for the terrible weather here to turn into weather that’s suitable for the clothes I brought home. I’m waiting for the sun to start peeking out again and the skies to clear up so I can stand beneath the chestnut tree in my front yard and stare up into the sky and think about how the tree looks just like it did when I first moved into the house twenty years ago. Saying that makes me feel old already…

5 Things.

I’ve been having massive anxiety issues lately. I’ve been unable to sleep without panicking that my apartment will collapse on me. I’ve been unable to ride the skytrain without thinking it will suddenly stop and I will be stuck there indefinitely with no way out because I’m either underground or high above it. I’ve had trouble riding crowded busses because I’m worried about traffic and how I might never make it to the next stop, especially if the traffic spans over a bridge.

I have agoraphobia. And it is recent. Like within the last month recent. And even talking about it now is making me a little anxious. I get worried that I’m not getting enough air. My muscles tense up, I feel like I should run away, and my heart feels like it’s being squeezed by a giant hand. If I get really scared I start shaking, and I probably have the expression of some caged animal, and I hyperventilate which probably doesn’t help. I feel like I’m going to go aboslutely crazy and I’ll explode and will have to be carried away to a crazy house.

Some nights I would walk circles around my apartment, get fully dressed at 2am and wake A up to tell him I need to go to the lobby. I would listen to the street and scare myself with the thought that a car might run into our building and it would topple over. I would listen for noise on the floor and wonder if I were to get into the elevator to go down, what if I got stuck? What if I took the stairwell but something happened and no one would find me until the next morning? What if what if what if.

I got on a crowded bus once on the way back from shopping in West Vancouver and it was absolutely packed with people going home and there was traffic on the Lions Gate. And every time the bus jerked forward and stopped again my heart would go crazy. I couldn’t breath properly, I wasn’t sure how long I’d be stuck on the bus for, I felt like I was going to pee my pants. I had to be let off at some random emergency bus stop and wait an hour for the traffic over the bridge to start flowing properly before I felt well enough to get back on a bus to go home.

100 meters away from the dock, I demanded to be taken back to shore in the OC6 because I couldn’t imagine going out into the open water. One time I was out there and it was wavy and I comtemplated jumping out of the boat and swimming to shore, I was so desparate to get to safety. My world was being thrown upside down and I felt like I was drowning in a life that I had always lived. I was upset and sad and fustrated with myself.

Finally I did one of the hardest things ever. I admitted I had a big problem. Not just to me, but to my family. To everyone I knew, not just A and John. But to as many people as I could tell. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I felt like I needed as much support as I possibly could get. And I went to see a psychiatrist. I needed someone to help me with this problem, because I didn’t understand what was happening to me. And while I haven’t found an answer yet, I have found ways to help me cope with my anxiety. I slept well for the first time in almost a month. I felt comfortable in my home. And while I still have trouble riding the train, I continue to force myself onto it even if it means I have to wait for the next one. I’m by no means the same person I used to be – I’m still constantly nervous, and constantly analysing the environment around me looking for key safety triggers – but I’m slowly working my way back to a better person than I was a month ago.

So how do I cope? I focus on my 5 senses. It’s a great technique that my psychiatrist told me about, and it really does work if you focus hard.

Find 5 things you see. Don’t make it something that will make you feel even more stressed out (ie. don’t look at the skytrain doors closing all the time, or how many people are on the train). Focus on smaller things, such as “the girl is wearing a nice pair of shoes. They’re purple with a mid-heel and they have a little bow detail in the front.” or “the man infront of me has a strange hair cut, and he styled it funny so it looks like his hair is all blown to the left” (this one was my thought this morning). Talk to yourself about them and describe them in detail.
Find 4 things you can touch. This is to be done within reason, of course. I tend to focus on my jacket and I tell myself “my jacket is made of wool so it’s a little rough but it’s got a soft smooth lining inside and it’s very flexible”. Other acceptable examples may include the chair you’re sitting on, any bags you’re holding, the wall beside you, pieces of jewelry, etc.
Find 3 things you can hear. This one is sometimes difficult, especially when you’re sitting close to some really mundane conversation as I was on the bus the other day. It makes it a lot harder to focus if the conversation is really all you hear (and when you’re nervous, all your senses are on alert so the conversation seemed a lot louder in my head than it really was). But if you can, focus on a few other things like the sound of the train moving, the rustling of newpapers, the opening and closing of zippers or velcro.
Find 2 things you can smell. I try to do this one first because I find it hard to find different smells when I’m in an enclosed space. My psychiatrist also recommended I carry something like a satchel of lavender or something just to use it as a distraction. But when I do notice a smell, I focus on it for as long as I can smell it. Unless it smells bad. :\
Find 1 thing you can taste. Nowadays I try to carry a bottle of water or a mint or something. Focus on the cold water going down your throat and into your stomach. Focus on the mint as it cools in your mouth and swish it around so you can feel it against your cheek or your gums.

I know this all sounds crazy to someone who doesn’t have this anxiety, but it really does help for those who do. I’ve also taken to playing a muscle relaxation tape to help me sleep, and if I wake up randomly at night all nervous, I just hit the play button again and it’ll put me back out. Also, my headphones act as ear plugs so it muffles out a lot of the random noise.

Still, it’s a little sad when I can’t watch interesting movies anymore because the soundtracks might have super dramatic music in it and it will make me feel scared. And when I have trouble riding the train and need to hop off. It’s difficult for me, and it’s also difficult for those who have to put up with me (namely A), but I’m excited for the day when I can ride a train all the way to Richmond and back and not be scared. And when I can go out in the ocean and enjoy myself. And when (hopefully really soon) I can get on a plane and not freak out.

Hope you all are doing well!