SAD is gone (right now)

I had a minor panic attack yesterday for no particular reason. I’ve been anxious all week (for reasons related to work & the re-start of grad school and holding myself to standards that even i’m not clear on) and we were talking about scary finances yesterday. I tried to watch a documentary about wine yesterday and then it included one of the Koch brothers so I had to turn it off. I haven’t been able to sleep well.

But I will take ALL of this as a side effect from my medication because it has made the SAD go away. I have the skills to manage the anxiety, I can ride it to get school work completed and completed well. If SAD were here, I don’t think I would get anything done. I haven’t used my light lamp all winter either!

I know medication isn’t for everyone, it has weird side effects which are always the absolute worst for 2-5 weeks in the beginning. But if you experience SAD and it’s inhibiting what you want to do with life, I would definitely recommend thinking about all your options and/or talking to a therapist/doctor to see if maybe medication can help.

It’s Started

School, that is. Wednesday evening, I had my first class, New England Economic Environment. It was clarified that 1) I have a summer class next summer and 2) I have a spring Capstone in the spring of 2018. While I had hoped for it only being 18 months, I am not surprised.

And! While I am experiencing anxiety about classes and getting all of the reading and writing done (6 chapters so far for one week + a 4-5 page paper… so not massive. but definitely a lot to start off the semester with), I’m not super worried about the capstone. Because I’ve already done one at Wooster.

I was feeling overwhelmed at the amount of prep work that I would face for the policy workshop coming up in the first weekend of October this morning. So I went to meeting and did a bunch of deep breathing and I felt about five million times better. I can feel it creeping back in, but mostly because I’m not entirely sure when to start the readings to get the most out of the class while also not anticipating the amount of work too much now that I know what is being asked of me.

This grad school thing is definitely going to be a challenge to my anxiety and coping mechanisms. It’s a good thing I’ve been practicing for so many years!

How do you communicate with yourself?

About a week ago, I got stuck in my head. Recently, I’ve been having that happen a lot. It comes with the territory-depressed, anxious, etc. The way you perceive the world and how things are is different than the reality of it. Sometimes what I think is the issue isn’t actually what’s bothering me, but it’s what seems like it’s bothering me. I wanted to insert a metaphor here, but couldn’t think of a good one, so too bad for you. I know so many of you that get stuck in your heads in one way or another and it feels like a trap, like a cycle that you can’t get out of. Breaking this cycle is difficult and it played perfectly into my eating disorder: I get stuck in my head, worried about something and food soothes. It was a terrible cycle. And when I first went into therapy, my therapist introduced the concept of healthy coping mechanisms. There are many of them, so many more than I could list in this one blog post. But the ones that I learned and leaned on both in the beginning and now: pausing for a minute (delaying the unhealthy coping mechanism), meditations, going for a walk, and journaling. Another that she told me about and I ignored: creating signs to visually deter me from eating and process my emotions.

In the beginning, these tactics were all about addressing the negative behaviors I had developed (ED) in response to the mental health I was experiencing (Depression & anxiety). As time passed and I managed to reign in the behaviors (eating a jar of peanut butter), we transitioned more into addressing the mental health. Here is where journalling for me has become transformative. I have always been more of a writer than a speaker as a communicator. Writing helps me straighten out my own thoughts, allows me to dig past the surface thoughts to the kernel of discontent that is causing the waves of anxiety and paralysis in whatever I’m facing.

When I find that kernel, even if I can’t make it go away, identifying it is powerful. When I’m conscious of an issue, I can address it. When I’m avoiding it, I feel anxious for indiscernible reasons, I feel physically weird. It’s harder to resist the unhealthy coping mechanisms of eating (stuffing my feelings down) and avoiding.

Journalling is the clearest way for me to get to the truth of what is the cause of what I”m dealing with. Sometimes, I can journal out solutions as well, but even if I can’t, the identification is the most important part. It’s a way for me to communicate with myself, to take myself out of being stuck in my head and examine the world I’m living in. Kind of like in a video game where you scroll back and are looking at yourself from farther away or above you. That neutral landscape of you allows you to have a healthier analysis of what’s going on, makes it easier to assess and address.

Journalling isn’t for everyone, but it is well worth a try when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. If that doesn’t work, think about how you best communicate and try using that. Talking to a friend. Drawing. Movement. Whatever way shapes your words so that you can actually listen to yourself. Try it when you feel as if your mind is caged, banging and bruising against the bars. Good luck!

Sexism, angry old men and self worth

I experienced the first overt instance of sexism while at the gym yesterday. I’ve been going to the gym for over three years at this point. I’ve occasionally caught guys looking at me, but it was glancing. Overall, the crowds mostly ignore each other unless they’re working in with each other or are already friends/workout buddies. There were a few instances where if I painted the situation one way, it would definitely look like sexism but knowing the whole picture was mostly just friendly people.

But. Monday. Monday was Memorial day, the gym was open from 7am-12pm. I showed up around 7:30 am (I blame my partner for setting me on a 5:30AM wake up alarm or no alarm) and started my workout from New Rules of Lifting for Women. (Stage 4, Workout A, fyi) If you want to read about my own relationship to lifting you can do so here.

About halfway through the workout, I was carrying 42.5 pound dumbbells from the annex (free space-no benches/racks/cages/machines) and an older man who had some language barriers said ‘Strong!’ (I think if the language barriers weren’t there he might have said more). I’m pretty good at reading situations and intentions so I chose to ignore him and keep on with my workout. I don’t have time nor energy to deal with that kind of crap.

Towards the end of the workout, He came up on me as I was planking for 60 seconds. I also had headphones in and was listening to Radical Personal Finance. So I thought he was asking about the squat rack behind me. I said I wasn’t using it. Three to five ish minutes later as I’m on my last plank, he comes up and gets super angry with me, telling me he needs to use the machine I’m using. Long story short, he got very angry because I wouldn’t prioritize his need for this machine because technically I could use a different combination of machines for what I was doing.

That’s not how it works at this gym and it never has. You can politely ask to work in or you can wait. I’ve seen it five million times over. Here’s the really sexist-full part: He tried to commiserate with the two dudebros over my being an irrational woman.

This may be the one time where I’m ok with dudebros saying ‘calm down man’. Because it was literally an angry old man they said it to. THANK YOU DUDEBROS.

Interestingly, this has brought up some mental health accomplishments. I did not for one second question my own worth or my right to occupy space while this was happening, nor did I question it later. While I remain pissed off at this guy if I think about it, I’m not ruminating over my choices and responses. I am not doubting myself and I’m not blaming myself. In fact, I can recognize that this was a culmination of miscommunications and this old man’s sense of entitlement and anger issues.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been more resilient and less likely to always blame myself in negative encounters recently. It thrills me that I am experiencing such an improvement over the last few years and I can only hope it continues. What are your struggles? Have you seen improvement?