Four days ago, my mother passed away. She was in and out of the hospital quite often in January and as things began to look really grim I found myself in full-on freak out mode. I was already dealing with a stressful life situation so when all of this happened I felt myself spiraling out of control. I’ve talked about anxiety here, and here, and here. And the last month and a half was probably the most intense and unrelenting period of anxiety I’ve had in my entire life. It was complete with the anxious tummy with no appetite and periods of intense morning anxiety. I often felt on the verge of having a panic attack, and most days I stayed on that edge, if not crossing over it.
I was dealing with obsessive intrusive thoughts. Let me tell you how fun that is. Imagine that someone makes a 10-minute movie of your deepest fears and then plays it in a loop constantly and you have to watch. No breaks. No looking away. Another gift of anxiety.
Under normal conditions, I’m really good at handling my anxiety. I have a mental list of coping mechanisms that more often than not, get me through it rather quickly.
I was not prepared for this though.
Part of it was the fear response that made it really hard to find the motivation/energy to help myself. When people tell you to go out and exercise to help your anxiety/depression it is simultaneously great advice and absolutely infuriatingly horrible advice. It works, but the sheer amount of energy and will that it takes to get dressed, put on shoes, go outside, and actually move is oftentimes insurmountable.
I felt like that with everything. It was so hard to get over that I-only-have-energy-to-put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other mode. That’s what’s hard to understand about depression/anxiety. Oftentimes we want to help ourselves, we even know how to help ourselves, but actually doing it? Sometimes that feels harder than just being in that pit of anxiousness.
I got to the point where I was barely eating, barely sleeping, and I knew that I couldn’t, just couldn’t, keep going on like that. I had to be a champion for myself and I had to get myself through this (p.s. it is absolutely okay, better than okay!, to reach out for help. I’m terrible at that, I have Superwoman, Lone Ranger, complex and it’s something I’m working on. Support systems rock.)
I had to remember self-care.
And that was a challenge. I had a few days where I took a deep breath and I was like “Okay, you’re going to get it together today.” and of course, I didn’t. I kept forcing my mind to confront the issue though. “Gotta practice self-care, gotta get it together, gotta help yourself feel better.” And eventually, that mental pep-talk worked. I cleaned my bedroom, made myself a cup of tea, sprayed my bedroom with lavender, lit some candles, and then I pulled out my Self-Love Workbook/Planner and I wrote and wrote and wrote. I’d not written in it in awhile so there were lots of blank days that I just filled with my random thoughts.
When I ran out of room, I grabbed a notebook and wrote some more.
I just had to give all of my feelings a form and a shape so I could confront them.
It was like I took all of those monsters that were living in my head and I transplanted them onto paper. I went back to the Self-Love Workbook and made a list of things, self-care, that I absolutely had to do every day. Then I downloaded a habit-tracking app on my phone called Loop and I put little icons on the homepage of my phone that I could check-off when I’d done that bit of self-care for the day.
Then I promised myself that I was going to try. With all things in life, the first step is always wanting to try. It’s making a commitment to try. And I did. Did I do all of those things every day? No. But I did most of them or some of them and I started to have actual good days. I started to surrender and realize that I didn’t have to spend every waking minute worrying and obsessing.
The only control I had over any situation was how I was treating myself.
My mom was going to be sick anyway. People were, at times, going to suck anyway.
We’re four days into the month, and I haven’t really done a lot of those things that are on my list that were helping me before. But as soon as I get done writing this? I’m going to try. Because that’s what we do here. We do what we can to be kind to ourselves, especially on those days when it’s hard.
I spent this morning filling out my Self-Love Workbook and it made me feel just a little bit better. So here are some pictures.