2020, where is the reset button?

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It has been way too long since I have sat down to blog. 2020 started off with a kick in the gut and I had been in a downward spiral for most of the first quarter of the year. Then add our current COVID-19 pandemoniac. Where is the reset button?

My year started with a former cherished friendship ending. The need to get back on am antidepressant. My anxiety level was out of control – I literally had to pull over on the side of the road in a sketchy part of town (that I was unfamiliar with) because I had a major panic attack and could not longer drive. Thankfully, I was riding with a friend who was able to get us to our destination. My graduate school practicum was put on hold, which pushed my graduation date back. My oldest son came back home from college for the semester. I was torn with whether or not to continue with my non-profit because things weren’t going as I had planned. In short, my life was a hot mess!

I am happy to say, I am no longer on a downward spiral, however, I still have a lot of work to do. I reached out and contacted a life coach to help me get myself together. It was one of the best investments I have made in myself in a long time. While I am not able to travel like I had planned to do this year due to current state of our country, I am finding other ways to take the time to love on me. I am a giver and love to take care of others, often at the expense of neglecting myself. No more!

I will be celebrating another birthday this week. It always seems that something keeps me from celebrating the way that I want – weather, family, finances, health – this year is coronavirus. However, instead of being down about not being able to celebrate by dressing up and going to a fancy restaurant to eat, I am using this social distance time to do some more work on me.

I had an exercise during my last coaching session that I am still trying to process. Full disclosure: I tend to ignore issues and try to convince myself that I am fine or that the problem no longer bothers me, when all I have really done is suppress the issue. Of course, it will surface unexpectedly and throw me off balance. So now instead of suppressing these things, I am slowing working on addressing them so they no longer have a hold on my life and keep me bound. This exercise had me list the people in my life that I felt had hurt or mistreated me, that I hold resentment to, or that I felt an injustice had occurred. Surprisingly, my initial list only included five people. But was even more surprising was the fact that some of these people had hurt me in my youth and I never dealt with it. The next step of the exercise was to pick the person that I felt had hurt me the least and then explain how I feel about what they did to hurt me. That wasn’t too horrible to do since I knew why I was angry at this person. The next part was for me to verbally say that I forgive them and that I am releasing them and the hurt that I felt because I was worthy of being loved, accepted, happy, and living a life free of this baggage. Now, when I say that was extremely hard to do, it was horrible. I did not expect to have such a emotional response or for it to be this difficult to handle. This was for the person that I feel hurt me the least and I was an emotional wreck. I haven’t even been able to bring myself to deal with the other names on the list. While I know it needs to be done, I may need a Xanax and bottle of wine afterwards!

I think this activity is so hard for me because I have had such an issue with low self-esteem, low self-worth, allowing others to use and abuse me, not feeling worthy of being loved, or feeling that I am not good enough. While some of these things have caused me to be an “accomplisher” and goal-oriented, I have never given myself the space to enjoy my accomplishments before moving on to the next goal. I am slowly learning to celebrate me, invest in myself, and practicing more self-care. I AM enough, I AM worthy, I am lovable, valuable and needed. I am not perfect, but I am a work in progress.

I am hoping everything will fall in place for me to be able to complete my summer and fall practicums. I will complete my Community Health Worker certification in May (thank goodness for online classes). I have added a new program to my nonprofit – men’s health, that people seem to be excited about. I will hopefully get to complete at least one out of state trip – my April and September trips were cancelled and I am uncertain how my May trip will fair. I have started back exercising, which I had missed but could not do due to severe back pain for the last year. I was able to look at myself in the mirror earlier this week and actually smile at my reflection in it’s natural state. I am loving the person I am becoming and enjoying learning more about myself. Pain may have been the catalyst for the change in behavior, but I am not defined or being held hostage by the pain. Love it or hate it, I will not apologize for who I am!

I came across this picture and it so appropriate for where I am in my life currently.

Ugh!

One would think that if you had a lot of positive things happening, you would be happy.  WRONG!!!  While I know that happiness comes from within, I can’t help but still look for it to come from others.  No matter how many “things” I accomplish or do, nothing ever seems to be enough.  I know I should not be seeking validation from others, yet, I still do. I get sad by only getting 10 likes on my profile pics on social media, or 10 views on my business page posts, or no one signing up for my events.  I often feel I’m not pretty enough, skinny enough, a good mother, or studious enough (despite having a 4.0 GPA in graduate school and being invited to two honor societies).

From my previous posts, you know that I have struggled with my self-esteem my entire life.  I have always thought that if I try harder, maybe they will like me more or treat me better.  If I don’t say how I feel, people will want to be around me.  If I make really good grades, people will think I’m smart and will listen to what I have to say.  If I lose 20 more pounds, maybe I will finally be attractive enough for someone to ask out on a date.  The saddest part of all of this is that most people probably don’t think about me to give much thought to how I look, feel, or even exist.  I put so much thought into what others think of me, and  I am probably not even worthy of a thought.  While I’m out here trying to please other people at the expense of making myself happy, they are living their lives.  I am stuck in this place where I will never be good enough.  I genuinely try to be a positive influence on those I come in contact with because I am a nurturer and giver by nature.  I just wish that sometimes someone would pour back into me once in a while.  I often feel alone and lonely.  I know it is not anyone’s responsibility to make me happy, but it would be nice to feel appreciated once in a while.

I am trying to figure out a way to stop the negative thoughts, but I can’t seem to do so.  I have no clue how long I have been off anxiety meds, but I really do not want to get back on them.  I have not had any luck finding a therapist.  I sometimes wonder if a therapist would even be able to help.  I find myself spiraling downward again but want to stop before I spiral too far out of control where I am paralyzed with anxiety.  I do not want to return to frequent panic attacks.  I just want to get to a point where I like me and am okay with who I am.  I cannot control what others think of me or how they treat me.  I can only control how I respond.  I just want to make my mind stop working overtime.

Mental Health Problem? Yeah, right.

As a nurse, while I work on a primarily medical-surgical unit, I still have to deal with patients who have mental health issues, because as you can guess, one cannot separate themselves at will from their mental health issues.  One of the problems with mental health is there are typically no outside signs of the disease because it’s primarily internal.  I am by no means a psych expert and am trying to learn more about this area.

I have struggled with anxiety and depression for over 10 years.  This post was triggered by an episode I had over the weekend.  It took me by surprise because it should have been a happy time in my life.  My son’s football banquet was on Sunday and he earned a varsity letter and I was ecstatic.  We got news that he got accepted to one of the colleges that he applied to.  Again, I was happy (despite that not being my first choice of colleges for him).  But I got home and had that gnawing sharp pain in my chest that I am all too familiar with – I was having an anxiety attack.  But why?  That’s what I seem to ask myself most of the time because I genuinely do not know what I am subconsciously stressing about.  There are high stress times that I have my anxiety attacks and I can usually get out of it a lot faster.  When I don’t know the cause, like this past weekend, it lasts a day or so dealing with breath-taking intense chest pain, fear of going to sleep, and praying it doesn’t turn into a migraine.  Then I’m completely drained for a few days afterwards.

Here’s my back story.  A year or so after I had my first child, I kept feeling like I was having a hard attack, which then made me paranoid to fall asleep, thinking I might die in my sleep and my son would be all alone.  After several trips to the emergency room and have EKGs and stress test done and being treating for heartburn, it was determined that I was experiencing panic/anxiety attacks.  The solution – anxiety meds.  So, fast forward to the present, I still struggle with my anxiety and depression.  Add in there a component of OCD – I get fixated on things and it is a struggle to force my brain to quit thinking about it, which adds to my frustration.

Over all the years I have dealt with this, not once has a doctor suggested a psychiatrist or psychologist.  I have met with counselors in the past that I have found to be ineffective or a waste of my time, but I probably really do need to talk to someone.  I’ve been on and off meds over the years, currently off them, as I feel like I don’t need them all the time.  Writing is a healthy/safe outlet for me, as I can share exactly how I am feeling and not be judged for the way I feel or perceive things.  I am often obsessed with what others think of me. Since I was a little girl, I have always felt unloved/unlovable, never felt like I was good enough, and wishing I had never been born.  While I have never attempted suicide, I sure have felt like it was the best option as I felt like my children would be better off without me and that no one would even notice I was gone.  While I know that is not true, it doesn’t stop the thoughts.

I have posted all of this because no matter how hard I try to keep it together, I don’t have it all together.  As a nurse, I always encourage my patients to seek the help they need, which at times is difficult because when there are budget cuts, mental health services are often the first to get cut.  I wish there was a magic pill that would cure mental health diseases but unfortunately, that will likely never happen.  In the meantime, I just hope that society would be more understanding that people who have mental health issues are not attention seeking and that they can’t always put a smile on their face and act like everything is okay.  Some days it is a chore to get out of the bed and try to function as a “normal” person.  I hope that we can quit being so quick to judge.  Even if you don’t understand what someone is experiencing, being available to listen sometimes makes a world of difference.