Hello Kevin

If you've followed along with this blog with any consistency (not imply that I write with any,) then you will have noticed that when my anxiety flares, so too does my ability to write about it. A hefty price for creativity if you ask me, but I think it has more to do with need than expression. When I'm sprinting through my thoughts at a feverish pace, writing allows me to stop and take a proverbial breather. Today I am in the weeds after yet another sleepless night. I've been battling myself all day and I'm learning that the less sleep I get, the more weapons my mind is able to wield against me. Or perhaps it's flipped and I just have less with which to shield myself against the sharp blade of fear. Either way, it...well, sucks.

It takes monumental energy to pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you're ill at-ease. Throw in extended sleep deprivation and the energy to constantly do so is depleted to the point where there is no more elevation, just a fleeting hope and a mounting fear that you don't fall farther down. It is this very fear that drove me straight into problem-solving mode this morning, and while I know that sounds super helpful, I'm learning that it is actually quite counterproductive when it comes to your mental state. You see, when actively searching for a solution (ahem, an immediate solution if I can be brutally honest) I am also creating a fire-breathing "fix it now" situation that turns any progress I've made toward acceptance into ash. Going down the trouble-shooting rabbit hole also stimulates all of my stress responses because even though I feel compelled to research solutions, I am never prepared to actually choose a path of action. I am by my nature indecisive, but in the throws of anxiety I find it impossible to make even the most mundane decisions, let alone ones that could impact my health or quality of life.

After a few hours of researching neurofeedback, providers, and at-home devices I had exhausted the precious mental reserves I had to function and found myself unable to fathom making it through the rest of the day or facing the next uncertain night. I hit a wall, and I hit it hard. I still went for a run and then to grocery store, which in retrospect, were probably ill-advised choices as well. I have a bad habit of pushing myself past my limits and it was just one ingredient in today's shit stew. Amidst all of this today, though, I had a moment of clarity, one that helped to shift my mood for the better and at least allowed me to function as a mother and wife. 

I realized, again, that I needed to just be still. Stop searching. Stop solving. Stop dreading. Stop fighting. I say "again" because I've had this moment so many times and it's always so profound that I'm amazed I ever forget it. The forgetting is insidious, you're worn down over time by anxious thoughts and the very nature of anxiety is that it convinces you that you need to run from it and fix it; they call it fight or flight for a reason. I had mentioned starting to read about Dr. Claire Weekes in my last post and her "float" philosophy, and I surely turned to her today. Reading her book helped push me to my ah-ha moment this afternoon and I'm glad to have made the decision to pick up the damn thing instead of wallow in self-pity. I was already trying to coach myself away from problem-solving but failing resolutely until I saw it in black and white to "stop fighting." I know this sounds so strange, but it has helped me many times. Often, people approaching recovery this way need to be reminded over and over of this, and also that recovery is not a linear process. I used to hate hearing that last bit, but I find comfort in it now. I'll call it progress because my ego is in sore need of a boost. 

I started thinking about it another way today, the whole surrender to your anxiety approach, and that is truly where my clarity came, more-so than perhaps than before. You see, I realized that so many times in life we need to surrender or let it be in order to move forward. If you have a cut or a blister, the more you mess with it or pick at it, the longer it takes to heal (or the worse it becomes.) The old adage "a watched pot never boils" is in the same vein; the more you're attuned to the water the longer it seems to take to get it where you need it to be. When I was dealing with physical pain as a result of anxiety, I needed to accept that it was happening, remove my fear of it, and get on with my day. I didn't ignore it, there is a subtle difference here. With any of these situations, you're aware of the abrasion, or that dinner is on the stove, or the bodily sensations you're having, but you're making the choice to not react to it. It's a power move to be sure, all the more heady because you're usually feeling pretty powerless when you finally make the decision to not be afraid. It is, I think the miracle behind the ability of religious people to "give it to God" and move on. The surrender is the same, only to a higher power instead of yourself. 

Now, even with this perspective I was still hard pressed as to how to apply it to sleep. Sleep is a stubborn mistress in that she just won't come until she's ready (I'm sorry for that, I've been reading a wild book filled with romance and I couldn't help myself, lol.) As I was saying, I couldn't figure out how to surrender to not getting any sleep when it literally affects every aspect of life. Today I decided that I need to float through the thoughts and corresponding anxiety I have surrounding getting no sleep. I need to somehow accept the mounting tension and fatigue and not react to it. The more I worry about what the night will hold, the more tension that mounts in my system during the day, and the less likely I am to actually be able to drift off when I have the opportunity. My constant watching of this pot is preventing it from boiling. In addition, my efforts to relax are actually preventing me from relaxing. It's like one of those gel-filled novelty toys that the more you try to grip it, the more it slips through your fingers.

Now, I don't want to sound like I've cured myself today because another key component in all this is time. It takes time for true surrender to take root in a body and mind, especially one as tired as my own. I also think that I will still look into neurofeedback, which seems really promising as a tool in achieving desensitization. From what my research has produced so far, it seems to produce an organic sense of relaxation through a rewiring of the brain's default settings, to which I say "reboot me to factory settings" but I don't have the same sense of "I NEED THIS NOW" that I had this morning, which is relief in and of itself. I'm still tired AF and still sort of antsy about being so later in bed, but I am not in the state I was earlier. I'm trying to be like Kevin McCallister in his basement as he confidently says "shut up" to his furnace as it flares up and starts chanting "Hello Kevin." That furnace is anxiety in a nutshell and seeing it that way now is going to help me laugh at it when it starts to come for me, or at least not be so quick to run away. 


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