Tired

Tired head image

Appearance of actual frog may vary

Those of you who have been reading me for a long time know that from time-to-time I have relapses of anxiety and/or depression. This has been going on all my adult life so it’s really not a big deal. I manage myself as best I can, take a low dose of meds constantly, and look out for triggers and warning signs. Signs that I’m heading down that slippery slope again.

Last year was a huge work year for me and at the end of last year I was very, very tired. I was so tired that each night before a work commitment, I prayed that it would be cancelled.

I still had so many urgent things on my to-do list by the day before Christmas, that I wanted to cry. Most of those are still there – in fact the list is growing daily.

The sense of despair I felt just before Christmas was my first warning. Overwhelming, bone-crushing fatigue was another.

My finger nails have started to split and peel in layers. My mouth is filled with ulcers.

The idea of having to start work again in January made me teary and filled me with anger and resentment.

My system was trying to tell me something.

It was something absurdly mundane that finally made me pay attention. It’s three-quarters through January, and my Christmas tree is still up. I’m not someone who rushes to get the tree down the moment January 6 arrives, but having it still up at this point is unusual, even for me. I keep looking at it, registering that it needs to come down. Anxiety and exhaustion grip my chest and so I walk past it. Tomorrow. Or the next day. I’ve stopped turning the tree lights on. Isn’t that enough?

I had a much-needed holiday in early January, so I know how ungrateful I sound. That holiday was not enough. Having another break is not an option (did I mention my to-do-list?)

Here I am, at the start of the year, already struggling; already barely dragging myself from week to week. Fatigue is the biggest trigger for anxiety for me and I’m well-and-truly heading for a crash.

What to do?

Right now I’m doing as little work as possible, given my workload, and spacing it out. I’m trying to get more sleep. I’m setting myself one small thing to do each day. I’m taking iron and Vitamin C.

There’s another part of me, though, that is screaming. Not only is it looking at my to-do list and having an aneurysm, it’s telling me countless other things as well. It’s telling me I have to stop doing superannuation work, because that’s not why I set up my own company. It’s telling me I have to write my own training material and market that. It’s telling me to get that stand-up routine organised. It’s telling me I have three books to write, a blog to run, a comedy blog link-up to organise. A speaking career to investigate. It’s telling me I don’t spend enough time with my son. It’s telling me I’ve neglected my creative side. It’s telling me it’s time for a new career (again).

My brain is yelling at me to take action while my body is telling me to slow down.

I suspect I’ve seen the signs that I was on that slippery slope a bit too late, and I’ve already got my toes in that craptacular depression/anxiety pool. Time will tell.

I’m off now to try – again – to take down the Christmas tree. It won’t matter if it’s still up in February, right?

How have you started 2014?

 

Mental nausea and a mixed metaphor about swans and snorkels

Actual author appearance may vary
© Murat Erhan Okcu | Dreamstime.com

Speaking to groups of people must seem a pretty self-flaggelatory* way to earn a crust, for someone who battles anxiety and other types of mental nausea**.

I really love it. I just flick a switch in my brain and become a facilitator. I recognise how fortunate I am to be able to flick a mental switch in order to function on a professional level.

I remember an old boss being totally surprised – shocked – when I told him I’d been diagnosed with depression.

“But you’re always so smiling and happy!”

I wanted to yell at him that I was just pretending. I HAD to pretend, or I’d just not function at all.

When things get bad, I operate on the swan theory***.

I’m a swan a lot in the evenings. Evening is when most people are active on social media. I love Twitter for the conversations I have, the interesting stuff I watch and read.

It’s hard, though, to be social on demand. My Seasonal Affective Disroder (SAD) brings anxiety and fibromyaglia flares to accompany the dying of the light every frigging night in winter.

There I am being social, LOLing and retweeting and generally being frivolous and silly while on the inside, I’m slowly losing my mind.

I start to feel that horrible, pervasive scratching of anxiety under my skin, a gradually tightening fist inside my chest. Time to get my swan on (no, not in a bizarre and frankly ill-advised Bjork dead-swan-tutu way WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!).

Last night was particularly bad. As evening arrived and my serotonin levels dipped I was tweeting how bad I felt, while LOLing and replying cheerily to other tweets. It occurred to me today how weird that would seem.

It’s not that I’m not real while I’m relating normally on the outside and being screamingly mental on the inside. That IS the real me. The me that isn’t screamingly mental, I mean. The me that’s the swan, gliding on top of the water, gently mental, rather than the utterly batshit self-destructively crazy part of me that’s paddling like mad (literally) under the water.

I think I need to be that swan. The screamingly mental me really needs the gently mental me to keep up those normal interactions, like a weird mental snorkel, keeping just above the crashing waves of mental vomit****. Now and then a few waves splosh over and I choke and cough but the snorkel always clears again with some sleep and a few cuddles.

So next time you see someone being witty and frivolous, while saying they’re depressed or anxious, don’t say “Wow you always seem so HAPPY! I had NO IDEA you were mental”.

Just know that they’re trying their best to be a swan.

Oh and for fuck’s sake, don’t put your finger over the end of their snorkel or someone might DIE.

OK?

OK.

My lovely friend Dayle Walker from Simply Aware sent me this link, to Tina Turner singing a peace mantra. I recommend it for any of you aspiring swans out there. My domain manager broke my blog so I’ve listened to it eight times already today. So far.

Keep paddling like fuck.

* I don’t care if that’s not a word, it should be.
** Thank you Ben Pobjie for coining that phrase. Perfection.
*** The swan theory is about gliding along the top of the water perfectly calm, while under the water you’re paddling like fuck. I would like to state that this is absolutely the only way in which I resemble a swan.
**** Now try to un-imagine that, now you’ve read it. You’re welcome.

Do you have anxiety?
Are you able to be a swan?

How I trained my brain to care less (except about gastro and serious garden tool injuries)

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Fear is a funny thing. Not funny-ha-ha-side-splitting-hilarious.


Funny-weird-and-unfathomable.


Fear is nothing.


It doesn’t exist in its own right. It’s not a thing.


It’s something that we experience as a result of something else.


There are some fears that are very common.


Some of you will know from my constant Twitterly blatheringsthat in one of my other lives I’m a freelance trainer and facilitator. This means I make my living standing up in front of strangers  and talking. And falling over equipment. And spilling things. OK so they don’t pay me for those bits; I throw them in for free because I am a clumsy idiot like to be entertaining. Cough.


The comedian Jerry Seinfeld said (and I’m quoting very roughly here) that at a funeral, most of the audience would rather be in the coffin than up giving the eulogy, such is the general fear of public speaking.


I learned to not fear it many years ago. In fact, I revel in it.


I must be batshit crazy, right?*


Especially when you consider I also have bouts of Anxiety Disorder.


I must be nuts.


It’s true that being an extrovert helps me do my job.


I like the limelight, I’m an attention hog and I like to talk.**


When I was a kid I was cripplingly shy***. Sure I wanted to be out there performing but I was too terrified to do it. What if something went wrong? What would people think? WHAT IF?!


So I was a shy extrovert, desperate to be centre stage but unable to even get up there to cower behind the curtain.


I’m still that shy kid on the inside.


I still feel anxious.


I’m still extremely hung-up delicate obsessive sensitive about how other people receive me and my work.


I just don’t let that sensitivity stop me, because I know fear is nothing. It isn’t real.


I’ve taught myself to care less.


It takes practice.


Caring less requires small steps.


Of course, being the clumsy, accident-prone arsehat that I am helps. Nothing cures you of being precious about yourself like some of the dumber shit I’ve done.****


Now I can stand up in front of as many people as you can throw at me, and talk. Tell stories, joke, share, make myself vulnerable.


Because I care less.


I’m still that scared 14 year old on the inside. I’ve just developed MAD SKILLZ that allow me to put myself out there and not give a shit.


You know all those super-confident, socially-adept, amazingly successful people you admire?


They’re all scared 14 year olds on the inside too. They just hide theirs behind mad confident socially-adept skillz.


The journey from shy child to where I am now took a long time and I had to humiliate myself many times to get here. Here’s a snapshot of the things I tell my brain to help me care less:


WHO GIVES A SHIT?!

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In a week, will what happens today matter? In a month? A year? No? Then why care now? Stop giving so much of a shit.



DON’T GIVE A FUCK


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Will anyone die if something goes wrong? No? Then why do you give a fuck? Relax and jump in.


IT’LL BE OK

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The anticipation of an event is usually far worse than the event itself. Unless you’re talking about a bad bout of gastro, or chain sawing off your own foot, in which case YEAH BE SCARED AND WHY THE HELL ARE CUTTING OFF YOUR FOOT, DUDE?!


RISK IT FOR A BISCUIT


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Sharing a little of your own vulnerability gives permission to other people to do the same and magic happens when people are open and vulnerable. Go on, take the risk. It’ll be worth it.


FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT, BABY



Nobody can see that scared 14 year old inside you. Only you know how terrified you are. Sooner or later what you do you become so go do! 


IT DOESN’T MATTER


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Cup of concrete and a straw, baby. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t matter. The world will keep turning.


Don’t let fear rob you of your joy and hold you back. I trained my brain to care less, and you can too.


Are there things you’re scared to do?
What’s stopping you?

* OK no need to answer that.

** A common comment on my school reports. PRESCIENT TEACHERS, PEOPLE!

*** Being shy shouldn’t be confused with being introverted, although there may be a natural correlation. Introverts prefer to not be “out there” socially. Being shy or confident can apply to either style of social style.

**** Read a random sample of my blog if you need to see evidence.

Severed




The emotional shit-storm of high school.
It was the best I could do.
You wanted to see a real storm of shit? No? Then shush.



Dear readers,

I have a favour to ask.

I keep waking up at sparrow’s fart.

What even is that? Do sparrows fart? I’ve never heard one, have you? Would it be very loud? Sparrows’ arses must be very small, wouldn’t you think?

And while we’re at it with stupid sayings, why do we call someone a “something extraordinaire”?

A “blogger extraordinaire”.

A “saxophonist extraordinaire”.

Like, someone can be a “blogger ordinaire”, or a “saxophonist ordinaire”?

Where was I?

Ah yes. Sparrow’s fart. At this time of the month I’m always awake early. Which is just fabulous.*

Human creatures crave connections. As a species we’re social, like our primate neighbours. We naturally tend towards grouping together, fitting in and feeling that others understand us. That craving for connectedness – the need to feel an emotional connection to another – is wonderful and terrible.

I was bullied at school (and later at university), picked on, harassed and generally made fun of, because I didn’t fit in.

I was a freak, different, weird.

I WANTED to fit in. Desperately.

So what happens when you’re denied connectedness when you need it most? You either grow a big fat denial gland and decide it’s not what you want, or you soldier on and try not to hurt too much.

My denial gland refuses to function so I soldiered on and learned that most things turn out for the best eventually. Looking back, I would have dealt with those bullies differently.

I’ve had bouts of Depression and Anxiety Disorder over the years. That’s hardly a brave revelation in these times of chronic over-sharing (hello I am the shameless QUEEN of this).

Currently I’m officially well, which is quite wonderful.

This current bout of wellness has unearthed a new challenge. For a week and a half every month, I become that anxious, horrible, aggressive person I am when I’m sick. I get PMT so badly now that for almost half the month I’m someone else. I’m Hormone Helen.

I lose that feeling of connectedness, of belonging. The walls close in. To me, it seems that everyone is having wonderful conversations without me. Everyone has bazillions of wonderful, close friends that I don’t have. I feel excluded and worthless, my connection to everyone summarily cut off.

All my connections severed.


With ironic cruelty, the need for connectedness becomes immeasurably stronger, just at the time when it’s been severed.


I’m thrown back into the emotional shit-storm of high school crapulousness. I’m that weird kid again that almost everyone hates. I blather all over social media, trying to reconnect. I usually fail because HELLO when I’m like that I’m not good company. I’m flat out crazy (and not in my usual froggy way). The snake starts eating its own tail.

When Hormone Helen isn’t visiting, everything’s fine. So I know she lies, just like Depression lies, like Anxiety Disorder lies.

So I try to wait out this week and a half each month, hoping that I don’t become so horrible that everyone, including my family, finally decides enough is enough.

You may spot Hormone Helen on my Twitter feed now and then. Please say hi to her, give her a hug and then tell her to get the fuck off social media before she hurts herself.

Love,

The Frog – Chronic Over-Sharer Ordinaire

* This is a lie.

Honesty, warty frogs and blogging angry

There’s been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere lately about honesty. A few weeks ago I was told by my beautiful friend RedundantMother that I appeared so experienced and published. I hadn’t claimed to be either, and flattering as her comment was, I started to worry.


The fearless Eden Riley blogged about the cost of honesty in her fabulous post here – http://www.edenriley.com/2012/04/taking-hits.html. She talks about honesty in blogging being like putting your best china out there… and risking someone coming along and smashing it.

A few weeks ago my partner, R, suggested I write about how people on the internet produce their “Dinner Party Persona” to the world via Facebook, Twitter and blogging. He feels people aren’t honest about who they are. They only show the good stuff. The stuff that makes them look like mature, concerned, worldly-wise activists/political theorists/insert preferred ist here. Not the tantrums, bad hair days, grumpy arguments, shitty attitudes, and CBF days. They don’t expose themselves, warts and all.

At this point I need to point out that on my Facebook page (the personal one, not the professional one) I AM CONSTANTLY SHOWING THE WORLD MY WARTS. Figuratively speaking. I often whinge and whine on Twitter too. Fess up; you know there are times when my whining is annoying. That’s OK.

People have told me that they keep that stuff off the internet (maybe they don’t have that stuff to start with) as it’s “unprofessional”. That people don’t want to hear about it. That’s not what Facebook etc. are for.

To that I say; bog off. I blather on to express what I need to express. Don’t like it? Unfriend me, or hide my feed. Everyone uses social networking tools for their own reasons and in their own way. You don’t get to tell me how I’m allowed to use mine. Thankyouverymuch.

So, on to blogging. As bloggers, we’re in a quandary, especially if we have professional lives. WHAT IF A CLIENT SEES MY BLOG?! What if they happen across a Facebook comment that shows I’m a human being?! THE WORLD WILL END.

Or not.

I gather that I have a blgging persona. One that doesn’t match my real persona. Or only my Dinner Party Persona. I’m not sure why that is. What am I hiding? Why does R care whether the two things match? I suspect because he feels a bit ripped off that he has to put up with the warts and all version and you readers don’t. I don’t blame him. He has to put up with the warty version of this blogging frog.

So just in case anyone is wondering about the real me, here I am.

I’m almost 44, overweight, my hair is grey. I have chronic health issues that I keep meaning to work on. I drink too much. I have a 7 year old who takes up most of my energy. I hate housework so avoid it. Wherever possible. I hate loud noise. I regularly lose my sense of humour. I get defensive over stupid things that don’t matter. I usually define my self-worth based on the opinions of others. I’m insecure, and sometimes lonely. I have anxiety disorder and have had depression in the past. I’m often angry and irritable.

I’m not a super-experienced writer. I’ve been doing it on and off for 20 years but always dabbling, never putting in the required effort and focus to really call myself a writer. I have trouble dedicating myself to a single idea, for long enough to really do it justice. I’m also lazy.

Most days I feel decidedly UNSPECIAL.

I write because I feel compelled to. Don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s because I reckon I’m fabulous at it.

On days when I’ve felt particularly unspecial I haven’t blogged. I haven’t wanted to blog angry.

I’ve probably missed some smaller pieces of crockery here and there, but that’s most of my china. None of it is particularly precious, so smash away.

Here’s my commitment to you – from now on I won’t self-censor my blog (beyond making sure it make sense and is readable).

I’ll make extra effort to be honest. On days when I feel unspecial, I’ll write regardless.

And Microsoft Word, I don’t care that unspecial is not a word. Add to Dictionary, arsehole.

Have you risked your china lately?