Back From Falling: Part 5

...It's a very careful process to remind myself I am ok in these moments.  Fighting the urge to stop working out, convincing myself I am indeed ok and what I feel is "normal".  Even more curious is that very thought, what is it to feel "normal"?

I fought through my workout conveniently on the ground floor at my office building.  Next up, eat properly.  I have been an athlete longer than I've known how to walk I think, this you would assume would be another easy concept for me, to eat well.  Not so much.  Our bodies are not simple, and eating to stay Mentally Fit is a carefully planned routine.  Not too much sugar, nothing too fatty, certainly easy on the caffeine, and so it was; my post workout staple, a smoothie, loaded with fruits and protein.

I hate the first few days trying to come "out of this place".  Everything is so hard, so tiring, so beyond challenging.  These moments are always measured for balance, acceptance of what I know, a careful check on my feelings and keeping tabs on my anxiety levels, yet pushing past the desire to withdraw and forcing myself to push on.

It occurs to me as I sit here writing how odd it must be for my coworkers, all so very supportive, to be reading this yet sitting next to me knowing (well knowing now) what my past week has been like.  Very curious.

In any case, I made my way back up to the office where I fortunately Lead a team of incredible people whose very energy make my days better, and perched myself at my desk.  It's a skill I like to think, the ability to "force" focus and present myself in these moments as a perfectly functioning individual, all the while crawling out of my skin from moment to moment trying to claim the peace I know I can exist in.

This day was a challenge, one of many I have known and one of more that I will face.  But on the 4th, by the time I got home after work, I had a realization that brought things slightly into focus, I hadn't feared my ride home from work that day.  This seems so simple, almost childlike, but it's so real, so gradual, and so subtly drastic how quickly things "turn around" in moments like these.  With just the effort spent getting up, working out, eating, socializing, I had started to force the "fear" away again.  And without even realizing how powerful these things are in my life, I started to prove to myself again that coping and managing are well within my means.

I at least fell asleep that night knowing this to be true, I have learned how important my perspective is, my ability to recognize a "victory" no matter how small...on the 4th, I wasn't afraid to drive home from work, and that made the 5th a little easier to face...

To Be Continued...


Back From Falling: Part 4

...I woke up on the 4th knowing I needed to take action.  The feelings were still there, the anxiety and the panic were very real.  It's a constant battle in these moments between what I feel, what I want to do and what I know I need to do.  Staying in bed is easiest, or at least it feels that way.  Once I sort through the fears, the irrationality, the chaos, and I determine that what I "feel" is a product or result of anxiety and panic, I find myself at a crossroad.  It seems odd that this is as true today as it was ten years ago, but here it is.  I can allow myself to exist in this state and ultimately be overwhelmed with the depression that results from feeling so "out of control", or I can accept the feelings and change my thoughts in order to better my situation.

On the 4th it was this decision, do I stay in bed feeling like "crap" and not making anything better or do I force myself to face the fear of getting out of bed, submerging myself into the world and force myself against every feeling to reenter the routine that keeps me in recovery?

The drive to the gym that morning scared me.  No matter how many times I find myself at this crossroad the one possibility always stays constant with me, "what if my routine stops working and I end up back where I was when I had no ability to cope?"  Well my answer is simple, it has yet to fail me and the day it does I will find a new way to cope, a new routine, and another set of supports to allow for me to stay Mentally Fit!

I arrived at the gym full of anxiety, weak from just making the effort to get up and get going, fighting myself can be tiring.  I hopped on the treadmill and my steps "back from falling" became literal.  It is a curious dilemma working out with anxiety.  A panic attack or anxiety attack in it's most basic characteristics cause irregular heart sensations/beats, troubles breathing, dizziness, and many more wonderful symptoms which are all ironically the normal bodily reactions to physical fitness.  This tends to be an issue for the first workout back from a "crash".  Each step a careful analysis between positive results of picking up the pace on the treadmill and a potential panic attack threatening to get out of control...

To Be Continued...

Back From Falling: Part 3

January 3rd has always stuck with me, a date I despise.  "The" day over ten years ago that I called home and heard the words fall from my mouth before I could stop them..."Mom, I'm dying.  I can't see tomorrow."  It's hard to let go of days like that.  I have often referred to it as the worst day of my life, we can call it my bottom.  Curious that I found myself again on the phone to my parents, January 3rd, they could hear it in my voice, they know when I'm not well.

I had made it to work that day, on edge all day.  Trying my hardest to concentrate, fighting off panic attacks.  My ears ringing.  Dizzy.  My heart racing and skipping.  By the time the day was done I had accepted what this was.  I contemplated calling for a ride home.  My familiar fear of getting behind the wheel, the potential of anxiety and the 401 an ongoing nemesis on bad days.  I got to my couch a lifetime later and settled into my chaos.  The desire to run for help is so real, so strong, feeling like I'm supposed to be checking into an ER but knowing exactly what I'd be told and how to handle it.

There is a part of this that becomes entirely patronizing when you "know".  I do "know".  I know that if I stop taking care of myself, it all comes back, and it did!

Calling my parents makes it real.  I am grateful I know to put things into perspective for myself in moments like these.  To simply stop and recognize that I have the ability to regain "control".  I heard my parents with gentle force, reminding me I hadn't been exercising, going through my lack of healthy eating as I was home, reviewing times in my life I had been "here" before.  We spoke for half an hour, their concern as real as it was the first time I called with these issues, but their ability to cope and understand has grown with mine.  An outlet so real to my recovery.

I hung up the phone and started with step one.  I felt dizzy, couldn't stay focused, poor eating, low blood pressure, no exercise...pulling myself off the couch I headed out to Shoppers to check for the obvious, low blood pressure.  The thing about my anxiety, my panic, when I start to "identify" the causes it alleviates. I made myself some chicken noodle soup and started recreated the "plan" I knew I needed to engage in.

Feeling better happens almost instantly when I remember I can "choose" proactivity, and I did, I do...

To Be Continued...


Back From Falling: Part 2

To say life has changed since I started sharing my story would be an understatement.  For the most part, certainly for the better.  However it would be a lie to say on occasion I don't find myself overwhelmed, not with any of the events or engagements but more so with those passing moments that remind me I am now completely exposed.  That safe little world I have learned to "cope" in is no longer.  People look to see how I am, if I'm having a bad day, whereas before they didn't know to.  Very few people had any idea of what I was going through, so hiding behind the excuse of being too busy was simple for me.  I could suffer in silence.

I went home over the Holidays, back to Kincardine with my family, and seemingly felt I had earned the "right" to just shut down.  I just wanted to lay around, watch movies, indulge in great food and excessive baked goods, and just take time "off".  This is a fair desire and one we all feel.  However it's not possible in my world, I cannot embrace complacency and "shut down" so to speak.

By the middle of last week I started feeling the familiar heart palpitations, the troubles breathing normally, dizziness,  the overall chaos that defines my anxiety and panic.  I ignored it, moving from bed to couch and back to bed.  Justifying it as "real time off".  By the time I was to drive back to Toronto, having not left my parents house in a week, I was faced with a familiar "fear".  I questioned my ability to get in my car alone and venture back to the city.  I brushed it aside, packed up and came back.

The drive wasn't as horrible as it used to be (when I first "got sick"), I was able to get through it uncomfortably, although I found myself drained and emotional upon getting home and landed on the couch at my house the second I arrived.  That was December 30th. I spent the next couple of days aware that I was feeling "off".  Not doing much more than laying around and waiting for it to pass.  The very familiar "not wanting to leave my house" and fearing something was going to happen was surfacing. New Years Eve was slept away, New Years Day dedicated to the TV.  By the 2nd I realized what was happening, the anxiety and panic were starting to dictate my thoughts.  I felt drained and on edge.  Then it becomes a battle within, how could I let myself get to this?  I know better!  Why wasn't I doing the simple things, working out, eating right, taking my meds on time, vitamins, supplements, meditation, yoga, talking to somebody?  That familiar feeling of failure and embarrassment is hard to keep at bay in moments like these.

By the 3rd I had accepted it was time to act.  I picked up the phone and called my parents.  They have seen me here.  They know this well.  After all these years the reassurance of knowing I have been here before, and far worse off, is still a huge motivator.  I am not dying.  I am not beyond coping or "out of recovery".  There is a simple explanation, I stopped taking care of myself and needed to change that, quickly.

To Be Continued...

Back From Falling: Part 1

I often wondered what effect stepping out with my story would have on me.  It was a simple question posed to me the last time I spoke, and one that caught me off guard.

"How are you handling being so open about what you've been through? Has it made things easier or harder?"

It wasn't a question I prepared an answer for and found myself standing in front of a room full of strangers feeling even more exposed, if that's possible.  Yet, it was a question I needed to hear.  The answer is a long one, with many factors and an ultimately positive tone.  However it did force me to consider some curious internal responses.  One being this, I have found I seem to posses the belief that I shouldn't be open about not being 100% all of the time.  I feel somehow responsible to only be healthy,  as though I have created an expectation of myself to only be "good".  Free of anxiety, panic, fear, depression.  That somehow I feel fraudulent speaking of my recovery and coping when I am having a bad day, a bad week.  I am grateful I was forced to think on this and it's what brings me to you today.

I crashed.  Again.  I did exactly what everything I have learned has dictated I cannot do.  I went home for the Holidays and complacently landed on my couch, not working out, not eating properly, not taking the time to focus on the feelings that ultimately become "too much" for me if I let them go unnoticed.  Somehow this hurts me so much more at this point, I know better.  I know what I need to do to stay healthy. So here I am again, left fighting back! And I am.

I had planned on going back home, sharing a holiday journal through my blog and instead I find myself here sharing a much more intimate journal, coming back from falling.

So in hopes my transparency provides more help then my "embarrassment" for "letting this happen" again.  In hopes that my exposure is more relevant then the "perception" that I am always good.  Here it is.  I still suffer from Anxiety, Panic, Depression, and I have to take care of myself to manage that.  I have failed to do that and so my next few entries will serve to remind me of exactly that.

And more so, let me share with you what it takes for me to fight back from darkness...