Voices; Voices — Everywhere

Every morning she wakes newly optimistic that today is the day her life will change.  Before she leaves her bed, Ms. Optimist greets her: “Good Morning — welcome to today, did you know that today is going to be something special?”  She smiles at the thought of a brand new day; a new beginning; a day of change.  How wonderful — life is really going to begin today.   She just wants to stay in bed a little longer, warm under her covers, snuggling with her puppy.   Instructor stirs, she has awakened. “GET UP” “GET UP NOW,” she commands.

She lifts her weary body out of bed and feels the cold floor on her feet.  The harsh light above the bathroom mirror assults her eyes, and she looks at herself.  The sight does not please her — she looks old and broken.  She stares blankly into her own eyes and hears the Criticizer reach the mic.  “Testing, testing; is this thing on?”  Criticizer sees her refection and gasps “You look terrible.”  “Look at your hair, and your skin has broken out.”  “It’s because you had that dried fruit, and you didn’t drink enough water, and you probably had more calories than you were supposed to.” “Did you not wash your face well enough before bed?”  “Terrible, you look just terrible.”  Criticizer continues his abuse, as she washes her face and ties her tangled curls back at the nape of her neck.  The Instructor enters and silences the Criticizer.

The strong and powerful Instructor tells her to find her running tights, bra, top, and socks.  “Dress,” she says.  “Good, now find your runners and jacket and feed the dog.”  Her every move is dictated by the Instructor.  “Put on your jacket and get the dog leash, now get your car keys, and turn out the lights.”  She is outside; the chill of the morning feels good on her face.  The Instructor moves her forward:   “Start the car, turn on the heater, turn on the radio, put the car in reverse, DRIVE.”

As she drives to her destination, the Instructor and Criticizer argue.

Criticizer: “With all this running, you think you would be thinner.”

Instructor: “Don’t listen to him, turn up the radio.”

Criticizer: “You can’t shut me up that easy; by the way, take a look in the rear view mirror, you look terrible today.”

Instructor: “Keep your eyes on the road — now sing along.  Sing; it’s a great song “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna get me down…”

She gets to her destination and parks the car.  Her running buddy is waiting for her, and they mumble their usual morning greetings.  As they begin to move, the Nurturer awakens.  “Oh, look at you.  Exercising and being healthy at 5:30am.  You should be so proud of yourself.”  The Nurturer stays with her for the rest of the run.  She cheers her on, and points just how beautiful the morning is.

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It’s time for her to go to work.  The Pessimist meets her at the entrance: “Well it’s a good thing your early, at least the boss will notice you’re punctual.” “He most certainly won’t think you are any good at your job.”  “I’m not even sure why they hired you, what do you do anyway.”  She sits at her desk, and eats her breakfast.  Instructor has returned: “make a list, start your computer, organize yourself.”

The voices take their turn through out the day.  The voices blend together into one chaotic boom inside her head.  They make her happy, sad, anxious, mad, afraid, confident, relaxed, stressed out, bored, exhaused, exhilerated — all of these feelings happen within five minutes.

After work she goes straight to the gym to find Optimistic waiting for her.  “Oh there you are!” “I’ve been waiting all day for you.” “You are going to have a great work out, and you will look so fantastic when you’re done.” “Most likely you will find a great guy here.” “I can’t wait to meet him.”  She finishes her work out and heads to the change room.  Criticizer laughs “Did you really think a man was going to come up and just start talking to you?” ” Come on, get serious… Don’t you realize there are much prettier and younger women here?” “Why on earth would a man talk to you?”  She leaves defeated.

The day is over and she’s at home.  She washes up after dinner and finds her way to the sofa.  She pulls a blanket over her feet and listens to the silence in the room.  Lonely joins her.  “Another day and nothing changed.” “You have no one to share your day with; you are alone again.”  She calls her dog to her side and scoops the little fur ball into her arms.  She pulls the dog into the crook of her shoulder.  She kisses the top of the dogs head and whispers, “I love you, thank you for being mine.”

It’s time for bed.  Nurturer tucks her in, “Good night, my love. You are safe.” “You did so great today, I am so proud of you for everything you accomplished.  Now go to sleep.”

“But wait, don’t you remember you really messed up that schedule at work today? Let’s think about that.  You can’t go to sleep after making such a stupid mistake.”  demands Criticizer.

Pessimist replies to this statement: “You’re right.  You will never get it right.  What is wrong with you.  This is why you’re alone; it’s because you just aren’t good enough.”

Lonely, always ready to join in the conversation, reminds her: “Yes, you will always be alone.  Just look, you have no husband and no children.  Your life is meaningless.”

“That is not true,” claims Nurturer.  “You have chosen a different path. That makes you brave.  You have a different purpose in life, and you need to cherish and appreciate the wonder of you.”

Optimist yawns her goodnights and silently reminds her, “Oh, just think — tomorrow will great, so many wonderful and exciting things are coming tomorrow.  Everything you ever dreamt of is waiting for you — tomorrow.”

Instructor has the final say, “Go to Sleep.”

She sleeps.

 

Harmful Misdiagnosis

Anxious thoughts run through my brain on a very continual basis; they have for as far back as I remember.  In my early 30s, I was finally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  The inital diagnosis was both a blessing and a curse.

I was going through a divorce when I received my first diagnosis.  I truly believed I was losing my mind at the time.  I cried constantly; I couldn’t sleep or eat, and the only time I felt ok was when I was running.  I was afraid of pretty much everything, and I felt like I couldn’t go on with life.  About a month after I moved out of my marital home, I went to see my doctor.  I was desperate, and I needed help.  My doctor gave me the “suicidal” quiz, and after I described my situation to him (sobbing hysterically), he announced I had situational anxiety.  He prescribed me paxil and trazodone then told me to come back in three months.

The medication did help me feel better, although I gained weight and pretty much didn’t care about anything.  Two years after my divorce, I decided to come off the medication.  I mean if it was only situational anxiety, I should be fine now that there is no situation – right?  It took me three months to detox off the paxil; it was the worse three months of my life.  Everyone experiences these medications differently, and lucky me – I become dependant on them.  After three months of vertigo, no sleep, depression, anxiety, confusion, night sweats, and no appetite, I was finally detoxed.  I started to feel good, and I had lost all the weight I had gained from the medication.  BUT WAIT…..

Another situation happened, and then another, and another.  My anxiety was back full force, but this time I didn’t understand what was happening.  I recognized my worries, as they were the same things I worried about before my divorce, but for some reason they seemed unbareable.  I no longer had the coping skills I had before the divorce.  Maybe this was because I hadn’t needed them for the past two years – I had paxil.  Since there was not major cause for my worries like that of my divorce, I figured it couldn’t be my situational anxiety.  Instead, I thought it was me.  It was me that couldn’t cope at work because I wasn’t smart enough; it was me that caused the problems in my relationship not the abusive man I was with; it was because I was a bad person that I couldn’t control my drinking… and on and on.  I no longer had a label for what was happening to me; therefore, I beat myself up and told myself I was worthless.

I woke up every morning feeling sick to my stomach.  I cried on my way to work because I hated my job so much.  I only felt good when my abusive boyfriend would give me some kind of attention.  At my final breaking point I sought out professional help.  First, I went back to my doctor, and he put me back on medication.  Cipralex this time, as I was too afraid of the withdrawls and weight gain that came with paxil.  The medication helped a bit, but it really only took the edge off.  This wasn’t good enough for me, as I was still completely miserable.  So I searched the internet for anxiety help and found the name of a local psychologist. It was only then did I get a proper explaination for my disorder.  What I suffered from was a form of generalized anxiety.  My major triggers were identified – I am mostly triggered by the fear of not being loved, and the fear of not having financial security.  Of course both of these fears can be triggered by hundreds of things that I experience every day.  For example, I panic if my boss disapproves of my work or actions because I think I will lose my job; therefore, my financial security.  If a man tries to give me constructive criticism, I believe he doesn’t love me because I am not good enough.

Learning what triggered my anxiety tought me to understand that my thoughts were not rational.  They were a producted of misguided coping mechanisms, and the good news was with a little effort, I could actually change them.  I have worked hard to understand my anxiety. Even though I still get anxious, I have the ability to work through it.

My doctor did me a dis-service by giving me such a quick diagnosis.  What followed was years of depression and self-hatred.  I am not blaming him, however, as he is a general practitioner and his first concern was my well-being at that specific time.  The medication he prescribed did help me through a very difficult time in my life, and I am grateful he cared enough to do what he did.  With that said, I do think that doctors should probably refer patients to more qualified mental health care givers before making any type of diagnosis.  The same as they do with athletic injuries or neurological disorders.  People with mental health disorders need proper care to help them manage their emotional well-being.

Today, I have good days and bad – but now I know why, and this gives me peace of mind.

 

 

Secret Addiction

Addiction is usually a word people associate with drugs, alcohol, or tobbaco.  There are also many cases of people suffering food, porn, internet, or TV addictions.  I on the other had have an addiction (or habit) that is fairly unuasual.  When I turned 27 years old, I gave up smoking.  I quit cold turkey, and I went three years without picking up a cigarette.  Just past my 30th birthday, I left my husband.  It was extremely traumatic for me, and my anxiety hit an all-time high.  I closet smoked for about a year before I decided to try and quit again.  The second time around wasn’t as easy for me.  I was still  going through a lot of emotional ups and downs because of my split up.  In an effort to completely rid myself of my nasty smoking habit, I bought my first box of nicorette.

I’m happy to say, I have been cigarette free for 11 years – my lungs feel amazing.  However, to give up one addiction for me, is to develop a new one.

Hello, my name is Kim, and I’m a nicorette addict.  I have been chewing on and off for 11 years now, and I don’t know how to stop.

 

Yes, it’s true –  I never imagined that anyone could become addicted to GUM.  At first I thought it was just the nicottene I was addicted to, but I think it has more to do with some kind of oral fixation.  If I stop chewing nicorette, I start chewing regular gum at an alarming rate.  I can chew up to 3 packs of 5 colbat blue (regular gum) a day.  I had given up nicorette last February, and I was pretty proud of myself for finally kicking the habit.  That was until my teeth and jaw started to ache because of the constant regular gum chewing.  I chew way more regular gum than I do  nicorette.  So in January, I went back to nicorette.

I’m completely torn, because nicorette is extremely expensive, but I don’t want to go back to chewing regular gum.  If I could control myself and only chew a few pieces a day that would be fine, but that’s not what happens.  With nicorette, I can put a piece in my mouth and leave it there for an hour. I can even go a few hours without needing another piece.  When I switch to regular gum, I need to chew constantly.  It’s maddening.

It’s embarrasing to admit this problem, but I know that being open with myself and others is the first step to finding a solution.  I’m wondering if anyone else out there has had this problem, and if so – HOW did you stop?

I realize there are much worse addiction to have, and if it wasn’t costing me over $30 a week, I probably wouldn’t worry about it.  BUT, I’m trying to budget right now, and this habit is not helping me save money.  Anyway, I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone who has experienced a GUM addiction, as there has to be a way of becoming gum free for life.

 

What is Beauty

fit

 

What is beauty?  This is a question I ask myself often.  Like many women (and men), I often tend to compare my looks to other people.  I long for eveything I do not have such as straight thick hair, a clear smooth complexion, a petite body frame, long eyelashes… etc.

Why, I wonder, do I do this?  Every person is unique and beautiful in his or her own way. Why do I focus on what I don’t like about myself, when I should be celebrating who I am.  I am short, athletic, muscular, curvy, with thin curly hair, green eyes, and high cheek bones.  My chest maybe larger than I want it to be, but other people get breast implants because they are unhappy with their small boobs.  I may not be skinny and petite, but I am strong and healthy.  My wrinkles are a reflexion of the obstacles I have faced and the joy I have experienced.  Every scare on my body tells a tail of the life I have lived.

Beyond my physical appearance there is also my soul.  They say a person’s beauty cannot be measured by his or her physical appearance, as it is what’s inside that counts.  A Cliché – maybe, but there is so much wisdom and truth in this saying.   Are people not showing their beauty when they offer love and respect to others?  I think they are.  I may not be perfect but I am kind and thoughful; I respect other peoples rights to have an opinion; I laugh and cry; I have empathy, I love.  I am like every other human being on this earth who feels insecure at times – strong and confident at others.  I hurt, I get angry, I make mistakes, and sometimes I fail.

I have been on this earth for 41 years, and it is time for me to value myself and my beauty for what it is.  I will accept and love the shape of my body, the unruliness of my hair, the freckles on my face, my big feet, muscular legs, and every crease that appears when I smile.  I will not define what beauty is, as beauty can mean and be so many things.  Instead I will accept and charish every part of who I am.

 

I Hate Writing Essays

I never thought I would be writing essays at the age of 41, but here I am agonizing my way through an expository paper.  I did not go to university after high school and my education (or lack of) has always made me feel self-conscious.  In my early 20s, I took an administrative/bookkeeping program at a local college and then work my way up to management and human resources.

Last year, I made the decision to enroll in an online business program through our local university.  The first course I took was an English prep course, which I really enjoyed – mostly because I got an A+ in the class.  I am now taking a technical writing class, and I can’t say I’m in love with it.  I enjoy most of the writing tasks, and I understand the lessons, but there are too many essays to write.  Why exactly do I need to know how to write an essay in business?  I have worked in the business world for 18 years, and you know what?  I have never been asked to write an essay for work.

Honestly, I thought that the essay writing part of the course would be my favorite.  I enjoy writing, so why wouldn’t it be.  Unfortunately, since I have an anxious brain, I have a difficult time putting my thoughts into any kind of order.  I have written two essays so far, and both of them were short – 800 words.  Each essay took me two weeks to write because I couldn’t figure out just what points were important and how to make it clear and concise.  I try to write out an outline, but that is completely pointless.  I end up changing my mind on what I want to highlight, move things around, and end up writing a dozen drafts.  I work for hours at a time, only to stare at a page or words I hate.  My head hurts, and my eyes are red from sitting in front of my computer screen.  I know eventually I will get to a finished product, but coming up with a half descent draft is like finding Mr. Right on an online dating site.  Wow, I just compared essay writing to my dating life – that’s depressing on so many levels.

Anyway, I’m blogging about this today because I have spent the past 3 days working on an expository essay, and I don’t feel any further along than when I started.  I guess I just needed to vent a little.  I don’t remember English being so frustrating back in high school.  Regardless, I will plug along and hope I can make it to the end of this course.  And with any luck I won’t throw my laptop out the window.

 

 

 

A Picture Say’s A Thousand Words

Pictures are meant to keep our memories alive forever.  I have a shoe box of pictures, most of which were taken by my ex-husband.  I was sifting through my photo box the other day, and it occured to me that I do not have one printed picture of my life from the last 10 years.  I don’t even own a camera except for the one on my iPhone.  My computer is my new shoe box, and honestly it’s not the same.

I realize that my digital photos can easily be sent in for printing, but looking through my online photo album, I’m not sure I would bother.  There are maybe a handful of pictures of my family, friends and dog worth considering, but the shots are not that great.  Most of them you can’t even tell why I was taking the picture in the first place.   I have also notice that besides “selfies,” none of these pictures include me.  I’m not saying that to be vein, but it’s difficult to remember the events if I can’t picture myself there.

When I was married, my husband and I were diligent about capturing special moments on film (with an actual camera).  We had pictures of birthday parties, New Years Parties, Christmas gatherings, vacations, weddings, etc etc.  I was an active participant in most of these pictures, and I love looking back and remembering just how I was feeling when those pictures were taken.  Even though I am not married anymore, I hold on to these pictures as reminders of some wonderful times.

Scrolling through my phones camera roll, I realize my pictures consist of my dog,  the neat design made in my coffee foam, the stack of books I’m about to read, and several unpostable selfies.   Not one picture resemble anything like what I have in my old shoebox of prints.   It has me wondering why this is.  Is it because I’m single, and I have no one to share my special memories with?  Or is it because the convenience of phone photography has changed what moments we want to capture?  I can’t say I ever remember taking a selfie with my Canon digital camera, yet I have more than I’d like to admit on my laptop and phone.

My old pictures definately say a thousand words.  They say, “look at me living, loving, and enjoying life.”  I’m still living, loving, and enjoying life – maybe  a bit differently, but just as equally.  However, this has not been capture on film for me to keep as momentos.  This, I have decided, needs to change.  I am making it a new goal to bring memory keeping photography back into my life.  I’m not sure exactly how yet, but I will find a way (and it won’t be with a selfie stick).

 

 

An Office With a View

sun

The view from my office is nothing short of spectacular.  I work in a building that sits atop the city, which is surrounded by miles of mountains and sky.  It’s amazing I get any thing done with these floor-to-ceiling windows that make up the whole two floors of the building.  I remember the day of my interview; I was invited into one of the boardrooms, and all I could think was WOW.  There is a good possibility the view was the deciding factor in me accepting the job offer.

I took this job almost two years ago, and like any jobs it has had it’s challenges.  In human resources I face many stressful situations; many of them are hard to leave at the door.  I’m a counselor, manager, administrator, ambassador, complaints department, party planner, bad news spokesperson, trainer, and legal advisor.  Of course, I’m not trained in counseling or law, but I must know how to play the part.  With the many hats I need to wear throughout my day, I often forget to enjoy the view.

Today when I booted up my computer, I noticed a glare on my screen.  Since the weather has been rather grey over the past few weeks, my blinds were drawn, and the welcomed sun was shinning into my office.   Just as I was about to pull the blinds down, something stopped me.  There I was 30 minutes early for work and I was all business right away.  My daily tasks already listed in my notebook just waiting to be ticked off.  My breakfast and coffee sitting off to the side to be eaten as I worked.  How funny I come to work early to give myself time to settle in, yet I’m off to the races before I’ve checked my saddle.

What was it that stopped me?  It was the small glint of sunbeams that touched my cheek.  This little ray of light froze me in my tracks and whispered “take notice.”   So, instead of throwing myself into work, I moved my breakfast to the side of my desk facing the window, and I took a moment.  A moment for myself to enjoy the view.  I watched the miniture cars leaving the city limits and wondered what fun adventure lay ahead for it’s passangers.  I soaked up the sun’s warmth and felt myself relax.  My breathing slowed and my shoulders dropped away from my ears.  I could smell the strong aroma of my almond milk latte, and my cinnamon dusted oatmeal.  All of my senses came to life, as I sat and enjoyed my breakfast.  This is what living is about – all the little moments when we are fully aware.

I wrote a blog post not too long ago titled “A Sunrise of Clarity”.  The morning before I wrote the post, I had experienced a similar message from the universe to “JUST BE”.  I was told to stop the never-ending chatter in my head and pay attention to my surroundings – slow down and smell the roses so to speak.  Because I have to work so hard to manage my anxiety disorder, I tend to get focused on the job at hand.  A sense of order grounds me by giving my busy mind a road to follow.   Sometimes, however,  this leads to “all-work — no-play”, which doesn’t really fit with my mischievous personality.   The person underneath the anxiety is carefree and spontaneous.  She finds humour in the world and loves unconditionally.  She’s trusting, kind, generous, and high-spirited.  Although the anxiety can mask my true nature, I am still here peaking through.

Managing a mental health condition is no easy task, but it is possible.  It’s possible to find a balance of self-control and effervescents.  All it takes is a positive mind, a little planning, and an office (or room) with a view!