As mentioned previously, I’ve been overwhelmed a lot recently. It’s not a matter of too many bids for my time; the choices I’ve made in how I live my life on a day to day basis, coupled with the litany Odin frequently has me chant regarding the Hierarchy of Obligation that I owe to o/Others both make it somewhat easy to be sure that I don’t allow myself to be pulled in too many directions at once. This is a very important tool to living with the anxiety that I live with.
I learned years ago that my anxiety and depression are intertwined, but that it was the anxiety I needed (and need) to pay attention to on a daily basis, as the anxiety informs my depression. That is, generally my depression is such that it creates a baseline blue sense. I am rarely happy, I am generally at most content. Giddiness is something that only happens around new books, kittens, and puppies. I’m content (heh) with this; I find striving for contentment more useful than striving for happiness. I don’t want to say I’m a pessimist, because I don’t think I am. It’s more that I’m resigned. This is to say that, on a day to day basis, my depression is not a soul-sucking monster. On a day to day basis, the depression is tolerable. It’s in the backseat. It’s something I’m aware of, but except for when it flares up, it’s not a life-changer. It’s cyclical, but on the average day it’s mild rather than severe, and at most it’s moderate.
On the other hand, anxiety . . . I’m anxiety’s bitch. Anxiety is the one I need to pay attention to, daily, and it’s the one I need to build my life around. It’s the one that I need to have a check-list for. It’s not all panic attacks; in fact, it’s rarely about panic attacks. It is being hyper-alert to my surroundings, having an eye and ear toward every possible escape. It’s a constant litany going on in my head of all the things that could go wrong, and they are rarely based on reality. It’s being super tense when I’m out in the world and away from “my” territory. (My day job counts, a bit, as ‘my’ territory, as far as the anxiety is concerned.) My teeth are almost always clenched, my shoulders are almost always tight, and while this isn’t the cause for my migraine problems, it does not help. Worse, if I let my awareness slip, if I let my mindfulness slip, and my routine for maintaining a functional baseline goes away, the anxiety runs unchecked, and it unleashes the depression.
My depression is my anxiety’s best friend, and when I don’t have a tight leash on the anxiety, they are like teenagers running through the neighborhood, creating mischief and mayhem. They are assholes.
My coping methods are pretty basic. I keep my life as uncomplicated as I can. Beth and I live a semi-reclusive lifestyle. We don’t have any close friends where we live, and these days that’s a lifestyle choice. It’s not that we don’t like people, but rather between work, our hobbies, our family, and our religious lives, there isn’t enough time left over for the sort of relationships people want. We’ve tried, and one of the issues we’ve had with locals has been our lack of time to give, and our lack of desire to socialize (even within a religious or spiritual framework) with others. The moments when we wish for local community happen, but they do not happen frequently, and I feel there’s less chance of misleading people if we just sort of keep ourselves apart. Also, I have community – it’s just on-line, far flung, and not all that cohesive (unless people being awesome counts, which I think it does). I barely have time to stay in touch the way I’d like with people I already know and love; I don’t want to add more people to that. And, more to the point: I want to be home, with my family, all the time. So, I work at my day job, and I run errands, and I sometimes go wandering about parks and waterways, but mostly? Mostly I’m home, reading or knitting or studying or writing. I like home. I love home. I want to be home.
I take supplements to help. For the anxiety, I’ve found that vitamin D and St. John’s Wort to be indispensable. The vit D was a surprise – I started taking it as a matter of course because I live in the Pacific Northwest, and everyone is vitamin D deficient here. I did not expect it to help stabilize me; maybe I ought to have.
I perform my devotions. There are many things I can skip. I can skip meditation. I can go months on end without practicing yoga. I can take quick showers that don’t entail the mindful washing away of psychic contamination from others (yes, I have a shower ritual). But when I skip my tea offering to Poseidon in the morning for more than a few days, it shows is my ability to function in the world. It shows in the amount of stress I can handle gracefully.
I write. Even if I’m doing everything else and I let the writing go, sooner rather than later I find myself over-wrought, scattered, pressed too tight into my skin, and so on.
It’s not a lot, right? Four simple things that, when I pay proper attention to them, help me be in the world as a caring, open, generous, compassionate being. Four things that, when I ignore them, reduce me to . . . I don’t even know what. I become miserable, and fearful, hopeless and scared, and exhausted.
It was a number of things that found me, in July, at the bottom of a depression-and-anxiety pit. A number of unavoidable and even reasonable-to-end-up-in-that-pit over. Grim’s illness and death, the Vigil for the Bulls, the various things Poseidon nudged onto my plate, and the accumulation of all the things I put on my plate myself, and suddenly there was this mountain upon my back and I was being crushed.
“Dismantle this on your own, or you’re going to get help in doing it.”
It’s not that I don’t think help is a good thing. I’ve been on drugs to help manage this before . . . but I don’t want to have to talk to strangers about this. And since I’ve never talked to my new doctor about the depression and anxiety beyond the fact that it’s there, she counts as a stranger. Not wanting to have to got to PT made me get seriously committed to my daily exercises to improve my sciatic problem; not wanting to talk to strangers about my feelings is the quickest way to light that fire under me, to get me moving, and Poseidon knows that.
The first thing to tackle? The obligations I’ve committed myself to – all obligations to my writing, trying to hold a pace I cannot hold, trying to write things for the wrong reason. Except for one collaborative project (which is at an agreed-upon by both parties snail pace, and thus is not any real pressure), the only WIP that I’m dealing with at the moment is the story subscription. The subsequent books will follow, but I’m just easing off on the timetable because it was just too much. Research project? Don’t really want to do it. Other works in progress? On the back burner.
The second thing I tackled was finishing getting my Patreon account set up – because people were asking for it, and because it’s a fucking cool idea. I was cheered on through that process, and I can’t thank Beth or Silence enough for their support. (Staring at blank forms when already anxious is terrible. “Tell people why they should pledge to you!” They shouldn’t, I suck, I’m a hack, why am I doing this??? Thank the gods for people who understand anxiety and were able to cheer me through it. You rock.)
Then I started my tea libation in the morning again. Why’d I stop in the first place? Couldn’t tell you. I could say that I stopped drinking tea, and that’s true, but, you know, water’s an appropriate offering, too. I realize that this is partially my anxiety’s way of trying to remain in control. It’s harder to ignore Poseidon when I take the time to open myself up before His shrine. I also realize that part of my stepping back was due to some of the things He brought forth during the Vigil (I will write about that, I swear. I’m just . . it’s so much, and I’m having a hard time articulating it). Except, in the processing of this I need to honor my pace, and I need to honor that He always honors my pace, and to thus not drop everything entirely.
After that, I made sure to include the supplements into my morning routine again.
It’s only been a matter of days since His ultimatum, and I feel more like me than I have in a while. We’ll see how it goes, and if it’s too hard to maintain my baseline, then I’ll get outside help. For now, though, I think it’s possible to do this without it.