Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Holidays are Coming! :-(

This is my second Thanksgiving/Christmas season in Eating Disorder recovery, but my first where I am really working a program. I started in a support group for eating issues about this time last year (Oct 2019) so I was attending meetings during Thanksgiving and Christmas but wasn't actively trying to control this addiction. This year it's different.

I've been incredibly depressed and stressed recently and this morning I figured out at least part of the reason why - the holidays are coming! I'm not that far into my active program and so I'm still learning how to handle food challenges that come up in the course of everyday life. Add to that having social anxiety disorder (where food is the main way I cope with social situations) and I realized I'm dreading the holidays incredibly, especially Thanksgiving.

It still amazes me how I can give advice on recovery to others but totally forget it when it comes to myself. I do a newsletter for one support group I'm a part of and each year the November issue is about how to stay sober during the holidays. There are several great tips that I learned through research and share in the article, but the very first tip I list is, "Before the holidays hit, make a plan." 

However, this idea completely slipped my mind when thinking about how I would cope with the upcoming family gatherings that surround food. It took two appointments less than an hour apart this morning - one with my therapist and one with my nutritionist - to be reminded of this simple but important fact.

I still haven't totally fleshed out what "making a plan" means for me this holiday season, but I have started with a couple of things. 

To help with my food addiction, I decided to talk to family members to see what will be served. After getting the menu, I can decide what I want to bring that are healthier alternatives for what is already there. I don't plan on bringing a full meal for myself, but having some options I know I will like but aren't horrible for me should make mealtime easier.

Also, my nutritionist gave me permission to give myself grace and to remember that it's only one day. Even if I do "blow it," I don't need to spend the next week beating myself up. All that does is make me feel I should just give up completely. She encouraged me to celebrate each good choice and know that even if I make some bad choices, it's not the end of the world. I can try again the next day, or even as early as the next meal.

Having some accountability before and after a family function can also be useful. If I call my sponsor or another friend in one of the programs I'm in before I walk in (getting a much-needed pep talk beforehand) and then commit to calling as soon as I leave (to hopefully discuss how great I did), then I'm more likely to make better choices. Everyone loves to be praised for the good job they did - or encouraged that it's not the worst thing if it didn't go as well as hoped.

To help with my social anxiety, one thing I do is to park my car in such a way that I can leave if needed without having to move cars around. This "escape plan" reduces my anxiety by giving me an out without having to bother anyone. 

Another is a pre-emptive strike. This year I'm visiting my boyfriend's family the week before and including Christmas. I've only met one family member so far because they live out of state. We had planned to stay with family but after deciding that I need to make choices to decrease my anxiety, I realized that the money I spend on a hotel will be well worth it. There are just too many unknowns and by choosing this option, I can control one of them.

During family functions, I have given myself permission to walk outside or find a quiet place to decompress if the noise gets too overwhelming. It's important that I remember that I don't have to be in the middle of everything going on. I also try to help others so that the focus changes from my anxiety to meeting another's need.

I can't predict the future and thus, can't tell if Thanksgiving and Christmas will go well or not, but with a plan in place, at least I have a shot of making them the best they can be - even though I'm an addict with mental health issues.




Thursday, November 12, 2020

Depression Really Gets You Down

I have several mental illnesses as well as many physical health conditions. But the one that rules my life, especially lately, has been depression.

Even though I have major depression, I have had many accomplishments in my 52 years on the earth. I graduated with the highest GPA in my class for both my bachelor's and master's degrees. I was a single mom throughout the vast majority of my daughter's life and did most of it without a lot of support (financial, emotional, physical) from my ex. I am both a published photographer and writer.

So I'm what many would call "functional" in spite of my health challenges. I am able to do photography or writing work when I am bale to get work (unfortunately with COVID those are still few and far between). I am in a long-term, wonderful relationship with an amazing man. My finances, though not abundant, are in order. I am involved in several service positions and have been told by others that I'm a big help to them. 

But if you look past the surface, my life is a wreck. Internally, I'm a hot mess.

Every day lately, it's been a huge accomplishment for me to just make it out of bed. I consider it a good day if I haven't broken down in tears within an entire 24 hours. (Nothing wrong with breaking down in tears but I'm tired of being so sad all of the time.) Hygiene is going by the wayside in that I do what I have to do as far as bathing and dressing go but it's not only a big effort to do so, I do the absolute minimum. 

As difficult as those things are to deal with, what gets me more is how I just feel numb all of the time. I just don't care... and I'm one who usually cares a LOT - about people, about excelling at what I do, about my friends and family, about my environment, about keeping stuff clean and organized, about helping others. 

You know that symptom of depression where you no longer find joy in the things that you used to love? It's something you can't understand until you have felt that nothingness yourself. It makes no sense... how can you suddenly, without warning, not be passionate about things you have been passionate about for years? 

Writing and photography are two of these passions. But at the moment it's all I can do to make myself write something as simple as this blog... and I definitely don't pick up a camera unless I'm being paid to do it right now. 

I sit at my desk for hours and do "stuff". I know I'm doing something because I'm not sitting staring at the screen for those hours, but it never feels like I've accomplished a single thing at the end of the day. I even make sure to write down what I've accomplished every day, hoping that the joy of a long list will help. 

It doesn't. I can have a page of items that I have been able to tick off my to-do list and it just doesn't matter.

Last night I realized it has gone deeper than usual in that relationships are being affected. I love my long-term boyfriend more than anyone other than my daughter and right now I don't even want to see him. I don't find happiness when I get to visit with my daughter. Part of it is the over-riding numb feeling I have; part of it is that I'm tired of dragging them down with me into this pit. 

I escape into seemingly endless videos and old TV shows, usually while I'm still  trying to be "productive". That may not be unusual for many of us nowadays, but this is not my norm. I can probably count on one hand the number of TV shows I've watched by myself in the previous six months before this one, much less entire series. Now I watch something for hours each night. 

You are probably thinking that I need a therapist... or a psychiatrist... or meds... or God... or exercise... or alleviating my stress... or any of the myriad of things that do help some people in my situation. The thing is, none of those things seem to help me. 

I've been working with therapists for decades. I haven't found a psychiatrist who does anything other than push meds - and I've tried just about all of the prescriptions for depression out there and they don't work for me. I am a Christian and rely on my God to make it through each day, but this relationship doesn't change my mood. Exercise not only makes me feel worse because I get sore easily, but it's also out of the question at the moment due to an ankle injury. My living situation, finances, and work are all stressful and there's no way to really change these at the moment. 

So what do I do to keep from wanting to just give up completely?

I blog when I don't feel like it. I bathe even when it takes a major effort to do so. I get out of bed even when I feel like a lead weight on top of me. I research, and research, and research more to hopefully find a better psychiatrist who can actually make a difference. I pray and connect with others who share my beliefs. I brainstorm ideas on how to alleviate my stress. 

Basically, I keep going.

Even though it feels like this will never end, I know that one day it will. I just have to keep going until it does.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Self-Employment with Invisible Illnesses

In the 40 or so years I've been working (and I do count babysitting as my first "job"), my job path has taken many twists and turns. I have tried and thought about a variety of options for a career - wanting to be a stay-at-home mom, being a full-time nanny, thinking about majoring in math in college, volunteering as a DJ at a local college radio station, working a short stint as a professional audio engineer, and several others. I finally decided on teaching.

I won't go into the details, but burn-out, government interference in the teaching profession, and my mental illnesses and health issues all led to my leaving that career. 

However, a former teacher who has spent her whole life working with children but is now completely burnt out in that area doesn't have many other job possibilities. I never worked in food service or at a desk; technology has changed so much that my audio engineering days are long gone; plus I don't have the money to go back and get another degree in math or another field.

My dream was always to be a professional photographer and/or writer. In the past, I didn't have the self-confidence that I could make it so I opted for the safe route of a salaried career path. I did side work as a photographer for a long time and even got published a few times in a local newspaper. I wrote journals and essays for myself, always wondering if one day my writing could be published. Even as the realization came that I needed to leave teaching, I still thought I wouldn't be able to make it by working for myself.

Through the encouragement of family and friends, circumstances that made it the right time to try, many "God-coincidences", and a LOT of trial and error, my photography business started taking off. Then my writing also started becoming a good means of income. It's still not to the point I can make a living off solely my photography and writing, but I'm doing so much better than I ever dreamed. 

That said, there are a lot of pros and cons of working for yourself when you are also dealing with mental illnesses and several invisible health conditions. I've listed a few I've dealt with in case you are considering doing the same thing.

Pro... The freedom to set your own hours: If I'm extremely depressed or my anxiety is getting the best of me, I can do what I need to do for myself without having to clock in every day at the same time. Having flexibility also allows for the many doctor visits that go with having more than one chronic health condition.

Con... The freedom to set your own hours: Sometimes it can be hard to not work, especially when I'm in a hypomanic cycle. I get obsessed and have a hard time stopping, even when I need to eat or take a break. Not having set times to clock in and out means I often work evenings and weekends. Other times it can be hard to make myself sit at my desk at all and even when I do, my focus is all over the place. 

Pro... Not getting a steady paycheck: Working on your own means that you have the potential to make a lot more than in some jobs, especially one that pays minimum wage - the only kind of work I could get as one who is burned out with my initial career and who hasn't really trained for anything else. The sky is the limit if you work enough hours and hard enough.

Con... Not getting a steady paycheck: As Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of my most impactful mental health issues, not having a steady paycheck can add a lot to the anxiety I already feel on a daily basis. Even though I've recently built up a small savings cushion for the first time since working for myself, there is ALWAYS the anxiety that it could be wiped out at any moment if I can't get more work. There is also the issue of not being able to get certain financial perks, like a loan or a credit card, if you can't prove a regular income.

Pro... No day is the same: Every job is different. Each photography shoot, each writing assignment, each mystery shop, each Uber or Lyft ride... each one has unique aspects and I'm always having to be on my game to do each one to the best of my ability. 

Con... No day is the same: Again, my anxiety comes into play with not knowing the conditions I'm going to deal with in each individual job. There are times I wish I knew what I was going to be doing each day; what environmental conditions I would have to deal with; and exactly how long it would be until my work was completed for the day.

Pro... Being a business owner without training: Everything from marketing to social media to doing taxes means expanding my horizons and learning a lot of new information. As one who loves to figure out how to do something new as well as not having to rely on others, it can be fun to figure out the aspects of working on your own like building a website, designing a marketable logo, or producing a brochure of your work.

Con... Being a business owner without training: Sometimes it's extremely easy to get overwhelmed. That research I mentioned earlier is fun but it's also something that takes a lot of time, which is something in short measure if you are working for yourself. Every hour I spend on that website... or logo... or brochure... is taking away from time used actually earning income (though I always recognize that it's those kinds of things that are the way to get income later). 

Pro... Learning how to rely on God: As a Christian, I very much believe that God will take care of me. This means not always finding that provision in the exact way or timing I'd prefer (I would love a lot bigger savings account and often nicer "stuff") but I do know that what I need will somehow be there when I need it. This has made me realize that I can get by with much less than I thought I needed and has helped me appreciate what I already have.

Con... Learning how to rely on God: It's a great lesson to learn but it's HARD. My anxiety leads to many nights of tossing and turning when I wonder if I'm ever going to get more work. Fear of not having that steady paycheck or what the next work assignment will bring can overwhelm me at times. But I do know there's no other way to learn something like that kind of reliance except for living it.

As you see, there are pros and cons with the exact same points in every aspect of not holding a traditional job. Though it's not for everyone, for those with multiple mental and physical health needs, working for yourself is definitely something that should be considered as a means to doing what is needed to make it.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

An Expression and a Question

A while back, I made a note about something that was said to me in a support group meeting. This happens often. Many meetings I will find myself writing down insights others share, so that I can ponder them later. 

This particular phrase isn't an "insight," however. It's said often in these types of support groups and the one who says it probably has no idea that it can have two meanings. It's spoken as casually as the more common term, "Thanks for sharing," that several say at the end of every share.

Most of the time, this expression is saved for those instances someone shares a particularly heartfelt experience. There are some support group members who gravitate towards using it regularly, so during some meetings, it might be heard more often than usual. But in most of the groups I attend, it's rarely used.

This phrase is "We're glad you're here."

On the surface, it doesn't look like it has a double meaning. It's pretty straightforward. When you tell someone you are glad that he/she is here, then that's what you mean - you are glad that person is at the meeting.

I've been involved with support groups now for over 2 1/2 years. For the first 18 months, I didn't hear it that often. I said it maybe once or twice. But then September 2019, it was said to me after I shared and a lightbulb went off.

I'm Bipolar Type 2 and have several other medical and mental health issues. Suicidal thoughts flood my mind often when I'm really depressed. A stretch of several days in September 2019 was one of those times. Though I never got as far as having a plan on how to do it, this time I got very close.

I went to a meeting because it's what recovering addicts do. When I'm depressed, I'm usually quiet and won't talk to anyone. I had no plans to share. I was just going to listen to others and was hoping I'd walk out of there encouraged enough to not even want to make a plan.

I can't remember what the topic that night was, or even exactly what I shared. I'm pretty sure I shared some of the struggles I was dealing with and that I was really depressed. I may have even shared that I was suicidal.

I finished my share and heard many say the standard, "Thanks for sharing." But then I heard a sole person say, "We're glad you're here."

You know those "lightbulb moments" that you sometimes get? I had one right then.

I don't know if the person who said it meant for it to have the straightforward meaning. I didn't notice who said it so I couldn't ask. 

But when those words were spoken, to me, at that time, in my current state of mind, it meant more than 'someone was glad I was at the meeting.'

To me in that moment it meant that the person was glad I was still here, on earth, alive. 

I came across that phrase today when I was looking through some old notes. As I was even more suicidal a couple of weeks ago, and did have a plan during that dark time, I'm thankful that I was reminded that there are those who are glad I'm still here.

I'm also thankful for others who are still here, and not just at a meeting.

On this same idea of being glad you are here, I want to share a life-saving question that has saved my daughter, some of her friends, my mom, and myself. 

It is, "Will you promise you'll stay safe?" 

My daughter and my boyfriend know when I get really depressed or incredibly anxious to ask me. I do the same for them. We don’t answer until we are sure we can really promise… and being asked the question helped saved me that night a couple of weeks ago. Suicide hotlines are helpful but knowing that someone you know cares enough to go out on a limb and ask that question can literally be the difference between life and death.

If you see someone really down and have even the slightest suspicion that he/she is thinking about suicide, ask the question. If suicide is being thought about, it's not offensive if you ask. Those six words could potentially save a life.


Sunday, August 23, 2020

"Quarantine" has Reached a Whole New Level

Sometimes it seems like life just won't go your way. This can happen due to illness, relationships, job issues, mental health, or an infinite number of other reasons, including a pandemic. I know that every person out there is battling right now in some way or another due to COVID. But right now, I'm having a difficult time thinking about "every person out there" when I'm having it especially rough right now. 

August has been an incredibly tough month. It started out with a stomach issue I had. Though I was still able to do some things, I felt miserable a good bit of the time. I still have no idea what was going on at the time but after a little over a week, it just went away.

The first day I felt half-way normal, I decided to get back into my regular routine. Now that the YMCA is back open, I have started swimming again a few times a week. With my stomach issue, I couldn't chance it so I was greatly looking forward to getting back to doing it.

Something you need to know to understand what happened is that I don't have full range of motion in my right foot due to multiple injuries throughout my life. When I swim I work on this and try to flex and point that foot to increase its range of motion. 

For some reason that morning the range of motion was much greater than usual. I decided to take advantage of it and worked it out harder than usual - thinking I must be making progress with it since it was increasing.

I was fine the rest of the day... until late that afternoon. While walking down the hill to my boyfriend's apartment, I felt a sharp pain. I didn't turn it and didn't feel a pop or any other obvious reason for the injury. However, I could barely walk the rest of the way to his place.

The pain got worse throughout the evening. By the time I needed to leave, I knew I wouldn't be able to drive. It took everything I had to get back to my car... and my boyfriend drove me home. Little did I know then what the weeks ahead would involve.

I thought it was some type of strain or sprain. I looked up articles about foot injuries and from everything I could tell, there wasn't a break. I was pretty sure there was nothing that my doctor could do except get me a walking boot or brace (I already had both) so I decided to rest and wait it out. 

The first few days after the injury it seemed to be healing. I stayed off of it absolutely as much as possible and used an old walker that had been stored in the attic to go to the bathroom (the only place I went other than my bedroom). I did the RICE treatment, rest, ice, compression, and elevate, and assumed it would heal within a week or two.

But then it didn't. 

It got worse.

I decided to break down and call my primary doctor. Because they don't have the capacity to do an x-ray at their office, and I had no idea how I was going to get to and from the car to get to an office visit, we did a telehealth appointment. I described what was going on and was told to keep doing the same thing I had been doing. She gave me some slightly stronger pain medicine than the OTC meds I had been taking and I thought it would be enough.

It wasn't.

I don't know if the little bit of weight-bearing I did on it injured it more or if it just couldn't ever completely heal, but sometime towards the end of that first week, it was excruciating even when I was laying down. I couldn't even rest it on a pillow without crying. Nothing helped. 

I got a message to my doctor that I needed a specialist as well as a knee scooter or something similar in order to not have to walk on it at all. (I fell when I tried to hold it up while using the walker so I knew I needed something more stable). This was a long process - to get the referral for the orthopedist and the prescription for the scooter and I was in incredible pain while I waited.

Finally, the day of the appointment came. The doctor confirmed it was ligament damage (nothing broken) and gave me some steroid shots all around my ankle. I finally picked up the knee scooter (possibly the only one in the city). I got some better prescription meds - for pain and to relax the muscles around the ligaments. 

I am now on my 17th day with this injury. During this time I have only left my bedroom to go to the bathroom (just a few steps away), work in my study once (before it got so bad), go to three appointments using a combination of walking boot, walker, and wheelchair for each, and eat with my family earlier today in the dining room maybe 10 steps from my room.

Even though I have a laptop and a bedside table, I haven't been able to do much because it hurts too much if I let my foot dangle down for more than a few minutes (for example, I couldn't make it through lunch with my family without major pain). I am only able to do this blog because I finally figured out a way to set up the laptop so that I can keep my foot on the bed while I write.

So... August has been a bust. I have been able to get some things done on my computer but it's been slow going. Many days I was just in too much pain to be able to form coherent thoughts (which is why writing just hasn't been happening). 

I'm thankful for a few things even in the midst of this, though. I'm thankful that it happened during COVID, when I have very few events to photograph. I've been able to do a little writing but that's also limited due to COVID so I haven't gotten behind with work.

I'm thankful that I live with my parents. If you have read much of this blog at all, you know that it's been difficult at times to deal with being an adult living with your parents. But I honestly don't know what I would have done if I didn't have them. I try hard to not ask much of my parents but at least they will bring meals and drinks when I need them and when my boyfriend is at work.

I'm very thankful for my boyfriend. He has been amazing and has come over most of the time when he's off work, and he does whatever I ask without complaining (even empty the bedside commode I got - yuck!)

I'm thankful that earlier this year I changed to a laptop with a dock and an external monitor for my main computer instead of a CPU/monitor combo. At least I can work with everything on my desktop while I'm stuck in my bedroom. If I didn't have this system, I would've had to get help transferring files from my CPU to a laptop just so I could get some basic work done.

I'm also thankful that it's summer. I'm extremely heat-intolerant and am absolutely miserable in the heat and humidity in the South. If I have to be stuck at home, at least it wasn't during milder weather.

Yes, it's been an extremely difficult month so far. But even in the midst of the problems and pain, I have been able to endure and I've been taken care of. I have a lot to be grateful for.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Why Reward Based Systems Don't Work with Addicts

The other day I treated myself to a much-needed and long-awaited massage (obviously with the masseuse wearing a mask). While I was lying there, I thought about why I'd put this off for so long. My first thought was obviously my finances, as I've never made much money. But as pondered the whys, I realized there was also something else much more thought-provoking.

I love touch. It's my main "love language." I remember crying at my first massage after my prolonged separation/divorce because I had so little touch in my life after my ex left. I didn't date much because I wanted to focus on my daughter and my career, so massages were the only lengthy times I got to experience that craved touch. So, at first, I easily justified the expense. 

Then money got much tighter - and as time passed it got even tighter. My ex stopped paying child support. My daughter and I both had a lot of medical expenses. Massages were now considered a luxury. Even though they still fulfilled a basic need in my book, I wouldn't schedule them due to other needs that I felt had much higher priority.

Several times through the years when I decided to try once again to lose weight, I decided I could kill two birds with one stone - making that desired massage a reward for losing x-number of pounds. 

But the thing was... I was never able to get that reward.

Not...
Once...

Over the course of many years...

It...
Never...
Happened.

Even though it was one of my most enjoyed self-care elements and it fulfilled a need that nothing else could at the time, it never happened. I wanted one so badly. So why could I accomplish so much in life but never could make myself lose even a little weight in order to get something that I so desperately desired?

Since then, I've learned so much about that why. I realized I'm a food addict/compulsive overeater. One of the main tenets of addiction is that no amount of willpower and no punishment/reward in and of itself will provide lasting change. So that was one reason why I could never get to that place.

But somehow I felt there was more involved.

Fast forward to this past weekend... lying on that table, thinking about all this. I recognized there was more involved in this issue that just being an addict didn't include. Then I had the thought, "I'm glad I did this, even though I haven't lost weight or done anything to deserve it." 

The lightbulb went off - I didn't "need" to do anything to "deserve" it. 

The real reason I didn't get a massage during those lean years was that I didn't feel worthy of spending time and money on myself. I could have come up with the money to pay for it if I really wanted. I thought I had to perform (which, in this situation, meant losing weight) to justify the time and expense... to make myself "worthy." 

One huge struggle during my addiction recovery journey is that I'm loved the way I am. Though I am trying to recognize that who I am isn't defined by what I do, I still don't believe it in my heart. 

Every time I fail, there's more shame... there's more heartache... there's more confirmation that I'll never be able to do this (recover and reach a reasonable weight). Every time I lose a reward that I set up for myself these feelings are magnified and flood over me - and I feel even less worthy.

In fact, using punishment when I fail doesn't help because it's what I already think I deserve... all the time. I am so full of ever-present shame because I got myself into this mess that I punish myself daily - even when I'm experiencing success in my recovery battle. That punishment takes many forms but mostly it's by things like not buying clothes that look good on me because I feel I don't deserve to have them. (I also feel I don't deserve to be happy - possibly one reason for my overwhelming depression - but that's something to ponder more later.)

However, what I realized is that maybe I need to do those types of activities because I already am worthy... even if I'm not able to obtain one full day of abstinence from my eating addiction, even if I'm not successful at my career at the moment, and even if I feel like no matter how hard I try, I'll never make a difference in this world. 

I am worth spending time and money and effort on myself because I am me... and I don't need another reason. 

Another awareness from this idea is that maybe I've had it wrong all these years (actually, I know I've had it all wrong all these years - this is what got me into this mess). I've had it backward. 

Part of the reason I am so overweight is due to not feeling that I am worth enough to put the time, effort, and money into eating in a healthy way and exercising regularly. So feeling worthy enough to treat myself to a massage when I need it could be a big reminder that I'm also worthy enough to work the 12-Steps and do everything else that's included in eating disorder recovery. 

Then one day, chances are good that abstinence will come - not because I used rewards when I lost a few pounds or punished myself by not allowing myself nice things (like good clothes) when I didn't - but because I learned my worthiness doesn't come from performance...

And though my plan is to continue on this lifelong journey of recovery, I must remember that even if  I never reach my goal weight... I am worthy no matter what.




Monday, June 22, 2020

Literal Calm in the Midst of a Storm


It's been a terrible day.

It’s storming all around me. Incredible winds... thunder/lightning... a small lake forming in the backyard... and I'm in a screened-in porch. I had to move close to the house and put a big bag around my laptop to protect it from the blowing rain so I could write while I enjoyed the sounds, smells, and feelings of the storm. 

However, though externally I'm enjoying the storm, internally I'm a wreck.

It’s one of those days that's been a true roller coaster ride - jerky ups, steep downs, twists and turns and loops, and some boring straightaways. I fought with a company who misled me (and lost), contacted another company who charged me for something I didn’t receive (and won), filed for unemployment once again because they messed up at the unemployment office once again, had a huge fight with my daughter, was interviewed for an article about having a child who deals with mental illness, and did a few mundane chores.

Unfortunately, I don't have the choice of riding again. Most days include similar rides. Some are kiddie versions and some are the latest and greatest thrill rides, but for those who battle mental and physical illnesses as well as addictions, there are very few days with the option of not getting on at least one type of roller coaster.

Finding calm in the midst of these storms while riding that roller coaster is my goal. But how? 

In every addiction recovery group, the importance of gratefulness is mentioned. It's also vital for those with mental illness... or who lean towards pessimism... or actually anyone breathing.   

With everything I've gone through in my life, I thought I had justifiable reasons to be pessimistic. I use it as a safety measure - after all, if I've imagined and prepared for the worst thing that could happen, then I'd be ready for anything. 

But it doesn't work that way. Looking for the bad in everything, consciously or unconsciously, takes its toll. I am a prime example that if you have that attitude long enough, it's extremely difficult to change.  

Having several anxiety disorders doesn't help. In fact, they may be the cause. It's like the question of which came first - the chicken or the egg – but it really doesn't matter. It’s something that needs to be corrected. 

My epiphany started with a phone call. It was pity-party time and my boyfriend mentioned that I should be grateful within my horrible situation. However, earlier in the conversation, he had his own pity-party about an issue he's having. I thought I was so clever when I turned the tables on him, telling him that he should also be grateful in his situation.

Then he said three words that floored me:

"You are right."

I was speechless. I wanted him to agree that us wallowing in pity was okay. I sat there and tried to think of a good counterargument. 

I couldn't.  

There isn't one.  

In both situations, if we each looked hard enough, we could find something to be thankful for, even though just a few moments prior we each thought that these obstacles were insurmountable.

I then thought about other circumstances in my life that have been highly anxiety-producing lately: my eyesight and unemployment benefit problems. Both are massive issues. 

Every time I look around and can’t see something in the distance clearly, it produces anxiety. The doctors said that my eyes just need more time to completely heal after my cataract surgeries but there's always that little voice saying, "But what if they don't?" 

I am currently getting unemployment benefits (PUA) because there is almost no work currently in my field. You might be thinking, "But she can't work anyway due to the cataract surgeries." I could do photography shoots if I had to (it's just harder with these vision issues) so I’m relying on those benefits until events start back. Since I don’t know how long that will be, the anxiety keeps increasing every day my unemployment problems aren’t solved. 

Either issue could make even the most optimistic person worry… and I’m definitely not an optimist. Plus, I am dealing with both as well as several other small, but very burdensome, matters.

So how can I possibly be grateful? I can understand accepting them as "things I cannot change" (from "The Serenity Prayer"), but being grateful? 

Using the skills I use to find the worst in a good situation - and flipping it around - I found ways to be grateful even in bad situations. 

Concerning my eyesight... I don't have to dread the cataract surgeries anymore; because they were postponed to a time when I am out of work, I've been able to rest and heal easier; and even though I can't see clearly yet, my vision is much better without correction than I’ve ever experienced in my conscious memory.

Concerning unemployment... Freelancers typically can’t get unemployment, so receiving anything is a blessing; through working on these latest unemployment issues, I found a mistake in my favor; I discovered a useful app that auto-redials (the only way I could get a human in the unemployment office); and I was able to pass along what I’ve learned to others having similar problems. 

Concerning today’s issues... Although I lost money over the misleading subscription practices, at least I noticed it before I lost even more; the fight with my daughter helped me realize some things about myself that I need to work through; and I was able to contact unemployment the third time I called (a new record!) and hopefully fixed one of the issues.

So, though life might be storming around me while I'm riding that dang roller coaster (aren't rides supposed to be shut down during storms?) gratefulness might be the ticket that leads to calm in its midst.

And on a side note… the storm that was whirling around me when I started this post has now stopped. There's blue sky peeking through the clouds. Birds are singing. The wind is barely blowing. It's really mild for a late June afternoon in the South.

I loved the ferociousness of the storm but also love this calm. I just need to keep reminding myself that being grateful for the positive aspects of each will help me enjoy wherever I am - calm or storm.


... Just as I was finishing up this post and about to go inside, I heard "Taps" being played at a local cemetery.  I have never heard it from my home before. Hearing that wonderful song from so far in the distance during this enormous quiet after all of the sounds of the storm while writing this emotional blog is just one more reason I'm now calling today an amazing day.