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Monthly Archives: February 2014

The unknown years

When I was young, I worked. I worked for my mother’s office before I was legally able to work, mostly admin stuff and some computer desktop work. Filing, mailings, that kind of stuff. Nothing terribly exciting, but they paid me, and it was before I really knew what a 9-5 job was like.

When I got into junior high school–before it was a middle school, FYI–I was bored. I was bored with school, bored with studying, and I wanted to start saving for my own car. My older brothers all had cars, so I wanted a car. So at fourteen, I got a special permit to work, and I got a job in food services. I worked after school and on weekends. Someone in my family had to drive me to-and-from work because it was too far away to walk. After about a year, I moved into retail, where I worked both as a sales person and as a cashier. Most of my time was as a cashier. I worked summers, after school, weekends…as often as they would allow so that I could continue to save money. I bought my grandparents’ old car. Then I bought my own car…a convertible.

In high school, I was still working retail, but I also started to dabble in computers. I began repairing computers for people on the side, and I started using a computer at home. I learned everything I could about computers, about software programs…word processing, spreadsheets, databases. I learned to help other people with computers. I got a part-time job working with computers when I got into college. Then I went part-time with college and full-time with computers. I never wondered what career I’d be in or what major I’d have in college.

Now, here I am, after my computer career has ended, and my writing (and publishing) career has stalled. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to still be publishing and I’d LOVE to still be writing books…but I am not. It’s not working for me right at the moment, so I am at a loss. I feel like a twenty-year-old who is trying to decide what major to pick in college. I’m “back-packing around Europe to find myself”…only I’m still at home.

I never wandered, or raised a fuss, or partied, or lazed around. I worked from the time I was able to, and I educated myself on my own and through formal schools. I knew what I wanted to do, what I enjoyed, what made me happy and furthered my life. Now, I’m lost and stagnating. And bored. I’m living the unknown years at the wrong time in my life. And it stinks.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in about me, anxiety, change, feeling lost, future, history

 

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Tonight, I win

I didn’t want my anxiety to rule, so tonight I went right back onto the bike, even after my episode last night. I went in prepared. I told Hub I was going in, and that I was taking the phone with me in case I needed to get to him and didn’t have the breath to yell (he was downstairs). I told him how long I would be on the bike, in case I didn’t make it out of the exercise room. (Of course, writing this, it sounds ridiculous, but anyway…) And I went into that damn room and I put the radio on and I sat on the bike seat. I went right back to my normal routine, starting up, doing upper body exercises at the beginning as usual, riding at a good pace.

I stuck with my pattern, checking my pulse only 3 times during the ride, and only for one minute each time. And the second time, right about midway through my allotted ride time, my pulse was up. It was up because I was riding at a good clip and my heart rate SHOULD have been up. And seriously? I cursed at my anxiety, out loud, telling it off.

FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! YOU DON’T OWN ME!

And I watched my pulse rate until the minute was up, and even though it was high, I let go of the handlebars and I continued with my ride. I sang with the music on the radio, I breathed in through my nose, out through my mouth. I looked around the room, I saw everything we have in there, I cataloged the stuffed animals from my youth (and gifts from Hub!) that sit on a set of shelves in there. I did my thing. I went all the way through my ride, and checked my pulse at the end, as I did my cool-down.

I won. This time, I won.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2014 in anxiety, pride, progress

 

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One giant step

Backward. Fuck.

Really, I don’t want to make this out to be a big deal, because I hope it isn’t. But right now, it is. And I want to cry.

*****WARNING: TRIGGER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO MAYBE BE DISTRESSED TO READ PANIC ATTACK DESCRIPTIONS********

I’ve been riding our recumbent bike three or four times a week. I was previously riding one at PT, but only for five minutes or so. I finally told them that I would ride at home, to free up that time to do things with them that I couldn’t do at home. Our bike at home (and the one at PT) has a digital read-out, that tells you all manner of things. I usually lock it on one screen that keeps me in tune with how fast I’m pedaling and how far I’ve gone. Sadly, it also tells me my heart rate, if I’m holding the handles. I specifically only check in on my heart rate 3-4 times during the ride, so I can see where I am, but not focus on the number.

Tonight I decided that I had a book to read–I rarely have new books to read anymore–so I would try reading on the bike rather than just biking to music. So I brought the book in with me and turned on the radio. And about four or five minutes in, despite the attempt to read, I realized I was making myself motion sick. I have that issue in cars and on boats–and sometimes on dry land while doing nothing because of my stupid vertigo/imbalance issues–but I didn’t even consider I would have that issue on the bike. Anyway, when I realized I was getting ill, I stopped reading and started watching the read-out instead. Because of the imbalance, I was also clutching the handles that had the heart rate measure thingy on them. Which meant I could see my heart rate as I was riding along…

And then I felt that familiar and unwanted wave of anxiety wash over my head like a wave. Down my face and neck, over my chest, down my arms. Of course the heart rate monitor went up…and up…and up. And I KNEW it was my anxiety, but each climb of the number made it worse. And I just couldn’t let go of those stupid handlebars. I slowed down my pedaling, started to try to slow my breathing. Talked to myself, reminded myself that I was okay, that exercise is SUPPOSED to increase my heart rate. That it was fine, I was fine. Over and over I told myself, and still the panic clutched at me. The anxiety pressed down on me. Wrapped me in a cocoon and suffocated me. I battled back, and continued biking. More slowly, until my time was up, even though I felt my heart beating so hard in my chest that I thought I could see it when I looked down. I felt shaky and unstable, but I stayed there, no longer pedaling, watching the heart rate as I tried to slow down. I looked up and away from the bike’s digital read-out, softened my eyes, looked at everything else in the room, tried to bring myself into the moment. Then I got up, turned off the radio and the light in the room, went and moved laundry from the washer to the dryer, and came into my bedroom. And I told Hub what happened. He asked if I needed anything, said he loved me, and let me be.

Even now, twenty minutes later, I have a terrible taste in my mouth, I have chills, and I feel wired. Still shaky. I feel sad, angry, and let down at myself.I don’t like it, and I want it to go away. The residual shakiness takes time to go away, I know, but it leaves me feeling on the edge.

I have had a headache all day and now it feels amplified. Lights hurt my eyes (last night, too). It’s potentially a migraine episode hanging around, even though I don’t generally get the classic painful migraine. Either way, it’s just adding to my lousy, along with an aching jaw from a TMJ flare…probably clenching because of the headache yesterday and today. *sigh*

So not happy.

 

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Snow anxiety

It’s been mostly uneventful for us on this day of snow. We got about 12″ to this morning and now it’s snowing again. They’re saying another 2-4″ before the evening is through. We didn’t have to go out, so we were fine. The dogs went out a couple of times, did their thing, and have mostly been inside (with the exception of Butthead going crazy leaping around and running in a big circle around the yard). I actually came upstairs to lay down this afternoon because I haven’t been sleeping well and my back has been bothering me, so I took advantage of Hub being home and I tried to nap. Didn’t actually happen, but I gave it a try. In between laundry, of course.

So I went to make dinner as Hub was doing the dinner thing for the dogs. When they came in post-eating-post-outside, Hub went to give them a treat…and he gave me a look. Asked me for some juice, said he felt like he had bile in his throat and wanted to get rid of the taste in his mouth. I rushed to get him a glass of juice, then gave him some Tums. But he still didn’t seem right. After I ate, he had some toast and yogurt, but admitted he still wasn’t feeling right. But he can’t explain what that means.

Hub has a heart condition. His pulse rate runs high and sometimes his heart races. He’d been having the racing feeling and so he went to the cardiologist. They indicated that they weren’t too worried based on what they saw in the office, but suggested he wear a halter monitor for a day so they could get more information. But they only have a few of them available…and none were in at the time of his appointment. So he had to schedule to come back. He called again on Tuesday to find out when he could get the halter monitor, but they said next week, to come in the morning to get connected. So tonight he tells me he felt like his heart was racing on and off today, but isn’t sure if it was anxiety. The other night he felt this way, but went he checked his pulse on the bike (that has those pulse rate things on the handles), it wasn’t high. So now he isn’t sure if he’s really feeling the racing or if he’s dealing with anxiety. I went to check on him a few minutes ago and he said he still didn’t feel right. Maybe he was getting the flu…people in his office were getting it. But he doesn’t feel feverish or have the chills, no aches, no headache…only a mild feeling of nausea and the bile. He has some heartburn issues, so the bile could just be freaking him out, on top of the heart stuff. And I know he is worried that he’s falling into anxiety. I have no way to help him.

I am trying not to freak out myself, because if he gets sick and needs an ambulance? Our very long driveway is covered with at least 12″ of snow. We didn’t clear it because we literally cannot. It’s too long and too much snow. How the hell would an ambulance get to him? They would be able to get to the street at the end of the driveway, but our driveway is at least 150-200 feet long and filled with snow. Snow everywhere. And I’m working myself into anxiety thinking about it. It’s a real struggle right now… My own anxiety is making me feel like I am sick. Like things hurt and my heart is not working properly. I am worried about him…so much so that it’s working me into a really really anxious moment. I want to keep asking him if he’s okay, but it isn’t good for him or me. But I’m afraid if I don’t check on him, something will happen and I won’t know in order to at least TRY to get him help.

Of course on top of this my stomach is unhappy, which makes me more anxious. Urg.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2014 in anxiety, family, fear, health anxiety, hub, snow, stress

 

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Some days

Some days I have thoughts that hit me hard.

I had a terrible night last night. Hub woke me about 3am because I was screaming in my sleep. He said it had gone on for over a minute solid and although he hated to wake me, he was worried that I wasn’t really getting good sleep anyway. Also, I think the screaming freaked him out…which is completely understandable. I was having one of those horrible snakes were biting me nightmares and I knew I was screaming Help me! Help me! in the dream. You know, those kind of muffled screams where you know you’re dreaming but you aren’t sure if you’re really screaming in the dream or in real life? Yeah, it was not pleasant. It was just as well he woke me, because I was entirely terrified in the nightmare. On the flip side, I wasn’t really able to sleep much all night. I’m back to having trouble sleeping, which is sucky.

Yesterday, I was really busy in the kitchen. After we went grocery shopping, I had a bunch of things I wanted to accomplish while Hub was running errands outside the house. It was all pretty much cooking and/or prepping food. I’m usually not good at doing multiple things like that at once (especially keeping track of things cooking and not burning), but since Hub was out, I took my time in concentrating and was able to do everything I needed to. When Hub came home and we were getting dinner ready to go on the table (which I’d spent part of the afternoon prepping and cooking), I was taking dried apple slices from our dehydrator and putting them into plastic containers…for the dogs. See, we’d bought some dried fruit dog treats for Le Moo and Butthead in the past, and I realized it’d be a lot cheaper and less worrisome (no preservatives or chemicals) if I went ahead and dried fruit at home for them. And I already had the dehydrator because we’d tried this in the past for Sweet Pea. Unfortunately, we didn’t follow through for SP because she didn’t like the way the fruit came out for some reason. I think it’s because I didn’t know how to do it properly, but I’ve figured that out now. So the dehydrator has made its way into a kitchen drawer that I can reach, and I regularly dry fruit (mostly apples, sometimes pears at the moment) slices for LM and BH. Which they enjoy immensely (as does Cray-cray Lab when I have overage to share).

So I was standing in the kitchen with Hub, plucking dried and cut apple slices from the dehydrator and dumping them into plastic containers. And it made my heart hurt a little. So I said to Hub, “Do you ever feel like we didn’t do right by Sweet Pea? That we didn’t give her the best of the best like we do for LM and BH?” My explanation to you readers is that we are extremely careful these days about what we feed LM and BH. They get relatively expensive food that is made in the USA and is grain free (LM has sensitive skin), that we have to order from online because it isn’t available in local pet stores. We also only buy natural treats (or make our own!) with food sourced and made in the USA because of all the issues with dog food/treats made in China. With SP, we bought a higher end food available in pet stores, which turns out to be a pretty crappy food. We bought her all kinds of crappy treats, made in China and who-knows-where…and treats just filled with chemicals and crap. Why? Well, mostly because we didn’t know any better at the time. And also, society wasn’t as informed on all these issues at that time. But seriously? Now we don’t buy treats without reading the labels, and the majority of what we have in our house are treats made from human-grade food, with everything made and sourced in the USA. And I say “majority” because there’s some stuff that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, even though they say it’s made with human-grade ingredients. Also, I make low-fat doggy ice cream every couple of months for our pups…along with the apples (every couple of weeks), and we often pop plain popcorn for them as treats. We’re uber careful these days. Back with SP, we shared McDonald’s french fries with her (they were a favorite occasional treat), we gave her that fake Beggin’ strips bacon crap all the time, and other low-end, chemical filled treats. I shared cottage cheese with her sometimes, and later in life we gave her crappy american cheese in order to get her to take her pills every day. (I still can’t eat that cheese that comes in single-serving plastic pouch things? The sound of that crinkling plastic makes me cry. We gave her that cheese every day for so many years…I just can’t.)

Don’t get me wrong, SP was spoiled freaking rotten. And we loved her to no end. I still grieve her, and I sometimes still cry when I think of her. I still feel like there’s a part of me missing every single day. That dog was my heart. But we didn’t know…we weren’t as educated, nor was society. But it does hurt me that we didn’t give her as good a life as we’re giving LM and BH. I know it may sound strange to some of you, but these are my thoughts.

Hub reassured me that we gave Sweet Pea a great life, and did everything we knew of to make her happy and healthy. In my heart, I know it’s true. Sometimes it is harder to convince my mind, though.

I struggle with feelings of guilt a lot. With relation to my family and to my dogs. It’s something I’m still working on, because I’m well aware that not one person in my family (alive or not) would want me to live riddled with guilt. And not one dog (well, maybe Le Moo)–if they could understand–would want me to live that way either. It’s all in my own head…and I will continue to work to conquer it. But some days, it sneaks up on me.

And now, some pictures. Enjoy!

It’s all fun and games until Butthead is awake.

Don't let that innocent look fool you...she's plotting something horrible...

Don’t let that innocent look fool you…she’s plotting something horrible…

Look at that face, would you? (That’s Cray-cray Lab one day when she was hanging out with us.)

I luuufff you...where's MY dried apples?

I luuufff you…where’s MY dried apples?

Guilt-monster, that Le Moo. Both beds are equally nice, but the one in the corner was hers originally, and she does prefer to lay there. Every now and then we catch her lowering herself to sleep on Butthead’s bed.

2014-01-25 10.20.45

She’s on MY bed and now I have to lay on this horrible bed that smells like HER

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in anxiety, dogs, dreams, feeling lost, grief, guilt, in my head, loss, love

 

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When I was (part 2)

This is a continuation of the previous post, When I was.

I had a job that was important to me. I did my job well, I was respected, but I was overworked. Hub and I were newly married by only about a year. And I got sick. I was so tired, so much, and I ended up with walking pneumonia. I took a leave of absence from my job to try to recover…they were understanding at first. They let me go on short term medical leave, but my illness got worse. I got over the pneumonia, but I was weak and tired…way more than was normal after a virus. So we started going to doctors (which I talk about in other blog posts), but during this time I began writing. I wrote a book, staying up late into the night, writing until my arm was weak and my fingers couldn’t grasp the pen anymore. I slept late into the day while Hub went to work to support us…taking time off to go to doctor’s appointments with me when he could. Other times, my mother took me to see the doctors. But the writing was cathartic, and it seemed to give me life–a reason to find consciousness every day–as I struggled with my health. And with the anger and fear and anxiety and depression that followed me every day. I had no idea what was happening to me physically, but the writing kept me in another world that was normal and sane and happy.

My grandfather was sick…he wasn’t well during my wedding. Less than a year later, he died. I was so sick that I wasn’t able to see him much during that time. I got my book published the summer of 2001, so I was wrapped up in that excitement, even as I was still struggling with my health. And I’d been out of work for over 9 months, and my company finally told me they couldn’t continue to hold my job open. They said they would try to find another position for me when I was ready to return, but I was too angry with them, so I quit. I also wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to work full-time again, because my recovery was so slow. So I started a new book. Again, it kept me alert and sane, grounded in my life even as I lived in my book and with my characters. As I was making my way through my illness, with my writing, with my new world of not supporting myself and relying on my husband for everything, 9/11 happened.

For years I struggled with my health, with doctors, with not knowing and anxiety…fear. And through those years I wrote books and published them. A couple of times I published through other publishers, then I decided to open a publishing company of my own. Just as I got sick the second time. It took me much longer to get the publishing company up and running because of my second illness, but I managed to do it. I had help from family, but the majority of the work was my responsibility. I did everything except accounting, and even then I did some of it because I tracked and paid royalties to our authors. And I ran this publishing company–which became a huge part of my life–for ten years. Along with publishing my own books. But the industry changed massively over the last ten years, and small publishers like us were becoming obsolete. Between that and the issues I went through with my Prilosec-fever and subsequent anxiety issues, I finally closed the publishing company this past fall.

I published another book last summer, but I haven’t really written one in a couple of years. Although I feel the urge to write, I haven’t really been able to. And it makes me feel lost and alone, without a purpose. Which makes me sad. Writing has always been the thing I turned to when I felt lost or in pain, alone, fearful, anxious, unhappy. Whether it was poetry or fiction, I always fall back to my writing. This time I am writing on this blog, but it isn’t exactly the same as the creative type writing I’ve done in the past. I miss it terribly, but it’s just outside my reach.

For now.

 

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When I was

I’ve never really talked about what my career was or is. Mostly, I think, because I’ve been at a standstill in this part of my life.

I started working very young doing office work for my mother’s company. Then I went into retail as soon as it was legal for me to do so. I worked through middle school and all through my high school years. Once I went into college, I ended up working full-time and going to school part-time. I was in college for a writing degree, but I was working in computers. I grew up in a time when computers were NOT common in the home. You know, back in the day when dial-up was through a 2400 baud modem. Anyone? Anyone? <chirp, chirp> Yeah, I know, a million years ago. I accidentally fell into a computer career because it was interesting to me and it was easy. 90% of what I knew I had learned on my own, and I took that and made a career out of it. It paid really nicely, allowed me to work at a flexible and easy-going job (initially), and so I loved it. I continued in school for writing–because I had always been creative and I loved writing–but I worked in the computer industry. And I remained in the computer industry all through college and after, even though my degree was in writing.

I let my writing go for many years. I found great interest in computers, as they changed often and it kept me intrigued. I also found out that the industry I was in was not so accepting of females, and yet I’d grown up surrounded by boys, so I was less than intimidated. I went from working for an all-female company–where we wore shorts to work in the summer and walked barefoot in the office all year round–to an engineering firm that was riddled with geeks and nerds. The only women on staff in the 50+ company were in the accounting department, the HR department, or at the front desk…with the exception of one female engineer and me. I became fast friends with the female engineer, and felt an easy camaraderie with my direct boss. He was interested in mentoring me, and I was lucky that he was not only knowledgeable and patient, but he was respectful of women. I enjoyed the challenge in this job, and made friends with many of the male engineers. I helped that company move physical locations by doing much of the framework for the new building’s network. I worked my ass off for that company, assuming (naively) that I would be rewarded. My boss was being moved up the chain of command, so I thought that my months and months of extra hard work would put me in line for his position. Instead, they hired a man from outside the company. He was resentful of my intimate knowledge of the company (I had not only written all the policies for the network and IT department, but I also was keeper of the company history)…and I was friendly with almost everyone in the company. With the major exception of the owner, who initially approved of everything I did…until he hired my new boss. My new boss basically sabotaged me to the owner, and within weeks of his hire, I was fired. The one and only time I’ve ever been fired. Called to the HR office, where a woman I was friends with for years gazed at me apologetically, and handed me my termination papers. Then I was walked back to my desk by the security person who I had helped train,where heĀ  watched as I packed up my desk and then he walked me out of the building. It was the one and only time I felt set apart in my industry, despite always being in the minority. I even asked the HR woman why I was being fired, and she literally shrugged and said “you’re an at-will employee and the company has decided to let you go.”

I was incredibly soured on the industry at that point. I had a mortgage to pay for, bills that required payment, but I wanted to do nothing. I was angry, and although I interviewed for jobs and had offers, I was hesitant to put myself back in the same position as before. But I finally found a company that I thought would be good to me. There were women in charge, it was woman-owned, and I felt that I would be supported in my position in the company. Again, I was working directly for a man, although this time he was not as amiable as my first male boss. But he did want me to learn, so I took that as something worthwhile. I invested myself again and worked hard. This time, I was given much more opportunity, and I ended up running the company’s IT systems on my own when my boss moved on. I was given a lot of responsibility and I lived up to their expectations…and then some. I was extremely well-respected by management, and I was able to hire a staff. And then, like the previous job, the company decided to expand into another building. Which I facilitated very successfully. I continued to be well-respected by all the staff in the company, and the owner was extremely fond of me. Until such time as my direct boss–the woman I’d been working for for years–decided that they needed a VP of IT, and that I was not experienced enough to fill that position. So she hired an older man who had management experience, but almost no IT experience to speak of. And that’s when my job went downhill. He liked me just fine, though I wasn’t entirely fond of him. But he also expected me to work way more hours than was reasonable, and he dumped every ounce of work on me because he couldn’t do any of it. I was overworked and stressed beyond belief…and I got sick.

When I was part 2…

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in about me, angry, anxiety, failure, history, stress

 

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