ANXIETY

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COPING WITH ANXIETY

I think back, 6 weeks since the hospitalization for a serious GI bleed. The terror of my body draining out blood without my knowledge does send my adrenaline off the roof. But that was 6 weeks ago, and I’m not sure explains my inability to go back to sleep when I wake at midnight, 1am, 2am, etc… Terror is not too much of a word. Excuse my bluntness, the head hospital Doc made me promise to pay attention to stool color; black means blood or the distinct possibility of it. If I ever see black again to go right to the bariatric surgeon and find out why the gastric stapling over 30 years ago is now causing problem after problem, this one, life threatening.

I realize my nervous system is running on overload 24/7, so my usual sleep challenges are not quelled by the the discipline of telling myself, ‘Stop the thinking, lie still, stay, you will go back to sleep,’ and I often do. Not now.

After a few responses to kind, caring blogging friends who ask why I’m up again at 3am, I think about my explanation of hyper-vigilance. Hyper-vigilance for sure. Fear.

Fear. That is what it takes for me to try to change a life-pattern of stuffing food down as fast as I can since the age of eight when Danny attacked; details so horrific they have not surfaced except for all the peripheral events….him creeping around in the dark, sitting gently on the bed beside me. My relief that it wasn’t a monster but my beloved brother.

He said so softly, like buttered syrup, “We’re going to play a game, “I’m the Daddy and you’re the Mommy.”

Then blankness. The only memory is the day after in the bathtub when I began screaming from stabbing pains ‘down there.’

And I know a violent rape occurred because when I approached him years later in my twenties and asked, he said, “It is better you don’t know.”

His next suicide attempt succeeded.

My eating began like a machine at age 8. Waking nights, I went to my mother, “I’m going to throw-up.”

“What do you want me to do, spit straw?” she bitterly grumbled in her sleep.

She had 8 children to care for. Her husband had just died, my Dad. Her cute little babies had grown and she couldn’t handle them. ‘She did the best she could,’ the motto I heard repeated over my lifetime like a mantra.

She fed me. I ate. And her sons kept attacking me, one by one, over and over.

My eating is not enjoyable, or savored, or even done without guilt, every bite. Fat people should not even be eating. That’s my belief. Not for others, just for me.

So how do you handle your anxiety? I’ve used many forms, but eating will always be my albatross and a challenge. These past several weeks my great constant fear at how I’ve been treating my body has come in question. I have to pay attention to its workings and not separate from ‘it’….oh, I’m so sorry poor body for calling you that. Let’s come together in love and wholeness.

Eating quells my anxiety. I hadn’t realized how much. That keeps me up these nights, along with the constant shoulder ache— because I am not allowing myself to be an ‘eating machine.’

Even when the ache diminished, my thoughts race like a thoroughbred. Taking away my coping strategy of eating to calm anxieties without a replacement strategy means highly heightened anxiety. I have eaten much smaller amounts these past weeks, and most of time, without mindless stuffing to the point of being stuffed. And chew. Not throw down food as fast as possible, chewing by counting to thirty chews. To stop ‘wolfing’ food I must be present. And that’s great. But now how do I handle the anxiety of daily life if I remove the coping mechanism I’ve used for the past 55 years.

I’ve missed too many days of meditation. So I go back to what works, and begin to dedicate my daily half hour, a requirement. Adding an evening half-hour would help, but probably won’t happen. That is a daily priority. It calms those racing thoughts, and brings me back into myself. 

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13 thoughts on “ANXIETY

  1. Reading this makes me so angry with your mother and brothers but more than the anger is the sadness for all you have had to endure. Yes the anxiety comes when we don’t use those coping mechanisms that we have used for so so long. This is hard hats work to sit with that anxiety and feel it and not ho back to those old patterns! But you are already doing it and I BELIEVE the longer you do without the replacement strategy the deeper the work, the harder it is but the greater the benefits you will reap, so easy to say but so hard to stay with the discomfort and lose sleep. Am here for you and I see you beating this as you have fought against all that tried to destroy your spirit and never succeeded!!! Your light shines brightly and lights a path for so many others. The world is a better place because of you Patricia. I believe!

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  2. My anxiety is high right now too and it’s interesting — these last few days I’ve been saying to myself that I’d like to try to create some room and space to start meditating again. I’m with you. Be gentle. I love your awareness — you know that your anxiety is higher because you’re not eating to soothe. I like to think there’s a lot of room for movement and possibility with that awareness. When we’re ready, right?! Sending love to you.

    Damn anxiety! I’d like to blast him with a blow torch but I think he’s going to saddle up and get cozy for a while so I have to soften my heart. Oy freaking vey! XO

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  3. When anxiety attacks, as it is doing now due to moving to a different apartment after 16 years in this one, my body reacts physically. This is something I have no control over. My neck tightens and hurts, along with my shoulder. I get severe headaches that no pill can seem to find. My digestion system acts up, leaving me stuck at home, along with being unable to eat. (How one can happen without the other, I have yet to understand.) So, I have to stop, get off the computer, listen to the endless tick of three battery-powered clocks, that don’t tick in sync. I don’t guess any of that really helps. I can’t take a bath, I’d never be able to get out of the bathtub, and for safety reasons, I’m not supposed to shower alone (I didn’t mean that quite like it sounded…), I eat sweets when they are available. I try not to buy them but then I find a box of brownie mix in the cabinet and off I go. I don’t guess this really helped much, so I guess I’m just sharing my experiences with anxiety.

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    1. And half-way through your kindness in sharing, you crack a joke and make me smile. You have a great sense of humor even amidst the pain.
      Thank you for sharing Karen, though I wish your body wouldn’t bunch up tight like that. Mine does too.
      Isn’t chocolate a health food?

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  4. (hugs) It is so, so hard. I don’t know quite what to say, but I have deep empathy for you. Please, know that you are often in my thoughts and I care. I hope your meditation can help still your mind so you can get some much needed rest.

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  5. Anxiety can be a torture, and I understand the pressing need to do something physical to soothe yourself. It’s very hard to let go of a coping system which has worked for you in some ways but has consequences you are no longer willing to tolerate. I felt very reluctant to say I would give up burning myself once and for all. Actually, I still haven’t made that commitment. But one thing that does help me is to say, “I can also do [whatever behavior] in half an hour. First I will try [a walk, a book, a movie, a call with my sister, whatever], and then if that’s what I still need, then I can decide if I want to do it.” Most of the time, this means I don’t end up burning myself. I don’t know if this kind of strategy makes any sense for you (or maybe you already do this). At any rate, you have my sympathy as well as my warmest wishes that you will soon feel calmer and sleep better.

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    1. It makes perfect sense and I need to work harder at implementing it, because it does work. That drive to sooth with something that also harms, does go away in just a short while. Bearing those minutes can be hard, but any distractions, including those you named, do help. Thank you. Bearing our souls, the true honesty of our lives, is not easy.

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  6. How horrible that you had to endure such a traumatic childhood. There are no words. I will say how very interesting it is that eating was your coping mechanism and not eating is mine. It goes to show that eating disorders do not pick a size. You are so brave for sharing your tale. I will be back.

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