The anxiety diaries: chapter 2

Missed part one? Read it here.

Gavin opened my eyes and stared up at the ceiling. The moon glow streaked in between the blinds and cast dim light onto his desk and across the comforter and the foot of the bed. In the far corner of the room, near the door, the light gently bounced off a mirror he’d never hung up.

Slowly, he rolled himself over to face the nightstand. The time was glowing on his smartphone screen but he was too groggy to decipher the numerals and make sense of what he saw in the distance. For a few moments he pondered what it would be like to be able to pinch to zoom in real life, to have such zooming powers in his eyes, at his fingertips.

It was still sometime before sunrise, he guessed nearing four o’clock. He stretched, scratched his chin and pushed himself up in the bed. Reaching for his glasses, he bumped his water bottle sending it tumbling to the rug. It landed in a shoe, casually left by the nightstand from his stumble to bed earlier that night. He left the water, and with the clear view from his glasses, grabbed his phone and saw the time clearly.

It was 3:53. Not too bad, he thought, reflecting on his ability to guess the time.

He was still tired but something was eating at him. The stress of so many things — work, school, family — it wasn’t that it scared him, but it was something that he always thought about. He’d forgotten about the bills of late, but they were paid off for the most part. Rent was due soon, and so was the internet bill, but he’d be able to cover them by the time pay day rolled around. Four days until payday. Four long days. Four days of new stresses.

Damn it, he thought. He was doing it again. Putting himself through hell for no reason was getting to be something he was good at. He’d been doing so well lately, especially with a change in his medication. His new therapist was a godsend, mainly because he actually listened to what he said, not just telling him to think about certain things. Gavin felt safer since the change.

One piece of advice his therapist suggested was to get back in the journaling habit, to take some time to write each day and reflect on one good thing and one thing he’d use as a learning moment. Tomorrow, well, today really, would make four days since his appointment. Four days of journaling. Also, it would be five days since his 23rd birthday.

Gavin was determined to make 23 a better year. Last year had been a challenge in terms of overcoming and controlling anxiety issues, as well as adjusting to being himself, to learning to love himself. The first time he’d been into journaling, probably around age 20, he wrote himself letters every few days, letters to encourage himself. He’d challenge himself to read them as he woke up the next day, but they didn’t do much considering he gave up the habit before turning 21.

He decided to start with now. To remind himself of his worth and his determination. To have a goal for later today. It was his day off. Rather than sit around with no goals and do more than just read and attempt some healthy self-care, he wanted to feel and see productivity around him. 304-D needed to be “finished,” to be more like home. The mirror had been sitting in the corner since he moved in, and it was time for it to be put on the wall.

Reaching for his phone again, he saw it was now 4:11. He unlocked the screen and tapped the memo app icon. Opening a new note he wrote:

do something worthwhile. hang up the mirror. clean the bathroom. make the bed. go for a run around the park. read for one hour. mediate for ten minutes. remember to journal. take meds.

Gavin was never good at making a list, but if he wrote everything to look like a paragraph, it made a bit more sense. Tapping the settings icon, he tapped the “remind me” button next and set it for 8:15 a.m. He leaned over and put the phone on the floor so he’d have to reach for the alarm when it reminded him about the memo.

He looked back to his right and the moon glow seeping in. It was peaceful, almost like seeing another world. The lights of the city were masked by the darkness and the moon’s presence gave him hope that it was still time for rest. There was still time to breathe.

Lifting his head slightly and adjusting his pillows he eased himself back into a comfortable position between the sheets. Grabbing the second pillow and pulling it tight into his chest, he lay on his right, closing his eyes as the moon’s peaceful glow illuminated him and he drifted back to a calm slumber.


Thanks for reading part two. Feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Confusion, division and progress

I want to say something meaningful, but I’m having some trouble finding my words. I don’t want to offend, but at the same time, I need to vent. We all face challenges like this. The wrong words at the wrong time drive anxiety and stress to grow, and that’s something (I hope) none of us want.

It’s a confusing time to say the least. The world is observing and reacting to the rule of a new President of the United States, and divisiveness is high. Many people feel left out and scared because of change in policies; others feel like their voices are finally being heard because they feel like no one has spoken for them for a while.

Both sides have a right to speak their minds, but the things being said are quite troubling. The divisiveness is coming from both sides. When someone speaks out and it hurts another person, that’s not right. Let me illustrate some examples of what I feel is making things worse.

A lot of folks on the more conservative side of the political spectrum feel like government is doing or has done too much in the past, especially in terms of laws about marriage, families and healthcare. They might feel that marriage should only be legal between a man and woman, or that adoption is only for married, straight families. Perhaps healthcare insurance should only be an option, not a right and not be a required purchase if not available through an employer.

Those persons on the liberal end of culture are more pro-government, believing that government mandates provide equal protections for all individuals and rights without restrictions. Marriage is open to all individuals regardless of gender or sexual identity. Families can be single- or multi-parent and adopt. Healthcare is a right for all persons. We have lived in a liberal-lead country for the past eight years; younger persons and millennials feel that this is the right direction to go in. The future is for a more liberal-minded thinking.

The more conservative-minded thinking comes from older and more rural individuals. These populations tend to feel neglected by the media or stay less connected to what is happening around the world and the advances of how things evolve. I’m not saying this is true of anyone and everyone in more rural areas, but if when a person is less in-touch with a digital, social culture like the people in more connected and populated areas, they might feel left out. What’s wrong with saying that is part of their own choice, that they could do more to be informed?

As a former teacher, I think we could all use a lesson on cultural awareness, social responsibility and defining and understanding credible sources. One of the hardest things to teach was helping middle and high school students look at a news or reference source and realize whether it was useful, beneficial, or relevant. It takes time, but it’s something everyone should know how to do. It’s not that we need to be taught how to believe, but what to believe, to know the difference between fact and opinion. Everyone should know or realize that there are no alternative facts, that it’s only the newly-minted replacement phrase for opinions.

There are things we all know but neglect to keep and hold as part of our belief systems. If you don’t have something nice to say, you know you should not say it. It’s not that you have to be politically correct, but if you call some retarded, you are going to offend someone else. The r-word is offensive because someone doesn’t choose to be that way, and they can’t easily change something they can’t control. The same goes for calling someone or something gay, for using offensive gender and racial terms, and so on.

We have reached a point in time where we all need to think before we act. It’s not an easy task to be ourselves, stand up for ourselves, and be responsible. We can all work harder each day toward empowering others, smiling, lending a helping hand, and choosing to be positive. We all have a right to speak our minds, but it will be all the better if what we say mends barriers and brings us together rather than divides us further. Granted, sometimes the truth will hurt, but if it isn’t constructive and it’s only for your gain and not to improve others, it’s probably not right.

*I am in the process of refining these thoughts and working diligently to understand thoughts from all people about the issue at hand. I know all people will never agree on all things. The important thing is that we listen, pay attention and work to live meaningful lives.

I will not sit still…

There’s a lot of turmoil in the world. Over the past ten days, a lot has changed. The U.S. has a new President, and my feelings toward him and the direction our country is going in are a mix of confusion and fear.

A person should not have to fear for their well-being when they are doing everything to the best of their abilities. Our President is so eager to change anything and everything, and to top it off, he has no experience in these matters. His advisers aren’t quite experienced either. I fear for what our country may be in one year’s time.

You see, I don’t have the ability to be still, to be silent, to sit idly by when I see wrongdoing committed against my fellow man. I’m not one to close off contact or keep someone away. I want to hear stories, make friends, and bring people together. The fact that our President wants to ban entry – no matter what he says about time – from persons of certain religions or nations – and despite their refugee status and the vetting they have already gone through – it all just baffles me.

What other nations may think of us now is fitting. The U.S. has always been a beacon of hope. We have welcomed everyone. Look at what the State of Liberty stands for. We are a nation of immigrants and yet we are turning away so many looking for a new beginning, for hope and a chance at changing their lives.

I truly believe in the first amendment and keeping and having your own beliefs. The part that I can’t let happen is how another person’s beliefs become a detriment on another person or group. Gay marriage isn’t going to destroy a straight couple’s marriage or family. The same goes for interracial marriage or a 22-year-old marrying a 50-year-old. For me, the same goes too for refugees looking for a new home. They’re already being vetted and cleared before entering our country. They are taking the proper channels. They want to become citizens. Why is it that so many people think those of us that support building bridges, not walls, are so keen to just let anyone in without a background check?

Change is inevitable.

People have voices.

The two go together.

Let’s not be still.

More thoughts to come in the coming days…

The anxiety diaries: a stab at creative writing

I attempted some creative pieces when I was in college. Until today, it’s probably been every bit of a year since I actually put my heart into it. I’m not saying this is great, but it’s not terrible. I have been meditating a lot recently about what anxiety means to me, and how I want to learn more about how I can help myself and others that suffer from issues related to anxiety. Here’s a start at what may become a larger story.


Gavin was scared but under control. It was the day after his 23rd birthday. He stood facing the wall, grasping his water bottle in his left hand and crinkled napkins in his right hand. Having just entered his apartment complex lobby, he stopped. Walking past the mailboxes he felt himself locking up. It wasn’t a new feeling. He felt like he’d just run a five-mile race. His heart beat faster than normal and he felt moisture on his brow. The fear he was feeling wasn’t new, but it wasn’t welcome.

Ten-or-so minutes ago, everything was fine. He was preparing to leave work and ride his bicycle the four blocks from the coffeehouse back to his home. The day at work had been normal with nothing stressing him out. His manager praised his accuracy and customer service techniques. Customers were pleasant, thankful, and full of good conversation. His coworkers, more so friends than anything else, were upbeat and happy to be around him.

Anxiety had peppered Gavin’s life since he was 19. The first time he experienced a panic attack was enough to make him know life would not – could not – be the same from that point forward. The twitching, the inability to focus forward and keep his hands on the steering wheel, and the fact that he couldn’t understand how he could stay on the road were all coming to a head with this fear and uneasiness that overcame him. Somehow, he focused out and made it home. He immediately got inside, climbed under the covers of his bed, and cried himself to sleep. At that point, he had no clue what had happened, but it felt like it was all his fault.

He stood in the lobby breathing in and out repeatedly for a few minutes, eventually sinking down to the floor, spinning around and sitting with his head against his knees, legs bent up. The sweat from his forehead soaked into his denim jeans as he tried to regain composure. At this point, he was realizing his bicycle still sat on the sidewalk outside the lobby doors. He was so shaken upon arriving home that he abandoned it upon arrival.

Gavin stood up and shed his coat and laid it on the counter by the door. He opened the door and re-entered the cold of the night walking the few feet distance to his bicycle. He picked it up and walked it back into the lobby with him. Fetching his coat again, he walked the bicycle back to the mailboxes. He fetched his keys from his pocket and unlocked box 304-D, his box for the past nine months. As usual, inside was nothing more than an advertisement for a home-cleaning service, as well as his rent notice for the month.

Feeling somewhat normal again, but not impressed by the typical mailbox contents, he folded both items up and placed them under his arm with his jacket and continued to roll the bicycle down the hall toward the elevator. It was approaching seven-o’clock, and through the window at the end of the hall Gavin saw the lights of the city illuminating against the night sky. He pressed the button to call the elevator and a simple bell toned as the door opened. He entered with his possessions and pressed the button for the third level. He looked down and felt the lift of the elevator as the door closed. The suffering subsided for now.

To be continued…?

Judge not. Some ramblings to help me feel better…

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An excerpt of the illustration by Toby Morris. Link

I stumbled upon a web illustration tonight on Facebook. A friend shared this, and it makes a lot of sense to me. It opens my eyes to how hard some must work to achieve the success that comes from hard work. Click here to see the illustration.

 

I would like to be able to say a lot about this. It would be nice to say I understand both sides. The problem is I have been guilty of thinking and judging others as is the case in the left side of the illustration. I think we’ve all been there. It’s a nasty habit and it’s something I feel I’m getting better at. When I was younger, I was privileged–good schools, helpful parents, etc. Over time, more responsibility and the decisions I made for myself impacted the road of life and the destinations where I arrived.

I am satisfied with where I am. But now, I’m able to identify more with the right side of the illustration, with the side where I have to work harder, do more, and work to achieve success even more. I left a good career that provided a reliable roof over my head to take a chance at happiness and take a job with a pay cut. Granted, I’m making close to what I made as a teacher, but I have better benefits, hours, and livelihood (socially and mentally) as a barista.

It’s nice to identify with the hard workers, the disadvantaged, and anyone else who hasn’t had the handouts that get them where they’re going. No, I’m not saying the privileged among us are not deserving of success. Many people work hard and get what they deserve. But it’s all about the judgment on each side. Don’t be too quick to judge. Be fair, be observant, and think about how you and/or others have made it to where you/they are.

Fixated on failure and the ability to move on

I wasn’t a great teacher. I was a good listener, but I wasn’t a truly great teacher. I guess I was a good tutor. Maybe I was a great teacher at times, but not much of the time. Sometimes I had not a clue what I was doing. I blame myself a little bit, but more than anything else, I blame a system where there was no curriculum, only standards. Furthermore, I want to blame the divide that exists between K-12 education and the college/university level. 

The K-12 level is now rife with politically-fueled tension because of oversight and control by outside groups and special interests that do not know the real motives, goals and abilities, and even the dreams and future goals of teachers and students. The special interests focus solely on the dollars and making themselves better while students and teachers only feel more bitter because of those decisions.

The college/university level is the home of dreamers and believers in new and innovative ways of teaching and those that leave teaching to teach teachers because they are so good at what they do. So many of these leaders at this level know not the real truth of the classroom due to their time away from the realities that surround the classroom walls.

In some ways, I know I could have done better by doing certain things differently when I was teaching. More so, I know that the system that prepared me for teaching failed me. The teacher education program was focused on trying this new thing and that new thing so often that they no longer had a clue what they existed to prepare future educators for.

It hurts to be on the outside looking in. I miss my classroom and my strategically positioned desk and computer and the cool things I could show my students to help them see how awesome writing and reading could be. I had another dream last night about school. I was in my old high school, but my freshman history teacher was telling me how she had quit too, and she was just running through the halls. Larry King was there, too, but I couldn’t tell you why. (Maybe I’m stressed? Ha-ha.) Then I woke up. I know, it makes no sense to you, dear reader, because dreams are strange. What got me and has stuck with me is how this dream has stuck with me. This is never often the case for me.

Who knows where I go from here. I have a masters degree I am interested in pursuing, but I know not what an actual dream job feels like, looks like, or leads me to. I’m enjoying being an hourly barista for now. I’d like to do more, but this keeps me busy, and it keeps me living, writing and dreaming.

One thing is certain: I’m not going to settle for mediocrity or getting by. I’m going to move on.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. -Steve Jobs

A reflection on a long campaign and where we go from here

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President-Elect Donald J. Trump (left) and Vice President-Elect Gov. Mike Pence in July 2016 at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. | Source: Wikimedia

Since the results of the 2016 United States Presidential election have come in, the country has been left in a state of division. This reality hasn’t been so much an issue since the Civil War. We must now bring both sides together and find a place to begin to heal. I imagine this will be even tougher and more complicated to endure than the campaign cycle. If we cannot accomplish healing, we will face problems for quite a long while.

 

No matter what the outcome of a Trump versus Clinton race would have yielded, we were going to see protests and complaining. I think this is multiplied more since the resulting popular vote was for Secretary Clinton, but the electoral vote of states went to Mr. Trump. Those in disagreement with the results should be allowed the right for peaceful protesting; this is there first amendment right, and we see it happening. However, three nights post-election, protests continue, and some are turning into violent riots as they did last evening in Portland, Ore.

In retrospect, neither candidate was the best candidate either party could put forward. I would have much rather seen an election that yielded an upstanding individual such as John Kasich (R) or Bernie Sanders (D/I). I liked each candidate for their straightforward approaches with passions to listen to citizens and promote generosity while working to move our country forward. Those are characteristics we should look for in any candidate; for lack of a better term, good-personism.

In breaking down the results and rhetoric of the past eighteen-or-so-months of campaigns, I was able to break down these important points for what I wanted from a candidate leading our country:

  • Respectful demeanor as a principled-leader
  • Higher education accessible and attainable for all
  • Promote clean energy that stops the problems of climate change
  • Keeping jobs in the United States and providing incentives for companies to stay, but also to locate here
  • A healthcare system that protects each citizen and allows them to get the best care – mental and physical – when and where they need it
  • Equal Rights – based on religion, sexuality, marriage, and race and ethnicity
  • Individual rights for each citizen to know what is best for themselves – in regards to healthcare especially

Does our new leader possess and promote these ideals? Not really – yet, but I have hope. People can change and he has already dramatically changed his demeanor in this transition from candidate to President-Elect.

I’m sure there are other thoughts I need to include here, but for now, these are my ideas. I look forward to a more inclusive, more fair Donald Trump as the President-Elect and the future President. While I greatly disagree with his party’s viewpoints, I know that his success has taken some hard work on his part. I hope he is willing to put in the effort that this position puts him in. Even though I did not support him in his candidacy, I would not be a good citizen if I was to root against him in the infancy of his presidential term. Former Evansville mayor Benjamin Bosse once said, “When everybody boosts, everybody wins,” and if we boost and support our new President, and in addition, take an active role in politics, we will win.