Tag Archives: anxiety

Ether Or: Dark to Light Ruminating

Once more in electronic darkness and I am thinking of capricious time. How quickly the last six months have passed and how little I have accomplished. How slowly these seven days to come will pass as I contend with a silent ether and my loud and persistent demons.

The drive into this valley (oh, had I known, I would never have come here) was frustrating and hard on Blanche, Betty, me, and Sam. Signal loss resulting in wrong turns. Cars behind me too impatient to allow me to get a map and sort out my route. Dead ends with difficult turn-arounds and deep mud. (Yay for 4-wheel drive!) I will escape into town mid-week to get my bearings, but I dread it. The road is treacherous even with a small truck.

And now I know why the spaces were readily available on such short notice. There is only one other trailer here plus the host. My assigned site was flooded, so the host said I could have one of several others.

I’m also out of porter. Probably, given my mood, that’s a good thing.

On my drive here, through Appalachian towns and highway construction, I was optimistic. The hills seemed manageable, then I turned toward this place about twenty miles out and my heart sank. Yes, another deep river valley, threatening rock falls on either side of the road, and shadows, shadows, shadows.

The gate attendant, a young mother, and her waif-like daughters are light — bright in their shining honey manes. The littles are energy and cheer as they pedal their bikes in circles and esses.

I think again of time.

Of a tiny, thin, tow-headed, green-eyed girl, all legs and arms and sunshine, grown now to honey-haired beauty; those eyes like a wild cat’s, large, intense, and mesmerizing. She is a mother herself now, and it is difficult at times for me not to cling to the little girl I remember. I still have dreams of her — small, vulnerable, and sometimes challenging, but always full of love. She is still bright, as if she carries her own light source in her chest. I’ve known few people like her in this world: my mother, my sister-in-law, a friend I lost in the divorce.

Sunshine.

And I think of how she and these little ones on their bikes, thus far, have the luxury of time while other children have not.

How time and cruelty take parents, lovers, friends, and children from us.

I am certain, most days, that I have time. That I will find my way before the geographical journey is done and “stay put” somewhere that makes me feel I am at home. That I will find my way on the emotional journey and stay put in a life that makes me feel whole again.

Other days, I wonder if I will simply wander until I can’t anymore.

Damn these mountains and the pits of despair they inflict on me.

Damn my memory.

Damn time.

Intermission

Last night, as I lay in bed, having driven a single-car road into these shadows, I had an intense, brief pain in my head. I’ve had them for years and am told they are akin to migraine or cluster headache but likely brought on by stress.

For a moment I considered it could be something more ominous and the sudden image of a quick and unexpected death here actually frightened me.

I discounted sheer self-preservation. I thought of people I love and miss so much when I am disconnected. I thought of how much those connections mean to me, even those that are merely electronic. What struck me, selfishly enough, was not how they will feel if I pass now (I can always minimize that in my depression), but how I will miss out on time with them. How I will miss out on a chance to get where I truly want to be.

It’s easy for me to think I am too old to ever be anywhere or anything, to feel productive and safe in a country of such division, to ever have a loving relationship again, etc.

I’ve been conditioned for forty years and two husbands to believe I am unlovable. One told me no one would ever love me like he did. (Well, thank the Universe for that!) The other, through implication not words, told me no one would ever really love me at all. I was just an object to “all men except him.” The Wrong Man, though caring and gentle and a good listener, rarely spoke of the non-corporeal things about me that he liked, and certainly never claimed love for me.

Going down that line of reasoning is what gets me into the wrong headspace. It makes it too easy to believe there are no men out there that would find me a good match. I’ve developed an almost pathological hatred for the institution of marriage (for me) and the smallest whiff of possessiveness or jealousy. That doesn’t fit well with my demographic (Xoomer/Boomer). I am quickly losing my appeal to the Xillenials and that’s probably for the best. 😄

So when night fell and I was alone and had gotten through my nightly cry, and had the realization that my life was, in fact, finite without my intervention, I “came to” for a moment.

In an odd way, it was a relief to be scared of my own mortality again. As anxious as those moments were, they were useful. I still feel like little more than an object. I still have little hope for anything resembling partnership. I’m still dismayed by American exceptionalism. However, I do want to see my loved ones again. I do want to try to make something of these last, potential years.

I don’t know what the next seven days will bring. Weather permitting, I’ll escape into a satellite-lit land for a small period of time to make further reservations and check on the signal at the upcoming reservations. To reach out and let my loved ones know I’m safe.

I may have to alter my path. I have let import things slide as I puttered through Appalachia, certain life was of little value.

It’s time to come out of the shadows.

Beauty in the shadow & light: Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla)

Shadowlands: Recognizing Abandonment Trauma

I am once again in a river valley shadowland. Sunlight filters in barely; Internet, not at all. Rather than being able to walk two blocks to check in with family, I would have to drive six or seven miles.

So, I didn’t even unhitch. Not out of laziness, mind you. Hitching and unhitching have become an enjoyable part of the process. They are like the pen and paper prep of writing a letter; not productive but necessary and oddly enjoyable.

No, I didn’t unhitch because my last time in such a place frightened me with how despondent I became in such utter isolation. I had people around me, but the sense of not having family and friends in the glass rectangle in my hands was suffocating. I was disturbed enough by this second round of connectivity blackout, that I thought, “If it gets really bad again, I will just leave. I’ll forfeit the night’s fee and get on the road, in the dark if I have to, and find a Walmart somewhere that allows me to park and reconnect with loved ones.

This isn’t addiction (no doubt, that is an issue for me) but it is dependence. The fear of losing contact with my friends and family has been a recurring nightmare since my thirties — since I began to be isolated from them quite literally.

It’s a common theme in people’s nightmares but for me it became pathological; I would dream of trying to call my mother and not being able to get through despite dozens of attempts and methods. From not being able to get “bars” on my phone to not being able to make the rotary dial turn properly to having an operator tell me no such number existed, my mother was unreachable in these stressful dreams. I would awaken near tears and sometimes raging.

At the time, I blamed my physical distance from her which I considered the fault of my parents and sibling. After her death, of course, I blamed the loss of her and my grief for these nightmares.

Now, I also blame the man I was married to, whose expectations of my behavior and his feelings about family (“family is overrated” was a favorite quip of his) kept me from pushing for travel to see my loved ones.

So this, like so many, frankly pathological, responses I have to what might just be annoyances to others, stems from a sort of slow, death-by-a-thousand-cuts trauma.

I lost decades with loved ones, with potential friends, and with places and things I loved (the Texas Hill Country, swimming). I gave those things up to be the good wife who did everything to keep him happy (translation: to minimize stress level in the home). That loss now means any separation, any risk of “never again,” frightens me.

I am sure this has played into a relationship I had as well—the Wrong man’s breadcrumbs calmed me immeasurably even though they were just that. Just knowing he was “out there” and had not completely abandoned me, gave me peace.

I am sure, in a twisted way, this fear also kept me in the marriage at least ten years longer than was reasonable. My husband was my family and only truly present friend after my daughter left. Who else would have me and how would I survive? I dare not lose my one connection. In other words, by the time I knew things were not right, I was emotionally bonded in a way that transcended the love relationship and became a pathological need for connection.

So, I had nightmares.

In addition to the phone call nightmares, I had nightmares that my husband was leaving me, literally abandoning me in parking lots as he drove off laughing. This was how much damage had been done to my psyche.

In real life, he assured me regularly that he wouldn’t leave. However, I had already been abandoned emotionally as far as my subconscious was concerned. If I didn’t behave as he wished, then he most certainly would abandon me physically. If I tried to be independent, if I insisted on seeing family by myself, if I pursued a career again that put me in contact with other men, if I made friends outside his circle, or if I “peacocked,” as he called it, by wearing or doing anything he deemed attention getting — all these were reasons, he implied, that gave him the right to abandon me.

But by year twenty-eight, I was exhausted. I was tired of wanting to die. I was tired of being apart from my family. I was tired of locking myself in bedrooms when strangers came over. I was tired of wearing virtual sacks and constant gray and brown. I was tired of carrying the weight of his expectations.

I have not dreamed the telephone nightmare or the abandonment nightmare since I left. I dream, instead, that I am with him again and he is “putting his foot down” again and I am so tired—again.

Still, nightmares or not, the anxiety of alone does not spare me in these beautiful but isolated places.

These two days have been easier, if only because it is two days, not five. I have not been careful about my choices for setting down for the night in one park or another. Once I get out of this valley and can look more closely at the coming weeks, I will be more cautious. A week without connection, is five days too long.

Perhaps, it will be slightly easier to have finally come to understand the cause of my fear. If the fear is based in “complex trauma,” that is a rational response, even though the fear itself is irrational. That recognition may allow me further and faster healing.

Just a pretty image on a positive note. Prunus sp.

The Unsubscribe Button is a Delusion: Survival & Concession as a Single Woman of a Certain Age

I’ve been contained in a valley of Wi-Fi, 5G, and visible spectrum shadows for five days. I can walk a few blocks to get a signal and walking is good for me, but I decided walking for that purpose was less beneficial. I’ve checked in with my brother and my daughter a few times, checked email, made additional arrangements for post-PA campgrounds, but largely avoided social media.

Sitting quietly this morning awaiting my Moka Pot coffee, I looked through downloaded email.

I thought I unsubscribed from this company.

Yes. Yes I did. And I have been patiently unsubscribing from email ads for weeks. Sometimes repeatedly. I have determined it is a lost cause. That effort is a scam; a method by which to inform the company that I am still here and still seeing their annoying emails despite my desire otherwise.

What’s the definition of insanity, again? Doing something over and over despite getting the same result?

I have spent every evening since I got here attempting to write both poetry and blog entries.

Insanity.

I’ve written some truly awful poems.

I’ve written some fairly tight blog posts; posts that were well-framed, clear, concise, and led to a meaningful and valid conclusion.

Unfortunately, each post was a deep dive into the loneliness and anxiety that this valley has exacerbated. I had hoped this time away from social media would be healing. I had hoped freeing my mind of the outside world’s concerns would allow me to address my own. The latter is true. The former is not.

Stuck in my own thoughts, without the words, images, and outright agony and stupidity of the outside world, all I could see was everything I have ever done wrong and the end of my road coming sooner rather than later.

Each post morbidly reflected this. I was, in a word, done.

For the first time since my marriage, I was thinking of a way out. Not just passively wondering if I wouldn’t awaken but actively writing goodbyes.

People in my life do not, cannot, grasp the tenuous hold I have on sanity and self-esteem as a result of being told, both in word and deed, for thirty years that my only real value was in being half of another person.*

They do not, cannot grasp how this impacts everything I do or don’t do. That to say, “I won’t feel insecure about my talent or intellect,” is as pointless as repeatedly hitting that unsubscribe button. My history is as tenacious as those repeated emails, bashing me daily with reminders of what I should want and do with my life and what I gave up.

I do not have an answer. Hiding in a connectivity desert is, apparently, life threatening. That much I have determined. Trying to unsubscribe from my thoughts and history is a waste of effort.

The pat answer is “get out there and grab what you want.” When your hands have been tied with worthlessness for twenty-three of thirty years and with training against and emotional beating for being independent the entire thirty years, how do you just magically slip those bindings and grab?

So, here I am, yet again, struggling with purpose, pointlessness, and isolation. Hitting “unsubscribe from this insecurity?” like a lab rat hitting a reward button.

Insanity.

* To be fair, to ask people to understand this when I do not reveal details of my relationship is probably a bit much. It doesn’t sound like a big deal. Lots of people believe “two become one.” How is that so bad? I will not detail that here, however. This blog isn’t about him.

Night Shift: the Anxiety of Staying Put

Last night, the world was silent, still, and dark in the state park I camped in with Sammy, Blanche, and Betty.* So dark I couldn’t see the RV parked next to me just fifty feet away.

If I walked to the edge of the lake, lights from small-town enclaves pierced the darkness at the lake’s perimeter and stars punched holes in the sky, but to see the ground in front of me required a bright flashlight beam. Thus far, parks and roadside campgrounds have been blessedly light-free.

Trees in Lake Whitney

Tonight, I am “camped” outside a business in a suburb of Dallas. (Permission of the proprietors) Brilliant security lights make reading possible through Blanche’s largest window and freeway traffic noise is as constant and thunderous as a storm day on the Surfside revetment. But I have power, a full water tank, and safety, and I am only a thirty-minute drive from my grandchildren.

I appreciate this brief way station and the reduction in costs it allows. Dallas isn’t exactly a haven for campers. Campgrounds I might have chosen were either priced higher than I prefer to pay currently or had, shall we say, issues. Add to that the significant distance from my family and the idea of setting up in those places was unappealing at best. Nor would Blanche fit comfortably, even for a short time, in East Dallas neighborhood streets.

So here we are, listening to the traffic storm and looking at the patterns in the ceiling carpet.

Ok, so there’s no pattern. It’s just beige carpet. There’s not much to look at, it turns out. Sleep would probably come if I were actually sleepy.

Sleep might come if I could shut my mind off and stop worrying:

  • About all the things I cannot do and have not done. 
  • About all the people I have disappointed or have disappointed me.
  • About time and the cruel forward motion of it. 
  • About his moss agate eyes.
  • About how none of this really matters. Not him. Not time. Not my failures or that of others. Not traffic noises in a lot behind a business. Not stars nor darkness nor silence. 

None of it matters. When I am dust, I will simply be dust. 

Cheerful meandering, eh?

I awaken to brilliant North Texas sunlight and blue skies, a brisk breeze, and the kind of space within which I can take care of life’s tasks that get set aside on the road: my old phone needs attention, Blanche had an injured turn indicator, I need items from shops not available in tiny rural towns that have only convenience stores and local diners.

My mood shifts slightly if only because to survive, to keep going yet another day, I have these things to do: little errands that hopefully won’t smack my bank account too hard.

It isn’t being alone that strains me or even lost relationships or love. Those are the rocks and potholes on the road. It is the inevitability of failure drummed into me since I was a child: “Come on, baby. You’re smarter than that.” “You’re intelligent. You just have no common sense.” “Darling, you forgot x again.” “You’re so intelligent. Why aren’t you more motivated?” That last while putting constraints on how I could use my education.

It isn’t the road I’m on that beats me down. It’s the road that came before.

I’m exhausted from the voices of my past. The voices of my future don’t stand a chance.

Unlike all the people around me lecturing me on how to move forward and how to find strength, I can’t quiet those voices. I try every day with new efforts and goals, but every night the darkness (no matter how well lit by security lights or stars) reminds me I am still me and I have only come so far and have so far to go with yet so little time left ahead.

I want to end this entry on some pithy, upbeat note. Some motivational preciousness that will redeem my mood for those of you who will tell me to put on a smile or “let go and let God.” Compartments, again.

I am, perhaps, a writer for the very reason that I can’t do those things. I can’t pretend I have no discernible income. I can’t pretend my heart isn’t scarred. I can’t pretend I believe I will survive despite staring down the barrel of 60 and having nothing to show for it save a higher education and a dog companion.

So I wrote this and y’all just have to take the agonizing posts with the pithy and hopeful.

*I’ve finally named my bicycle: JT (based on the brand and model). Now all pets and vehicles are officially named and as such are dependents that require I keep going.

Busyhead: Anxiety as a symptom of grief

My head is full of bees. Thoughts hum constantly and without direction.

Grief has been the strangest animal for me. Perhaps, in part, because what I am experiencing is a sort of “grief from a distance,” which has a character neither easier nor harder than any other grief, simply different. I lost both my parents after several years of living apart from them and seeing them only once or twice a year. I lost my much-loved sister-in-law who lived in the same general area as my parents, so was also not regularly in her presence.

My Big Dog, he was a daily, all-day presence and utterly dependent on me. With his ashes on my dresser, he remains a daily, all-day presence. I still feel his silken ear on my lap every day.

I am still processing all these losses but I think, some days, I’m getting a handle on my grief. I may think, “oh, I don’t think of Momma as much anymore, perhaps I’m healing” or “I cry less when I see pictures of Big Dog or notices his ashes.”

Then suddenly a day comes that I’m having panic attacks and feeling indescribably lonely and lost and I can’t understand why. I look at my life and it is all well and good. I am healthy and loved and fed and clothed. I lack for nothing really. But something gnaws at me until I can barely breathe and I look for comfort and peace in every corner of my world and fail to find it.

And one morning as I am sifting through the confusion and anxiety I stumble on the answer—I am still grieving .

And in this grief, I have a new enemy—Isolation. No one can grieve with me. Grief, like death, is a lonesome event. It does little good to have someone say, “Yes, I feel that way, too.”

And in this isolation, I find only more panic. Panic itself is isolating and a sort of cycle of terror sets in that can’t be interrupted by simple measures.

I have taken up bicycling.

I focus on training the new dog.

I listen to music as if it is a hard drug to which I am heavily addicted.

I stay away from television as much as possible as it seems to increase the anxiety.

I clean a lot. (Yay! Says the husband)

I have said goodbye too many times the last several years.

I’ll do it again before I get to heal because, well, you never really heal. I know it can’t be helped. It’s part of getting older. I will still rail against it.

I disappear into my head with the bees. I don’t know if the bees will ever leave.