Unfiltered Truths

There are a lot of topics that seem to be taboo in everyday conversation. For people like me who were born without a filter, I tend to break these unspoken conversation rules on a regular basis. Probably not the best trait for a human resources professional, but I am who I am… and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

This thought came to me yesterday while getting a therapeutic massage. My regular massage therapist has become difficult to book in with, so I’ve been trying out alternate RMTs. Although each practitioner has his or her different techniques, the initial visit is typically the same. They assess you while making notes on your chart, and then they leave while you undress and get on the table. In every case, they tell you to strip down to your underwear. This is when I usually explain that I don’t wear underwear; at least, I used to.

The idea that going commando should be kept a secret has never crossed my mind. I’m sure if you asked any one of my friends, they would know this about me. However, the last massage therapist I tried out seemed dumbfounded when I told her I’d be naked on the table. “Whoops” In that moment, I realized that it was possible being naked might be a faux pas. I didn’t have a spare pair in my purse, so I had no choice but to endure an awkward massage.

Needless to say, I didn’t return to that clinic. Not due to the “unmentionables” situation; I just wasn’t impressed by the overall experience. Which brings me to yesterday’s appointment. Since I didn’t want a repeat of my last experience, I brought a pair of undies with me to work. I threw them on at the end of the day, and off to my appointment I went. To prep me for my massage, she tucked the blanket into the edge of my underwear, and the massage began.

I fell into a half-sleep as she worked on my tight muscles, and all thoughts of a pair of panties drifted away.

Mental Health, Addictions, and Healing

When I was a little girl, I remember the feeling of constant fear and worry. I felt different from other people, and I was ashamed of myself. My mother called me a littler worrier. I worried about everything, anything and nothing. As I got older, I saw this a fault — something was wrong with me. I hid my true feelings from most people, as I didn’t want to be seen as weak. It wasn’t until my divorce that I was told I suffered from anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorder is what the doctor called my worries.

When the doctor explained the condition to me, it sounded plausible. However, it took years before I finally excepted it. At first, I figured I had fooled the doctor somehow. I wasn’t used to explaining my feelings to people, and I thought that maybe I wasn’t explaining thing correctly. Even when I noticed changes in myself from the medication, I was still in partial denial. I wanted to believe it, as it gave a name to what I felt. Getting my brain to accept it, however, took time. Thankfully, I’m at a place in life where I understand and accept my anxiety.

More recently, I’ve accepted to something else about myself. I have a very bad relationship with alcohol — specifically wine. I wouldn’t go as far as calling myself an alcoholic. From my understanding, an alcoholic has a physical and mental dependency on alcohol. I am not physically dependent on it, but I certainly drink more than I should.

The biggest problem is that I don’t want to stop drinking. Yet part of me thinks that maybe I should. I don’t know exactly when I began drinking as regularly as I do, but I know it’s been several years. The most noticeable side effect for me is weight gain. Especially as I age. My life has been a constant cycle of losing and gaining back 10 – 15lb (sometimes 20lb).

My diet is good, and I exercise more than the average person. Yet, my weight creeps up when I’ve been drinking steadily for a period of time. When I start to feel “too gross,” I get serious and stop drinking for usually a month. Just enough time to take off the extra weight, and then I’m right back to my daily drinking habit. As it stands today, I’ve just started a “dry” month. I’m uncomfortable in my own skin, and I knew I had to take action.

This time was harder than times past, and that scares me. I don’t want to lose myself to alcohol. The 12 step program isn’t for me, but I need to do some healing. Knowing this, I’ve turned to guided meditation and self-hypnosis. Every morning before I start my work day, I shut my office door, and I meditate. I have a small calendar taped to my desk, and each day I don’t drink gets a check mark. My end goal is to gain a better relationship with alcohol. I want to be able to enjoy a glass of wine from time to time without it being a daily habit.

I understand that I need to recognize why I drink as often as I do, and I’m working on it. This post is long enough, so I won’t elaborate on that journey. I have no idea if I’m on the right track, or if I’m fooling myself in thinking I can change my habit. That doesn’t really matter to me, as all I’m focused on is what I can control and do today.

The Pursuit of Contentment

During a deep conversation with a coworker today, she said something that got me thinking: “There’s got to be more to life than this.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard and said many times in life. I believe, as humans, we are rarely content with the status quo. We chase after promotions, new homes, new relationships, travel experiences, and so on. Dreams and goals are important; I believe they are what keep up going in life. However, I wonder if we spend too much time wanting and not enough time appreciating.

When I was in my 20s, I had a plan for my life. Go to school, get a good job, get married, buy a house… I had all of these things by the time I reach 27. With everything on my list checked off, I should have been happy, but instead I felt trapped. Trapped by the decisions I had made, and trapped by my fear to change things. Somewhere in my early 30s, I left my husband, sold my house, and changed jobs. Still, I was left feeling like there had to be more.

I’m now mid-40s, and I can safely say I’m content. Not to say I don’t still have goals and wants, I do. What I don’t have is that nagging feeling that something is missing in my life. Work is work; it pays the bills and gives me structure. I have close friends, a decent man, and a place to call home. I still want to see more places, learn more things, and experience new adventures, but those are all extras. My everyday life is good.

Maybe it’s an age thing, or maybe I realized that contentment comes from inside. Chasing things and status won’t fill voids and they don’t create happiness. Indeed, achievements are rewarding, and I have every intention of reaching goals. However, I’m perfectly happy living and enjoying daily life.

A Tough Call

It’s been an action packed week, which resulted in a $22,000 a year wage increase for myself. As I sit and reflect on everything that happened, I’m still unable to grasp it.

I’ve worked for my current employer for the past five years, and it’s had many ups and downs. Recently, I’ve felt the need for change. I need new challenges, and I want to make more money. I’m just gonna say it like it is. I’ve had some feelers out for a while now, and an interesting prospect came my way last week. Phone discussions and in person interviews led to an employment offer last Friday.

The offer was not what I had hoped for, so on Monday I declined. However, the recruiter continued to pursue me, and I agreed to further discussions. With nothing to lose, I sent them a counter offer fully expecting them to walk away. Instead, they agreed to my terms and I accepted the offer.

Wednesday morning, I met with my current bosses to resign my position, and I was completely shocked by their reaction. I’m the HR manager for the company, and I’ve witnessed their reaction to people leaving. They typically take it very personally, and they don’t handle it well. In my case, they were kind. So kind, they asked what they could do to change my mind.

My first reaction was that I wouldn’t entertain an offer. I had already signed an agreement with the new company, and I didn’t want my current employers to feel I was using this as a bargaining chip. Hours later, my boss asked to meet with me. He began by expressing how much the company valued me. He detailed every aspect of what I bring, and how they would consider this a great loss. He then held up my resignation letter and asked me what it would take to rip it up on the spot. I’m sure the look on my face was nothing less than “stunned”.

In that moment, I’ve never felt so valued and appreciated. I told him that I would not be able to give him an answer right then. However, I did give him a number that I felt I was worth. He offered me thousands over that. A number I never in my life thought I’d earn. I left his office with a promise that I would think it over and give them an answer by the end of the day.

I was overwhelmed, anxious, and I had no idea what I was going to do. I was now in a position that made me feel very uncomfortable. I had given my word to the other company, and I’m not one to go back on my word. But how could I not consider my own financial well being? How could I turn my back on a company that had always been pretty good to me? I’m not a ruthless business person, so the decision weight extremely heavy on me.

In the end, I made the decision to stay where I was. The relationships I have with my coworkers was what swayed my decision. Yes, the money was definitely a major factor. I can now provide a very comfortable life for myself, and that means a lot. I still feel terrible for turning down the offer with the new company. They were great people, and I appreciated their invite for employment. I had explained my situation to the recruiter, and today, I emailed the owners directly to thank them and wish them well.

For someone like me, this situation caused a lot of emotional stress and anxiety. In the end, however, I made the right decision for myself.

What If?

I live in a world of “what ifs”... a never ending cycle of doubt and worry, speckled with the occasional clarity that maybe everything will be fine. Opportunities are exciting only when they are in the distance. The minute opportunity knocks on the door, I’m afraid to open it. What if?

Every part of me wants nothing more than to grow and succeed, yet the progress is slow. Fear holds on to me like a leash around my neck. It controls my ability to run wild and free — it confines me to the zone of comfort. What lies beyond the zone walls? The future is unknown; I have no control… “what if?”

What if I make the wrong choice? What if I can’t do it? What if what I have now is better than what’s to come? What if?

I sit at my desk in an office I’ve resided in for the past 5 years. I hear my colleagues laughing in the halls — I want to join them, but I can’t. As I’m about to open “The Offer” from another company…… My hands shake as I double click the pdf file attached to the job offer email. Quickly I scan to the compensation. It’s not what I was hoping for — not at all. I breathe a sigh of relief, but only for a moment. I will, of course, counter. But not yet.

I will send an email at the end of the day with my counter, and then I will wait it out over the weekend. For now, I will relax and join my co-workers for a happy Friday.

The Physical Side of Anxiety

Anyone who suffers from a mental health disorder, knows the physical discomfort and pain it can cause. Each of us experience different symptoms, but our struggles are the same. One of the most difficult parts of our disorder is when the people who love us can’t understand what we are going through.

My struggle goes by the name Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and I’ve dealt with the effects of anxiety since a small child. Luckily for me, medication agrees with me, and I’ve had the good fortune of having a great therapist at one point in my life. Unfortunately, he has long since retired, but his teachings have stayed with me. For the most part, I manage my anxiety very well; however, there are times when the beast sneaks up and bites me.

Yesterday was one of those times. Big life changes can trigger me, and there is a good chance I might be changing jobs in the near future. This is self-inflicted, as I don’t need to change jobs — but I want to. I’m a driven person, and a great opportunity has presented itself to me. I had a phone call scheduled with the recruiter at 10:00 a.m. yesterday morning, and I could feel the anxiety from the moment I woke up.

A quicken heart beat, shallowness of breath, restlessness, and waves of nausea, were the first physical signs of my anxiety. The only thing I could do at that point was to focus on my breath and try and calm myself. It didn’t work, so my symptoms got worse. My body tensed up, and I alternated between hot flashes and chills. My hands began to shake, and I couldn’t concentrate. I wanted nothing more than to run away, but there was nowhere to run too.

As the day went on, I started feeling sick. Something like a flu, but not quite. My head ached, and it hurt to keep my eyes open. I was worried the headache would turn into a full-blown migraine, so I downed a handful of Tylenol and Advil. My thoughts were racing, and I knew they weren’t rational. I knew what I was “supposed” to think and feel, but I couldn’t stop the irrational thoughts. I’m an expert at hiding my anxiety, so the phone call went really good. That only heightened my anxiety because it meant I was one step closer to the change.

By the time I got home from work, I was a physical wreck. I felt like I was either going to throw up or pass out, but neither happen. My boyfriend couldn’t understand why I was so anxious. What should cause excitement caused me anxiety. He continually reminded me that this was a good thing for me. I continually tell him that I knew it, but I was still anxious.

I took more pain medication, poured a glass of wine, and eventually pass out on the couch from shear exhaustion. I woke up this morning extremely groggy, but without anxiety. Today is better, so today is perfect.

A Word of Advice

“Why don’t you just Stop it…” he says, as he looks up from my chart.

Is he joking, or is this serious advice? I look at the man sitting in front me and think: who are you, and am I in the right place? I thought I was at the Chiropractor’s office for a consultation regarding a sore leg. So how was it, I was getting a counselling session for my anxiety?

A lingering sports injury brought me to this man’s office. For almost a year, my left leg has been giving me grief when ever I run, hike, or ride. It has now progressed to the achilles tendon and the bottom of my foot. I’ve been to physio, chiro, and massage therapy, but I haven’t found a fix yet. Out of frustration, I booked a slew of appointments with new practitioners to get some fresh eyes on the situation. Yesterday afternoon, I had my first appointment with a new chiropractor; it was not at all what I had expected.

Most health practitioners like to take a full body/mind approach to healing, and I don’t have a problem with that. I appreciate someone who takes the time to try and figure out my personal situation. Therefore, when the “what types of medication are you taking” question popped up, I was fully prepared to discuss my anxiety disorder. However, only to give an insight to my overall general health. I don’t go to the chiropractor to fix my brain — sorry Dr., but I feel that’s not within your scope of practice. This guy, however, seemed to think it was.

My appointment was an astonishing hour and five minutes long. Never, in my life, have I spent that long with a chiropractor. Thankfully, it’s a flat rate fee for the visit, so his long windedness was on his dime. Mr. Chiro told me all about his past (he was in forestry before becoming a bone cracker). He talked and talked and then he talked some more. When he finally got down to assessing ME, the “teaching” began.

Full body charts were pulled off the wall to show me where my nerves come out my L5 vertebrae. Riveting stuff. As a personal trainer of over 15 years, I have some knowledge on how the body works. I don’t mind getting into the details of what he thinks is going on. However, when he started telling me that I should just “STOP” being anxious, my patience wore thin. Since he isn’t the first unqualified person to counsel me on my disorder, I knew how to deal with it. I say the same thing each time this occurs: “That’s an interesting approach, and I will definitely think about it.”

Yes, sir. I will keep that very useful technique tucked tightly in my back pocket for future reference. The next time I start feeling anxious, I’m going to just “STOP IT.” WAIT A MINUTE; I think I’ve tried that approach before, and, believe it or not — it didn’t work. Perhaps that’s why my actual doctor has me on Zoloft. Which, by the way, works fairly well. That along with counselling, meditation, and yoga.

Although I didn’t appreciate the belittlement this man shelled out, I will likely see him again. When it came to his expertise on bone manipulation, he was pretty good. If he can help me with my physical ailments, I’m willing to put up with his ignorance on mental health disorders. My next visit, however, may include a pair of ear plugs.

The Never Ending Need

For as long as I can remember, I suffer from what I call “a never ending need.” I always feel like I need something: coffee, wine, gum, food. It could be anything really, but nothing fulfills the need. Is this a symptom of my anxiety disorder, or is there something missing in my life? If only I knew the answer to that question.

At the age of 16, I started smoking cigarettes. Thankfully, I quite well over 15 years ago. However, I replaced it with an equally expensive habit — Nicotine gum. It’s ridiculous, I know, but I can’t kick the habit. I’ve stopped for a year or so here or there, but I always end up back on the gum. When I do stop, I end up chewing an enormous amount or Trident or Excel. So much so, I make myself sick.

Coffee and wine are my other “bad” habits used to try and satisfy my unease. I suppose I could go without the morning coffee, but I struggle to keep my wine consumption to a reasonable level. Without my little crutches, I find myself restless and anxious. I pace my house or the office, and I get very irritable. Food is my last resort, and I think the other habits started as a way to not eat.

I was a chubby kid, and I suffered from a couple of eating disorders in my teens and early 20s. Coffee and cigarettes kept me from eating my feelings, and I think that has stayed with me into older adulthood. I eat healthy for the most part, and that’s one habit I’d like to keep. However, I’m tired of the useless, expensive, and down right stupid habits I can’t seem to get under control.

I’ve tried therapy, self-help books, talking with friends, exercise, cooking, and classes to try and get a grip of myself. Nothing seems to work long-term. It’s definitely gotten harder as I’ve aged. Even though I’ve failed to find a permanent solution to this persistent “need,” I am not giving up. My ammo is a combination of research and goal setting. There’s a creatively designed vision board pinned to my bedroom wall, and I’m trying mindfulness…again.

With any luck, I will reduce my dependency — even if it’s for a short time. Small victories are my goal. A win would be fantastic, but I will take what I can get. Over the past week and a half, I’ve only succumb to wine on one occasion. I have a goal of not drinking at all this week (including the weekend). This seems like a doable goal, but it’s only Monday morning and a lot can happen between now and the weekend.

Scary Times

I don’t remember the song that was playing on the radio, but I do remember how it made me feel: Sad. I had an overwhelming feeling that things in the world weren’t right. This wasn’t my anxiety. Nope, this was something else. It was at that very moment when I realize just how fucked up the world is becoming.

I live in a mid-sized town in the interior of British Columbia, Canada, and I’ve always loved it here. The summers are warm; the winters bring tons of snow, and the community is full of great people. I have noticed a lot of changes, however, over the past couple of years. The summers have been blanketed by forest fire smoke, our river floods in the spring, and this winter was unusually warm. A warmer winter may not seem like a bad thing, but it brings concerns for a lack of runoff and water in the spring. Beyond weather changes, our city has become increasingly unsettled.

2019 has brought to our city, 5 murders; a kidnapping; a couple of stabbings; and the police have raided several homes and business to find an enormous amount of weapons. The news states almost all of these incidents are related to the local drug trade. It’s fair to say, our city has had it’s share of crime, but this is ridiculous.

My feeling of unease gets worse as I browse Facebook and news sites. I can’t get away for the non-stop debates about Government. Not just ours either… I won’t talk politics here, but I can say I have no idea what has brought us to this state. It’s scary times in the world, and it all hit me as I was driving back to work after my lunch break. I’d love to blame this feeling on my anxiety, but I don’t think my thoughts are irrational.

I’m not a pessimist. If fact, I usually find the best in most situations. However, when I look around me, I’m finding it hard to see good. I feel we are living in some scary times, and I can’t help but think it’s only going to get worse.

The Voice Inside

To look at my life from another’s eyes, you’d see a semi-successful woman. A decent job in business; a great boyfriend; my own home; well-known in the community; friends; family; happy. However, if you could see the thoughts in my head from childhood to now, it would look like this:

Childhood: A big world full of interest, but fear. The smell of the forest and earth. The warm sun on my face; the smell of cut grass.  I remember times of peace and times of great fear.  Sadness and joy so intense.  The fighting and tears before my dad left. Feeling responsible. Abandoned and scared. Anxiety.  Hiding in school bathrooms at lunch time; lost friends, imaginary friends, imaginary loves.  Dreams of a perfect home.  Childhood crushes.  Body loathing. Fear of male family friends and their touch.

Fun and fights with siblings.  New and lost pets.  The excitement of new clothes or shoes.  Toys that brought joy.  Imagination. 

TEENS: Losing my mom (not literally) to alcohol and a man.  Growing up and having my first love.  Too young for my first time.  Finding and fighting for independence.  Fear and excitement. 

Moving to an unknown city.

Making and losing friends.

Fights with my parents.

Guilt.

Self-loathing.

Eating disorders.

Drinking.

Drugs.

Living with a boy, and the ups and downs of navigating teenage life.  Working terrible jobs and feeling ugly.  Feeling rejected and used.  Not having a voice.  Not having a future direction except to find love.

Moving again and hating everything.  Settling in and then uprooted again.

20’s: Meeting my husband and school and growth.  Happiness.  Disgust at my own body.  Eating disorder again.  Searching for acceptance, but only finding loneliness and pain.  Lost.

30‘s: Leaving my husband.  Trying to find myself. Making bad choices with life and men.  Fear.

Choosing the wrong men and work.  Anxiety.  Confusion.  Making new friends and growing.

Running, fitness, and starting a business.

Making mistakes and shutting down.

40s: Pushing myself past the pain to try and find happiness.  Some wins some losses. 

Continuing to push and push. 

Finding love once more, but not without difficulties.

Uncertainty in career.  Boredom.  Drinking.  Trying, but not good enough.

Self-loathing.

Trying to make it through each day at work.  Trying to feel happy and satisfied after work.  Trying to accept myself and not let others define me.  Not caring what others think, but comparing myself to others.

Trying, trying, trying. Gains and failure.

Don’t know what to do.  Then I know everything.

Inspired.

Dejected.

Keep pushing.

Body loathing.

Love for my dog. 

Love for my man.

Angry.

Happy. Sad. Scared. Confident. Confused. Lost. Doing my best!