Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Floating

I couldn't get out of bed on Monday.

I wasn't sick. I had cramps most of the weekend--the kind that remind me I keep putting off a decision about a hysterectomy or endometrial ablation--but by Monday, the pain had abated. Nope, Monday I just couldn't get my ass out of bed.

Was I tired? I guess. I mean, not really as a primary symptom of anything. I was tired in that way you're tired to cover up other shit you don't want to deal with. Was I anxious? That's more accurate. When I get frozen like that, it's usually the crazies. I woke up on Monday with my nervous system amped, and I just thought, Here we go, okay. I had the feeling that precedes a panic attack. The feeling that just tells me it's only a matter of time. I hunkered down and finished the first season of Masters of Sex. Hoped that if I just let it be there, it wouldn't get bigger. It might go away?

Nope.

By lunch I was stuck. Worse. By lunch I'd let the to-do list in my head build to the point where I didn't think I could begin to touch it. I had the heavy legs and cold pinkies and sinking weight in my chest that comes with the I just can't feeling. I dragged myself into the tub, I soaked. But immediately after that, I rolled myself right back to my flannel cocoon. Back to avoidance and back to sleep for the entire day.

When I woke up the second (or third? time), I found myself thinking about that questionnaire I have to fill out when I visit my anxiety doc. How many days in the last week did you find yourself unable to complete basic tasks? Busted. Here I was: unable. With the not completing things.

Anxiety is such a dumb surprise every time. I think I'm fine, I'll be having a good week, I'm managing my endless list of things, and then I'll be in bed because I feel unequal to any task, even things like eating and getting in the shower. And I'm overwhelmed and cold, and I hide. It's never a conscious building for me, but always a this-already-happened-so-I-better-figure-out-why scenario. Always, anxiety forces me into dissection of my feelings, a cutting open of the form I walked around in all week so I can pull out the dark thing inside.

On Monday it took me three tries to explain to E. The first two attempts at "I've got the crazies" came out sounding like "I can't get myself moving" -- more of the I'm feeling lazy variety, the variety that wants to be reasoned with or motivated away. Unfortunately the former is completely unresponsive to things like rational explanation or encouragement. I'm not good when I'm in that mode. I can't hear helpful. I can't be coached out of that bad guy-less fear, even by myself. But by Monday night we sorted through it: a list of things I'd been avoiding verbalizing or really letting myself feel. And just like always, by saying things out loud, they all got better.

The "what" of it isn't significant, really, but this all relates to a larger feeling I'm having. Something that, I think is probably as much responsible for my anxiety as my not taking the time to deal with two or three very specific things that were bugging me last week.

I feel like I'm floating.

No, not like that. I'm not actually floating. Nor is this like the time the crazy lady at the Mt. Shasta spa told me she could talk to whales, then gave me a massage and left me naked and alone in the treatment room for ten minutes so I could "float." I'm floating, a bit, because I don't know what kind of person I'm supposed to be right now. I'm doing things without focus.

Am I a good mom?
Am I going to all those baseball games and swim meets?
Am I a full time teacher?
Am I a writer?
Am I reviewing books?
Am I reading all the books in the world?
Am I the kind of person who runs?
Am I cooking dinner every night?
Am I managing the laundry?
Am I able to be a good wife about the "project car" in the garage?
Am I the sort of person who picks up after herself?
Am I actually responding to all those emails?
Am I writing letters?
Am I a person who naps?

Seriously, what kind of person am I?

It occurred to me as I was driving home today that I have bitten off so much, right now, that not only can I not chew it, I can't even bear to have it all in front of me. Things that should be enjoyable--napping, spending time painting nails with my daughter, cooking, reading, running, watching TV--these all make me feel guilty, like I should be doing something else. And even when one of these things (reading, writing, sleep) is linked to a job or, you know, my general well-being, the guilt is still there. Because maybe--maybe!--I should be doing something else, instead.

I've spent about three weeks floating. I spend an hour in my car reading, here, an hour at the gym, there. I come home and start the laundry, cook dinner, put things away, answer emails, write some, feel guilty about not spending time with somebody or another, feel like I inadvertently pissed someone else off. I am moving from dawn to dusk. My concentration is terrible. I collapse into a heap at night. I enjoy nothing.

Is it easier for me to do something when I have to? When it's required of me for school? I actually think it is. Or at least, I think it is easier to portion out the time, to feel like there's a reason for it. And to brush it off, to justify it with that kind of complainy I have to do this because my professor told me to, shrug. But for the last few weeks--notably, those since the quarter has started and I have not been in the safety of the MFA pond--I've been scheduling myself within an inch of my life and carrying around my own guilt. I've been scolding myself for every minute spent off task. Even minutes spent off task doing other tasks. (Because guilt is a way of proving you're responsible, right? HSP is sooo damn responsible.)

Yuck. I know.

I can't live a life like this. I'm giving myself nightmares. I know it is going to take me a while to find it--to find myself--but I'm struggling a bit while I find myself, post MFA. I'm different, and I know this is part of whatever moving forward looks like. This is human growth.

I'm still walking a tightrope at work, trying to figure out what (if anything) is the right amount of responsibility for me to carry in the years ahead. And I'm trying to maintain a writing schedule without the pressure or deadlines of school. On the one hand, the writing workload has been basically the same. Which is good.

On the other hand, I need to calm the frick down.

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