Not feeling well

To be honest with myself, I haven’t been feeling well for quite some time.

I noticed it several months ago when I transitioned from running on the treadmill inside to running outside again. I seemed more tired than usual. I didn’t have my regular stamina. Was it normal for my endurance to drop so drastically? I could run 6 miles without stopping relatively easily. Then I started needing walking breaks.

I chalked it up to aging. After all, I will be 45 in a few weeks.

Maybe I just wasn’t used to all the hills? Peri-menopause perhaps? Seasonal allergies? The cool rainy weather? Maybe it is normal to be sluggish at this age.

I doubt I could run a 50k with the shape I’m in today. I have two months to go until the race. How am I going to run further than I’ve ever run if I can’t even run 6 miles without stopping?

This week I had a physical with my new doctor. It didn’t go well. I complained about the fatigue. But what middle aged person is not tired? A couple nights a week I have insomnia, but it wasn’t anything new to me.

The doctor ran some extra tests. The results show that I am slightly anemic which does explain some of the symptoms I’ve been having.

But what really concerned the doctor was that I have been taking two Prilosec a day for GERD for several years without ever being scoped. She said that wasn’t normal for someone of my age and health. She asked several more questions, then said she would like me to get scoped and tested for Celiac which is an autoimmune disease. The only treatment of Celiac is a strict gluten free diet. I think 2 of my brothers already have undiagnosed Celiac.

I looked up Celiac when I got home. I have almost all of the symptoms and have had several of them since I was a child. I hope the doctor’s suspicion is wrong, but I think I see the writing on the wall. Even anemia is a symptom because Celiac prevents your body from absorbing nutrients. Otherwise it makes no sense since I am already taking a multi-vitamin with iron.

Today I bought donuts. I bought chicken patties to eat on big hamburger buns. I bought my favorite food, macaroni and cheese. I bought my very favorite craft beers. I am going to go to Arby’s to eat a big roast beef sandwich with mozzarella sticks on the side. I am starting to think of state fair cream puffs. I want to eat my favorite foods before I can never have them again. I almost started crying in the craft beer section.

I am feeling very down about this. I was told this was the best time in history to be gluten free. But that doesn’t make me feel any better at the thought of giving up my favorite foods and drinks forever.

I think it would be hard to even go grocery shopping. I don’t think I would want to go out to eat with friends and family. Forget parties. Maybe I won’t leave the house.

I need to stop taking Prilosec as well. I am down to one pill a day. I bought a big bottle of Tums and liquid antacid for the pain I will be in. It’s already started. This morning I felt nauseous. The acid burn in my throat is back, so is the burping.

But it will be good to have answers.

I have been feeling so tired, weak, and depressed lately. I have been having a hard time thinking. I am very organized and meticulously detail oriented. In the last couple weeks, I’ve forgotten things that were on my grocery shopping list. Today I went running and got lost on a trail I have been running for years. I can’t seem to keep a thought in my mind for long. I forget what I am going to say sometimes mid-sentence. That’s scary!

I am afraid.

I will have more answers soon and hopefully I’ll start feeling better. It just might not be the answer I want.

 

Cracking open the box

Today I cracked open Pandora’s box. I am afraid to peer into what lies inside.

I spent most of the weekend feeling blah. It rained all weekend with high temps in the lower 60’s. Some of our outdoor plans got cancelled. It has been very frustrating. So far summer break has been cool and rainy. Surprisingly, the best days of the year so far fell on Alex’s graduation day and again for his grad party.

The weather has been making me feel restless and bored. There is nothing I hate more than boredom. I’d rather be way too busy. Not to mention that all my favorite running trails are underwater. Although, thankfully, my ankle is starting to feel better.

Yesterday, on Father’s Day, something exciting happened though. I got a message on Ancestry from a relative on Paul’s dads side. On Father’s Day of all days too. You see, Paul never knew who his dad was. From what I can tell, this man is Paul’s cousin.

I told myself that I wouldn’t go seeking out answers. I was far more curious than Paul. But if someone came to me asking, that was an altogether different story indeed.

Today I reached back to Paul’s cousin and told him what details I knew about Paul’s dad. We’ll see what happens. Paul said he was okay if I did that.

It’s hard, Paul built his whole identity around not having a father. But what if he has a whole new family out there that wants to get to know him?

Why do I feel like I cracked open Pandora’s box? Do I really want to know what’s inside?

I can tell you one thing, life got a little more interesting.

Hurt again

I felt a burning fire rage within me today. I think it was the combination of a lot of different things that ignited the fiery red flame.

Yesterday I wrote in my book about one of my most painful early adult experiences. Previously in my writings, there seemed to be a separation between what I was saying and how I felt. There has been an insulation protecting me from the words. Yesterday it was removed and I felt angry.

My mom always told Matt that it wasn’t his fault he was violent. Sometimes she told him he was having a seizure after being exposed to loud music. Most of the time Matt was told that he was having an allergic reaction. It was an accident and not on purpose. The school told my mom that they wanted Matt to be told it was wrong when he hurt someone and to have consequences for his negative behavior.

That never happened. Six months later Matt got arrested at school for assaulting his teacher’s aide. She was pregnant at the time and it took 2 adults to get him off of her. Matt’s aide was my childhood best friend Shelly. I was the maid of honor in her wedding. We were best friends forever, or so I thought at the time.

When I got married, Shelly wasn’t invited to the wedding. I had to choose between my family and my best friend. My mom had the attitude of oh well you were growing apart anyway. But if we grew apart and the friendship ended it would’ve been my choice, but it wasn’t. It tore our whole friend group apart.

It was very painful to lose a best friend, all my close friends really because my brother attacked her.

I was rage cleaning this morning as a result.

I had to take a step back from running. My Boston marathon friend contacted me to go running again. We ran 8 miles together at breakneck speed. Then she told me that I really needed to work on hill training. I pushed it really, really hard and ended up hurting my ankle. Now just walking gives me pain.

Something else happened too. Someone I know told me the story of how her son recently fell asleep while driving and caused a fatal accident. After hearing her story, I started feeling anxiety driving again. It started by not sleeping well one night, then driving Arabella and her friends somewhere for her birthday. I started to worry that I would fall asleep and kill someone too. For the last couple of weeks, my driving anxiety has been back and I am worried that it is going to turn into full blown anxiety again. I worked so hard to get over it.

I have just been feeling angry and frustrated by the things I have experienced and the things I am experiencing. My son had some friends overnight and I waited until 1 PM to vacuum near them. I didn’t say one word to them but they seemed so terrified of my anger that they went from a dead sleep to packing up all of their stuff and leaving.

My son saw me rage cleaning and asked if he did something to make me so angry. I told him that it had nothing to do with him really. He pressed me for more details and I ended up telling him about my childhood for the first time. He is almost 19 and will know all about it when I publish my book anyway. We had a really nice conversation for almost 2 hours. In that time my anger dissipated.

I’m not sure what is going to happen, but I plan to keep writing no matter how hard it is or gets. Sometimes it is very hard to stir up my demons because I don’t know how I’m going to react. This has been my biggest obstacle so far, but I refuse to give up. After all, that is how I hurt my ankle. Sometimes I need to learn when it is time to ease up. That’s never been my strong suit.

It sounds kind of funny. Most people complain that they don’t have my determination, but all I want is the ability to relax and not be so hard on myself. So here I am, hurt again.

My son’s graduation

It happened on a rare perfect day in Wisconsin. The temperature 75 degrees with a light breeze under partly sunny skies. No rain, no muggy humidity.

I’m not sure why we felt so stressed out that morning as my husband and I snapped at each other. Maybe the perfect conditions was a sure sign to be cautious that something might go wrong.

Last minute Alex couldn’t find dress pants that fit and had to borrow a pair of Paul’s. I was worried that he would be late for school one last time.

We sat with family on the bleachers in the gym. I tried to keep an open mind, yet inwardly I judged.

Did the people in front of us manage to have some of the few empty seats because they purposely didn’t shower? I ended up sitting behind them because no one else could stand the smell.

Then there was the mother with the ripped jeans and crop top like she was attending her daughter’s graduation from pole dancing school. I was appalled. I am not big on fashion, but made sure to buy myself a new dress. There are some things that one must simply look respectable for.

There was the child that sat behind us with an incessant whine.

Well at least they were there showing their support which is more than my dad did. He decided not to attend.

I’m not going to lie to you. I was filled with anxiety.

I was worried all week that I would get that knock on my door with a certified letter stating that my son did not meet the requirements to graduate. I imagined myself full of shame as I explained why my son’s name wasn’t called at the graduation ceremony when people came bearing gifts at his graduation party. But I emptied that anxiety just to fill it with more.

I had irrational fear that my son would end up punching someone instead of shaking their hand as he received his diploma. I still thought that maybe he wouldn’t graduate as he received his diploma. There was a part of me that was very unsettled. I felt fear that there could be a school shooting during the graduation. Sadly, I no longer feel safe in large crowds of people.

I saw my son’s friends come in that attended another school. Included in the group was the boy we took into our home that stole from us. I felt uncomfortable.

My brother Luke asked my daughter’s boyfriend Dan if he was having flashbacks of his own graduation there. He said, “Yeah, more like PTSD”.

The graduation ceremony was boring. It was hard to see, the nearby projector didn’t work and the microphone kept cutting out if the speaker didn’t have their mouth right on the microphone.

The guest speaker was a doctor of neurophysics. She showed pictures of herself and spoke of all of her amazing accomplishments in a monotone voice. I thought to myself that I needed to get out of all graduation ceremonies I can in the future.

After the ceremony was done, I felt very happy and giddy. I was ready to go out and pop champagne in the school parking lot. Would that be against the law? Never mind, I didn’t have any champagne. I hugged boy B’s mom. We did it! We convinced our boys that hated school to graduate. I can’t quite explain the feeling. I felt like I almost got hit by a bus, but at the last second got away. That feeling of just escaping disaster. My son was also the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time.

Afterwards, we had family over at our house. It was so nice that we were able to play games outside and sit on the patio with a fire.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. We are happy that our son graduated. I can’t tell you how relieved I am.

 

 

Being in a better place

I met with my therapist this week.

She asked me what I thought about living in my old house. I told her that my old house wasn’t anything special but it suited the purpose at the time.

She then asked me what it was like living in my dream house. Did it change me at all? Do I feel like I am a ‘softer’ person? Did I give up some of my determination?

I said that I don’t think I changed at all.

To this she responded, what if you were a healthier person inside? Do you really think that it is going to change you for the worse?

She trapped me in my own thinking.

Maybe I could have inner peace without giving up some of the grit that survival awarded me with.

I did what I had to do in order to survive. But now I am stuck because I know no other way. It suited its purpose at the time, but I no longer need to live there.

Why am I so fearful of being in a better place?

 

 

Write, right?

It’s been a busy week and I haven’t really felt like writing.

Most of the time I have no qualms about throwing it out there. But for some reason this week I’ve felt impersonal. I want to keep my distance and my thoughts to myself. I worry that I’ve already shared too much.

I feel frustrated. My thoughts are fluctuating about my writing. One day I have great confidence. My book will be a bestseller and I can’t wait to chronicle my descent into despair. The next day I want to walk away from it all and not open myself up to be vulnerable to the world.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that has been as personal as mine is going to be.

Word has gotten around that I am writing a book. I got a call from a publisher this week. She wants to meet for coffee to discuss my book. She said that memoirs are flying off the shelves right now. She wants me to send her a sample of my book. I am thinking about turning her down, but I am not sure if that is a smart idea. She is a small publisher that mainly publishes works of fiction.

I am not ready to deal with this yet. I want to take my time and write a great book before I worry about finding a publisher. Then I feel bad because I have some good friends who wrote great fiction books and haven’t been able to find a publisher.

The end of the summer, I will be public speaking about being a sibling with an autistic brother. My contact said that once I have my book written, she had someone interested in publishing. I would prefer to publish my book in the mental health memoir genre. Now I will need to reach out and contact them to see what my options are. It is all very confusing as a first time author.

All I want to do is write my book and not worry about anything else right now. The publisher said that if I finish writing a book, I will find myself in the 1% of the population who has. That is rather exciting, but I have no interest in being an author.

I just want to write my book. I’m not sure what I’m going to do after that. I can see myself doing public speaking and being an advocate for families, especially siblings, of the disabled. But I haven’t even done my first public speaking stint yet. Maybe I won’t like it. Maybe I won’t be good at it. The thought of public speaking about something this personal is starting to fill me with anxiety.

I’m not sure where this path is going to lead me and I am filled with doubt. But I think I need to keep writing.

Write, right?

BAD (Battling Anxiety & Depression)

I’m always in a battle with anxiety and depression.

Anxiety is what wakes me up in the middle of the night.

Depression is what makes me feel tired all day.

Anxiety is my all.

Depression is my nothing.

Anxiety is gales of nervous laughter.

Depression is a hurricane of endless teardrops.

Anxiety makes me care too much.

Depression makes me not care at all.

Anxiety fears death.

Depression cheers on self-destruction.

Anxiety worries about the future.

Depression agonizes over the past.

Anxiety overthinks.

Depression can’t concentrate at all.

Anxiety overachieves.

Depression labels me worthless.

The battle rages within.

Hopefully someday I will win.

Can you fix me?

I have been having a debate with myself forever over what is coincidence and what is meant to be. Do things happen for a reason or is there no rhyme or reason?

When we bought our house almost a year ago, we had some problems with the dryer. It was taking forever for the clothes to dry. I really didn’t notice it after awhile. But then other things started to break. The fan went out in our refrigerator. The dishwasher started to leak. I needed to get someone out to the house to fix these problems. While the guy was here, he might as well check the dryer.

I started to time how long it took to dry clothes. Three hours for a big load! I knew it was long but I didn’t realize it was that long. Maybe I just needed a new dryer?

The guy came out and pulled tons of lint out of the machine. It was backed up into the vent inside of the house. Big time fire hazard that I wasn’t even thinking about fixing until other things started to break.

Why did I ignore the biggest problem that needed fixing?

I think that I ignored it because it was still working, however dangerously and inefficiently. It only became a problem for me when something else wasn’t working at all.

This past week I went to see the counselor alone for the first time. I never would have set up an appointment by myself for myself. My husband insisted on talking to someone when we were having problems with our son. Now our son is doing so much better and here I am going to the counselor talking about myself.

I asked the counselor if she could fix me. She said that she could not, but I can. How come I ignored this for so long? I want to fix everyone else, but don’t want to work on the broken parts of myself.

I think the way I’ve been living my life has been working, although at times not very well.

The counselor asked me what are three things I wanted to keep the same about myself:

  1. My grit/determination
  2. Honesty
  3. Continue seeking self-reflection/growth

Then she asked me what are three things I want to change:

  1. Worry less/relax more
  2. Healing
  3. Be at peace

When discussing these goals, I realized that I was afraid. Part of me wants to stay the way I am. The demons I know aren’t as scary as the unknown. My anxiety and inability to relax has given me great determination as a runner. My depression and quest for full healing and making peace with the past is what I attribute to my honest self-reflection as a writer.

If I am able to change the things that I perceive to be negative in my life, will I still be able to keep the positive outcomes that was ignited by my pain?

Will I still have grit if I have nothing to run from? Will I still be able to write if I was totally happy with my life? Would it be worth giving up some of my grit in order to be at peace or relax more?

Would I even be me anymore? It was very confusing.

Some of the negative things in my life I turned into blessings. If I get rid of the bad, would I purge the good that came out of it as well?

Do I have to give up the good things I have to get the good things I want?

I guess the big question I can ask myself is why I didn’t do anything about the major problems until something else wasn’t working?

Why didn’t I start writing my book until I lost my job?

Why didn’t I ask for help until my house was almost on fire?

I was so upset when I lost my job, when my son was acting up, and when several appliances stopped working. But I now believe that God used these things for my own good to spur me into action that I needed to take. Maybe I am wrong, but I can’t believe that any of these things have been a coincidence.

 

 

 

Anxiety

A couple of weeks ago, I told Paul that once the kids leave home I will worry less. With less stress and anxiety, I would stop taking my medication for acid re-flux.

As a child, I lived with a constant stomachache. Sometimes it was a dull ache and sometimes it was a sharp fiery burn. I had a lot of nausea. I had it down to a science how much food I could eat to just feel okay. My parents never took me in and after awhile it became normal to me.

My autistic brother Matt also had stomach issues. He did a lot of gagging with his tourette’s. There were times that he even threw up at the table between the acid re-flux and tourette’s. It was not unusual for him not be able to keep his breakfast down and barely make it to the bathroom in time. There was a period of time that his valve between his stomach and intestines closed and he wasn’t able to keep any food down at all. He was very sick and almost died before the doctors figured out what the problem was and surgically corrected it.

As you can imagine, my stomachaches were ignored. It wasn’t until I was over 40 that I went to the doctor because of it because I was in a lot of pain. I probably had an ulcer. The doctor put me on 1 Prilosec a day and when that didn’t take care of my stomachache, I was put on 2 a day. It’s been a couple of years now.

I’ve always attributed my stomachaches to stress which I believe greatly aggravates it. Although there may be a genetic component to it since multiple family members have similar issues.

Childhood was the most stressful period of my life to date. Not only was my autistic brother violent towards me on a regular basis, he also had some very serious medical concerns as well. My dad was abusive. It was no wonder I had stomachaches.

It wasn’t all that long after I left my childhood home that I had a family of my own. Having 3 little children was stressful. I didn’t get a lot of help from either Paul’s or my family. I had a lot of stomachaches.

Then I helped my husband run a business while having three teenagers. I had a lot of stomachaches.

I am no longer running a business. One of my children has moved out and soon will another. Maybe I wouldn’t worry so much if I wasn’t always stressed out.

Then Paul said something interesting. Alissa, you will always have anxiety. You will just find something else to worry about. I thought of this as I reread my old journals. They were filled with anxieties and worries.

Sometimes I feel so full of anxiety for no apparent reason at all. I feel like something bad is going to happen and for some reason it is my fault. I felt that way a lot as a kid. If I wasn’t hyper-vigilant enough and missed the signs that my brother was going to attack someone, then it was my fault because I didn’t stop it. But the truth is that sometimes no matter what I did or didn’t do, I couldn’t have stopped it. The truth also is that I have lived my whole life with an anxiety disorder.

What makes me think that someday it is just going to go away when it was always there? The smartest thing that I can do is accept the cards I have been given and play them as best as I can.

I can’t relax. I get a lot done.

I worry. I care too much.

I have useless nervous energy. Running burns it off and makes me feel human.

I feel anxiety. I can help others by understanding their struggle.

I try to control things I can’t. I’m not to blame for things outside of my control. I realize that now.

Doing rituals made me feel safe when I wasn’t.

Isn’t overthinking better than not thinking at all?

I have the solution for every what if scenario whirling around my head.

I have to run back home to make sure I turned off the coffee pot. Got a keurig.

I’m not saying that I am no longer anxious. I just learned to live with it.

I have many fears. But I won’t let that stop me because I learned over time how to manage it to my advantage.

I learned to cope. I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to function without it. Strange because most people would think that I couldn’t function with it.

 

Backstage fright

I’m sorry that I’ve been a bit of a stranger as of late.

This past weekend I was in a theatrical production. Last week we entered into hell week starting with an 8 hour practice the previous Sunday to kick things off. To make life busier, my daughter was home from college last week for spring break. I tried to spend every minute with her that I could. I felt very nostalgic since this will be the last time she will be home for an extended period of time. She decided to get her own place after this semester in her college town several hours away.

The show itself has been going really well. Most of the time it seems like there is more drama backstage than onstage. This time has been no exception. I wasn’t going to say anything, but I did.

Yesterday I got a message from one of the other actresses in the show wanting to iron out a problem with a scene. This message was sent to the leadership of the show. The stage manager was happy that she came forward with the problem and told us to let her know if we had any other problems with the show. Any problems??

So I opened my mouth and I’m not sure if I should have.

There is a girl helping out backstage who I would guess is around 11. She is a very nice girl, but has special needs and functions like someone half her age. Once in awhile she grabs a chair to clear the set, but that is about it. She does not help with costume changes. If anything, she gets in the way. She can be loud and distracting. She wants to play and riles up the young actors who we constantly have to tell to be quiet.

What really is bothersome though is that she is constantly touching people in inappropriate ways. She jumped up onto the chest of a man piggy back style. She hangs on a teen girl and won’t get off when the girl tells her to stop. She is constantly invading the personal space of people she doesn’t know. This has made everyone uncomfortable but no one wants to say anything.

I feel like her parents dumped her off backstage for us to babysit. She needs help more than she is helping. I can tell that her behavior frustrates others. So I said something within a very small group message towards the leadership. Someone said in response to my concerns that I needed to be more compassionate. When she acts inappropriately, we should respond by redirecting her. I said that was not my responsibility. That was the responsibility of a caregiver or parent, not mine. I needed to focus on what I needed to do for the show.

Am I overreacting?

Last week was not the easiest. My mom came over and my daughter Arabella confronted her. My mom will travel hours with us to see Angel’s shows when she is not feeling well, but did not drive 20 minutes to see Arabella’s performances. There was crying and hard feelings. Then my mom told me to have a good performance after she told me that she had a biopsy done and might have cancer. She also said that the caregivers were not taking care of Matt properly in the group home. All of this stressed me out before a big performance.

Then the afternoon of opening night, I got a call from my brother Luke. He stayed at my parents house for a couple of days to attend a conference for work. He had a hard time staying at my parents house. It brought up a lot of painful memories. We talked for over 2 hours. Luke and I struggle with a lot of anxiety and even PSTD symptoms from our childhood. Within the last couple of months, we found solace in talking to each other about things that no one else understands.

I think I am upset about two things with the girl backstage. First, whenever I got a hobby or found something special that I liked my mom always tried to include Matt in on it. I liked roller skating. My mom made sure that I included Matt in on my hobby. One time when we were roller skating, Matt attacked a little girl. He grabbed her by the hair and started kicking her. It was very traumatic for me. I never felt like I could enjoy anything by myself.

The girl at the theater has a sister in the show. I feel angry that the parents want both of their kids involved in the same thing. Is this unreasonable on my part? Probably.

The second thing that bothers me is that the girl is autistic like at times. She does a lot of self-stim behavior and does a lot of inappropriate touching. I feel like I have to keep a close eye on her like I had to with my brother. It is bringing back a lot of dormant feelings.

My brother Matt’s birthday is this week. I will be spending a lot of time with family. Then I will have another weekend of shows. This is stressing me out. A lot of contact with my brother or family, even thinking about it while writing my book, during a stressful time causes a tremendous amount of anxiety in me.

The second thing that I am truly afraid of is that I will have flashbacks of painful memories during the show. I think it might help if I find a quiet area that I can hide out  during the show if possible for my own mental health.

This morning the woman that said I needed to be more compassionate posted a video on Facebook of a kid helping a special needs team mate stating that there needs to be more people like that in the world. I felt like it was a personal attack on me.

I don’t have a problem if a special needs kid wants to help out with the show. But in this case she is not mature enough to handle the responsibility. I simply suggested that a parent or caregiver should be with her to help her respond appropriately. I think that it is cruel to leave a kid floundering in an environment that sets them up for failure, not just for her but also for her sibling. Again, maybe I am overreacting based on my own experiences.

Oh, I hope I break a leg and not lose my mind!