Friday, June 28, 2013

The small things in life

This whole year I’ve been focusing on letting go of things that don’t do me any good.
I’ve found that in the process of working on that, I’ve become more aware of how much joy there is in the little things in life, the things I want to hold on to.
When the depressive lows hit or anxiety wreaks havoc, it’s hard to focus on the seemingly small but so important things in life. I’m learning, however, that those times are exactly the times when I need to focus on them.
So here’s a sampling of some of the small, random things in life I’ve been experiencing or thinking about. I’m linking up with Nancy at A Rural Journal.

I noticed this spider web set up on Larry’s old red truck the other afternoon and grabbed my phone to get a photo of it. I liked the intricacies of the web and the way the spider seemed to still be working on it.

Lately I’ve been getting out my camera or my iPhone more and more to catch bits of nature or something I find interesting. It has become more important for me to record what I’m seeing in my everyday life.

Larry and I discussed this the other day: I’ve lived in the South for all of my life except for five years in the Midwest. I sometimes wonder how Southern I am. For example, I was taught as a child to say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am” or “yes, sir” and “no, sir” to my elders, including my parents, as a form of respect. Larry was taught the same, except he didn’t have to use those terms with his parents.
We still use those forms of courtesy with others, usually without thinking. But we know there are other ways and many ways to show respect.
Is the use of “ma’am” and “sir” just a Southern habit?

Which brings me to Southern accents. I love hearing different accents. It’s so interesting to listen to people from different parts of the country and the world.
After a few years of living in Ohio, a lot of my Southern accent changed. My mother in Virginia said I had “an Ohio accent” whenever I answered the phone. My friends in Ohio noticed that I sounded more Southern after a visit to Virginia.
I’ve been back in Virginia for many years. But not too long ago someone said, “You don’t sound like you’re from around here.”
Hmmm. I guess I’m a hybrid of some sort.

I’ve reached the point in the book I’m currently reading, Tripwire, by Lee Child, where I don’t want to put it down. The pieces of the mystery are starting to come together, and I’m anxious to have the whole puzzle fit together. I love that about reading a good mystery.
My love for mysteries started when I was a little girl. Sometimes I flipped to the back of the book to read the ending first, then enjoyed reading and slowly understanding how everything moved to that ending point.
I don’t ruin the ending for myself anymore. I enjoy the mystery from beginning to end.
Have you ever read the ending of a book first?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Double rainbow

On a recent evening, as we were getting ready to leave the house, Larry mentioned that it had been misting rain. That wasn’t surprising—we’ve had a lot of rain this spring and early summer.
After we got in the car, he called for me to look and pointed at the sky.
There were rainbows in the sky, two of them.

I don’t remember ever seeing a double rainbow.
I got back out of the car to get some pictures.

The pictures aren’t great because I took them with my iPhone, not my camera. But if you look hard, you can see the second rainbow arcing over the first.
A little later, as we were driving down the street, we noticed a couple of woman stopped on the sidewalk, looking at the sky. Apparently we weren’t the only ones admiring the rainbows.
When I was a child in Sunday school, I was taught that a rainbow was a sign of God’s promise to never again destroy the earth with flood waters.
As an adult, I do link rainbows with hope.
But without any symbolism attached, rainbows are still beautiful and meaningful to me. It’s amazing to me what happens when light and water get together.
And it’s comforting to me to see nature at work, no matter what’s going on in my life.
Hope. Stability. Life. Some pretty good things to think about on a summer’s evening, wouldn’t you say?

What do you think about when you see a rainbow?

Monday, June 24, 2013

On the road to Roanoke

The road is narrow and curvy and hilly, but the canopy of green trees over it makes it seem safer than it did when I drove it every day.
Larry and I are on our way to Roanoke, and we are driving on first one road then another that used to be familiar to me.
Some of that sense of familiarity returns as we go further along the roads and we start passing landmarks.
The garage with its collection of old Volkswagens. The church at the intersection. The place I ran out of the road in the rain one dark morning. The convenience store exactly 20 miles from home. The hill I tried to make it down in the ice. I had to turn around and try again the third time.
On this Saturday trip, I’m talking with Larry about this and that, but I’m feeling the anxiety of years ago.

Nearly six years ago in late September, I took a job with a newspaper in Roanoke. I thought I would enjoy the job enough that the long commute on lonely roads would make up for it.
I edited letters to the editor and commentaries, and I worked in the newspaper library.
Every morning I left the house by 6:15 to get to work by 7:30. I worked until 4 p.m., and then drove home. If I hit the lights right in the city and didn’t get behind a line of traffic on the two-lane roads, I could get home a little after 5.
Late that fall into the winter, I started having what I found out later were panic attacks and severe anxiety. I became afraid to drive. I clenched the wheel all the way to Roanoke and all the way back home, afraid I was going to wreck.
I did wreck in late October. I wasn’t speeding, but I was going too fast for the wet roads one morning, and my car whirled around and off the road. I thought I was going to flip and actually gave myself over to that idea. I didn’t flip but stopped a few feet away from a utility pole. I wasn’t hurt and I was able to drive away from the accident.
But that just heightened my fears of driving and my anxiety in general.
I went to my family doctor and he tried me on different medications. They just seemed to make things worse. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t sit still.
I sat at my computer at work and had to will myself to open up a file and edit. I was so afraid of not doing a good job.
I was so afraid.
I finally turned in my resignation and left the job in February, feeling unable to continue the long drive and the work.

But that was years ago. I eventually got help from a specialist, a psychiatrist. I got on the right medication. I received therapy. I was in a much better place now.
I remind myself of that as I ride along with Larry in his truck on Saturday. I have an opportunity to enjoy the day with my husband. And I’m going to do that.
We chat about things, comment on the scenery, the houses and horses and farmland we pass. Then we concentrate on finding our way around a city that we’re not as familiar with as cities closer to where we live.

Our first stop is a parts store to pick up a lawn mower guard which Larry couldn’t find in Lynchburg or Danville.
Then we ride around and find a restaurant to eat. I had found Wildflour Café on the Internet, and I want to eat there because they have a variety of foods available, including vegetarian selections.

Centerpiece on the table.

The food is great, and the atmosphere is relaxed. I eat a burger made of black beans and corn, along with sweet potato fries. Larry gets a regular burger and fries. We share an appetizer of fried green tomatoes with a chipotle-like sauce.
Then we drive home. We talk about what we see. We ride in silence. We talk some more. It is peaceful. It is OK.

Have you ever revisited a place or situation that used to cause you anxiety?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Writer’s block, and I need your help

I don’t know if it’s true writer’s block or a lethargic brain, but I have been having a hard time writing lately.
The words come slowly, and I spend a lot of time staring at my computer screen or sitting around thinking about writing.
I’ve tried freewriting—where you sit and write whatever comes to mind, with no editing. That sometimes helps me to get ideas and words flowing. It hasn’t helped.
I’ve read over things I’ve written in the past, looking for inspiration. Not much help there either.
I think part of the problem is that I write so many different kinds of posts, I don’t know what is most effective. I don’t know what is most helpful and enjoyable for my readers.
That is where I need your help.

Would you be willing to give me some feedback?

I’d like to know what types of posts you like to read the most, which ones resonate with you the most and are most helpful.
Do you like stories from my life? Do you like the more informational type of posts?
To be more specific, do you like to read stories about how OCD and depression have affected me, or do you like posts about OCD and depression?
Do you like to read snippets of my memoir? Do you like posts that may not deal directly with OCD and depression but which illustrate how I’m “bringing along” these mental disorders as I live my life?
Overall, what would you like to read on this blog?

Please let me know either in the comments section or in an email to me at You can also click on the tab at the top labeled “Contact Me.”
I want this blog to be a helpful and inspiring place to visit. Thank you for your help.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

OCD and scary thoughts and dreams


Thoughts are powerful. I’m sure you already know that. What we mull over and dwell on in our thoughts can affect our mood and our outlook, our actions. Thoughts are that powerful.
If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, you know that thoughts can seem especially powerful, and you attach more importance to them than they deserve.
The obsessions of OCD are uncontrolled thoughts about specific things that cause intense anxiety. They revolve around concerns about things such as harm, contamination and morality.
For example, I used to be consumed with thoughts about the safety of others, especially the safety of my loved ones. I worried and agonized over the possibility that harm would come to them, and that I would be the cause of that harm.
I acted out different compulsions to try to assuage the anxiety caused by the obsessions. I washed my hands incessantly to try to avoid passing germs to others and making them sick. I prayed the same words over and over, trying to create a magical safety net around my family. I checked light switches and stovetops repeatedly to make sure I had turned off electrical devices, because I believed if I left them on, a fire might start and hurt or kill others.
Another way thoughts can be troublesome for those of us with OCD is the way they seem to be so true. If I think that I left a lamp on at the office, then it must be true. If that thought comes along with a feeling of anxiety, then it must mean that I left the light on.
I’ve come a long way since the days when thoughts and compulsions like that consumed me. But this week, I’ve been revisited by scary thoughts.

My husband told me about a snippet of a dream he recently had. In the dream, he realized that he had died at a certain age. In real life, he turns that age next year.
After he told me, I was immediately caught up in anxiety, fear and depression.
What if it was a premonition? What if it were true? Why would he dream that? What did it mean that he dreamed it?
I couldn’t let it go. I kept thinking and thinking about it.
I thought about dreams that I had had that I felt were premonitions. I thought about the times that I had awakened from a dream and believed I had learned something.
What if that was the age that he would die? What could I do to stop it, to change it?
If I spoke about it to him, to anyone, would that mean that it would come true?
Some people believe all dreams mean something. Was that true? What did this dream mean?

I finally realized that my thoughts were a manifestation of my OCD. I realized that my fears about the importance of Larry’s dream were very similar to my fears about the importance of my thoughts.
My therapist taught me a lot about my thoughts. He taught me that the brain produces thoughts constantly, many without my intention or permission. Just because I have a thought doesn’t mean it’s true or will come true. It doesn’t mean that I wanted to think it.
And just because I feel anxiety doesn’t mean that there’s a logical reason for it or that I really have something to fear.
Perhaps that is the way I should view Larry’s dream. It’s a dream, produced by some combination of thoughts, emotions, memories and who knows what. I’ll never arrive at an answer for what it means.
And as Larry told me, in trying to comfort me when I expressed concern, no one knows when he or she will die except God.
My thoughts about it, my fear, will not change anything. I will have to do what I have to do with every OCD episode: live with the anxiety until it goes away, focus on other things, and recognize for yet another time that I have to live with uncertainty.

Have you ever been haunted by a dream that you or someone else had? How do you deal with fears about the future?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Out of the boot

I’m back from my short break, and I’m glad to be back. Last week was a very busy week at work, and I worked a lot of extra hours. I’m glad the worst of that is behind me, and I’ll get on a regular schedule again.
The first thing I wanted to share with you this week was some good news that I received Friday when I visited my orthopedic doctor. He took me out of the Monster Boot!
So no more this:

Now I’m in this, an ankle stabilizer:

It laces up and tightens up with Velcro straps, and I can wear a shoe with it. So for the first time in over three months, I can wear matching shoes!

I have to wear this for a month. Then, if I’m not experiencing any pain, I can go without it except when I’m walking on uneven ground.
I go back to the doctor in August. He’s expecting the bone to be 95 percent healed by then.
Yes, it’s still not completely healed. The doctor said it would take a long time, and it is. But it doesn’t have to be completely healed to get out of the boot.
I’m still getting used to the feel of the stabilizer. I tend to throw my foot out like I’m still wearing the boot, so I’ve got to get out of some habits I formed during the months I walked with the boot.
I’ve had a little pain in my ankle today, so I’m trying not to overdo it.
Still, it has been really nice to stand on my own two feet again and to walk more. I am so grateful.
And that gratitude led to thinking about what I’ve learned from the experience so far. Whether it’s the teacher that still resides in me, or the OCD in me that makes me over think, or just the way I’m put together, I like to consider the lessons in situations.
Here is what I came up with:

*My situation is temporary. I have been inconvenienced. I have been limited. But I know that the inconveniences and limitations will eventually end. There are so many people who are permanently hurt or disabled, and I am in awe of their strength in dealing with daily challenges.

*My guiding theme this year is “letting go.” I have had to let go of my feeling of control over what my healing progress will be. Each time I go to the doctor, I have expectations of what will happen: he will take me off crutches, he will take me out of the boot, he will tell me I am completely healed. I have had some disappointments.
I have had to learn that my expectations are not controlling anything. I can follow doctor’s orders, and I can follow healthy habits, but I can’t control the bone in my foot.

*People in general are helpful and kind. I can’t count the number of helpful gestures—opening a door, carrying a bag, giving up a seat, taking an extra step for me—people have done for me. That’s people I know and people I don’t know. I believe most people want to help and are willing to help even strangers.

*It’s OK to ask for help. I don’t like to ask others to do things for me. I feel like I’m bothering them. But we all need help sometimes. And if someone helps me today, I can set the intention to help someone else tomorrow.

*Our bodies are wonderful, intricate, and fascinating. How things work together, how healing occurs, how we can adapt to changes—it’s all pretty amazing to me.

I leave you with those lessons. I hope you’re doing well. I have missed you! I’ll be back on Wednesday.

Please share something about how last week went for you.

Friday, June 7, 2013

5 facts and planning for a break

As you probably know if you are on Blogger, Google Reader is going to disappear on July 1, and I’ve heard that the Blogger reading list may go away, too.
So I’ve joined BlogLovin as a back-up. Please join me by clicking on the BlogLovin’ icon down on the right side of the page, right under the Facebook icon. Thank you!
I’m joining Nancy at A Rural Journal for Random 5 Friday. I didn’t do it last week, and I missed it!
If you’d like to join in, link up at A Rural Journal.

Dock at Leesville Lake.

When I first moved back to Virginia after grad school, I was an adjunct English instructor at some local colleges.
Recently, via Facebook, one of my former students from the community college where I taught got in touch with me. He wrote in part, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of your class or enjoyed your influence over the last 20 years or so. I wanted to let you know that your encouragement meant a great deal to me then and that I did in fact achieve a number of my educational and life goals afterwards.”
He made my day.
Have you ever received an encouraging message just when you needed one?

I am afraid of snakes. All snakes. Deathly afraid. I think I have a definite phobia.
Larry saw the first snake of the season this week, a long black snake. He said it was headed away from our yard, across the street.
I didn’t even like hearing that he had seen one. He reminded me that they are all around us. I know that. But I don’t like to think about it.
Are you afraid of snakes?

Lately, I have been eating a little seafood and a bit of chicken. I thought that perhaps my body was missing some vitamins and minerals and that eating some fish might help my foot heal.
I have especially enjoyed eating salmon. I ate a piece on my birthday last week that melted in my mouth.
I am not completely comfortable with what I’m doing. I became a vegetarian because of my beliefs about animals.
I’m not ready to decide to keep eating seafood and poultry permanently. But for now I am mostly vegetarian, not completely.
I’m reading and pondering, taking it a step at a time.

I go back to my orthopedic doctor about my fractured foot on June 14. I hope I can get rid of the boot for good. It is heavy and awkward. And I’ve had pain in my opposite hip, knee and foot, from too much pressure on them, I think.
I may have to wear a fracture shoe for a little while.
And then I’m so ready to wear two matching shoes and to take a long walk.

I’m allergic to tree nuts. Today I attended a business luncheon. On the buffet were croissants stuffed with what I thought was tuna salad. When I picked it one to eat it, I realized it was chicken salad when I saw the large walnuts in it. I gave it away to a tablemate.
Back at the office in the afternoon, I was offered a chocolate chip cookie one of my co-workers had bought and left for the rest of us. I nibbled at the edges. Then my boss, who was also eating one, said, “Tina, I think this has nuts in it.” We looked closely and saw walnuts. So I gave the cookie to him.
Not a good food day, but at least I didn’t eat any of the nuts.
Are you allergic to any foods?

I’ve decided to take next week off from blogging. I will be very busy at work with my boss out of town.
And I am feeling the need for some downtime with the blog writing. I need some rejuvenation.
I will be reading your blogs as much as I can. And I’ll be back writing on Monday, June 17.
Hopefully, I’ll be inspired during my time off and come back full of ideas.
I’ll miss you and your comments! Take care, dear readers, until next time.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My body on anxiety—again

This is a repost of a post (with a few changes) that I first published on Jan. 13, 2012. It seems particularly appropriate to revisit this week. It’s a busy week of newsgathering, and next week promises to be even busier because three of my six co-workers, including my boss, will be on vacation. I’m feeling a lot like I did almost 17 months ago when I first wrote this.

Where I work.

Right now I’ve got a headache hanging around the edges, every now and then letting me know it’s still there. I just ate a late supper, but it didn’t help the nausea. I feel scatterbrained and a bit hyped, but I’m very tired.
This is my body on anxiety.
Today was a classic example of how anxiety changes my body and how I feel. I have had many days like this, but now I am particularly aware that it’s the anxiety that’s making me feel like this.
I was simultaneously looking forward to and dreading today. I knew a big story that I had been covering for over two years was going to reach a conclusion of some kind.
I was curious to see what was going to happen, and I was looking forward to seeing the story wrap up. But I was nervous, too, because I knew I had to write an article for the website about what happened and worried if I was up to it.
I doubt myself about a variety of things. Most stories I cover don’t engender the anxiety that this one was did. I knew it would be complicated, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to, first of all, interpret what happened, and second, write clearly about it.
I know I sound very mysterious right now. I cannot go into details about the story because I have to keep that separate from anything else I write. So suffice it to say, it was a big story for me to write.
What I’m thinking about now, and writing to you about, is how my body responded throughout the day to the ebb and flow of anxiety.
I started the day feeling hyped. The caffeine I had probably didn’t help.
I felt like “something’s going to happen.”
When I finally got the news of what the conclusion was going to be, I almost leaped out of my chair. I ran into my editor’s office and told him the news, then told anyone in the office that would listen. I called my husband and told him.
I felt like I had to talk out the situation. I wanted to talk rather than settle down, focus and write.
The adrenaline carried me through the first article I posted on the newspaper website.
Doing further follow-up, I made some phone calls and waited for return calls. I was so anxious not to miss one call in particular, I asked the office assistant to come get me if the person called while I was in the bathroom.
Wouldn’t you know it? I put off going to the bathroom, and when I finally did walk down the hall, this person called. My co-worker came to get me, and I hurried back.
I was feeling OK about the story I had written, but I still had the “something’s going to happen” feeling. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough.
This sense of urgency I felt made me move fast. It kept me from being able to slow down. I remember thinking that I should sit in my chair and do some deep breathing. But I couldn’t stop my racing thoughts, and my body was shaking inside.
It kept me from eating right. Today, prior to supper, I had a protein shake, some crackers, a small box of raisins, a Snickers Bar, an apple and more crackers with cream cheese.
Yeah. Yuck. What a combination.
By around 2 this afternoon, the adrenaline was gone. Apparently, my body had had enough. I felt exhausted and so sleepy. I still had work to do, so I grabbed more caffeine.
That made me jittery enough to get through the rest of the day. I came home. I was so tired, but I couldn’t relax.
I got into comfortable clothes and lay down to try to nap. I still couldn’t relax, so I finally took one of my anti-anxiety pills, turned off the lamp and turned on one of my battery-powered pillar candles. (Have I told you I love those things?)
Then I kept saying to myself, calm down. I must have because I was able to sleep a little while, though fitfully.
When I got up, I felt nauseated. My stomach started to make some weird noises, like all that I’d eaten that day was going to go right through me. I had a headache. My jaw muscles were tight.
And so I sit here, not feeling too well.
I could have done some things to make my day easier on my body. I could have held back on so much caffeine. I could have taken just a few minutes to sit and gather my thoughts and breathe. I could have prepared healthy snacks to eat. I could have exercised before or after work.
Oh, if only.
I’m not beating up on myself as much as reminding myself that I don’t have to feel this way. There are things I can do to counteract at least some of the anxiety.
I just have to do it.

How does your body react to anxiety?

Monday, June 3, 2013

What I did during my vacation week (and boy, do I need a routine)

Today I’m returning to work after being off for a week. I had nine days in a row to do what I wanted to do, nine days to not feel like I had to stay plugged into the news, nine days of freedom.
No, I’m not ready to go back to work. But a little part of me is glad to go back only to have more of a routine. Having a routine is helpful for both my depression and my OCD.
First, the vacation week:
*I read a lot, hung out with Larry and with the cats, took naps and just generally relaxed.
*I finally transferred my music library from iTunes to my iPhone. I’ve only had my iPhone for five months.
*I had to get my driver’s license renewed, so I had to spend a little time at the DMV, but it wasn’t too bad. The new picture on the license? Larry said it looked like a mug shot, and it does. And I’m going to have to live with it for at least eight years.
*Larry took me to the bookstore and waited while I picked out a stack of books for my birthday. I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store.
*We had a nice dinner out for my birthday. While we were eating, Larry noticed what he at first thought was a pheasant out the window. Turns out it was a peacock. The waitress told us he had recently taken up there. I got a photo of him on my iPhone through the window, so it's not a great shot.

*We drove up to Leesville Lake, a nearby lake, one evening and enjoyed the peace and quiet and beauty of the water.

It was a wonderful nine days. But they didn’t include a lot of routine. Not having a routine is OK for a while, but overall I feel better if I do have one.
For example, during my time off, I stayed up late, then slept late or napped at odd hours. Getting up at different times led me to take my medicine at different times and to eat at different times.
Going back to work will help me sleep and eat more regularly.
Staying busy with work also helps my depression and OCD by keeping my mind on other things. I don’t have as much down time, so I don’t have as much time to mull over things that might cause anxiety.
With all of that said, my routine still needs help. I’d like to have a routine that suits me even when I’m not working.
I’d like to get up earlier in the morning. I’d like to write on more of a regular schedule. I’d like to have time set aside each day for meditation and reflection. I’d like to have less empty time where I can’t decide what to do. I’d like to live with a more peaceful rhythm.
It’s hard work to change one’s routine. I know that from experience.
So I’m asking you, dear reader, to please offer me and other readers some tips and advice. How important is a routine to you? Does your life have a rhythm? How do you manage your schedule? How do you make yourself get up early in the morning?