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Month: July 2017

Anxiety, Medication and Disaster Pants

Anxiety, Medication and Disaster Pants

If you think this story is about a bad fashion choice involving purple paisley pants…you’re wrong. It’s about anxiety, embarrassment, internal absolution and a very wise phrase coined my by ten year old nephew, Stevie.

Something’s Gurgling…

Complex-PTSD was an illness I had battled for a lifetime (only recently coming to terms with what my struggles were all about.)

After a long road of trial and error, my doctors and I had finally found a medication to combat my symptoms. I was starting to feel the grip of anxiety and depression loosen.

But the stress of the illness, anxiety and those pretty little pills, came with a price tag and I’m not talking about paper currency. The premium was gastrointestinal discontent. Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

At the time this was a cost I was willing to pay, but have now revisited this decision.

Bouts of diarrhea, gas and abdominal discomfort were daily struggles. Holistic teas seemed to help and my confidence improved, perhaps too much so.

The Event

One Thursday evening while conversing with my husband, I felt some abdominal pressure. Thinking this was merely intestinal vapor, I discreetly took action to relieve myself and received a big surprise.

The tragedy had already occurred before my frantic attempt to reach the bathroom. I had ended up with what my 10 year old nephew Stevie refers to as “Disaster Pants.”

My husband, normally unflinching in any situation was totally nonplussed. The bathroom door flew open, a pair of clean underwear flew through the air and the door slammed shut as he retreated to a less noxious space.

Disaster Pants

“Disaster Pants.” My nephew could not have coined a more accurate description for when in life, we literally or figuratively shit our pants.

Not always, but often times, a disaster is not something we caused or made to happen.

Merriam-Webster dictionary says a disaster is “a sudden calamitous event” or a “sudden or great misfortune.” (My yoga pants were ruined…perhaps not a great misfortune but disappointing none the less.)

We all have things that happen to us, not because of us. At some point, we all have to wear a very real or metaphorical pair of “Disaster Pants.” But, then we take them off, or clean them up or find a new pair because after “disaster,” anxiety and embarrassment there is usually recovery.

My nephew didn’t come home from school announcing he had pooped his corduroys. “He” didn’t do it. It was not a choice but a bodily function that occurred beyond his control. Stevie simply stated to my sister that an incident of “Disaster Pants” had occurred.

Internal Absolution

This statement reveals a self-forgiving and nonjudgmental perspective; perhaps an attitude we all need to assume upon finding ourselves in uncomfortable, awkward, unavoidable situations that are truly not our fault; situations that a little bleach or internal absolution can most likely repair.

Anxiety is Self Punishing

We judge ourselves, we blame ourselves, we punish ourselves for misconstrued transgressions. Sometimes, we are just at the mercy of this chaotic universe.

Learning this little bit of priceless wisdom has helped me to let go of some anxiety surrounding things I cannot control.

I’m not enlightened or healed; I have good days, bad days, worse days. But, now when I get up in the morning I’m a little more ok with the knowledge that things might not go exactly how I want them to, that most likely it won’t be my fault and there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

After all, everyone has disaster pants and we all put them on, one leg at a time.

©2017 thejitterbug

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Illusive Enemy – My Mother’s Mental Illness

Illusive Enemy – My Mother’s Mental Illness

My mother’s favorite phrase is, “You gotta do what you gotta do.”

This pearl of wisdom is casually thrown at me when I announce a major decision, one in which I may need support or encouragement; for example: I am selling my home or I am leaving my job. What her retort really means is, “I totally disagree with you and you’re making a big mistake; but, go ahead, ruin your life.”

No Safety Net

My mother has many passive aggressive ways of making me feel like total crap. It’s akin to jumping from an airplane with confidence your support system will back you up and then you pull the parachute cord and nothing happens; or a tightrope walker who falls from his wire only to find there was a hole in the net. My mother has that infallible ability to render you dead in the water. It makes me wonder…has she studied Sun Tzu’s “Art of War?”

Battle Strategies

In this famous work of military strategy, chapter six outlines how the attacker can take opportunity from spotting weakness in the enemy; a “chink in the armor” so to speak. My mother seems to have surgeon like precision when attacking the Achilles heel. Except, she engages in emotional warfare rather than physical. She also fails to see that I am not the enemy.

But the truth of the matter is, an enemy does exist. In navigating my own struggles with mental illness it became glaringly obvious that my mother has a mental illness too. The catch is, she doesn’t know it. My mother is fighting something faceless and nameless and without substance.

The Enemy – Mental Illness

There are no step by step books like the Art of War written about how to defeat that kind of adversary. It’s a malevolent shape-shifter which takes on the form of her children, her co-workers or any person or situation appearing as a perceived threat. What she doesn’t realize is that although her tactics may temporarily stun her assumed opponent, she is loosing the war.

She is launching fireballs at an empty battlefield, at soldiers who are ghosts. We are not the enemy.

Unfortunately, I am an innocent casualty of this raging war, as are my sister, my brother, my father and many others that happen to unknowingly step on her road side bombs.

The War is an Illusion, The Scars are Very Real

For a long time I thought I had to repair my armor, patch up the chinks, strengthen my defenses but then I realized…I’m not in the war, she is. My chinks and holes, my anxiety, mental illness and so called weaknesses just make me human not a soldier. The battle she’s fighting against me is fake so how can I be hurt by an illusion?

But there is a battle going on inside her and unless she can correctly identify the enemy, she most certainly will lose. As Sun Tzu says, “All warfare is based on deception.” He also states, “If you know both yourself and your enemy you can win numerous battles without jeopardy.”

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Marion’s Secret Drawer

Marion’s Secret Drawer

EXCERT FROM A WORKING PIECE ABOUT LONELINESS

Identical twins Marion and Rose led completely different lives, physical features being their only likeness.

Rose had found love early, married Richard Fairfield, and settled down to a nice domestic life in the suburbs of Connecticut.

She had been a doting mother to Henry, his younger brother Brian and his two sisters, Elizabeth and Ashley.

Rose and Richard had been involved but not domineering parents. They offered guidance, not interference. As a result, their children had grown up and found their way, confidently pursing their careers and lifestyles of choice.

In other words, Rose was not the smothering, meddlesome sort like her sister.

Marion had spent most of her life encompassed by jealousy of her twin. She too had wanted to marry, have children and be surrounded by a loving family. But, as Fate would have it, Marion did not achieve her desires.  This outcome was due in part to bad luck.  It was also a result of Marion’s prickly disposition…simply put, her officious nature put people off.

Marion had lived with her parents, in the same house on Highland Ave for 40 years. She cared for them in a duteous, respectful way as each year of her youth trickled by. When they passed, Marion remained, like a dusty chandelier or crown molding; a permanent fixture set in the very bones of the house.

She lived by herself, tended her gardens, went to church and filled the rest of her time bossing around anyone within her reach. Everyone thought that this was exactly what Marion wanted. No one suspected her infinite loneliness, as that was guarded by her solid wall of odious mannerisms.

There had been someone, once, a long time ago. His name was Charlie. They had met in cooking class when he had accidently banged shut the oven door and deflated her perfectly rising chocolate soufflé. Marion, of course, had been furious, but there was something kind and gentle in Charlie’s manner that had disarmed her.

Suddenly, they were chatting away amiably. Numbers were exchanged, dinner plans made and Marion had found herself hoping that maybe she would finally have a chance at a little romance. At 57, Marion was still a virgin.

After three dates, Marion went to the mall and picked out a raspberry colored satin negligée that showed off her ample cleavage. Unlike other less confident women of her size, Marion was not ashamed of her plump figure. She thought her curves to be absolutely sumptuous and was eager for Charlie to see her in this racy ensemble.

When the evening of their next date arrived, Marion had cooked a superb smoked ham shoulder with roasted vegetables and chocolate soufflé for dessert; a little reminder of their first encounter. She lit candles, put on soft music and made sure the raspberry nightgown hung ready in her closet…just in case.

Charlie had been due to arrive at 6:00pm. Marion had peeked out the curtains, watching for the headlights on his shiny black Buick to bounce into view.

At 6:20pm she thought he might be running late. At 6:45pm she started to worry. At 7:00pm, Marion phoned his house but there was no answer. She waited at the dining room table until 9:00pm, watching the candles melt down to stubs in their polished brass holders.

Charlie never showed that night, or ever again. Marion had tried for a whole week to get in touch but he never returned her calls. She even drove by his house and rang the bell but his car was not in the driveway and no one ever answered his door. She assumed he simply lost interest or maybe he was married. The raspberry negligee was eventually folded and tucked away in her dresser drawer.

Loneliness can be like a disease; starting out small but quickly infecting the vast realms of your being. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have or how busy your schedule is; there is a cavern-like hollowness to your house when you return at days end and the only thing to greet you is a lamp, switched on by an automatic timer. Clean cotton sheets spread untouched over a wide empty side of the bed that has never had an occupant.

All of Marion’s hopes and dreams were in that drawer with the raspberry colored lingerie; her hopes for a chance at companionship, excitement, romance.

Sometimes she pulled out the satin garment and put it on, feeling the sensual material against her curves, looking at herself in the mirror by the soft glow of her bedside lamp. It made her feel exhilarated and sexy. It made her feel wanted.

Over the months and years, Marion had gone back to the store in the mall, pretending that Charlie had come back and she was buying something special for their reunion. Her secret drawer did not only contain the raspberry nightgown but lavender panties, sherbet colored teddies and black push up bras that had more rhinestones than Nashville. Sometimes, fantasy is all a woman has to fill the void.

©2017 thejitterbug

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Feelings Can Be Illusive With Mental Illness

Feelings Can Be Illusive With Mental Illness

Emotion is a chimerical beast. I’m still learning how illusive, variable and disorienting it can be to my own internal sensation barometer.

One minute, I’m angry, only to discover it’s not anger at all; it’s frustration because something isn’t going my way. Sometimes, there is anxious restraint or guardedness but that chameleon dissolves and I see my frightful compatriot, fear. Boredom, listlessness, monotony…surprise! It has nothing to do with motivation but everything to do with unhappiness.

That dirty, deceitful, foul “F” word…Feelings. Identifying them and naming them seems akin to asking a hummingbird to hold still for a picture.

Feelings have recently taken a front row seat in the pageantry of my life as I’ve battled a severe debilitating anxiety disorder. I’ve left my job, dealt with gains, dealt with setbacks, mired through a mess to find a new direction. Life is not straightforward or clear and rarely black and white; usually there is gray. The gray is what’s confusing. It’s in the gray where I get lost.

My former co-worker, Lacy Sullivan aka “Sully,” adds her own unique autograph, if you will, to any office greeting card. Her “Lacy Logo” is a set of brightly colored balloons complete with smiley faces floating by her expressive words of joy. A happy occasion calling for Hallmark, calls for Sully’s balloons.

What better way to showcase the emotion of happiness, merriment and general heartfelt hullabaloo? Balloons are at every party, carnival and street fair so why not in between the paper flaps of corporate camaraderie?

But, not every Hallmark moment is happy or sad or emotionally clear. Again, there is the murky gray that confounds and befuddles one’s internal navigation. It spins your inner compass until you lose direction.

I left my job in the fall of 2016. I cleaned out my desk and walked away from a corporate career of 16 years, 94% of my working life, to pursue recovery from anxiety and depression. Feelings and emotions hijacked my mind and caused mutiny in my heart.

The day after my goodbyes were said and I had walked out the door into a new and different life, that office Hallmark card arrived in the mail.

After a doctor’s appointment, I picked up the post and read it in the elevator as I rode up to my floor. The kind words my co-workers had so dearly written were certainly bittersweet, but disappointment flooded my chest because there was no note from Sully inside.

I entered my apartment, tossed the mail on the table and then I saw them…on the back side of Hallmark’s sparkly “You’ll Be Missed” card…Sully’s balloons! Bouncing next to her words of encouragement were the bright, fluorescent, spirited little airships…and they all had SAD faces! I laughed out loud! Sully hadn’t gone for the straightforward or the clear. She went right to the murky confusing gray. She was happy I was pursuing better health yet sad I was leaving the workplace.

Sully wrote, “These are not happy balloons.” (The not emphatically underlined to stress her displeasure.)

“This news is just unacceptable my friend,” came next but was punctuated with a smiley face. It was the perfect, topsy-turvy, punch-drunk message. It was all sixes and sevens and I was smiling like an idiot getting off the tea-cup ride at Disney World.

Ninety Four percent of my working career had ended by handing in a set of keys. (What the hell was that tiny square shaped one for?) The fog had truly closed in around me. But, when I saw the back of that Hallmark card I thought, “Oh Sully! Thank you! Thank you for those “uplifting” frowning balloons because that is exactly how I feel!”

Shortly thereafter, I received another card in the mail, just from Sully. This time, her balloons were smiling. The card read, “By no means are these happy balloons… they are hopeful balloons. I am hopeful that before you know it, you will be all better and back to your happy self!”

Balloons are rather like emotions; they inflate, they deflate, they burst unexpectedly. They float and bounce and can slowly sag to the floor. Sometimes they escape you altogether. Yet, if we accept them, release them, allow them to drift off into the ether, they re-absorb into the matrix of sensation. I think that’s when the fog lifts and your compass dial makes sense again.

Seriously though, I have no clue. Like I said…chimerical beasts. Maybe someday, Feelings won’t be my “F” word.

© 2017 thejitterbug

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