The Truth About A Spoonie Surge

I’m flying!

For the past four days I’ve felt practically excellent! I ran farther and faster than I’m used to, my pain is tolerable, I feel nourished and well rested, and my anxiety is relatively quiet!

Today, someone asked me how I was doing. I excitedly said, “I’m good!”

They looked shocked. My typical response is “Okay [sigh]” or “I’m good, but tired.” So, they asked me, “What’s going on?” I replied that I’m just good and followed with, “it must be a surge”.

A surge for me is when everything falls into place. I am catapulted up just a bit higher than usual. My disposition is literally sunny and optimistic. I basically feel unstoppable, and I do ALL the things. I’m super productive, high energy, attentive, and efficient. I’m like a bolt of electricity [yep – I went there!].

I don’t usually wonder why a surge happens, – it could be the weather, a good conversation, a restful night’s sleep – but especially after a few days I always worry about when it’s going to end, and how hard the crash will be.

You see, if I ride a surge for too long, there are consequences.tumblr_nskfoej3891qzbifxo2_r1_500

Usually these consequences are the result of me pushing my body too far. When things feel good, I feel like I could literally burst through a brick wall without even a scrape or a bruise. I almost always challenge myself too much on good days. I almost always forget to respect my body’s limitations and needs. It always feels good in the moment – I like to feel invincible.

At certain turning point, usually at the climax and right before I start my descent toward an inevitable crash, the idea of how badly my actions are going to hurt comes into my cognitive awareness. A mental space once occupied by the joy of feeling light and energized turns to a cyclical sludge-like head fog. My anticipation of the “crash” [which sounds something like, “It’s going to be so bad I’m going to have to call out of work. Ugh. Whatever. It’s not going to be that bad; I’ll just power through and be “fine”. I’m always fine.” on a loop] is almost always an accurate prediction of how badly I’m actually going to feel. It usually feels like a Mac truck ran over me – twice. That’s how I often describe how much it hurts when I finally find the ground again.

I can get caught in the trap of a good day, overdo it, and tumble dramatically into a “typical” day or even a flare pretty easily if I’m not careful.

After a while, my mind starts to play its own twisted version of self-sabotage. It plays a game of second guessing and trying to precisely identify when the tides will change and the calm will become the storm. During these moments, I think things like, “do I feel as good as I think I feel?”, “This is the peak; it’s all downhill from here.”, or even “I don’t deserve to feel this good.”

When you’re a spoonie, you have to simultaneously think, “how can something that feels so thrilling also be foreshadowing something so bad?”, “I can’t fully enjoy this because I’ll pay for it later”, and, “I can’t just sit around impatiently waiting for the pain to come back. I need to capitalize on this opportunity and do all the things because I feel so good!” Sometimes on a good day I don’t even remember those seemingly interminable stretches of pain – the ones I thought would never end. Other times, I’m sure the good day won’t last, but also I definitely don’t want to be miserable.

I’m not asking for my pain to come back! I’m just sure that it will.

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How do I reconcile the ping-pong-like thoughts in my mind?  It is literally mind boggling.

If left unaddressed, these thoughts can spark some anxiety. Anxiety sparks a need for control. A need for control sparks compulsions. Compulsions, right now, look like increased exercise and attention to food. Increased exercise and attention to food result in exhaustion and pain. Exhaustion and pain cause a need for more sleep. Sleeping while anxious and in pain is an incredible challenge. Which, ultimately means that I’ll be perpetually anxious and exhausted, and possibly risk a flare up until the next time I catch a surge. Which could be weeks or months, and that ambiguity, that yearning, causes me more anxiety.

But, in the meantime, I’m going to soar for as long as I can! Today I feel good! We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

 

 

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#ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike and The Power of Knowing I’m Not Alone

At their core, people want to belong and feel purposeful. We crave connections with each other — to something larger than ourselves.  

In the age of social media, Twitter and blogging often welcome that type of intimacy. I frequently find that my online friends “get it”. I don’t have to explain myself when I tweet about chronic pain or feeling like a Mac Truck ran over me. I don’t have to justify my spinning thoughts even though I feel crazed and like it’s not normal. Often, I recognize my values and my identities reflected in the topics other people are writing about or the pithy remarks they’re Tweeting. These connections exemplify for me how to elevate and insert my voice into important conversations. It makes me feel less alone and gives me some justification for how necessary my (and others’) writing is!

For the sake of connection, finding #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike was so important to me. I follow the creator, Sarah Fader, on Twitter, and for the better part of a year our lived experiences of chronic pain and anxiety have converged via the Twitter sphere. For me, reading these Tweets all weekend was incredibly empowering and also very overwhelming.

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For the most part, talking about anxiety, real anxiety, is taboo. I often talk about my worries, and what causes me stress, but the real crippling everyday feelings that occupy my life and mind, such as the heavy feeling of ambiguity, the frenetic feeling associated with not having a plan, or my obsession with time that makes me fear being late, are almost always off limits. By not talking about these anxieties and my feelings, and consequently devoting painstaking effort to appear put together, I’m bolstering the facade and mindset that minimizes and stigmatizes mental illness. If we all devote more energy to talking about anxiety, we can find solace in the well-deserved feeling of relief we experience when we learn that we’re not alone in life’s expeditions.

The hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelslike took my Twitter by storm this weekend. It was second only, possibly, to the Grammys! While at first, the possibility of contributing to this hashtag felt crusting to me, after a while I found that even just reading the Tweets was really reassuring! I could relate to folks’ feelings of inferiority in relationships and accomplishments, the overwhelming uncertainty and dread about sending text messages and emails, the fear that I’m overreacting or imagining how bad something really is, and the constant sensation that my mind is playing tricks on me.

I didn’t tweet anything using the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike for several days. I wasn’t sure how to put my thoughts into 133 characters or less. Actually, the task itself gave me anxiety! At times, reading the posts made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. Except I also felt moments of relief and sincere connection. The subsequent intimacy and connection to others that I gained by reading people’s responses and realizing that I’m not alone is no more dangerous than avoiding my feelings and experiencing my story in isolation.

I’m ready to write now; the words are spilling out of me!

This Is What My Anxiety Feels Like

It feels like the sense of  invincibility that comes from attempting to do it all and simultaneously avoid whatever is actually pending and important. It feels like unstoppable energy, and confidence that accrues from the electric feeling in my fingers and toes when I’m fueled solely by caffeine and adrenaline — it’s like possibility and efficiency are bubbling out of me! It feels like yearning for the sense of pride that is practically palpable from  beating the odds, or defying the expectations. It feels like feeling normal is temporary and maintaining that buzz requires believing I’m in control when I’m absolutely out of control. It feels like every time things feel actually fine, that feeling quickly diminishes and is replaced by intense, immobilizing sadness and isolation. It’s like in moments where I feel like I’ve “found me” I too quickly remind myself that this won’t last long. Usually this feeling lasts just about as long as it takes to take a deep, satisfying breath and recognize that for a moment I can breathe again. That realization makes even a glimpse seem like I’m watching someone else’s life from the sidelines. Anxiety makes me feel like an observer in my own life.

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Control

At its core, my anxiety is all about control. Perhaps it’s because I can recall so many times when I didn’t get to be in control of my life [read: abuse & chronic pain – although I can’t get into that right now]. I always fight my environment and circumstances to feel in control; it’s comforting, reliable, and trustworthy – except not really. It’s actually so deceptive. It’s a made up, abstract concept. Control reveals it’s malicious self when I’m not looking. When I feel like everything is finally manageable, the perception of control laughs in my face, and shows me how wrong I actually am [read: every excuse I ever had about compulsive exercise and not being hungry – more on that soon]. Control is a falsity. It’s a mirage. And, since I’m compulsive I literally get trapped in a vicious cycle of catching and chasing control. Since as early as I can recall needing control, I can identify how almost all of my attempts to ascertain control were various forms of self-harm. Most recently, it looks like excessive exercise and compensatory, disordered eating behaviors. Craving control isn’t glamorous, and any threat to that poses a likelihood for a compulsion to kick in – a false sense of manufactured control.

Overthinking

My axiety makes me feel like I can’t stop. I keep myself busy to avoid attending to the spinning thoughts in my head. I’m always thinking so quickly, so often, so intensely. It’s hectic, more appropriately chaotic, It’s also exhausting. Mostly though, it’s really really really overwhelming.

Sometimes it feels like I’m in a room and the walls are all my thoughts. If I could find some way out, a way to break down the walls, a way to push past the barriers that are my thoughts, I’d escape into fresh, crisp air. I’d be able to breathe again.

I’m just thinking too much about everything! I spend too much time reconsidering a conversation with a friend, trying to decide when to send a text so it won’t interrupt people, rereading sent emails for typos and potential misinterpretations that cannot be rectified anyway, worrying that what I submit is barley good enough (that I can only fool people for so long – so therefore rereading and questioning myself until I make myself literally sick), observing and responding to my perceptions of social dynamics, I could go on and on (clearly)!

I want to slow down. I want to pull up on the breaks and tell my head “STOP”. I grapple constantly with this paradox, when I’m not working (and I’m doing something for me) my mind is spinning thinking about all the things I need to be doing.  And then I start thinking faster, allocating every minute and attempting to convince myself it will be okay. It feels like a frenzy, like if I don’t harness my thoughts I won’t be able to turn off the anxiety. Conversely, when I start working I can’t even focus on what I’m working on because I’m thinking about a million, minimally important, other things.  

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I Need Air

My anxiety is like when you’re swimming. It’s like that precise moment right before you come up for air. The anticipation of a deep breath is quickly quenched by a satisfying inhale. However, if this action is repeated, for example if I were to quickly dart back under the water, then the repetition of anticipation and ascertainment may be associated with a feeling of never getting enough of what you need or incessant wanting. So, the gasp of air may be nearly enough to sustain your stroke and stamina but not to fully satisfy your desire. 

My anxiety is fueled by an insatiable want for full, deep, satisfying breath of air! And, as I relentlessly seek out this feeling of serenity I’m coming up against tall, sturdy walls of abruptness and urgency instead

Truth Time

Life is full of messy, uncomfortable, painful moments. And most of the time, we’re totally unprepared for how “real” life is about to get. It sneaks up on us, and then avoidance becomes our best alibi. Most of us are more comfortable staying a safe distance away from ourselves and our feelings – it’s easier than doing the work of reuniting our actions, intentions, and feelings. However, in those difficult moments we must practice balancing the opposing feelings of being fully present and running away. That’s scary! Yet, those are the moments in which we grow. We grow when we lean in to moments of discomfort and vulnerability. The anticipation is bound to be terrifying and reason enough to avoid disclosure at all costs, but in the end it may be relieving.

Feeling so deeply, being present in a place of hurt or pain, and embracing your own truth can leave you breathless. It’s brave. You may even find solace in sharing your story and discovering the power of knowing you’re not alone!

Want to participate? Tweet using the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike or follow Sarah Fader on Twitter to see what others are saying!

6 Thoughts About Girls Night Out – The Morning After Edition

1. Thin privilege exists

If you think thin privilege doesn’t exist read this and this. If you think thin privilege doesn’t exist try losing 50 pounds, putting on a tight skirt, and becoming an automatic magnet for guys in the club to grind up on you – unless there are skinnier girls around you. If you think thin privilege doesn’t exist, look around.  Also, the bar tender called me tiny. That NEVER happened before.

2. How did we get in without paying a cover?

The trick is to stand in the doorway and be incredibly indecisive until the bouncer loses their patience and lets you in for free. Also, A) Thin privilege B) We’re girls – my feminism is cringing at this right now.

3. If you go out and you didn’t get someone to buy you a shot, you didn’t try hard enough

Again, my feminism is cringing, but also such #LifeGoals. Also, why did we drink Fireball?!?!

Next up: how to tell if a guy is worth it by the type of drink he buys you.

4. Domino’s Pizza at 2 AM is the only proven way to avoid a hangover 

10/10 would do it again. But actually the results of my personal, non-biased, scientific study suggest that Domino’s Pizza at 2 AM after a night of drinking significantly reduces the risk and severity of a hangover by at least 95%.

5. Does dancing burn calories? 

Everything hurts. Literally everything. The tips of my toes hurt! I feel like I worked out for HOURS! Everything hurt while I was dancing – until I was drunk. When I was drunk, it didn’t hurt anymore. And so, I danced more. Now, everything hurts. Was it worth it? Probably.

6. I need to go to more queer bars

Getting drunk, dancing, and making out with guys is basically the standard fare for a night out at a straight club. Which is a totally fun set of activities, but also it gets old fast. Queer clubbing is WAY more fun – there’s so much more to anticipate! There’s more diversity. There are less guys just trying to get a quick hookup. There’s more color! Also, the music is better.

Also, I learned a lesson last night: The key to life is patience. Don’t guzzle, just sip.

And, here’s one more thought: Is it “girls night” or “girls’ night”? – It’s girls because we were a group of girls going out; we (the girls) don’t own the night. Except we did, and we always do. The verdict is undecided.