Dealing with “Off” Days

Hi Everyone,

This post is gonna be a little more personal. I hope you don’t mind.

So, almost 4 years ago my mom passed away from ovarian cancer and I’ve had some interesting side effects that I didn’t anticipate. I expected to be sad, but I didn’t expect all the insanity that came with it. I became a hypochondriac almost instantly and so anxious that I could barely function. Now, everyday is a constant battle with my own mind. It’s gotten a TON better in the past year or two, but it was bad enough to where I was hurting myself (without meaning to) because I was so anxious. The anxiety was taking root in different parts of my body and causing them to not function properly.

So, I don’t want a pity party or “I’m sorry”‘s, because it really doesn’t help. I’m just trying to find a good way to push this crap out of my mind completely. I’ve developed a good sense of what’s logical and what’s just plain stupid. In the beginning, I would get a cramp in my leg and think “I have bone cancer”, which is extremely stupid. To some effect, I think everyone does this, but I let it eat away at me until I’m thoroughly convinced I won’t live until tomorrow. Now I’m better about it, but there are moments and days (like yesterday) that almost completely took over.

Yesterday was a unique situation where I thought something was terribly wrong with me (it’s not, I just spent 3 weeks being a vegetable for christmas break), but it really turned out that I just need to be more active. On top of that, I had a profound sense of uselessness. I’ve been struggling with myself lately because I don’t bring an income into our home yet. I’ve been in school for most of our relationship (Justin and I), but I still feel useless. A few times I was bringing an income, when I was a T.A. and working at the mall. Unfortunately I was driven out of my mall job by our regional manager who valued big hourly numbers over overall sales numbers. I was the second biggest seller in the store, but my average sale total was low, so she drove me out by cutting my hours to nothing. After that, Justin and I moved to Ypsilanti and I got an insurance job. Well, it turns out the owner hates gay people (I didn’t know that) and I couldn’t sell a product that I would never buy. I tried, but I was unsuccessful. After 2 months I was fired and back to square one. Except this time we had a higher rent payment, a city I hated, an apartment we both hated, and absolutely no money.

Since then, I have known that I’m not cut out for 9-5 jobs. I tried, but people don’t like it when you find creative ways to make work easier or smarter. The working world wants you to do it their way and to not think. I’m not cut out for that. Unfortunately, even with a private liberal arts education, I’m not qualified (apparently) for a job that allows you to think. I feel very strongly about this, but I also feel immensely guilty for placing our financial burdens on Justin. We thought this would get better when I went to grad school, but as you all know, that went tits up (excuse my language).

So yeah, yesterday was a bad day with that all crushing down on me. I feel much better today (the semester started), but I’m still anxious about the future. I need to find a way to deal with the anxiety, but I refuse to be medicated. The doctors tried that, it made everything 10x worse and I don’t like head pills. I will not have my personality changed by a pill.

Any ideas for chilling out? So far, my idea has been to stay busy and give myself something to do. I’m really bad at the whole “relaxation” thing. My only “relaxation” techniques that work so far are; 1) watching snow fall, 2) being in the garden, and 3) deep breathing exercises. Unfortunately, only one of those is possible at all times. And I would look really funny if I started doing breathing things in the middle of class or something.

Well, that’s it for today. Sorry it was so long, I just wanted to talk about it I guess.

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18 Comments Add yours

  1. kngillooly says:

    Hi Ben. I have battled with anxiety in the past and used to have panic attacks that lasted 20 minutes. My mom died of lung cancer last February and so I completely understand where this has all stemmed from. We all cope differently but overall death is extremely complex thing to handle emotionally. Our bodies always take it on because it is just too much to bear emotionally all at once. I will pray that your situation improves and that you are able to release the toxic thoughts that occupy your mind and stress you out further.

    1. I’m working on it. It just takes more energy than I have some days to remain positive. It’s not even that I’m crushed about Mom anymore, I’ve turned my attention to myself now. Being an artist, I was already self-deprecating to begin with, so it’s not a nice combination.

      1. kngillooly says:

        I get that. I had to throw out the paintings I did when I was in the middle of my panic attack stage. They were incredibly disturbing. I know that some days are better than others… but there is hope at the end of the tunnel. I know because I haven’t had panic attacks in quite some time. Hang in there my friend.

  2. jennyhud says:

    Hi Ben! I suffer from anxiety issues too and only work because I get to work outside in a garden. I totally understand not being a fit for a 9-5 job. I get really sad in the winter as I get stuck in an office (we used to have a heated greenhouse but budget cuts…yuck!). Something that has really helped: lemon balm. Super easy to grow and I throw a handful of leaves in my water. It really helps ease my anxiety. I keep a small patch growing in my garden at work for anyone who needs it. I also spend alot of my winter time reading. Once I tend to get involved in a good story, it takes over all the worrying going on inside my brain. Thinking positive thoughts for you!

    1. Thanks, I will try that. I love lemon balm and so does Justin, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind having some around!
      I actually have been reading a lot lately, it has helped!

  3. I suffer from health anxiety, too. I currently have “skin cancer” 🙂

    Things that have helped me: working, writing, yoga, vitamin D & lots of vegetables. Changing your diet really works! It will get better for you. xx

    1. I’ve been through that one before. A few months ago I discovered a freckle that I didn’t know I had on the back of my hand. It’s been there forever, I don’t know why it bothered me so much.
      Thanks for the suggestions. I’m doing the writing and I do some yoga as well! Thanks!

  4. cahall63 says:

    Ben, so much of what you wrote struck a chord with me! Most of my anxiety and a lot of my own insanity stems from childhood trauma and Bi Polar disorder, but the results are the same.

    I also understand that feeling of being “useless” when my husband works so hard to provide an income for us, and all my “work” is here at home and does not produce an income. I don’t do well with the 9-5 thing either, and there is a lot of guilt that goes with that.

    I’ve read through the other comments, and you’ve been given so good suggestions. Keeping yourself healthy by eating the right foods that provide real nourishment is a start. I love Lemon balm too, and I use and essential oil blend to help with the mood swings. I try to get outside a little every day, even when its cold. Reading has always been good for me too. Nothing beats getting lost in a great story!

    For me, I can get equally lost in a great piece of music.Music may be one of the most powerful forces on earth. I also do some Tai chi. Most importantly though, is my relationship with the Lord. I speak with Him often, and He surrounds me in His love. Oh, an I have a wonderful husband who just loves me through all the bad stuff.

    Hang in there, my friend. You are not alone!

    1. Thank you! I’m trying. I just need to find some self-worth again. I think once I’m providing the food for us and a small income, I’ll feel a lot better about it.

  5. Hope says:

    Breathing deeply helps me too. And I’ve learned to do it discreetly. I just count slowly in my mind as I breathe in and then out: In-two-three-four, out-two-three. Another thing that helps me when I’m anxious or stressed is a brisk walk. What’s also helped my anxiety, surprisingly, is ADHD medication. If the medication you’ve tried in the past has made you uncomfortable, of course you wouldn’t want to continue it, but maybe there are other options?

    1. I’ll probably go with the breathing and walking, I don’t like medication. If I do ever medicate, it’s tylenol or herbal. I’m not sure why, I just don’t want to rely on medication as much as some people I know.

  6. I think that despite what you’ve said in a previous comment, you are still in the grieving period Justin. There is a point when you shut it out, just to deaden the feeling but that does mean you can very inward facing as a result. Its very trite to say that I think it will get better in time, but in all honestly, that is the only thing that will really help. In your situation, you are also in that horrible hiatus, waiting for the good things (the homestead, the pottery business etc) to start… And waiting is very soul sapping. If keeping busy helps, then try doing just one small thing as often as you can which will help with that goal. Maybe clear out one cupboard a day – be ruthless about what you need to keep in your new life and dejunk… And scrub the cupboard clean! At the very least you’ll cut back on stuff you need to take with you (saving moving expenses) and ensure that the apartment owner can’t whinge about the state of the property when you leave! And get outside more, every day without fail x

    1. Thank you. I’m trying to keep myself busy and keep things moving. So far my favorite thing to do is plan the garden and work on these ebooks. They are keeping my mind off things.
      Thanks for the kind (and honest) words, it’s good advice.

      P.S. I’m Ben btw, Justin has yet to write a post for the blog. No worries!

      1. Oh crap! I know Justin’s name better because of course, you use it more than your own!
        Keep planning but do little practical things too, so that you are living in the now rather than the future. You have gone through so much that you sound a little ‘punch drunk’ from all the hits life has thrown at you recently. You just need time to steady yourself again. Love to you AND Justin! 😉

      2. I’ve definitely become considerably grumpy in the past year, more so than I ever have been. I’m trying though. Thank you!

  7. Your anxiety seems like it may be OCD related as well – triggered by grief possibly. (I live with some OCD people so it just seemed very similar, and theirs often expresses in fears about their health – and we have been through cancer with one of my children, which is when my anxiety started as well.) No one but you can say if you have allowed yourself to grieve through, or gotten stuck and the anxiety disorder can be a symptom of that. It’s a type of misplaced or masked pain. I’ve seen these situations. But in the here and now, you’ve had lots of good suggestions, regardless of the cause. For me, I had to recently cut out the caffeine. Made a huge difference. I also meet with a group of Quakers once in awhile as I do not have any space for silence in my life otherwise. 🙂 I am very confident, after following your posts – that your outward circumstances will improve greatly with time. You are smart, well-spoken, and care deeply about things that matter. I know that useless feeling all too well, but it’s just a lie talking. Just tell it to shut up. 🙂 (I know.. easier said than done.)

    1. Thank you for calling me well spoken and intelligent. I really, really appreciate that. It’s something I’ve strived for, for a long time.
      We’re taking it one day at a time, but it’s definitely improving. Just the prospect of improving our living situation has improved my demeanor significantly. Now it’s becoming more real everyday and I find myself feeling better all the time. I’ll keep working on the useless feeling, but once I’m producing our food and some income, I think I’ll feel a lot better.

  8. nuge67 says:

    Until 11 years ago I had no idea what anxiety was. When my 16 year old daughter was killed in a car accident I did.

    For me it was time triggers mainly. The time of day she died, the school bus etc. Dealing with it is different for everyone.

    The saying “time heals all wounds” is garbage. Time heals nothing. But as time passes things do get easier to deal with.But nothing is healed.

    For me, I had to keep my mind busy. Keeping my hands busy helped also, but keeping the mind busy was the only way I learned to deal.

    Now I rarely get anxious, but when I do…… it sound silly, but the biggest thing is telling myself to breathe. Long, deep breaths. Tell myself to calm down. Then do something. Dishes, split wood, wipe down the counter, anything, something.

    You can learn to deal with this but it will be in your own way. Support goes a long way. And from what I read here, you have support at home and on the net.

    Good luck!

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