My nervous system is really overwhelmed. I know this because I have what I call ‘functional anxiety’ running in the background of my brain’s operating system. And it’s using up a lot of resources. On one hand, it’s a real victory to be able to recognize this. Once again, I find that I am having medical anxiety types of behaviours and thoughts. And I can interject with my rational mind, knowing that this is a barometer check for where my nervous system is running these days.
And so, yes, my nervous system is overwhelmed and stressed and dysregulated. And I have been doing some of the things that I have learned over the last year or so. Things that I know can help me calm and regulate my nervous system.
But even in doing those things, I am not getting my nervous system back into regulation for long enough, often enough to shut off the functional anxiety.
And now that the noise in my head and in my nervous system has been turned up, I am desperately searching for a mute button so I can shut off my thinking brain – just for long enough to get back to a sense of equilibrim. Turning the volume down isn’t going to do the job as quickly as a mute button would. But if a mute button exists, I can’t seem to find it at the moment. I remain in ‘deficit’.
In my last session of therapy I talked to my psychologist about this deficit. I said that I was feeling like I couldn’t do the daily things I needed to do for my household. I talked about being certain that there was no way that I was going to be able to make dinner. But that I had a rest, and after my rest I was able to do what I needed to do, but I still felt really fatigued and overdone. The way he described it was that my reserves were at a negative 100 and after my rest they were at a negative 50. Enough to ‘push through’ my responsibilities – but that I was still left in a deficit.
The numbers are of course arbitrary. He could have said I was at a negative 1000 and came back to a negative 900, and the point would have been the same. I was finding myself in a pretty big ‘energy deficit’ and my nervous system was reacting and responding the best way that it knows how to protect me.
Unfortunately, that is super uncomfortable – and in so many ways.
The anxiety itself is challenging to cope with. The anxious thoughts coupled with the changes in my body get really difficult at times. Racing thoughts. Worst case scenarios. Racing heart. Restlessness. Sweating. Headaches. Fatigue. All really shitty things to experience, and all things that keep adding to the deficit I am in.
And then there’s the anxiety about the anxiety. That ‘Oh shit it’s back again’ dread. That ‘I thought I was done going through this’ and of course, the good old ‘Will I ever feel okay again?’
The discomfort doesn’t end with anxiety. There’s also the frustration of not being able to do what I want to do with my time. It always seems like I have so many ideas and so many things I want to accomplish – particularly with my writing – but it seems like every time I pick up some momentum, the shit of life piles up and even if I have the time to put into my writing, I often don’t have the mental or physical energy to get started. I get caught in a state of inertia.
And if I do find myself motivated (like I am right now as I type this) it’s a case of my nervous system telling me that if I don’t get this shit out into writing, I am not going to make it through the day. Yes, that sounds dramatic – and of course I am not going to die if I don’t write – but the writing gets placed firmly in a ‘needs’ column, and is not something that is a luxury or something that belongs in my ‘wants’ column.
But you know what always stays firmly fixed in that luxury, wants column? The thing that I never get around to. Promoting my work. Being part of a community where I share my blogs and poems and memes and random thoughts. And this is a big part of my frustration. I so rarely get out of deficit long enough to participate or share or be part of a community or even long enough to be part of a single fucking friendship.
I struggle through my ‘musts’ and ‘needs’ and there’s rarely anything left over for ‘wants’ or ‘desires’ or ‘luxuries’ – you know, those things that I am motivated to do but keep hitting brick walls before I have enough momentum to break through them. And that makes life really dreary.
I was actually feeling really down today, and in writing this I understand why I am feeling down. It’s like there’s this tease that happens. I get excited about things, and chip away at things, but then some life ‘thing’ happens that sucks away all of my energy and attention. And the momentum is lost. I haven’t gotten enough momentum on the flywheel for this ‘writing thing’ to take on any life of its own, so at this stage it all rests firmly on my capacity to attend to it. And my capacity gets drained so quickly.
Clearly, it’s not motivation that I am lacking. I am really motivated. But motivation minus momentum is making me miserable.
I don’t know if it’s my age, or the stage of child raising that I am in, or the circumstances of the last few years where I have lost relationships with most of my family, my friends, my community; I’ve lost my home and our family pet; I lost living in my home country; and like everyone else in the world, I lost the sense of freedom in being able to travel freely, visit family, live in a mask-free society, and the idea that we could just live our lives without worrying about a pandemic or deadly disease of one kind or another that disrupts our way of life or kills us in large numbers. I’ve also gotten my autism diagnosis in this time period, and have faced so much of my complex developmental trauma head on. And maybe it’s all just in some phase of integration.
But I am really frustrated. I want my life to be about more than just getting through each day, and falling into bed exhausted every night. I want to have what it takes to go on outings with my kids, to take them on a holiday. To go somewhere alone with my husband. I don’t want to have to micro manage how I can take care of my nervous system when I need to go to a grocery store or to take my kids to the mall. And sometimes I accept this (but always begrudgingly) and other times, like now, I am just really pissed off that this is where my life is.
And I don’t have the answers for how to make it significantly better right now. I just hope that the people around me can prop me up until things seem more hopeful.