Saturday, March 16, 2013

Grey Veil...again?!

I will say unequivocally that dysthymia is physical - not situational. I know this because I swear felt it - I felt the physical / mental shift within in me a few days ago.

One moment, I was standing in the sunshine of my room, frame of mind optimistic and then without stimulus, there was a shift - not an obvious mood or energy level change, but a definite shift in my orientation, my core, my sense of being and relation to my surroundings. My previously expansive world, ebbed. In a split, almost imperceptible moment, the veil began to slip over my spirit.

I don't know if this is making sense or not. It is so hard to put into words - all I know is that this time I felt it. 

And, since then I have been struggling. The internal critic is returning and getting a little louder. I was a little better this morning when doing coffee with a friend, but I find my self now with heavy limbs again, fixated inward, and wanting to go back into the vortex to sleep.

I am feeling very self-conscious and critical - why am I boring you with this? Maybe in case anyone can relate. Maybe because somewhere I know I felt good before, and this nearsightedness will go away again. Maybe because I will try to get through this and will document it as I go through it and share it with you to help you or me or anyone or... no one...

Okay, so step one out of this...

                             very, very heavy now.Sleep, just hide....

No! I can't be that bad; after all, I am blogging right now. 

Wait, what would my therapists say? 

                            Get out of the house and away from the vortex! 

Okay, I'll be back later.

Please forgive the lameness of this post. I am hoping either you or I will see some sense in it later...


RECOVERY RULE #3:  Whatever you do, get out of the Vortex! 

As I mentioned above, I have been struggling a bit in the past few days. But I have learned what it feels like when depression begins to creep up on me, and I am starting to use the tools I learned in recovery. 

After I wrote (and shot) the above, I did get out of the house. I took a walk on a nearby trail with my husband and dog, and that was enough to readjust my frame of mind. 

Depression feeds on inaction. If you do nothing else, seal up your Vortex. Leave it physically, get out and get a change of scenery. It may not make things all better, but it will get you moving in the right direction!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Alcoholic or Problem Drinker?

I am often asked how it was that I knew I was an alcoholic when I first quit drinking. After all, I wasn't exactly the image most people have in their heads when they think of an addict. I wasn't an angry drunk - I never beat my children. I held down a job. I didn't drink early in the day or in the morning. I didn't drink in bars - didn't do "happy hour". I didn't hide my wine - in fact I reveled in the notion that I was a connoisseur {or so I fancied myself!}

Me with my Ex...and a perm! - hey, it was the mid-90s!
But I did spend my adult life trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. I wanted to drink as I pleased AND be a happy, healthy, fit, confident, successful woman...but it wasn't working. 

In my mid-30s, I began to see a therapist for panic attacks and anxiety. I thought I'd be able to root up some childhood trauma, hold it up to the light of reason, and watch my anxiety turn to dust like a vampire at dawn. Instead, I began the long journey of peeling away the layers to expose the diseases within. 

My therapist suspected a substance abuse problem early on in therapy. She challenged me on several occasions to forgo the drink, but I could never follow through with the commitment. In fact, though I heard her most of the time, I repressed her words almost instantly.

Finally, after failing yet another self-control challenge, I agreed to at least be evaluated by a substance abuse counselor. I thought I could finally put the discussion to rest and continue my "hobby" unabated. During my consultation, the substance abuse counselor asked me to look over the definitions of abuser and addict and see what I thought. {See bottom of post.} I was certain that I was an abuser and simply needed help getting back on track with "healthy drinking" - after all, wasn't I doing myself a favor in choosing red wine over beer? 

First, I read the traits of an abuser and could relate to most. Then, it all came crashing down when I read through addiction -  my eyes filled with unstoppable tears. The divorce proceedings had begun.

In early outpatient treatment, much of my "work" was spent on examining the evidence that I was not a normal drinker. Diagnosis buy-in {admitting I had a problem} was step one.

Over the next few weeks, the evidence mounted. I'll share with you some of what I revealed to myself - in no particular order. I knew I was an alcoholic, because: 
  • I felt uncomfortable, nay, damn irritable at parties, weddings, or other events at which no alcohol was served; and I would limit time spent there.
  • And if I knew in advance that alcohol was not on the menu for the occasion, I would drink before and after.
  • I drank everyday - my dose was 1 - 3 glasses of red wine.
  • At special occasions {i.e., parties, weddings, funerals, holidays, Fridays, Saturdays...} I drank as much as I pleased. 
  • I could almost always drink more than any other {non-alcoholic} woman - and many men - a point in which I took great pride.
  • I felt uncomfortable and cranky almost nightly when my husband wouldn't have a drink with me at dinner.
  • If given the choice of food or wine at a party, I chose wine first.
  • I could never understand how some people can have just 1 or 2 drinks or leave behind a half-full glass. It made me uncomfortable and gnawed at my core.
  • If my husband or I went out to dinner and the place we chose had no alcohol on the menu, I would be irritable and bitch about finding another restaurant.
  • My dresser and night stand were littered with wine glasses almost all the time.
  • My kitchen decor was a grapes / wine motif.
  • If I thought, for example, that a piece of chicken I ate was a little too pink inside, I would take a shot of Stoli {vodka} that I kept in the freezer - to kill any salmonella bacteria I may have ingested.
  • If the weather forecast called for a possible hurricane or snowstorm, the first mental planning I did was an assessment of how much wine I had left, and how much I should pick up - forget the bread, milk, eggs, bottled water, and batteries that all the "loonies" stocked up on!
  • Every day on my ride home, my thoughts would turn to how much wine I had in the house, and whether or not I needed to pick up any.
  • Once we were invited to the wedding of a good friend; and it was held at a vineyard. Since it was a weekend wedding extravaganza, we rented a house with our other friends who enjoyed drinking as much as we did...and I brought five bottles of pricey red wine to have on hand "just in case". I kept my stash in the car, however, since I didn't want anyone else drinking it.
  • I had rules around my drinking, e.g., "I don't drink before the evening", "I only drink 1 - 3 glasses on week nights", "I only {mostly} drink red wine - it is healthy for the heart and prevents cancer", "I don't hang out in bars, unless it's a special occasion", "I don't drink and drive" {unless I have to...}, "I don't drink hard liquor" {unless I ate under-cooked meat, or unless there's nothing else to drink!}, "I don't hide my wine - only alcoholics hide their booze. Please note - normal drinkers do not need rules.
  • I always thought, "I'm not an alcoholic...I'm not like them...I can control my drinking"...yet I never really could. Every time I started a health / fitness program and challenged myself to forgo booze until the weekend, I could not do it. Here are three days in a row from my 2005 fitness log: 

I am very grateful to be 7.5 years sober now. It was only through quitting drinking that I was able to heal my body and begin the long process of healing my mind and soul.

Chemical addiction does not go away without help, and will leave you empty, lonely, very sick, insane, incarcerated, and / or dead. Please think about this if you can relate to any of what I wrote. Seek assistance from a therapist or counselor. I promise that it is brighter on the other side - and waaaay more fun!!!

*Handouts from that first recovery center interview - taken from the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed. Copyright 1994, American Psychiatric Association:

*UPDATE: Just learned yesterday that this diagnosis will change slightly soon, (or has changed already?) to be one diagnosis instead of "Abuser" vs. "Addict". The DSM-V, due out this May 2013, will reflect these changes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Good Things Come...

It feels good, really good when the grip of depression and anxiety begins to release through treatment and recovery. The high one gets from having the soul reanimate one's body and mind is exquisite, but it apparently precedes a slight dip in the road when one discovers that real work still lies ahead.

I think that is where I am now. I have made great strides in overcoming social anxiety and depression, but if I want to take my life to the next level of growth, I will have to work...and I think it scares me a bit. Lately, I find myself procrastinating college coursework in particular.

What have you been procrastinating? What is stopping you from progressing to the next level of growth in your life? Whatever it is, commit to doing just one small thing toward that goal and see what happens.

I commit to doing one unit of Pre-Calculus tomorrow. What will you do? {Feel free to comment with your answer if you are feeling bold!}

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Small Voice

Somewhere deep down inside I've always known that I was meant to be more than a depressed, anxious, alcoholic. Call it an inner sense of knowing, perhapsa wordless tugging toward my true self. It may have been buried by years of emotional debris and drowned out by negative thinking set on "repeat", but that voice was there all the while.

What is that small voice - that inner knowing - trying to tell you?