Tag: stress

How Spaghetti Changed My Life

spaghetti singing

I know this is an odd post for the holidays but I am working on a personal essay for the BYU Studies contest and it is due Dec 31st.  I was wondering if any of you would be willing to read over my rough draft and offer me some guidance, editing.  Whatever you feel comfortable or have the time for would be great.  I can email you the .doc if you would like.  Just put your email in the comments section and I will send it your way.  Thank you in advance.

Most everyone has heard this story.  I have posted it in 2 different forms on this blog but this one is more personal and in depth than the 2 others.  I love it.  I think it is one of the best moments of my life.  I hope I have captured it even a little.

(and don’t worry I don’t love it too much to be unwilling to have it critiqued).

How Spaghetti Changed My Life

The stack on my desk seemed to be screaming with each piece of paper “Go home” and yet the existence of the stack meant I could not go home.  My boss Tanya had already read me the riot act about entering all the AP by the end of the day if you ‘can do something right’.

“I’m sorry.  I will try” I mumbled.  I had given up arguing with Tanya years before.  She was convinced I was an idiot along with most everyone else in the office.  If she had her druthers she would do everyone’s job because it would all finally be done right.

Normally I didn’t mind working late and doing the mind numbing work but today I had a reason I had to be out of there and the longer I stayed the more frustrated I felt.  It was like each invoice was a slap in the face.  I wanted to speed up but that would make for more mistakes so a slow well-done data entry was required.  Ugh….

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.  Every now and then I would look at a photo of me at graduation and the excitement on my face would both inspire and confuse me.  How had I ended up here? I wasnt supposed to be the girl with a stack of papers to enter and boss breathing down her neck, yet here I was

The truth is I looked around, interviewed and the only offer I had was to work in accounting for our corporate office.  It was the last thing I ever imagined I’d be doing, balancing books and entering AP but it was a job and in 2008 you took what was offered and felt grateful.

It was never a great fit, but I worked hard and gained many new responsibilities.  In fact, 2 people had quit and I had absorbed most of their work in addition to my own. This despite receiving little to no training and working with a manager who treated me like a bug she wished she could squash.

Somehow I had managed to last 2 years but each day I felt lower and more despondent about my life.  It seemed like madness to quit my job and dive into nothingness but the staying was like one of those Roadrunner cartoons and I’m Wyllie Coyote getting hit with the anvils of misery and depression.

Indeed, God had told me to make a change many times. Prayer after prayer I heard the words ‘make a change’, but I set it aside as impossible. Sometimes I would ask God ‘how?’  ‘How does a sane person quit their job that has benefits in a recession?  That’s nuts!’ but on the other end, ‘how does someone live life with a cloud surrounding their every movement, a cloud of stifled dreams and confusion that weighs you down until you  want to cry.

So on this day, like many others, I continued down the pile until all the AP entry was done.

“There!”  It was 6:30.  I had worked overtime again but I had done it and at least Tanya knew that my 10 key was insanely fast, faster than hers, so if that’s how long it took me that was the fastest it could be done.

Of course she didn’t praise my speed but offered me a curt goodbye.

Like a prisoner getting a pardon, I grabbed my bag and raced home.

You see there was particular urgency to get home tonight because I had a meal to prepare.  Most of the times I was too exhausted to cook, but when I did I loved to make a big to go of it.  There is nothing grander than the large pot of soup simmering for hours or a turkey with crispy skin on the outside but moist meat on the inside.  Yum! My roommates and I lived in the tiniest apartment in a basement with basically a bar-sized kitchen, but I could make masterpieces when given the encouragement.

Luckily such encouragement had come a few months before.  My ward did a service auction every year to raise money for sub 4 Santa.  It was something I had spearheaded many times, even in high school, and I would have liked to this year but I was too busy at work, especially in the busy holiday accounts and end of the year reconciling.  January, the month of my birthday, was even worse.  I thought about it with a shudder….

At the auction I didn’t know what to donate but I knew that many knew what a great cook I was so I offered up 3 meals of your choice made by Rachel Wagner.   The bidding started and it was pretty brisk than Darren came through with the win.  I must admit I groaned.  He was the last person I wanted to win. Not because he wasn’t a nice guy but he was so boring.  I had tried so many times to start up a discussion and nothing, no opinions or thoughts on anything!  It kind of made me nuts (and not a nuts you kind of like him nuts, just nuts!).

After the auction I met up with Darren and I asked him what meals he would like.

“Well, whatever.  I’m sure it will be great”

“No, it says your favorite 3 meals?” I pressed him further.

“I don’t really have a favorite”

“Ok.  Is there something you don’t like?” I asked

“Mustard.   I don’t like mustard”.  I was honestly proud of the boy.  An opinion had been shared for the first time in 2 years of our friendship.  The boy didn’t like mustard!  But that really doesn’t help me with my meal.

“Well, if you aren’t going to decide than I will.  I will make my favorite 3 meals without mustard, which is basically all my favorite meals!”

So he agreed and I made a couple of unmemorable if tasty meals and tonight was the coup de gras- my favorite food period: spaghetti and meatballs with homemade marinara sauce.

This was to be a meal never to be forgotten.  A sweet and spicy sauce with tender meatballs, spaghetti, parmesan cheese.  Perfect.

I had done all the shopping beforehand but by the time I got home I had an hour to make the entire meal.  My roommate doubted if I could pull it off and kindly said:

“Maybe we should just go out to eat”

“No! I’m tired of mediocre food.  I had promised this meal to myself (and Darren) and I was going to get it!”

“Ok.  Let’s help.  I’m mixing the meat and then we will be rolling meatballs.  Can you fill the pasta pot up with water and get started on the sauce?” I asked my roommate.

At this point my hands were submerged in meat.  Going against the grain I used pork, beef and Italian sausage (which I realize is pork but different).  Veal was out of my budget but the sausage has a bit of spice and tastes great.

I had learned that both dry and wet breadcrumbs are key to a moist meatball and a cookbook I read also suggested putting a tablespoon or two of water when you are mixing.  How can water not make something moist!

Eventually the meat mixture was done and I started rolling.  It was already 7 by then and I had just started. The sauce was bubbling and smelled great.   My phone kept ringing but as long as it wasn’t Darren I kept my head down and rolled as fast as I could.   Finally, after what seemed like forever it was done and the raw beauties sat out in front of me ready to go into my Dutch oven for browning.

The meat sizzled as it went into the hot oil and all the spice and fat smelled delicious.  I felt myself deeply breathing in the glorious aromas and my cloud of anxiety and depression went away for a few minutes.  I felt lightness and happiness I hadn’t felt in many months.

Unfortunately as I looked up the pasta water had boiled down to nothing and our kitchen looked like a sauna with the windows fogging up.  So I filled the pot again and literally waited for it to boil.  It really feels like it will never boil!

Eventually we had pasta cooking and I moved the meatballs into the sauce to cook together for a time.  Darren was there by now, and he was giving my roommate his normal annoying answers- poor girl.

I cooked with a form of devotion veering on madness.  This one thing in my life I would do perfectly right.  I was tired of screwing up all the time and having my boss remind me of each and every last time.  Goodness knows she’s totally ignorant of all that I do and how to do it so it’s easy to criticize me for my flaws.

I took a deep breath and said to myself ‘I need to not think about her the rest of the evening.  No more’

Easier said than done but I sat down in a dining room chair waiting for the meatballs to finish cooking.  I felt exhausted.  My whole body hurt.  My brain hurt.  I was ready to hibernate for months, preferably until summer.  I was totally spent.

Eventually the water bubbled up over the pan so I checked the pasta and it was al dente.  The meatballs were cooked all the way through and we had a light salad made on the side.   It was finally done and only 1 ½ hours late!

So we sat down my friends and I and said a prayer over the food and then dove in…

The spaghetti noodle rolled around my fork for a few minutes until it was about the size of the meatball.  I cut the meatball in half and it became the perfect bite.  As I feasted on all those flavors I tasted acid, sweet, earthy parmesan, hearty pasta.  The meatballs were light and full of flavor.  Everything was delicious and I said to myself:

“This is the best meal I have ever made and I feel sublimely happy. I feel like I could conquer the world!”

And then in one of those moments of clarity we all have in life, I looked up at my friends and said

“Why isn’t the rest of my life this good?”. The question hung in the air like the steam from the boiling water.

Indeed, why wasn’t the rest of my life as good as this amazing plate of pasta? I had every life advantage and there was no reason to be miserable all the time. It was a question I pondered on for many weeks.  Eventually I realized that I could either be keep being unhappy and have a true nervous breakdown (already had a panic attack so it was coming) or I could start having joyous experiences again. I could find things that make me as happy as that spaghetti.

So I quit. I quit and I’ve never looked back.  It was the best decision of my life and it was all from a bowl of spaghetti.

No Sleep

Last night I got no sleep.  I was tired all day and had to go to the house in Alpine to show someone around.  Worried I would be a drowsy driver I drank some caffeine around 4:30 and I bitterly regretted it by the end of the night.  Plus, my ambien prescription is out and that seems to be the only thing that really helps.

It was a long night.  I kept trying different strategies but nothing worked.  (Deep breathing, counting sheep, listening to audiobook, reading, nothing).  Finally around 4:30 I gave up and decided to start working since I was up anyway.  Its peculiar  because usually this happens when I’m worn out or frazzled but I felt fine.  No real stress. The only thing I can put my finger on is that stupid diet coke I drank.  I used to drink a super big gulp everyday, sometimes 2 and it wouldn’t affect me much but not any more.

I tried to take melatonin but it wasn’t helping.  Nothing was helping.

How do I get in these cycles  you ask?  Well, I stayed up too late during my recent trip and ever since then I’ve had a hard time going to sleep before 2 am.  Sometimes more like 3 am.  My body will be tired but my eyes will be wide awake.  At a certain point you start to have anxiety about not being able to sleep and it gets worse and worse.

I know it affects me in many ways.  Luckily I have a job that is flexible and I can even work late at night if all else fails.  But its hard to be motivated to exercise when you are so tired and a lot of the swim masters are at 6 or 6:30 and I’m sorry but I need more than 4 hours of sleep a night.

Last Fall I went to an insomnia specialist and she helped me get things on track so perhaps I need to see her again.  Meanwhile I’m trying to stay up till 8 or 9 tonight so I don’t wake up at some crazy hour.  Its literally painful.  My eyes hurt, head hurts, my stomach is bothering me and I have no appetite.

I don’t mean to be complaining.  Its just insomnia is the worst!

Do you guys have any strategies that work for you? I’ve also done the sleep studies and have a cpap but it makes my insomnia really bad so I don’t wear it often.  Some days my room helps me a lot with all its beautiful darkness and other days my whole body feels tight and I can’t relax.

Tired Rachel
Tired Rachel

By the way, this is my 700th blog post.  Pretty crazy right! Thanks to all who read it.

More Delays

Some of you that don’t follow me on facebook may be curious to know where my house is at.  Unfortunately I don’t have great news.  The house is done and gorgeous but I can’t go through closing until the FHA on the complex gets approved.  I’m not going to hear anything until Tuesday because of the Monday holiday.  We have no idea if we will even hear anything then. I think I am going to go crazy!

To make matters worse we could go through all of this and get denied for the myriad of reasons FHA has. I’m trying to not think about that because it is highly unlikely but still possible and with so much time to stew on things the mind reels. Yesterday I caused myself to have a mini-panic attack trying to decide between keeping with the FHA loan or abandoning it and going conventional.  In the end, I decided to stick with what I have and not second guess myself.

So now it is just waiting. The house is done.  It’s sitting there and I’m waiting.

In the meantime I’m trying to curtail my anxiety and fears as best I can.  Mostly I’m trying to distract myself from the boxes and the continually rescheduled moves and the looming loan and closure and some moments I do better than others.  A lot of the day my brain feels like it is going to explode.  Like I’m in a big vice and it gets tighter and tighter.  I’m left wondering what I can do and the answer is nothing and that makes things tighter and tighter.

So all there is to do is wait and sigh and try to distract myself.  I wish I could explain it better but the attempt feels totally futile.   I’m not stressed out, I’m not even anxious.  You know that feeling when you are just about to throw up, like your insides are going to pop outside of you?  That’s how I feel all the time. I wish I could help it.  I wish I could make it go away.  I wish I could grow up and deal with things better.  Sorry I’m really trying.

I am trying to make things nice for my tenants by ordering a POD to be delivered at the house on Monday so they can do part of the move on Monday if they wish.  It’s the least I can do with all they have put up with.

And all I can do is wait…

An Absorber

Something has been on my mind that maybe all of you, internet world, can have some insight into.  Maybe you can relate?

Do any of you have friends who seem to be able to handle just about anything that is thrown at them? What I mean is I have friends and family in my life that never get unglued, never feel panic or anxiety, and we are talking after dealing with some serious trials and yet they bounce back so well.  Do you have people in your life who keep a constant calm while the world is swirling around them?

I envy those people.  As much as I try I just can’t do it.  In fact, I have to consciously allow myself to express anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed or the problem only gets worse.  The whole reason I had my first panic attack was because I balled everything up inside of me for 3 years until it exploded. I learned the hard way that keeping it all in my head only made things a million times worse for me.

This week I am feeling haggard and worn out.  Trying to manage 3 jobs, moving, waiting for the house and the loan, managing my tenants, finding tenants for one of my Dad’s properties who wants to be in by Saturday which necessitated the moving of my tenants (sigh…) and going to a new ward.  All of that in one week!

And yet I think of my friends with special needs kids or a myriad of other challenges and my problems seem so small; yet that doesn’t stop my brain from feeling like it is going to explode.  My heart starts to race.  My head aches.

I guess when it comes down to it I wish I could be more of an absorber.  It makes me feel weak that life wallops me so often.  I honestly try to be stronger but again that can make it all worse.   I see little improvements in how I handle anxiety and I ALWAYS finish what I start but the journey can be rough.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve turned into kind of a lousy adult because I come unglued so easily.  Things seem to make me nervous or anxious that other people don’t even care about.

For example, I was talking with a friend about my frustrations over being alone for Christmas and she mentioned all of the great things she did when she was alone at Christmas and it made me feel more frustrated.  It just feels sometimes like others have it all figured out and I am playing catch up.  Do you ever feel that way?

I think the challenge is finding that balance between improving myself and self-acceptance.  I want to do better and I certainly don’t want to feel anxiety but then I also want to acknowledge what I am feeling and deal with it in a constructive way.

I don’t know if any of this makes any sense so please tell me if you see any of this in your life?

How can I do better?  How can I be more of an ABSORBER?  What do you do to manage anxiety in your life in a productive way?

On a related note, one of my frustrations is that it is difficult to adequately describe how I feel.  Stress definitely doesn’t encapsulate it and anxiety is really too clinical for most people.  Pressure or feeling overwhelmed is the best I can do.  I think this image says a lot more than my words ever could.

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Two Week Notice

stress11

Today I found out that my house is officially delayed by 2 weeks…sigh.  The cabinets took longer to install and now the countertops aren’t ready until next week.  I might get lucky and things will be done sooner but at this rate I wouldn’t count on it.  I have increased my leave date in my apartment complex and let my tenants know.  They were all bummed about the delay but understanding, which I am SO grateful for.  I really found the best people ever for my new place.  Everything would be so much more stressful if they were unhappy.

The truth is it is out of my hands but that is exactly what makes it so nerve-wracking.  I am just at the whim of this other group, tossed about from one week to another.  That is very frustrating, but also the nature of the beast.

Any of you out there have any strategies for dealing with the next few weeks in a healthy way? Maintaining my anxiety, not getting to worked up, etc?  I kind of wish I hadn’t started packing so early because it adds to the sense of chaos and lack of control in my life, creating more anxiety, but how was I to know? As late as last week they were still committing to the 31st as the end date so you have to prepare for that.

I’ve been trying deep breathing, my sleep hygiene, exercise, essential oils, and even some medicine on occasion, but what other tools help all of you out there dealing with anxiety during intense times of change?  I would really appreciate some feedback on this one.

Have any of you built a house? Perhaps you can relate to what I’m experiencing.  I’m now realizing what a bold move it was to dive into not only home ownership but a build and an income property and I know that is part of what is overwhelming.  However, on the same breath I know it is right but the right things can be overwhelming and full of anxiety (ie pretty much every day on my mission…).

I would love to hear your experiences from any of you that have been through home builds.  Unless it’s horror stories.  Save those for another day!

At least I know what’s coming and am not waiting in limbo for contractors to get back to the builder.  That was worse than a delay.  In the meantime, I’m trying to count my blessings and manage my anxiety that is nearly constantly bubbling inside me (I told my Mom today I can’t help it.  It’s just there all the time.  I can help how I respond to it but not make it go away).

5 Love Languages at Christmas

Think of the 5 languages next time you are watching your favorite Christmas movie!
Think of the 5 languages next time you’re watching your favorite Christmas movie!

Having a relationship free Christmas with no family/spouse to spend it with has made me think a lot about past holidays and why some were more effective and loving than others? What made one Christmas happier and lighter in feel than others?

I’ll be honest when I was in college we had a pretty mean streak of chaotic Christmas breaks.  For about 3 years some or all of us ended up getting sick, my parents had a new baby (always tough) and they had just moved to California and hadn’t really settled in.  Life was a challenge.

That said, we did always manage to leave the season with a sense of unity and purpose and particularly Christmas Day never failed to be magical. A lot of this credit goes to my Mother who does whatever she can to make our somewhat odd family united.

Anyway, I was thinking about what I could have done in some of those hard years to make things better?  It’s hard to say because I was exhausted from school and ill equipped to deal with a family under duress.  I was also immature and eager to get back to my independent life. A baby and young toddler were the last thing I wanted to deal with and my response was probably on the selfish side; although I do think I tried.

I sometimes think it would be easier if I had friends in California but since I only lived there for 9 months, even today, I end up working most of break which doesn’t make it much of a break for me.  Plus, I find I turn into this different person when I am home.  More of a nag and less of a carefree, happy person.  Do any of you see that with your own behavior at home? I’m not sure why I do that?

While I was pondering these past Christmases I thought about how Christmas is like a little microcosm of all the ways we experience love (and its opposite) jam-packed into one month. There are so many opportunities to think of others and to receive love in return that it is really like no other time of the year, but again how can we make those interactions more effective?

I’m sure most of you have heard about the 5 Love Languages.  They are by Dr. Gary Chapman and have been a part of a number of his bestselling books. While possibly a bit gimmicky, I have found them to be very helpful in my friendships and family relationships over the years and today I was thinking about how much they relate to Christmas.   In fact, I think the success of a Christmas depends on our ability to express love in each of the 5 ways, and in the way others need that love:

5 Love Languages of Christmas

1. Quality Time-  This is the type of person that will get very frustrated by a slew of activities that are rushed through (how many of us do that at Christmas!).  They want time for ‘meaningful conversation’ and ‘eye contact and shared activities are needed to feel loved’ (I  wonder how many people felt ostracized from me because I couldn’t make eye contact with them with my strabismus?).

Basically bonding time is what they need most of all.   For example, this person would probably not be well suited to seeing a movie Christmas Day but would rather sit and talk over cookies.

My parents aren’t really ‘event’ people, meaning they enjoy doing things with all of us, but I don’t think they see it as an important expression of love.  They would see all the time spent with me on the phone as more important than any activity we might do together (which for me is definitely the case; although I am also an activity person).  In the past I have gotten frustrated when my family doesn’t seem as energized as I am about something important to me but maybe that is just not the way they express love?  Hmmmm

2. Receiving Gifts- This is probably the clearest link to the holidays and most treacherous.  Following the example of the magi of old we give gifts during the holidays and most of us try to give something thoughtful that the other person will like.  With children it is often the quantity of the gifts that stand out where an adult may get one or two more carefully chosen gifts.

Here’s the rub- some people, as Dr. Gray points out, just don’t think gifts are an important expression of love; for others it is key.   I can think of people in my family who land on both ends of the spectrum.  My Dad, for instance, is not a huge gift person.  He likes them fine but it’s definitely not his language.

One year I got my brother in the Christmas drawing and he said ‘ughh, Rachel is a bad gift-giver’ and I was so offended.  (It may have been his strategy because I gave him a sweet gift to prove him wrong!).  Giving and receiving gifts is important to me and I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give an effective gift- https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/good-gifts/

Dr. Gray says “When you are with a partner who love little gifts and surprises, this is precisely what you will get. You will constantly be showered with new clothes, flowers or even chocolates. This is how they want to be loved, so this is exactly what they do for their partners. Giving the gift of self is also an important symbol of love to these people.”

On the other hand when someone is not a gift love language person it can come across as cold and distant to those who are. I can think of several Christmases I would have been happier had my expectations of both receiving and giving of gifts been aligned with the person on the opposite end of the gift.  Something to think about!

3. Words of Affection- This is a person who needs positive reinforcement vocally to feel loved.  Dr.  Gray says “those who speak this language are sensitive people and don’t take criticism as well as others. They may illustrate their frustrations by using sharp words or even by harassing you.” (sound like a holiday you have experienced!).  I probably fall into this language most of all; although, I have also learned over the years to hold feelings inside causing me anxiety and even panic.  That’s how unnatural it is for me to not communicate my feelings.

This type of love language can be a powder keg when large gatherings combine lots of personality traits together, giving ample opportunity for snubs, slights and over-reactions.  Even just the anxiety of reinforcing others and then not getting it back like you might have hoped can be difficult.  For example, someone who is shy and private may have a hard time communicating with someone who needs words of affection.

On the other hand, this expression can be full to overflowing in the positive during Christmas as people share testimony of the Savior, and we feel Jesus’ love stronger than the rest of the year.  Plus, cards, carolers, party-goers and family members all get ample opportunity to shower each other with words of love.  It just helps to know that is what your loved one needs.  Watch out for his or her patterns this year.

I can think of so many people who are great at this.  My best friend Emily comes to mind.  She is loving and thoughtful and we have a very similar type of love expression which is good for a best friend! :).  My old roommate Camille is also excellent at absorbing large personalities.  She is such a great listener, a necessary companion to being a words of affection person.

4. Physical Touch- This is probably the least visible during the holidays but certainly present.  As we visit with loved one’s hugs and other physical touch are a part of feeling warmly welcomed and loved.  If you are someone like me who is not a cuddly person sometimes such affections can be difficult to initiate but still appreciated.

It’s interesting after I showed my new roommate the house we were chatting and at the end of the conversation she said ‘Can I give you a hug?’.  I don’t know her well enough to say she is a physical touch person but suffice it to say I would never have made a similar gesture and t was very friendly.  Made me feel all the more confident in her character and that she would be a good roommate.

5. Acts of Service- Dr Gray defines this as “Some people find pleasure in doing things for others.  This may mean that they will feel loved when their partners help out with chores or does things for them.  However acts of service should be done out of love, not obligation”.

I was not always so great at the doing it out of love part but I did it and that counts for something.  Again, I was immature and craving my independence.  This did not always make for the most willing servant for my family, but we did work hard.

I remember one of the most difficult Christmas times my mother was injured and my Dad was sick and when we came into the house my Mother said ‘I hope you have come with an attitude of service’.   I’m sure I wasn’t perfect but I remember trying to serve.  My Sister (who was always better at this than me. Perhaps it is her language of love?) and I planned and cooked for a church party my Dad had scheduled weeks before the injury or illness nearly cancelled it.  I know it meant a lot to my Mom to have our help and I look back on it with gratitude to my Heavenly Father for giving me the chance to serve.

I have always been involved with service for the community around Christmas.  For years I did sub-4-santa, even when I was in high school, and have one planned this year for a family friend.  I am also taking the lead on Swimfest which I see as service to my swim family.  Next Tuesday I am going with my activity days girls to sing at the senior center near my house- another great opportunity to serve during Christmas.  (The girls requested going to the center! Isn’t that cute?)

So those are the 5 love languages.  I hope that you can think about them as you try to express love this Christmas season.  The most important thing to remember is that Jesus Christ, the reason for the season, understands our language perfectly and can love us like nobody on earth. In fact, He already has shown the ultimate love by giving us His life so we could be forgiven and be happy.  Returning to His presence with our eternal families makes all of life’s struggles worth it (and the happy times extra sweet).  Merry Christmas!

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Laziness is a Lie!

So I’ve decided that every time I don’t want to do something, I should do it. I can’t think of a time in my life that I have debated about doing something and then haven’t been glad when I actually go and do it.  (Did that sentence make sense?).  For instance, today I had heard about a relief society party with my new ward and was planning on going, then when it came close I debated.

“I’m tired”, “It’s my only night off all week”, and “I don’t feel up to meeting a bunch of new people” all floated through my head.  Even told my sister these lame excuses.  (To be honest, the excuses got even lamer- like there will be unhealthy food (which there was cheesecake…) and my jeans are still wet and won’t be dry in time).

Fortunately for me I am blessed with a personality that most of the time shuts off the lazy me and goes and does anyways, and like I said I’m always glad when I do.  (I also have friends who refuse to let me be a lazy slob!  Thank you!) So today I got off the coach, away from my laptop and went to the party and you know what it was great!  Everyone was so friendly and welcoming.  A lot of people had been told about me which I found amazing as I had just spoken to the bishop on Tuesday (nice work ward!).  There was a great turn out and we even got to meet my new neighbors across the street.  They seemed super nice.

I’m really glad I went because now I will at least know a few faces and more importantly they will know me.  That is a great relief when moving to a new area, especially as a single Mormon. What made me particularly happy is the ward seems very diverse.  There are houses, townhouses, apartments, etc and a group of singles that meets once a month for family home evening! 🙂

So now I have a request for all of you.  When you hear me say something like ‘I was going to do something but…’ or ‘I’m really tired.  I don’t know if I feel like going to….’ or ‘I could really use the rest.  I don’t  think I will do…’ look me square in the eyes and tell me to get off my butt and go and do whatever it is that I really want to do deep down inside! Remind me that the lazy voice in my head is a lie.

I mean look at me- I wrote a book in 10 days, I swam a 5k, I served a mission, work 3 jobs, have a book club for almost 3 years, written over 500 blog posts, with 3 callings, all while still keeping up with Dancing with the Stars and Project Runway 🙂 (Not all those at the same time but still I can do hard things).  I am clearly capable of doing great things and doing things makes me generally happier.  It makes me crazy to think of all the times I told myself I couldn’t do NaNoWriMo and then I do it in half the time allotted.   It makes me want to go back and kick that lazy person telling myself I was too busy.  Think of what a better writer I would be if this hadn’t been my first time!

No more lazy Rachel! That voice is almost always a lie!  Remind me of this post dear friends.  Remind me possibly tomorrow when I don’t want to work out, or do whatever it is I’m supposed to do…

NaNoWriMo: Writing a Panic Attack

So I finished my book today!  I can’t even believe it but it is done and I kind of love it.  I’m sure most people would see it as a silly book but I love it.  I can’t wait to edit and then print it out for my own little Christmas gift to myself.  I haven’t decided who else I want to read it but will probably give it to a few people.  I admit it will be hard to hear feedback because the story is so close to my heart.

However, I thought it would be fun to share one more section with all of you.  This is where I had to write about the panic attack I had in 2007.  Just before the scene you will read I had unloaded to my boss about all my frustrations and anger.  He was nothing but super duper nice and told me we would discuss the situation on Monday.  At the time I thought it was all done when I hung up the phone.  Then the nagging  question of what would happen at that Monday meeting overtook my brain.  Its pretty much just as you will read below.  Only major difference is instead of Oliver coming to my rescue it was my brother.  We’ve never been super close so I’m grateful to have that moment of bonding, as hard as it might be.

Since the episode below I have had one other panic attack during a period of extreme anxiety at the beginning of this year.  I can honestly say it is one of the most terrifying experiences a person can have.  I hope I have captured a tiny bit of that experience in this story.  I hope I have portrayed what went on in my brain effectively and in a way that makes sense.  This is just a rough, rough draft. It may not even be any good, but I was proud of how it came out.

No critiques at this time.  Just enjoy it and keep writing

Here it is

The Panic 

I don’t know how long I was asleep.  Maybe 30 minutes, maybe an hour but it was not a restful experience.  I woke up groggy and for a second I couldn’t remember where I was or what had happened.  It was almost like I was a drunk person waking up from a coma (not that I would know what that was like).  My head ached and I was starving.  I looked at the clock 5 pm.  No wonder I was hungry.  I’d slept the afternoon away.   Why had I done that?  I never take naps.

“Oh yeah, I lost it at the office today” I say laughing in a sort of half dazed, half crazed way that insane people do in the movies.  The whole incident felt like a movie.  I wonder what my Father and Mother will think of all of this?  I know they would be concerned for me but would they understand it?  I guess Rich had understood why not my own Mother and Father?

“I wonder if Jamie is home?” I ask myself.  “Oh yeah, she is going on a date with red head Sean directly after work.  I wonder how it is going? She certainly deserves a great guy.   They would certainly have cute red headed kids” The image of all those red heads makes me chuckle.

I realize I better get some food in my stomach, so I put on a new set of clothes and take a look at my reflection.  My eyes are sunken, dark and puffy from crying. What a sight! My muscles feel sore and tired which I find odd.  I haven’t done any exercise unless crying is considered a workout.  I put on my necklace and give it a kiss.  I wonder what Oliver thinks of my outbreak? He would probably feel bad but would he care like I wanted him to care?  Why did he seem so upset with me? Maybe I can talk to him on Monday and get to the bottom of all of this?  Monday, Monday, Monday.  Why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, that’s when Rich is going to meet with Chandra and myself?

Meeting with Rich and Chandra on Monday I repeat to myself several times.  Suddenly the weight of the situation occurs to me.  I’m going to meet with Chandra and Rich over everything I said to Rich today.  I’m going to have to confront Chandra with it all.  With three years of anger and resentment, how would that work out?  What if I lost it again and fled?  My cheeks got red just thinking about it.  It would be so embarrassing and to make matters worse my parents would be in town on Monday, so they would see it all.

Why hadn’t I just quit before losing it? What is Chandra going to say? What did I have to say in my defense? I could picture it now. “Chandra has been mean to me and treats me with condescension”. I could picture her telling me to ‘wake up’ or ‘grow up’ and was she right? What if I just came off looking like a fool? I knew Chandra had the ability to do that.  All she had to do was talk about all of my screw ups on the check run or only getting four fixed assets done in one week. Would she bring up the ‘adequate’ comment and if she did what would be her defense?  Rich had said she hadn’t spoken with him.  Would she get fired and then finally scream at me?  What would happen?  Why hadn’t I listened to the voice telling me to ‘make a change’ but it had seemed so hard?

Now nothing felt harder than Monday’s meeting. After all I had been through.  After all the anger and humiliation it was all coming to a forefront and I have never felt more relieved and terrified at the same time.  It was awful.

I had no choice but to go through with the meeting no matter the consequences.  Even if I ended up looking like an idiot.. well let’s be honest I already looked like one. Monday would just be facing the consequences of what I had done instead of hiding in my room.

My brain felt fuzzy again and I couldn’t seem to stop myself from asking more and more questions.  What would happen and would I look stupid seemed to be the most persistent questions I couldn’t get out of my head.

My heart beat seemed faster and I felt like I needed to take another nap.  “How the heck am I going to get through this weekend?” I wondered. A distraction.  I need a distraction. Cooking seemed like a good idea so I headed to the kitchen to see what I could whip up.  Looking in the fridge we had nothing unless I could make a meal with an egg some ketchup, jam and an expired container of yogurt.  Shoot.  Looks like I will have to go to the store.  It had been a week since Jamie and I had been to the grocery store to get food for the spaghetti incident dinner.

“I better go to the grocery store because I am certainly not going out to eat looking like this” I sigh into the fridge.

Grabbing my keys I head out to the car but the distraction isn’t really working.  As I walk and then get in my car I hear again and again in my head ‘What is going to happen? You will look like a fool”.  “Go away” I think and try to shoo the thought away like an annoying bug. Again when I start the engine the same thoughts plague me.

‘Focus on driving.  You can’t control Monday” I pleads with myself, trying to control my brain as if I was engaged in a giant tug of war game.

Driving does partially distract me for a few minutes and entering the store I feel confident.  “I can do this.  I cannot think about work.  I am thinking about what I might like to eat for dinner.  There are so many options.  Maybe chicken.” And then uninvited “What is going to happen? You are going to look like a fool.  You look like a fool right now.  Think how many times Chandra has done it before.  She always wins every argument.”  I look around at the crowd surrounding me and in my head everyone seems to be stepping away from me.  “I do look weird.  I am weird. Why is everyone looking at me this way?”  My breath gets faster and my heart races.  “Go away!” I think and I start to cry in a desperate sort of way.

“Ok.  I have to leave now. Maybe go to the hospital” I say to myself in a very clinical sort of way because my brain is totally absorbed in the panic of it all.  “What is going to happen? You are going to look like fool” pops into my head no matter how many times I shake it out.  Almost leaving my purse I rush out of the grocery store leaving a cart full of unpurchased food.  I have to get home.  I don’t know why I need to go home but it is a primal instinct. I’m not thinking.  My brain is full and exploding.

Somehow I make it home but each breath becomes quicker and images keep popping through my brain.  Images of what could be.  I can see images of Chandra winning whatever bizarre competition we have.  I see images of my parents looking disappointed at their out of control daughter.  I see Oliver’s face and a look of relief at the whack job he avoided.

“He, he, he, he” my breath has become like a fitful clown.  “I’m going to die.  This is it.  I can’t breathe.  I’m going to die”.  The world is black and I don’t know what to do.

“Call someone, anyone.  Where’s Jamie? Should I call a friend from church?  I can’t just die here alone!” the space around me swirls like on a hurly whirly at a fair.  I hear questions like music pounding in my head.  I have no idea what I am doing or where I am.

“Honey it’s going to be okay.  We all love you” I can hear my Mother’s voice saying through the darkness.

“I don’t know who to call.  I’m going to the hospital” I tell my Mother. “I love you.  I’ll call you when I get there”.  I know she wishes she could come and rescue me if only an ocean wasn’t in between us.   The hospital was an option but only rock bottom and I knew there was one person left to call and without even thinking my fingers call Oliver and he answers.

“I need help” I say as my breath gets fast and I know he can sense the panic.  This is the real deal.

“I’ll be right over”. He says and I put my head between my knees and try to control my breathing as I had seen people do on television when having a panic attack. I didn’t even care if he thought I was a crazy person.  I guess I was a crazy person.  I didn’t want to die and I didn’t want to go to the hospital.

Before I knew it Oliver lets himself in the front door and gives me a hug ‘You can get through this.  You are strong” he says which I have since learned is the perfect thing to say to someone having a panic attack.  Perfect.

“Now take a deep breath. I want you to take this medicine.  It will help calm you down, nothing scary I promise”

“I’m really sorry that I made you angry” I say ready to go into sobs again.

“Don’t worry about that right now.  We can sort all that out later.”  I hate later.  Later is unpredictable but I look into his eyes and I know he is really worried about me.  I have to get through this if anything for him.

I take the medicine and we walk around the house a couple of times. He is so reassuring and kind that I start to feel like myself again.  I can breath again and I don’t feel like I’m going to die. The fear of the future has not been taken away but the panic is lessening.  My brain is spinning less. Amazingly I’m still crying.  How much can a girl cry in one day?

“You probably think I’m a total weirdo but it was all more than I could take” I say as we walk and he takes my hand in his.

Exercise and Control

I realized today what I have learned to like about exercising.  When I’m at the gym my success or failure is entirely up to me.  I am not talking about weight loss that can be entirely out of my control.  I’m talking about during that hour of work.  I decide whether I am going to kick butt or play it safe.

I cant get that kind of control from almost anything else in my life.  I can’t control my family, my love life (or lack of), my friends, my job, what deadlines are set for me without my say.  I think this is also why I like voice lessons.  It is entirely in my control.  (I’m doing Moon River this week. Hurray!).

This week I was under so much pressure because of a deadline set for work that even my boss had no input on.  I really thought it was going to be impossible.  I finished my end of the month 6 days faster than I normally do.  That might as well be an eternity in accountant terms!  So for each day to go to the gym and have a short sense of control makes a big difference for my mental health.

This is especially true when I’m kickboxing.  It feels so empowering and exciting to get the anger and frustration out.  I wish I could explain it. I feel like I can explode (maybe even lose control) in a socially acceptable way.

The strange thing about my anxiety is I actually feel tons of adrenalin during the anxiety.  I think that is what allows me to get through it.  I do a good job despite the tears when I’m under anxiety.  In fact, often it is my best work which is perhaps why I can’t seem to remove it from my life.   I remember my old boss saying he kept giving me more work because I did such a good job on them that I was the first person who came to his mind.  Each job I’d agree to because most of the time I had no choice but then I kept doing better and better with the increasing pressure.  Problem is my head was exploding bit by bit….Gosh it’s hard to explain.

At least when I am angry, or anxious my performance in the gym or pool is like nothing else.  Perhaps I feel challenged or my body gives off some chemical when it feels anxious that boosts performance?  I’m not a doctor so I’m not sure. In February I was very upset because of a personal disappointment but I had an appointment to swim so I went and my times totally rocked.  Has anyone else experienced this?

It’s funny because I generally don’t get adrenalin from exercising.  In fact, I never do.  I get adrenalin from anxiety and stress and then it helps me in exercise but it doesn’t actually cause adrenalin.   Maybe before races I just need someone to break my heart or tick me off?  (Please, no!). 😉

Anyway, I was grateful this week when working 12 hour jammed pack days and having my anxiety episode that I have built up a pattern of exercise to help me feel in control.  I don’ t know how I could have made it any other way.  Well, I know it would have been an episode a day earlier and much more severe. I’ve said it a million times but for me anxiety is all about fear and control.  Cognitive therapy has taught me a lot about rationalizing and overcoming that fear but I think everyone needs some control over their life.  For me, exercise does that.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been forced into this mindset of control because so often in my life I’m in situations where if I didn’t do it, or lead it, it didn’t happen.  I remember even going back to Middle School and there was a craft fair for some club and I made nearly every craft.  (Still have the burn on my leg to this day).  In grad school I decided to give up control and went on a trip trusting my group for a project.  Came home and turns out they hadn’t read the assignment fully and in 3 days I had to come up with a survey of JWA employees, tabulate the results and turn in the assignment for the group.  That was the last time I took a back seat in grad school I will tell you that!

This is how it goes for me. Every job I’ve ever had has been one where I had no back up or substitute, total control. Funny because I think I’m a natural leader?  (I admit I’m a terrible follower…).  A side of me obviously likes this control or it wouldn’t land in my lap  so often (I certainly hate the reverse and being told what to do all the time) but the anxiety is an unwelcome side affect I’m getting better at dealing with.  (this is why a mission was so hard for me. You lose all control, but it was for God so I knew it was in His hands and had a great, if exhausting, experience).

This blog actually gives me control.  In the end it is my voice and I chose what to put out there.  No editors (but my own constant editing), no teachers, no collaborators to deal with.  Just me and my voice.

You see why I’m single.  This control thing will be interesting come marriage!.  Even in dating and relationships I feel I often have to take control but that can be obnoxious too.  Are you asking the right questions? Are they being real?  What should you say?  One time I went on a date and a guy made me ask every question or it was silent and then at the end I hadn’t finished my food I said ‘Sorry I’m a slow eater’.  He said ‘Well, if you didn’t talk so much’…Last time we went out!

I guess in the end it is all kind of silly because I don’t really have any control . That is in God’s hands. Believe me He made it possible for me to finish the impossible task this week.  He held my hand when I felt out of control and He helped me make the tough choices.  Some may look at my life and even express to me that I have nothing to feel anxiety about.  What a comfort to know that God understands and loves me no matter what.  He is all patience.  All love.  And He knows us and knows that in the midst of the hurricane I need an hour of control at the gym

(Thanks also to my trainers Michele and Ben for being so great during this crazy week).

I honestly feel like I did on my mission and I can’t wait for a relaxing weekend.  Wahoo!

Stress

Did I tell you that I am terrible at handling stress?  Perhaps it is my propensity towards anxiety but I really suck at it.  I try everything best case scenario, venting, exercise, whatever, and yet I seem to always let life overwhelm me.  I get upset and wound up and want to scream.  Thank goodness for kickboxing and I can tell you days like today every punch was meant and delivered.  I’m not good at relaxing either.  I have a lot of fun.  I love to learn, spend time with my friends and develop my talents, but relaxing not so good at.

Sometimes I wish I could take 6 months off? Hibernate if you will.  I wish I could be like that Eat Pray Love lady and jump away from life and examine it in a relaxing way.  I wish I could work on loving people more, healing wounds and figuring out what, if anything, I want to do in my life (or if I’m happy with the way it is.  I don’t know). As it is, a full weekend would be nice.

I’m thinking about going to the Homestead in Utah for Thanksgiving.  The prices are super reasonable and they have natural hot springs which if anyone knows me knows I LOVE a good hot tub (water in general is just my friend)!  They even have a full Thanksgiving dinner.  I can’t decide if it would be better to be alone in my normal surroundings or alone in some place special.  Both could feel lonely, both could be relaxing?

But day to day stresses I’m just not great at  dealing with.  I just get overwhelmed and feel pressure, mostly self-induced.  I wish I could be like my Dad who seems to never get unglued or blow a fuze.  I guess in a way its the life of an accountant (I still kind of shudder inside when I say sentences like that).  In the middle of the month things are easy and breezy but the beginning gets really stressful all at once.  Like a roller coaster.  I think every job is like that in its own way- have cycles of stress.

How do you deal with the cycles of stress? What are your strategies?  How do you deal with anxiety?  I have a lot of strategies but what I am most curious is at that initial moment of panic or at least frustration what is the first thing you tell yourself?

I really want to know because the next few months are going to be deluxe stress between the new house, moving, and end of the year etc. I am overwhelmed just thinking of it.

I’m reading Feeling Good by David Burns once again to help me prepare for this stressful time.  Best book ever besides scripture.  I will buy you a copy if you don’t have one.   It is a life changer.

I like the term stress management because I don’t think it can really go away but how do we manage it.  My Dad is great at that.  I want to learn.  Please help!