Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Processing the 2016 Election

Ironic that the name of my blog is "Nothing funnier than an angry muppet" and that's exactly who has been elected as the 45th POTUS. And in this instance, there's nothing funny about it.

I sat in disbelief as I watched the election results pour in last night. I thought, as I have all year, that I was living in a dream world - in joke land - and that at any moment the joke would be over. I went to bed before all of the results were in, but it wasn't looking good. The first thing I did this morning was check the election results. I was, and am, still in shock. Based on the news feed on Facebook today, I see that I'm not the only one.

It's taken me all morning to process how I feel about all of this. The shock is still there, but is wearing off, and it's giving me head space to untangle the web of emotions and fears that are swirling inside my brain.
My first thoughts were to start flexing my stoic muscles, and use these results to practice. I made a sign to remind me to let go of what I cannot control. I meditated on that for awhile. So far, it's not working. There's too much inside. So I took the approach of thinking about judgment. And the idea that things and events aren't inherently "good" or "bad" but it's our judgment about them that makes it one or the other. That has helped my perspective a little, but it hasn't quieted the voices that are screaming about these election results.

In any case, the voices aren't going to quiet down until I let them out. So here's where my ranting begins.

First and foremost, I'm afraid. Genuinely afraid. I'm afraid for myself, my family, my friends, and my country. I'm afraid that the fear-based violence that has gripped this country is only going to get worse. That people who are not able-bodied, cis, white, christian men are going to be targeted more virulently due to the empowerment that has been given to hate.

I'm also angry. So very angry. The thought that someone so vile, so narcissistic, so disgusting as Trump has been selected as the representative of our country. He embodies everything that is wrong with our society, all wrapped up in one neat orange package. Intolerance. Bigotry. Misogyny. Racism. Hate. Xenophobia. That is not who should be representing our great nation. I'm not denying that these qualities exist in some of our citizens; what infuriates me is that it has been brought to the front and center of our country, to be put on display as if it's something that we should be proud of. Especially when so many people are working so hard to eradicate these qualities in our country.

I'm also angry that some Trump supporters are touting the "it's not what he says, it's his platform that I'm behind." First, Trump has yet to put out a consistent, coherent, detailed plan about anything. So for someone to say that, all I hear is that they are projecting the qualities they wish Trump would embody and ignoring what is slapping them in the face. Trump's vitriol gave a voice to and empowered hate. Because of that alone, Trump should have never been given an ounce of validation. But he was featured non-stop because of his inflammatory and shocking comments.  There is no reason to have gone beyond this first deplorable layer to even try to understand a platform.

I'm also sad. Sad that I lack the words to explain to my young children what has happened. How we tout the values of respecting one another, being kind to people, and sticking up for those less fortunate, all while electing a man who has done none of the above. Fortunately, my children are a bit too young to understand Trump's explicit disregard for women as human beings. But if his presidency actually lasts four years (and let's hope it doesn't), I am certainly going to have to try to explain how this man is supposed to represent all of us - the best of us - sooner rather than later. And I have no tools in my toolbox for that.

I could go on. There's so much more that I am feeling, but I don't have the capacity to sort it out at the moment. Adding insult to injury, I literally just read how Trump has put a climate skeptic in charge of the EPA transition. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm cried out for the time being. And now just numb.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Living with Anxiety

Image from CS Photography
It has only been about a year since I have realized that I have a serious problem with anxiety. There were signs years ago, as a young adult, but I had no idea what it was or that I was living through it. I have only made reference a few times, because it's not something that's easily understood by people who don't suffer. But, I wanted to give everyone an idea of what it is like to live through an anxiety disorder.

Imagine yourself lying on the ground with a 200 pound boulder on your chest. As much as you try, you cannot get up, and you cannot remove the boulder from your chest. On top of that, you have a constant buzzing in your head that feels like a series of electrodes that are strapped to the front, top, and back of your skull. You try to relax it away, but it doesn't stop. You try deep breathing. Meditation. Mindfulness. No matter what you try, it doesn't go away. You're angry. Irritable. Pissed off at your significant other, the dearest person in your life, for no reason.  Everything they say, do, or offer does nothing but make you madder. You feel like you might snap at any moment.

Those are the physical symptoms. Then there are the cognitive symptoms to deal with.

Your rational brain tells you that you're stupid.  That you need to just snap out of it. Your life is perfect. There's no reason to feel the way you're feeling. You suck at your life. You suck at your job. You're a fraud and it's just a matter of time before everyone figures that out. Every time you hear someone whisper, it's about you. About how you are fat. Or ugly. Or aren't dressed the right way. Every email you receive from your boss is hidden with innuendo. About how you're not really doing your job. About how you're not good enough. At any moment, you are going to be fired (see above about being a fraud).

Not every day is like that. Some days have the physical symptoms. Some days have the emotional ones. The worst days have both to such an extreme that you cannot focus, for it's nothing but fear that makes you function. Fear of failure. Fear of having real physiological problems (hello heart attack?). At the most extreme, you shut down completely. Unable to engage. You sleep, or sleep walk. Going through the motions. So overcome by the symptoms of anxiety that you are like a walking zombie.

And the loved ones that surround you only want to make you better. They want to offer words of encouragement. Words of love and help. And as much as you understand where they are coming from, you can't help but feel that they are coming from a point of pity. Because the anxiety tells you lies. That you are unworthy. That everyone hates you. That everyone thinks the worst of you because of that one thing you might have said or done that one time. Events from the past become instant replays that play over and over and over again. Obsession about what you did (or didn't do) become the forefront of your mind.

If you're lucky, you witness this as if from an outside party. You watch yourself go through these symptoms and think "just snap out of it." "This is ridiculous and not reality." "There is no reason to feel like this." Except that you can't. The obsessive thoughts and physiological symptoms are uncontrollable. As much as you will, breathe, mentally stop yourself from being there, you're there. There's nothing you can do about it. You have to live it and deal with it.

I like to believe that I've gotten quite good at recognizing when the anxiety monster is taking over. But sometimes, the side effects of anxiety take over and you are unable to see it for what it really is. Those days are the ones where you want to be somebody, anybody else. To not be the person you are. You yell. You scream. You retreat. You shut down. You scare your family. Anxiety robs you of your fundamental self. Of your carefree, loving, understanding self. You hope that one day, maybe, your family can understand what it is that you're going through, and that it's not your fault.

I have had some family members and friends to thank for helping me realize that I have been struggling with this demon for too long, and that these thoughts, actions, and feelings are all part of the anxiety. I am in the process of understanding and dealing with my anxiety. I say 'dealing' because I have come to quickly realize that there is no real control. As much as my cognitive, rational brain would like to believe it, this is one particular area of my life under which I have absolutely no control. If I did, I would not continue to live through these symptoms the way I have for at least a third (if not half, at this point) of my life.

I want to let people know that if you suffer with anxiety, it's not your fault. It's not within your control. It's not even rational. And all of that sucks. But understanding it and dealing with its consequences will be key to living a fulfilling life, anxiety and all. I am on my journey. It will be a lifelong journey, filled with peaks and valleys. And I am dealing with it the best I can.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Eight Sticks of Butter

This week, I have lost eight sticks of butter. That's 2 pounds, for those keeping track. It occurred to me in the shower this morning that having such a tangible way of keeping track of weight loss really helps put things in perspective.

My year-to-date weight loss is 27.6 pounds, or about 110 sticks of butter. I decided to search the web to see if I could find an image, and funnily enough, I did! Ok, the closest I got was 108 sticks, or 27 pounds. It looks like this (source):

That's a lot of butter! I'm tempted (although I likely won't) to take a selfie with that much butter at our next trip to Costco.

My next weight loss milestone: losing a kids' worth of weight. The twins are about 30 pounds each. I'll definitely take a selfie holding a kid once I reach that milestone!

Now that I've gotten the eating habits (mostly) under control, the next step is going to be to start changing my relationship with food. I definitely had a few binges this week and found myself feeling guilty. Food is neutral. It's time I start looking at it that way instead of viewing it as 'good' and 'bad.'

Friday, April 1, 2016

Losing Weight

4 years, two kids, and a cat later...

Then: August, 2015. Approx 183 lbs.
I've still struggled with my weight. I lost a significant amount of weight after the twins were born (about 50 pounds), but failed to keep it off once I stopped nursing. I gained 20 of it back.

This time is different, though. I have two kids for whom I'm responsible. I have to be a good role model for them. That has shifted my perspective quite a bit. I struggle to find healthy foods that the kids like to eat (being toddlers and all) that are quick to make on weeknights. We wind up eating out several times a week. That's not so great on the wallet or the waistline.

Now: April, 2016. Approx 157 lbs.
That being said, I have finally found a balance. I eat nutritionally dense, low-calorie foods about 80% of the time, following the clean eating principles. I have slayed my sugar dragon once and for all. Now, I'm able to walk by a sugary snack and not think twice about it. It no longer consumes my thoughts. I've lost over 25 pounds in the past 3 months, with about 17 pounds to go to reach my goal. My energy is better, my spirits are higher, and I have never felt better.  Weight loss is a journey - one I'm all too familiar with. I will never be able to mindlessly eat, or to just say 'heck with it all' when it comes to fueling my body. I will always have to be on watch. But for the first time, maybe ever in my life, I'm prepared for it.