Sundays

I wake up on Sundays with my heart racing, a pit in my stomach.

It’s a habit now.

Another week is coming, but what have I accomplished this week? What have I accomplished this weekend? The obsessions never stop.

Things have settled down now. I know I’m on the upswing, but cycles of anxiety grasp at every thought. The meaningless worries, which used to sit in the back of my mind, seem to have nestled in and made their home. No amount of mental power will make them budge.

I’m trying to take things one step at a time. To appreciate the glimpses of light in every day, but I can’t help but dwell on the negatives. My brain seems to wander in search of the tiniest anxieties I’ve been running around to avoid. Last week, I couldn’t breathe. I thought my asthma had finally heard about LA smog. But it was just anxiety. I guess my subconscious knows, because the nightmares haven’t stopped in weeks. Swarming me every night and with every nap. Ironic since sleeping is how I used to avoid the world.

I’ll be patient.

I’ve gotten to the point where the me I’m trying to hide doesn’t slip out as often. I walk around with smiles, suspiciously positive retorts to the day old “how are you?” Things are seemingly back to normal. And I haven’t cut in a month. But every second of every day still feels like a war. To not get sucked in again, and to forgive myself when I do.

Sundays though. Sundays I aim for survival. Sundays I don’t make plans because I don’t know if I can live up to them, but when the day comes, the loneliness settles in. I walk around with a tightness in my chest, an urge to throw everything up. Sundays I despise, but secretly wish would continue forever.

Today, I’m remembering to breathe, be patient, and practice a little bit of metta.

The Road Back Home

Wow. It’s been a month since I’ve reentered the real world now. Or maybe the real world is where I was before. It’s hard to say. I have a bed now, my own room, my laptop, my comfort foods, and lots and lots and lots of work. It was strange taking a break from Williams. I was anxious that when I got back, I wouldn’t be able to handle being back on campus. And in some ways I was right, but on the other hand, things aren’t going so badly.

I’ve started to notice things. Bits of consciousness and awareness here and there. It’s been helpful in a way. When I was gone, I spent a long time away from a lot of the worries that plagued me a year ago. Coming back to Williams, I found myself swarmed by little tiny worries and the first week was rough. But I’ve started to tackle them one by one and I’ve gained some confidence in myself.

That new year’s resolution? I’m not so far off. I’ve gotten at least 7 hours of sleep a night, I’ve started most of my work ahead of time, I’ve pushed myself to do things even though they made me anxious, but I’ve also taken time off just for myself. And now I actually look forward to going to class. That’s honestly never happened to me before. Writing this stuff down, I guess I could say I’m pretty proud of myself. Because it took a lot for me to get here. I’ve learned to appreciate simple things here because of how things were abroad. And my first few weeks back were excruciatingly painful. I couldn’t focus in class, I felt like a completely unaccomplished failure and I told myself that every day. I griped about the shitty circumstances of my life and cried every night.

I still have bad moments, at least once a day, particularly after the sun goes down. And of course I haven’t hit the bad part of the semester yet. The stormcloud is lying just ahead. But for now, I’m keeping busy, trying not to think to much, and staying positive.

Yeah, I guess that’s it.

Blogaversary!

Whoops I missed my blogaversary but I wrote my first blog post January 6th,2013 and I have officially made it full circle! I honestly thought this effort would have been abandoned long ago, but in the past year I’ve written 55 blog posts and gotten more than 2,000 views! I know its actually not a lot compared to the serious blogs out there, but I’m proud of myself for following through. This blog is more for myself than anything and it has been a great release for me over the past year especially during times when I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. This also marks a full year of my taking cold showers (because eczema).

Insomnia

It’s 2:00 AM right now. And my insomnia is at it again. We spent last week at a monastery in Koyasan where for the first and probably last time this trip we got our own rooms. We also lost wifi access for the entire week (Which tends to happen when you’re on a mountain in the middle of nowhere). But that’s where I got a lot of thinking done.

Apparently my brain doesn’t really know when to stop. Because ever since we returned, I’ve been up every night past 4:00. This wouldn’t be so bad back in my good ol’ college dorm. But in a place where curfew is 10:00 and we have to get up at 6:30 to meditate every morning, its causing me a bit of stress and anxiety and tears. Just a little bit. Or a lot.

Like every monster, the more fear you have, the more power it has over you. So this is me fighting back. I’m done playing this ridiculous game with my body. I will fucking stay awake all night and all day if I have to.

I might be a little grouch monster all day tomorrow, but maybe then I’ll get a good night’s sleep.

Or maybe I’m just delirious right now. Yeah, that’s probably it.

UPDATE: after not sleeping at all that night. i stayed up until 10 pm the next night and have been snoring like a baby ever since.

My reason

I’m a Buddhist. It’s something that has always been a part of me, but I never really realized how much of an impact it has had on my decisions and my beliefs growing up. The traditions I followed were taught to me as I grew up but I never thought about the reasons behind them nor questioned any of the beliefs. Honestly, until I decided to join this study abroad program, I didn’t even realize what kind of Buddhist I was (Pure Land if we’re going to put labels on things).

And its super interesting to study your own religion. I won’t say its good or bad because I honestly don’t think its either. It’s interesting because you’re viewing it as an outsider, understanding why others may question your beliefs the same way you question theirs. You see why it may be appealing to someone or maybe not so much.

But the effect it’s had on me? I think its mainly led me to consider how Buddhism has affected my life. And I think it’s saved me in so many ways. Looking at the big picture, it has the appeal of so many other religions, the existing belief that there is something bigger out there looking over us, giving a rhyme and reason to the world. There was a justification for everything that happened to me, good and bad.

Growing up I had a whole host of health problems that still plague me today, particularly my eczema. Just imagine having mosquito bites all over your body, trying your hardest not to scratch, and hating yourself for not being able to control any of it. The worst for me has always been my fear of going to sleep, knowing that I might scratch in the middle of night and wake up with bloody open sores. Then there was the depression and the anxiety that doesn’t really fall far behind this kind of physical and mental anguish.

But I don’t doubt. I have good days and bad days still, but I believe there is a reason for everything that happens in my life. I don’t doubt that growing up with these problems have made me a stronger person today. I don’t doubt that I’m extremely lucky for growing up in a family and environment that could give me the best care I needed.

I do know that Amituofo has been there for me every time. When I was hospitalized for my skin infections as a child, when I’ve had my worst migraines or panic attacks and I was fairly certain I was going to die, when I spent those days in bed crying and ready to give up, and whenever my anxiety creeps up on me at night and I lie there for hours on end wondering if I’ll ever fall asleep.

Life is hard sometimes, but I think it’s always a little bit easier if there’s a reason.

I thought I was doing better

But the emptiness is returning. My thoughts are so jumbled and anxious and obsessive. I can’t. I spend the entire day wishing I could go to sleep, and I spend my nights lying awake. My dreams. I can’t. I’m trying to get a grip on things but its only making things worse. Hopefully its just a passing phase. Time to go back to step one.

Surprises

I’ve been off antidepressants for nearly a month now. And its been kind of a wild ride. I first went on about a year ago after my anxiety debilitated me to the point that I constantly thought I was having a heart attack and I couldn’t sleep every night for fear that I was going to die in my sleep. Despite a chest x-ray and an EKG, I visited the doctor’s office or the health center at least once a week with a different ailment in my head. I finally succumbed to medication, and it really made a difference.

Of course there were the side effects. I was numb, emotionless, I couldn’t concentrate. When I wasn’t in class or even if I was, I was asleep. But I stopped constantly believing I was on the edge of death, and honestly, it was worth it. My anxiety vanished.

The only problem was that I simply didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care about my grades which I had previously lived for, I didn’t care about what I did with my body. And I became really impulsive. This continued until I nearly failed all of my midterms, and I saw that something had to change. At this point, I lowered my dosage slightly and more or less coasted to where I am now, not in a particularly successful way, but at least I made it.

I finally decided I needed to stop. I was sick of wasting my life sleeping all the time and honestly, I hated being dependent on medication and I was willing to do whatever it took to stop. I was worried that I would spiral into a depression, that my anxiety would again debilitate me, but I wanted to have control again.

So here’s what happened: I spent a few weeks more depressed than I have ever been. I considered cutting again and I spent more time crying than not. My anxiety came back too, slowly but surely, and I had one of my worst panic attacks ever. But I started caring again. I found myself truly smiling and being genuinely happy for the first time in months. My foggy thoughts disappeared and I was able to think clearly and logically. And lately, I’ve found myself experiencing really deep emotions, the gut wrenching tearing up in a good way kind. And caring. Really and truly caring. My anxiety continues and every day I still have moments when I’m certain that I’m about to have a heart attack or my eardrum’s about to burst (which is a whole nother issue), but its no longer constant, and I’ve been able to talk myself through the situation.

It’s taken a really long time to get here, but I’m finally starting to feel like me again. Not just a shell walking through life, but a person that really and truly cares. I’ll always be a work in progress and I know that with all that’s going on in my life I may still face some very large obstacles in my near future. But here, right now, in this moment, I’m satisfied. And that’s what matters.

This is my experience and it is in no way universal, but have hope. Sometimes, its all you can count on.