Our world is in upheaval. And I’m sitting back watching people lose their shit. And I’m wondering, how do I help? What do I have to share that’ll be beneficial? How much of myself do I give up? How much of myself am I willing to share?
I’m no stranger to upheaval. In fact, I’ve spent the last twenty-three years in the face of it. I’ve been in training to deal with upheaval the greater part of my adult life. Being married to the military, no matter the branch-hey, we’re all combat buddies and in the same boat in this respect-, is no picnic. There are plenty of good times, sure. There are new experiences, cool places to live, and adventures. But there is an equal or greater amount of upheaval and stress. MarshFox had been in twenty-three years and been through over half a dozen deployments the spring we acknowledged I was losing my shit. (That’s something I’ve meaning to tell, y’all…I cuss a little. Actually, sometimes, it’s a lot. Try living with a Marine in excess of twenty years and see what happens to you and your pretty mouth.) Anywho! Yes, I was losing my shit. Just a bit of a disclaimer here…it wasn’t just the upheaval courtesy of the military lifestyle which led to this life-altering event. I was the victim of sexual abuse as a kid and a physically abusive boyfriend as a young adult. I was the perfect storm waiting to wrought hell on earth. That being said, that spring, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and high blood pressure, and TMJ all in one week! And I lost a little more ground in the shit department upon hearing all that news, and MarshFox was of course deployed.
Oh sure…to the other wives, I was a well put together woman. I was all smiles. Nothing ever fazed me. I could juggle it all! What I didn’t realize, was I had about a hundred irons in the fire and wasn’t tending any of them a hundred percent. It just didn’t look like it from the outside.
You learn to put on a happy face as a military spouse. You learn to be a great pretender. You learn to act like everything is just peachy. Because what so many don’t know is that there is a great stigma in the military. You simply cannot lose your shit. You can’t. It’s not allowed. But you do. And what you don’t know while you’re suffering silently is that so is your neighbor and your friend and your co-worker. Everyone is losing their shit and no one is talking about it or trying to fix it.
A few days after the great collapse of my perfectly formed façade, I decided I wasn’t going to suffer silently anymore. If I lost friends because I was going to be real and stop living with a fake smile perpetually plastered to my face, so be it. I pulled up my big girl panties and forged forth a new path. I did lose friends. Lots of them. Because I’d broken the sacred code. I went public with what it was like to lose your shit because the world we lived in was a pressure cooker. It took a while, but at some point I realized and accepted that they weren’t really friends at all if they couldn’t live what was real with me and love me no matter what. I also had to accept that they were dealing with things their own way and that was okay, too. My mess was my mess. Their mess was theirs.
So, what did being real look like? It looked like not going to functions and parties if I wasn’t up to it. My anxiety at that point was manifesting itself in many ways, but one was panic attacks. Prior to knowing what was really going on with me, I’d suck it up and gut it out because that’s what spouses did back then. They prettied up and put on the wifey face and was the perfect example of a support system. I was managing these events, minimally, by taking multiple trips outside to get air, or just hold it in and fall apart crying when I got home. Unacceptable. This was one of the ways I lost friends. Because I refused to gut it out any longer, I was whispered about and wasn’t afforded many invitations to anything after I came out and started turning them down with an honest explanation as to why. ‘I’m sorry. I can’t come. I’m going through some stuff right now and my anxiety makes it hard for me to be in a room with a lot of people with the fear I might lose my shit in front of all of them.’
I still have a hard time with functions and parties at times. Mostly when I’m trying to make a new friend and they come out with the first invitation to get to know each other better via dinner at their place. I’ve become quite adept at being honest. ‘I’d really love to, new friend, but here’s the deal, if we stay friends you’re going to find out sooner or later and I’d rather it not be because I passed out in your dining room. I have an anxiety thingy and I’m just not comfortable with dinner at your place just yet. Can we meet somewhere for dinner? My treat? Then maybe next time we can have coffee and dessert at your place so I can ease into your environment? I feel more comfortable getting to know people on my own terms.’ I get a few passes and I get a few new friends. It’s part of living in the what’s real for me.
A whisper ran through our housing area like a flame post the big losing my shit event…”have you heard?” they hissed…”That one’s crazy…she can’t handle it…her poor husband…”
So, here’s a newsflash. An anxiety disorder does not mean one is crazy (like a noun). Crazy when used as a descriptor has its place. For example: ‘That clearance sale at Belk the other day was plumb crazy!’ Crazy as a noun…not cool. What having an anxiety disorder does actually mean is that one’s brain is having a hard time processing all the stress one has inflicted on it. As for me, I could handle everything just fine, until I couldn’t, and the stigma of never being able to show weakness only made things worse. Then I actually became good at handling things the right way.
Here’s a huge secret. No one was handling anything properly back in those days. Everyone was hiding it because no one had the strength to show it. I did. I don’t know where I drew that strength from, but I managed it. I think it scared the others that I was brave enough to admit what was going on. It also threatened their bubble. No one wanted to be found out and I’d betrayed them all in their minds. I was forever labeled a traitor.
My poor husband? Well, yeah, holding all that shit together for so long made me a Bitchy Betty. Poor husband, indeed. Admitting I was losing my shit and doing something about it helped him tremendously. It didn’t make things worse. It made things better because along the way he also learned a bunch of ways to help me and learned to pick up on when I was having a hard time, and that in turn made it easier for me to help him by being a better partner.
I had a total of three friends left when it was over and one of them lived fourteen hours away. One lived three houses down from me and the other a street over. They were my support system. They were my glue. They were my shoulders. One just listened and brought chicken soup when I wasn’t able to come to her awesome parties. One took my walks with me I had self-prescribed to ease the steam off the pressure cooker…one day we walked almost ten miles off and on over the course of twelve hours. Every time I felt the anxiety building, I texted and she met me on the sidewalk, sneaks tied and a water bottle in hand. And the other flew to me when hubby deployed the next time and saw me through a few days in the beginning.
I was okay with three. Three really great people are better than three-hundred not so great ones who whisper and point fingers and leave when the going gets tough. When you’re losing your shit, boys and girls, you really figure out who’s able to handle you…all of you, the real you, the not so well put together you. I still have those three people in my life today. I love them and appreciate them more than they know.
I can report, I am much, MUCH, better ten years on in this journey of learning it’s perfectly okay to deal with one’s shit before they lose it. And, I no longer require medication on an as needed basis to help ease the anxiety. I’ve moved past that phase of my journey. I wish I’d dealt with my shit long before I did.
Being real and dealing with things also looked like going to counseling. It looked like getting healthy physically. It looked like building a toolbox of resources and things I could use to help deal with stress and anxiety. It looked a lot like self-love and self-care, of my total being. I’m now the biggest proponent of total person wellness you’ll ever meet.
And that’s what I realized this morning I could share. The truth of how it is I’m able to handle the upheaval holding our world hostage at the moment fairly well. The truth of how I’ve been training for this most of my adult life. No, I’m not a doctor. No, I’m not a counselor. I’m a survivor of upheaval and losing my shit. And I have some things I use to deal with stress and anxiety that just might help someone else. It doesn’t replace medical care or counseling. Please utilize those tools if you need to through these weird times we’re living in, but you might find some of the things I’ll be sharing useful, too. Supplements to more if more is needed.
One of the worst manifestations of my stress and anxiety was, and still can be if things get a little harried, insomnia. Enough quality rest is an essential ingredient in overall well-being, physically and mentally. Lack of it can lead to weight issues, elevated blood pressure, mood swings, and anxiety. It can even be a factor in elevated sugar levels. I have a toolbox full of go-tos that I use when my sleep patterns get all out of whack.
A new tool I’ve discovered only recently is an app I downloaded onto my iPhone called myNoise. This is a “white noise” generator, but the selections are plentiful and many of them are free to attach to your playlist. There’s something for everyone. There are Tibetan chants, bells, piano, nature sounds, and many other choices. It can be set on a timer and you can choose how many minutes prior to the app closing out the sound reduces. An abrupt change in the noise/atmosphere in your room can pull you back out of sleep. Reducing the noise level slowly minimizes the chances of that happening. I’ve been using this app nightly for the last two weeks and it’s truly helping me fall asleep easier and faster.
I’m also a huge proponent of aromatherapy. I know many people with pets can’t use the diffusers because certain essential oils can be harmful to our furry friends, but there are many ways to get the benefit of certain aromas without diffusing oil into the air of your home. I use flavored herbal teas, lotions, bath salts, and shower sprays as alternative ways to reap the reward of certain scents without shooting mist into the air of my home. Lavender, mint, and eucalyptus are three of my favorites to utilize. Some of my favorite products include:
Savannah Bee Company…The rosemary lavender line and the lemongrass spearmint products. I love the hand cream. It’s thick and luxurious, silky. It just feels good and sometimes that’s even more important than what it smells like.
Farmhouse Fresh…They have every scent imaginable! I especially love the buttermilk lavender, but they also have a sweet tea scent that is to die for. We actually gave a tube of it away in a gift pack in the Sweet Tea Mafia group on Facebook.
European Spa Source…They have the most amazing shower mist. Love, love, love the lavender and eucalyptus. Right now, they have a limited-edition shower mist scent: leather, wood smoke, eucalyptus blend. I just ordered two bottles and I can’t wait until it gets here!
Earl Grey lavender tea. Yes. Please! Sip at your leisure.
If you find yourself struggling and searching for peace, I want each of you who might be anxious, stressed, scared, and/or losing their shit to remember, you are not alone. I’ve been there and own the t-shirt. A lot of people are wearing this t-shirt right now; some are just better at hiding it under their superhero costume than others. Don’t feel alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to lose your shit but also don’t be afraid to do whatever you have to do to fix it, even if it means altering your lifestyle, being brutally honest, or losing a friend or two.
Take care of you.
Please don’t be shy. Feel free to leave me questions and comments, share what you’re doing to take care of you with me and the other readers.