Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Talking About It

I'm typing this post - just sitting and writing - without any idea what I'm going to say.  Usually, when I sit down to write, I have been rolling a thought, image or idea through my head for a couple of days, mentally writing and editing the post, so by the time I sit down to type the words flow freely.

But there isn't much that is usual about things these days.

I'm struggling.

The anxiety I wrote about in my last post has a stranglehold on me.  It's so hard to write about it, to find words that describe the breathless, panicky feeling that permeates my existence these days.  It leaves me feeling spent, exhausted, flat, and I move through my days like an automaton; the simple act of moving from one end of the day to the other feels overwhelming, most of the time.

It's ironic, in a way, because in the wake of the Redbook article I'm getting several emails a day from women who saw their own story in the words, and most of them are asking one simple question:  HOW?  How do I get through just one simple day without my nightly crutch of wine?

The advice that pores from my fingertips is straightforward, and yet hard to do: get honest, start talking, ask for help, break your old patterns, find healthy distractions, and don't try to do this alone.

In the grip of anxiety I feel exactly like I did when I first got sober, like my skin has been peeled back and I'm a walking exposed nerve.  Lights and sounds bother me, I struggle not to be short with the kids, and the simple act of going to the grocery store feels overwhelming.  To keep the panic at bay, I slip into neutral, my face and voice go flat, and the spark in my eyes is dim.  I read and sleep a lot -- two places where my brain leaves me alone for a period of time - and drop eagerly into the escape they bring.

It's a balancing act of facing fear head-on and keeping things as simple as I can.  I'm breaking old behavior patterns, changing my old reactions to fear. Health worries have always been where my anxiety manifests itself the most - even when I was a child - and now that there is a legitimate concern my mind obsesses on it, constantly.  Instead of sticking my head in the sand and avoiding the doctor due to fear, I'm talking to her, trying to get some answers and some help. 

I'm also cutting out stress where I can.  We made the difficult decision not to sell our house, for a variety of reasons, but the stress it introduced into my already fragile state was a factor.  

I'm talking to people.  A lot. When trusted friends ask me if I'm okay, I answer honestly that I'm struggling.  The mere act of unburdening my load - sharing it with others - is a profound relief.  It's hard to tell people I'm not okay, that I need help.  My ego winces - shouldn't I be able to handle this?  But I know in my heart that I can't make it through this alone.

Logically, I understand where this is coming from, that my Dad's sudden death triggered this ancient fear, and the added stress of selling the house and health worries were simply too much.  But I can't think my way out of this; knowing where it's coming from is of little help when I'm in the grips of a panic attack.

It's bigger than me.

And I know, too, that I will be okay.  I know I'll be okay because when obstacles are thrown in my path it means I am in the process of stretching, growing, learning.  Whatever the outcome, of any of this, I know that because I'm going through it, not around it, I will emerge with deeper self-awareness, strength and faith.

In the meantime, I'm talking, getting help and I'm not going through this alone.  The power of sharing my truth, and the support, comfort and community it brings to me, will never cease to amaze me.


This post is part of Just Write, a free writing link-up hosted by Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary.  To learn more about it, click here.  To join us, click here.


  1. I can relate to much of what you say here. Beautifully said. I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your honesty. By being authentic and real you are giving the rest of us permission to do the same.
    Good for you for reaching out. Hard to do but so essential for our well~being. The more we talk the more we realize how much we all have in common....the good, bad, and the ugly! :)
    So glad I stopped by from Just Write

  2. Good thoughts and prayers coming your way. {hug}

  3. I have so been there. Mine was usually centered around money and Bad Things (you know, those amorphous bad things that loom in the distance.) Here's hoping you can lean into it and find some room for it and within it.

  4. Hang in the Ellie. I am sure this is a tough time. I appreciate your sharing you life with all of us. I hope you find a "good" place soon.

  5. I found your post through Heather's link-up and...
    I just want to tell you that you are amazing. Inspiring. You're having a positive impact on people you don't even realize.
    Keep chugging along; you're doing great.

  6. Life ebbs and flows in this way, I believe. You're having a rough patch right now and I'm so sorry for it but I'm glad you can know that you will come out better for it. And it's also good to know that you are being so very honest about it with yourself and everyone around you and getting the help you need. Big hugs Ellie!

  7. I'm sorry you're struggling. I know that's not much to offer but I guess that's because I can't even combat my own struggle with anxiety.

    My depression seems to have lifted but in its place is a raging case of anxiety that leaves me with my eyes wide open all night.

    And to drink. Oh, to drink. Yes, that would take it away, like it always did for me when I used it to self-medicate for years. But it brings it back full fold. And I can't do it to myself, my husband or my boys.

  8. Yes, logically, you do know it's coming from those sources, but it's difficult to find any consolation from that while you're experiencing it. I lost my mind a bit when my dad died so suddenly and never even really knew it until many years had passed. But yes, it will get better. You know that, too. So, so many people love you and are pulling for your serenity. You have help in so many ways and you're a strong enough person to accept it...

    I wish I could say something magical, but all I can say are these things you already know, and that I feel for you and care about you and hope that this anxiety lets you go so, so soon.

  9. And in sharing your truth, Ellie, who knows how much healing you are giving others.

    Brava! This is just lovely to witness.

    Thank you.


  10. Ellie - I am struggling with anxiety for the first time in my life (oddly - who would have thought it could hit out of the blue at 43) and your posting is helping me too. Your confidence that you will make it through helps give my confidence as well. Thank you for your writing. It really does help.

  11. Ellie -
    Even though we've never met, I can honestly say that I'm proud of you. I understand how difficult it is to ask for help. How vulnerable you feel when you tell someone you're struggling rather than going with the auto-response of "Okay." Hang in there.

  12. Hi Ellie
    I just wanted you to know that I relate so much to you. My anxiety usually centers around medical issues too. One thing I have finally realized is that my anxiety (what my family would call hypochondria) always ramps up during stressful events -right after the birth of both of my kids, when we moved, etc. I think I use health issues as a distraction so that I can sort of avoid the reality of the things that are stressing me out. After 41 years I can at least acknowledge that pattern. Maybe that will help you in some way...I don't know.
    But I want you to know that your writing helps me. You are such a strong and brave person. I know it may not feel like it sometimes, but you really are. Hang in there.
    - Val

  13. Keep talking! I'll be checking in. So glad you're in a place where you can do this. Share your struggles. Be vulnerable. Your suffering is going to be someone else's lifeline.

  14. I read the Redbook article. And I have thought I drink too much for a while now. But my question is...If I have drank about every day for 3 years and I stop cold turkey, could I die? I have heard stories (like on Intervention) that could happen. So thats one reason(seriously) why im afraid to stop.I have suffered from anxiety since I was a young child. So anytime I think im going to get sick or die from something I avoid it. Any suggestions? or comments? Thanks!!!

  15. Oh Ellie I can relate, it's that horrible feeling of exposure, waiting for something awful to happen that is awful.

    Anxiety is something we can deal with, by doing exactly what you are doing. Communicating, talking, being responsible enough to seek medical help. You're doing everything right and please love yourself through this season.

    It does get better, I've learned how to spot a panic attack before it arrives and it's helping me deal with them.

    I am here ALWAYS, just grab me on Twitter or via email ;)

  16. I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. Anxiety was a huge reason I drank for so long. Of course drinking always made it 10x's worse the next day. Gotta love alcohol!
    What works for me? (Maybe not you but can't hurt?) Some of the same, reading, sleep (the - go to bed early, maybe tomorrow will be better - kind), finding out all I can about what's bothering me (I'm a research queen...then it can't "get" me...) and talking to my friends.
    I wish I had some magic bullet that I'd found, but it usually just goes away slowly for me. I guess this is really just to say you aren't alone. I hope you find some peace soon. I wouldn't wish that debilitating anxiety on anyone, it just sucks. Hang in there.

  17. To Anonymous who commented on the 11th at 10:14pm --

    Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, it's true. It can cause blood pressure spikes that can lead to stroke or seizure, and the most dangerous time is about 72 hours after you stop drinking. I used this as an excuse not to stop for a while, which makes no sense, I know, because it just made everything worse.

    If you stop drinking, withdrawal symptoms to look for include trembling/shaking hands, sweating, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, sleeplessness and thoughts of impending doom.

    I strongly encourage you to talk to a doctor to get medical help detoxing - doctors have heard it ALL, and they are bound by confidentiality. There are basic medications that reduce the risk and make the emotional symptoms of withdrawal easier, thus increasing your chance of success. Or consider an inpatient detox or rehab. Even if you aren't a daily drinker, these symptoms can be dangerous at their worst, and extremely uncomfortable at their best. I know the discomfort - emotionally and physcially - of trying to stop brought me back to drinking over and over. It wasn't until I got medical help that I was able to succeed.


  18. Brilliant and well said. Thank you for sharing & baring feelings that most dont want to admit to but have experieced at some point in their lives. Hoping you will feel grounded soon.


  19. You. Are the cat's pajamas.

    is that the saying?

    sayings are so weird.

    But really. I love your wisdom. I gobble it up.

  20. Ellie, you are wonderful! Even with your problems you can take the time to help someone by posting information on withdrawal symptoms. You are truly generous of heart.

    I understand the anxiety, my PSA rose a bit the last time they checked it. Error or is the cancer back? So we wait for three months to retest it, and "meanwhile don't worry." Yeah, so simple.

    Of course, part of the answer is to find out if you really have a problem, which I assume you and your doctor are doing. I think another part is what you are doing, sharing your problem with the rest of us. Bill W found the way to stay sober was to help other alcoholics, thank God, he saved my life and yours.

    Hope to see more of you over on the BFB.


    Mike L

  21. Oh Ellie, this is so transparent, so raw.

    You wrote your heart here, thank you for that.

    I have no words or advice or thoughts- juts a note to let you know that I read your words, and heard you.

    Much love to you, friend.


  22. Hi friend,
    If you want to talk about anxiety, reach out to me. Long time sufferer, long time talking about it, long time surviving it and coming out stronger.

    Long story short, I get it. SO very much.