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The Accountability Journey

Hello world!

You may be wondering what an accountability journey is. To be honest, it’s just a quick word combo my husband and I came up with while tossing ideas around in the car for a new blog I told him I wanted to start. Turns out, with the hustle that is our life, forcibly sitting next to one another while driving in the car is not only one of the few times we have to be “still” together, but it’s also when we have some of our most productive conversations. 

That’s great and all, but what does it mean? 

I’ve recognized over the past year (and through lots of therapy) that I am completely terrified of setting goals. When confessing my inadequacies to my husband he told me “but you finished college. That’s an accomplishment.” Sure, 12 years ago … and that never really felt like a goal to me. It was no different in my mind than graduating from high school; it was just something required of me. Following college, my only goal was to get a job. It was as generic as that. Since then that goal has changed to “keeping a job.” It was never to move up the ladder or improve my circumstances, always just to maintain the status quo.

After the past four years of stay-at-home mom life and self-employment, I’m so out of practice with the real world now that when I do set goals, if I mess up even a little I call the whole thing off and quit. Frustration and fury drive my actions and I’m easily overwhelmed. My therapist says I have a theme for life and it’s “all or nothing.” While it sounds romantic to give your all or expect it from others, it’s really unimpressive when you consider the “nothing” that comes with it.

So how does one change that? How do you go from “nothing” to “all” or live somewhere comfortably in between?

Why, through an Accountability Journey, of course! It’s a journal, but it’s also a journey! Get it?! This is my way to challenge myself and take the world along with me. Let’s face it, I need witnesses. My plan is to start small, with simple goals over short lengths of time that make hitting these marks highly achievable. A confidence booster phase, if you will. Once I get the hang of things and taste those tiny sips of accomplishment, I’ll want more, and more, and MORE and the goals will increase in longevity.

I’ll be setting a series of short and long-term goals over the course of the next year and documenting my experiences right here on this blog. Don’t worry, though. It won’t be as boring as it definitely sounds. 

And yes, I’m going to start this on January 1, because what’s more cliché than setting a new goal on New Years Day? If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this ALL. THE. WAY. 

So, there you have it. Join me on this journey. Hold me accountable and remind me to keep going even if I mess up a little. Clearly, I need the support. Challenge yourself, too, if you’d like! It’s time for me to hop off the struggle bus I’ve been riding and find a new way to do this life. 

Who’s with me?!

Post 10: Betrayal

13 days.

That’s how long I’ve gone without taking one of my little gray and white pills.

That’s how long I’ve suffered with disorienting nausea, knock-me-off-my-feet dizziness from my inner ear, muscle and joint aches and pains, dry mouth and dry eyes, upset stomach, tremors, brain zaps, chest pressure and trouble breathing, swollen/tight neck, irritability, severe fluid retention of my whole body, and depressive thoughts.

13 days.

It’s the longest stint I’ve gone without Effexor XR in my system in the past four years and I’m regretting ever having started it in the first place. I started it after my son was born, because life was crashing down around me and I needed wanted a quick solution. I’ve always been a sucker for instant gratification and was never much for waiting. If I had waited I might have found a feasible holistic and/or cognitive treatment methods. Now I’m paying the real price for my impatience.

13 days.

This withdrawal phase is supposed to last 2-4 weeks and is comparable to detoxing from heroin. I couldn’t know that for sure as heroin isn’t my drug of choice, but I can tell you that if it weren’t for the scopolamine patch currently glued behind my ear I wouldn’t even be functioning at the half-life level I am now. I believe the Internet comps when I read how terrible it is to come off of Effexor XR, even when it’s a controlled, doctor-supervised method of lowering dosages. I’m currently on the lowest dose and still suffering.

13 days.

Right now I feel completely betrayed by my body, and frankly I hate her. I tried to be good to her, treated her kindly, dressed her up and presented her healthy self to the world.

In 2013, I got pregnant. I thought it was her repaying my kindness for all the good health I’d worked hard to give her over the years. But it wasn’t that. First, she dealt me a miscarriage at a vulnerable and lonely time. Second, while she gave me a healthy baby boy for which I am so grateful, she tried to kill me in the process and I haven’t been the same since.

I tried to help her out of her confusion and pain with medication to quickly treat the anxiety. At first we were good again. Like nothing had ever come between us. But then the stomach problems started. And then the depression came on fast, going dark quickly. And then the endometriosis grew and required surgery and synthetic hormones. And then the weight gain that’s been never-ending for the past four years ultimately reached a rock bottom number. Despite working out several times a week for nearly a year and eating health-conscious foods, I’m officially heavier now than when I was 9 1/2 months pregnant and I hate my body for it. I can’t stand the sight of her.

13 days.

I am now 13 days off that horrible medication in the hopes that one day I’ll be totally free and ready to find a holistic solution to manage my anxiety. I’m having to fight a big fight to get there. My body is so angry at me and throwing every symptom in the book my way. I feel half alive after two weeks down. Hopefully not more than a couple weeks left.

And I keep thinking … all I have to do to make all of this go away is take one pill.

But I won’t.

Because … 13 days.

Post 10: my anxiety has anxiety

Things have been happening. Don’t believe me? Check the news. Several people in this country employed by the government are currently not receiving a paycheck. This includes the entire United States Coast Guard, a branch of our armed forces military, which happens to be the service for which my husband is an enlisted person.

We are a single-income family, currently without a single income. We’re about to miss our second paycheck and there’s no end in sight to this government shutdown as of day 34. I’m not going to get into the dirty politics behind all of this because I’m trying to keep my mind healthy. Worrying about the events and people I can’t control has been taking the best of me away from my family and it has to end.

How I’m Managing My Worries

Step 1: I said goodbye to Facebook. I limited my access on a very large scale and have found the past three days to be quite refreshing, or at least as much as I can expect them to be right now. It’s a step in the right direction.

Step 2: I’m attempting to manage my anxiety itself. I have anxiety about managing my anxiety and one of the side effects of the medication I take to treat my anxiety is … wait for it … more anxiety! Tell me how to get out of this horrible cyclone of frustration!

I’ve been on Effexor XR for four years now. It’s caused me so much misery (sweating, dizziness, rapid heart rate, weight gain, more anxiety, etc) and I’ve wanted to come off of it for years now, but I chicken out every time. You see … the side effects of coming off of this medication are worse than the side effects of staying on. The withdrawals are like nothing this prude has ever experienced before in a mind/mood-altering drug. I’ve tried to come off a few times and after four days of intense nausea (so bad I can’t even sit up or open my eyes without getting sick) I’ve cracked and taken a pill. And mind you this is even after I’ve weaned myself to the lowest dose available. I keep trying to find a week when I can block out my calendar and plan to just be sick for days on end. But when my husband drives two hours to work and I’ve got a 4 1/2 year old, having me out of commission helps no one. So I snagged a prescription for scopolamine to help with the nausea and seasick-like feelings I get during the detox of Effexor and hope it helps me function.

Treating anxiety shouldn’t be this terrible. You shouldn’t have to resort to taking a medication that gives you additional symptoms. I’m working hard with an exercise/diet regimen in hopes it will be enough to take the place of the medication completely. Really I just want to feel like myself again … from oh so long ago.

Step 3: I’m writing in my worry journal daily to brain dump everything on my mind that I can’t fully address or control. It helps take the edge off and it feels like once it’s written down I don’t have to carry it around in my head anymore.

Step 4: I’m going to therapy. I’ve been seeing my therapist now for almost a year after I scared myself quite a bit with some really dark thoughts. Thoughts that involved me no longer being needed. I found myself sobbing whenever I took a shower and making folders of passwords and account numbers on my computer for my husband to have on hand, just in case. Something snapped in me and in a moment of clarity through the tears and the fog I realized what was happening and made called a psychologist right then. She got me in the next day.

I’m not sure why I waited so long in my life to add this part of self-care. Although I do find I’m still guarded when talking during our sessions and don’t fully open up, I can talk to her without feeling like I’m weighing down a friend with my burdens, and that counts for a lot. I probably will never not need a therapist, but it helps so much just to recognize that fact.

Step 5: I’m reaching out. While I’m worried that we aren’t getting paid and I have bills piling up and I’m trying to be intentional with every dime we spend, I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable and accept help. We’re used to being on the giving end of these efforts, but our community has done amazing and gracious things to keep furloughed federal workers fed and we’re now finding ourselves on the receiving end. Instead of continuing to say “oh, no, that’s not necessary. We’re fine” I’m opening up more and allowing others to help us.

For one, I’m meeting so many beautiful people this way. People I have much in common with but might not have met otherwise.

Secondly, and to put it frankly, we need the help. For a family that lives paycheck to paycheck on an E-5 salary, missing two paychecks (maybe more) hurts a lot. Sure we can get a loan, but then those will need to be paid back and some of those payments are due before pay will even resume. It’s not a good scenario no matter how you look at it.

I’m trying not to dwell, trying not to let it bury me. We’re keeping our heads above the water and our eyes open wide. This, too, shall pass.

Post 9: Appreciating the Journey

I fell off the wagon, and I’m pretty sure the back wheel ran over me as it continued on its way, leaving me face down in the dirt.

And that’s completely fine. In fact, I waved as I watched that wagon disappear on the horizon.

After meeting with my therapist last week I realized that the prize of this process for me isn’t actually in achieving my goals, but rather is the appreciation for and focus on the journey. It is in my being mindful of my actions, how I manage my time, and what I’m choosing to prioritize.

For example, in recognizing that I have an incredibly hard time waking up in the morning, exhausted and tired even after more than 8 hours of sleep, I have since started taking vitamins. Iron, vitamin C, vitamin D and b-complex are now part of my morning routine. When I don’t take them, I figure it out about 2pm when my body is begging me to nap, even after many hours of sleep the night before. Serotonin levels, gut health, anxiety … all of these contribute negatively to energy levels and weight gain. Bad!

To help with this, my therapist and I discussed Successive Approximation and how putting it into practice could reshape my responses to specific situations. For instance, instead of setting my alarm for 6am when I’m used to waking up at 8am (this is too drastic of a gap for me), this method would have me setting my alarm for 7:45am and not allowing the snooze button to be pushed. Once I am doing that easily, next I would set the alarm for 7:30am and so on. Small steps with rewards for when I head in the right direction.

Successive Approximation is acting in a way that gets you closer and closer to the desired behavior. For people like me, I visualize a desired result and then overwhelm myself by assuming there’s no other way to get over the mountain except in one leap. Of course this isn’t the only way, but my brain tends toward the extreme options. Making small, accessible changes that increase gradually also increases the likelihood you’ll get over that mountain. I’ve always been an “I want it now” person, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to look back on these posts one day and see a drastic change that was so gradual I never even realized it was happening.

In addition to all of this, my son started seeing a child psychologist a few weeks ago and she is working with him through play therapy. He’s learning to realize his anxiety, label it, talk about it, and bring himself down from it. He colors, he plays, he listens to soft music, he learns to belly breathe and meditate, etc. It’s only been a few sessions and I’ve noticed a difference already in his confidence. As I know full well, sometimes just having the knowledge you aren’t alone with your frustration gives you enough fortitude to stare down any uncertainty.

In order to continue his practices in the home environment I’ve picked up these books recommended to me by friends. Learning to be still, quiet and mindful are possibly the most powerful skills one can possess. I will post updates as we work through the books together.

The fourth book, Start Balancing by Kristy Dickerson, was given to me by a friend and mentor who’s also a fellow mom/entrepreneur. It’s a guided journal to self discovery and defining success. In the opening quote to this journal I underlined the sentence that reads “I believe I was intended to fail, to struggle, and to face defeat in order to learn how to succeed.”

These might be the most self-reflective words that I’ve identified with in some time. When it comes to goal-setting, I continue to fail because I have not learned enough about myself to set them successfully from the beginning.

And that, my friends, is what this journey is all about.

Day 8 – Staying Positive

  • Post daily for 365 days.
  • Grow out hair for 365 days.
  • Post daily gratitude for 365 days.
  • Lose 40-lbs in one year.
  • Gluten-free. Day 0/90
  • In bed by 10pm and awake by 6am. Day 0/7
  • 30 Days of Yoga. Day still 2/30

  • I can feel the fringes of my usual funk creeping in and I find myself feeling relieved my therapy appointment is tomorrow. There’s so much to get off my shoulders. My brain tries so hard to weigh me down and over the years I’ve just learned to succumb to it because that’s easier when I so often have the energy left to fight it. Of course that doesn’t help anyone, especially not me, which is why I’m trying to change.

    Most of my goals are starting the clock back at zero days. I’m disappointed by that, but this time I’m not going to give up. I’m just going to replant my feet and try again. This is progress.

    An interesting note: I was hungry the other day when driving home from dropping my son off at school and I started to get the low sugar shakes and sweats. I can’t function well when that sets in so I scarfed down what food I had in the car in an attempt to raise my blood sugar, which happened to be the matching pop-tart to the one G ate while we were driving. I ate it quickly and finished up my coffee. Less than a minute later my throat was tighter and phlegmy and I could tell I was having to take bigger breaths just to keep my breath even. A headache also set in at the same time. I can only assume it was the gluten in the pop-tart. Before this slip-up I had been gluten-free for 6 days, and while I know you have to be absent of it for weeks for your body to be rid of it completely, I can’t help but wonder if there was something connecting the occurrences. Regardless, I’m definitely off gluten and all the better for it.

    It’s 11:30 at night. I’m not doing well with my early bedtime plan. Still back at 0 days for that one, but I have a plan in place to get up early in the morning because I need to backup my phone in case they screw it up when replacing the battery at the Apple store tomorrow. Wish me luck! I’m so thankful that I was able to take advantage of the $29 replacement special they were offering until the 31st of Dec, 2018. I reserved my spot just under the wire. I, too, like to live dangerously.

    Goodnight, all. Stay positive.

    Day 7: Comfort Items

    My sweet boy has been struggling lately. Especially when it comes to digging deep inside of him for the courage to go to school.

    Some kids jump up at the thought of seeing their friends and teachers, and seeing what new object will be featured on the sensory table or in the discovery center of their classroom. My child loves all of those things too, but he is completely overwhelmed with the “what if” thoughts and the crippling worries he associates with getting into that classroom.

    Every morning he tries to stall our routine. Every morning he argues with me about what clothes he’s going to wear and how scratchy they are or how big the tags are. Every morning he argues with me about going to the bathroom. Every morning he takes forever to eat breakfast. No matter when I wake him up, he adjusts his procrastinating accordingly, hoping that if he does just enough to make us behind in getting out the door then I’ll throw my hands up in defeat and declare it a stay-at-home day. That never happens, but bless his heart how he tries.

    Today as we were about to run out the door (per our usual exit strategy) he had to run back in to get his stuffed puppy that his Nana gave him for Christmas. He wasn’t a big stuffed animal kid until just a few months ago, and his clinginess to them has recently accelerated. I told him he could bring his puppy in the car but he couldn’t take it into school. He said he was going to do it anyway. He’s four, after all, and they tend to (try to) do what they want.

    We drove to school, chatting lightly about things and saying “hi” to an iron stick man sculpture and a crazy tree we see on our route. I rounded the school parking lot in the car line pattern and pull up to the front so G can get out. He gets out of the car and looks in his tote basket, quickly realizing his puppy isn’t in there. He turns back to the car and desperately asks for Fluffy. I can see the panic seeping into his eyes. He’s pleading with me with that look, and I can’t say no even though I know he’s not supposed to bring outside toys to class. I can tell it’s a day he needs a little extra comfort from home.

    At pickup, several hours later, he’s walked to the car by one of his teachers. He looks sad. He’s in “shut down” mode and I’m immediately wondering what happened. His teacher leans in the car and tells me they had an issue with his puppy because he was told not to take it outside because he would get dirty and that maybe puppy was better left in the safe, warm car during school. I interpreted that as “lady, follow the rules and don’t let your kid bring toys from home.” She was nice about it, but note taken.

    G was visibly and verbally upset. He told me “they said I can’t bring my puppy back, never ever ever again.” He has two classes in a day. His morning class and then lunch bunch, which has completely different teachers. I asked him what his first class teachers said and he said “she didn’t even care. She was asking me questions about Fluffy and even said maybe one of the days all of the kids could bring a stuffy from their own house.”

    He was pretty confused why one half of his day was supportive of his comfort item and the other half didn’t embrace it. His first class teachers are aware of his struggles with anxiety and are a bit more compassionate in allowing him to do what he feels he needs to do to cope. His second class teachers may not be aware of how severe his anxiety can become.

    He doesn’t always want to bring his stuffed animal with him places, but I can always tell what kind of a day he’s having based on his level of attachment to whatever item/toy he chooses to cling to. If he’s experiencing any emotional discomfort he will not leave the house or car without a toy in his hand. It’s needless to say, he’s had some pretty rough days lately.

    And needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to immersing him in play therapy with his psychologist so we can start tackling those anxiety-coping skills.

    That all said … teachers, I have a small request. If you have a student who is carrying around an object or a toy even if the rules don’t allow for them … I implore you to please consider the child’s individual personality and reasons for carrying said toy before you risk embarrassing them or causing increased levels of anxiety by pointing out their “mistake” in bringing it. That toy might be the only thing that got them through the school doors that day.

    Hoping for a happier day tomorrow.

    P.S. while I’m struggling most days with my own anxiety, I’m thankful for the blessing of empathy for G. He will not have to fight this alone and will always, always, always have someone with a deep understanding and who loves him unconditionally in his corner.

    Life Hack Time

    If you’re like me, in the last year or two the Internet has told you all the things in your life you’ve been doing wrong for your entire existence.

    You’re putting your deodorant on during the wrong time of day, you’re putting your concealer on horizontally under your eye when it should be done vertically, you’re peeling bananas from the wrong end and even monkeys know how to do it correctly. The list is endless.

    But I learned something today. Actually, I figured it out on my own without the Internet telling me and it’s right up there with finding out there’s a tic-tac holder on the inside of the tic-tac lid.

    I recently got a new duvet cover set for our bed and when we got home from our trip I couldn’t wait to put it on our plain white duvet. I’ve had duvets and their covers for years, so I’m certainly no stranger to the infuriating effort that is putting the duvet back in the cover after it’s been washed. Then once the cover is on correctly, actually getting the duvet to not slide around within the cover is a totally separate challenge. By the end of the week, most of your comforter is down in the bottom of the duvet cover and utterly useless.

    So while I’m prepping myself for the battle I’m about to engage in, I figure out which side of the duvet should be at the foot of my bed. I check the corners for the location of the tag, and in doing so I notice a tiny loop at the end of each corner.

    My wheels start turning.

    All four corners have one. “If only these would attach to something inside the duvet cover to keep it still …” My brain is thinking. Hard at work. I’m feeling the excitement.

    I wonder.

    I stuff my hand in the cover and feel my fingers toward the top corner of the inside. I’m met with instant gratification when my fingers grab onto two ties, snugly attached to the corner. These steps are repeated in each corner with the same results. I quickly tie the cover corners to the loop of their respective duvet corners.

    I’m not sure if this is the same for all duvets and covers, but I really hope it is. I’m about to sleep happy tonight knowing I will never again be bothered with a duvet that doesn’t know its place in the cover.

    Goodnight. Sleep tight!

    Day 6: end of the vacation

  • Post daily for 365 days.
  • Grow out hair for 365 days.
  • Post daily gratitude for 365 days.
  • Lose 40-lbs in one year.
  • Gluten-free. Day 6/90
  • In bed by 10pm and awake by 6am. Day 0/7
  • 30 Days of Yoga. Day still 2/30

  • I’m a little late with my post (and my bedtime) but I am having to play a bit of catch up as we just returned home from our weekend getaway. It still counts as “today” if I haven’t gone to sleep yet. My blog, my rules.

    I had the best time with my family on this little trip. We had a few reasons for going even though it was so last minute and I’m glad we took the time to do it.

    At our parent/therapist meeting after our son’s evaluation with the child psychologist a few topics obviously came up, one of them being his fear of swimming underwater, or letting go and swimming unattended even on the surface. He’s been going to swim classes but the coaches always want to rush him into dunking his head under the water before he is ready to give consent. His therapist suggested we go swimming as a family together so he builds up confidence in a trusting and fun environment, and to take video to play him repetitively to show him he can in fact swim and have fun doing it. He put his face underwater on his own and we got video, so I’m hoping it helps him! He also learned a new trick with the pool noodle.

    I really didn’t want to come home after such a lovely time with the two people I love most in the world. But like all good things, it had to come to an end. So my husband could go back to work and not get paid.

    Speaking of that whole working without pay thing, we were walking on a trail in Assateague looking for ponies. We were successful in finding their poop and my son, who has discovered a love for binoculars, had to inspect it. I feel like there’s a metaphor happening in this photo that could work for our current government and politics in general. Something to the effect of “no matter how close you look at it, you’re still looking at shit.”

    So for my daily gratitude, I’m thankful for my sense of humor, because it’s about the only thing that’s going to get us through this government shutdown. I just wish I could pay the bills with it.

    Gluten free progress is going well. I had a grilled chicken salad at McDonald’s today and it wasn’t half bad! Some things really surprise me.