Family: Grandpas

I have 6 grandparents. 5 are still alive. I am related by blood to 3 of them. I’ve never actually met my mother’s biological father. He left when she was a baby and her mother remarried a wonderful man. I know that my mom’s bio dad was a dick for leaving, but I still wonder what he looks like and what he’s like.

My dad’s dad’s dad (my great-grandfather), I’m told, was somewhat of an ass. He wasn’t always very nice. His name is Frank. I’ve seen pictures of him and I can’t help but wonder if I would’ve liked talking to him.

Great Grandpa Frank

I vaguely remember my mom’s mom’s parents. They died when I was in elementary school. My great-grandfather’s name was Adolf. When he died and we went through his stuff, we discovered that he had a VERY extensive menu collection. His eyes were blue. He had a mustache. I remember liking him.

The first (and only) grandparent that I have lost died on January 9, 2018. He was my Grandpa Wayne. He was well over 6 feet and his head was very large.

This is me and my Grandpa Wayne, March 1997.

He died because he contracted pneumonia after going through extensive chemo treatments. Unfortunately, I was in Germany when he died, so I was unable to say goodbye and attend the service or the burial. I’ve actually never been to his grave and that is because I’m not sure that I’m ready.

There are many things that I would’ve liked to ask him, so I try to make a point of seeing and talking with the grandparents that are still alive. My Grandpa Wayne was a no bullshit kind of man. He always told me to eat protein and to cut my hair (he hated long hair). He was a rock for my Grandma and I can see that things have been very difficult for her since his passing.

To wrap this post up, I miss family that I never met. I miss family I didn’t know very long or very well. I miss family that I’ve lost. Grief and sadness are difficult emotions for me, so I never quite know how to process these thoughts, but I acknowledge their existences.

Exercise/Exposure Therapy Day 1

Yesterday was my first time participating in exercise and exposure therapy. We worked on desensitization, mindfulness, and focusing on my breathing at a slow walk up a small incline.

A little background: I do not have asthma. I am as healthy as I currently can be. When I’m having a panic attack, my heart rate, breathing, and adrenaline are of the same levels as if I was running from a burning building. It’s a false alarm in my head. So, when I try to actually run for fun or for exercise, my brain thinks it’s in panic mode because my heart rate, breathing, and adrenaline automatically shoot up the same way they do when my anxiety is at its peak. It’s not fun.

So, the past 10 years I have avoided long distance running and physical activities that might send me into an attack and then into an unconscious state (fainting). It’s frustrating because I love hiking, team sports, marching band, running with my dogs, and so much more; I haven’t felt like I can 100% participate in a long time and that’s what I’m trying to get over through this new type of therapy.

My therapist did say that while exercise therapy is not new to him, he has never treated someone like me with it. Normally, he uses it for people with anger management issues, couples that come to therapy to yell at each other, or people who have body image issues.

I came to therapy yesterday ready to run, but we didn’t get over 2 mph. He said the first session is only about the initial exposure. Next session we might kick it up, but the goal is not to go as fast as we can. The focus of this therapy is getting my heart rate up and then back down without jacking up my breathing. It’s about [not purposely] sending me into panic mode, handling it, and then returning to “normal”. It’s scary, but also exciting.

Time Management

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The gif that you see above is accurate to my current life situation. I just started school again and I am taking 6 classes. 2 are online, 2 are lectures, and 2 are hybrids (partially online and partially on campus).

Starting September 4th, I will be dog-sitting and house-sitting for my grandmother who lives 30 minutes north of me. Also, for the entire months of September and October, I will work every weekend at my uncle’s rental bike stand. Monday through Friday, I work my regular day job.

Between everything I just mentioned above, I am also trying to attend my last few therapy session and maintain family relationships, platonic relationships, and a new romantic relationship.

If all of this sounds like a lot it’s because it totally is. I will admit that I probably should not have committed to working every weekend for the next two months. However, it is what it is and we’re here now.

In order to keep my life organized, I have 3 main calendars that I view. One is on my phone and that keeps me up to date on appointments and social events. I use the one on my laptop mainly for work and side jobs. The physical calendar/planner that I have is for school and a combination of everything. That sounds confusing, but it makes sense for me, I swear.

So, that’s an update on where I’m at. I hope everyone’s day is going well.

Closing the Sit Down Therapy Chapter

Last Thursday was my final session in sit down therapy. This week, I will begin exercise therapy. This particular session was bittersweet, but I really enjoyed it and I look forward to the next adventure.

It mostly consisted up a quick update, figuring out the date of the next session, lots of reflection, and some wrap up questions.

  1. Overall, how was therapy for you?
  2. What did you think of your therapist’s emotional responses and encouragement?
  3. What would you tell the you on your first therapy session?

I unexpectedly got choked up while answering one of the final questions and I would like to write about it here.

“What is something that you have learned about yourself since starting therapy?”

Initially, I didn’t actually have a significant answer to this question. I thought about how I learned more about my mental processes and how my anxiety reflects things I haven’t emotionally or mentally dealt with. I recalled retraining my brain to not go to the worst case scenario when feeling anxious. I also thought about how I had accepted that I feel emotions very strongly and that I am naturally someone who loves very deeply.

Then I had a concluding thought: I learned that it is possible for me to live the life I used to only dream of.

After I was diagnosed with GAD and PD, my opportunities and potential for adventure and happiness in life seemed to narrow. It’s been 10 years and the latter statement became something in my life that I simply accepted. I accepted that I would just not be able to do everything that I dreamed of because of my diagnoses.

When people look at my life, they see a wide range of travels and adventure. When people meet me, they see confidence, spirit, and drive. If you were to look at my resume, you might also be fooled. I’m not saying that I haven’t lived a wonderful life, because, trust me, I have. It’s been freaking amazing and I’ve enjoyed everything. I don’t take anything for granted. What I’m saying is that there have been tiny obstacles and various plans that I have either altered or discarded due to my fears.

I was settling on living a life [for the rest of my life] that my anxiety had control over. Sure, I make the initial plans, but my anxiety has always determined whether or not those are carried out. If they are carried out, trust that they have been amended.

Since starting therapy, it has come to my attention that I don’t have to plan my life around my anxiety. I don’t have to modify my plans. I don’t have to cancel my social obligations. I don’t have to kill my dreams.

When I started therapy, I made a decision to tackle my anxiety without medication. My therapist has mentioned that he is proud of me for accomplishing what I have without medication, but I don’t see the significance. I think those who choose to take medication are not weak and I don’t think that those who choose not to take medication are stronger. I think both choices are difficult in their own ways.

With all of this being said, starting therapy back in May was the best decision I’ve made for myself in a long time. Because of the past 4 months, I am now able to see my future in a new light. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared anymore, but I do think I’m better equipped to tackle what’s to come. Of course, I think I will be even more confident once I go through exercise therapy. Getting my body in line with the changes my mind has gone through will be the next to step to mental liberation. More to come!