Healing, with help from my brain

Sometimes the chronic pain or anxiety is caused by, well, something not physical. And how you think about your pain makes a huge difference. I was a people-pleaser from way back(many of us are). But in my old age, I’ve been amazed to learn how much my need to please is really a way to avoid fear (long story from my childhood). What I’ve discovered is that avoiding fear or trying to tamp it down, often creates physical ailments that accompany that fear. Headaches, nausea, anxiety, vertigo, acid reflux).

Far too often I pushed the fear away and resorted to other ways of trying to deal with it. This podcast captures what I’ve learned about my brain! I purchased the Curable app last year, listened to almost all of the podcasts, and worked through the app elements. I also read The Way Out, by Alan Gordon and Alon Ziv, which was a huge help. Now I have a basket of skills to call on when I sense the fear and pain (or anxiety) is on its way.

I’m not a doctor. I know people in pain might think this is just one more person saying it’s all in your head. But there is too much evidence that for some people this works.

I’m not fully healed. After all, I’ve been reacting to situations for nearly 70 years, and brain pathways are difficult to change after that long. But I’m so much better. Frankly, I don’t have any expectation to fully heal. However, knowing where this is coming from helps keep the fear and pain at a minimum.

When a Routine Isn’t

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

I discovered how insidious anxiety is when I took myself to the ER last summer, complaining of acid reflux, vertigo, leg pain, and headaches.

“All of these?” the ER doctor asked.

An EKG showed I wasn’t having a heart attack, and after much blood work, a kind nurse patted my hand and said it sounded like anxiety.

I’m no stranger to this heart palpitating, nervous stomach disorder. I’ve had bouts for ten years now. So I wasn’t surprised when I realized I’d been tricked again. The brain had moved into its fight/flight/freeze syndrome and my body reacted with various aches and pains.

Last fall, I tackled it head on. I read everything I could. I started meditating. I bought a Pilates reformer so I can stretch.I’ve learned to breathe deeply when it hits. And I journal whatever is on my mind. In short, I created a morning routine to start the day.

I hadn’t realized how important the routine was until last week when we traveled, and I found each day different. By the end of the week, my old friend anxiety was back. Now that I’m home, I am in the “flow.” And I can feel a difference already. Who knew how important a routine would be to this old lady (who used to pride herself on NEVER having a schedule!)

I’m going to stick to this one.

Healing, Growing, Changing

To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. – David Whyte

I have 5 months until I turn 70. Gasp. What is it about that number that gives me pause?

I’ve never been one to think about or worry about age. But this number is the beginning of the decline. Now, I’m not getting depressed or heading into a spiral. But if I’ve learned one thing in the past 15 years, it is to face everything– anxiety, trauma, regret, shame, conflict. Name it. Let it turn around in my brain for a while. And then let it go.

This morning, actually in the middle of the night around 2am, my dog threw up. I woke up to clean it and let her outside, and then I couldn’t go back to sleep. That’s unusual for me these days (since I started taking magnesium and glycine before bed). I felt a slight twinge in my back and I knew I was up for a while, so I headed downstairs to the couch. I first told my brain to relax, that it had nothing to fear, and then I turned on a podcast and the gas stove. The flickering lights calmed me, and I felt myself drifting back to sleep.

This morning, I’m a little tired. But there’s one thing about getting close to 70 that gives me a new perspective. At least I’m not dead yet! I really do want to appreciate waking up every morning to live a life I love, that makes me proud and satisfied.

My anxiety hit me over the head last summer, even sending me to the ER at one point. I knew I had to make some changes. So 5 months of therapy, eating well, and daily journaling has helped. (I tried Lexapro, but it wasn’t for me.)To stay healthy, I’ve become a 90% vegan (LOL), practice pilates on my new reformer, and stretch this body with Over the Hill yoga online. I’ve enjoyed my daily journaling so much, I’m writing poetry again!

I’m going to keep writing here and sending out my newsletter, even though it’s not about letterpress printing. I keep learning, and I love to share what I learn. If you want to unsubscribe, you know where the button is. But this is as much for me as anyone– a way to keep track of things that keep me healthy, both physically and mentally. And it’s also a way to stay connected to the kind and good-hearted people in my life, you!

Onward, friends.


Turn the sound on and relax….

From The New York Times: It’s OK to grieve the losses…

Releasing stuck emotions

This movie and her write up about it….

Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos has studied the science of happiness and found that many of us do the exact opposite of what will truly make our lives better. Love her podcast

Poetry therapy

What’s Next?

Shelter Harbor, sunset

I have finally given away all my letterpress equipment.

People have asked why, but I don’t have a good answer. As I near 70, I had random thoughts of how David would deal with all of it if something happened to me. I also realized I was not as excited about getting out all the necessary accessories- ink, mineral spirits, type, paper, etc–to begin the process. And it was always messing up my kitchen.

So now I have order. My kitchen is clean and my second bedroom where I stored type and business supplies is once more a bedroom. We’ve set up bunkbeds for the grandchildren and a corner for me to sit and ponder: What’s Next?

I know I need to be creative. Write? Paint? Do calligraphy? Create handmade cards? Knit?

For now, I am going to simply sit.

The last few months have meant self care and mindfulness as I’ve worked through health issues. I am almost finished, aside from one last appointment. With nothing serious on the horizon, I’ve worked on inner issues– food, rest, and therapy.

And I’m planning a trip back to that beautiful place pictured above, my childhood home I’ve inherited. It’s not on the water, but close. I can hear ocean waves when I fall asleep. My breathing changes when I’m there.

“You need to know that lovely places exist and you can go there, when things go wrong, and it’s a place of solace.”
― Charlotte Eriksson

Striving for Imperfection

We overcooked the turkey. We served old green beans. The potatoes were cold. The cranberry was too tart. The bed we put together seemed like it might collapse. I was exhausted.

But I think I did better this year. Because I kept saying, “so what.” And I was able to laugh though most of it. In years past, my anxiety would get the best of me. I started to feel a little heart racing yesterday, but I was able to calm myself down pretty quickly.

We had a great time with the Morgan grandbabies in their matching PJ’s. The game on the porch with the Baltimore Graces was such fun! And today the Charlottesville Graces arrive for another meal that may or may not be cooked well.

I really don’t enjoy cooking. My kids know that. My husband knows that. I don’t know why I keep trying except I have this vision in my head of some perfect Christmas with a perfect meal and perfect gifts. What I am realizing is that imperfect is just fine.

In fact, next year we are going with frozen lasagna or pizza. Because it’s the games, the hugs, and the laughs that matter. Memories. It’s unfortunate that some things take so long to learn. But I am still learning and that’s what counts.

Perfection doesn’t exist. And it doesn’t matter.

“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane