These days I am under tremendous pressure work-wise: the third chapter of my PhD is due at the end of the week and I am nowhere near finished. This means I am putting in 10 hour long days, while battling very intense feelings of anxiety and discouragement, which (NO WORRIES!) is just part of the fun of being a graduate student.
Soooo although time and life expectancy are running out for me, I still want to take the time here to draw out a brief comparison of how I am reacting under stress now, vs. how I did 3 months ago – when I was still drinking daily and in secret. This is an interesting experiment because in both cases, this is me AT MY WORST and the only varying parameter is the presence/absence of booze as a coping mechanism. So here it goes, and it ain’t pretty…. (bye bye ego, so loooong !!! ).
- I would start drinking at 5pm every day to keep working and “push through” for another few hours
- I topped meditating completely (I was drunk in the evenings and hungover in the mornings so what do you expect!!!)
- I would hide my drinking from people/my partner/the liquor store people (going to different stores every day)
- I would completely emotionally shut off from my partner and shut him out (even cancelled plans to meet his sister for the first time, claiming to be too depressed)
- I was too ashamed and unable to open up as to the cause of my misery (which boiled down to anxiety and alcohol abuse to cope with it)
- I experienced complete loss of libido, even feelings of physical repulsion when my partner initiated sex
- I completely withdrew socially (apart from my boyfriend I spoke practically to no one in a month)
- I stopped exercising completely
- I had a general feeling of lethargy, difficulty in doing things: I was a catatonic zombie
- I engaged in drunken and secret binge eating EVERY evening for about two weeks (ice cream, chocolate, peanut butter, you name it) and felt horrible physically
- I had very poor body image
- I had very poor self-esteem
- I engaged in very negative self-talk
- I Had general feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
- I am not drinking
- I have strong feelings of aversion towards meditating but am still stubbornly committed to at least 15 minutes of meditation per day (instead of usual 2 hours). I can really feel a difference: not meditating SUCKS, everything feels much worse, but I just can’t get myself to sit down. I have great difficulty in concentrating while meditating
- I have great difficulty in opening up emotionally to my partner, I keep wanting to shut him out, but am able to let him in and be vulnerable when confronted about it. He has been feeling rejected and I haven’t done much about it.
- I am able to identify and talk about the cause of my misery (anxiety from work)
- I seem to have a complete loss of libido.
- I have been engaging in daily binge eating in the evening for the past week or so (I even sometimes begin eating chocolate or peanut butter in the morning after breakfast… YIKES): I am relying on sugar instead of alcohol to “get through” the workday/anxiety and eating to the point of discomfort, every day. I am feeling too ashamed to tell anyone about this, especially my partner. (THIS IS EXACT SAME BEHAVIOR AS PREVIOUSLY WITH ALCOHOL!)
- I feel like I am on autopilot / in a tunnel/ condemned to a fast-paced yet mindless rhythm of anxiously doing things (rather than slowing down, putting things into perspective and focusing how I am really feeling, i.e. opening the door to feeling better).
- I am seriously unable to stop and relax: I am an anxious manic zombie.
- I feel a general numbness towards ANY of feeling except anxiety, irritation (or sugar cravings): Very un-buddhist !!!
Yep, this is me at my worst. Or me feeling my worst.
At least work is giving me a distraction from the anxiety … caused by work !!! HOW ABSURD THIS ALL IS! (#Samsara).
So in conclusion, the only thing that feels different this time around is that I am sober. Otherwise I am still an anxious mess. (ok, clearly I was severely depressed back in August, whereas now I am just very anxious but not depressed at all, and my self-esteem is much higher/my self-talk much less negative).
WHAT I AM MOST ASHAMED OF: I still need a crutch (it’s just a different one than I used to have. Both are empty calories though …haha). I really wish I didn’t use bingeing as a coping mechanism. Why can’t I be a sports addict instead? lol – I have probably put on the 15 lbs I lost during the breakup lol. I am too scared to weigh myself and see. (Is this eating disorder behavior? Urghhh I don’t know anything anymore)
Also, and I think this might be more important: when under pressure I am still sacrificing self-care (meditation/exercise), when I know that these are the moments I need it THE MOST. When will I learn?
Long story short, I am still far from perfect [duuuuh, and MAYBE THAT’S MY PROBLEM… TRYING TO BE PERFECT all the time/SETTING IMPOSSIBLE UNATTAINABLE GOALS – you know the drill… “to confirm limiting beliefs that I’m not good enough”… yada yada yada. Urgh]
Maybe I should listen to my partner, who said (about the being sober part) “that’s a huge difference!!!”. I guess it is.
I know that it is a past behavior of mine to find tremendous secondary benefit in doing my work last minute, under pressure, with my back to the wall. (This trait I inherited from my mother who for example decided to get an MBA at age 50, and wrote her whole thesis in a few days, locked in her office, like an insane maniac. And passed brilliantly). I know that at least this gives me an excuse to “fail” if I fail. The whole process is stupid. I know I need to just relax and not put so much pressure on myself. I have 4 days left to finish.
Writing this blog post was the ultimate act of self care given the present situation. (the only reason I wrote it is because my boyfriend called me and I finally opened up about my feelings and cried, which broke my “numb zombie” bubble and allowed me to close my books and take an evening for myself. Writing this made me feel better though 🙂
I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE HOLIDAYS!!! Hang in there