Where I’m headed

Nearly two months ago I wrote Where I’ve Been and admitted that I was struggling not only with my fibromyalgia but also with my anxiety disorder.

Summer break is now here and while I’ve been able to get the rest I need, I’m still exhausted, both mentally and physically.

So, it was time to write about what the next steps are for me.

I have taken a break again from designing. I recently did a couple of designs for a yarn company and those will be out later this year, I’m sure. But that showed me that it has become really difficult for me to do this anymore. Unless the project is a super easy one that I can do in a short amount of time, I likely won’t be taking on any new work. The other eye opening situation was that crocheting even just an hour would cause my hands to cramp up severely. I have been knitting recently and I don’t have the same issues there, something about the movement of the hands, I’m sure. So, still playing with yarn, just in a different way.

I’ve already alerted my current clients, but I’m taking an indefinite hiatus from tech editing. I do not trust my brain to do what it needs to do in that arena and I won’t be responsible for messing up another designer’s work because of that. It’s hard, and I feel like I’m letting people down, but I had to do it for me.

Right now I’m not sure what the future holds. I’m taking things day by day, some days minute by minute. I’m working at taking care of me as well as my family.

I do so appreciate all the warm thoughts and prayers. They mean more to me than I can express. Hopefully I can keep updating this blog with posts about my spinning and knitting adventures (and they definitely are adventures, let me tell you).

Where I’ve been

So, hi. Yeah, been a while since I’ve written. I apologize for that. Every week that went by without a post, I’d get anxious about not posting, but had nothing to really write about, so it was difficult to come up with something.

But, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I haven’t been posting and figured it was time to be honest about why I haven’t been posting.

Many of my longer time readers know that nearly two years ago I took a sabbatical from designing. I was feeling burned out and no longer creative. What you may not know is that the burnout came not just from overworking, but from my anxiety disorder getting out of control.

Yes, you read that correctly. Too often those of us with mental health issues keep these things very quiet and private. I fell into that. Well, no more.

My name is Tracie Barrett and I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

This means that things can be going really well in my day and I can have out of no where a full blown panic attack. These are scary and hard to deal with. Even if I don’t a full blown panic attack, my anxiety levels get so high that I lock up and can’t function. This is what happened two years ago at TNNA. By the time I made the walk from the hotel room down to the show floor, I could barely breathe, my hands were shaking, and I felt like everyone was watching me. I just couldn’t do it. That was the most anxious I’ve ever been in my life, even back to when I was diagnosed in high school.

I thought that the main trigger was the pressure of designing. I thought that if I took time off I’d feel better and be good to go. I was wrong.

This last year, while everything in my life was going well and should be making me happy, I was miserable. I would sit on the sofa and have my anxiety ramp up until my heart was racing and I couldn’t breathe. The anxiety triggers my fibromyalgia pain (it’s not my only trigger, but it’s one of them) so then I’d start hurting. The pain kept me from doing what I needed to do in the day, which would make me more anxious. It was getting to the point that many days I just couldn’t function.

During the last few years my fibromyalgia has also been getting worse, which was hard to come to terms with. Things I used to do just a year ago are nearly impossible now. Things I enjoyed like walking to downtown, going hiking, decorating our home, cooking, etc. This has been an eye opening and depressing situation all around. I’d been accommodating for my weaknesses so much that I had never noticed how much I was doing that until I was forced to. That was difficult and did not help the anxiety.

So why am I telling you all this? Because I’m tired of hiding in the shadows with this. Mental health issues should be just like any other illness and be talked about without whispering and hiding.

Last month I was started on a medicine which does seem to be helping ease the hard edge of the anxiety. I’m still dealing with the pain and mental fog of the fibromyalgia. Granted, as many of you who follow me on Twitter have seen, the medicine is causing a very disruptive side effect – massive fatigue. I’m having to learn how to work around that, which only gives me about an hour or so a day of actual work time. Which is very difficult.

I’m not going to promise when the next post will be. Some days I can barely link together words into simple sentences. I’m hoping once summer break hits I can start sleeping in a bit and see if that will help me be a bit more productive during the day.

A big step

photo by Petr Kratochvil

The other day I snagged a free Kindle book on Amazon titled Web Rehab: How to Give Up Your Internet Addiction Without Giving Up the Internet. It came around at just the right time. I’d been getting disgusted with the amount of time I was wasting online.

See, it’s one of the dirty secrets of working from home. Since some of what I do involves being online, I can always look busy. Even when I’m not. Even when I’m clicking through the same sites over and over and over wasting time. I wasn’t even really looking at what I was clicking to, I was just compulsively and mindlessly going through this odd routine of clicking and refreshing the numerous tabs I’d have open. I was wasting time and I knew it. Worse? I was starting to get pain in my wrist and shoulders and neck.

I think some of it was due to being stressed out. I just did not want to deal with anything else the past few months. I had a lot on my plate and would spend my evenings clicking around, zoning out, until it was time to go to bed. The other day I realized I needed to stop, but I honestly didn’t know how. I know I’m not the only one in that boat. I’ve discussed this with others in various locations.

So when I saw this book in my weekly perusal of Kindle books available, I decided to grab it (it helped a lot that it was free at the time). I ended up reading it last night. Yes, in one evening. It was a short book. But it’s packed with practical help.

The main thing I liked was that the author didn’t assume that the easiest way to deal with it was to just shut off the internet. Obviously, for many of us in this age, that’s just not possible. I have to be online to do email throughout the day. Not just for pattern support, but also for marketing, keeping in contact with my tech editing clients, uploading information, etc. Those weren’t the areas I was having difficulty. It was when I’d click around and do other things (Facebook, Pinterest, Ravelry forums, Google Reader, etc) than working that it became a problem.

So I did the worksheets last night that are in the book. I set firm goals. It wasn’t that I couldn’t be online, I just needed to limit the “surfing” part of being online. And I started last night.

Let me tell you, it was hard. I didn’t think it would be. But within five minutes of deciding that I wouldn’t check email as soon as it binged (instead waiting until I chose to do it…I’m not Pavlov’s dog), my email binged. And I actually sat here stressed out. What if it was important? (it wasn’t). What if it was something time sensitive? (it wasn’t). I waited until the time I set that I would check it and by then I was calm.

This morning I got up and did not check my email and Facebook from my phone while still in bed (something that always started my day off wrong, and yet I’d continue to do it). I didn’t turn on my computer until I had breakfast, read a passage in a book I wanted to read, fixed some coffee, and read over my goals. I did some preemptive work last night and did away with all the pinned tabs of the time sucks, instead leaving only my email and Twitter (since it really isn’t a time suck for me). So when I got online this morning, I took my 30 minutes I gave myself to surf, checked the sites I felt I needed to check, and then closed those tabs. I minimized my window and got to work.

Mid-morning I got twitchy. The butterflies in my brain flitted by with ideas of things I had to check right then online. Instead of falling for them, I got a notepad out and made a note of things I needed to do online. At lunchtime, when I gave myself another 30 minutes of surfing time, I did those things, and a few others and got right back to work.

This evening I sat down to do my allotted hour of surfing. I was shocked. About 30 minutes in, I felt I had checked all I needed to do, and closed down tabs. Could it seriously be that simple? Now, yes, I’m still online. But I’m writing a blog post. This is not my justifying things, it’s part of the limits I set for myself. Being online and accomplishing things (email, moderating forums, entering pattern information, etc) has never been the problem. It’s the hitting “See more pins” five times when I don’t see anything interesting on Pinterest or looking at groups I’m not even a part of on Ravelry because I’m bored and nothing else is going on that’s the problem.

I don’t think I’m where I want to be yet, and I know the next few days will be tough. But I feel like I just might be on my way to having a great handle on this. And since I know there are others who are going through the same thing, I thought I’d share. Good luck!

Boo….I lost.

Congrats to Marie of Knitted Gems and her Phillies. They beat the Rays tonight in the continuation of Game 5. So, as promised, you’ll see that there is a new picture in the sidebar. It will be up until November 29th as per our bet.


Hopefully a real post tomorrow. I am almost done with the yarn company projects and will have time to post about holiday yarn, yarn from John, and picking up Blueprint Crochet by Robyn Chachula tonight. I also finished my socks other than weaving in the ends.

But now, bedtime.

World Series stuff

Okay, not crochet content. However, Marie of Knitted Gems and I have a friendly wager going on. See, she’s a Phillies fan (although I won’t hold that against her) and I’m somewhat of a Rays fan (because I live here and I believe in rooting for your home teams…not Boston, Mom!). And because our teams are playing each other in the World Series, we had to place a friendly wager.

So here’s the deal. If the Phillies win, I will display their logo prominently (at the top) of my sidebar. When the Rays win, she’ll be placing their logo on her blog. The logo has to stay up for one month.

Should be interesting!


Going off line tomorrow

I worked on the scarf some today, but my brain wasn’t in it. I’ve been scattered today and will likely not be online tomorrow at all. We’ve got all our weekend errands and stuff to push into tomorrow as well as laundry and getting John packed to go on Sunday.

I’ll be back on likely on Sunday night or Monday morning. I’m taking Monday off for the holiday and my little brother is coming to hang out with me for the day. So that should help.

See y’all on the flip side and have a good weekend!

It’ll be another day or two…..

I thought I would have all this time to post today, but I’m sick. Not that I didn’t expect it. You don’t go on a 125+ mile motorcycle ride in temps ranging from 62-74 and then the next day sit outside in 68 degree weather for 4 hours and NOT get sick. Oh well, meds are on board and I’m about to go lay down (the only reason I’m up this early was because we met John’s old boss and his wife for breakfast before they flew back to Virginia).

But, I did want to post 2 links.

First, the Crochet Liberation Front Headquarters Blog. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, I’m a proud member of the CLF.

Second, the CLF Cafe Press shop.

These are here mostly for my own info. And to pass on to others.

Okay, off to bed.

Why I went pink

Today is October 1st and the start of Breast Cancer Awareness and the Pink for October campaign. So why did I go pink?

My life, along with many others, has been touched by cancer. I really think these days we all know someone in our family or our close circle whose life has been impacted. It’s just too prevalent.

When I was 16, my mom was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer that was so bad that at the time they caught it, the cancer had already destroyed her ovaries and uterus, had traveled through a 2″ section of her colon, and had punctured her stomach. It was actually the stomach puncture that led to her going to the ER because she had been throwing up the entire night before. She’d been sick for a while, and I remember telling my “sister” Kelli that I thought it might be cancer because she looked like she was 6 months pregnant. Her doctors were really awesome and got it all out in a 4 hour surgery, 6 months of heavy duty chemo, and a 2nd recheck surgery. The time was very difficult for our family, mostly for me, but that’s a post for a different blog.

Fast forward to today and while my mom is cancer free, we’ve also experienced a prostate cancer issue with my Daddy (which still scares me and makes me want to cry) which was successfully taken care of with low-dose radiation. I’ve lost a great-Uncle to testicular cancer, I’ve lost a Grandmother to colon cancer. That’s just my family.

My dear friend Kerry is still fighting her thyroid cancer, and I’ve met many people through this crazy internet who are also fighting various forms of cancer. It touches all of us.

But the main reason I went pink? Because there is a woman who bravely fought breast cancer and unfortunately succumbed. And unfortunately for me, this was before I could meet her. I have learned about how great a woman she was by simply being near her son. This woman was strong and cultured and beautiful. She raised her son to be caring and supportive and loving and a gentleman. She taught him theater and classical music and culture as a whole. She raised him to be a gentle soul and a wonderful partner. There isn’t a day that goes by that I wish that I could have met her to thank her for all she has done in raising this man. I look in his eyes and always see that he misses her and wishes she could be here, too. I only hope that if it’s true that you pick in your partner someone who is like your opposite sex parent that I can live up to being half the woman she was. I went pink in honor and memory of Maria.

Tagged – 7 Random Facts

I’ve been tagged by Knitted Gems to do this little meme. She was my first “reader” of my blog who wasn’t someone I already knew in real life, so it’s been pretty cool. ๐Ÿ™‚ She’s an awesome knitter and quilter! So here we go….

The rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

7 Random Facts

1. I have to have a TV on. All the time. Whether I’m watching it or not, it must be on. Even when sleeping. I chalk it up to 2 things: working for 6 years in a TV station control room and growing up doing homework at a bowling alley. ๐Ÿ™‚

2. I get fidgety if I don’t have something in my hands. That can be a laptop, or a book, but more than likely it’s a hook and yarn. I hate waiting anywhere if I don’t have something to do.

3. I am really anti-social. I hate going anywhere if I don’t know people who will be there. Large crowds freak me out. Small crowds where I only know one person REALLY freak me out. I will avoid a situation rather than deal with the panic attack.

4. I dream in black and white. Color only appears in my dreams if it’s important (think of Shindler’s List, that’s what my dreams look like). I dream very vivid and realistic dreams, but I can only hold on to little faded snapshots when I wake up, no matter what I attempt to do.

5. I have been officially diagnosed with enough things that I would be a psychiatrist’s dream patient, but before I got an actual diagnosis, I was taught to just deal with them. Things like my ADD which according to one doctor was one of the most severe cases he’d seen in a while. However, growing up, I was taught to deal with my quirks, so I did. This has, however, begun to pose a problem in my crochet.

6. I come up with new designs while in the bathtub. I use a dry erase marker to write on the shower stall wall that is at the end of the tub. It’s a huge ‘canvas’ for me and I can sketch and work out stitches and write out partial directions without getting paper wet. And yes, I do wipe it down after I transfer it to the notebook. ๐Ÿ™‚

7. I am a fierce and loyal friend. Unless I’m betrayed or my trust with you is broken and then my Scorpio nature comes out. I have been known to completely write people out of my life, even after a period of time forgetting last names and other pertinent information. It’s a harsh reality that is my life.

Okay, there you go. Let’s see, who to tag? I only know a few people that are in this blog-world of mine, so I may not have 7. Oh well.

I’m gonna tag….

1. Kerry. My little protege and the monster I’ve created. ๐Ÿ™‚

2. Margarita…Our “threadie queen” in the crochet group.

3. Dani…Not on blogspot, but we’ll start crossing over to LJ now….she’s our list mama.

4. John…Love of my life…let’s see if he’ll post. ๐Ÿ™‚

5. Tracie…the other -ie Tracie from Rav.

And that’s all I’ve got. ๐Ÿ™ Oh well.

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