Sunday, March 30, 2008

Eggs - Never Over, Never Easy

Hello Friends:

The whole 'buying tickets' thing this morning was tough, not to mention the generally very stressful last weeks, so we gave ourselves a treat of champagne brunch at a swank new joint. And now that I deal better with some of my food contamination issues, there are several items that have made it back onto my personal menu. Like crab and hollandaise sauce. Two big fat no-no's up until just about 18 months ago. But now I'm eating them on an occasional basis.

And so you'd think that Crab Eggs Benedict would be an amazing feast - yes, but in spite of the other ingredients being AOK, runny egg yolks are not. I still can't do that and I don't think I need to. Not just gross but gross tasting. But one does not have to have the eggs poached, of course, one can order them over-hard. Which is what I did.

The yummies show up to the table, and it is obvious my eggs are poached. I cut into one to be sure, and immediately tell the wide-eyed and very young server that I can't eat these eggs, they were ordered over-hard. He is apologetic and takes the plate away.

There was a time that would have been completely impossible for me. I used to experience so much anxiety about my food issues that I wouldn't bother trying to go out to eat. I knew something in the food or the environment would be too threatening, and I'd be spending the time terrified and trying to hide it, of course. But I've finally realized that I really do deserve to get what I ordered. And that restaurants *want* to bring you what you ordered. One plate of food makes no difference to them, and avoiding panic attacks all day from having eaten goopy eggs means everything to me. Took years to make the progress on these self esteem issues - the ones where you have to express your needs and respect your own boundaries, but I can finally send a plate back to the kitchen.

And then things get funny.

Because a new plate is brought. And the eggs are poached. Again. Now this, this is a challenge. The server is aghast as I tell him the eggs are not over-hard, and that I can't eat them this way. I repeat the performance of cutting into the egg. It was a good show last time, so why not? It's difficult and takes some real guts, but I request another new plate with COOKED eggs. And like in any good restaurant, the plate is taken away with yet more apologies and they commence with try number three.

But it is really driving me nuts at this point, without that nice glass of brunch champagne in my system, I probably would have been pretty bent. Not with them, because people make mistakes and they are trying to fix it, but because this is all a result of my not being able to take the chance of eating runny egg yolks when I'm already stressed out. Nothing is worth suddenly thinking you've poisoned yourself and having attacks all day long. This is one of the reasons restaurants are such a freaking challenge. And I'm now more worked up, but repeating to myself that this is no big deal, I have a right to do this, and I'm not going to hyperventilate over it.

And the third try is finally the charm. And free, since this is in fact a good place to eat and they realize they are really blowing it here. So I use this as an excuse for another glass of champagne. :)

And the luxury of patting myself on the back for actually doing something so mind-bogglingly difficult as think I am a person worthy of getting what I ordered.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Buying Cruise Tickets and Banging Your Head

Hello Friends:

He's on his computer buying the cruise tickets right now. I'm having trouble breathing. Cruise tickets for our 10th anniversary. Remember I said I really wanted to go on a cruise? I'm shaking my head at myself, doing deep breathing to try to calm down. Everything's gotta be a drama with me.

Just listening to him as he fills out the form is making my palms sweat. He's happy we've made a decision on a line, a boat, and even a room category, and is making it official today. As he types, he keeps talking. And asking questions ... I'm not good with questions when I'm worked up. I'm fighting the urge to just walk out of the room as he says, "Oh yeah, which seating for dinner?" I don't know what seating for dinner, I've never been on a cruise, duh. I sort of stare at him and say, "Well, we don't have kids. Let's assume the kids come out for the early seating." He types away as I wonder if I just doomed our cruise in some way. He gives me another look, "You want the room on the port or starboard?" My chest is constricting, "How should I know ... ah, well, they said most of the smoking decks were on the starboard, right? And we don't smoke so how about port?" He smiles and keeps typing. Can't he do this himself? Well I'd know that by now after 10 years and the answer is certainly 'no'. He grins at me, "Ok, now they are asking for our anniversary date, but it's just before we cruise, do we make something up?" I roll my eyes, "I don't care - let's 'celebrate' on the first full day at sea. Does not matter if it's official with them or not, honestly."

He types for a while and I sip my tea and work on this blog, hoping he is done. No ... wishful thinking. He looks confused a moment and says, "So for the travel insurance ... I know you want some, and we can get that here." This is the part I'm having real trouble getting him to understand. I need insurance so I can cancel for ANY reason. I need to know that if I freak out we don't lose this huge investment. And since insurance companies still don't see debilitating anxiety as a real illness, I have to be able to fit into the 'canceling because I've got my panties in a wad' category. I say pointedly, AGAIN, "I have to be able to cancel for ANY reason. Assume that will be the most expensive option for insurance."

He still looks confused, and keeps typing. Then stops, tipping his head, "You know, there are a lot of questions here we don't know. I think I'll call AmEx directly." I practically drop my head on the table as he goes for the phone. And maybe we could have started that way, and saved the third degree on your wife's questionable nerves? But after all these years, bless the poor man, he seems to start every conversation forgetting I'm a lunatic. Then he sort of remembers as I act weird. No idea why he puts up with this, really.

He's on the phone now, and this is not great, but an improvement. Going through it all again, but this time he's definitely happier that he has someone real on the other end for reality checks. Works out fine, with my blood pressure down to slow simmer, until insurance comes up again. I can hear her voice, saying that it will cover pre-existing medical conditions. I shake my head and he sees it, and says to the woman, "My wife has a chronic illness, and we travel a lot, but sometimes have to cancel late in the game." I can hear her words, "No problem, you'll just need a note from your doctor saying ..." Now I'm actually moving from anxiety to anger, which I've recognized is a more positive response sometimes, "That does not make me feel better. I don't want to have to document, because not everyone agrees that anxiety is a covered chronic illness. This won't work. We've been through issues where we've had just this problem, don't you remember? I need to be able to cancel for ANY reason."

Some more talking with the person on the phone, and I'm trying not to listen. Now I have to figure out how to make this work, clearly we are going to need insurance from a third party, and will probably end up with insurance from two places, and I'm pretty rattled at the moment. I hate hate hate this sh*t.

Will blog more later when I've calmed down, and focused on the good stuff. Right. The good stuff. Yeah.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Anxiety Causes Pain and Suffering

Hello Friends:

While I fully intend to have this blog contain humorous elements (I can't help it since I have that sort of personality), I feel I have an obligation to state directly how horrible anxiety disorders can be, so that there is no misunderstanding. Don't take any lighthearted tone as making less out of the subject, or somehow not being true to how awful it can be. I know it's awful, it is debilitating and too painful to describe - my anxiety has driven wedges into my interpersonal relationships, limited my life, trapped me in my house (sometimes in my bed), nearly lost me my job, and eventually fueled the depression that drove me to contemplate suicide. So I get it ... trust me.

But while I struggle every moment of every day with this, I'm not despairing anymore. Not to say I might not end up in a major depressive episode again, but I've come a long way, and done a lot of healing. If you are still on the early part of that path, I hope some of these posts will show you how I managed to get past some terrible times, and also show you that there is definitely a good life to be had, even with anxiety. It does not have to rule you, you don't have to live in constant pain, there is treatment, tools, options, experiments to try, and successes to be had.

And most of all, that this blog is about LIVING with anxiety, not dying from it. I am sure as &@%$ not going to let it kill me - not now - I've worked too @#$% hard.

That said, part of how I cope is the use of humor. That's how I have always been. If you think humor and pain don't mix then you probably haven't seen 'Annie Hall', or any other Woody Allen for that matter.

Come to think of it, I don't actually like Woody Allen's humor :)

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Party Boat or Floating Petri Dish?

Hello Friends:

It looks like a nice, safe, big boat. White and clean. Yep. But what lurks within the bright halls, the quaint little staterooms, and more importantly, on every door handle, elevator button and buffet spoon?

I don't know. But I'm going to go on a cruise, anyway.

Because while some 'Adventures in Anxiety Land' are about getting out of bed and seeing if breakfast will be edible today - others are real adventures. Yep. A cruise. I really want to go on one, and I'm scared to death I'm going to spend the whole time with, ahem, projectile effluent from both ends. And more than just the hassle of getting sick and feeling sick, which is what everyone puts up with, it is the ANXIETY about it. If you are terrified of illnesses, like I am, then any illness represents a possible lethal risk. The mind of the OCD person is black and white - alive or dead, and the 'Cruise Crud' that goes around (norovirus) represents a really serious threat for us OCD'ers. So I can't stop the compulsion to get on the net and learn a stupid amount, probably more than is good for me, about this virus, and to make a plan for dealing. COMPELLED to try to make a plan for dealing, looking for that MAGIC FORMULA that will ensure I am safe if only I follow the rituals exactly. You know the tune, sing along! It's all lies, of course. We know perfectly well there is no magic formula, for anything. The world can be so distressingly grey-area.

But I'm still plotting. I've gone to Cruise Critic to see what others on cruises do. And it's not obvious, as usual. Does one take antiseptic wipes along and try to cleanse every surface? How about not touching any door knobs or elevator buttons? I mean, I don't do that anyway if I can help it, really, but on a cruise this is actually discouraged if they know something is going around. So it's hard to find that mushy line that we are always looking for, the 'reasonable' reaction.

I've spent about 20 hours of the last three days doing research on what actually kills norovirus and how to go about using it. Ah, problem with that - turns out that this virus is not as damaged by alcohol as most others. Chlorine bleach seems to be the only real option. I happen to be terrified of bleach. And like you could bring it on a plane, anyway ...

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Your Hostess Has Her First Post

Hello Friends:

Welcome to my first post. Anxiety Land is where I live, and it can be a very strange place as viewed from the outside. Let's talk about how a day starts. Do you get up every day and wonder if you'll be able to use your toothbrush, or have to open a new one? That's how it is here. Toothbrushes can be scary. I've known I was living in Anxiety Land for about 16 years, now, so I've had lots of therapy, done a tremendous amout of work, some meds, and then more work, and so now can say that bad-toothbrush-days have dropped to about once a week. But still, if you have never looked at your toothbrush with suspicion, you probably live someplace very different from Anxiety Land. But stick around ... everyone is welcome, and hopefully this will be eye-opening place, or a thought provoking one, or at least an amusing one. And if you are a resident of Anxiety Land, like me, then Hi! And BTW I can use a Sonicare now. I don't even have to change the brush heads more than 2 times a year. That's a whole heaping helping of therapy at work ...

Your Hostess with Neuroses

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