man looking overwhelmed

Last week I was overwhelmed. Despite how good things have been going, I couldn’t escape my old friend anxiety. Like some of the other symptoms of bipolar, I’ve had to learn to adapt and tolerate it the best I can. Why was the week overwhelming? Well, that’s easy to answer. I was overwhelmed because I had so much to do. I had two appointments. Yes, that’s right, I had two appointments – both on Friday. One was with my pdoc and the other with my therapist. I checked and rechecked my calendar all week so I wouldn’t miss anything. This week is a lot easier. I have no outside appointments at all.

Appointments or not, I have my days scheduled and I take my to-do list very seriously. My daily duties consist of spending one hour each morning blogging. I work on my manuscript from noon – 5 pm and I spend another hour blogging each evening. When I have anything that breaks my daily routine, it makes me uneasy. It makes me downright anxious.

One of my favorite go to places for information is the Mayo Clinic Website. Here is their list of common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder:

• Persistent worrying or obsession about small or large concerns that’s out of proportion to the impact
of the event
• Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
• Inability to relax, restlessness, and feeling keyed up or on edge
• Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”
• Worrying about excessively worrying
• Distress about making decisions for fear of making the wrong decision
• Carrying every option in a situation all the way out to its possible negative conclusion
• Difficulty handling uncertainty or indecisiveness

I can relate to all of those, but the first one is where I camp out 24/7. I think worrying for two weeks about two doctor appointments on the same day is a little obsessive, don’t you? Worrying about excessively worrying ranks high up there too.

I’m mostly okay this week; I have no appointments to worry about. I say mostly okay, but I’m still feeling overwhelmed. More overwhelmed than I did last week, actually. My problem this week is that I have a busy next week. For me, a very busy next week.

Monday, I have lunch with my writers group.
Wednesday, I have my writers group regularly biweekly meeting.
Thursday, I have a meeting with a committee at church.
Friday, I have an appointment with my therapist.

That’s going to be my week. I have some activity or another every day but one. That’s extremely unusual for me and my heart is racing wildly just thinking about it as I type. My only free day is Tuesday, but don’t think it will be easy. Tuesday I’ll be overwhelmed with what’s going on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It never really ends. If you really want to know how bad it gets, I have no plans to go to the library all week, so I’m overwhelmed with anxiety because I have a library book due. That’s right, a damned library book consumes me when I think about it. The absurdity is laughable.

So, what’s going on after that? So far next month I have two therapy sessions, one pdoc appointment, another writers group meeting, an appointment with my doctor and an appointment with my neurologist. Naturally I’m overwhelmed with them all. I know even more obligations will come up. I’m overwhelmed by things that aren’t even on the calendar yet.

A year ago my therapist asked me to stop any volunteer work that I can. I have two things I do at my church. The first is I’m chairperson of our LGBT committee and the other is I’m an usher coordinator. The LGBT committee doesn’t take much of my time, but the usher position does. For the past year, I’ve been able to get volunteers to be ushers, but haven’t found anyone to coordinate. As easy as it sounds, it is overwhelming to me also. I’ll keep trying. It’s reached the point that I’m going to have to wave my arms in the air and say “Sorry folks, I can’t be usher coordinator anymore, so someone’s going to have to take over this job by the end of the month.” Of course, I can’t do that, but something needs to give. I have no solution now.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with this overwhelming post. It was overwhelming writing it. I take my meds, so other than pills, what helps you when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

32 comments on Overwhelmed

    1. I hear ya, Kat. Anxiety has become such a part of me that even when I say I feel great, that anxiety is still there lurking under my skin ready to pounce. I have the same experience with depression. I get by along by accepting they are a part of who I am. Only when they get really bad do I consider things aren’t going so well.

  1. When I feel overwhelmed I also make lists. And in completing them I only think about the task at hand, vs thinking ahead to anything else on the list. Case in point, on Sunday (my chore day) I didn’t get my voting done, nor get things ready for court on Thursday. But that was OK because today’s my day off and I’ll be getting it done today (in addition to other chores that I missed on Sunday). When I do these things I’ll only focus on them, and before I know it, it will be done and I’ll worry about something else. I’m sorry your anxiety has been so bad lately, hopefully you’ll get a break in it soon.

    1. You hit the nail on the head, Hart. I have a very difficult time breaking things down. I always focus on the big picture and that’s what’s so overwhelming. I do practice Buddhism – meditation, mindfulness, staying in the moment, etc. Sometimes it works great, but sometimes not so much. I forgot I have to fill out my ballot and submit it. Now you’ve added one more thing to my list of anxieties…thanks a lot! LOL

  2. To parrot everyone else, I also make lists and break things down into the smallest possible tasks. It usually takes away the anxiety for me or at least minimizes it. I’m so sorry you have a busy week and it’s taking up a lot of space in your head. It sounds like it’s all good things though. Maybe try getting yourself excited for the activities? I do that as well and it makes it more tolerable.

    1. That is the silly thing, Jess. Most of it are good things. I use to make lists. Sounds like I need to start doing so again. Thank you

  3. You’re getting great comments here, Bradley. I relate to overwhelm soooo much.

    What helps me?
    Well, I hope to change my tolerance level over the coming year, but for now I can’t schedule too many activities outside the house in any given week. Sometimes I have a therapist appt. and pdoc appt take place during one week (i.e. Tues. & Thurs.) and while I can do it, it’s too much stress. I’ve been known to reschedule the therapist appt. at the last minute, but I don’t like doing that. From now on I’m going to avoid scheduling them during the same week.

    While I love keeping an up-to-date list, it’s not as helpful to me as having a relatively organized house and enough (ahem, healthy) food on hand so I don’t grow a third head.

    Daily walks in the forest help loosen up my breathing, which shuts down so much when anxiety/overwhelm soars. Today it’s raining really hard and I’m not too jazzed about taking Lucy out there. It sucks because I could use the walk, so maybe we’ll brave it.

    Finally, at your church I want to encourage you to say — without guilt—-something along the lines of what you wrote in the post:

    ““I’m very sorry, but I can’t be usher coordinator anymore. My last day will be XXX date.”

    You’ve done your duty and I’m so impressed. Finding someone to take over ushering sounds very stressful! It doesn’t sound easy at all, especially when no fish are biting. Protect your mental stability above all else, my dear friend. You’ve already given so much to ushering and the committee, and it’s time to cut back – you need to put yourself first. I think Maurice would back me up on this, no? 😉

    Captain Dyane

    1. Heya Captain,

      Regarding the usher coordinator, there’s one problem. I have no idea who to tell I’m stepping down. We have no overall volunteer coordinator. My only option currently is to just drop it and allow the ushers flounder around when there are situations that change, needing a back up or someone new.

      An organized house? LOL. You must be kidding me…just teasing. Actually, it could use a lot more organization. One thing I think would help would be to buy an old fashioned calendar to track my obligations. That way I could glance at it quickly, rather than constantly pulling up the calendar on my phone to be sure I’ve got the dates correct.

      The walking I’ve been doing does help. It doesn’t go away, but it helps. I had to skip yesterday because I got blisters on my toes over the weekend, but I’ve recovered and will be getting out there tonight.

      As always, thank you for your comments.

  4. I can relate! (surprise, surprise!) I am a calendar writer. I have a date book that I write appointments or important days, like PAYDAY. With that, I also write said dates on my bedroom calendar and my kitchen calendar. Sounds a bit obsessive, and maybe too much, but it helps me keep track, reminds me of things, and helps me feel less anxiety. If I am going to have a busy week, I try and mentally prepare myself. Honestly, it doesn’t always work, but I try. I’ve also gotten back into list making, which by reading of the comments here, seems like a very popular idea. I think the main concept of mind over matter is what needs to be put into play. But I know how hard it can be.

    1. Thank you, Iggy. I think the old fashioned calendar is the route I’m going to take. It will keep me from having to dig out my phone, hit several keys to find out for the 30th time whether an appointment is on Thursday or Friday. A quick glance to the wall will be a lot easier.

  5. I definitely relate to this post! I am anxious so much and it has been consuming me the past few months. Working part time has really helped, and calming down into taking time to care for myself (difficult!!). Lists and calendars help me some… the one I’m using now is called a Passion Planner. You can buy dated or undated versions, and both have monthly planning pages that help focus priorities for the month and then a check in page for that month to assess how it went. The weeks have this as well. The weeks also have priorities along the bottom, split between personal and work and daily time logs on the top (the standard daily calendar-like format). It’s not perfect (I’m super picky about calendars) and I don’t use all of the features every week or month, but is the closest I’ve found to helping me visually show what I’m working on. Maybe a calendar option to check out.

    The church thing is tough. Sometimes a space needs to be left so that someone else fills it. You’re doing a good job and it’s a stressful position – not sure anyone will take it on until you decide you’re done and step away… And we can also make you a shirt that says “no,” (I dream of having one of these myself, closest I have is a hiking shirt that says “get lost”).

    1. Great feedback, Claire. I’ve printed a November and a December calendar that I can put on the fridge. I took a look at Passion Planner and may get it for 2017.

      I love the t-shirt idea. I’m going to give it one last try to find someone to take over the coordinators position and if I have no luck then I’ll have to quit. I just don’t know who to turn in my resume to. LOL

      1. Awesome about the November and December calendar. It’s really nice to have something up and visible.

        Yeah, that is the conundrum, how does one leave a volunteer position! Board/minister/announcement?!?!

  6. I get you. I had 6 tasks last Saturday morning, two of which were outside of my routine and I was in a right state. I focused on the “reward” – doing the tasks – and how I’d feel if I binned one off (and the knowledge that I’d still have to do it at some point!).
    I don’t suffer from anything officially diagnosed, but I tick all the boxes in your list from the Mayo Clinic.

    1. Yeah. My docs and I have talked about anxiety, but I’ve never been diagnosed officially either. Like you, the Mayo list seems all to familiar.

  7. My husband does not understand why I insist on keeping a paper calendar, but I much prefer to it to using my phone. You explain it perfectly – finding the phone, hitting a bunch of buttons (security code, calendar icon, specific date, etc.) is a pain in my opinion. With my purse sized 2-year planner I can open it up and see the whole month’s worth of stuff at once. A 2017-2018 planner has been added to my Christmas list (I’m talking about the $1 ones in the bins at the Target entrance).
    I also make a lot of lists. There is something very satisfying about crossing something off of a to-do list.
    Can you ask the preacher to make an announcement that a new usher coordinator will be necessary as of xyz date? At least telling him/ her takes the burden off of you. Just a thought.
    Finally, I so, so understand the feelings of overwhelm! Last week was particularly difficult for me, too. Actually, this post of yours gave me the encouragement I needed to write about my own week. Thank you!
    Keep up the good work with walking and absorbing sunshine. Try to take in a little extra for those of us who won’t see the sun again until Spring : )

    1. My husband is an IT consultant so he naturally doesn’t understand why anyone would use anything but a digital calendar, but a quick glance at the wall call tell me what needs to be done a whole lot faster.

      I’ll think of you the next time I’m down at the beach.

  8. Ugh, I have GAD with Bipolar as well and it’s a real challenge. Sometimes bipolar is pulling me down while GAD is ramping me up. I wake up anxious sometimes which I think is just ridiculous.

    I hope you find someone to take over the Usher Coordinator position soon. My therapist is also very cautious about me volunteering. Too much stress and it’s back into the hospital for me.

    Do you have your Dr visits scheduled for the same day and time all the time? I go to the therapist 2 times a week, always on Tues and Fri at 10. Having them always at the same time does help with my schedule structuring.

    1. I see my therapist every 2 weeks on Friday afternoons and see my pdoc once a month Friday mornings. Usually they end up the same day, which I prefer. It gives me the rest of the week to not have to worry about anything even though I check several times each day to make sure I have their appointment times correct in my head.

      1. Does your phone have a calendar app with an alarm? I set my appointments in my calendar and then set the alarms for an hour before. It doesn’t really remind me, because I’m always aware, but it helps me to stop looking at the time constantly.

        1. I do use the calendar app on my phone. I have it set to remind me when my meds are due each day. I also have all appointments added with alarms set to remind me 24 hours in advance and then a few hours in advance (I usually take the bus, so I need more than an hour heads up if I forget.) My problem is that if I have an appointment on Friday, I look all week to double check the day. It would be much easier to look at a big calendar than to have to look at my phone then pull up the app.

          1. Yeah, it probably would be easier. I used to have one of those desk blotter calendars to write stuff on. It was nice because I would see the stuff constantly and not go out of my way to look.

  9. My therapist, and the ones in the past, have all tried to get me to breathe through the overwhelmed and anxiety feelings I have but, for me, it only causes my chest to feel tighter and my anxiety to rise higher. I do not take medicine for my anxiety, I’m afraid of things I can become addicted to, but I’ve learned how to cut out what I can to minimize the stress. Of course it doesn’t take it all away or even really most of it. What helps me is to put my hand on my heart and focus on the pounding. By the time I get there it’s beating pretty hard. I focus on it and before too long I notice it’s a lot slower and a lot softer and I’m not as overwhelmed and panicky as I was.

    1. Glad you found a way that works for you. I practice traditional Buddhist meditation, though with chanting, and that seems to work best for me. I do take meds also. Nothing has made them go away. Fortunately, most of the time, I can work through it.

  10. You just described most of my life. I love looking on the calendar for the week to discover I don’t have any appointments. I have two next week, and I’m constantly thinking about them. One I have to drive a distance, which creates even more overwhelming thoughts. What do I do? I’m working on this aspect of my life. I’m trying hard to enjoy each day I’m given. I try very hard to “live in the moment”, but find that my mind wanders often. I’m trying to catch those thoughts and squash them. I suppose it will remain to be a work in progress.

    1. Always a work in progress. I use to be much better at living in the moment. I think I stop using it so I have to train myself again,

  11. Great post. I think anxiety underlays everything, including depression, but everyone talks about that, not its trigger: worrying. Even here in Australia, supposedly a laid-back society, it’s still rife. I make everything as simple as it can be. And I try to meditate, walk and do yoga. Often not much time left over…

  12. i can still remember the guy who i bought my morning (and afternoon) coffee from some decades ago telling me “just say no” after each time i recalled being overwhelmed by all the various volunteer duties (primarily focused on environmental and social justice actions) i had piled up on myself along my work and college studies…but it was at the time when my bipolar and anxiety (neither of which had been diagnosed) were coming into full bloom..,over the years things never got better, really…the number of times my various bosses would call me on the carpet for my office looked like a bomb went off as i scurried with my head cut off, panicking over the multitude of deadlines breathing down my neck…the reason i was usually voted the most likely to go postal…amped up anxiety with the racing thoughts of dysphoric mania never facilitated an organized, efficient approach, which only led to more chaos and more deadlines piling up..

    1. As I was reading your comment I could feel every thing you described. You are definitely a man who knows where I’m coming from.

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