Anxiety, can’t get nothin’ done/Anxiety, spoils all the fun…


With apologies to Ms. Benatar, this is my test to see if I can post video.

I’m not going to go into too much gory detail about my anxiety problem, diagnosed by the DSM VIII-whatever as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. But, I guess I should talk about it a little to get a sort of baseline.

I have had it off and on all my life, but it came into sort of full chronic glory in about 2011 or so. Its like, think of something that makes you really anxious or nervous, like speaking in front of a large group of people, or taking a really big test, or singing/performing in front of an audience, and having that feeling all the time. For really, no reason most of the time. You can’t settle down. And then when something comes up that might really make you a bit nervous, it overwhelms you so much on top of the anxiety that you already have that it makes you avoid things so as not to just go off the deep end.

Mine has started to manifest itself in social ways. Much of this might be due to the fact that since my hearing has gotten significantly worse over the past decade, social interaction is seriously HARD WORK. And rife with miscommunications. I used to be much more outgoing than I am now. I avoid social situations more than I would like, and sometimes my communication can be really clipped and direct just out of communication efficiency, but that can be off-putting and I get that.

I don’t think any one thing happened in 2011, just that around then, my life became a lot less manageable. I realized that I had bitten off more than I could chew, in that I could not keep track of all the things for family and pseudo family anymore. I had three kids, two step kids, a husband, two dogs, a quadriplegic family member I cared for, it became too much. I knew it was too much, but here I was and I can’t throw any of these people overboard. So, I settle the best I can, try to delegate, try to let some things go that are low priority (my house, my career, my extended family all to some extent) and just hold on and do the best I can. My children are getting older and more independent, and I have gotten better at adapting over the years. But I’ve also gotten sicker, older, and my own needs have gotten greater as far as what I need to do to take care of myself. So, I maintain this constant level of hyper-vigilance and anxiety. It never goes totally away.

I’ll be at the park on a sunny day with my kids. They are enjoying themselves, I have nothing pressing to do. Things are ok, but I always feel like something is wrong, I need to be somewhere else, doing something else, the other shoe will drop at any moment. It keeps me from enjoying the moment.

I constantly feel stuck in my house, stuck in my town. The thing is, its not a bad place to be stuck. Its actually a really nice place to be stuck. There is no reason for it to feel like this. The flip side of that is that I also feel like I’m going to be homeless in a matter of weeks, like one thing will cause everything to unravel. ¬†Things can be going really well and I know intellectually that they are going really well, but my physical body is feeling wired, like something is wrong just on the horizon, all the time.

I can tell that this feeling is physical, not mental, if that makes sense. Like, intellectually and mentally, I’m good. But my body is still acting like its just about to go into a war zone. So it is a hyper-reactive physical response that my body has gotten stuck in. Like it trained itself to have this reaction and got stuck there. In that way, taking medication made a lot of sense.

So, medications worked to a degree. But not all the time, and I was getting worse lab work and kidney pain when I took a high enough dose to really chill me out. I tried different ones, but some caused nausea or constant sleep. It was also costing me a lot of money and time and frustration, so I sort of ditched the medication side of the effort.

So, I’ve tried other things, meditation, cognitive behavior therapy, etc. And each of these has its place. Meditation never made sense to me until I read the book “10% Happier” by Dan Harris. That book helped me understand and appreciate mediation a lot more than I had. But I still knew that I was not going to go to a meditation retreat and sit for 5 days and do nothing like he did. I can barely do it for ten minutes. It is definitely a tool in the tool box that can cause some temporary relaxation, but it doesn’t interest or inspire me that much.

I learned a lot of CBT techniques in my 20s, and they were helpful. But it feels like now if I go to any kind of talk therapy, I’m just talking and paying someone to say supportive things to me. I’m not making any breakthroughs. My husband lets me talk to him and says supportive things to me for free, and he doesn’t need me to completely educate him on deafblind/disability stuff where I almost feel like I should be paid for helping them deal with their issues on disability. So there is where that is. I think it can be really hard to find a good therapist, and I just don’t want to put forth the effort, lets be honest. That isn’t where I want to exert my energy.

Exercise has been one of the main things that has helped the physical symptoms of anxiety for me. But, I can’t just get on the treadmill. I have to be engages and in the zone. It has to be a challenge where I am using my mind and body to work towards a new skill or goal.

Skating is not the easiest thing to do at my age and disability. People told me I should swim competitively. I tried for a while at hoity toity gym, and I’m not bad at it, but it doesn’t excite me like skating. I still do it for exercise sometimes.

The only other thing I have found that helps is to sort of get out of my own head as much as possible. Like, doing random acts of kindness for others and thinking of myself as a tool to help others. For a time I was trying to do an act of kindness every day, but it got rather contrived. As a disabled person, I know when someone is trying to push help on me just to make themselves feel better or be a “helpful hero.” and I didn’t want to do that to anyone. So, instead, I try to look for opportunities to help when it is genuinely needed, ask first and let the other person direct what they want. So, it is not something where I’m like every day paying for the guy behind me in the coffee line and putting it on Facebook for likes and all that. Its more of a mental state of trying to see what positive vibes I can put out in the world. Just switching my mentality outward instead of inward can help my anxiety and make me bolder.

In terms of skating, I found the adult skating community (and even lots of the super talented kid skaters) to be really supportive because it is such a difficult and unique endeavor. As an adult, you have to be doing it for the love of it, or it would be too frustrating. I enjoyed this vibe, and hope to find that again and maybe turn my mentality outward there, eventually, too.


Step One: Establish a Relationship with a Rink

When I skated as a kid, of course, my mom drove me to a rink that was about 20 minutes away. But my best set-up was in my 20s and I lived in an apartment complex right across the street from a mall with a full-sized rink in it. I loved going to this rink. They let me keep my dog (different guide dog than my current one) behind the rental skates counter. One of the coaches even knitted her a little blanket that they brought out. People knew me and worked with me about getting around the rink. I never went on really busy public sessions, but on freestyle or daytime public, they would watch out for me.

This is the only picture I could find online of my old rink. Do you recognize the skater? Its Tonya Harding. Yes, I skated in THAT rink.

Weirdly, when I became pregnant that rink closed and for a while it was exactly the same, but the cement oval where the ice used to be was filled with kid rides. That kid expansion, like my expanding belly, fit. It was like my old skating life was now taken over by all things kid. Then when I married my husband (yes, I did things out of order) they completely redid the mall and all remnants of the rink disappeared. In the approximate space where the rink sat is now a giant H&M, the Swedish clothing company. This seemed apropos, because my husband is Swedish by birth and my life now does not look anything like it did back in my rink rat mall days, and the mall is almost unrecognizable to me.

The rink population largely moved to another mall rink. This one had a rink that was not regulation size, but it was ok. I did skate there a few times, but then moved across town and lost touch with skating. Now, the only times I have been skating have been when a temporary rink is built outdoors in the winter just blocks from my house. Its great that its so close, it reminds me of the old days when I could just walk to skate. But its only there for a few weeks, its incredibly crowded and the most I can do is nervously skate forward and fear that I am going to crash into everyone, its small, and the ice quality is very poor. I have gone with my kids, but its not too fun. Although once i skated there in the very first session on a weekday, and we practically had the whole rink to ourselves for a bit.

Not counting that little outdoor rink, there are 4 rinks in the metro area. Two are so far away that it would take me about 2 hours to get to them. The other two are in contention to be “my new rink.” Here are the prose and cons:

Rink A:

  • This one the mall one that everyone moved to when my old rink closed. It has been further revamped, and now it is smaller and unregulation sized. Its an oval, apparently. I have not been there since the remodel so I don’t know how the oval or smallness will affect me.
  • It takes about 1:10 to get there by transit. But it is all one long train ride.
  • It is a figure and recreational skating rink only. No hockey (since its not the proper size and shape.)
  • Its warmer to skate in a mall.
  • It may have a better pro shop more oriented to figure skaters.
  • It has much more available open public skating times during the weekdays (when its less crowded.)
  • I have skated there a lot in the past, it has good memories, I possibly may still know some people there. Possibly. Its been awhile.

    Here is a pic I got online of Rink A. Its hard for me to tell how small or weird shaped it is. I’m just going to have to try it out. But I always loved skating there under the skylights in the sun in the past.

Rink B:

  • This rink has been in the area for a long time and is more of a traditional rink. It is currently owned by the minor league hockey team here and they practice there. It is also the home rink of the local USFSA skating club.
  • It takes about 45 minutes to get there. I go on a fairly short train ride and then take one bus. The bus is only every half hour to 45 minutes, so you have to plan well.
  • Its a regulation sized rink, in private (shoppers will not be staring at you.)
  • Its very hockey oriented. The ice is cold, hard hockey ice that I would have to get used to. Its cold there!
  • It seems to only have one daytime public session on Fridays. There are also freestyle sessions in the mornings, but I’m not sure how busy they are or when/if they would let me do them.
  • The one or two times I have been there before, they kind of treated me like crap. But its been a long time.
Here is a picture of rink B. Pretty traditional, pretty hockey infested. The shape and size would be easier for me to get used to, and it is closer.

But what it ultimately comes down to is whether they are willing to work with me. I need to stash my dog in a safe place. I need to be able to skate in low population sessions, and I need them to just be aware of my issues so I can work together with the other skaters to keep everyone safe. I know I’m a funny old deaf blind lady that currently can’t skate worth a crap and am 20 pounds over weight, but they need to not treat me like crap.

So, my plan is to go to both and try them out and hopefully get to talk to a manager or training director and see how they are with me. I’m going to take my white cane and my 13 year-old son. He likes to skate so its for him, too. But he can help to give me the lay of the land and find everything and get used to the rink dimensions. My plan is to hit Rink B on Friday and Rink A next week.

But, I’m really nervous. What if they kick me out? What if they treat me like crap? what if they refuse to communicate with me? What if they make everything a big deal or hassle me about skating? What if, after all this excitement over the last couple of weeks about starting to skate again, I can’t get a rink to let me skate? I know I can do it, but can I prove it to them?

I keep thinking that I’ve done it before and I will do it again.


I hope I am not getting ahead of myself since I have not even established a relationship with a rink yet and gone skating again…but since I made this decision, I’m starting to notice that my attitude is changing already.

I belong to this fancy-schmancy gym. I started going there a year ago because the other gyms I have tried did not work well with me and it was a constant struggle. This gym has lots of activities for my kids to do and they have been nothing but helpful to me. They keep my guide dog for me so I can swim and shower and stuff without having to worry about where to put her (I use a white cane in the gym). They have encouraged me to try different things. When I’ve had difficulties (like when I inadvertently pissed a woman off because I walked in on her in the shower…ok, its really hard to TELL! They have glass shower doors with no locks. I can put my hand on the door and feel if the water is running, but if the water is off but someone is still in there, its almost impossible to tell!) Anyway, they stood up for me, helped me smooth it over with the woman, and helped me workout an almost foolproof system to find an open shower. They have been really great.

Here is a picture of my hoity toity gym’s locker room. Guys! They even let me reserve a locker with an accessible digital lock since I cannot use the normal locks visually. This is an example of how sometimes, when you are disabled, you pay extra just so something can be accessible to you.

But to be honest, I haven’t utilized it as much as I could be. A lot of times I take the kids to their stuff there and then just sit around and laze. Its partly due to the energy it takes to get there. Its a short train ride and about a mile walk (or I could take a bus, but the kids like to walk and its quicker). But another part is just insecurity with trying new things and feeling like a bumbling idiot. I have taken classes and stuff when I was younger, but in my old/middle age, I’ve just felt like an old frump. And I just felt like I was everyone’s pain in the ass.

So, today, because I’m all like, I need to get in shape for skating!!!, I was brave and took a yoga class. It was actually a family yoga class, which had more to do with a scheduling mix up than anything, but it turned out well. It was easy. I am somewhat familiar with yoga poses (I know what a downward dog is, etc.) and the teacher was really good and describing everything I didn’t know. I doubt I will take that one again, because the kids were mooing and meowing and stuff for the animal poses, and I’d rather have a little more of a workout. But it was a good intro and I did it!

I also signed up for a 1:1 pilates reformer class. I did pilates years ago. So again, I’m familiar with how the reformer, cadillac, etc. works, but they require a solo class before you can go on to the group ones. So, after saying I was going to do it for forever, I finally did. A solo class will be good for me to refresh my memory and learn my way around the equipment at my gym. But I really loved pilates on the machines (hated mat pilates, although I am sure its very good for me.)

But the most significant thing is, I just *feel* different, just from putting myself back into the mindset of being a skater again, an athlete. I’m in not so great shape, I have a LONG way to go before I can really call myself a skater again. But today in yoga, I started feeling like, this is the body I used to know. The body that can do things when I work on them. The body I can have command over. Its kind of weird how just thinking about skating again can give me this level of motivation and confidence.

Here we go!

Me at some local competition. I’m on the ice in an arabesque or spiral position.

I have dealt with anxiety with a touch of depression my whole life. For a long time, I took meds. Now I don’t.* This project is my attempt to control my anxiety/depression without meds or counseling.**

I’m almost half a century old, I am Deafblind with some usable vision and hearing, and I have kidney disease. I am a mom of three and work part time with my husband in our own business. We have two guide dogs and three guinea pigs and live in the Pacific Northwest.

I have a good life but my biggest struggle is with “spoon management.” Or the rationing of energy when I have kidney disease. Its a little more challenging for me when I can’t drive because just leaving my house to go anywhere means I have to walk on average over a mile. This is both good and bad. I have to plan for rests and say “no” to a lot of things I would like to do. People think deaf blindness is hard, but my kidney disease is much harder. The sapping of my energy is really my number one impairment. To be honest, deafblindness does make lots of things take a lot more physical and mental energy that they would for others, so its a combination of things, but having a lack of energy is tough for my mental health as well.

Exercise, when carefully managed, is good for kidney disease, and good for mental health. When I just tried to ride the bike or treadmill, I got bored out of my mind. I needed a goal. And when I looked back and some of the happier times of my life, or at least the times when I felt both physically and mentally strongest, I was skating.

I was never anywhere near the level of elite skater (no Yuna Kim or Michele Kwan-like skills for me!) But people think skating and they think the Olympics and that caliber of skater. Just like almost every other sport out there, most of us aren’t elite, but that doesn’t make the sport any less fun to pursue your personal best. There have been some silliness written about me as a Deafblind skater before, and there are definite factors that make being a Deafblind skater a bit of a challenge which will come up, but this blog isn’t so much about that as its about just keeping moving in whatever form it takes.

Due to my kidney disease, my bones are brittle and can break, so I have to be cautious. Therefore, no jumps will be happening, and probably not many spins. . I plan to stick with Moves in the Field, Solo Dance patterns, that sort of thing. But that is getting ahead of myself, first I have to just get back on the ice again. I will start with the Adult level 1-6 Learn to Skate skills. I used to be able to do all of these, so I will not need a coach for now. But this is where I will begin.

When I was a little kid, I first noticed that I could be totally pissed off and feel horrible, then go to the rink and feel great within an hour. No other sport or physical activity has had that affect on me. When I skated as an adult in my 20s, the rink was somewhere where I belonged and people welcomed me, with almost none of the day-to-day weirdness that goes along with people who can’t deal with you as a deaf blind person. I really enjoyed my adult skater friendships. I hope to maybe find that again, but I’m not sure if it is possible due to schedules, etc.

Four women in skating dresses posing after a local competition. I am second from the left.

So, skating as a Deafblind person takes a bit of logistical strategy. No longer am I a single person who lives right across the street from the rink. I used to go there morning and evening several days a week, plus take ballet and pilates and walk a couple of miles to work and back. Now I will have to take a train and bus to the rink, leave my work, husband and kids, and since my vision and hearing are much worse now, I will not be able to do evening or weekend public sessions. The rink that is nearest to me only has a daytime public session on Fridays, so next Friday will be my first opportunity. My son is going with me to help me get the lay of the land, but after a few times, I hope to be able to go solo. I also need to make friends with this rink so they will let me store my guide dog somewhere and let me skate without a bunch of dramatics. And maybe watch out for me a bit. We’ll see how it goes…

Until then, I am working on my stamina with daily exercise. Stamina will be BIG with this project, and since I can’t skate but once a week, off ice work is a big part of this, too. But working towards a goal of getting my skating legs back will certainly help in the motivation department.

So, here we go!!!

*I am not a psychiatrist so I cannot say whether SSRIs and other psych meds are all they are cracked up to be, miracles, or over or under utilized. For me, they wreaked havoc on my kidneys, made me throw up, etc. So they were not for me. If they work for you–wonderful. This is not a judgement against or for people taking psych meds. Do what works for you.

**I did CBT counseling in my 20s that was very helpful. It taught me a lot of things I never learned growing up. But now, it just feels like too much trouble and there is nothing really new they can do for me. Again, that is what I’ve decided is best for me. Do what works for you.