I Continue To Recover… Gradually

It’s been quite a while since I last posted here, as my continued recovery means I have more time and energy to engage in the life that I want, and less desire to talk about how hard recovering from CFS can be. But I get occasional emails from people who have been following this blog asking how I’m doing, so I thought it was time for an update.

My physical symptoms now resemble a fairly mild cold, and the occasional cough. I no longer push myself into stressful situations that make the cough worse, so it doesn’t bug me so much. I still feel a weird sort of tiredness with a background sense of anxiety that varies from mild to moderate. It’s kind of like the tiredness and the anxiety are playing some kind of dance. It might feel like I need a lie down, but going for a leisurely walk along the beach can work just as well. Other times, I really need the lie down and so I take it.

The other weird symptom I have is a tense feeling in my head, which moves around. Right now it’s in my upper jaw and temples. It’s not exactly painful; sometimes it’s just unpleasant, and other times I can be so engrossed in something I’m doing that I don’t notice it. Perhaps it’s boredom and truly disappears when I’m thoughtfully and physically engaged in some task. It seems to get stronger when I’m feeling angry, and turns into a debilitating headache when I’ve been overdoing things… which I take pains now not to do.

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Releasing Anxiety With Zpoint

One of the most challenging symptoms that I experience with CFS is anxiety: it’s like having a moderate panic attack that just doesn’t ever really go away. The intensity varies a bit, but it always seems to be there in the background, ready to rear its ugly head.

Does zpoint really give True Peace Of Mind?

Does zpoint really give True Peace Of Mind?

I recently had a comment from a reader of this blog recommending something called “zpoint”. So I contacted the guy behind it, Grant Connoly, to request a review copy of one of his products. He offered to give me a free session in return for an article about my experience with it, and this is that article.

I can’t claim to be an expert in zpoint after only one session, but a lot of what Grant said during the session really resonated with me. Having grown up in an environment where nobody expressed their emotions cleanly, I learned to suppress, repress and internalise mine. It makes sense to me that CFS hit me after several years of therapy when I started to unlock the roots of my repressed emotions, especially anger; the emotion I’ve forced down the hardest.

Zpoint is a subconscious program for releasing our attachment to repressed emotions; even the ones that we don’t remember or realise are still trapped inside us. This makes sense to me, since emotions operate in our unconscious mind and we don’t generally have direct conscious access to what’s going on down there. Furthermore, emotions have physical sensations attached to them, and it makes sense that if the emotion is trapped in our subconscious, then the sensation will remain trapped in our body too. The relief that we feel from releasing our repressed emotions happens in the body because it releases the associated inner-conflict that causes tightness in the body.

I recall Ashok Gupta’s comment during the Soften and Flow meditation that unpleasant symptoms represent trapped emotions. But the Gupta Program doesn’t go as deeply into this idea as zpoint does.

My best guess is that I’m still carrying some anger in my body, and Grant suggests that if we have a hunch that it’s there, then it probably is there. I notice anger popping into my head a lot when I think about my family, and anger is the flip side of anxiety since they’re both generated in the amygdala which triggers our fight (anger) or flight (anxiety) response. This would explain the tense feeling that I still have in my head most of the time.

Another principle that resonated with me is that when we repress unpleasant emotions like anger, sadness and fear because we don’t want to feel them, we end up suppressing the pleasant emotions like excitement, peace, love and joy too. Learning to release the unpleasant emotions frees us to have more pleasant emotions as an extra bonus. Having felt totally self-conscious about expressing any emotion in the past, this made complete sense to me.

During my zpoint session with Grant, he installed the zpoint program for releasing emotions in my unconscious mind. It consisted of visualising a releasing circle in front of me, and then commanding my unconscious to release any and all emotions into that circle. He then took me through the releasing process, which was very gentle and easy.

The process begins with the facilitator counting down from 10 to 1, and then giving instructions to and asking questions of my subconscious, to release my attachment to any and all emotions it was still carrying. All I had to do was mentally repeat the cue word “Yes”, while Grant directed my subconscious mind to release all the emotions that I have trapped in my mind and body.

Each process took about 6 minutes, and we repeated it several times over a session that lasted almost an hour. Each time we focused on a different issue based on questions Grant asked me. For example, one process focused on releasing the emotions that I have about releasing other emotions.

By the end of the session, Grant said he felt buzzed, and that he knew that meant I was releasing emotions. From his perspective, zpoint was working its magic. I felt calmer, but couldn’t help but notice my rational-minded scepticism encroaching. We put that in the releasing circle too.

I only had one session with Grant, and don’t know how many it typically takes to release a lifetime of emotional repression. The zpoint FAQ says “You should see significant positive results within the first 60 – 90 days”. I’m not new to the whole emotional release thing; I’ve had a great deal of therapy and tried virtually every emotional release process known to man, so I was curious to see how zpoint worked and what it could do for me.

It’s 8 weeks later now, and I do feel calmer, less anxious and less angry. I still use the zpoint program frequently by repeating the cue word “Yes” to myself when I’m feeling really anxious. It also reinforces my belief that the best way to deal with CFS is to accept it, not to fight against it: Say “Yes” to the symptoms, because they have something valuable to teach us. This also seems consistent with the idea behind Mickel Therapy, although Mickel is a bit more proactive about working out what exactly the symptom is trying to say.

Since my zpoint session I’ve also been meditating; using guided relaxations and visualisations; playing music; practising Tai Chi; watching comedy; and finally decided to stop pushing myself and just rest, sleep and relax until my cold-like symptoms go away. So I can’t promise that the improvement is solely due to zpoint, but I do think Grant is onto something and am grateful that he gave up his time so I could learn another way of letting go of anxiety and other distressing emotions.

If you’re finding anxiety difficult to deal with, I recommend checking out zpoint at zpointforpeace.com. Leave a comment letting me know how you go if you try it.

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Emotional Intelligence and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

One of my most influential mentors, Nicholas de Castella suffered from CFS way back before it was a household name. He attributes his recovery to developing emotional intelligence and learning to express in a healthy manner the feelings that he had previously repressed. I know this is a little controversial since the symptoms of CFS clearly appear in the body and most of us think of emotions as centred in the brain; but the more holistic approaches to emotional mastery recognise that emotions in the brain are connected to physical sensations in the body via our nervous system.

So the idea that suppressing powerful emotions for a long period could make you physically sick starts to make sense. I note that Mickel Therapy treats symptoms and bodily sensations as manifestations of unconscious needs that our body is attempting to alert us to. Meet the need, and the symptom disappears. The Gupta Program similarly treats physical sensations as stuck emotion in its meditations.

Breakthrough To FreedomWhether you buy into all this or not, developing your emotional intelligence can only be a good thing. If it cures your CFS, that’s a bonus. With this in mind, I thought I’d let you know that Nicholas is running a free online breakthrough training session on Saturday 11 October at 11.00 am Australian EDT time, for anyone interested in dealing with emotions that are holding you back in life. I’ve heard his presentation before and he makes a brief mention of his experience of Chronic Fatigue. He’s fully recovered and now works as an emotional intelligence teacher, so you might like to check out what he has to say. Click here to join the free Breakthrough to Freedom training session.

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I Quit!

It’s my birthday today, and I’ve decided it’s time to make a few changes in my life. Principally, I’m quitting my mostly-full-time job of working on recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so I can focus on other things; like having a great life!

My symptoms are relatively mild now: anxiety, tension in my head, runny nose and tiredness mostly in the afternoons. But they’re not so incapacitating now. Having an afternoon siesta a few days a week seems to work for me now; perhaps I should move to Spain or something? I haven’t had one of those killer headaches in a while, touch wood, and so long as I get a decent sleep at night and don’t go out more than 4 or so nights in the week, I can keep them at bay.

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Active Minds Global Brainwave Entrainment Audios

 

Daily meditation has been a huge part of my recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I find it difficult to stay focussed when I’m feeling overwhelmed with anxiety though, so I’ve amassed a huge collection of relaxation and guided visualisation audio tracks to help me with the process.

So I was quite receptive to the idea of trying a new relaxation approach when I was contacted a few weeks ago by one of the guys behind Active Minds Global, who say that their Brainwave Entrainment audio tracks can help recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. They sent me a copy of Tracks 1 and 2 from RevitaMind for evaluation: Mind Revitaliser and Neural Agility. I said I’d try them for 3 weeks and then blog about my experience.

It’s just on 3 weeks now since I started using the RevitaMind audio tracks every day. In accordance with their suggested use, I listen to the Mind Revitaliser in bed every morning as soon as I wake up before going out for my morning exercise, and I listen to Neural Agility every night in bed just before going to sleep.

The tracks sound like a pulsing beat with white noise. It’s fairly soothing, but they do recommend listening as loud as possible; so that’s what I do. I can’t say I notice much difference between the two consciously; but this stuff is all meant to work on the unconscious.

I start by just lying back and letting the sound wash over me, while imagining my nervous system being calmed by the soothing sounds. Next, I visualise myself stepping into an elevator on the tenth floor of Anxiety House. Then I imagine watching the old-fashioned floor indicator in the elevator move down slowly through the floors from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6… all the way down to the ground floor. As I do this, I take a long breath at each floor and notice my breathing getting slower and my body feeling calmer and more relaxed as the elevator descends.

When I step out onto the ground floor, I let my mind come up with whatever image it likes as I wander out of the elevator and into the scene. Sometimes it’s a jungle, difficult to penetrate. Other times it’s a beach with the ocean lapping gently against it. Occasionally it’s a desert with the hot sun beating down. Wherever it is, it’s a peaceful scene and there’s no drama there. When my mind comes back to real world concerns, I just let the thought drift past and return to my elevator-accessible tropical island, or whatever it is today.

After a short while, I’d focus my attention on the amygdale region of my brain, and imagine it calming down, or cooling down. Changing colour from a hot red to a cool blue. Bathing in cool water, for instance.

The Active Mind guys say their audio tracks are designed to calm the sympathetic nervous system, so they seem to be on the same wavelength as I am regarding what causes and perpetuates CFS. After 3 weeks of using it consistently, I seem to feel calmer than I did before. I’m listening to a total of an hour a day, so this has pretty much replaced the meditation I used to do in the local bush near my place. Some afternoons when I feel really tired I’ll go have a lie down and listen to another meditation track; I wanted to stick to the suggested schedule for at least 3 weeks and not mess with it too much.

For the first few nights, I noticed that I had trouble getting to sleep; my old friend insomnia was back. It hasn’t visited me in quite a while since I started getting up early in the morning and going outside in the sun; so I wasn’t entirely thrilled about this. Active Minds said it was normal though, and it did go away after about 4 or 5 nights. I don’t have any trouble getting to sleep again now after 3 weeks.

Aside from the initial insomnia, it was pretty plain sailing. I’m mostly better now anyway, and while using RevitaMind I’ve continued my routine of daily exercise, getting out of the house to do things I love, and hanging out with people whenever I can. So it’s a little hard to pin-point exactly how big an effect the audios are having. I would have liked to come across this sooner when I was more ill and the effect could potentially be more dramatic. Mind you, being too well to see a dramatic effect is a nice place to be, so I’m not complaining.

All in all, it seems to work and I’d recommend giving RevitaMind a try. Especially if you’re not already doing at least an hour of meditation a day, or finding it hard to focus. You need to stick with it until it becomes a habit. It’s no quick fix; but hopefully you’ve realised by now that there isn’t one out there anyway. Given that it seems to be working, I’m going to keep using them morning and night for the time being. If you give it a go, leave me a comment to say how/if it works for you.

Disclaimer: Obviously if you’ve been paying attention you’ll already know I was sent a free sample from RevitaMind for evaluation. They were pretty cool about it, suggesting I might like to blog about my experience. I found it helpful, so I did.

 

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Ice Skating and Skateboarding

Summer here in Sydney seems to be dragging on and on; which is fine with me, being a warm weather kind of guy. But now that the water at the beach is just a bit too cold for bodyboarding, I’ve taken up ice skating and skateboarding to get me through till next summer.

I go ice skating once a week for about an hour and a half. I used to ice skate when I was a teenager, so it’s fun getting back into the swing again. It took a couple of weeks to really feel comfortable on the ice again, during which time I managed to take out a cute figure skater by running straight into the back of her, and crashed into the barriers quite inelegantly several  times. I notice the fine balance muscles in my feet are getting quite a workout as they regain strength. After a session I feel a little tired, but then feel really energized after a quick rest.

When I’m not doing that, I ride my skate board about 3 or 4 times a week. I’m still learning so this is a bit scary, but I really enjoy it. I notice that my balance is much better when I crouch down, and this also makes pushing a lot easier for riding up hills and along flats. When I start going too fast, I jump off and run out to a stop. This is definitely working my gluts out; I can feel the burn the next day. But it’s a good burn. :-)

My band has a gig this Saturday night, so I’m also hitting the drums quite a bit. The music we play isn’t really my cup of tea, so I tend to practise other songs than the ones we’re going to perform. I think I need to get me a new band.

When I’m not ice skating, skate boarding or drumming, I’m playing tennis about 4 times per week. So life is pretty good; I’m probably about 80-90% recovered physically. In many respects I’m probably way fitter and exercise significantly more than most 45 year old guys.

Late afternoons are still challenging and I don’t go out at night much, preferring to stay home and get to bed nice and early, around 10PM. My main symptoms now are a constant mild anxiety and tension in the head and teeth.

I’ve been exploring the Alexander Technique and noticing how much tension I habitually hold in my body, especially my neck and throat. I notice when I consciously relax my throat muscles while speaking, my voice is much deeper and more resonant. I suspect that’s my natural voice, and my normal slightly whiny voice is the result of years of holding tension. I don’t really expect the Alexander Technique to help with CFS, but I do think it’ll be handy in my future career as an actor/comedian.

I’m planning a long road trip later in the year; it’ll be the first holiday I’ve had in 6 years where I’ll actually feel well enough to really enjoy it. I feel pretty burned out with my current health-focused lifestyle to be honest so I’m looking forward to the break, but I’m also very grateful that I’m not lying in bed feeling comatose much of the time now.

I hope you’re on the road to recovery too. :-)

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I Will Not Be Running A Marathon When I Have Recovered

It seems that running a marathon is the gold standard when it comes to proof of recovery after Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Well not for me. I will not be running a marathon any time soon, preferably ever. And certainly not by choice.

I’m currently staying at my sister’s place in Canberra after completing another week-long emotional healing bootcamp and entrepreneur training course with Beyond Success. Yesterday I went out for some exercise and with my drumkit and bicycle back in Sydney and no willing tennis partners available, I decided to go out for a run. Thought it would be a great opportunity to explore some of the walkways that criss-cross through my nation’s fine capital.

I don’t normally go running as I find it mind-bogglingly boring; and I am attempting to avoid boredom as much as possible. After the novelty wore off, I thought “it is pretty boring, but it’s definitely working out muscles in my legs that tennis and drumming does not”.  I ran and walked for a couple of hours down paths that wandered about five kilometers through neighboring suburbs, around a water quality control lake and back home again.

When I got back home, I found that the keys to my sister’s house weren’t in my pocket. I was sure they were there when I left… but not any more. They must have fallen out along the way. I checked the car, I checked my room, I triple checked the empty pockets. Damn.

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Playing Tennis and Even Squash

Time for a fitness update: for the last couple of months I’ve been having tennis lessons and playing regularly during the week. This means I can play for a couple of hours at a time without feeling exhausted. In fact, I feel pretty good after a game. One of the guys from tennis even invited me to join him in a game of squash, so last weekend I played squash for about an hour and a half too. Against two guys about 15 years younger than me. Their game was more strategic than mine, meaning that I spent a lot of time running all over the court. One of the guys remarked that I “had more stamina than both of them combined”. So all that morning exercise must really be helping.

I’ve also been going to the beach to go bodyboarding every day that I can, which tends to work out at about once a week. The weather is getting too cold now though, so I doubt I’ll be doing much more bodyboarding for the forseeable future.

When I’m not out playing tennis or bodyboarding, I’m often playing my drums or going cycling. So yeah, I’m pretty goddam fit now. Probably more fit than the average 45 year old.

That’s the good news. Of course there’s bad news too though; well, no bad than before but just not a whole heap better. I still have a tense feeling in my head most of the time, and feel anxious a lot… to the point where it becomes debilitating.

I’ve noticed during exercise that I’ll often suddenly feel kind of nauseous and start throwing up; but I’m not vomiting anything from my stomach. It’s all coming from my head. And it’s not like I’ve over-exerted myself when this happens; it seems to be just the movement of tension in my head and body that does it. The other day I felt really tense in my teeth, and found myself heaving while cleaning my teeth. Oddly enough I’d just had lunch yet nothing from my stomach came up. It’s like the nausea I used to feel when I’d get really bad migraines way before I had CFS; after throwing up the tension releases and the pain would subside. Never heard anyone else talk about this before. I wonder if it’s related to some kind of trauma release.

I wake up feeling pretty good these days; not as good as I feel in my dreams, but reasonably OK. Then at about 4pm it’s crash time; for some reason I just feel wretched around then: very anxious and tense more than physically tired, but I almost always feel like I need to just go and lie down.

I recall Leigh Hatcher talking about this in his book I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell… which, in a freaky coincidence, I read purely out of interest about a year before falling ill myself. But while he put it down to his body running out of fuel, I reckon it’s some sort of emotional/nervous/body rhythm thing. It seems to happen every day regardless of what I eat; but it doesn’t tend to happen if I’m around people I like doing something I find very engaging. Or perhaps I just don’t notice it then.

Yesterday it hit me particularly badly. I went to bed about 4pm and got up again feeling relatively OK around 7pm. Problem is, this really messes with my lifestyle. Perhaps I should just quit my whining given that I now have a relatively functional 12 hours of waking life each day, but last night I just lay on the couch watching TV thinking: “I’m fucked… I really am fucked”.

Not to get too philosophical about it or anything… no bugger that, I think I will: look, we’re all fucked anyway. Eventually we all die. Doesn’t matter if you have CFS/ME/Rabies/Whatever-your-chosen-form-of-suffering. The Buddhists are right: all living things suffer. It’s not meant to be a depressing realization but a compassion-inducing one. Everyone is struggling with something they wish would just hurry up and fuck the hell out of their lives. Mine just happens to be this, and I get all upset and annoyed when I think about the handbrake it puts on my potential future. So I try to live in the moment instead.

I promise to stop whining soon. My tennis coach has some weird physical and mental handicap like cerebral palsy or something, and he seems pretty happy. We’re both big fans of Anchorman, so we walk around joking about our glass cases of emotion. I’ve never seen anyone serve the way he does, with his back arched all over the place. It’s amazing he can get the damn thing over the net. He can sure hit the ball though!

I definitely suffer more when I dwell on how much I’m suffering. I don’t suffer when I’m bodyboarding and some huge wave comes up to scare the bejesus out of me; I’m too busy trying not to drown. Or when I’m engrossed in thrashing some tennis partner. Or playing drums. But then, it’s not even 2pm yet so I’m still in a relatively functional frame of mind. Ask me again in a few hours.

I’m also really bored shitless living where I’m living. I want to move closer to the beach for next summer. In order to do that, I’ll need an income of some sort. Becoming a famous comedian is unlikely to happen given that I’m wiped out in the evening when gigs are on, and I’ve lost my sense of humour lately anyway. I might be able to get some acting work… and like that’s not competitive or anything. There’s always engineering to go back to if I’m starving, but solving technical problems doesn’t grab me any more. Something is bound to come up… and if not, I’ll just do the deep breathing thing. Anxious… argh!

I’ve been trying to do that gratitude thing lately too, where you think of all the good things you’ve got going for you instead of the bad shit that’s going down. So I’m grateful for you reading this post, and even more grateful if you’d leave a comment so I don’t feel so goddam lonely here blogging away by myself.

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Just Started Tennis Lessons

Hot on the heals of my recent insight into Mickel Therapy’s hypothalamus theory, I’ve recently signed up for tennis lessons. I exercise every morning now, but up until now I have always done it alone which isn’t likely to alleviate feelings of boredom and loneliness. So I decided to pick a social sport that I could do instead, and tennis seems like a good choice.

I used to play soccer when I was a kid, but I always ran myself into exhaustion. I played volleyball a few years before falling ill, but it’s hard on the knees and I kept spraining thumbs which isn’t what I want now that I’m a musician.

So I picked tennis, and found that a local community college runs lessons at 8am on Saturday morning which is perfect for having me up and exercising early in the morning. I’m still pretty limited in how many evenings I can spend out but for the most part I have a fairly normal life now and rarely feel like I need to spend a whole day in bed. Sundays are my rest day when I take it easy and don’t consciously do any exercise. I figure even a healthy body needs time to regenerate.

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Maybe Mickel Therapy Isn’t Complete Bullshit After All

I had a go at Mickel Therapy a couple of years ago, but gave up because:

  • I had difficulty identifying the onset of any particular symptom, which is key to the process. My symptoms remained pretty much constant, aside from an intense tiredness hitting in the afternoon. None of the actions I took every had an immediate impact on the symptom I was experiencing at the time, which left me feeling pretty hopeless about the process.
  • The primary emotion I was experiencing was anger, and Mickel Therapy didn’t appear to have a tool for dealing with anger unless it arose in response to something. I felt angry pretty much all the time.
  • The one thing I could identify that triggered anger was my therapist using a facile analogy of sitting on a pin to describe why it was important to identify the trigger and deal with it. Of course if you’re sitting on a pin, you don’t just sit and meditate on the pain you’re in… you pull out the fucking pin. But when you’re sitting on a pin you know exactly where the problem lies so it’s easy to identify the solution. CFS wasn’t like that for me. My therapist trotted out this ridiculous analogy every time we talked, so my strategy for dealing with that emotion was to quit talking to him.

So I gave up. However, I did continue to implement the 3 assertiveness keys, and to look for ways to process emotions that came my way. In particular I remembered Fleur telling me that she realized by doing MT that she was basically bored. So I started riding my bicycle in the afternoons instead of going to bed, then going to an acting class right around the time I usually felt most tired. Or hanging out with a friend in the afternoon. Or going to the beach to go body boarding. Interestingly, when I did these things I didn’t feel so tired; or at least I didn’t notice it, and didn’t spend time obsessing over it. I’ve also continued to do things I love, like playing music, and to plan more of them every day.

I’ve also been applying some of the principles I learned in the Gupta Program, like meditating every day and going for a walk in nature. I live near bushland, and spend at least an hour each day bushwalking, or just sitting and meditating. Over time, I’ve found my mind is much calmer now and I’m not so anxious. I also exercise first thing in the morning, something my naturopath put me onto in an effort to reduce my night-time cortisol levels so I could get some restorative sleep. My Mickel Therapist had suggested that I not do any other therapy at the same time, and I sort of ignored his advice as I was taking what seemed like the best advice from all over the place. Perhaps that wasn’t such a good idea.

The other day I went cycling in the morning with another friend of mine who has recently done The Lightning Process, and found it significantly increased his energy levels. Along the way we stopped at a beach where I had a swim. I’m not a great swimmer as I’ve never been comfortable putting my face under water; even snorkeling causes me to panic over whether I’ll be able to breathe. So I tried swimming “properly” with my face under the water for a few strokes; something that used to cause me great anxiety as a kid. After a minute or so of doing this in shallow water, I stood up and felt so disoriented, I couldn’t walk straight. I felt nauseous for about the next hours, as if I’d been spun around until I felt sick. I thought I was going to throw up.

Now I can’t explain this purely in terms of fight/flight/freeze response. Nor have I ever been fully comfortable with Gupta’s explanation of the amygdala triggering flu-like symptoms. I just don’t get how that could happen; it doesn’t have that level of control. But the hypothalamus does; it’s in control of just about everything. When I stuck my head under the water, my best guess is that an oversensitive amygdala triggered an oversensitive hypothalamus leading my body to go all out of wack.

So perhaps Gupta and Mickel are both right, and the amygdala and the hypothalamus are both overstimulated; but while lots of the therapy I’ve been doing has been amygdala focused (like dealing with past trauma), it probably came at the expense of retriggering the hypothalamus. It seems to me that since the physical symptoms are the most distressing, the most important thing is to calm down the hypothalamus; and let the amygdala calm down by itself. Or perhaps Mickel Therapy calms them both down by removing the emotional stimulus.

I’m off into speculation land now, but the main learning for me is to stop doing things that scare me, in my attempts to deal with anxiety by expanding my comfort zone. The one exception to this is stuff that contributes directly to my future career, since financial stress is one thing that contributes to anxiety. I also feel even more committed to finding things that I love to do, and doing more of them, so that my amygdala is only ever sending feel-good signals to the hypothalamus.

If everyone else in the world could just join me in this plan, perhaps we can have world peace without me having to win a beauty contest.

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