Headaches and EMDR

Headaches

One of the most distressing symptoms of CFS for me has been the headaches. While I’m continuing to recover, I still feel more anxious than I’d like, I feel like I have a mild cold all the time… and I get debilitating headaches.

Oddly enough, playing Pokemon GO every day hasn’t cured the headaches. Who’d have thought. I guess they never promised that in their terms & conditions that I clicked “agree” on without reading.

Back when I worked as a Computer Engineer and spent 8 solid hours every day staring at a screen and push push pushing myself towards the next vitally important deadline, I used to get severe migraine/tension headaches. I would either wake up with them and be wiped out for an entire day, or one would come on during the day and I’d just keep working until the pain got so bad that I had to go to bed, take Panadeine (paracetamol/acetaminophen and codeine) and lie there in agony until I could get to sleep. I knew once I got to sleep, the pain would be gone when I woke up; getting to sleep with my head in agony was the problem.

When the pain was really bad, I’d end up vomiting. I tried taking anti-migraine medication and going to a physiotherapist, but when I didn’t have a bad headache I felt absolutely fine; so I’d go back to push push pushing myself to breaking point again.

Eventually after I burned out at that career, I stopped sitting in front of a computer in a state of tension every day, and the headaches went away. I was incredibly relieved and finally kicked my codeine habit.

Then when I came down with CFS, the headaches came back.

After a recent particularly torturous sleepless night in agony, I decided I’d had enough and headed to my local doctor for some medication. I told him my sob story about CFS, and he organised yet another round of the usual blood tests. I talked about feeling anxious, depressed and the weird tension symptoms I feel in my face, head and neck, which he said sounded like neuralgia. He gave me a sample box of Prestique to try, which is an antidepressant that is supposed to help CFS sufferers recover some of our energy.

Having got this far through CFS without resorting to antidepressants (except for a very brief week or so where I started taking a low dose of something I’ve now forgotten, and then quit out of fear of the side-effects), it didn’t seem to make sense to start pumping chemicals into my brain now that I’m getting better. Continue reading “Headaches and EMDR”

My Visit to the Dentist

Warning: this post may contain graphic depictions of bodily fluids.

I’ve been slowly working through all the things that I put off because I’ve been sick, to reduce my sense of overwhelm. One of the things that I’ve been putting off for a long time, is going to the dentist to have a regular checkup and clean.

Three things prompted this: the first was simply that I haven’t been to the dentist in many years even before I became ill almost seven years ago, and I certainly haven’t been since.

Secondly, my gums of started to bleed during brushing lately and that bothers me.

Thirdly, the tension headache that I have most of the time tends to move around and often settles in my teeth, either on my upper jaw, my lower jaw or both at the same time. It occurred to me that the symptoms that I have in my head could be related to toothache or gum disease, and I have also heard theories relating migraines and even CFS to dental or orthodontic work; so I thought I should probably check that out.

Going to the dentist has never felt like much fun for me, so I was feeling pretty anxious. My previous experience of dentists had always been pretty painful, and they keep reminding me that the evil guy in The Little Shop of Horrors who chose to be a dentist so he could inflict pain on other people.

I felt like this guy
I felt like this guy

Continue reading “My Visit to the Dentist”

Mum’s Birthday

I woke up with a headache this morning, and ended up spending most of the day in bed. I’m not entirely sure what that’s about, but I don’t think it’s purely coincidental that it’s my mother’s birthday today.I haven’t spoken to my mother for most of the past year, after a big argument last August where I realised just how I unsafe I felt around her. As I mentioned in my last post, that change the little this week when I discovered that she had been rushed to hospital in an ambulance with a suspected heart attack, and I decided to visit her.

In the past I have always found my mother’s birthday, and Mother’s Day the most stressful days of the year. I remember feeling anxious as a child on these days, because Mum often seemed to be in a really bad mood. I recall the fear that I felt waiting for the right point in the day to try and present the gift that I had bought her. More often than I would’ve liked, she seemed hostile and unreceptive. I think this is where my anxiety about gift buying came from.

Perhaps my body is remembering the internalised fear I felt on these days. Fortunately, today was a little easier because my father had organised to take my mother out to a birthday concert. I decided to call my mother this morning to wish a happy birthday, not so much because I felt feelings of love towards her, but because I’d like to be the kind of son that would do that anyway.

The other possible reason for waking up in the headache this morning, was that a friend of mine came around last night to interview me for an assignment that he is doing for a subject on attachment theory as part of the counselling course he is doing. The interview was all about my experience of early childhood, primary school, high school, adolescence and the major factors that impacted my development, such as my family origin, religion, and relationships with other people while growing up.

I wouldn’t say I felt particularly strongly about anything that I talked about, given that this is well trodden ground but I’ve been over and over again and again in the countless hours of therapy and other emotional healing workshops that I’ve done. However, I did notice myself feeling angry whenever I talked about times that I had been shut down, conditioned, bullied, abandoned, rejected, criticised, suppressed, or told to do what other people wanted rather than what I wanted. There were also times when I simply didn’t feel safe around people like my father when he was angry, on my mother when she was launching into vitriolic attacks on other people.

Perhaps there is still some buried anger connected to the tension that I feel in my head most of the time. I’m not exactly sure what to do about that, exploring it seems to just make it worse, and what I really want to do is just move on with my life and leave the whole thing behind.

Unfortunately it’s difficult to really leave my family behind, because birthdays and other family events occur with monotonous regularity, and I don’t feel like celebrations when they are triggering headaches for me.

I don’t feel at all comfortable about resuming my old relationship with my mother, where she felt entitled to say whatever she wanted to me and I had no recourse when I was feeling hurt or upset about what she said. If my body is going to respond with tension headaches every time I see my parents, it just doesn’t seem worth it to me.

At the same time, I have a very strong sense that I’m really not myself. It’s like the headaches I’m just another way of defining the old comfort zone that I used to live in, that doesn’t represent who I really am. I think a big part of this journey is learning to accept everything about myself, including the parts that I’ve been taught in the past to suppress.

I feel pretty despondent about it all today. But I’m also tired of whining about it, so I’m heading off back to bed. I love that blissful floaty feeling that I get while I’m asleep. I can feel it coming now.

Yesterday’s Parental Tension Headache

I spent most of yesterday with my parents, and interestingly and painfully, ended up with another cracker tension headache.

It all started out well enough: I had invited my father out for a slightly belated Father’s Day lunch at the local club. Initially I had planned to pick him up from his house, but early in the morning my father rang to tell me that he will meet me at the club instead, and tell me why when we get there.

I turn up to the club and meet my father in the foyer, where he tells me that my mother was rushed to the local hospital by ambulance the night before with chest pains; the main symptom of the suspected heart attack. His description of the proceedings of calling the ambulance, the journey to hospital, and the lack of obvious diagnosis is quite emotionless, and focuses more on the details of the story than on how he or mum feels about being rushed to hospital like that. I’m a little stunned and numb; I think over the years I’ve got used to this emotionless technically detailed level of storytelling from my father.

After telling me that his wife for 50 years in hospital, he notices a freight train go by outside, and starts talking about the type of train it is, and the management of the railways on which runs. I’m pretty sure that he spent more time talking about the train outside the window, than he did about my mother in hospital.

Over lunch, I notice myself becoming increasingly bored and depressed at my father’s detailed yet a emotionless and irrelevant (to me at least) storytelling. The more he drones on and on, the more I feel myself switching off. I sense a depression growing, and feel that I need to do something, fast.

I feel nervous about saying it, but sensing that my mental health is at stake. I say to him: “Dad, I’ve got to be honest with you. I find myself switching off when you tell me stories like that”.

His facial expression changes, and he goes silent. It could just be my paranoia, but I sense that he’s angry. I feel even more nervous; I don’t know what’s going on.

I ask him “Dad, are you okay?”

He says nothing, continuing to eat his veal snitzel lunch. It’s possible that he hasn’t heard me; after all, at 83 years old, his hearing isn’t as good as it used to be. But I’m pretty sure that he’s at least heard me say something, and he’s not asking me what it was. It’s like he’s pretending that our last exchange just didn’t happen; kind of like he does when someone asks him what’s going on when he’s muttering angrily to himself. He just pretends it’s not happening; which I find really unnerving.

He launches off into another story that I can’t remember, which is testament to just how interesting I found it at the time. I say to him “Dad, I’m wondering what’s going on for you?” He looks at me quizzically. “I just made a comment about that last story you were telling, and then asked you if you are okay, but you didn’t say anything.”

Again, no reply.

When my father is angry, he seems to going to this weird mode when he just will not communicate. Even at 47 years old, I still find it really frightening. It’s like he’s pretending that everything that’s going on, isn’t really going on. I never know where I stand when people are pretending like that.

I want to know what’s really going on for him, but I got a very strong sense that he doesn’t wanna talk about it; he just keeps changing the topic as though nothing is happened. No wonder I felt so uncomfortable growing up around this man, given the way that he deals with his emotions. He pretends that they just don’t exist, even when they’re written all over his face.

My father launches off into yet another boring story, and I start sensing an increasing frustration that he’s not asking anything about me: the stories are all about him, and other people of no interest or relevance to me, in excruciating minutia. But then a voice in my head says “Why hassle the guy? I know he enjoys spending time with me, and he is clearly enjoying telling the stories. He’s getting old, and I have limited time with my father now, so I might as well just make the best of it.”

After a little while, I’m surprised to find that he does actually ask something about me: he asks “How is your business is going?” I tell him “I appreciate you asking that. I did a life coach training course a few years ago, but I never really finished it because I never became qualified. So I’ve started working to get my life coaching qualification, and I’m working with a few clients.”

Then he launches back into get another story of his own that appears to have no relevance to the thing we were just talking about. I can see why my mother finds him so frustrating sometimes.

I don’t really know what to do at this point, I sense that if I’m honest with him it’s probably not going to go down all that well.

With lunch done, we both head off to the hospital to visit my mother. I get there first, and after winding down the hospital passages to find ward 8, I find my mother lying almost asleep on the bed. I haven’t seen my mother in almost a year, since we had a big argument that led to me requesting that we introduce some new ground rules in our relationship so I can feel safe around her; ground rules that she refused to accept. Given that she was in hospital with a suspected heart attack, I figured I could put the ground rules request aside for today at least.

My first impression was how much my mother looked exactly like her sister of 10 years older; her hair is greyer, and she looks more frail than when I last saw her.

“Hi Mum”, I say. “Oh, hi Graham”, she replies. Clearly she is glad to see me, and she seems to be in a pretty good mood. I think I like my mother better when she’s sick than when she’s healthy: She is less feisty, and seems safer and less aggressive to me. I’m the other way round: when I’m sick I get really miserable and cranky.

Mum tells me about how she came to be in hospital, and all the doctors, and nurses, and tests that they’ve run. I can hear a sense of disapproval in her voice, and imagine her thinking that the whole hospital system is inefficient and could be improved. Like Dad, there’s more focus on the mechanics of what’s been going on than on how she feels about it all.

I would imagine that if I were in hospital after a suspected heart attack, and the doctors couldn’t find out exactly what was wrong, I’ll be feeling pretty nervous. Maybe she’s on frightened to, but she is certainly not about to tell me.

Dad soon arrives and the three of us get into some light banter. We even start joking around at one point, as Mum and Dad tell me a story about a recent visitor who arrived unannounced and who they really didn’t want. She spent three hours ear-bashing my father outside in the garden, while my mother hid inside the house thinking “She’s really annoying, don’t let her inside the house!”

We all have a good laugh at the idea of annoying people, and how we would just like them to stay away from us. Everyone is in a pretty good mood, and we’re all getting on quite well, especially given that my mother and I haven’t been speaking for the previous year.

My mother isn’t particularly mean or critical to me or my father today. I mention that “I have been really enjoying going body boarding at the local beach” near where I now live, and she responds “What about the sharks?” But that was about the level of the negativity today. For the most part, I think she is just genuinely glad to see me.

Mum says “My hair really needs a wash; I look like such a mess”, and Dad says to me “I find her really attractive.” This is my signal that it’s time to head home. “Well, I’ll just leave you two to it then”, I say awkwardly.

On the way home I feel a mounting tension headache coming on. I had planned to head out that night and do some open mic comedy, but the tension headache put the kibosh on that.

It seems like every time I spend time around my parents, I end up at the cracker tension headache. Even when their behaviour is pretty reasonable, like it was yesterday.

So I’m a little perplexed as to why my body react this way. It reminds me of a childhood friend of mine who developed the CFS in her 30s, and found after she moved overseas that her symptoms got better when she had no contact with her family of origin. She had grown up being the “good girl”, but had some really big issues with her father that hadn’t been dealt with well by her family of origin. “They’re cowards!”, she said referring to her brothers. Name-calling is always a sign of unprocessed anger and I remember in my conversation with her that she still seemed really angry with her father and her brothers. The best explanation I could come up with for why her symptoms would reappear whenever she had contact with the family, was that it was some kind of physical response to her internalised anger.

I have felt a lot of anger towards my parents in the past which I’ve talked over endlessly in therapy, but it’s all old stuff from the past. I felt a little angry with my father over lunch, but my mother’s behaviour this day was pretty reasonable.

It seems as though my body feels differently though. I still don’t feel comfortable telling my parents how I really feel when I’m around them. It just doesn’t feel safe, never really has.

I have read a lot of books on psychology, done a lot of personal development courses, and had a lot of therapy; and I can’t ever really recall anyone talking about physical tension in the body arising in response to anger. But my coaching clients seem to get this to. It seems that if you suppress your anger enough, you can end up feeling the physical sensations (notice how the veins in a person’s neck stand out when they’re really angry) without recognizing the emotion. Makes it kind of hard to process though when you don’t know for sure what it is, or what it’s about.

I find this really frustrating, because I really want to be getting on with my life; and these headaches are a real showstopper when they hit me. I can’t commit to anything, because I never really know if I’ll be OK on the day.

One of my mentors suggested to me recently that the best way to deal with parents like mine is to simply visit them less often for shorter periods of time. I also realize that there are many other people out in the world who are happy to hear how I feel, and don’t respond in ways that I find really triggering. I plan to spend more time with those kind of people.

I got up this morning and belted out a little “Angry Young Man” by Billy Joel on my keyboard, and smashed my drums for a while. I still feel a little tense in the head, but it does feel good to get to anger out, and to be doing something physical. Sure beats the hell out of lying in bed feeling anxious, or angry, or ruminating on how unfair this all is.

Goddam it, I’m angry!!!

Today’s bout of anger and rage is brought to you by my recent recovery from the flu, which took just on two weeks to get over. Why should recovering from the flu make me angry, you might ask? Because I don’t really recover; I just go back to the usual yuppie flu symptoms. So I’m still coughing away and generally feeling run down. And that makes me angry. And anxious.

This morning I had a loud screaming match with myself in the car on the way to see if there was anything worth seeing at Burnham Heads. There isn’t. Nevertheless, I felt anxious yet again, and very very cranky about that. A good yelling session and a hoarse voice later, I felt somewhat calmer. Spent the day playing guitar by the river inlet, in lieu of anything more exciting to do at the place.

I’ve spent the last 2 weeks staying in a very quiet youth hostel at Hervey Bay, on the beautiful Queensland coast. It’s about 1213.8 km drive from where I live in Sydney. I got here in smallish chunks of up to 500 km per day. First stop was Newcastle, where I met some lovely ladies in the youth hostel. Then I headed for Port Macquarie, where I spent 3 days totally failing to meet up with a female friend from my old acting class. I left in a huff, and drove to Byron Bay. Stayed there for a week of torrential rain, followed by a week doing The Hoffman Process in the hope of quelling some of my anxiety. Oh, all the while still attempting to be aware of what emotions/symptoms my body is sending me ala Mickel Therapy. Then another week in Byron Bay winding down after being hit by the Hoffman truck.

And then I headed north in search of adventure, partying and women.

Big mistake.

Huge.

I was hoping that The Hoffman Process would turn me into a completely different person: someone comfortable in his own skin, who loved to party like crazy. A magnet for the ladies. In my dreams, the whole thing was destined to be a debauched affiar, with lots of great stories to tell my mates later.

Sadly, I’m still the same person I was before doing Hoffman. Goddam it! I’m still overwhelmed at parties. I ended up spending a few days on the Gold Coast in a youth hostel, which was kinda fun. There was one cute girl there who I teased and joked around with so much that she was almost asphyxiating and had to leave the room. Sadly, much of the teasing was about the fact that she had a crush on this Japanese guy who was also staying at the hostel, and wasn’t me. I also failed to hook up with a cute Russian woman who was in a state of trauma when I first met her because she’d lost her dogs. I showed her some emergency empathy just when she needed it, but wasn’t much help at locating the dogs, which she found the next day, just as I left town. I told her she would. Damn; had her number and everything.

Then I headed to Brisbane, where I hung out with some friends and some relatives on my father’s side of the family. Hanging out with my father’s relatives always gives me fresh insights into why I’m so neurotic. It’s not much fun though.

After that I went to Noosa to visit my aunty. Her daughter has anorexia and we had a great discussion on why anxiety runs in our family. At least I hope it was helpful to her. I feel for her since the screwed up behaviour/genes in the family appear to have trickled in her direction and that’s really not her fault. I blame grandpa personally, but this isn’t a family history lesson.

Ok, after that things really heated up as I headed to Rockhampton, where it rained for a whole week. In the dry season. The hostel manager just laughed about it, while the overseas backpackers who had come half way around the world to see the place all fumed, and then got together and we all went bowling. Fuck all else to do in Rocky, to be honest if you’re a backpacker; although I did go to my first rodeo where I managed to push in on the food queue and then pretend that I hadn’t, much to the chagrin of one of the local ladies. My goddam conscience means I still feel bad when I’m breaking rules. Will I ever outgrow that?

A guy named Olly who I met at Rockhampton had primed me to go to Airlie Beach: the backpacker party capital of the world. He described it like some sort of shag fest, which I’m sure it is if you’re comfortable in loud, alcohol-fueled environments. Which I’m not. I spent 4 sleepless nights in Beaches hostel, where the bar plays live and loud music every night until midnight, right outside my dorm room balcony. Thanks Olly, you bastard. It was a mixed dorm with guys coming in and going out at all hours, girls coming in and going out, guys with girls coming in, and going out. All except for me, it seemed. I did befriend a few people, and went on a day trip to Whitehaven beach which is just amazingly beautiful. As happens in backpacker land, all my new befriends left after a while although one of them was kind enough to give me a copy of The Hunger Games which I was interested in reading. Another girl asked for a lift north, where I was planning to go next. It’s never the cute ones though, is it? I gave up trying to meet people in the loud nightclubs, and decided to try during the day instead. Then anxiety got the better of me, even though a few women I approached around the lagoon were happy to talk to me. It’s always the ones that don’t want to talk to me that trigger my inner critic to put that old dagger into my self-esteem, and I just feel like a stalker walking up to a stranger and saying high anyway. Fucking goddam negative beliefs. The Japanese girl really liked me, and the two French girls were really friendly. But still, four days of this and my head was about to melt down with anxiety so I decided to hotfoot it back to Sydney to the comfort of friends who love me. If I still have any left…

On the way down the Bruce highway, I decided to break the boredom and drive through one of the stupid little rest stop lanes they have by the side of the road. I wondered whether the car in the distance behind me would follow, completely failing to realize that it was a police car. What are the chances of that??? He pulled me over and threatened to charge me with dangerous driving. Gave me the spiel about how I was doing stupid things on the most dangerous stretch of road in Queensland. I had to use my full powers of grovelling to get out of it. “I feel like a complete idiot”, “I’ve done the wrong thing officer”, “I think I’ve learned my lesson sir”. Bloody authority figures make me anxious too. “Did you even bother to look in your mirror to see if there was anything behind you?” he asked. “Yes, I did… ” I pleaded lamely. “Well didn’t you see the big blue POLICE car behind you???” he asked, still stiff lipped and cranky. “Yes, but it was so far back I didn’t see the police sign… I’m an idiot”. He let me off, after pointing out that it would be a long way to come for my court appearance. Thanks officer.

I got as far as Hervey Bay after a nightstop in Rockhampton to meet up with Olly and tell him what a dickhead he is. Turns out he was a decent bloke, and has since been giving me updates on the goings on at the hostel there. (I knew that German guy selling the used computer equipment was gonna get kicked out). Having arrived in Hervey Bay, it occurred to me that being away from loud drunk backpackers could be a good thing, and since it’s off-season here I decided to stay for a while. Then I immediately came down with the flu, and have spent the two weeks since then taking mega-doses of vitamin C, playing guitar, reading The Hunger Games and Dead Famous by Ben Elton.

Now I seem to be over the flu, I’m back to exercising a bit more. That makes me feel less nervous, and I like the feeling of putting a bit of muscle on again. I’ll probably visit Fraser Island (the world’s largest sand island, thanks Bruce Highway trivia) before I leave. Not real keen to head south given that it’s cold down there. Not real keen to stay here given it’s not my home.

My head is still filled with the usual worries about how to get well, what to do with the rest of my life (which depends a lot on the outcome of worry #1), and how to meet up with a bevy of gorgeous women who all think I’m awesome. Or even just the one special one for that matter.

I sent an angry email to my Mickel Therapist yesterday, so although I’m still focused on that, I wonder if he’s still talking to me. Pretty sure another friend of mine who I had a ridiculous argument with on Facebook the other day isn’t. Nor my hot friend in the U.S. whose relationship status has just changed to “In a relationship”. Hi all if you’re reading. Ok, that’s enough for now. I’m off to bed.

Update on Mickel Therapy progress

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I thought it was time for an update. It’s a bit over two months since I started Mickel Therapy, and I feel really ambivalent about the whole thing.

On the down side, since starting Mickel I’ve felt more panicy, anxious and depressed than I have for some time. I feel tense in the head all the time (although that started several months before) and the feeling of constant fear sends me crazy. I also go to a depression & anxiety support group where the leader is convinced that my physical symptoms are due to anxiety; technically I shouldn’t be doing any other kind of therapy while I’m doing Mickel, but I have no idea how to do that without going completely insane. I need other people to talk to about this whole thing. I have a pretty big fear of going downhill into some crazy depressed/anxious state and not ever coming out again. When I’m really anxious, the negative thoughts just go ballistic and I end up feeling really anxious just about being anxious.

On the up side, applying the third key to Mickel therapy has motivated me to get out more and have more fun. I’ve been going dancing again about once per week, something I used to love doing before falling ill. I don’t seem to have any after-effects from the physical exertion, like I used to. I only stay for half the lesson and just focus on having fun. I used to focus on picking up women at dancing; that was always a big part of the attraction for me. Now I’m trying to focus on just dancing, enjoying the music, and the company of the women who seem to like me and enjoy dancing with me. Perhaps I should have asked for that cute girl’s number; but which one? I’ve fallen into trouble before when I asked for the number of the best friend of another girl I’d been hanging out with a little, not realizing they were best friends…

I’ve also been doing a greater variety of physical activity, on the assumption that my body is bored. The main element of Mickel therapy is identifying what emotion is underlying the symptoms as they arise, and taking some action to address the emotion involved. My symptoms don’t vary all that much and I struggle to apply this part of the process. I hate taking notes and it’s just so fucking boring. I can’t see any great correlation between the symptoms and anything I try to do to address the emotion underneath them. My bullshit detector keeps going off, telling me this is probably a load of crap, even though much of it is consistent with other things I’ve been learning about how the brain operates. I’m still skeptical of how a suppressed emotion could generate the feeling that I’ve got a cold all the time. I get angry with my Mickel therapist when he starts talking about the theory behind it, half of which sounds like something out of a new age Louise Hay book to me. Being ill for four years has certainly put me in touch with my inner cynic and I feel like giving up. Usually in the afternoon between about 2pm and 4pm, when I usually feel like a narcoleptic puppy dog desperately in need of a sleep. Apparently that’s just “false tiredness” in Mickel lingo, so I try to go out and do something fun/interesting/less boring instead like ride my bicycle, play guitar, visit a friend or go to the beach. I’m really sick of this whole thing sucking my life energy out of me when what I really want is to be out doing something creative and rewarding. Not trying to get well all the goddam time!

I went to an Inner Child bootcamp two weeks ago, which was all about healing some of the emotional scars I was still carrying from childhood. It was fun at the time and I met some really compassionate people who were also working on their own stuff. I felt exhausted afterwards; I guess emotional healing is just plain tiring. Not doing it is also tiring, so what to do?

I’ve been feeling anxious a lot lately and that’s the worst part of this whole thing. I can cope with feeling tired, but feeling anxious really bugs me. I don’t feel so bad when I’m doing something creative. I seem to have the capacity to worry about just about anything. I think I might have a go at worrying about alien invasion or something else that I’m dead certain will never happen. People sometimes say that we always worry about things that never end up happening; but I remember worrying about getting CFS before falling ill, so that’s like a kick in the guts.

I alternate a lot between feeling cranky/angry and feeling anxious. I think I prefer angry.

I haven’t been posting much because I’ve been focusing on the third key of Mickel therapy, which is to meet a balance of my own needs, and that means not sitting behind a computer screen blogging all day. Instead I’ve been playing keyboard and guitar more, and going out more. I love playing guitar by the beach. I fantasize about some hot blonde bombshell in a skimpy bikini seeing me play guitar while walking past, thinking “Hmm… musician!” and sitting down next to me to chat. I end up back at her place learning how to untie a bikini. That sounds like a positive note to end on, and I hear my guitar calling…

Overwhelmed with fear and anxiety

The last few days have been pretty rough as I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. I have an almost constant tense feeling in my head which waxes and wanes a little, but is there most of the time. I’ve been finding it difficult to sleep at night with feelings of fear and dread, usually accompanied by fearful thoughts like “Will I ever recover?” and “Am I stuck with this? How long for?” I feel very shaken by the whole experience and often wonder if the four years it’s been so far will drag out to five, ten or more. The whole thing sends shivers and sweats right through my whole body.

It seems like the panic attacks I used to get years ago are back. Frankly, that scares the living shit out of me. I could hardly sleep on Friday night (Good Friday my ass!) and found some solace listening to this talk about being overwhelmed with fear, anxiety and panic. When I hear the fear in the woman’s trembling voice as she asks her question of the spiritual guru starting “I am overwhelmed with fear and anxiety and panic…” I start to cry, which is a good tension release. His answer is comforting too. There seems to be something deep in my unconscious that’s terrified of something. Fuck knows exactly what, or what to do about it. I like to think that it’s at the very root of all my anxieties about what other people think of me, about women, about relationships, about being wrong and/or foolish, about failure, about not feeling good enough and about feeling self-conscious, hypervigilant and just generally bloody insecure. In my fantasies I root this troublesome bastard out and get to live the rest of my life feeling free (and healthy as a bonus).

I’ve recently given up Toastmasters since it seems pointless learning to deal with anxiety up on stage when I can’t handle the feelings of panic I get just lying down to sleep. I also recently bailed out of an Improv contest as just the thought of being on stage and out of control was causing me to feel panicy. That’s a massive bummer because I actually really love playing Improv games, and I was hoping to fall into a new circle of friends and a new community there. Maybe that’s still possible, but it looks like I’m going to be in the audience for the time being; probably feeling envious of my friends on stage having so much fun. My dream of one day being a professional public speaker, comedian or comic actor seems totally shot to pieces right now. Oh well, I seem to have lost my sense of humour anyway.

A huge fear that I feel is about what other people think of me. As long as I can remember, I’ve felt afraid of social situations while also having an intense craving to connect with other people, feel appreciated, loved and validated by others. I wish I could switch this off and just feel free. That craving is strongest when I see a woman I find attractive, and that’s when the fear is most crippling too. I feel like a failure having not found a life partner at 43 years old, and one of my childhood fears was precisely this. For some strange reason I always saw marriage as a prerequisite for happiness when I was a kid, which is particularly odd given how turbulent my parent’s relationship seemed to be. I also remember feeling very fearful after a few weeks of feeling ill way back in 2008 that maybe I had chronic fatigue. They may just be self-fulfilling prophecies but for me it appears that some of my biggest fears have been coming true lately and this also scares the crap out of me.

I feel like an abject failure personally. All this fear, anxiety and panic has undermined my self-confidence and is the exact opposite of the sort of man I long to be. I think this puts a terrible barrier in the way of my relationships with women that I’m attracted to since I get overwhelmed with panic just meeting them, and this makes me even more fearful of how they respond to me. I don’t have a problem relating to women as friends since I’m pretty open nowadays, but when I meet a girl I really like and find sexually attractive my head just puts this massive self-sabotaging barrier in the way. I recently met a really cute, fun girl at Improv who I like, and she gets on like a house-on-fire with another guy who seems so laid back. Meanwhile I sit there watching feeling jealous and insecure. I hate feeling so insecure, and this fatigue is bringing it all to the surface. I’m going to a Tantra retreat for men next weekend which may help but I’m already pretty jaded and don’t see any magic answers to my anxieties around being openly sexual with women. Ironically I’ve just published a book on confidence and I realize all-too-painfully that I don’t live up to my own expectations. Other people seem to find my advice helpful, but I can’t really say I’ve nailed the problem myself and I hate feeling like a fraud. That’s a double-whammy since I was relying on the book as a source of income to lessen my financial anxiety and so now that’s not likely to work either.

My Mickel Therapist says that it’s normal for symptoms to get worse when people start the therapy, which gives me a small sense of hope that this is just a passing thing. But I’m also pretty skeptical at the moment about this therapy and just want some concrete results. I continue to go to an anxiety and depression support/therapy group twice a week which brings up stuff for me, but it seems like a long-haul process. The guy who runs it wants to see me one-on-one but I’m reluctant to start therapy with yet-another-therapist. I think I’ve done enough talking and need to do something more primal like hit something or someone instead; if only I wasn’t afraid of it leaving me feeling exhausted. If the Mickel Therapy doesn’t work, I plan to take up Brazillian Ju Jitsu and Mai Thai kickboxing to see if some mindful violence can help with the anxiety. I’ve only been doing Mickel for a few weeks but I’m just so desperate for the fear to subside and my skepticism is causing me to look for alternatives already.

All this whiny complaining bugs me too. I swear I’m not just doing it for attention, or at least not consciously. The tension in my head and the fear and panic are real and overwhelming. I hate feeling like a victim to all the bullshit in my head, especially when I’ve read so many books and done so many courses on positive thinking, emotional healing, therapy and all the rest of it. The thought “Why would any attractive woman want to go out with me like this?” pretty much sums up the crux of my relationship anxiety. I’m fucked. Actually, some sex would be a nice distraction come to think of it… Don’t get me started on that frustration. I’ve just started reading Portnoy’s Complaint and although I’m not Jewish and didn’t masturbate until very late in life because I thought it was sinful, I can relate to a lot of what he says about his mother. Reminds me a bit of one of my favorite Woody Allen films Oedipus Wrecks in New York Stories. I’ve read a heap of books on women, dating and seduction and they all seem to involve putting on a persona that feels fake and frightening to me. I like acting and all, but anything that feels even the slightest bit deceptive triggers huge stress in me and fear of being caught, getting things wrong, etc etc. Yet I dropped into a pub to listen in to some live music down in Bondi the other night after therapy group, and saw this guy there with tattoos acting like a jerk to this bunch of women… he started going off at one of them about being jealous of him hitting on another girl (who was clearly enjoying it at the time) and a few minutes later they were all over him hugging, arms around him, wanting his attention. Complete opposite of my experience. I know it’s my responsibility to “fix” this if I ever want a relationship with an attractive woman, and I hate just whining about how unfair it is that women go for bad boys over decent shy guys but… fuck it, I can’t even be bothered finishing this sentence.

Mickel therapy is all about feelings and my therapist says that the anxiety is just because my pressure cooker of emotions is full and so anxiety comes bursting out. I want to release the pressure so I’m trying to avoid too much analytical thinking and just stay with my emotions. Similar deal with the group therapy. I can see that I have a long history of avoiding painful feelings of loneliness, sadness and fear by getting engrossed in the head-space of computers so I’ve been trying to avoid that… with mixed success. I spend time playing songs on guitar that express how I feel, and I recently borrowed a bunch of books on guitar playing and songwriting from the library. One day I’d like to be able to express my distraught feelings through my own songs. That’s part of what I see myself doing on stage in my dreamy future imagination. Meanwhile I’m working on Cold Chisel’s You Got Nothing I want, which is how I feel about the situation I’m in… the thought of a good scream seems quite comforting. I’m also working my way through the library’s massive DVD collection in the hope of finding more joy and fun in the midst of my exhaustion.

Surely there’s more to life than just battling with fear. When do I get to have some good old fashion fun?

Crap day yesterday… Bit better today

I had a spectacularly awful day yesterday. Not only did Australia get kicked out of the world cup, but I felt headachey and awful all day. Spent most of it in bed, either asleep or attempting to sleep. Life just didn’t feel worth living yesterday, and yet I couldn’t work out any strategy for escaping it that wouldn’t cause tremendous pain for my friends and family. The best I could come up with was to exile myself somewhere until everyone had forgotten that I existed, then just kill myself. Even that wouldn’t work though, and god I’d be lonely in the meantime. And there’s a small matter of things that I’d like to achieve before I go.

Fortunately today I feel marginally better. I generally do after spending a day in bed. I feel kind of washed out, like I used to feel the day after a migraine. Don’t get them any more, thankfully. I spent most of today researching toxic mould, to see whether my home environment could be poisoning me. I had a chat with a very helpful lady from Mycologia in Australia, who seemed more interested in helping me than in taking my money. What I described didn’t sound like a mould problem to her, and she suggested I start by getting a HEPA vacuum before an expensive inspection. So I’m gonna give that a go. In the mean time, I’m gonna rest because my head is drifting into the twilight zone.

Woke up this morning feeling tense and agitated

Couldn’t get to sleep last night, so I stayed up late finishing off Richard Branson’s autobiography Losing My Virginity. I love the guy’s mindset; whatever he wants, he just goes after, seemingly without fear. Very inspiring.

Woke up this morning feeling quite tense and agitated. My cold/flu is gone, so I’m back to just feeling moderately lousy all the time. I had the dating workshop on the weekend, and found it quite stressful. Approaching women I’ve never met before and starting conversations with them is something I really want to master, but isn’t easy. I seem to do OK pushing myself at the time, but then feel the nervous energy hanging around a long time even days later. I felt a headache coming on as the last evening approached, and decided to bail, only to be talked around by my wing man… for which I ended up being grateful.

Everything I want to do with my life from here-on in seems to require overcoming some kind of fear or anxiety, and sometimes I’m in the mood, but today I’m not. I got up this morning and started pounding into my punching bag to try and release the nervous tension. That helped a bit.

Then things went further downhill when I put on my tape of the Australia vs Germany world cup match which was on at 4:30am local time… we got slaughtered 4:0. Damn!

Fortunately yesterday my old guitar friends got together for a jam, and I was able to go along. God it was good to see them again, and tell them my stories of what I’ve been up to at acting class, meditation retreats, etc. I love story-telling and making them all laugh. It reinforced that this is what I want to do career-wise, and helped motivate me towards the long road to get there.

One of the songs we played yesterday was Everybody Hurts by REM. It’s a beautiful song with poignant lyrics, and a really sweet arpeggio picking pattern. So I picked up my faithful guitar and started learning it… and the tears flowed freely. I seem to release emotions a lot better when I’m playing music. I feel a lot better now. I’m going back to play some more, but meanwhile you can listen to it here:

Happy long weekend Aussies!

I think I have the ‘flu

I’ve been coughing up chunks of yellow phlegm from my lungs for the last couple of days, and I feel even more dreadful than normal. I think I have the ‘flu; for real, not just flu-like symptoms. I’ve basically been in bed since Tuesday evening. Skipped class Wednesday. Supposed to go out tonight, but that’s not going to be happening. Urgh. I feel dreadful… crawling off to the couch now…