Dealing with Angry People

I get my fair share of hate mail on this blog, which I find unpleasant but not entirely surprisingly. Given that CFS appears to involve the emotional centre of the brain, it tends to generate a lot of anxiety and/or anger. Many people aren’t good at expressing their anger cleanly, and some of them choose to channel it into hate mail directed at me.

Say "No!" to Other People's Anger
Say “No!” to Other People’s Anger

Being on the receiving end of somebody else’s hostility can be stressful, so it’s important to be assertive with these people to stop their stress from entering my emotional boundary.

He’s an example from last week: I got an email from a female ex-friend who I initially met through this blog, which began:

“I don’t read your shit, but…”

… and went on to give me some unsolicited advice that I didn’t find particularly helpful.

Continue reading “Dealing with Angry People”

A Breakthrough in the Healthy Expression of Anger

Up until recently, are used to suppress/repress/internalise my anger. In fact, I now believe this is one of the main reasons why I came down with CFS. But now, after a lot of anger expression workshops, therapy, and non-violent communication practice, things are starting to change for me.

Do You Express Your Anger Constructively?
Do You Express Your Anger Constructively?

On the weekend, I attended yet another anger expression workshop called “Feel and Heal Anger”. The idea behind the workshop was that when were out of touch with our anger, we often internalise it self-destructively or project it outwards onto other people as violence or other forms of abuse, both of which are unhealthy.

The aim of the workshop was to get in touch with our anger and express it in ways that didn’t hurt anybody else, or ourselves. There were boundary setting exercises, group sharing, and dynamic burn meditations to help us process the anger and the grief that lies underneath it.

At this particular workshop, I felt more sadness and grief that anger and rage. But I figure if I’m feeling emotions, then the process must be working. I had a fairly sleepless night after the workshop as my body was still processing feelings that came up for me.

Continue reading “A Breakthrough in the Healthy Expression of Anger”

How I REALLY Feel about My Mother

I woke up this morning feeling quite content. I had a fun day yesterday: I spent the afternoon in an Improv games workshop, playing improvised theatre games with a bunch of my old Improv friends. When I first got into Improv a few years ago, I was still quite ill. I was experiencing a great deal of anxiety, and I found the two hour classes each week a welcome relief because the games we played was so hilarious.

I was hoping that the fun would just naturally translate on to stage when I was performing Improv in front of other people; but in hindsight this was the best thing for me at the time. Although it was often hilarious for the audience, it was just far too far outside of my comfort zone. After doing Improv, I would often feel like I’d been smashed over the head with a frying pan. One of the golden rules of Improv is that “you can’t get it wrong”; but just try telling that to my limbic system with my deeply ingrained fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, and fear of what other people think of me. Lurking there in my subconscious, like little landmines ready to go off at any moment.

After a while, I began to resent Improv and the nervous breakdown that it gave me. My inner child had it the whole freak-out thing. I had to really push myself just to step into a scene, and it simply wasn’t fun any more. I was tired of pushing myself.

Now, a couple of years down the track now, I heard about yesterday’s drop-in improv games workshop and decided to give it a go. I was happy to find some of my old friends there, and it was great getting up and doing it just for fun. In some of the games there were opportunities to get angry; I found that it comes really naturally to me now.

I came home having had a fun afternoon, and caught a ride with one of the girls from the workshop; we had a great conversation on the way home about the teachings of Eckardt Tolle, consciousness, presence and all the cool things that I’m into nowadays. It was a Saturday night, but I still came home early; I’m kind of used to that now.

So back to this morning: I woke up feeling content, and had a bit of a lie in. I’ve been practising sending loving thoughts and breathing into emotions and physical sensations that I have, whether pleasant or unpleasant. I was really struck by one of the remarks in the TMS Recovery Program which said that the basis of self-love was loving and accepting your emotions. ALL of your emotions; even the ones that don’t feel so good.

That was going fine, until thoughts of my mother entered my mind. In case you haven’t been paying attention, I’ve had very little contact with my mother since a big argument we had 12 months ago, after which I realised that I just don’t feel emotionally safe around her (duh!). Feeling safe is really important to me, so I attempted to negotiate some new boundaries in our relationship that would leave me feeling safe. Since this process has stalled, we have more or less cut contact.

Cutting contact with my mother is painful, but I noticed my body reacting with migraines whenever I spent time with her. I’m still really triggered by the way that she treats my father, and I just don’t like being around it. I’m also treated by the way she responds when ever I feel upset, especially about something that she’s said or done. This makes family get-togethers difficult if I attend, or painful if I don’t; my old abandonment stuff just gets triggered again.

So during last week I rang the minister of the church where I grew up, which my parents still attend, in the hope that I could get some advice from him. Maybe he might even be able to broker some kind of peace deal between us, which could lead to us both sitting down and talking about the kind of relationship we would like to have. I want a relationship that meets both our needs, where we both get to feel safe.

And maybe pigs might fly backwards in space one day.

The minister was very understanding about where I was coming from, and I really felt heard. He was completely accepting of the idea that my migraines are linked to my feelings about my parents, and that I need to listen to what my body is telling me. He also had a perspective that I didn’t think my parents would ever really take seriously: that support from their adult children becomes more and more important as they age. Unless my mother is willing to do something about our broken relationship, it’s unlikely that I will want to do anything to support her during her twilight years.

I don’t think she can even see, or just plain isn’t willing to acknowledge, that the relationship is even broken. I can barely stand being around her when I know that she reserves the right to say things that trigger me so easily, and is unwilling to even talk about how we could make a relationship work for me.

So the minister could clearly see that it’s really in both my parents’ best interests for my mother to do something constructive about the situation between us. And for my father to step up and encourage her, rather just don’t just sit back and act passive like he has in the past.

Every now and then, I feel the urge to do something constructive myself to create a relationship that feels healthy my mother and I. The truth is I still feel really angry with her, and part of me probably doesn’t want it resolved. Why should she get the benefit of me looking after her physically in her twilight years, when she’s never looked after me emotionally during my entire life?

At the same time, I feel guilty about the resentment that I feel towards her; after all, she was there physically for me when I was growing up and she did cook, clean, clothe and send me off to school for years. But I never really felt safe around her emotionally, and feel tremendously resentful for the way she reacts to me when I’m upset. This has caused me a tremendous amount of anxiety, and had a devastating effect on my sense of self and my self-confidence. It’s the textbook childhood recipe for an adult attachment disorder.

So really, deep down I’m still just really fucking angry with her, and my father. These people whose apparent indifference to my emotions has caused me so much pain and trauma over so many years. No wonder I’m not interested in looking after them.

As the thoughts about my mother and father flowed through my mind in bed this morning, I felt this heavy sense of exhaustion sweep over me. It’s not just a psychological thing, it’s a physical thing. This rage that is buried deep inside me.

At the same time, I’m fucking sick of the whole deal, and just want to get on with my life.

During my phone conversation with the minister, he made a passing remark: “You know, you could just walk away”. I’m pretty sure that his point was that my parents should be grateful that I’m still making an effort to connect with them. But this morning, it sounds like really good advice: just walk away.

I guess a part of me is still hooked on wanting my parents emotional support. Or even just a connection with them that doesn’t cause me further pain, or simply drive me crazy with frustration.

Even though it’s never like me to come.

My experiences with people generally have taught me that the more needily invested I am in getting something from somebody else, the less likely they are to want to give it. If I really was to just walk away, not only might I save myself a whole heap of ongoing pain: It also opens up the possibility that down the track my parents might work out that not having me in their life is actually more painful than sorting out what causes me to stay away.

After visiting my mother in hospital last week, where we pretty much pretended that there was no problem between us, I’m afraid of just reverting back to our old adult/child relationship; which simply doesn’t work for me. So it’s either create a new adult/adult relationship, or walk away.

I took some solace this morning from Craig David’s song Walking Away:

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.

My Thoughts on The Lightning Process

A thunderstorm has just passed over my place, so maybe the universe is telling me to answer this question I got via email recently:

Hi, I’ve had this hideous illness since 1998. However, I enjoyed approx 6 years of feeling quite well but with symptoms at times. I could walk up to 3 hours a day and was extremely fit. Four years ago I went through some massive stress that’s still not quite worked out but getting there and relapsed. I’m devastated. The recovery is taking forever and I never saw this coming. One lady I did know very well with CFS claims she is healed by the lightning process. So much so that she’s become a practitioner herself. She says I’m choosing to be sick because I won’t do it too. I’ve read heaps on it and found lot’s of disturbing anecdotes along with positive. Just wondering what your thoughts are on this?

I haven’t done The Lightning Process myself, but a very good friend of mine who has almost completely recovered from CFS has, so I asked him for his thoughts. Here’s his reply:

It has been one of my main influences in a positive way.

Worth the money

And it nicely pulls together a lot of the other stuff I did that I value.

I would recommend it to anyone who feels called…

Between my friend and I, we’ve done just about every physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual therapy out there in order to get well. I’m convinced that the ultimate underlying cause of CFS is overwhelming stress compounded by emotional trauma, being expressed by our body and nervous system.

My understanding is that The Lightning Process is a collection of tools for breaking stressful thought and behavior patterns that led to chronic hyper-activation of our sympathetic nervous system; and all the weird-ass symptoms that result from that.

In previous conversations with my friend, the three things I’ve heard him talk about that appeared most valuable from his experience of The Lightning Process are:

  1. The concept of “positive editing”: reframing every experience that we have to see the beneficial side, and changing the language we use both externally and internally to reflect this. Our nervous system is listening to our thoughts, and some thoughts are more frightening than others. So rather than thinking of it as a “hideous illness”, try thinking of it as an opportunity to learn more about what is really important to you.
  2. Taking responsibility in our thoughts and language for the fact that we created the illness and the symptoms that go with it.
  3. Having a coach. My friend has consistently talked about the benefit of the ongoing coaching that he got after doing the initial Lightning Process training. In fact, my friend is now a transformation coach himself.

I don’t really want to say much more given that I haven’t actually done it myself. I know some people struggle with taking responsibility for their illness, and see this as blaming the victim. I think shifting out of victim mentality is one of the key ingredients to recovering, and for me that means taking action on the things that are important to me. If the Lightning Process helps you do that, then it’s probably a good thing.

Noting that one of the really valuable things to my friend was having a coach, I want to remind you that I’m currently offering 3 months free recovery coaching for people with CFS in return for you filling in 3 monthly surveys. While I’m not trained in The Lightning Process, I believe the tools that I can teach you for dealing with the emotions and stress of being ill are at least comparable, if not better.

I had a first conversation this morning with a new client who has been ill with CFS for 17 years, and immediately identified that she has been internalizing her anger most of her life. I taught her how to express anger constructively, and she’s already starting to see things differently. I also got to see that even though I’m not 100% recovered yet, I have something valuable to offer and can start helping people now.

Three people have already taken up the offer, so I only have 2 coaching slots left. Please let me know if you’re interested.

Cheers,
Graham

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.

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.

Feeling Angry

I’ve been feeling really angry lately. I wake up with it, and it’s like a default state that I fall back to when I’m not engaged in anything. I’m not consciously aware of being angry about anything in particular; of course I’m pissed off about the usual suspects like:

  • not feeling well for so long
  • not getting great emotional support from my family
  • my business not going gangbusters
  • not being able to go out at night and have fun

But it’s not like I wake up thinking any of those things; I just wake up feeling tense in the head and cranky. At least it’s better than feeling anxious though. Anger has a more empowering feel to it than anxiety, and I’ve been doing a lot of work over the last few years to learn to express my anger so perhaps the fruits of my labour are finally paying off.

Anger and anxiety are both generated in the same part of the brain; the amygdala. It’s the area that Gupta’s program attempts to “retrain” in the hope of curing CFS. I suspect there’s more to it than that, and that the trauma goes deeper into the nervous system than just the amygdala. But it makes sense that if you suppress anger, it’s going to come out as anxiety since the same brain structure generates both.

As I mentioned in another post, I’ve been practicing Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing for over a year, and I still get shivers running through my nervous system which I hope are related to the shuddering he talks about when nervous energy is released. I suspect this is the same reason that Osho’s Dynamic Meditation works: by triggering the release of pent-up nervous energy.

I first learned Dynamic Meditation when I did Path Of Love a few years ago. It’s a form of meditation where you move your body in order to release nervous stress, so that the mind can settle more easily when you finally stop. As with any spiritual practice, the important point is to practice it. But I rarely do. Instead, I’d been relying on other people to create a space where I’d be motivated to do it, like doing Path Of Love again and going to burn meditations. It certainly is easier to do the practice in a group, but if I’m going to take responsibility for my own healing it doesn’t make sense to rely on other people all the time.

Reading Osho’s autobiography lately has inspired me; now I get what the guy was on about. There’s a greater goal now than just recovery from CFS: Freedom. Enlightenment.

So I’ve started doing “Dynamic” each morning. I notice during the cathartic phase that I end up dry retching. Vomiting up nervous energy or anger. I had a similar experience when I first started my morning bike rides; part way along the ride I’d have to stop to throw up, even though I didn’t feel nauseous. It was reminiscent of the migraines I used to get, which were overwhelmingly painful to the point where I would throw up; which felt absolutely ghastly, but always relieved the pain.

I’m hoping that doing the dynamic every morning will shift the anger that I’m feeling, and my sense of humour will return. There isn’t too much to laugh at when I’m pissed off all the time, and I’m not all that interested in contributing to the world when I’m angry.

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…