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 need more energy, the teacher says!

I’m  just going to go stream-of-consciousness with this one:

Went to acting class today. We do “activities” and “doors”, where we work together in pairs. One person is doing an activity in their lounge room, when the other interrupts at the door. The two of us dialogue using repetition, both attempting to get our needs met without directly saying what we want. The inherent conflict inevitably leads to drama.

My activity today was practising Auslan, on the premise that I’d met a deaf girl on an Internet dating site, and my sign language was really rusty so I needed to practise. My Auslan dictionary is difficult to use at the best of times; even more so when I’m nervous because I’ve got an audience watching me. When the partner knocked on the door, things went OK from there. Shit, I can’t even remember who my partner was! Has my short-term memory gone too, or was I just always too self-focused to remember stuff like that? Maybe both.

Anyway, the feedback from the teacher was that “my rep lacks energy”, and I need to boost it up more. Actors do this, because otherwise we end up looking dull and subdued. I think that’s mostly because I’ve always been rather inhibited (or rather, I learned to be because I’m a sensitive person and when I acted more outgoing, I often got hurt). But nevertheless, the message that I need to put more energy into it naturally made me wonder where I’m going to get that from. And it restarted me thinking: Do I lack energy because I’m ill, or am I ill because I lack energy?

Anyway, I’m coughing away as I write this, and feel like I’ve got a mild headache. I woke up with one at 5am this morning and took some Nurofen, went back to bed and felt mostly better by the time I had to get up for class at 8:30 this morning. At the moment, I just feel the usual crap run-down afternoon version of ill.

Love-life wise, things are interesting. I’ve been chatting on the Internet with the woman I had lunch with on Sunday. She sent me pics of her artworks, which I think is quite brave for a creative person to do, suggesting that she trusts me. One was a partially-nude self-portrait, although she only fessed up that it was a self-portrait later via SMS… still, lots of trust there if you ask me! Meanwhile, I’ve fallen pretty badly for a girl at acting class who is both very pretty, and very sweet. A seemingly rare combination. And on the way to rep last night I started chatting up a pretty girl I met at the bus stop, who was unusually friendly for a stranger; we ended up sitting together on the (almost-empty) bus and having a really fun conversation. Perhaps I’m more approachable with my head shaved. I’ve also been working on my conversation skills lately, so it was great to have some success just enjoying talking to an attractive stranger, making her laugh and brightening her day. She seemed quite interested in talking to me: made eye contact and said “hi” when she first sat down, asked about my guitar playing and acting. My pick-up line/opener (note this down all you single guys!) was: “What the heck’s with this weather?”, and just ad-libbed from there. I paniced slightly when she got off the bus earlier than I expected and I slipped her my business card; not a particularly classy move, and given that we both catch that bus regularly I probably didn’t need to do that. I’ll probably see her again. I’ve always felt that the thing that I lacked when it came to relationships was options; I dated people just because they were willing to date me, and didn’t feel like I was in a position to be choosy. Nice to see that changing a bit. Just gotta get that girl from acting class out of my head… she has a boyfriend!

I have a Toastmasters meeting tonight, where I’m doing the timing. Very easy. I even have a short semi-impromptu spiel prepared for when I give the report. That should give me a boost. Meanwhile, I’m off to play a little guitar. I think I’ve developed a Pavlovian association between feeling ill and sitting at the laptop, so after a while it just makes me want to run screaming from the room. Like about now! See ya!

What a weekend!

In the beginning…

The story of last weekend really begins on Friday evening. A bit before then in fact, when two girls from my acting class Vanessa and Monique, both expressed interest in coming with me to a psychodrama introductory evening on Friday night. I thought “Great, be good to have their company”, and I particularly like Monique.

I rang Vanessa Friday to confirm the details, and she said “You’re gonna hate me, but I’m having a girly spa party instead because my parents are away. Wanna come?”. I was already committed to the psychodrama evening, so I said no; but I could come later. A girly spa party did sound a bit like one of my wildest fantasies, especially if costumes were, or became, optional. I checked with Monique, and she was still in for psychodrama.

Psychodrama

I rock up at psychodrama, and Monique is running late. So late, that she never makes it. “Looks like it wasn’t meant to be” (she’s very spiritual). I can’t help but be a bit disappointed, and I work on letting that go… albeit ineffectually.

In the first psychodrama exercise, one of the women in the group role plays going out to dinner with her family and her husband, who don’t get along. The facilitator has the rest of us play various roles including tables, and food on a buffet. I was a creme brulee. It gave the woman involved the opportunity to see what it was like for her husband and family in the situation, and role-play reconciling them. Afterwards we had a sharing session where I revealed my envy at her ability to show great excitement at being able to eat lobster from buffet. Which made me the target for exercise two…

In my exercise, the facilitator had me use other members of the group to portray the fear that I feel about being embarrassed; the shame that holds me back from being myself and being free to express emotions like excitement freely. The fear was a screaming mass of people, standing on chairs and yelling wildly. They were overpowering. Then this was contrasted against the part of me which is able to express myself freely, played by one of the other men I chose from the group; it was small and crouched on the ground. I asked it to get up, and play a bigger role in my life. The facilitator had me swap roles with the small-me, and give me the opportunity to express it’s fear at the possibility of getting hurt. In the end it stood up, we gave it some backing from other people nicked from the overwhelming fear, and the two of us hugged for a while. I felt kind of sad and mildly relieved, as the fear of what other people think and the resulting inhibitions it gives me is like a massive weight on my back.

We did a few more exercises in the group, and each time I found myself moved by what was going on for the other participants, even when the drama wasn’t about my story directly. I left thinking “I could use more of this”, wondering when to fit it in to my schedule without overwhelming me.

The Party

Then I headed over to Vanessa’s party, which was in full swing by the time I got there. There was a bong on the table, and a bunch of people guys and girls lounging about in the spa. Vanessa had given me the distinct impression that it would be girls-only aside from her boyfriend Justin, who she suggested I could bond with. She’s a very loud and insecure girl, and has broadcasted the fact that he cheated on her, widely. Justin and I talked for a while, and he seemed like a friendly enough guy. He’d obviously done a lot of drugs. Not just that evening either, I don’t think.

Eventually there was room in the spa for me to jump in. I’m always really reserved about jumping in at pool or spa parties. I seem to have a really wide personal space exclusion zone, and end up just feeling overwhelmed; while pretending I’m not. One of the girls drank too much, vomited and passed out. Meanwhile another girl who I really liked from class was being toyed with by one of the guys in the spa, and she was totally falling for it. By the end of the evening they were kissing, and in fact all the guys had paired up with a girl… except for me. I kept telling myself not to feel bad about this,… but I really did. It totally triggered my “Why aren’t any of the girls interested in me?” insecurity, which turns out to run extremely deep. Yeah, I know it’s because I’m withdrawn and inexpressive. “Robotic”, to use a term I hear a lot in acting class referring to me. I hate that. And that’s why I hate myself… but fuck it’s hard to change. Being the only guy in the spa not kissing a girl felt just weird, so I jumped out, got changed, and went home. I didn’t even say goodbye to the host Vanessa, as she and Justin were upstairs in the bedroom by this stage. No thanks, I wasn’t keen on walking in on that.

So I went home feeling like shit. Upset. Unhappy. Beating myself up. I tried using the Sedona Method techniques to let go of the emotion behind it, but to no avail. I just hate being trapped in this inhibited personality. Nothing I try to break out of it seems to work as quickly as I’d like. It’s like chipping away slooooowly. Yet other guys just act like pricks, and they get the girls. Yeah, I know that’s how it works, but it pisses me off. When I got home I played guitar for an hour or so; it’s the only thing that seems to sooth my hurt feelings. Went to bed about 3am and couldn’t get to sleep.

Saturday

Saturday was a complete wipe-out. I was exhausted and felt dreadful. Got up every few hours to eat something, and then went back to bed. By evening I was still feeling wretched. I was supposed to go to a farewell for two friends I met at dancing, who are headed overseas. Really didn’t feel in the mood for another party, and I figured it would be kinda painful since dancing was one of the greatest joys in my life which I had to give up when I got CFS. So I was in two minds. I didn’t really feel like another party; at least there wouldn’t be a spa scene at this one though. But the point was moot because I was just too frigging exhausted anyway. So I went back to bed and fell asleep. Got up about midnight and played guitar until 3am, then went back to bed. I just can’t sleep for 24 hours straight regardless of how exhausted I feel. I need to get up and do stuff in order to fall back to sleep again later.

Sunday’s Date

Sunday I woke up feeling reasonable. My emotions had settled down a bit by then, and I logged on to some internet dating sites. Turns out Sunday is the day to meet women online; all the girls who’ve spent yet-another-lonely-Saturday-night decide to take matters into their own hands and hit the Internet on Sunday morning. I ended up chatting to two girls, one named Alyshia was keen to meet up for lunch. She says she’s very sensitive, and was quite brave to ask me out to lunch. I would have asked her, but I had a reunion that afternoon for a personal development course so initially I thought we wouldn’t have time, but when she asked me I decided to just go for it anyway. We had lunch at a cafe, and she obviously enjoyed meeting me; said I had a great sense of humour, and we laughed and joked like old friends. Alyshia is quite artistic and interesting. We seemed to click, and I went off to my reunion feeling quite good.

The Reunion

The reunion was a good opportunity to catch up with some really great, loving people I had met before, including the friend that recommended the acting course to me. He’s still struggling with chronic fatigue symptoms too, and all the bullshit that goes along with it. He seems pretty happy though; he sees it as part of his journey of self-discovery. I remarked at the reunion that when I’m in a good mood, I can be optimistic about it, but when I’m in a bad mood, I wonder whether life is worth living and fantasise about ways of killing myself… none of which are even remotely feasible because I don’t want to hurt the people I care about. Plus there are so many things I want to do still; just wish I felt well enough to do them!

Girls… again!

I chatted online to Alyshia in the evening. She asked me why I was so into the whole exploration of emotions thing, and I admitted to having a family which doesn’t express emotions well, and CFS. She seemed understanding. I think we’ll catch up again. She even inadvertantly gave me an idea for my class activity to use today.

The way I feel about my life always seems to reflect what’s going on between me and the women in my life at the time. I hate the way my moods are so at the mercy of other people. It’s no wonder I feel anxious when people are in my comfort zone. I’m slowly learning to be more reactive through acting class. It’s a struggle to avoid pushing myself into overwhelm by taking on too much; pretty much everything I do is aimed at dealing with my illness and whatever underlying emotional stuff might be driving it.

Anyway, I’m glad that weekend is over. I feel OK today; not too exhausted, nor particularly upset. I’ll be seeing Vanessa & co in class today, so that’s going to be interesting. I’m not really in the mood. We’ll see how I feel when I get there. Think I’ll go play a bit of guitar, have breakfast and then head off to class. Thanks for listening.

PS: Do you like the new theme on the website?

Avoiding Overwhelm

I just watched Session 7, on awareness of stress patterns; which seems very relevant to me. I constantly seem to be on the verge of overwhelm, reminding myself to back off a bit and take things easy. Part of me keeps shouting “But I don’t want to! Yes, there’s a lot to do, but I want to go out and do it!”. Yet when I commit to something and end up feeling overwhelmed, I stop caring and just want to give up. Then I feel bad about not caring any more, and wish I could give a damn.

I made my usual mistake of having an afternoon lie down yesterday, because I was feeling really exhausted after coming home from acting class. Woke up after an hour or so feeling absolutely wretched; I just never usually feel that bad. Then I dragged my sorry ass to my Toastmasters committee meeting last night, where a headache gradually got worse and worse. I’m torn because part of me wants to contribute more, part of me wants to be doing something professional where I get paid, and part of me just wants to rest and get better. I made resting and getting better my goal for 2010, so for the time being, it’s got to be the winner.

I’m reading a really interesting book at the moment called The Sedona Method, which describes a way of releasing emotions which is a little similar to the basis for Soften and Flow, and should calm the amygdala. I’ll comment more about it when I’ve finished, but it looks very interesting. I’d be interested if anyone else has used this method for releasing anxiety or other emotions associated with CFS.

After having a lousy headachey night last night, I’m spending the day relaxing, watching Session 7 on the DVD, reading the book I just mentioned and doing some washing, before meeting up with a very sweet and attractive girl from my acting class for coffee this afternoon. Nothing like pretty girl to boost a young-at-heart man’s energy levels!

PS: If you’re in Australia, there is a show on ABC tonight entitled Stress: Portrait of a Killer which looks worth catching.

Rollercoaster… Of Life

I can’t believe how quickly I can go from one extreme to the other. No sooner do I write an optimistic post about how I feel like I’m actually getting somewhere, than something triggers me and I feel all pessimistic and frustrated again.

Saturday’s “date” went fine; she was lovely and I was engaging, and we had fun together. No, not that sort of fun. We just had an enjoyable time. Started off with coffee/lunch, and then headed to see the Archibald Prize exhibition. I wanted to see it partly because the winner is a portrait of my favourite comedian, Tim Minchin. The fact that I have a favourite comedian, and an interest in art, went down pretty well with my date as she loved comedy and art. She had something on in the evening, so I headed home thinking that since I had a Saturday night free, it would be a good opportunity to head out to some of the nightclubs in the city to check them out.

By the time I got home, I was really starting to feel the late-afternoon malaise hit. When evening rolled around, I found myself heading towards bed feeling totally rotten. Goddam it! And I thought I was getting better. Talk about mega-frustrating! Damn damn damn! “Fuck this Gupta programme bullshit, it doesn’t seem to be working!!!”, I’m thinking. Stop-stop-stop, meditation, sleep-sleep-sleep. I just felt like crap.

Woke up Easter Sunday morning in an only-marginally-better mood. Hardly much of a resurrection, but I got up anyway. Spent most of the day reading The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, which a friend from my guitar class recommended. It’s one of the most reasonable Christian books I’ve read, but it’s predicated on the absurd notion that the bible in infallible and that therefore the gospel accounts are reliable eyewitness testimonies as though they’d been written by 21st century reporters. I still just don’t buy it, and the chapter on Suffering didn’t even touch on the obvious possibility that our suffering has no meaning, but we’re compelled to give it one anyway because that’s they way humans work. Anyway, I’m only half-way through. Perhaps a bolt of blinding light will hit me in part two. We’ll see.

Sunday night I dragged myself off to “rep”, which was pretty quiet given it was the Easter weekend. Still, a couple of guys from my class were there, and we had a really fun 3-way rep. After that, I checked out the nightclubs I didn’t get to on Saturday night. It felt really lonely wandering around the city from club to club just visiting, and wishing I had the balls and the skills to approach people and say hi. I’ve never been a nightclub kinda guy, as I spent my formative adolescence in the clutches of christendom, believing that alcohol was evil and that church was a better place to spend my time. As a result, I feel totally out-of-place and self-conscious in a nightclub; which makes it decidedly un-fun.

I spent most of Easter Monday resting, playing guitar, and contacting women on a couple of Internet dating sites. I ended up chatting to quite a few interesting women, which is unusual. Normally I spend most of the time sending contact requests which don’t go anywhere. I think I’m getting better at writing profiles and sending engaging contact emails. I’d almost given up on internet dating, given that the women my age tend to remind me of my mother… and I sure as heck don’t want to date anyone like her! They’ve either got kids, or look like they’re in their 40’s. Crikey!

I definitely feel happier when I’m not worrying about symptoms, feeling pissed off about being ill, or worrying that NLP thought-breaking techniques are bullshit and won’t work for me. I’m a smart guy, and there are a lot of things I want to do in life. It feels like that’s all on hold until I recover physically, and I didn’t appreciate Saturday night’s reminder that I still get exhausted all too easily. Today I’m taking it easy, before heading out for more rep tonight. And I don’t feel too bad today, so I’m thankful for that.

I’m off to have breakfast, and watch Session 6.

3 Month Update

Well it’s 3 months since I started the Gupta programme, so I thought I’d give you all an update on where my symptoms are at.

I don’t feel radically different, but I don’t seem to have the lows that I used to. I’m not feeling so desperate about being ill, or about getting better. I still feel like I have a mild cold, but it’s a mild cold that doesn’t bother me quite so much. I’m not as jittery as I used to be; I don’t drop or spill things so often. I still feel a little tense, but not so much as before. I’m more relaxed. Well, with all that meditation, I’d wanna be!

I haven’t had a headache in a few weeks, and it’s been a long time since I got out of bed, walked to the kitchen and felt like I’d been run over by a truck. So I’m getting there, slowly. I’m getting used to not filling my days with planned activities, and feeling OK about that. I feel a little anxious about where I’ll be at when 6 months rolls around. Almost all my plans for the future are contingent on getting my health back to 100%, and I’d love the nasal drip thing and the cough it causes to go away. If you met me on a good day, you’d have no idea there was anything wrong with me, and I’m hesitant to tell people what’s up until I get to know them a bit. I now consider myself “recovering from CFS” rather than “suffering from CFS”.

I haven’t been doing my Stop-Stop-Stop so much lately, but I’ve just watched Session 5 again and I want to get back on top of that. I listen to the meditation CD with Soften and Flow, and the Positive Visualisation exercise at least once a day. I’m constantly reminding myself not to take on anything new that isn’t directly related to improving my health.

I went out last night to check out venues in the city, as pre-work for one of those dating workshops where they teach you how to approach women in bars and clubs. I have a lot of female friends, and am pretty good at getting along with women, but my fear of approaching and interacting with the women I’m actually attracted to has always held me back so I’ve decided it’s time to get over it and learn the art of pick-up.

I’m mostly taking the Easter weekend easy, but I have a lunch date today with a girl I’ve met on an Internet dating site. She seems really keen, and we seem to have a lot in common. She’s very active, so it’ll be interesting to see how I keep up with her. We’re off to the art gallery this afternoon, and who knows what this evening…