Back home again

I just got back this evening from my retreat in the Hunter Valley. I stayed at the Youth Hostel for 3 nights while I did a bit of structural editing on the book I’ve been working on for several years.

Then I went to Path Of Love. Wow… what an amazing experience. Lots of catharsis and emotional healing work in such a short space of time. It was very different to the Vipassana Meditation Retreat I did earlier this year; I’ll write a more complete article about it once I’ve had more time for it to really integrate.

After that, I went back to the Youth Hostel for a couple of nights. Glad I did too, because I was way too tired to drive back home straight after Path Of Love… it was exhausting emotionally, physically, and probably spiritually too! The hostel was buzzing with about 20 women from a hen’s weekend, who’d taken over the kitchen and therefore decided it was easier to feed me than to get out of my way. Bring on the love I say!

This afternoon I went to a Toastmasters seminar, and practised the speech I want to use in the upcoming humorous speech competition. It’s good to see it finally coming together, on the third attempt.

I’m back to Acting class tomorrow, and working on rebuilding my blog to start building a list to market my book to. All very exciting, and a bit scary. Great Expectations.

XMRV and where I’m at

There’s some more research out confirming the association between XMRV and CFS. It’s sounding more plausible to me, although I’ve no idea how I would have picked up XMRV. I wonder if it’s possible to get tested for it, out here in far-flung Australia. Even if I was positive, there’s no recommended treatment yet… so for the time being, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing; which is basically getting on with my life instead of waiting around till I feel well.

I’m encouraged by the news that a friend from my CFS support group has joined a gym. I’ve been working out lightly with weights for a few days, and now that my arms don’t ache like buggery, I seem to be doing OK with the exercise. My insomnia lately has been pretty bad, and that’s been bugging me.

I recently realised that the way to make your dreams come true is to help others to make theirs come true, so I’m going to put more attention into that from now on. It also leaves me less time to focus on not-feeling-well. I still do the odd Stop-Stop-Stop from Gupta’s programme, and listen to the meditation CD occasionally but it’s been a couple of months since I did it hard-core. I’ve been using the Sedona Method release process more than Stop-Stop-Stop.

Tonight is my last night as President of my Toastmasters Club, which means I can focus on my speaking career instead of club leadership. I’m still battling with anxiety at times, but it seems to go away when I get some form of emotional release which is happening more and more often what with my acting classes, and when I’m totally preoccupied with something else. That means I actually feel less anxious when I’m public-speaking or performing, because I don’t have time to think about not feeling well! Weird.

Focus focus focus

Well I had a really interesting weekend at a Toastmasters district conference here in Sydney. I was particularly inspired by two world champions of public speaking who attended, and it reignited my enthusiasm for the whole public speaking thing. One of the places I feel in my element is in front of people, making them laugh and inspiring them with some sort of message, and I’d love to turn this into a career.

I feel frustrated that I’ve hit a road-block when it comes to feeling ill all the time. I don’t really feel like I can just sit here and wait for it to pass, because I have no idea how long that’s going to take. On the other hand, I get overwhelmed when I think about what I need to do in order to get where I want to go, especially when I can only head there at 50% speed. Sometimes I think a lack of focus and direction are just adding to my sense of fatigue, since it’s easier to feel depressed and hopeless when I’m not “heading somewhere”. Yeah, I know our sense of self-worth is supposed to be innate rather than based on our achievements and contributions to others; but I do feel a whole lot better when I’m making a difference in the world than when I’m not. Problem is when I push myself too hard into overwhelm, I end up resentful of the whole goddam situation and of other people – even though it’s not their fault.

I went to acting practise last night, which wasn’t a brilliant idea given that I was tired after the conference, which only ended that afternoon. But I do really enjoy it, and it did give me a lift. The weird thing about this fatigue is that it makes life very un-enjoyable on the one hand, yet imposes a limitation that reminds me just how much I do enjoy many aspects of life which are currently closed off to me. I wanna hang around so I can enjoy them again in the future, and I have to focus and prioritise which ones I can do right now since I can’t do them all.

I woke up feeling a bit wrecked this morning; maybe a 4/10. I took some Sudafed and that should get me up to about 6/10, which ought to be enough for me to head to this afternoon’s class. Anything about about a 5 is relatively functional.

I want to pursue a career as a communicator/comedian/writer, but it’s going to take time. Of course I want it now now now. Since starting the Gupta programme I’d been thinking “I’ll put that off until I’m better”; but I’m not so sure that’s a good idea since it leaves me feeling even more stuck and I have no idea when that’s going to be. It’s a matter of balancing the stress I feel from “not going anywhere” against the stress I feel from pushing myself too hard when I’m ill.

I’m going to drop one of the acting classes I’m doing next term, and take up a camera class instead, so I can get comfortable in front of a lens. It should also allow me to restructure my week so that I have time to prepare some speeches for Toastmasters too, which will get me back on track with the public speaking. Meanwhile, I think I’ll be living on Sudafed for the time being…

Feeling positive today

I’m feeling pretty positive today. I had a call this morning from a good friend of mine from acting class, who told me she has scored herself a part in a new comedy series being produced for SBS. She’s gonna be a screen star! I’m very excited because she’s a really unique person and I totally want her to succeed. I also wrote another chapter for my book, and I’m resting up for a Toastmasters conference this weekend. I want to finish reading The Sedona Method this afternoon; it’s already overdue at the library!

The usual pleghmy throat and cough is there, but it’s not particularly sore. I feel about a 7/10 physically.

If you need some inspiration, I recommend this video on achieving your childhood dreams:

Taking It Easy And Feeling OK

I’ve been taking things a little easier lately, and generally feeling better for it. I cut my acting practise back to two nights a week (instead of four), so I can accommodate the pick-up course I’m doing on two other nights a week. I get overwhelmed when I think how far I have to go with my emotional expression, and when I look at the amount of stuff I want to learn about conversation, dating and seduction skills… but I just keep reminding myself to take it one step at a time. And my relationships with women are steadily improving as a result. You might wonder what relevance that has to chronic fatigue, but I find that when I’m under stress my symptoms are much worse. And not having the relationships that I want is a source of stress in itself. As Daniel Goleman says in his book Social Intelligence, all stress is social. I’ve always been mildly socially phobic, so I’m putting a lot of effort into getting this area of my life handled to reduce my social stress.

I find that when I’m stressed out, I feel overwhelmed and anxious, and my symptoms get worse. But if I keep it under a certain threshold, I don’t feel too bad. My term as Toastmasters club president ends at the end of June, and I’ll be relieved to offload the responsibility to someone else. I was thinking of quitting Toastmasters altogether, but I still have a dream of being a motivational speaker/teacher to help other people once I’ve sorted my own stuff out. I feel like this is on hold at the moment while I’m ill, so in the mean time I’m busy learning everything I can about public speaking, self-confidence, emotional mastery, dealing with anxiety, and social dynamics. I can’t wait to get there; but then I remind myself to take one step at a time. I’m really looking forward to hearing Darren LaCriox speak at the upcoming district conference, as he appears to be doing what I’d love to do. One of the other members of my Toastmasters club was telling me about her 5 year plan to become a speaker in her area of expertise; 5 years sounds like a loooong time to me… but at least she has a plan! It’s hard to plan when I don’t know how long it will be before I can really put energy into anything full-time without hitting the fatigue wall. Perhaps the purpose of chronic fatigue is to teach me a lesson in patience.

I started seeing a new holistic healer last week. I was really surprised how emotional I felt when he asked me what was going on in my life when I became ill. I told him the story of how I went on a motorcycle road trip to Brisbane to hang out with my father’s family for a bit, and the conversations I had with my aunty Edith about my father. She’s a sensitive soul, and we connected pretty well while I was there. Wow, it bought up a lot of emotion for me; which seemed odd since I’ve talked about it before. I think the big deal there was about feeling like there’s nobody else in my immediate family that I really connect with on an emotional level, and how hard that’s been for me. I think the emotional stuff around chronic fatigue is huge, so I’m going to keep seeing this guy for a while. I was drawn to him because while he’s respectful of emotions, he’s also a pretty masculine blokey kinda guy. He has that masculine energy that David Deida talks about in his book The Way Of The Superior Man, which my father and most of the other men in my family seem to lack.

If I can maintain things the way I’m currently going, I feel reasonably happy most of the time. Not quite so many extreme lows, and I haven’t spent a whole day in bed for a while. I still feel rather anxious about where I’m heading in life, but for the time being I’m in learning mode and we’ll worry about where it’s all heading later. My biggest hassle lately has been insomnia, which seems to hit me in waves every now and then. I had been sleeping till mid-afternoon on days that I didn’t have anything on, and that makes it hard to get to sleep at night; so I’m going to try and stop doing that. I’m following the advice in Timothy Sharp’s The Happiness Handbook on sleep, and taking Valerian each night at bed-time.

I wake up every morning now and declare that it’s going to be a great day. And I celebrate my successes. Life is good, it’s a sunny day, and I’m grateful for being alive.

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!

Painful Vulnerability

Nothing triggers my emotional insecurities like a pretty girl who appears disinterested in me. There’s one such girl in my Toastmasters club. Let’s call her Liz. She’s extraordinarily pretty, intelligent, slim, shy and endearing. Shy and endearing look pretty attractive on a girl. When she turned up to a club meeting a few months ago, I fell for her the moment I met her.

So I went along to Toastmasters last night. I’m president of my club, so I always feel a tiny bit extra special there, and it’s usually an enjoyable evening. The role of the president is to learn the skill of delegation, so I actually do the least work of any committee member. Last night I sat next to Liz. We ended up going head-to-head in the impromptu speaking debate on whether long or short hair is better. Having just had my head shaved, I spoke for short hair. She won. I even voted for her.

Liz is sweet and friendly… but I think disinterested. I occasionally thought I was getting some positive vibes from her and have made a couple of attempts to connect with her outside of Toastmasters meetings. When she split from her boyfriend late last year, I thought I might get to know her better. But when I recently invited her to come to a musical with me, she said she was “busy that night”; as opposed to “busy that night, but could we go another night?”. I know she’s not the most assertive person (that’s why people go to Toastmasters!), but I figured if she was interested she’d be giving me a few more positive signals.

I tend to get stuck on girls I really like who don’t seem interested in me. Perhaps there is something in me that likes a challenge. Or maybe it’s just my subconscious desire to endlessly reproduce the emotional abandonment of guess-which-parent. Either way, I feel really drawn to Liz, and keep thinking I should invite her to something else or trying to connect… while also thinking to just play it cool. I know I’ll be disappointed if/when she hooks up with someone else. I’m still working on developing my “abundance mentality” when it comes to appealing women, a.k.a. plenty of fish in the sea. There are several attractive girls in my acting class who I get to interact with at rehearsals, who also seem really sweet and appear more interested in being friends with me. I could just hook up with one of them. Somehow the thought of rejection by someone I really like causes this sick-in-the-stomach feeling for me. I know all the theory of handling rejection by not taking it personally, but when it comes to putting it into practise with a girl I’ve fallen for, it’s a different story. And a guy in my class who bought my book on attracting women sent me an email asking how to ask this girl he’s interested in out… I totally feel for him, much more than he realises.

I feel really envious for other guys who don’t seem to have this same painful vulnerability. They seem to just go through life without being affected by this sort of shit like I do. However, I’m getting to see in my acting class that other people have the same insecurities as me: the method we’re learning is totally self-exposing and based on being very real. It’s not actually “acting” at all, so I do get to see what’s going on for other people. And at the meditation retreat last week, it turned out that everyone was struggling but we just didn’t know what other people were going through, because we weren’t allowed to talk to each other. It’s a bit similar in our society where guys aren’t allowed (or rather, don’t allow themselves) to talk to each other about what’s really going on in their lives. So we don’t know “Oh, you go through that too eh?”

Last night I had a dream that Liz and I were at this huge nudist event, giving each other a big, close, naked hug. No doubt the scene was inspired by my memory of the recent Spencer Tunick shoot I participated in, but god that hug in my dream felt good. Not so good after I woke up and realised that it wasn’t real. All of this stuff goes on in the emotional centre of the brain, so I have no idea what impact it has on my CFS symptoms and the whole amygdala retraining recovery process. Should I abstain from any thoughts of emotional involvement with women? Or is it actually better for me to be feeling and expressing emotion? My exercise from acting class is to practise becoming more emotionally effected by things, not less. At the moment I’m a bit of a robot. Always have been, and I figure this internalised stress is what’s caused the illness in the first place. It would be nice to have a supportive partner but I dunno about the whole relationship thing. And I need to find a girl I like who also likes me; that’s always the dilemma.

I felt exhausted after breakfast today, and went back to bed. I remind myself that if my body feels exhausted, then rest is the top priority. It’s not a bad thing to spend a morning in bed; thus I avoid the anxious thoughts about it. I’ve been feeling less exhausted than usual lately and mainly just having the nasal drip and cough symptoms. They get worse when I don’t rest. I have to constantly remind myself not to take on new stuff, and to say “no” to things I want to do that will over-stretch me. I felt good at Toastmasters, and thought “maybe I will do those story-telling speeches I had planned after all”. But then I end up committing to things that don’t go so well when the time roles around and I’m exhausted.

I watched Session 2 again today, and got back into the meditation CD. I think it’s all working. Slowly. If you’re reading and have comments, I’d love to hear ’em.