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…

Getting Some Holistic Healing

Last week I decided to visit a holistic healer who I met when I attended a workshop he ran on Men, Power and Sex. I was attracted to him because he’s a guy, but unlike some of the male healer/counsellor/therapists I’ve met, he seemed particularly in touch with his masculinity. Growing up in a family dominated by strong, emotionally unavailable women who seemed keener to suppress, rather than relish the men in their lives has left me feeling rather disempowered, and out of touch with how I feel. I had been working on this even before coming down with my physical symptoms of chronic fatigue; now I have even more impetus to get to the bottom of it.

I find that the anxiety I feel around feeling fatigued, and about my direction in life in general, is probably the biggest thing that causes me to suffer and feel overwhelmed by it all, and that’s what I want to work on with this healer guy. Today we did a shamanic healing process regarding anger towards my mother, who has always felt cold, distant, and threatening to me. I was in a good mood, so I didn’t really get into the resentment I feel towards her very easily; and I’ve done this kind of work before, so perhaps there’s not much left to do there.

The healer suggested I keep a journal about how I’m going, so I’m going to keep doing that here, at least while I’m seeing him. I have reservations because I generally feel better when I’m distracted by other things and getting on with life, rather than focusing on how I feel, but we’ll see how it goes.

Today, I have a mild cough and a slightly stuffy head. Physically I feel about 7 out of 10, and I feel pretty happy. I wrote a new chapter on dealing with your inner critic for my book today, and I’m looking forward to the Toastmasters conference that I’ll be attending on the next 3 days. I think it will help inspire me to keep on track towards my dream goal of being an inspiring speaker/comedian/entertainer/communicator. It may even help clarify my way forward, which would help me feel less anxious about such a diverse and uncertain career path.

Fear

I went out to lunch today with a friend I used to work with, about 10 years ago. I hadn’t seen him since falling ill, and it was good to catch up again… even though my story wasn’t as enlightened as I would have liked.

After getting home, I was tidying up when I heard water splashing outside on my balcony. Bit odd that, considering that it’s a bright sunny day here today. I’ve had problems with dirty water running down onto my balcony from the balcony of the unit above before, and had asked the guy who lives there if he could put something under their potplants to catch the excess water. Yet still it kept happening, and I’ve sort of been avoiding dealing with the problem. So I wandered upstairs to knock on my neighbour’s door. Just standing there I felt a rush of fear and my heart starting to race; yet what did I have to lose in this social interaction? My planned speech went something like:

“Hi, I’m Graham from downstairs. I’m wondering if you could help me with a problem I’m having. I’ve just noticed dirty water flowing down onto my balcony from above, and I’d like to find out where it’s coming from so I can stop it”.

Fairly non-threatening kinda stuff. By the time the door opened, my heart was racing. When the woman finally opened the door, she looked frazzled and I think what actually came out of my mouth was more like:

“Hi, I’m Graham from downstairs. I’ve got this dirty water running down onto my balcony, and I’m wondering where it’s coming from”.

Not exactly what I intended to say, but still not too bad. She said she’d been inside working, and hadn’t done anything on the balcony so it must have come from above. She suggested I check upstairs. Hmmm… weird, I thought. Maybe she feels guilty and is lying to cover it up, or maybe there’s some other explanation. I was pretty sure the water was coming from the plants on her balcony.

Anyway, I wandered upstairs to the unit above and knocked on their door. Heart racing again. I got the spiel more accurate this time, and they seemed friendly: a young couple with their son. They invited me in and suggested the problem was coming from the balcony below. We stuck our heads down, and there is a polystyrene box filled with dirty water on the wall surrounding the balcony, next to the plants. I wandered back downstairs feeling a bit disempowered. I hate the way I get so nervous in conflict situations; I’ve had problem neighbours before, and I really don’t like having to deal with it. I wish I did though!

I decided I’d better face the fear, and go back to tell my immediate neighbour that the water is coming from her balcony, and ask her to do something about it. As I knocked on the door, my hands were shaking. I had to knock twice before she answered, and I told her that it looked like the water was coming from the box on her balcony. She said she hadn’t been out there, and I invited her to come down and have a look at my balcony (in case she thought I was making it up, or lying or something). She suggested perhaps a bird had got in the box, and that they like having the lorikeets come up there.

“Well is there something we can do about this, because it’s causing me a problem”, I said.

“I guess I could move it, or take some of the water out”, she said.

“Yeah, that might solve the problem. Thank you”. End of interaction.

Oh man, what a petty, minor little thing to get so stressed out about. But I can’t seem to help my body responding that way. So fearful, so annoying. It took about half an hour to calm down again; I suspect it would have been much longer if my neighbour had been more difficult to deal with and just refused to do anything about the problem. Somehow when people disregard my well-being, I get fearful instead of angry. I hate that! Stop-stop-stop!

Self Acceptance, Emotional Truth, & How to Argue

While reading the introduction to Social Intelligence last night, it occurred to me that if the way I handle emotions is just a function of the way my brain is wired, plus my social conditioning, then what possible reason should I have for beating myself up about that? So I hold my feelings in… big deal! I decided it was finally time to try some radical self-acceptance.

However, this is a problem in the context of my acting practice exercises (rep), where people are always hassling me to “open up” more. I’m slowing getting there, but on the other hand, what if I just didn’t worry about that, and just enjoyed doing the exercise instead. Frankly, I have more fun when we laugh and joke around. They tell me I’m “avoiding”, but I actually enjoy laughing and joking around! I don’t enjoy getting upset, or angry.

So tonight I rocked up with my new I’m-just-going-to-have-fun attitude, and had a great time. Then I started rep’ing with one of the intermediate students, who I basically said “let me have it” to. She kept provoking me and provoking me until I really was angry, and we had a full-on screaming match. I was totally pissed off, and so was she. Then an amazing thing happened… we got to a point where her hostility gave way to upset. I recognised that she was hurt and called her on it, at which point she broke down and I became apologetic and compassionate. I comforted her with a hug, which she accepted, and we actually ended up really feeling connected. Aha! So that’s how a real-world argument is supposed to go! Assuming both partners are actually committed to sorting things out, rather than to just getting-each-other-back, eventually someone admits a vulnerability which moves the other person to compassion. Even though we were both really, genuinely pissed off with each other, I didn’t feel at all angry with her after the argument because we actually reached closure.

This is something I never saw in real world arguments while growing up, which made me fearful of conflict altogether. It turns out that you can have really heated arguments with tremendous emotional intensity, and yet end up with positive feelings towards each other; you’ve just got to be prepared to work to the point where you have closure and compassion for each other.