I thought I was Anxious, but actually I’m Angry!!!

I cried myself to sleep last night; the mood swings were really getting to me, and I just felt really depressed about how stuck I feel being ill much of the time. Lee’s advice yesterday to put my dreams on hold and avoid pushing on with the help of medication, while valid and helpful, sounded depressing. Who wants to have dreams on hold? I went to bed feeling like crap. I hadn’t cried in ages, so it felt good to have a bit of emotional release.

I had weird dreams all night, and woke up feeling really anxious. I have a morning class on Wednesdays, and I’ve never been a morning person. Even less so now. I headed off to class, feeling anxious and resentful. When it came time to do my activity in class, the teacher paired me up with another guy. We’re doing scripts in class this week, and the script is written for a guy and a girl; not two guys. I was in a filthy mood, and when the activity started, the guy I was working with was holding back, half-hearted, sly and manipulative. So I called him on all those things… and got angry… really angry. So much so that he was rather blown away by how forceful I was; didn’t know where it was all coming from.

At  the end of the activity, the teacher said my work was brilliant! He asked me where I had got that from, and I said “I woke up this morning feeling really anxious!”.

“Well, do that before every class then! Your work was really good. You had a breakthrough today.” my teacher replied.

I felt so so so relieved afterwards; I was beaming. It wasn’t just the positive feedback, it was also the getting-it-off-my-chest thing. I think there’s something to the idea that when a man represses his anger, it comes out somewhere else, particularly as anxiety or depression. It made me wonder whether I could run a workshop for men on anxiety, teaching the acting technique we use. It’s very simple at heart, but incredibly liberating, especially for guys like me who have a life-time’s practise at withholding anger. After class, one of the other beginners who seems quite like me asked if we could do an activity together, because I was on fire!

I came home feeling really good; and I think that’s how I’ll spend the rest of the day, thanks… taking it easy. Feeling about 7/10. And no, I haven’t had any medication today! (Just the usual vitamin regime).

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.

Anxiety Discussion on SBS

I’ve just watched a fascinating discussion about anxiety on TV. I have found anxiety to be one of the most disturbing aspects of chronic fatigue. And when I look back on the disturbing events of my life prior to becoming physically ill, anxiety is generally at the core of most of them.

I’ve had social phobia as long as I can remember, and suffered panic attacks in my 30s. Worry over what other people think is still at the core of my most frustrating inhibitions. So I found the discussion on Insight about anxiety fascinating. The bottom line is that the most effective treatment for anxiety is to change the way we think about the things that we fear, and to face them in a controlled manner which ensures a positive outcome. Then repeat as often as necessary. I guess you could see this as a form of amygdala retraining, which implies that treatments which work on anxiety might help chronic fatigue too. Or at the very least, they’d take away the nagging worry that keeps us from enjoying what we can still do within the boundaries imposed by the illness.

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.

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!

Jealousy, Fear, Anxiety, Setbacks and Starting Again

I went to acting practise last night, and had a good time; it always gives me a lift. There’s a girl there who I really like who has been quite friendly towards me, and I’ve been hoping to get to know her better. Last night I heard her say to one of the other guys “We’ll have to get together for coffee sometime!” Urgh. I felt really jealous. I’ve had a few minor setbacks in the romance area lately; a number of girls I’d been interested in turned out to have boyfriends, or to just seem uninterested in me. Another girl I met on the Internet has turned fickle and negative towards me (yeah, there’s a story there). Definitely triggers my whole abandonment fears. But there are plenty of other fish in the sea, right? So I stayed up late last night sending contact requests to women who sounded interesting on an online dating site. The problem for guys online is that with the usual inhibitions out of the way, women are swamped with requests from introverted guys and you end up lost in the noise. If I get any response at all, most of the time it’s a rejection… which hit’s that abandonment button square on. Gawd, I’d love to be less sensitive. Just brush it all off and move on. I felt really lonely and looked around for someone online to chat to, but there was nobody… and I was too tired to keep my eyes open anyway.

It was almost 1am by the time I got to bed, and I had a pretty good sleep. I woke up about 8:30am this morning feeling an anxious sensation in my chest. It was accompanied by the usual thoughts about the Big Three: health (when is it going to get better?), career (what am I going to do?), and relationships (when am I going to sort that out?). I listened to the meditation CD, and calmed down a bit. I wish it was possible to have an amygdalectomy and just get the bastard removed. My emotions only ever seem to cause me trouble.

I went to see an amateur production of Grease on the weekend which some friends of mine were in. It took me back to my first role, where I played Kenickie… before I got ill. I almost cried when Rizzo sang “There are worse things I could do”; I was actually moved by it. My acting teacher has been telling me to “be more affected by things”, so I guess I’m getting there. I’m still hoping that the acting course unlocks my emotional repression enough to release some of the stress I feel, allowing my body to recover faster than it would just with the Gupta programme alone. I seem to be getting more expressive during practise, and I’m really enjoying the course as it definitely gives me a lift most of the time. Just as long as I don’t wear myself out with the extra workload. I also want to try some psychodrama… I’ll let you know how that goes.

I visited my parents yesterday for the first time in a couple of months, which went OK. I’d grown a beard and shaved my head since last seeing them. My mother didn’t recognise me. Later on she asked “If you could do anything, what would you like to do?”. I think she was reaching out and trying to be helpful; but I wasn’t in the mood. Too tired to really engage, and I had a busy day yesterday which didn’t help. A pre-CFS friend from dancing rang while I was there to invite me around for Good Friday lunch. It’s nice to know I still have a few friends who keep in touch since I dropped off the planet.

I’ve just watched Session 3 of the programme, so I’m back to starting again with Stop-Stop-Stop. I hope the testimonials give me more motivation, as I’ve been kinda slack lately. I haven’t felt too bad physically though lately; mainly just tired and a bit anxious. I’m kinda at the “I can live with this; but it’s still a pain in the ass” level. I’m taking my guitar to acting class this afternoon for my activity, and doing two classes today. That should be fun!

Anxiety and Overwhelm

I felt anxious in acting class today, and somewhat overwhelmed. Felt a bit pissed off with life and the whole emotional struggle thing. I still have a backlog of email to read & answer from my meditation retreat, and an overdue book report to write. Plus I haven’t seen my family in eons. My tendency is always to take on too much; it’s like an addiction!

Things got pretty heated during my exercise in class, and I got to have a bit of a yell, which was quite cathartic. Afterwards when the teacher critiqued me, he said I wasn’t taking things personally enough; I wasn’t being effected by what was said to me. Makes sense really, what with all the bottling up of emotion and everything. One of the girls in class came up to me afterwards and asked if I was OK, saying I looked upset after my exercise. Felt upset too. That was kind; one of the things about hanging out with a bunch of creative types who are working on their emotional awareness is that you get to meet some really caring people.

I’m back to watching the Gupta DVD’s again. I watched the first one again yesterday, and I could relate really strongly to it; perhaps even more so than last time. I think he’s hit the nail on the head. I’m pretty sure I don’t feel as exhausted as I used to.

I’m playing guitar this afternoon with a friend from my old guitar class. Then it’s off to Toastmasters tonight. Three things in one day… what, am I crazy? I’m taking tomorrow to catch up on my email. And that book report. And some rest. And remind me to listen to the meditation CD again. And…