Loneliness and My New Men’s Group

I recently joined a men’s group which now meets at my house once a fortnight. The idea of joining such a group was suggested to me a few years ago by a mentor who developed CFS after a traumatic car accident in which a friend of his was killed, and subsequently recovered by studying and practising emotional intelligence. They’re also highly regarded in the men’s work movement and in books like Steve Biddulph’s excellent book Manhood. A few years back I started hearing about them all over the place and when I start hearing about an idea from multiple sources, I begin paying attention.

It’s taken a few attempts to find a group that really works for me; this is my third men’s group in fact. The first one didn’t meet often enough to really get traction, and some of the participants seemed so stuck in their own ways that I found the meetings very frustrating. We spent tremendous amounts of time on situations that had seemingly trivial solutions, like one guy who was in a lengthy and expensive legal battle with his sister. One the basis of his telling of his side of the story, we all thought he owed her an apology not more litigation. He didn’t see it, and instead wanted our moral support for continuing to attack her in the courts over a dodgy property deal that he had engineered. I didn’t enjoy being around physically healthy guys who were wasting their energy on crap like that when my health was stopping me from moving forward.

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Unrefreshing Sleep!

Woke up this morning feeling depressed and washed out. “Unrefreshing sleep”, as they say. Well, I’ve never been a morning person so this is just more of the same. I think it was mainly about feeling overwhelmed and the zoned-out feeling in my head doesn’t help. I tried some anti-histamines yesterday to see if it did anything to my nasal congestion; but it did not. I also tried some Benadryl PE cough suppressant to try and help me get to sleep last night, and I think that helped a bit.

This afternoon I went to my men’s group, which I really enjoyed. There’s something about having a group of guys who don’t judge you; who accept you for who you are and where you’re at. I few years ago I would never have told anyone that I was depressed; the stigma would have been too great and I would have felt ashamed. But what do you know… everyone in the group has been depressed at one time or another. It’s normal. It’s natural. It’s not what you want, but it’s part of the whole experience of being human.

Meanwhile, I have big plans for the future, and I’m working towards them. For some time I’ve been working towards becoming a professional public speaker or comedian. I’m not exactly sure how it’s going to pan out, but I’ve got a few ideas for going forward. The main thing to deal with is my fear of failure. It’s unlikely that I’m going to hit the nail on the head first go, but I’m tired of feeling listless and like I’m not going anywhere. My fatigue is worst on the days when I have to get up in the mornings, but I cope reasonably well in the evenings. So evening gigs should be do-able. I need to keep reminding myself to be patient because it’s going to take some time to get the skills that I need and to do the networking that I need in order to get bookings. In the meantime, I’ll coach other people and pass on the communication skills that I’ve learned so far – They say that the way to fulfil your dreams is to help others fulfil theirs. Having a direction of some sort leaves me feeling more optimistic and less anxious than when I just have a vague plan and little real direction.

Another big weekend!

Just had another big weekend…

Saturday morning I got up bright and early (well, 8:30am-ish) to pick my parents up from the city after their 10 day cruise. They were in a good mood, so everything was pretty sweet… although I almost had a car accident driving them home. I’ve never actually had an accident, and I’m a really careful driver, but something about having my parents around just stresses me out. I immediately feel judged, and it’s not in a positive sense.

I came back home and had a nap before heading out to Men’s group in the afternoon. It seems to be a group of fellow recovering (and perhaps not-so-recovering) “nice guys”. Not a whole heap of assertiveness, too polite & worried about offending other people. At first the meeting seemed to be moving at a glacial pace; lots of talking-around things and too many words for too little communication. But it got more interesting when we started sharing what was going on in the group. My observation that I’d had a number of instances recently of girls I liked falling for jerks (instead of me!) and the whole “nice guy” thing led to an exercise based of some of David Deida’s work about sticking to your mission without being side-tracked by women. This was particularly relevant to me after last weekend’s psychodrama vs spa party debacle, where I ended up glad that I didn’t change my plans when Vanessa invited me around for a girly spa party which didn’t turn out the way it does in my fantasies.

After men’s group we went out for dinner and bonded a bit more, largely talking about the topic on every single guy’s mind: women.

Saturday night I hit a couple of nightclubs in the city to do some approach exercises that my dating coach had set me. I was excited about it as I headed into town, and my excitement turned to dread as I approached the actual door of the nightclub. I wandered around for a while thinking “No way, I’m chickening out”, before deciding that wasn’t the sort of guy I wanted to be. I used to have a full-blown panic attack just walking into a nightclub, but this time it wasn’t so bad. I made my way in, and approached numerous groups of girls with the intention of saying hi, and having a fun 90 second conversation. My heart raced and I felt anxious before every approach, but I think the only way to get over that is to actually learn to do it by practising. About half of the women I approached were friendly and/or receptive, and half hostile. I really appreciated the friendly ones! Special mention goes to the lovely girl on the dance floor who was clearly nervous talking to me, but engaged me anyway instead of just walking away like some did, and the two girls having an argument in which one had just told the other to kill herself. I suggested that wasn’t such a great idea. Awkward!

Later in the evening I met up with Danny, a guy I met at a dating workshop recently, who was keen to try some approaches. We acted as wing men for each other, taking turns approaching. He seems a bit dodgy to me, and was really drunk; but having the support of another guy to go back to if it bombs was really helpful. I don’t think many girls get just how nerve-wracking it is for decent guys to go and approach them, and they’re tired of getting the jerks all the time who don’t really give a fuck. I went home about 1:30am feeling really proud of myself for going through with it.

Sunday morning I woke up feeling pretty good, considering the late night. In fact, I felt the best I had in quite a while. I slept in till mid-day, and then went to a chronic fatigue support group which I had been meaning to go to for about 6 months, but always seemed to have something on at the time. I felt a bit apprehensive about meeting them, but they all turned out to be really lovely. And one of the girls in particular was really sweet. Bonus! It was cool being able to talk to other people who understood what it was like being ill for so long, and who weren’t judgemental. Some were obviously handling it emotionally better than others, but we could all relate on a lot of things from reactions of family members to the devastating effect of the afternoon snooze! I’ve got this plan of recovering before the meeting comes around next month, but I’ll go along anyway.

Sunday night I headed back into the city for more rep (acting practise), which went pretty well. No big breakthroughs or disappointments. Some of the students were expressing scepticism about whether the school we’re at and what we’re being taught is the best method. I find I’m more easily swayed by other people’s opinions on some things than I’d like; maybe they’re right, but hey, I’m having fun and getting heaps of practise at being more assertive so it’s got to be a good thing. I just have this tendency to think “but what if that thing over there is better, and I’m missing out?”.

All in all, it was a really good weekend. I woke up this morning feeling a bit more zoned out than I’d like, and felt disappointed. I have a busy week this week; kinda pushing it to my limit I fear. That seems to make me feel more zoned out and anxious about things generally. But it’s all fun stuff that I want to do. Might have to reschedule some stuff till next week; we’ll see.

Highs and Lows

I feel ok today. Woke up and did soften-and-flow and the positive visualisation. I feel stuffed in the head and tired as usual, but pretty up-beat. Hey, it’s a weekend and the sun is shining. You gotta love that.

I’ve had a heap of highs and lows this week. Been feeling quite tense, though nowhere near as bad as mid last year. My acting course is going brilliantly; I’m really enjoying it. It’s awesome to have finally found something I really love doing again. I don’t know if the novelty will wear off, but at the moment I’m really having great fun doing repetition practice with the other students. It’s a fantastic opportunity to play around with a cool bunch of dudes. I especially love rep’ing with the girls; I just feed off their energy and invariably have them in stitches laughing and flirting with me by the end. I kept teasing this girl like crazy last night and she kept swinging between offended-but-amused and laughing uncontrollably. Told me I should be a stand-up comic. I’ll consider that.

I never seem to get angry during the repetition practice even when people are having a go at me. Whenever I start heading towards being angry or sad, I laugh. I know it’s a defence mechanism and I’ve been looking at that as something to try and “fix”, but now I’m thinking maybe I’ll just accept it. I dunno how much I go along with the idea that repressed anger causes illnesses like chronic fatigue anyway. Maybe I’m just not an angry guy. If people insult me and I just laugh it off, that sounds like a pretty good coping mechanism. Much better than getting hurt and upset about it like I used to. So what if I never really get angry? And a stand-up comic who laughs off hecklers and puts them in their place would go down rather well. Perhaps it is my second calling.

The downside is that when I feel low, I really feel low. And it comes on quickly. Lately it’s always triggered by my book not selling. It’s like the world is rejecting me because it doesn’t like what I have to offer, which pushes my buttons big time. I gave up engineering because I got burned out and bored, and doing something more creative in the arts still appeals to me; but the reality is that it’s a shitload easier to get a high-paying engineering job than it is to make a fortune selling e-books on the internet! My conservatism and unwillingness to fork out money on a project that’s not earning anything doesn’t help; I’m massively risk-averse. My savings are my security, especially when I don’t feel up to working. I don’t want to go blowing it on some crazy money-making scheme that may not pan out. And the more time I put into promoting the e-book when it’s not selling, the more I go through these goddam mood swings. Besides, it’s meant to be fun. It’s not fun when I’m worrying about whether people like it or not. That’s just old needy Graham popping up again in a new context.

I’m considering taking next week off altogether; but I know I’m addicted to validation and people purchasing my wares is just another form of that, so I can pretty much guarantee I’ll keep at it. I’m not really following Ashok’s advice to stop working though. My meditation retreat is coming up in a few weeks time, so that will definitely give me some time out.

I’ve also joined a men’s group, and we have our first meeting this afternoon. I’m looking forward to that; I’ve never had really close friendships with many men before, and I think it’s something I’m lacking a bit. It should be a good support mechanism too.