Okay, what I’m doing isn’t exactly hacking standard anxiety. I’m suffering from post-traumatic stress, so it’s a little different and more intense for me than the usual anxiety I’ve suffered from for years. I don’t normally have panic attacks or have problems sleeping–that’s been a recent development. I have, however, had these weird thought processes my entire life: worrying about what people think, replaying situations in my head where I could have said something better or smarter (or not said anything at all), and not feeling comfortable in social situations unless I know everyone there.
There was a reason I smoked for over twenty years. And also a reason that I was never the designated driver at a party. Not once. Not ever.
I’ll tell you, there is no better way to bust through all that shit than to post about it on a popular blog. Man oh man, it’s all out in the open now.
I’ve prepared a bunch of posts for next week that will go live while I’m traveling. While you’re reading about my desire to commune with Nature on Monday, I’ll be in Victoria, BC getting my ass kicked by an internationally respected MMA trainer. On Tuesday, while you’re learning about some of the first symptoms I experienced and the lack of Tranquility in my life, I’ll be somewhere in northern Washington State, probably Spokane or Seattle. I’m hoping to get some bloodwork done to see if anything turns up, but so far scheduling for that has been erratic. That’s okay–the Universe will provide it if it’s needed. I’m not sure it is, but I really do want to keep this scientific–or as scientific as someone with a Journalism degree can be. (Those of you that have read The Hidden Plague may appreciate my ability to “translate” literature into terms that most people can understand and implement into their lives, so there’s that.)
While you’re reading about some of the trauma I experienced last July and my lack of Movement for the last year on Wednesday, I’m going to be visiting with someone with Hidradenitis suppurativa in Vancouver, Washington. I’m very excited to meet her in person. We’ve been Facebook friends for a while now and it will be amazingly healing for me to look into the eyes of someone I’ve helped. And someone who has helped me, for that matter. Loni stuck up for me in the most incredible way, a few months ago when I lost it in an HS forum on Facebook. In fact, a few women did, and I’m incredibly grateful. Most of them have since reached out to me, and have told me that they were worried about me at the time.
On Thursday, when you’re reading all about my take on Orgasm, I’ll be in Ashland, Oregon visiting a friend who recently moved into a yurt for a year. I’m really excited to see how she’s simplified her life, and what she chose to keep. The yurt is small. It’s on some beautiful land, and I can’t wait to see it. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay in the area, but while you’re reading about Bonding on Friday, and Play, Sleep, and Attention the following week, I’ll be making my way down to Northern California, where I have too many friends to list who are all worried sick about me. I miss them so much.
After that, I’ll be at Harbin. For a week or so, but who knows. That place is magical, and is where I’ll be doing most of my decompression. I’m not sure where I’ll be after Harbin. I haven’t decided yet. I’m letting fate figure out the rest for me. You’d think that lack of a plan would make me anxious. It’s somewhat strange (even to me) to find the opposite is true.
So, let’s get to the point of this post: how exactly do I expect to “hack” this problem I’ve got? And how can I help you do the same?
Anxiety and mood are so subjective. There are so many variables that you just can’t control, and not everything will work for everyone. Does it mean that a particular line of therapy has “failed” if you seem to be making improvements and then a friend dies? If I suggested playing music as “therapy” and you hate music, is that going to help you or make things worse? How do you account for the differences in personality, environment, and support that we all have? How do you chart it? It’s not as if this is a double blind, placebo controlled study.
That’s why I’m keeping the variables fairly neutral–those Primal needs I mentioned earlier this week, things that have been part of our lives for millennia–and tracking the effects. My theory is that those needs are something every human being requires in order to be whole and happy. I propose that removing them from your life will make you anxious, depressed, and isolated, and that reintroducing them will have positive benefits.
Since I first started posting about this, I have been bombarded with specific suggestions about different types of therapies I can try or what could be going on. NLP, CBT, DBT, EFT, guided meditation, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, adrenal supplements, cutting out caffeine, the list goes on and on and isn’t complete in any way. There is always something new to try, just like fad diets and social media platforms. That doesn’t mean that all of those different types of therapies aren’t beneficial in and of themselves, but there is a reason there are hundreds of them: what works for one person may not work for another. Unless you know yourself pretty well, chances are you’d have to try a few different things before you found one that worked particularly well.
It’s up to you to take each one of the variables and turn it into something that means something to you. Take, for example, Tranquility. I’ve always been stressed out by too much stuff and too many choices, so part of my Tranquility “therapy” is stripping down to the basics and getting rid of a lot of stuff. That may not be an issue for you–or you may be holding onto physical things because of trauma. I’ve found in the past that hydrotherapy is very calming and makes me feel amazing. What if your trigger is water? What if a loved one drowned and that’s why you’re in the state you’re in? Is submerging yourself in boiling and then freezing water over and over and over going to make you feel calmer? Even the word tranquility itself is subjective. For me, it encompasses simplicity, rest, relaxation, and quiet and includes things like massage. For you, it may mean dancing to electronica for hours until you’ve reached a higher plane of being.
Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing some things I’m using to track my mood. You may be surprised at my sources. I hope they’ll be useful to you. If they’re not, you’ll have to find a way to track this stuff on your own. Or don’t track it at all. Just use “initial mood” as your control and a subjective “I feel better,” “I feel the same,” or “I feel worse” as your dependent variable. Do what works for you. The goal is for you to feel better. That’s all that matters.
[box] If you have a friend who suddenly starts acting out of character, call them on it. Actually, call them on the phone. Listen to their tone of voice. Are they okay? Do you need to say something to their spouse or parents? Don’t be afraid of stepping over the line if you’re truly concerned. You may save a life, or at the very least, a career or a marriage. They may have a lightbulb moment, like I did, and realize their life is spiraling out of control. You may do nothing but piss them off and have to deal with them being pissed off at you for months, but if they’re a good friend they’ll eventually come around.
Reach out if you’re worried. My friend Joshua texted me several times a day while I was at my worst. He prayed for me. I woke up to encouraging words each morning. He sent me a book on DBT therapy, which helped him when he was going through this same thing years earlier. He sent me a beautiful drawing in the mail. He never stopped.
In this age of social media and technology, we’re more isolated and disconnected from one another than we’ve ever been. If you think a friend is acting strange or needs support, reach out. You have no idea how helpful that support can be.[/box]