Life With an Anxiety Disorder

It was 1987. I was five years old, playing out in front of my house. I was with my friend Darryl, and we were using sticks to try and dig out the edges of a sewer grate because we thought that would be a great way to meet the ninja turtles. The sewer grate was in the middle of the parking lot that was part of our housing complex. On the grass in front of my house, my ThunderCats castle sat, a hose going through the front window. I like the idea of a castle with a waterfall.

Darryl got up quickly, seeing a danger that I couldn’t. I turned and began to stand. At that moment, a car shoved my body to the ground. I woke up about 50 feet away, under the car, having been dislodged by a speedbump. I stood up and ran home, passing out on the grass in front of the house.

I remember sitting in the car on the way to the hospital. I was in the car that hit me. I looked down at my leg, seeing meat and bone. I was interested in it, and tried to touch it. My mom stopped me, and told me I was in shock and that’s why it didn’t hurt. She asked me what I was doing when I got hit. When I told her that I was looking for the ninja turtles, she started asking me questions about them. She was keeping my brain going so I wouldn’t pass out.

At the hospital, things were much different. They didn’t want to anesthetize me because I was in shock, so they stitched my leg immediately and without anesthetic. It was a very cold stinging feeling.

In the years that followed, I remember things like walking back to the school from the schoolyard and feeling like something was pulling me backward. My friend Michael asked me why I’m walking as slow as an ant. I had no idea what it was. At such a young age, it might well have been a ghost holding on to me, preventing me from walking.

I was suddenly terrified to get on buses. The feeling was much stronger then, almost incapacitating. A complete, enveloping terror. My mother couldn’t make heads or tails of it, and eventually took me to a psychiatrist. I was soon diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder. The likelihood is that it came from head trauma from being hit by the car.

My ability to socialize was stunted. School was difficult. I had no idea what my triggers were, I had no idea that triggers even existed. I would find myself in blinding terror in the most innocuous of situations. Even as a youngster, I had the presence of mind to explain it to the person in front of me though. That didn’t stop me from getting bullied. The bullying, in fact, became so severe that my mother moved me to a different school. In retrospect, it was easily a very burdensome process for my mother.

Junior high came, and though I made friends, my disorder still relegated me to the realms of obscurity. This lasted through high school. Girls made it very clear to me that they liked me, but I could do nothing about it except seem unfriendly.

As I grow into an adult, I felt afraid to do anything but take the path of least resistance. Getting and keeping a job was difficult. No one understood what my problem was, despite knowing I had this disorder. My doctor, on multiple occasions, even recommended that I go on disability. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to be limited.

I met my wife online. I had a fairly popular blog in the early 2000’s. Does anyone remember Mightyskunk from open diary? She was one of my readers, and we began talking on MSN, and eventually on the phone. She took a plane ride up to Toronto to meet me. My anxiety attacks lessened around her. She understood me, and even learned to soothe my attacks.

Skipping far ahead, I ended up moving to the United States. She and I got married, and I started holding down good jobs. My confidence grew. I also began looking at my anxiety attacks analytically. I started studying them. Instead of avoiding my triggers, I tried to encounter as many as possible. Eventually I got a drivers license, despite all reason. Driving is one long anxiety trigger.

After years forcing myself into my triggers head-on, my strength against my anxiety disorder has grown. Though regular daily life is still a constant source of terror, I’ve become good at masking my symptoms and sublimating the terror within me. There are still things that I won’t do. I love roller coasters, and go on them any chance I get. The Tower of terror at Disneyland, however, is a different animal. The worst anxiety attack I have ever had was on that ride. Just thinking about it scares me, even though I know it’s deeply irrational. I actually find the humor in the situation.

I still need to pause and compose myself when a person is walking toward me. I still have difficulty making eye contact during handshakes, though that’s mainly due to habit at this point.

In the 30 years that I have spent dealing with a severe anxiety disorder, I have found that confronting it head on is by far the best remedy. Avoiding triggers and succumbing to fear only makes it stronger.

In related news, has anyone out there listened to the Black Eyed Peas? Even if they’re not your kind of band, they cover some interesting subject matter, including anxiety disorders. They actually have a song where they discuss an anxiety disorder, and how truly terrifying it is.

 

I don’t fear none of my enemies

And I don’t fear bullets from Uzi’s

I’ve been dealing with something that’s worse than these

That’ll make you fall to your knees and thats

The anxiety

The sane and the insane rivalry

Paranoia’s brought me to my knees

Lord please please please

Take away my anxiety

Millennium

The year 1999 was a huge year for me in formative terms. I have more memories of that year than any other. It was a time of strong emotion, of the strengthening of bonds between friends, of learning just how awful and how great my small world at the time was.

For a little perspective, the version of me that exists now is actually a little disgusted that the 1999 version of me existed. I think, in retrospect, that I needed that version of myself in order to become the person I am. I was seventeen, had dropped out of school, and didn’t have a job. My friends were potheads, druggies, and drunks. It was a hot summer, and the neighborhood smelled a lot like the East Indian shops that lined the streets. Strong rotten smells of fish from the convenience stores, and acrid curry smells from the restaurants.  Scarborough was a garbage heap, and still is, as far as I’m concerned.

I was poor, but managed on a couple of dollars each day. With no perspective, I didn’t think anything of how little it was, or that I got it from my mother. I was deeply depressed that summer, had been all year, and had already made a suicide attempt by taking my entire bottle of antidepressants. I’m going to assume it didn’t work. I slept for two days straight, and had muscle spasms for a year or so after.

The song “Millennium” by Robbie Williams was big for a few of the months that I spent being “Depressed, Summer ’99 Mickey”. The song itself was somewhat mediocre, though it had a very unique sound, and was on TV or the radio constantly. I was only sleeping an hour or two a day, usually between eight and ten in the morning.  I often had bouts of a week or so in which I didn’t sleep at all. I’m sure I could have qualified as certifiably insane.

I have only heard that song a few times since that summer and only once since leaving Canada. It always brings me back to a specific day, during sunset, walking to the store with a friend, noting how yellow everything looked, and how the street looked shiny despite being dry. The reflections off the windows of the apartment buildings on one side and the shops to the other side made it even more yellow. A car passed by with Millennium playing on the radio. I mentioned how the song sounds shiny. Kevin, my friend, agreed.

The neighborhood stunk to high heaven, we were poor and depressed, he may have been a little drunk, but the world was shiny for a moment.

A Literal Event.

Everything is an event these days. The news is always talking about some weather event, or active shooter event. Last I remember, an event was something that you went to, and knew what it was before hand. When we were kids, we used to get excited when we heard our parents talking about an event happening. 
People like to talk about how the meanings of words change over the course of years, or decades, or centuries. There has been much tutting and controversy over the word literally, and its use as a secondary form of the word figuratively, which is its opposite. I myself have found my chagrin in the misuse of this word, when the actual word is neither that far away, nor more difficult to use. I figuratively want to climb out of my skin when I hear it.

It’s funny, though. I’ve heard people say that the English language is the hardest language to learn, not only because of our past, present and future tenses of words, or the fact that our plurals don’t follow one uniform rule. Gooses and mooses are afraid of mouses. Don’t even get me started on sheeps.

Aside from that, there’s so much slang, and alternative uses of words. You might want to eat a crayfish, but not realize(realise?) that the fish isn’t cray. 

It’s a subject that could fill a book. My AutoCorrect attempted to say that it could fill a buck. That last statement alone is a little gross. Not gross in terms of quantity, gross in terms of unpleasantness.

I think I’m just going to end this one here, before I get myself in trouble. And, not the good kind.

My Road. Or, Escape from Ism’s

I am a 35-year-old man. I have a wife, four kids, and a house. I have worked plenty of different jobs, and have done well at all of them. I have pride in myself, and a desire to bring that feeling to others.

A mere 15 years ago, I was a 20-year-old liberal. I held women on a pedestal, I believed Margaret Sanger and Gloria Steinem were heroes of modern humanity. I believed feminism was all earth needed to make it good. I believed in socialism. All of the liberal tropes, I carried proudly in my heart.

When I was shown alternative viewpoints, I would shy away from them, assured that I was right and that I didn’t need to read them or hear them. They were wrong, after all. A huge rift between my brother and I likely stemmed from that, as I would demonize him for even the slightest infraction when it came to the fairer sex, let alone an expectation that I would, maybe, act like a man!

I was a socially awkward loser. I lived at home with mom. I played video games or had “deep” discussions with my friends. I pined after women, rather than have the balls to go talk to them. I was merely a man, and they were goddesses, after all. That, or they were whores. There is no middle ground for that kind of guy, right?

I hated sports, because I hated competition. I hated the idea that there had to be a winner and a loser. You know who else hates those ideas? Losers. And I was one. Of course I didn’t want a reminder when I could just dominate a video game.

I thought individuality was paramount. I didn’t want to look like everyone else, and I used to have a ridiculous hairstyle. Maybe one day I’ll post a picture of it. If I’d had the money, I would likely have ended up with some sort of piercings or tattoos. Luckily I was too much of a loser to get a job.

I hated Republicans, and thought that they were uneducated religious zealots. I thought guns were terrifying, and ought to be erased from the landscape altogether. I believe that jobs were not simply a means to an end, that instead they were the trap you got caught in. I knew that’s how people got money, but I also knew that no matter how much my mom worked, nothing ever got better. I thought it was due to The System.

I was content, languishing in generational poverty. I was 20 and didn’t have a job yet. I had dropped out of school, because I thought my ideas were more valuable than those of the “System”. I had no money, no prospects, and no plan.

The place were I grew up was a place where people were not simply poor in their wallet. They were poor inside of their own heads. That kind of poor is different. No amount of money can fix it. Have you seen those people who win $100 million in the lottery, and it’s gone within a year? They have no investments, and they’re broke, despite having five Lamborghinis. Those, of course, eventually get taken away.

That’s what generational poverty does to a person. It makes them unable to function with money. The problem comes when people see their poor roots as a source of pride, something to cling to, rather than as something to escape from. They cling to their old ways, fearing that they will lose themselves in pursuit of a better life.

I escaped. I got my GED, and developed a healthy work ethic. I grew into the person I needed to be. I didn’t lose anything. What I gained is my true identity, and a new legacy for future generations of my family.

Aside from that, I crave opposing viewpoints. Knowing what the other side thinks allows you a bird’s-eye view of an issue. Lately, I find that most people’s views stem from selfishness. I know that view very well, as it was once mine.

It’s always going to be a hard road. Why not take the one that will bring you somewhere?

Open yourself up to opposing views, uncomfortable situations, the possibility of mockery and failure. Succeeding at laying down is not success at all.

 

Perpetual Adolescence

Something strange to notice these days, is how much time young adults spend trying to remain in their adolescence. A record number of young adults or choosing to remain living at home with their parents, or living with roommates into their thirties. While some of these people have good jobs and contribute at home; not their home, but their parents home, many of them eke out an existence working at a Starbucks or similar coffee shop, or in a music store. They tend to have useless degrees as well, such as sociology, associates level psychology, or the dreaded gender studies. These are expensive courses that put people in terrible that while not preparing them financially to pay that debt back.

These are the people you see protesting all the time. They join groups like Antifa and travel around the country, unwashed and angry. They’ve got the time for it, because they’re not working an actual job. They tend to be very aggressive toward those that promote the STEM fields in school, and try to surround themselves with people much younger than them, more impressionable. 

Psychologist and cultural critic Jordan Peterson calls this a Peter Pan existence. This title makes sense. Peter didn’t want to grow up, and despised anyone who did. Captain Hook was the specter of adulthood, with the crocodile constantly chasing him, ticking, ticking, constantly ticking. A literal form of mortality. Time had already gotten a taste for him, and wanted the remainder.

Isn’t that just how it is though? We spend every day heading toward the end, inevitable and inexorable. We don’t get a choice in it, and yet, among the generation known as millennials, there is an idea that you can remain young until you suddenly wither and die. 

These are people for whom, when they reach their thirties and finally have to open themselves up to reality, things are going to be much harder because of the years they have wasted thinking that they are the ones that know better. These are people who are going to be bitter, angry, frustrated that their reward for trying to change the course of the country will be laboring until their final day.

Those of you who are reading this and have escaped that fate, good for you. Those of you who are reading this, however, and are still paying money into a course that’s only going to teach you how to divide people up into groups, get out before it’s too late. You deserve better, and so do the people around you.

There’s nothing that says personal responsibility better than piloting your life in a direction that’s not going to hurt yourself or those around you.

On Motivation

Most people think they know their motivation. Do you?

What motivates you?

Motivation is not just a buzzword. Your motivation is a deeply personal thing that only you truly know. You might not even know what it is, and this lack of knowledge could be what keeps you from reaching your true potential.

These days, in the United States, it seems like most people are motivated by bills, and keeping up with the joneses. There is such a desire to look successful even when you’re not, that people will work miserable jobs, long hours, and have an overall unfulfilling life.

When these people were in elementary school, and the teacher asked what they want to do, how likely is it that one of them said, ” I want to watch my hours burn away in a mailroom, and then working in front of a fryer, while my friendships erode around me”

More likely they said they want to be a firefighter or a police officer or a doctor. More likely their answers were rooted in the desire to do a job they’d enjoy rather than the desire to pay the bills using the job as a vehicle.

Are you doing what you like right now? If not, are you pointed in that direction?

You ought to be. If you hate your job, your free time ought to be spent finding a new one. A more fulfilling one. Maybe even a career. Your free time could be used to make yourself better for the life you want. School, or online coding classes, anything that will help you become the person you want to be.

I’ve found my motivation. My motivation is joy. Over the next few years, you’ll learn more about me, and you’ll see why it took three decades to figure this out, and why it’s such a revelation to me.

Until then, go seek out your motivation.