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

Why So Negative?

Image somewhat related.

It’s strange in this modern day that people take such pride in the negative things about humanity. There is that quote that people often attribute to Marilyn Monroe that goes “if you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best”. I understand, as do many people, the intention behind it. It’s trying to make it clear that people, as a whole, are flawed. The thing is, it’s unlikely that there has ever been a time when people didn’t know that. Everybody knows that every person that they encounter has their own set of problems, difficulties, and things that make them less than perfectly appealing to be around.

“I’m a bitch and I know it”

The problem that has become apparent,however, is that far too many people use that quote and others as an excuse to be lazy about their interactions with people, or to be less pleasant. Most people that are encountered on a daily basis are decent people. They’re willing to have a conversation with a complete stranger, and don’t at all put up a front that suggests that they might have misanthropic tendencies. There are, however, a very few people however, who believe it is their duty to show the world and everyone in it just how crazy or angry they are. They hold it close to their heart as part of their identity. They go so far as to tattoo it on their body. They take any opportunity they can to tell you how “Loco” they are. Facebook would suggest that these people are the majority. Reality makes it clear that this is simply not the case.

I Miss Mayberry

It used to be that people put on their best face when they left the house. No matter what was going on in their home, they wanted everyone to believe that everything was going perfectly. The term “fake it till you make it” seems to apply pretty well here. The glut of TV shows and other media that suggest that every family is a dysfunctional band of misanthropes that has become popular in the past decade or so is disheartening. The Cosby Show was a wholesome program that did not center on race, people’s various mental problems, or disgusting things that people do. Instead it focused on creating good habits and following good patterns. There was even an episode in which Cliff taught Rudy how to mop the floor. Real, actual parenting happened right on the screen in front of all of America.

Full House was another of these shows. Bad things would happen, and instead of succumbing to the difficulties found, the characters would find ways to overcome. Oddly enough, the show featured a family that was far from normal as well, yet they were not portrayed as dysfunctional.

With the advent of Netflix, the show Fuller House has shown that this sort of wholesome programming is not only still acceptable, but popular.

Why, then, do we focus on the negative so readily?

A popular argument that has been bandied about for years is that we crave things that make us feel better about our own selves without having to actually do anything. This is why people still have losers from high school as friends on Facebook, even though they wouldn’t be caught dead associating with them in real life. It’s also why reality TV is such a big deal: we love to watch awful people be awful to each other so that by comparison our somewhat dysfunctional normalcy looks like an example.

That’s great for most people, but what about the ones who actually do go around being awful in real life?

Short answer: some people are just naturally assholes.

The long answer is a little more entangled. Due to Asperger’s, high functioning autism, or simply having had a bad upbringing with useless parents, some people just don’t know how to function normally within society. The problem comes when an Internet and a media full of people like that try to make it look normal, and suggest that it’s actually normal people who are abnormal.

Suddenly, treating people like human beings instead of treating them like statistics is frowned upon. This point will be expanded upon in a future article.

So, what’s the takeaway? I’ve got shit to do.

In short, normalcy is being attacked, as is decency, because those who are incapable or simply too lazy to do it are trying to make their version of normal into everybody’s. It’s just like the Healthy At Every Size movement. They simply can’t or won’t take the effort, and so try to normalize it while stigmatizing anything else.

Oddly enough, they take a lot of effort in doing so.

 

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.

An Evening in Downtown Phoenix.

I was at the Trump rally in Phoenix last night. I ended up getting there quite late, roughly 7 o’clock. The last few people who were going to get into the convention center were entering. The sidewalks were crowded, with protesters on one side of the street and Trump supporters on the other. The streets themselves were relatively clear, thanks to the phoenix police. Knowing that there was no chance of getting in, I wandered the streets and enjoy the sights and sounds of the throng on both sides of the street. 

Amid cries of “Fuck Trump!”, which has become the standard battle cry for the erudite leftists when they find they have no actual argument, there were a group of BLM members that were playing a rap song on a boombox that also featured the term “fuck Trump”. A highly imaginative group on that side of the street. 

Meanwhile, on the conservative side of the street, there were discussions going on as to what was being said by Donald Trump inside of the building, as many people were streaming it on their phones while they stood on the sidewalk. 

There was one guy wearing a white wife beater that was admonishing the conservatives by naming downtrodden communities like Harlem and Compton. Y’all wouldn’t understand, he said. Y’all don’t know, he said. How little this man does now. I grew up in a place like that. Unlike him, however, I didn’t sit around for decades feeling sorry for myself. I decided that my lot in life was not the hand I was dealt. I, therefore, did not sympathize with this man. 

I saw police on horses wearing riot gear, and police on the ground wearing the same. It was far too hot outside for what they were wearing. And yet, it was necessary, due to the situation that could pop off at any moment. When Trump’s address ended, The attendees, obviously conservatives and Trump supporters, filed past the protesters, with mere feet of space and a thin line of police tape separating the two groups. 

I was prepared for a fight at one point, as a man who had his little girl with him who couldn’t possibly have been above ten years old, was harassed and shouted at by the protesters with a level of profanity that a girl that young should not have to listen to. Her father was obviously perturbed and offended, as he flipped the bird at the group. Two protesters broke off from the rest and began to follow him and his daughter. I followed as well, prepared to put them both on the ground if they attacked the man and his daughter. Eventually they backed off and went back to their group, to resume shouting at the passing conservatives. 

While I wandered, I made sure to listen to the conversations going on. Something that struck me was how everyone on the liberal side of the street seems to be looking for a solution to their problems that didn’t involve actually solving them. They wanted somebody to point the finger at, someone to blame. Not themselves, though. Clearly, nobody can be responsible for their own life and decisions. They were born poor, and raised by single mothers. They can’t possibly have any responsibility in this world.

There were a small group of BLM members that were trying to blame Whitey for every problem they ever had, but they mainly kept to themselves.

There was one point during which a very large and muscular man wearing a trump shirt passed by. The protesters became conspicuously quiet at that moment. They who are so keen on violence to spread their word, but only toward those who are unlikely to hit back. It was very telling. 

Among the people wandering around observing was a man who was dressed in furs and wearing a spirit hood. He appeared to be a centrist, and was trying to let both sides know that they were wrong in opposing each other.

Anyways, once all of the attendees left, and the only people remaining where the conservatives and protesters of various ilk on opposite sides of the street, the police deployed teargas to disburse the crowds. I don’t blame them one bit. I’m sure that thousands of people on either side of the street did not have work to get to in the morning, and would’ve gladly stayed there all night carousing, arguing, and fighting. In that heat, in the clothing they had to wear, with dehydration weighing on them, I fully understand why the police did what they did. I also fully support it. They had families to get home to. They were tired, and had beds they wanted to collapse into. 

In short, the evening was relatively uneventful, compared to what was expected. Phoenix showed that it, as a collective, has a little more class than some of the other cities we’ve seen. I’m proud to live here, and look forward to seeing other cities live up to what I saw last night.

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Blame.

Life isn’t all unicorns and rainbows, but, who’s to blame?

Life doesn’t always go as well as we hope it does. Often, just when things are going smoothly, something will happen to muck it all up. It happens. That’s life. What do we do when things don’t go right, though? Often, we look for the reason it happened, and just as often, we fail to look at ourselves.

How often do you hear people blame some outside force for what happens in their lives? There are small things, like blaming the train or bus for your lateness to work; or blaming the dog for eating your homework. Those are small everyday things, and they generally get put into the category of Excuses. The thing with these is that everybody knows they are excuses. Oh, the train was late? You should’ve caught an earlier one. Your car broke down? Maybe you should’ve maintained it better. People don’t pander to these things.

Why, then, don’t more encompassing things get relegated to the Excuses bin? A common one I hear, often used by awful people about why they’re awful, is their upbringing. People without a father growing up are supposed to be given a hall pass to be lower achievers? Apparently, lacking a father suddenly makes you go out and commit crimes or engage in otherwise illicit behavior. Why is the crime rate higher among people raised by single mothers? Should we lay the blame on women?

Of course not. We’re smarter than that. To whom, then, shall the blame fall? A common one is society, or The System. The system is designed to keep people down, they say. It’s especially designed to keep down those of certain racial backgrounds.

I grew up in that system. Moreover, I grew up in the same household as someone who constantly blames the system. Both of us had no father figure. We had the same mother, who was single and went to work. Both of us had the same level of opportunity. He chose gang life and crime. I, while often invited to take part, did not. He’s been in and out of jail multiple times, and I, despite times of extreme hardship, and opportunity to commit crime, have not.

Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect. I have anger issues. I used to punch holes in the walls of my home every day. Thing is, I could have blamed a number of outside forces and not helped the problem. I could have blamed…

The System.

Lack of a father figure.

A negative home environment.

Bigotry.

Rich people.

Bullies.

My depression.

My anxiety disorder.

Poverty.

Instead, I paid attention to my triggers, and instead of trying to rid my life of them, I developed resistance to them. I rarely punch walls anymore, or anything, for that matter.

It might sound a little absurd, but most personal problems can be handled that way. It simply takes a little maturity and introspection. Oh, and patience. Tons of patience.

Maybe a little bit of personal responsibility, too.

It’s easy to talk about solutions to problems. It’s far easier to blame something or someone for them. How often did you hear people blame Obama for their financial woes? How often do you hear people blame Trump for random thugs committing violent acts in the name of freedom? How often do you hear people blame every current president for the country getting worse?

Not a single one of them has a real solution though.

Maybe if they worried about themselves instead of everything they can blame, they’d find a solution to their own problems real quick.

Making a better you takes work, and it takes knowing that the current you is not the best one. Aren’t you worth the work?

On Race

The nation seems to be obsessed with three things these days. Race, gender, and sexuality. Three things that, in the grand scheme of things, shouldn’t even be a blip on the radar compared to everything else that’s going on. My personal belief is that a few very rich people have a lot to gain by diving this country and ensuring that no cohesive action will come as a response to a tyrannical police state, or an outside threat.

Today, I will be covering the subject of race.

I have been told countless times that as a white man, I have no place talking about race because I have not experienced that favorite buzzword of the racist left: Institutionalized racism.

I am white. I spent the first twenty-two years of my life living in black neighborhoods. Yes, those kind. The kind that have their own english-ish patois, the kind where people sit on the stoop all day and deal drugs. Basketball games might end in a shooting. I remember knocking on my friend Kareem’s door and his dad answering, looking at me with disgust, and saying, “Kareem. Your white friend is here.”

I remember, despite my desire for peace, love, and friendship, having to become a very scary guy over the years as a survival mechanism. I remember hearing them say nigger far more than I ever heard any white person say it. And no, the word nigga is not different. Don’t fool yourself. I remember, before my intimidating transformation, being called every white racist term that exists, and it being okay because there were a hundred of them and one of me. I also remember that after my transformation, only ever being called Big Mike.

Most of you reading will say I never really experienced racism because I am white. I’d say different. I’d go as far as to say that I experienced that consuming and disempowering form that is “institutionalized” racism. My best friend’s aunt got evicted from her building despite never being late on rent, and being told that it was specifically because she was white, and they didn’t want any whites in their building. I dunno what you think, but I think that looks like racism.

I remember seeing what happened to black kids who liked rock or country, or for that matter, anything besides gangsta rap. The black girls who, in a rare occurrence, were born with straight hair. White girl hair.

I, however, also remember being partially raised by a Jamaican woman named Etty. My (single) mom would go to work, and Etty would watch me all day among her own kids. I wasn’t treated like a white kid. I was just treated like a kid. There were positive experiences growing up as the whitest of the black kids.

These days, I see the group Black Lives Matter all over the place, wedging themselves awkwardly into every special interest group they can. Interrupting Pride parades. Taking over entire college campuses. Segregating some college campuses. You know what I see? The KKK, minus the lynching. The KKK wanted segregation. The KKK tried to hijack every platform they could.

The difference? The KKK wasn’t given a voice. They have their little rallies, but you know who goes to them? Other white supremacists. They don’t get to hijack other people’s rallies to try to get a new audience, because they’d get driven out. And rightly so. No racist group deserves a platform. So why, then, does BLM get a platform? Why have they been allowed to continue for this long, despite how overtly racist they are and now trite and outdated the concept of race even is?

If you are teaching your children things about race that are based on experience and your own slanted thoughts, you’re already perpetuating the cycle.

I was in Wal-Mart with my son once, and he’d never really registered seeing a black person before. He asked me why the man over there had brown skin. I told him that the man’s ancestors, like grandmas and grandpas, came from a place where more melanin in the skin was necessary, and explained that melanin makes a person’s skin dark. He was happy with that answer. I didn’t tell him some stupid story about how god cursed them. I didn’t tell him that black people were any different from anyone else. I didn’t want to create a preconceived notion.

In recent years, however, he’s learning to distrust black people. A number of black families live in our neighborhood, thousands of miles from where I grew up, and their parents apparently decided to go the other route when teaching race to their kids. As a result, my white son is treated differently by the black kids than he is by the white kids. That’s not the way it should be.

Racism goes both ways. It’s institutionalized both ways, too, depending on where you come from. It’s wrong, no matter which side you’re on.

On Beards

Beards.

Apparently, something we can do in our sleep and without effort, contributes to our manliness. It’s become a meme unto itself. Just google beards, and you’ll see endless graphics on why only real men have beards, and how if your man has a beard but doesn’t know what this car part is, then he’s not a man.

I tend to disagree. These days, when I encounter a stranger with a big, bushy lumberjack-esque beard, he’s starting off in the negatives with me. Now, I realize that right away, half of you out there are getting in a huff, and likely untucking your flannel shirt from your skintight jeans to cool off, but hear me out. There were, are, and always will be, men who are not really men. Just as there are women who are not really women.

The term Beta Male gets thrown around a lot. It’s meant to denote a man who is deeply submissive, particularly to women, and gets offended over things that have no effect on him whatsoever. I still believe in the term, despite its growing unpopularity in today’s society. It describes many postmodern third-wave feminist males perfectly.

Feminized beta males have latched on to beards like third-wave feminists have latched on to armpit hair, as a way to passively gain man points. They still act the same, still carry signs that say HER BODY HER CHOICE at an anti-Trump protest, still tell their gross female friends that their period blood omelet is a-okay, and that they’d love to try some but too bad they’re vegan. They wear flannel shirts because lumberjacks are manly. They do Crossfit because kipping looks like real exercise to them.

They hide behind big, fluffy, unkempt beards in the hopes of fooling the people that see them. In the hopes of fooling young “woke” girls into sleeping with them. A guy used to have to learn to play the guitar and break it out at parties and play Wonderwall to get a girl. Now he just grows a beard.

I used to be a massive beta male. I know what one looks like. I know what it feels like in their skin. I know they think they’re legit. I did, back then. I thought my brother was a sexist pig because he sexualized Chantal Kreviazuk instead of embracing her music. I used to put women on a pedestal.

Side note: You can be a good singer, have a true message, and have a nice ass. Not you, though, J-lo. You just have the nice ass.

I grew up. I realized that my childish thoughts weren’t really in line with living a happy productive life. I’ve found that since then, a lot more people find me easy to get along with as well.

I also still have a beard, but it’s well-groomed and defined. It looks better on me than a bare face, and it shows I can take care of myself beyond the basics.

I’m looking forward to the day when beards are once again not just a fashion statement. When I can look at another man and know he grew one because he genuinely likes it rather than what he thinks it says about him.

In closing, I have a daughter who could fix most basic problems on a car like changing tires, brakes, and lights, when she was three. She also ran my jigsaw when I renovated one of our bathrooms. She doesn’t have a beard. She’s six now, and more manly than half the bearded dudes out there.

Maybe the man makes the man, and nothing more.