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

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.

You can McFeast in Valhalla

This might be a long one. I’m also trying a new format, where I link to the things I’m referencing.

There’s an ever-growing and obnoxious subgroup of people. They walk around looking tired or stressed, and will tell anyone around them that they only slept two hours last night, or that they didn’t even sleep at all. In a group, they compete over who has worked the most hours on the least sleep. I’ve done it before. I once stayed up for six days straight(working a night shift at a prison). By night four, I was pouring an entire 80 Hour Energy(citrus-y heaven in a bottle) into a Mountain Dew twice a night. The flavor alone could wake the dead. I called my Sergeant at 3 AM on night seven, because I had begun hallucinating. I was seeing cat people wandering the pods. I had been the first book in the Tide Lords series, by Jennifer Fallon, and apparently the slave race in that book had embedded itself in my mind.

I digress. I was running on caffeine, yes, but I was also sustained by the knowledge that others knew the sacrifice I was making of my relationship with sleep. Look what I’m doing for my professional life, at the expense of my health. It’s fairly childish, along the lines of twice-as-much-in-the-same-place, uphill-both-ways. It’s kind of jumped the shark, too. More and more, people are complaining about that person. Not only do they not want to be compared to that person by the company, but they don’t want to deal with that person either.

This Wakeful Warrior tends to survive on caffeine and junk food. They run to McDonald’s or the local gas station, or, if they can’t leave the premises, the vending machines will have to suffice. Rarely do you see this person bring a lunch from home. They’re too busy hustling. While their health declines, though, their profits don’t often go up in a commensurate manner. That’s okay. Sleep is for the weak. They’ll McFeast in Valhalla.

Thing is, balance is what’s necessary. Many millionaires will tell you that they did work harder or longer than the average person, but not by much. Their work/life balance was still in order. Listen to the Dave Ramsey Show long enough, and you’ll find that he talks to a lot of millionaires who made it theirs through consistency, rather than destroying their body or mind for it. People making 60K a year as a couple. Ordinary people.

In Bronnie Ware’s Regrets of the Dying, in which she has spent years speaking to those on their deathbed, it is notable that Working Too Much is second only to Living to the Expectations of Others. Oddly enough, the two go hand in hand.

That guy at the office, talking about how little sleep he’s working on, or how many doubles he’s done this week, seems to be fishing for compliments. Or sympathy. He’s trying to outshine everyone else’s expectations of themselves. He’s trying to outrun the company’s expectations of him. If he were only doing it for himself, he wouldn’t talk about it every day. He’ll be lucky if he gives himself time to regret it.

I’m currently experiencing my own state of cognitive dissonance in the wake of my recent job loss. My wife decided to go out and find herself a job that exactly replaces the wages lost from mine, and it’s a cushy one, too. She decided it was high time that I stayed home and got a few books written while I keep the house up. I want to do that, and plan on taking advantage of it, but the role I’ve played for so long and the expectations of those around me are causing me to be irrational about the situation. I need to stay focused on what’s best in the long run, as my writing will likely yield far more than any job I could get.

In the long run.

Here’s hoping I can find some balance.

For now, I’m signing off.

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.