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.

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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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.

Two Kinds of People

A tale of two mindsets.

It’s a beautiful sunny day. Big, fluffy white clouds are in the bright blue sky, it’s a comfortable 85 out, and two friends meander down the sidewalk, sharing a laugh about something in their conversation. A beautiful vehicle drives by, and they both stop to silently admire it.

One says, to the air in front of them, “What a beautiful car. One day I’m gonna buy one of those. I’ll work my butt off till I get it.”

The other says, “What a beautiful car. Why should that guy get it and not me? Is he better than me? I deserve that car!”

This duality of viewpoints is common all over this great country of ours. It is easily found on the news, in TV shows, and in politics. You, the reader, and your best friend may even have this duality between you.

While it is great to have differing views in this world, in this case, the one borne on pettiness and jealousy is terribly wasteful. Sadly, this is the one that appears to be gaining ground in our modern age. In 2017, people are inundated with instant gratification. Those who play the long game are becoming fewer, and quieter, while the latter are becoming more vocal and gaining platforms with which to spout their detrimental views to like-minded masses.

This blog is an attempt to bring together those people who value personal responsibility. Each day we will cover something to add to the growing conversation of personal responsibility, providence, and presiding over our flocks with mindfulness.

Until next time, keep honing your life.