No, this isn’t a commentary on the ongoing rebellion in Libya, and no, this is also not a response to what’s been going on with the stick-fella from Out Of The Box.
This is about stress.
Lately, I’ve been talking about my physical issues with friends, and even on this site: poor breathing, nervous tics, etc.. After being on these allergy pills for a few days, I’m happy to say that my breathing has improved (though that could have just as well been timing). I’d been going for walks and started finally working out again, in the hope of exhausting some of my nervous energy, but it didn’t do a thing. In fact, the day that I first worked out found me having the worst problems since I started taking the pills. I’m someone who likes to understand things, so I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading on the subject of nerves, anxiety, tension… all of it.
So far, I’ve been stumbling through some interesting things.
I’ve talked plenty about unexpressed emotion, so I won’t regurgitate it here… but I think it’s all finally catching up with me. What I had previously thought I might be able to relieve by physical exertion is actually, most likely, anxiety – not the kind that is fueled by fear of what’s ahead, but by what is in the past. I thought I might’ve been having some kind of heart/circulation issues, but after a clean bill of health and even by the doc’s own guess, it’s probably just tension. Even as I was writing this, I noticed my shoulders were pulled up and tight. I’ve even been having minor panic attacks and had times where I’m in a haze and everything just kind of feels unreal.
Now, I’ve had asthma problems before, but that’s not what this is. I’ve been stuck in my house with nothing to do for weeks before, but that’s not what this is. I’ve even been down in the dumps and very unhappy with life, but again, this has all been very different than anything I can recall from before. Not to make it dramatic, but I’m actually at a very important crossroads right now, I think. I live a life of avoidance and restraint, but I think my body has reached its limit. I’ve often joked that one day my patience will give out and I’ll just snap and start throwing tables and punching old people and killing everyone in my way. Who’da thunk I’d ACTUALLY just reach capacity and physically implode ;).
My dad has zero throttle on his emotions, and my mom bottles everything up, so I didn’t grow up with a frame of reference for how to express my emotions in a healthy way – and, heck… with everyone I’ve met, I still don’t know that I do. My gut reaction to my emotions is this: the good ones, like joy or love, are fine to express.. though not too much, but the bad ones shouldn’t be thrust onto anyone, so they should probably never even come out. Why? I’m sure we could find plenty of reasons, but the main one is that dad of mine that I mentioned. He’d explode in anger, frustration, or sadness, and the innocent bystanders in his family had to take it. Now, I was born a very patient and nice person (that isn’t a falsity I’ve pushed upon myself at all) however, I’ve obviously made a conscious effort over the years to be a better person than my parents and learn from their mistakes (as it should go, from generation to generation). What’s ACTUALLY happened, though, is that I’m a horrible combination of my folks; I have all of the huge emotions of my dad, but keep them all inside like my mom. So, I still have these extreme feelings, they just don’t go anywhere. In other words, a bomb waiting to go off ala the movie Falling Down. There is a scene in The Sopranos (one of my favorite moments, actually), that exemplifies this pent-up emotion. If you’ve not seen the series, and would like to keep yourself from ruining anything, don’t watch, but if you do… it’s the moment at about 1:45 when he charges and punches the wall in rage:
I’m not some sociopath mobster, so why the relation of that scene? 1. He doesn’t hurt her. She is what triggered his reaction, of course, but even in this outburst, he is able to have some restraint, and 2. he punches a freaking wall. Now, imagine taking that much power and force of emotion and holding it in. That’s where I find myself, now.
I can startle very easily, as some of you have seen, but lately I’ve been wound up so tight that the littlest non-things are making me jump. Now, because of how I grew up, hearing someone yell or slam a door in anger automatically makes me jump and tenses me up – bracing myself, really, just like Carmella does in that video clip above. For this, though, I’m just talking about a regular ol’ startle. A sudden cougar attack in Red Dead Redemption will always make me jump a little… but I was playing last night, nowhere near anything dangerous or stressful, and I had to turn it off because I was getting too anxious. Even a loud commercial on TV the other night tensed me up. These internal defenses and protections I’ve put in place to “cage the beast” just can’t handle the pressure anymore, and they are crippling me as they collapse inside of themselves.
I read about this aspect of panic attacks/anxiety called “derealization”, and I laughed when I read it – because it’s very much a description of this weird haze I’ve been in lately. You can find it online, if you wish, but a definition of the term really can’t do it justice… and, actually, most definitions even include that indefinable aspect as part of the description of the word. It’s almost as if I’m just kind of going through motions in a half-awake dream. That’s kind of how I’ve interpreted it… just as shock is a result of trauma, this is merely the mind’s way of coping with stress. It comes and goes, as it has for the past week or so, but I’m being forced to deal with it all. Even the title of this post… it’s a line from Back to the Future that came to mind when I started thinking about the past. I had tried to fake out the emotions by just giving them a bomb made out of spare pinball machine parts, but they found me.
Run for it, Marty!
It’s funny, because before my breathing and nerves started getting worse, I’d been thinking about the subject of “being who you are” and what that entails. What aspects of ourselves do we accept? Which ones do we fight to change? Obviously, I believe God made me with the traits He wants me to have, but nobody that the Bible talks about as “great” is perfect. In fact, they’re usually some of the most admittedly messed up people, contrary to the idea of pious Christians. Faith aside, I was mainly thinking about my dad, and the traits of his that I’ve inherited. He has obviously helped people in his life because of who he is… but he has also screwed up his family – because of who he is. Nobody’s perfect, though… and that is where things kind of end up culminating, as they always freaking do – perfection. It’s the same, basic answer to my views on disliking compromise and why I’m absolutely confused by the idea of two people being happy in their romantic relationship, even though they’re opposite and do things that annoy each other. Perfectionism at every turn.
I don’t like these things that I feel, so I fight them. By this point, it’s completely involuntary (was it ever not?), but it happens none-the-less. You’ve probably never seen it, but like a steam engine, I occasionally let out little bits. During an online conversation, if I’m in a low mood and something bugs me, I’ll snap for JUST a moment and slam my hand onto the desk in frustration. Then, I take a second breath and it’s gone again. Doesn’t sound very healthy to me… how about you? 😉
I’ve been in worse places in life than where I was when this all came about, so it kinda hit me out of nowhere like a sledgehammer to the back of my knees. So, now.. I’m dealing with it. That’s just how I go… I’ll maintain with something, I’ll restrain myself from things, until something comes up and I no longer can. It’s usually not big, just an, “Oh. Okay, so now I’m dealing with this.” There are always the standard bits of advice on dealing with stress, like exercise and therapy, and everyone will have their opinion on it, but I came across this guy’s site who goes through a basic process of how HE dealt with it… and the first thing he talks about is that nobody can say what’ll be best for ya – you have to discover that on your own. So, that’s what I’m doing. I’d been thinking about finally taking up my nightly journal writing again before this all hit (did it for a few months straight in the summer of 2009 and miss that I didn’t keep it up through what were some very interesting times)… and now I’m doing it with this extra incentive of expressing and understanding my own emotions. Last night I was writing in my first journal entry since August 2009 about not altering posts to change typos and make things perfect, and I accidentally came up with a slogan for myself – less fixing, more expression.
I don’t have any clue where exactly I’ll go from here, because I’ve never been to this point. I have some ideas about how to better express myself, but they’re things I’ll be working through. I’ve been unhappy and stuck in life before, but it’s all caught up with me, now, and I’m forced to deal with it. Maybe it’ll take a calculated regiment of changes in my diet, exercise, altering my thought-processes, and keeping a journal. Maybe it’ll take finding a therapist that works for me (a person I imagine being as difficult to locate as the right woman). Maybe it’ll just be one day in the family kitchen, when my dad is annoyingly frustrated about something, and instead of suffocating my reaction to him, I actually, finally explode and 15+ years of anger/frustration/pain escape in one huge flurry of smashing dishes and yelling.
We’ll find out… but, for the first time, this isn’t something that I’m able to avoid even if I wanted to – and I think that could end up being a very good thing :).