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Housebound

Another excerpt from the book I am working on-I was housebound but part of my recovery started here

“My kids were off for spring break, and would now be home for about a week straight. Like most kids they wanted to be outside and play, and they couldn’t understand why I never came out with them. I would sit by the picture window in the kitchen, and watch them. Every once in a while they would come close to the window, wave and yell Hi Daddy-this brought a couple reactions-happiness that they were still involving me in their playtime, and sadness that all I could do was sit by this window and watch them. Day after day the drill was the same. Enjoy the time in the house with them, then go to the window to watch them outside. Playing on the swings, jumping rope, the boys playing with their trucks, and making a mess in the mud or sandbox. This went on for a few weeks-other parts of my life were affected as well. I did not go to any of my relatives homes for parties, or holidays. My wife and kids would go, but I would make excuses as to why I couldn’t make it. I am sure that people were thinking at that point I was just being a jerk. It hurt me every time I would see my family going somewhere, without me. It kept me angry at myself, and kept my depression at the forefront. Then there came a day when one of my daughters fell and scraped herself up pretty good on the knee and the elbow. I went to the medicine cabinet and grabbed some band-aids and disinfectant spray. I opened the back door and walked down the back stairs to meet Beverly and give her the supplies. My daughter walked up and we sprayed her injury and topped it with a band aid. She ran back to the swing set and began playing again. I sat down on the steps to watch. When they kids saw me outside they couldn’t help but run to me for some hellos and hugs. It was then I realized that I was outside, and I felt an attack coming on. While I couldn’t ride it out and stay outside, after I went back in I had a small revelation. When my daughter fell, I acted out of reflex. While that may not seem like a big deal, it was a another important step to my recovery-thoughts were what constantly fed my fears and panic-when the thoughts were on matters not associated with panic and fear it became so much more manageable. This sounds so simple to people who do not have these conditions, but to sufferers it is one of the hardest things to do. I had become so used to avoiding things and having constant thoughts that I had forgotten what it was like to not be crippled that way. I went back to sit in the window, but I was smiling some. I believed I may have taken a small step toward recovery. And small steps became my strategy from then on.”

And small steps became my strategy-celebrating the smallest of victories and gaining confidence with each win to keep going.

The mind

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Looking back at my many years of Panic, this really hits home. The times where I struggled most were the times I listened to my mind-my inner voice-exclusively. The first step in my recovery was keeping busy, things like crossword puzzles, Christmas village painting or even power cleaning my house! So yes, there was a benefit to my  Panic-I am sure I had the cleanest house in town. As well as being the best maintained, and newest-as I would complete redoing one room, I would move on to the next. And lets not forget a complete siding job and 6 foot cedar fence outside!

The point to this is that the only time I was able to think “normally”-without the negativity and depression, was as I worked. I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist-I just know myself and this became, for me, the best way to sort through my thoughts and feelings. Just sitting and constantly thinking would quickly lead to more stress, and accelerate my Panic. I figured the key was etching out some relaxation time-well, maybe not relaxation but periods of lower stress. The only times I would experience seemed to be when I was very tired, or very busy. All other times would leave the door open for my issues to overwhelm me. So my goal became constant motion leading to exhaustion. While this may sound intimidating, the good thing was each time I would wear myself out the period of lower stress would became longer-this in turn allowed more of the “normal” thinking about myself and my situations. Listening to my soul, not my demons.

Now getting to that point was not an overnight thing, but each time I did it became less scary, and my level confidence rose. I began to see that I was not going crazy-I was not going to die. The battle against my inner demons tipped more and more in my favor. And all it took was a little work!

 

So Long Comfort Zone

This woman has a gift

Braver Than Before

The following excerpt is taken from an email I wrote to Ryan on January 9th, 2008:

I’m so unbelievably out of my comfort zone.

A while ago I wrote a tune called “Seasons” that discussed the cyclical nature of my eating disorder (and my life), and my dependence on that cycle. Even though I had an innate desire to break free of the destructive pattern that governed my life, I was incapable of doing so because I had become so reliant on the ebb and flow of these “seasons.” 

On the other hand, I’ve kicked a lot of habits in my life. I’ve given up addictions, I’ve broken off dangerous relationships, I’ve up and quit a flourishing career because it was sucking the life from me. I know how to overcome. I have known when to say “enough is enough,” and move on. So this should be second nature by now. And in a sense, I guess, it…

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Our Skewed World View

How is everyone this fine sunny day? Well, here in the Chicago area it is. Hope everyone is well!

I was watching a documentary about MTV last night, and it reminded me how much I love music, and how it was such a big part of my life. As stated in an earlier blog it has been a key element in my “recovery” as well. I saw the following video in this documentary, and it immediately brought back a key realization I had about what the “real world” is, and how it is different for each individual, in each situation.

“The World I Know”, by Collective Soul.

 

The video follows the path of a gentlemen that we assume is struggling with Depression-this is demonstrated a few ways. Most of the video is filmed in either a deep blue tint, which is his view of the world-to him. It begins with him walking in the downtown area of a big city, holding a briefcase and a newspaper. As he walks we see the newspapers front page, referencing some children who had starved to death. As he continues to a bus station, he notices a homeless woman who must be looking for donations, and a full color dandelion coming up through the cracks of the sidewalk. As he sits in his seat, he looks at the woman-no one has helped her-her shoulders drop and she walks away. Then someone walks over the dandelion and instantly destroys it-none of the yellow petals remain. He makes a very grim face, and continues reading the paper. When the bus drops him off, he continues walking-seeing an old beggar woman with a shopping cart and a preacher spreading doom for all mankind. Everything  he looks at is still shaded in blue, he is finding no comfort in any of it. It appears to only be contributing to his depression. It is also interesting to note that no one else he sees is smiling-no one. All the while the lyrics of the song reflect what is happening in his world. He has run out of hope……….. he walks by a fire escape, and then stops. He drops his paper and briefcase and starts walking up to the roof. He removes his shoes and sits down-you can see the pain on his face, and realize his answer to all of this is suicide. He steps over the railing out on to the roofs edge, his arms spread to the side with his palms up. He starts to jump-this is clearly it for him.

Except he doesn’t jump. Just as he begins moving for his attempt, a pigeon lands on his arm. Just a regular old pigeon. He looks out at it, and suddenly his world, his perception, his LIFE changes! As if he had never seen a bird before. Of course he had-but he had never taken the time to notice one! Something so small caused a shift in his reality. He pulls out the bagel and begins feeding it-he looks down at the crumbs and notices ants gathering to eat as well. He goes into his pockets and starts throwing money down to the street.  As he continues his gaze he now sees people smiling and feeling good. Were they there before? Probably-but not in his old reality. He saw none of that.

I had heard the saying “it’s the little things that count” millions of times. But this video triggered it for me-made me understand how true it was. We all will receive our “pigeon”, but we have to look for it. It could come in many forms-spiritual, physical-we may need more than one. Our realities are caused by our own perceptions, and how we choose to construct them. Never stop thinking about the things that are truly important-and pay attention to your pigeon(s) when it comes! Now I was not cured by this video, but it did provide me a big step in my personal journey.

Rock n Roll

                          Just watched the first episode of a show called Sun Records, on CMT.

                         Like a lot of my peers, music has been a huge part of my life. Also like many others, certain songs bring back certain memories. But memories were not the only outlet where  my music choices were manifest. It was a way to control my emotions-anger would trigger a more aggressive playlist than being mellow. If I felt anger, the best way for me to calm down would be listening to music that expressed the same. My anger would be intertwined with the lyrics I sang, and would help in diffusing my state of mind. It also could help me achieve any emotion I wanted to be in. Lets say I was stressed at work, and on the way home needed to unwind. I knew exactly what to put in the CD player. Although occasionally I listened to things other than R & R I found that Rock had so many different influences, and borrowed from so many different areas that I could always find something that worked, no matter what mood I was in or wanted to be.

                           There have been many movies about the early days of Rock n Roll, most of them character heavy depending on who the star of the movie was. Some were very good. But few of them really touched on how Rock and Roll came about, the behind the scene people, record producers, DJ’s etc. that tirelessly worked to grow and cultivate the sound-or more appropriately the genre. They believed in what they were doing-while certainly they wanted to make a good living it was not the dominant factor. Few of those movies examined the influences for this new music-most treated it like it just came about with this performer, or that one. The real story is so much more. A token reference to the “early days” that would last for the first 20 minutes or so of the movie, and then take off following the career of whoever the movie was about. This show so far is doing it right. It is giving the homage to the Blues, R&B and even Gospel as the things that made it happen. For example great performers like B.B. King, Fats Domino and Muddy Waters were the bridge from the blues to R&R, as well as many others. The same for Gospel-it was a tremendous influence to the young performers of that time. Most of them came from deeply religious backgrounds. What makes Rock great is the ability to take little bits and pieces from everything and mold them to their own particular styles. Without them, Rock n Roll may not exist. I truly hope this show follows what they started and stays focused on the people who tirelessly worked behind the scenes, and not just the stars out front.

Stopping the Cycle

In my own personal journey with Panic and Anxiety one of the biggest obstacles to overcome was allowing my thoughts to control me and the way I reacted to them.  In the throws of a Panic attack, your thoughts will drive your reaction and control your thinking. . The biggest battle you face is the one against-wait for it-yourself. Your thought patterns can trap you in a revolving door  of fear and self doubt that will keep recycling over and over, appearing with any little trigger or negative situation. And like a snowball  rolling downhill, every negative thought or fear will just keep adding to it as you continue your slide. As your snowball gets bigger and bigger, it heaps on guilt that you can’t deal with it-you are sure everyone else can but not you. You have failed.  Add past mistakes and fears, however irrational,  from the past and it makes for an even faster, larger snowball. You just cannot stop it’s momentum……. You try to rationalize these thoughts, or try to figure out what they mean-what causes them. The trouble with that is attacks can and do come out of nowhere. How can you make sense of something that may not have been triggered by something tangible? What if it just happens? Anytime and anywhere?

I spent many months, even years struggling to put my issues in to perspective-come up with the reason that certain things happened at certain times. Some anxiety can and is triggered by events, but it seemed my Panic was not. My way of trying to conquer it became analyzing every thought, every fear, into neat little columns that would explain my behaviors, which in turn would then allow me to understand them. Then I could break their hold on me. These sessions however would end up being the same-always coming back to the point that I was worthless and would never find relief. The result was an endless amount of time crying or being deeply depressed. While most people might be able to stop paying attention to that constant self loathing, I could not. And my life was a constant struggle to get out of bed in the morning, and return that night. Something had to change.

One of the ways I used to get the runaway thoughts under control was to  stay busy. By forcing myself to stop overanalyzing everything, I was able to stop the cycle of my runaway thoughts, my snowball and think a little more clearly. It didn’t matter what I did to stay busy-cleaning house, painting ceramic Christmas villages, doing crossword or other types of puzzles. The goal was to keep myself so tired that I could not spend a lot of time sitting around thinking. Rather than lay in bed for hours contemplating the things that were wrong in my life, I would just fall asleep. It became very therapeutic for me-my mind  would be a little clearer, and my thoughts less jumbled. And they were no longer triggered by worry or doubt, thinking eventually started working its way to “normal”. AND I had one of the cleanest houses around!

 

 

 

My journey

So how can I describe my journey in a few paragraphs of a blog? I remember having Panic attacks at a very young age. I did not understand them then, but with advancing age I learned enough about them to retroactively call them that. I was from a “normal” family, went to church on Sundays, Catechism on Wednesdays  and school. When I was grade school age, I felt a real closeness to God and the afterlife. I was by no means perfect, but I had no doubts of my Salvation. I was the one who would pray with friends who were lost, or at least the ones who felt like they  were. I would hang out with the people who were a little off center-a little different. Since I believed that I may become a preacher someday it seemed to me that they would be the people who would need the help, or spiritual guidance. I thought I might even be a preacher for lost sheep-like biker “gangs”, the homeless or others who were struggling.

As I advanced into my teens and early 20’s things began to change. My attacks were more frequent, longer in duration and I was having to avoid situations that made me so panicked that I felt like I was having an actual breakdown. I turned to my Faith, and began attending church more regularly-first 3 days a week and almost daily. The thing that confused me, however, was it seemed the more I prayed, and the more I attended church the worse I was getting. I started thinking that maybe I was doing something wrong, and the seeds of doubt in my Faith took hold of me. I started talking to people of other faiths, different religions and beliefs. I was still a Christian but decided that since I wasn’t getting better it I must be going at it the wrong way. I became close to a few people who had been “Born Again”. It sounded like all I needed to do was invite Jesus into my heart and my life would change-nothing would be too difficult, and the Lord would bring calm in to my heart and give me the strength to overcome anything put in my way. This seemed to work for a few weeks, but then as I questioned things that were still happening to me-the attacke, the depression, etc. that this new approach was not working either. All I could think of at that time was I still was doing something wrong, and sank further into Depression and Panic. I even started questioning my faith-maybe I was not, in fact , saved? Maybe I was not worth it? Whenever I would start thinking about these things I would just become more nervous and my conditions would worsen.

Gradually I had two more obstacles to overcome-I was diagnosed with Agoraphobia, which cost me a few jobs. Also,  3 deaths in a row within a short amount of time-this included some of my children. This added to the resignation that I was being punished, and I completely lost my faith. It was quite a few years before I went back again. I guess I had to work through my anger at everyone-including God. I also needed to realize that I had a condition, and I was not being punished for anything.

Ouch!

I had a job interview last Monday with a local company that I had sent my resume in to a few times. They had brought me in about 6 months ago 3 separate times for interviews, the third one wound up a face to face with the Plant Manager-he brought me in to tell me personally that the position was going to someone who would be promoted from within. He was very impressed with my background and assured me that if the position were to open again I would be given strong consideration. I of course thanked him at the time and told him if the position were to open up again I would be very interested ( This company is within walking distance from my house, and is a perfect fit for my background. )

I received a phone call from him late last week, asking if I was still interested in the position-Yes Sir! I sent him an updated resume on Friday, and made the interview appointment. I was very excited-almost giddy-this is an opportunity I have wanted for a long time and was brimming with confidence I would again make a good impression. How could I go wrong? He loved my experience and background before, and I had added to it since.

I walked in to the main office and told the receptionist that I was here for an employment interview. Expecting to see the Manager, I was surprised to see the HR Supervisor greet me. As we walked to her office we discussed a little about the company’s history and the product. We reached her office and say down. She asked me a few questions about my work history, what kind of software I have used, etc. The standard things that an HR person would want to know. We then discussed the available benefits and pay rate. After the Q and A session I asked her what the next step in the process would be, expecting to be told the usual ” We will be interviewing the rest of the week, then if you are chosen we will bring you in for the second interview.” Except that didn’t happen. She handed me an address of a local clinic and asked if I wouldn’t mind going for a drug test, and fill out paperwork for a background check. ” Would I? Of course! ” I was excited, the job I had been trying to get for a long time seemed to be just a formality, based on the testing. I mentioned I was supposed to see the Manager, but she told me he was out of town for a few days at a convention, and that he had already interviewed me and liked me a lot. I took the time as soon as I got outside to leave him a personal voicemail expressing my disappointment in not being able to talk to him again, but would be available at any point if he still had any questions for me. I jumped in the car and headed for the clinic.

The next few days took forever to end, but I finally received a call from the Manager. He told me that I was no longer being considered for the job. I was absolutely crushed. He offered no other explanation, nothing. I found out later from the HR person at my current company ( they knew about my trying for this job-I was only a contract worker with my current job ) that they were scared off by my background. My background? What  part of my background? I was confused. She offered that they had called and asked me about the medications I was taking-if they were aware of it and if it ever interfered with my work. I am not sure if that was even legal what they had asked, but she wasn’t sure. It bothered me that the Manager did not give me a chance to answer any concerns that might have with my ” background “. I did not receive the job due to my condition, I guess. That hurts.

 

 

Sarah Silverman

As written earlier, it is important not to fuel the fires of hate that seem to permeate our social media and news outlets. A perfect example of that was something that comedienne Sarah Silverman tweeted out a few days ago-she sent a picture of what she claimed to be Swastika’s painted in spray-paint on a sidewalk where she was walking. It later turned out to be a symbol that is used in the construction industry to mark where various lines are located, to avoid damaging them when streets, sidewalks, etc. are torn up for replacement. The problem with this is she did not bother to research what the symbols actually were for. No questions were asked, no inquiries made. Her twitter did receive plenty of replies explaining what they were. Ok, everyone makes mistakes, right? So what she did next was tweet out an apology. Well, sort of. While admitting she had made a mistake, she also had to mention how many hate letters she gets weekly just for being Jewish. And then managed to invoke an alleged mistake the President made about Jewish people and the Holocaust, as well as an obscenity laced sentence about “smelly, condescending bleeps” who had the audacity to question her intelligence. Pretty hateful stuff. While she has a right to Tweet anything she wants, her original tweet was helping to spread hate for others. Then she gets mad at those returning it to her? Does that seem hypocritical to anyone else? Are we not responsible for what we put out on the Internet? I do not know who originally made this comment, but “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen”

It may be more important for celebrities to do their due diligence, as they are constantly around microphones and have tweets that spread to millions of people instantly. It seems to me we have enough White vs Black, Christians vs Muslims, Republicans vs Democrats. What if they drew a line in the sand, and decide that they would stop the divisiveness their posts create, and try understanding the other side? Not try to get things on the internet as soon as possible without research? We have spent two many years trying to force everyone to believe “our side”, and ridicule the other. Has that worked?