Fear is Not My Enemy

Like everyone, I have friends. They are a cynical smart nerdy bunch in person. When we get together witty nihilism is on the menu. Our sense of humor is pretty dark. And we think we are a riot. It is great. But then we all go home.

Like everyone else, we keep in touch over social media. And once the internet gets involved in something, it quickly gets messed up. My snarky  inappropriate friends plug in their laptops, and they plug into some kind of cosmic cotton candy machine.

Every day I’m bombarded by news feeds of cute kittens, cute bunnies, and uplifting thoughts.  All from a group of folks who can spend an entire night joking about The Aztec Ass Bellows (a real thing-but I can not in good conscience call it recommended reading) We joke about skin conditions in person, on the internet I get beautiful pictures of rainbows and fractals and rainbow fractals.

My friends are Dr. Feelgood & Mr. Hyde.

And I don’t mind, really I don’t. I read all the sweetness and light. There is often good stuff in there. I watch any and all video of cute animals. That is always good stuff.

But lately I notice that the memes are encouraging me to ‘let go of fear’ in one way or another. I’ll let go of fear right after I give away my dog (filed under: Never)

Fear is my constant faithful companion. Sturdy and steady, always at my side, protecting and guiding me. Fear reminds me that the stove is hot. Fear tells me not to push stuff into the food processor with my finger. Fear reminds me that I am too clumsy to hurry on stairs. I have no war with fear.

My war is with anxiety.

Anxiety is an electron cloud that circles my head constantly. It grabs onto everything. Someone is 5 minutes late? Fear grins and suggests another cup of coffee. Anxiety gets busy as the coffee brews. Anxiety promptly suggests 3 things (anxiety is an over achiever) They got hit by a bus! (thanks mom) They are not even coming over, they actually hate you! (Thanks school bullying) The Liberty Bridge collapsed! They died in horrible flames and drowned, too! It’s all your fault! If they were not coming to see you, they’d be safe! Wow. Just wow. I don’t even know who to blame for that one.

It is ridiculous. Pointless, baseless, and, frankly, silly. I can see that. Or most of me can see that. The rest of me is watching vivid footage of a burning car full of drowning people blaming me. Usually, using good and well-practiced technique, I can fend off a panic attack. But my hand will shake, and I’ll probably be sweating a bit.

And it is something that happens multiple times every single day.  I lead a very quiet very secluded life, not many people visit, and I rarely leave the house. So there are not a lot of easy targets for the anxiety. My anxiety is thrifty. It can find senseless upset in stuff that is 10, 20, 30 years in the past. My anxiety will hammer a point into dust, and keep pounding the dust trying to make liquid. Dealing with this kind of anxiety is a pain in my dupa.

But I can and do deal with it. Friends who arrive 5 minutes late are not examined for signs of recent flaming drowning. Nor do I weep and dramatize my fears for them. (Unless it is so spectacularly ridiculous that it will end up being funny-in that case, it’s Game On!)

multiple-delusion1 - Copy

If this is all the anxiety can do, I can still function. I think everyone probably experiences some of this type of anxiety to some degree, I think it is a result of caring for other people that we worry about them to an absurd degree.

Sadly, my anxiety mostly focuses on stuff that is less concrete. Stuff where it is much harder to reason my way through. It likes to wait until bedtime and just toss something random at me…something like, ‘you are totally past the age where anyone will ever love you again’ I can just kiss a good night’s sleep good-bye after that.

It is a sly concept. Basically, I have given up on trying to find love. If it finds me, I promise to feed it and pet it. And I do keenly miss it. But looking for love is one misery right after the other, and my life is complicated enough. So these sideways little digs into a wounded place are very hard to combat. I can’t tell it I have a date, I don’t. I can’t tell it I’m looking, or trying. I’m not. My best shot is telling my anxiety that miracles happen. My anxiety finds my premise specious.

Anxiety has a limitless arsenal. My poverty, my looks, my trusting both a doctor and a government process, my age…it just goes on and on. And it often feels like anxiety is in the driver’s seat.

I use all my tools from therapy. It is like charging a machine gun nest armed with a rubber knife.

There are medications which have helped in the past, but there is no money for a doctor visit for me right now, or any time soon, and the pills are expensive.

I think of this process as ‘The Insanity Sit and Spin’

And I sit here and spin. Thankfully, the beadwork still slips through my fingers and becomes art. Thankfully sometimes people buy the art, and gratefully I can buy some groceries. And my good friend fear flips anxiety the bird and reminds me to be careful of crazy drivers in parking lots. It is holiday season here in the ‘burbs, after all.

Trying to Talk

So. I’m not doing very well at updating this.

I have a lot I would like to say here. And I am very consistent in not saying it.

So, I must ask myself why, if I have things to say, the words to say them, and a place to say them, do I persist in saying nothing?

Really, it is an easy answer. I really don’t feel that I am entitled to say the things that are on my mind or in my heart. Not here, not in ‘real life’, not ever.

So it all goes unsaid.

Except in that brilliant, scorching interior universe between my ears, where it gets said, shouted, stuck on endless loops like a bad dj mix. Everything that needs said gets said in my interior world. Inside myself, I am drowning in miles of unsaid words, there is no way to swim in them.

Paranoia is real. At least, it defines my reality. I simply can not believe anyone has good intentions toward me.

Surrounded by friends, encircled by a functional and loving church, I carve a private, screaming lonely Hell for myself. And I abide there.

The rational parts of my brain nudge me out from my Hell. They encourage me to expand, to try to reach beyond a diagnosis, to step out onto the floor and join the dance. And I am tempted. It does not seem such a reach to join a way of life I watch voraciously. But it is.

I have become skilled at living a simulacrum of life. At times, I can go to parties, at times I can visit with friends, at times, I can go to church. And I know that no one but me can see the gaping chasms that unfold around my feet.

In making this blog, I hoped to spin a bridge of words that might bear my weight, I wanted to find a path into the light. And I did know that it would not be easy. It is not easy. I wonder if I can follow through and build. Because, in building a bridge, you must trust in what you have built, and walk right to the edge, in order to build more. My tendency is to find a place and dig.

Digging and building actually look very similar. They both involve frantic activity and moving a great deal of dirt. In the end though, only building results in forward progress.

I do not want to be here to only engage in self-indulgence. I do not want to be here to only engage in attention seeking behaviors. I want to be here to find a path to progress and grow. The paths to move beyond schizophrenia that our society offers have failed me utterly. I am past belief in the next pill, the next therapist. I don’t even know if I believe that the mountain of pills or the army of therapists have helped anyone like me. The few schizophrenics that I know who have managed to thrive have all done so by their own interior processes. Some few get balance or perspective from a particular pill or one particular therapist. Most other schizophrenics I know keep digging for that one pill, that one therapist. I am weary of digging for the needle in the haystack. I need a better way out of here.

My options are fairly limited.

Some indigenous people in parts of the world that are not Pittsburgh, PA, USA 2014 believe that schizophrenia is not a pathology, just a different way of processing information. In those cultures, schizophrenics as we define them are healers, shamans, witches. I daydream of moving there. But I don’t want to go far away, learn a new language, leave my kids, and try to see the mess in my head as something other than a pathology-I very much doubt I could do those things.

Some groups of indigenous people knot or tie the hair to calm overactive spirits. That seems more accessible. So, on December 10, a friend is going to take my stubbornly straight red hair and somehow use her skills to turn it into dreadlocks. It might be a small step, or perhaps it will be huge. I’m trying not to pile too many hopes or expectations upon it. But I am both excited and fearful of having this done.

I have never once had a good relationship with my hair. I don’t like how it looks, I don’t like how it feels. Left to my own choices, I keep it buzzed into military ‘high and tights’ and return often to the barber so it does not get very long. I began growing the hair to try to be attractive to a man who did not find me attractive. (it didn’t work) So now I have this pile of hair.

I have no patience with the hair. Zero. I can’t afford to go to a salon and have it ‘done’ in some fetching way. Even if I had the cash for a hairdo, I find having someone ‘in my hair’ revolting. But, yet…I’m going to try this dreadlock thing. And a month away from my ‘dreaded date’ I am already devising self-soothing techniques to be able to sit with the process of having my hair dreaded. My hair is thick and straight, and this will take some time.

As much as I want to believe that somehow putting these dreads in will magically fix everything, I am resisting that temptation. But I also feel the need to balance that by not scoffing the possibility of the dreads helping significantly into oblivion before we ever begin.

The work I need to do remains the same, dreads or no dreads. But I do feel like I am taking a new and different step in how I view myself and the world around me. But in tiny tumbling faltering baby steps, I am beginning to weave my bridge cables. I remain hopeful that in time, my bridge will bear my weight…