anxiety

Distraction Immersion

Red Cloud Headach Following Man IllustrationI am trying to distract myself from how I really feel (and the emotional tornado that always seems to be following me) by immersing myself in work.

The work in question is a web development/ programming project which has been a pet project and passion of mine since 1997. The project is a knowledge sharing website, full of links to content from a wide range of providers, covering a diverse range of subjects from arts & culture, to parenting, technology, food, humanities, politics, TV, health,mental health and much more. It is still a work in progress but the website, razaweb.com, can be found here.

The more advanced the functionality of the website needs to be the more complex the level of programming needed. This is good as it means I need to immerse myself even more in the work and lose myself completely to the joys and confusion of programming logic and the problem solving that is at the core of computer programming. Why am I trying to distract myself from how I truly feel? I feel terrible, that’s why. I wasn’t going to renew this blog as I don’t really have the time or money to keep it going, but when I clicked the link to the admin page to cancel it I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I need this blog. I need this space as an outlet for some of the thoughts and feelings swirling around my perpetually conflicted and angst ridden mind. I filter as much of what I am thinking and feeling and only let a little bit of it onto this digital canvas yet even that tiny amount of pressure release is helpful. You can;t bury your pain forever and you can’t run away from your feelings forever. They always catch up with you, when you least expect it.

The more I try to disentangle the web of my conflicted, unconscious, inner turmoil the worse it makes me feel consciously.

That dark and painful feeling of complete vulnerability, the feeling my 5 month old baby daughter must be feeling when she starts screaming in the middle of the night as if it’s the end of the world, is too unbearable to endure. I worry that if I let it out, the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and utter despair will completely overwhelm me and consume me forever. So I work hard to bury the feelings, push them back as soon as I see them starting to enter the concious world. Immersing myself in my favourite TV shows or the world of fiction, or in a work project I truly feel passionate about is usually the only way I can truly suppress the dark feelings of vulnerability.

Vulnerability is a dangerous thing to feel. it leads to despair, fear, anger, rage, irrational aggression and when mistakes are made by acting on this irrational wave of negative emotions, you’re left with guilt and regret over what you have done, controlled by confused feelings of insecurity, anxiety, fear and anger.

I understand all this know better than ever. Years of talk therapy and being married to a highly talented psychologist have given me the tools to understand how the human mind works in a more sophisticated way than I ever had before. It also helps me understand my father, a man far more negative, aggressive, angry, vulnerable and lost than I am or will hopefully ever be.

My father. The Darth Vader of my life, The man full of sensitivity and love yet so violent, abusive and angry at the same time. The Jekyll and Hyde character who can turn from angel to monster in a flash. He is the reason I am starting to spiral into a self destructive descent into overwhelming anxiety, fear, anger and depression. I need to stop the spiralling descent he triggered, by grabbing hold onto something, anything, that stops me falling and helps me climb back out of the pit of despair.

I had to make a choice yesterday. A choice between satisfying his ever demanding feelings of neediness or looking after my wife and baby daughter. Its not an easy choice to make. None of the choices in my life seem to be easy at the moment. They are all what I call bad choices. Yes I should feel empowered enough as an individual adult to have choices in life, but you can’t help feeling helpless and low when all the choices seem like bad ones. Clear our increasingly large mountain of financial debt by selling our house and having nowhere to move to or keep the house near the good schools and nice neighbours but let the debt mount up? Do I focus on my work at the expense of looking after my wife, kids, parents and home? Do I work or go to the gym, given that my weight is going up again and my asthma and IBS-D are getting worse, but I’m falling behind on my work. Do I anger and upset my already emotionally fragile and depressed father or upset my physically exhausted and anxious wife who is trying to hide her own insecurity about our precarious financial position and problems? Do compose this blog post and try to let out some of how i feel or do I instead just bury the dark feelings eating me up inside and just focus on work, exercise, household chores and put on a fake smile as the guilt, anxiety and pain swirl around inside me?These are but a few of the riddles that I feel too exhausted to unravel. Every choice we make has a price and I’m tired of having to pay so much all the time.

I won’t get into details but the point is that whenever I try to ignore the tornado of drama and emotions in my life, from other people and external circumstances, when I try to be focussed on just completing my web development projects, courses and getting a much needed job, the tornado seems to swirl harder and catch me unawares, pulling me into the vortex of complex, heart wrenching turmoil.

My father was already deeply depressed, having been verbally abused by my mother and fallen out with my sister, He is really old and getting physically weaker all the time. I love him and feel sorry for him all the time, I am the only person in his life who doesn’t throw all his aggression and abuse back at him, I just take it all, all the mocking, all the character assassination, all his rants and negativity, I take it, absorb it, and I listen to him. I am respectful and loving to him, yet he still thinks no one cares about him and no one loves him, because that’s what depression does to you. It destroys your ability to be rational, cool and calm and see anything in a positive light. It skews everything around you, making the world seem nothing but negative and out to get you. A dark and scary place, full of threats and danger.

I’m not out to get my father. I want to always be there for him. Yet I can”t always be there for him and for my wife, my kids, my health and my career. How to balance all the spinning plates in my life and not let one fall and crack apart? Suffice to say that I made the choice of letting my wife get some much needed rest and focusing on my career (for the 1st time in a long time) but it was at the expense of seeing my father and he did not take it well. He is refusing to talk to me and it will just be added to the pile of negativity and hate he feels about life and all the people in his life. I wasn’t rude to him or offensive. I just told my sister that my wife and baby daughter were sleeping so yesterday afternoon was not a good time to visit with my parents, especially as they had not told me they were coming and my wife had been awake with baby all night.

What is a really small irrelevant event in most people’s lives has become a much bigger drama because of him and his powerful negativity. He has the ability to whip up a storm of negativity out of nothing.  I call it the depression mist. He spreads negativity, despair, discord and turmoil wherever he goes. It creates horrible situations that confirm his worst thoughts about how the world is a dark and nasty place. It also destroys peoples lives and exhausts even the most emotionally secure of people. He unconsciously creates situations that push people away from him, to reinforce his twisted view that everyone hates him, because he is unlovable, all because his iron-willed mother was abusive to him and didn’t give him the unconditional love a mother is supposed to shower on her child. Yet he has not pushed me away. It is ironic, and a source of major conflict within me, that my father is the source of all my inner fear, vulnerability, insecurity, anxiety, anger, rage, self-hate, self-loathing and pain, yet he is also the source of all my humanity, sensitivity and love. He is very sensitive, which is how he gets hurt so easily and often, even though people are not trying to hurt him. Sensitivity combined with overwhelming vulnerability, fear, emotional insecurity and aggression is not a good combination. Every time my phone rings and it my parent’s calling I tense up with fear as I assume it’s my mother calling to tell my my father has died and that he hung himself. That fear drove me to sacrifice much of my own needs to always be there for him, to gratify his fragile ego, to be kind to him when others stood up against his aggression. Yet all that sacrifice on my part has been a heavy price to pay.

I am not as emotionally secure as I need to be.

I am trying not to be consumed by feelings of utter guilt, regret and anxiIllustration of man flying out of a tornadoety for having unintentionally upset my old, vulnerable, angel/monster father, by immersing myself in my work. It’s something I haven’t been able to do for years, yet the more I get into my project the more immersed I feel in it and the bigger distraction it becomes, from the emotional turmoil within me and outside of me.

Having this blog helps channel some of that turmoil out into the cyber-sphere, and that’s a good thing as buying it all deep inside me will just eat me up inside. I’m glad I didn’t cancel this blog. I hope I can compose and post some more positive and more eloquently written posts in the future.

For know I just leave you with this thought, Don’t let the people around you bring you down.

 

How Tomorrow Makes Me Feel – Back in Therapy and Dealing with a Depressed Father

Too Much Information OverloadThis is my 3rd attempt at composing and publishing a short post.

I seem to be pathologically unable to compose a short blog post. I always have too much to say. This comes from years of being forced to keep quiet and not express my true thoughts and feelings, which is unhelpful when the atmosphere I grew up in was so unstable and traumatic.

When I do start to open up and write from the heart and soul, everything just floods out. I am desperate to let it all out and to be listened to, validated and comforted.

The problem is that we live in a world where image is everything, and the stigma around mental health issues is still really powerful. I am lucky to have come across lots of recent campaigns to increase awareness of mental health issues and break down the stigma’s attached to them. However, when it comes to telling my own true story, my anxiety gets triggered just thinking of any unintended and negative consequences of being open and honest. “Outing” myself (as suffering from mental health issues) and then being negatively judged, mocked or side-lined for doing so, scares the living daylights out of me.

To try and prevent this, I have spent the last few days trying to build a barrier of anonymity around this blog and my online presence. A virtual wall to protect myself from exposing my true vulnerability and being attacked (I am always on red alert for being attacked) which ironically maintains my alienation mental health issues. I am the same in real life. I create and maintain emotional walls to defend myself from being hurt, but the side effect is being continually disconnected from developing meaningful social interactions and relationships.

This is really ironic, as opening up, on this blog, has made me feel free, energised, and excited. The point of posting my true thoughts and feelings, my story, on this blog, was to connect with other people. I didn’t originally set up this blog with a view to chronicling my battle with mental health issues. It just happened. I still plan to post about other facets of my life. I am more than just someone with mental health problems, but those conditions are a big part of where I am in my life right now.

I currently feel very alienated in my life, so trying to connect with people I can relate to or who are in similar circumstances can only be a positive thing right? If only it was that easy. Anonymity comes at a price, it can maintain alienation, but opening up in a truly honest way, though really brave, can have its costs too.

With all this in mind, let’s try to push back the flood waters of my suppressed inner thoughts and summarise.

I really wanted to post something today as tomorrow is significant for 2 reasons. I will summarise these 2 events now and then publish 2 separate posts expanding on these summaries.

Tomorrow is my father’s 80th birthday. What should be a day of celebration is shrouded in misery and depression, which is exactly what my father, who has depression but denies having it (even though he is on anti-depressants), or that all these “made-up” mental health conditions actually exist, wants it to be.

I have been at my wits end trying to cheer him up over the last few days, weeks, months, years in fact. Nothing makes him happy. No matter what you do for him it is never enough, and he always finds a fault in it and with you. If I buy him a Strawberry trifle he will let me know that Raspberry is his favourite. If I buy him an Apricot Torte he will mention how he only likes Apricot Tortes form a certain patisserie. I offered to take him for a birthday lunch at his favourite café, but he told me he no longer eats lunch (which is not strictly true) and he doesn’t want me to take him out until I have a job (which is his way of guilt tripping me into going out there and getting a high flying well paid job I am actually too mentally ill to be able to hold down).

He has been bullying me and putting me down my whole life. That is at the core of my low self-esteem, which is one of the drivers of my depression and anxiety disorders. He is like the mother in Woody Allen’s most serious film, “Interiors” or like Livia, the mother from The Sopranos. He has constructed this idea that he is a victim and everything and everyone is out to make his life miserable. He has to discount and push away any evidence that counteracts this constructed idea. I completely sympathise with him as a person suffering from depression, but instead of admitting that and trying to work through it, he denies it exists as a condition, denies he has it, and focuses the blame on me and other people around him for his misfortunes in life. He mocks my own attempts to seek therapy for my depression and pushes back any attempts I make to be compassionate towards him.

The question is not about what to do with him. The question is about what to do with me? Why should I be responsible for making him happy and saving his soul from the darkness of destructive depression? I love him and have enormous compassion for him.  Yet for all I do for him he just bullies and mocks me and is a destructive influence on me. I think I need to stop now and elaborate further in the main post about this. So look out for my post about my father, me and his 80th Birthday non-celebration.

The second important thing happening tomorrow is my assessment session for counselling talk therapy. I have had various forms of talk therapy over the last 10 years. Not continuously, but for different periods of time, with big gaps in between. The last therapy I was in lasted for 3 years. I really connected with my last therapist and we built a really positive and insightful relationship during 3 years of weekly sessions.

It was prematurely cut short, just when I was really exposed and opened up emotionally, when she got pregnant and had to end her practice. I felt like a patient in hospital being left cut open on the operating table, mid-operation. That was in April 2013. The last 11 months have not been easy. I realised I needed to continue therapy, for the sake of my own emotional well-being, my marriage and career prospects. My social anxiety has only gotten worse. I only feel safe and comfortable locked up in bed, the toilet or at him, alone, watching TV, or in my study. When the telephone rings I get nervous. Having to deal with other people makes me anxious. I assume everyone hates me and is out to get me. That I always fail other people, let them down, and they will punish me for it. I am also really struggling with containing all my negative thoughts and finding the focus and motivation I desperately need in order to finish my courses and get a new job.

I am very apprehensive about starting therapy with a new counsellor. I really believe in psychological therapy and think it’s far harder than anyone realises. I will elaborate further my thoughts on talk therapy and my own experiences in another post. So look out for that!

Enough! I have already gone past my limit of a one page word document blog post! I need an editor.

Mind of Exhaustion – Mental Health and Doctor Who

Burnt Out Mind Illustration

Is it a good idea to write a blog post when my mind is so fatigued? It’s probably not. However I have just finished watching “The Mind of Evil” the second serial of Doctor Who Season 8, the 3rd Doctor, Jon Pertwee’s 2nd season. That, and the fact it was my birthday yesterday, have encouraged me to put fingers to keyboard and thoughts to cyberspace.

I have composed over 20 blog posts in the last few weeks but have not had to the time to edit them or publish them. The subjects I have been writing about range from:

  • Mental health issues such as depression, social anxiety and addiction,
  • Testing my social anxiety by going to a career networking meet up with over 200 people all by myself (very daunting, exciting yet emotionally exhausting)
  • Coping with the emotional fallout from the break-up of my once seemingly close family
  • Bravery as the concept of being scared but doing something anyway, such as opening up about suffering from mental health issues (even though you know many people will judge you negatively for doing so)
  • Irritable bowel Syndrome-Diarrhoea (IBS-D) and food intolerance diets,
  • the changing nature of parenting, how the role of a parent changes during a child’s life,
  • Watching the Lego movie with my daughter *(her 1st cinema outing), and its ironic anti-corporate, anti-conservative massage and how the cinema is my church, and
  • how my mind feels cluttered and on the point of collapse from lack of organisation or order, like my daughter’s Lego box,
  • the therapeutic value of blogging and creative writing,
  • My struggle to express myself, my thoughts and feelings, succinctly and precisely (after years of being forced to suppress my true thoughts)
  • virtual reality and online profiles,
  • Doctor Who and my adventure into watching the 3rd Doctor, Jon Pertwee’s Dr. Who serials
  • How I finally got my wife to watch “The US Office” sitcom, and how she had become obsessed with it, to the point of addiction, which has had the side effect of making me realise how scarily similar I am to Michael Scott (in terms of emotional insecurity and needing to be liked and part of a “family”)
  • Reaching 35 (it was my 35th birthday yesterday).

In terms of how I feel physically and mentally, that can for once be summed up concisely in one word. Exhausted.

That is why I decided to blog today and finally publish a post.

I’m too drained to compose a long post. The greatest battle I have when it comes to creative writing is trying to stay focussed and concise. I digress wildly. My blog posts are too long. I have too much to say and too much of a burning desire to say it. Maybe if my mind is so wiped with fatigue that will help focus it. Keep things short.

Blogging is the only way for me to channel how I truly think and feel about my life and the world around me. It also energises me. Most things I have to do in life or deal with drain me. Blogging makes me feel alive.

Recently it feels that every day I’ve been pounded by situations that trigger my unresolved unconscious inner conflict. Triggering my depression, anxiety, stress, and inflaming my already debilitating IBS-D. I’ve tried to alter my lifestyle and behaviour to help overcome my problems, but it’s an uphill struggle, that just seems to get harder.

I’m climbing up this mountain to get to a place of inner calm, peace and self-control, and just when I think I’m near the top, or even the middle, I pass through a thick cloud of mist that blocks my way. The mist conceals the true height of the mountain. When I finally clear the mist, I’m mentally and physically exhausted, having used all my energy to battle through. I look ahead and I am nowhere near the top, or near the middle.  I’ve still got a really long way to go. An impossibly long way it seems. Never-ending perhaps.

Foggy Climbing

Many people in my life around me have their own battles and unresolved insecurities. When those have been triggered by stress sin their own lives, rather than process those thoughts and feelings in a positive way, they have been lashing out at me. Throwing all the all their angst, insecurities, anger and negative feelings straight at me. Why me? They know I won’t fight back. I hate conformation. I internalise how I feel. I always have. That’s why all my childhood traumas and inner conflict remain and fester deep within me, eating away at me, pulling me down.

There are many things pulling me down, both inside and outside of me. People, situations, events, circumstances past and present.

There all also things that pull me up. Help me get through. Like my daughter, who was the brightest ray of sunshine on my 35th birthday. I was really depressed about turning 35. The older you get, the harder everything is. You have less energy, less options, less opportunities, less time to get things right. I can’t enjoy many of the pleasures of life that used to help get me through, for many reasons such as health and lack of money. Time seems to be running out for me in many ways. Just when I need to find reserves of energy to pull me through increasing hardship, I find myself fatigued. My daughter was a great help yesterday though.

My poor bedraggled wife, who seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown of her own, tried her best and I’m lucky to have her. I just wish we could both overcome our own battles, inside and out, so that we can finally enjoy each other’s company and time like we used to at the beginning. Everything in life is dynamic and always changes, whether or not we like it, but it would be nice for some things to change positively rather than constantly downwards.

The other thing that helps pull me through is Dr. Who. I am really enjoying Jon Pertwee’s Dr. Who serials. I just finished “The Mind of Evil”, an action packed adventure about brainwashing that is filmed in and around Dover Castle. It is set in a prison where the Keller device aims to suck evil thoughts from criminal minds leaving behind human beings who are theoretically no longer a threat to society, as their mental faculties have been altered.

It was a fantastic serial. Intelligent, thought provoking, tense, dramatic and fun. Pertwee’s Doctor may be far more serious and hard-nosed then Troughton’s, but he is growing on me. I am really warming to the James Bond style Action-Hero Doctor that he portrays. Maybe it’s the flamboyant cape.

3rd Doctor Who Jon Pertwee

3rd Doctor Who Jon Pertwee

I also recommend watching the making of programme, titles “The Military Mind”, which is on disc 2 of the 2 DVD set for the serial. It shows you how high pressured filming Doctor Who was, and still is. They had to film a lot of complex shots in tough locations with very little time and money.  This specific serial went over budget, and was the last one to be directed by Timothy Combe, and the interview with him is very melancholic at the end. All that overspend was well worth it though. It’s a great serial.

I also feel lucky to have blogging as something to escape to. I have been reading lots of blogs about mental health issues. I found 2 great blogs that I have been meaning to recommend.

Mrs Bashful is about social anxiety and is very honest and well written. She describes exactly how I feel, yet with a far better writing style than I can dream of.

Running on Sober is also very honest and inspiring, about addiction and opening up.

Both of these bloggers are really brave and I admire what they have done, and are continuing to do.

I highly recommend following these 2 blogs if you have any interest or experience of mental health issues.

Mental Health is still a highly underrated topic in healthcare and in the wider world. It affects far more people than you would think, and affects all of us far more than we like to believe. It is the root cause of many destructive problems and if we focussed on understanding it more the world would definitely be a better place.

WordPress have set up a Blog For Mental Health 2014 Official Blogroll,which you can access by clicking on the link.

It seems fitting then that I publish this blog post, which finally admits my own exhausting battles with mental health issues, after I finish watching The Mind of Evil, which is all about the power of the mind and thoughts.

I end up writing about lots of topics that seem completely unrelated in my blog. I thought about splitting the posts into different, more topic focussed blogs. However I feel that I am more than just someone trying to overcome mental health issues, or someone with Irritable bowel syndrome and food intolerances or a doctor who fan who is also into creative writing. I am multi-faceted, as we all are, and I like to celebrate that here in this blog. All of these things are part of me, and are connected. So they All make up Kamblog.

I think those are enough recommendations and thoughts for one day. I’m off to try and re-charge my mind batteries before they burn out permanently. Now where did I put that sonic screwdriver?

11th Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver

11th Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver