Day 14. Putting The “Social” In The “Social Anxiety.”

Today I’m feeling inspired by a post of a fellow sufferer who also decided to start blogging. She wrote about the feelings of social anxiety and why we sometimes go to these ridiculous lengths of trying to be liked.

Ooof. Been there, done that. That post sure did kick off all kinds of memories and I ended up realising something new about my current situation. We humans are social creatures whether we like it or not. We need to be a part of a social group even if we are thoroughly mortified by the idea of finding ourselves in the middle of any social occasion. When as a teenager I first found myself in this new unfamiliar environment known as the Western society, I went so far overboard trying to fit in that I quite literally lost sight of who I was as a person. I wore clothes that I did not like and listened to music that I hated and it still was not enough to feel accepted. That continued for longer that one would care to admit; and then the pendulum swung so far the other way… Eventually I went through a bit of a meltdown and I just stopped caring what anyone thought of me to the point of becoming antisocial. It was not quite an attitude of a sociopath but it was far from being healthy either. I started to feel that social conventions were somehow beneath me and that it was far more important to be myself. And apparently the self I have found was a dick when it came to social conventions.

That self importance was the beginning of my current downfall. Or rather not so much the attitude itself but more the fact that I have been using it the same way I’ve been using my hobbies obsessions: an excuse not to do the things I don’t feel like doing. Pair that avoidance technique with an unhealthy contempt for complying with social conventions. I thought of it as being my own man, an non-conformist. That attitude has cost me dearly. It cost me an interest of the woman I have fallen in love with. When she looked at me she saw all kinds of things she couldn’t stand instead of a man she could love. She tried to hint at things but I was too proud, too full of myself. So now all that is left is to try to pick up the pieces and try to move on. It is important to keep in mind what the social conventions are if we are to be a part of society. Because like it or not, we do need the society more than the society need us. Now it is easy to say that we should be ourselves and not care too much what others think of us. To that I respond: depends on who is doing the judging. Beware of the fact that if you only surround yourself with people like you, you may not enjoy the result.

I am lucky for knowing so many wonderful people who have been so generous with their time, and advice, and general support. (Who knew there would be so many damaged people in the arts community?) I am also lucky for being able to understand a lot of these things before I could have damaged myself much more or completely disintegrated. There definitely are some people I see in my life that could have used some of this enlightenment. It is my sincere hope that some of these blog posts will be of value not only to myself but to others as well.

Day 13. Improv Rules For A Healthier Life.

Note how the tile talks about a “healthier life” not a happier one. There is a reason for that but more about it later. As previously mentioned, one of my obsessions – that arose from trying to distract myself from the fact that I have been depressed for the past 20 years or so – has been improv, otherwise also known as improvisational theatre. There are a number of resources and articles out there denoting an important relationship and similarity between therapy and improv, as well as between improv and life in general, including The Way of Improvisation by a Canadian improviser Dave Morris.

Discovering improv (purely by accident) has allowed me to better deal with my problems. And although it has delayed my most recent meltdown which finally made me seek professional help, it has also made me more aware of my life, my world, and my problems. In fact, the speed with which I went out searching for therapy can be directly credited to improv for making me more self-aware.

As one can easily deduct not only from my current situation but from life in general, knowing the recipe to better life and being able to live it are two different things. So this is not just for those that will somehow stumble upon my writings but also for myself. Now, as I have mentioned earlier, there are a number of articles and posts written on the same subject. I will concentrate here on things and problems peculiar to my life experience. This enlightenment does not mean that I have learned these lessons and am a happy guy and am now telling you that this will make you happy as well. This is rather a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” I have learned these lessons but putting them into action is a constant struggle that is life. These rules are not magic beans and they won’t grow your life into something you want the moment you read them. The reason I compare improv to therapy is because you have to work on this as much as you would in therapy. And improv and therapy are not mutually exclusive but complement each other. Do not leave or avoid therapy for a chance to play and be popular. That was my mistake and it has cost me dearly. The other important notion is that improv is not just comedy. As in real life, there can and should be plenty of dramatic material in it.

So without further ado, here are the improv rules for a healthier life:

1. Say “Yes, and”, don’t deny or block.
Here’s the thing: when shit happens some of us, especially those with an anxiety problem, tend to go apeshit. I in particular have been very angry at the unfairness of the universe for sticking me with this handicap in form of ADHD-PI. Here’s the other thing: there’s no point in it. You can rail against it, cry about it, hurt yourself in various ways and it won’t change a goddamn thing. The best you can do is take a deep breath and remind yourself to move on. Say yes to this because that is the only way you can move past the issue that you have been unfairly saddled with; saying “no” and throwing a hissy fit in the direction of God, universe, the Force, etc will leave you in the same place you already are. Also, do not say no to your feelings. Trying to deny being angry is just as pointless as being stuck being angry. The “and” part after “yes” is what will allow you to figure out how to live with yourself. So “YES:” I got ADHD-PI with deep depression and horrible anxiety; I have trouble forming relationships and being a normal, social human being; I am pissed and hurt, because things are not the way I want them to be. “AND” I am going to therapy and have started this blog to try to untangle the mess that I’m in.

2. Don’t block.
In improv, blocking is defined as rejecting your scene partner’s offer. This is similar to saying “no” but not quite easy same thing in my humble opinion. “No” will just stop the progression of the scene same as the progression of your life. Blocking just makes things go in a different direction. In my case, I would find new hobbies, start new relationships, and ignore the stuff going on in my head. In life, you are your own scene partner (the other being life itself) so listen to yourself, pay attention to yourself, and support yourself.

3. Be in the moment.
You probably have heard a saying: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” It is very inspirational but kind of a bullshit. If you ignore or deny your past, you cannot have any future; and if you ignore the future your present will seem bland and pointless. Know it, remember it, go for it, but live in the here and now. This is just as important in life as in improv. You have to know exactly what happened for the scene and life to make sense. But be in the moment because that’s the only thing that matters right now. You can plan what will happen in the scene later on but this is improv so anything can happen at any moment. If your head is too much in the past or the future, you can miss a wonderful gift that life or your scene partner can come up with at any moment.

4. Change.
If nothing happens in life or in a scene than no one cares, including (most importantly) yourself. Be a part of life and allow it to change you. Every character you meet has the potential to change you. Allow that to happen and you will be better for it.

5. Play the game and have fun.
Shakespeare wrote that life is a stage and we are all actors in it. I would go even further and say that life is a long-form improv play. I hate those “present is a gift” and “play is a play” type of overly sweet platitudes but here we (unintentionally) are. Life is not a mere open scene but rather a succession of them. Remember that life is a game and you don’t always know the rules. So play the cards your are dealt regardless whether you like them. Sooner or later you will get something you can use. There’s a guy in Brazil who spent the last 45 years in bed after contracting polio as a child. He is also an animator who is in the process of creating an animated show based on the book written by his polio-stricken friend who has been in the same hospital with him for all these years. Your experiences are your own and only you can figure out how to make each and every one of them count for something.
There are many formats in improv and they are all good and their choice depends on preferences of players. It is up to you to choose he one that enriches your life the most and even change from one to another. You can live your life as a montage of scenes related to each other, or make it a long-form narrative, or a Harold. The choice of how you live your life is yours. Just remember to have fun because if people see you have fun they will stay with you. Even when the scene or a period in your life is so full of drama and sorrow, as long as you go through it with poise and purpose knowing that this is but a moment and you treat it with no less importance at the fun part, then audiences and people around you will stay and be a part of your unique experience.

So these are some basic things about life and improv. I hope that they will help you the same as they are helping me. It’s important though to not get stuck on them and look beyond them. If you decide to take improv classes in the hopes of improv-ing you life then do so but remember to live your life and pay attention to it and not using the fun of improv to let yourself ignore that which is most important: your own real life. For life may be a stage, but stage is not a substitute for life.

Day 12. Sweet Madness.

Standing on my head at edge of the ledge,”
– Holmes Brothers, “Edge Of The Ledge”, Feed My Soul (2010)

Love. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It is madness that we welcome often enough with open arms and end up cursing with abandon, oozing pain from our shattered hearts.

The Wikipedia article on love has a great note that “diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, compared to other emotional states.” It also quotes a 2004 article by Helen Fisher “Why We Love: .” “Love may be understood as part of the survival instinct, a function to keep human beings together against menaces and to facilitate the continuation of the species.” But what happens when that becomes the opposite? What happens when things fall apart, when that love is unanswered? I’m not trying to question the necessity of love or rail against it. That would be an exercise in futility and there’s not enough strength for that. Rather my goal is to attempt to unravel the tangled emotional mess that I find myself in.

What do we do when love is unrequited? Do we keep the feelings hidden inside? I suspect there is no one right answer. As I am only going through this currently, I won’t know whether my actions thus far have been correct. One would have to be rather removed from the traumatic event in question in order to gain some sort of objectivity. The one thing that has been going through my mind though is that in general we tend to hide that which we are ashamed of the most. Humans in general tend to avoid unpleasant things. In psychology this is know as the pleasure principle. When it comes to yours truly, due to various psychological issues mentioned in the previous posts, this drive (especially the part about avoiding unpleasant things) is present in spades. So what to do?

I admit, I was possibly being selfish when I sent the message to Her professing my feelings. Most of the things I had said can be found in my previous posts: A Cut Too Deep and … And Darkness Falls. I suppose I was overcome by a sense of defiance against an unfair universe and desire to be open about my feelings. I have held things inside for so long that now it has become problematic to keep them out of sight. It is true though that I have not really considered what Her emotions would be upon the receipt of my tear-filled missive. I assumed from our conversations, from when we were together, that She simply would not care and forget it soon thereafter. I have not expected Her to be angry and especially not angry enough to send me the type of message that She did. I have not expected Her to think so much less of me as a person.

Am I deluding myself? Am I really “small, petty and jealous”? Well, jealous is a “yes.” That often goes hand-in-hand with heartbroken. But I truly do want Her to be happy and I truly am tremendously sad that it can’t be with me. And I still love Her so much that her absence is painful beyond anything I have experienced. Not having her in my life is the greatest sense of loss that I have ever experienced. I have poured out so many feelings on this blog to try to come to terms with them. I have made WordPress my daily routine. Yet, it was not enough. Was it self-indulgence, jealousy, pride, self-importance, or some other negative trait that has pushed me to tell Her how I felt? Perhaps. Perhaps it was all of them. Perhaps I am simply trying to rationalise my actions. I hope though that was not the case and that it was motivated by only love and desire to not be ashamed of my own feelings. That letter was written as a stream of consciousness in a fit of deepest sorrow, and passion, and love, such that while writing it I had to occasionally stop to wipe snot and tears of my face for I had trouble breathing and seeing the screen. I hope that She will understand it one day and find it in her heart to forgive me and my emotional foibles.

And I still love Her.

Never Put Off ‘Til Tomorrow What You Can Do Day After Tomorrow (Or A Decade Or Two).

At first I wasn’t going to do a post inspired by the daily prompt but today’s theme did make me think of something. I am a horrible procrastinator. Part of having ADHD-PI is not being able to concentrate on the tasks that aren’t interesting. It is something that I know about myself and I try to do better but truth is that I have never tried all that hard. Plus, I do have that blind spot that helps me blank out and forget tasks that sound particularly distressing.

I should have sought professional help years ago but I told myself that things are not that bad and I do not require it. In effect, this has been a two decades long procrastination stretch. Must be some kind of a record!

So why did I do that? Well, part of it is cultural. As has been mentioned in a previous post, I come from a very straight laced culture where men are men and men do not talk about their feelings and only crazy people need mental health help. The other part of it is that it is hard to ask for help, especially this kind of help. Our inner psyche is our most private part. It is so private that sometimes we do not even let ourselves in, let alone other people. Inviting a complete stranger in has got to be the hardest thing there is. Plus, in most modern societies there is an ominous stigma attached to needing mental health help. (As some might rightly notice this is mostly just rationalisation but I’m not going to get into that all that much since there’s already a Rationalising And Reason today by thetalkingtherapist.)

Well, my misery cup hath runneth over. Yesterday was the day that I crossed that particular Rubicon and had my first session. It wasn’t easy to do this by any means but turning around and going home has never crossed my mind. Perhaps it shall later on when “shit will get real.” One of my goals in this new adventure is to change my thinking and learn to stop procrastinating. That said, however, I hope that I will still be able to enjoy lazy Sundays in bed and not get up just because I should. Now, if only I could finish the major cleanup I had started early this week…

Day 11. Palpitations.

This morning is marked by an anxiety attack that just won’t quit. The heart palpitations that are chocking me remind me with every painful beat of my heartbreak. I know it’s over between us. Even though for You it was barely anything, it was everything to me. I know we will never be together – I’m not THAT delusional. I know You probably hate me right now. I know You will likely always consider me a psycho and a creep. But I would still do it again. Suffering in silence is what I have been doing for far too long. No more. I have seen and experienced first hand the suffering caused by holding shit hidden deep inside and pretending in public that everything was fine. I would still write to You about my feelings for You. I did not expect an answer but I got one and it was as painful as it was likely true. You have cut off all contact and blocked me on Facebook. I do not blame You. From your point of view it was likely a creepy and an inappropriate message. But I would still do it again. As much as I am pained by it, I am not ashamed by my unrequited love for You.
It too shall pass as most things are wont to do. I will probably get over it. I will start anew. And when I do, the burden of never having admitted my feelings will not weigh heavily upon my shoulders.
My inner démiurge seems to have been satiated and anxiety has passed for now. I have admitted my “problem.” Perhaps these bouts will become less painful in the future but I know that the love that I will always carry for you in my heart will be lighter, for it will not be darkened by shame of hiding it.

Moving Forward.

Today was my first session with a shrink psychologist. I didn’t feel that it helped and I honestly don’t see how it could. But I know people whose lives were greatly improved by going into therapy and I have got to believe that there is an end game to this madness.
Also, not unexpected but still kinda weird, I got homework to do! Homework! Not sure how I feel about this. Schooling was never my strong suit. I need to believe though that this will work. Here’s to forlorn hopes and last resorts!

… And Darkness Falls. (Letter #3.)

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You never noted how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head, and I cried

– You Are My Sunshine

I don’t know what I was expecting. You came in this morning all full of energy and light. You moved like a hurricane of divine power, darting from the living room to the kitchen to get a glass of water and my inner turmoil has matched the speed of you turning into a barrage of conflicting emotions. My heart beat enough to almost break my ribs and block my larynx. You looked so beautiful and I almost fell apart because I could not hug you, could not kiss you. You laughed at one point and your face did that thing when you laugh and all I could do was choke back my tears. You looked around the place and tried on climbing shoes that my old partner forgot. You weren’t even looking at me at first. I had no right to hope that you would care. I knew you wouldn’t. You have said before that you do not dwell on things but move on. I should have taken heed long ago but I failed. And now you so clearly have moved on and I am left alone with my sorrow.

I wish, I wish… The words of regret.

I would give anything to be with you. If only it were possible to switch bodies with Him, the one you are with now. I tell myself that things would be different this time but truth is I would still be me and no amount of body switching would make me the one you want. I have to change myself, not to change into someone else!

I have to believe I will get better for otherwise there’s no point to living. It will take months, years… Who knows? Will you still be there? Will you be single. I have to believe that we might still have a chance because it gives me strength.

But now you are gone. And I still love you.

So I hung my head, and I cried…

Day 9. Anticipation.

In about an hour or so, She is supposed to stop by my place. I have asked her to because there are some things that I needed to tell her. Granted, that could be done via email or Facebook but I suppose I need to see her one last time. What will I say? Will I be able to hold it together? Only one way to find out…