Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Facing it, really really facing it

"The feeling I get is more like, every single little sound in the house (furnace, air conditioning, a clock) seems like its yelling at me (I know this sounds odd..). The sound of my breathing even making me crazy, and it just seems like everything in my head is screaming."  from My thoughts are loud and panicky

i have this.  do you?  it happened tonight for the first time in a long time and for the first time ever in my life i found out other people have it.  i think it is related to anxiety.  i am feeling like it's time now more than ever before in my life to really face that "mental illness/disorder" thing.  i suspect that it is related to that whole not getting the right nutrition during critical growth phases idea, and that continuous, really continuous, deep nourishment could ease the frayed nerve endings.  i've been treating the symptoms of my anxiety, which has been helpful, but i'm thinking about trying to go after the root of it again.  but this time from a mostly biological/nourishment perspective with a little bit of emotional/reflective exploration.  in the past i tried going all out with therapy and it opened up some stuff but mostly left me feeling waaay more vulnerable than i would like to be, walking around all open and exposed with anxiety can lead to some scary situations.  at the same time, trying to stick to a strict nutritional regimen can lead to all kinds of problems for me, so i won't be writing out any dietary charts or plans.  just in how i *think* about the situation.  believing that i *can* heal my anxiety is the first step.  i used to not believe that teeth could heal.  i used to think that only medicine and doctors could help illnesses.  i used to think herbs were a nice idea but that they didn't really make a difference for a modern girl like me who was already saturated in processed food and packaged pharmaceuticals.  so believing that anxiety is a heal-able condition is my first step.  and not the old typical, make sure you exercise, write in your journal, and see a therapist.  for me that's like healing my teeth by using colgate total and going to the dentist.  not gonna work.  i need to feel like i am healing from the inside out, not from the outside in.  outside in is helpful too, but that's not gonna be the main route.

i've been treating my anxiety with cannabis.  there, i said it.  can't say that on facebook so i probably won't be adding a link to this post, but if you got here from there, oh well.  my six followers now know that i use cannabis for anxiety.  or used.  i mean i still have some but i am going to try to move in a different direction for treating my mental condition.

marijuana has been extremely helpful.  i would never ever experience loud and panicky thoughts with cannabis.  i am much less likely to feel the compulsion to pick at my skin when it is in there soothing my brain, untying the knots, ironing out the wrinkles.  that's what scares me the most about thinking about not having cannabis around.  if i get in a state where i feel all tight in my brain, and my jaw is clenched, and i'm needing to do a bunch of work but all i can do is stare at my face in the mirror for the tiniest blemish or look over my skin for something to pick at, then one breath of cannabis *kills* that feeling and allows me to just wash dishes or fold laundry or water plants.  And yet at the same time, i sense that the marijuana is kind of like Dumbo's feather.  it gives me the sense that i am doing something to help myself climb out of a spiral or a hole, and it really does bring relief, temporarily.  but that's it.  the anxiety always returns.  daily.  or within a few hours, depending on the day.  tolerance builds up.  i have to take breaks from the cannabis for it to remain effective.  during the time that i'm taking breaks the anxiety can get worse or build up.

are you curious how the anxiety manifests itself?  or is that just too much information?  well it's my blog and i only have six followers so i won't be that embarrassed.  plus, somehow, every five or ten years or so, when i decide to face this thing, talking about it takes away some of its power.  so here goes.  as i've already alluded to, the main and most obvious symptom is the picking.  it's not like picking at a scab.  it's like finding the tiniest pimple that ever existed and squeezing it.  gross.  so tiny that it's not really a pimple at all.  well, first all the things that look like pimples, then moving on to pores that *might* be pimples.  then it's really just pores with a little bit of extra sebum or something.  OCD.  kind of similar to trichotillimania.  it used to be really really bad when i was in high school and college.  really really bad means spending one hour in the bathroom poring over all parts of my skin.  today it's about five or ten minutes a day on average and the place is usually on my shoulders and chest.  a little on my face.  i don't do it on my arms and legs anymore, or it is kept to a bare minimum.  in college i had tiny scabs on my arms and legs from picking at night when i would be staying up late for homework.  all it is is a displacement of anxiety.  it comes from a feeling of being trapped or captive in a situation (in high school it was when i was sent to my room or just was in my room doing homework, in college it was usually when i had work to do or if i was going through relationship problems.)  i did it so much and so often that it developed into a habit or coping behavior for when i felt anxiety.  my first relationship ever was with a girl who had bulimia.  i didn't understand how vomiting could become a habit, could become a way of coping with anxiety.  or at least i *thought* i didn't understand.  of course i totally understood.  it just manifested differently with me.

along with the ocd came depression, of course.  possibly bipolar, but that was never diagnosed, and i had a boyfriend with *real* bipolar, and i didn't have those kinds of manic episodes, mine would have been much more subdued than what would require meds, no hallucinations or delusions on my part.  a year before i met my husband i went through a series of bad relationships and bad breakups and saw a therapist for help.  she said i might have something (at the time) like "schizo-affective personality disorder" or something like that.  that was really at my begging for a diagnosis because i really felt like i was losing my mind and that i would end up homeless or something, i felt so desperate and unwell mentally and unable to converse with normal people.  she sort of laughed and poo-poo'd my desperate longing for mental insanity.  i say longing because there was a part of my mind that thought that if i really lost it then i would be forced to be under the care of others which would remove the burden of trying to recover my self and my identity after the series of bad relationships.  fortunately around that time i had the opportunity to go travelling in europe for about a month or so which kind of swung my mind back around, just by the simple fact that i was in places where i didn't have to listen to the mundane conversations of people around me.  the sound of foreign language constantly around me was actually soothing to my mind.  around this same time was the first time that i became aware of the idea that i might be a "highly-sensitive person", which was the suggestion of my therapist.  looking back i realize that would explain why it was soothing for me not to hear the mundane conversations of people around my.  i now see myself as a very intuitive and empathetic person, the "highly sensitive" my therapist referred to, and it can be difficult for me to separate myself from other people's emotional states and their worries and concerns.  i thought that other people were exceptionally cruel to me by not considering my thoughts and feelings.  slights and rude behavior would be interpreted by me (and i still fight this) as evidence of my own shortcomings, proving that i was not a "good person" or "worthy" of respect and kindness, or so i thought.  i think this way of thinking is part of why when i tried to sign up for a study, after i had been married for a few years, on people who "used to be depressed", i was rejected for qualifying as BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER!  That was a shocker.  I remember when the perky young grad student's face became very serious as she told me that "diagnosis" after a long series of questions, my facial and verbal response made her concerned enough that she offered to walk me to my car.  I refused her offer and made up my mind not to go back to a therapist again!  But my point is that that way of thinking, of thinking that other people were trying to hurt me when they really were just being normal people who aren't trying to hurt others, they are just careless, is what led me to a lot of pain and panic in my teens and twenties.  But it wasn't because I was borderline, i think it was because i assumed that everyone was as intuitive as i was, but i didn't even think of myself as intuitive at the time, i didn't even have that concept of myself.  i didn't know why i felt that way, but i think i do now.

so the marijuana definitely tempered my empathy, in a way.  it allowed me to go with the flow more and also to start to make connections in my thought patterns that i couldn't see before.  it allowed me to have a kind of meta-cognition.  whenever i would pick at my skin, i would often go into a kind of "zone" or trance.  and it was very easy to see that when i was picking my mind was combing over details of the day.  an encounter with a friend or acquaintance.  i could have gone to a party and had a great time, but my mind would want to re-examine the conversations, replay the way i said certain things or the nuances of a friend's facial expressions.  marijuana for me became a way to replace the picking.  with cannabis i could replay the events without the picking.  just take a shower and enjoy replaying the events of the day in my mind without the analysis, without the judgment attached to it.  i could see the events as part of a bigger picture and see the flow of time better, see the development of a friendship and feel good about it.  or realize that i was putting too much effort into a fruitless endeavor and be able to decide to let it go.

so if marijuana has helped me so much why give it up?  i have been using it consistently for about the last five years.  consistently means nearly every day.  not a lot, just a little bit at a time.  but one thing marijuana does is, while it allows me to just let life flow, sometimes i need to have a little more vigor in me, i need to have a little more drive, a little more hope.  so i need to find my balance again.  i am so grateful for the mother herb to hold me in her bosom and tell me that everything is going to be okay.  but eventually i need to put my feet on solid ground and take a step, feel my own weight.

this was not all precipitated by my own sheer will and desire to strengthen and heal.  it was brought on by outside forces as things often are.  my friend who is a patient caregiver for medical marijuana has gotten sick themself.  and when my friend got sick, i got so so sad.  i love my friend so much and want them to be healthy, but i couldn't help wondering why i would be so sad over a friend that i mostly see when i need medicine.  did i really love them that much or was there an underlying reason behind my sadness?  i *was* afraid of losing my medicine.  I was afraid of what would happen to me if i didn't have access to cannabis.  would i revert back to that college girl spending an hour in the bathroom after everyone else has gone to bed?  never wearing tank tops or bathing suits without a t-shirt because my shoulders and arms had what looked like strange little scratch marks all over them?  would i become pent up with anxiety, trying to calm the rising spiral, the beating heart and racing thoughts with something, anything, drinking three beers in quick succession at 3pm on a weekday to quiet the rising tide of anxiety?  would i spend the rest of my life captive to a coping mechanism that seemed to cause the very anxiety it originally sought to quell?  would i die having never figured out how to solve this riddle of anxiety?

i came back to that old realization that each of us has been given this gift of broken-ness, through no fault or effort of our own, that contains the key to unlocking our peace and strength and wisdom.  it's one thing to realize that, but i can't stop there.  I CAN'T STOP THERE!  that old mountain analogy.  you can know the mountain is there, you can read all about it, you can become an expert on it, but you haven't climbed it until you actually climb it.  others can tell you all about it but it's not your feat until you really do it yourself.  no, i think i'll toss that one.  maybe it's more like seeing the scales tipped too far in one direction and trying to put little stones or plants or thoughts on the other scale to bring them back into balance.  the cannabis has been like big momma the owl in Fox and the Hound, holding me to her big soft bosom that is so sweet and powdery and feathery and saying, "don't you fret child, big momma's here!"  but now it's my time.  i feel it.  i really feel it.  i feel just a little bit strong right now and that's good enough for me.  that's better than i've felt in a long long time.  i kept saying, hold on, i'll deal with it later, for god's sake i've got a baby, i've got children, not now!  but now i feel it.  i'll feed that child in me.  i'll recapitulate those tender times myself, those vulnerable growth phases, and nourish that mind, dare i say soul?  it's here.  i'm saying it on this blog to all six of you.  the time has come.  the time is now.  lisa k. rakestraw will you please go now?  the time had come so lisa went.

breath.  breath.  breath.