Ep 24: I am Jack’s Medulla Oblongata

Or Geek Mental Help week

Its Geek Mental Help week next week1. Last year I wrote a series of blog posts talking about my experience with mental health, and I want to talk about this again this week. I’ve also organised an event, if people in Manchester are free on 28th October2

I’ve been struggling with my anxiety, actually, for a month or so. And it meant that I almost didn’t do this podcast, or event. But then I realised I have to talk about these things when it’s bad, when I’m not distanced a little.

The format of my talk will be around Fight Club. Because obviously.

The Medulla Oblongata controls all the stress bits of your physiology; heart rate, blood pressure, nausea. And so it seemed fitting for what I want to talk about today, which is essentially trying to get my Medulla Oblongata to chill the fuck out for once.

I AM JACK’S INFLAMED SENSE OF REJECTION

I get scared of lots of things, including rejection. Rejection of me, of my ideas, my feelings. Pre-rejection fears – the fear of the rejection that hasn’t happened.

I AM JACK’S RAGING BILE DUCT

There’s another part of anxiety that I don’t hear mentioned often. The fight part of the fight or flight response. I have on occasion lashed out, out of fear, out of intense anxiety about my work, my life, everything. Its really unhelpful, both in the moment and going forward. As I’m a woman, I’m aware of the ‘over-reacting, emotional woman’ trope, and so inevitably, me lashing out like this makes me feel worse as well.

(Anxiety also kind of makes you weirdly self-centered? Everything is totally always about you. Everything.)

I AM JACK’S COLON
I AM JACK’S COLD SWEAT

I have IBS, and that really doesn’t enjoy my anxiety. At all.

I AM JACK’S COMPLETE LACK OF SURPRISE

I dissociate from my anxiety a lot. I’ll generally either completely zone out and lose any connection to my body until I snap out of it and realise, in a distant way, my heart is pounding really quite fast and maybe I should try to stop that.

Or, sometimes I’ll feel far too small and vulnerable, or large and attention grabbing, and its really really weird, but apparently just related to my personal brand of anxiety, and doesn’t disrupt my life.

I AM JACK’S WASTED LIFE
I AM JACK’S BROKEN HEART

This is the biggie, I guess. The ‘hat if the worst happens and I lose (or drive away) everything and everyone?’. The ‘well I could do this thing I will enjoy or have to do but I’d rather sit here under the weight of my feelings and sabotage myself’

I AM JACK’S SMIRKING REVENGE

Mindfulness helps me a lot with the dissociation. It became a practise, second nature almost for me after a while, so while I do still have my moments, they are a sign that I’m really at my worse, or being actively triggered, as opposed to it just happening.

Meds. Meds give me the energy to get up and do something and then the next thing until I feel vaguely human shaped. And that helps me a ridiculous amount. Just being able to do the washing without huge amounts of cajoling, berating, and bribing means that I have more energy for things like this.

CBT. Lets logic some feelings out.

GETTING HELP

I want to preface this by saying, I do not want anyone to not get help based on what I’m saying. But I did not have the easiest time getting help. I don’t have panic attacks, I never have. I didn’t realise what I was doing when I was dissociating. I didn’t have the words to describe my anxiety as anxiety, because I didn’t realise that’s what it was until after I was in therapy. I was keeping a job. It was all I could do at one point, but I was keeping a job. I was in a relationship. I couldn’t be depressed. And when I went to the doctors they essentially said the same.

But I kept breaking down until I got some help. It took me two years and so many questionnaires, but I did it. I did all the things in my previous slide, and I’m much better off for it. I’m not recovered? I may never be recovered, fear might always be my first reaction to things, but as long as I can turn the volume down on that fear without it costing all my energy? I’m okay with that.

I try to be nice to myself, without giving in to myself. I’m learning to live with my brain, not despite it.

Footnote

[1]http://geekmentalhelp.com/
[2]http://lanyrd.com/2015/geekmentalhelp/

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