It Has A Name

Emetophobia – an intense, irrational fear or anxiety pertaining to vomiting. This specific phobia can also include subcategories of what causes the anxiety, including a fear of vomiting in public, a fear of seeing vomit, a fear of watching the action of vomiting or fear of being nauseated.

In one of my very first posts on this blog I spent a lot of time describing my experience with anxiety. In that post I mentioned a deep seeded fear of vomiting that I attributed to two traumatic experiences I had as a child. I alluded to this fear entering my everyday decision making process, but I didn’t elaborate a great deal. Some of the impacts of this fear I have barely admitted to myself let alone put into print or said aloud. Here is a partial list of the things I have or haven’t done as a result of this fear:

  • When in High School I used to tell my girlfriend that I wanted to get take-out and go eat down by the river rather than eat inside a restaurant. I used the river as “romantic” alternative to eating in a dining room, when the truth was I was afraid of getting sick in the restaurant.
  • I avoid places with large crowds because bathrooms are either hard to get to or filthy dirty should one have to hang their head over a toilet. When I do go to a concert or show I want to sit on the aisles so I can make a quick and subtle exit if I have to.
  • The biggest reason I don’t drink alcohol is fearing of being made sick
  • When I enter a new building I am sure to identify the locations of the restrooms and any trash cans in case I need a quick place to puke.
  • I adhere strictly to expiration or use by dates on food.  l also will not eat leftovers or cold cuts that have been in my refrigerator for more than a few days.
  • I never burp. I can’t distinguish between the sensation of burping and nausea. It all feels the same to me. Of course the inability to expel the gas from my body adds to and prolongs my discomfort. I have memories as a kid of leaning over the toilet thinking I was going to be sick. I could feel it coming and when I opened my mouth nothing came out except the noise and gas.
  • Periodically I will awake from a deep sleep and leap to my feet convinced I am about to vomit and rush to the bathroom. I will often fall back asleep on the bathroom floor or if I return to bed I will put an empty trash can near my bed.
  • My wife is a school teacher and when she has sick students in her class I am in full on freak out mode at home. Likewise with my 3 year old son I am paranoid of being around him when he is sick. We have been lucky thus far that he has not had a real stomach virus, but I know the days is coming and I dread it.
  • Feelings of nausea will often leave me sweating and shaking. Sometimes my mouth with salivate heavily as if the act were about to happen though it never does.
  • It has without question directly affected my professional life. I really don’t want to get into details here as it is the most painful truth, but I have worked on airplanes and boats so it shouldn’t take much imagination to see the magnitude of that problem.

Much of this list has been spoken to therapists and various shrinks, but I have never presented the entire list together. In my last experience with talk therapy a couple years ago it was brought up in the more detail than ever before, but still this word, emetophobia, was never mentioned. For years, decades actually, I have been suffering with this, living with coping mechanisms in place and I didn’t even know it had a name. I always thought it was just a personal oddness. There was no way a significant number of other people had a similar problem. If I had a nickel for every time somebody looked at me trying to be helpful, but sounding condescending, and said “Nobody likes to get sick” I would be a wealthy man.

The discovery of this word, emetophobia, came as a result of some recent personal realizations about the level of anxiety in my life, and wondering at the source of my true problems. Am I depressed which causes anxiety or am I anxious which makes me feel depressed. It feels like the classic chicken or egg scenario, but having spent some time with little to no medication in my system, and being benzo free for seven full months I am beginning to wonder if there may actually be an answer. Maybe the docs have just never asked to right questions. I want to write more about this, but it feels like a different post. For now I am just going to consider what it means to have a name for nearly thirty years of torment. Emetophobia. There is power in a name.

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Colder Weather

 

In many ways this song puts to music my experience with depression and anxiety, It was never intended to speak to those issues, but the mood of the music and the lyrics are something I can relate to far beyond any literal intentions. The songs true inspiration was the love interest of a musician in the band. He was touring the northern tier of the country and she was in Kansas City. He and his band mates were chasing their musical dreams and he just wasn’t able to put in the effort to make things work. He was literally “stuck in colder weather”.

For me the colder weather is more reflective of the darker days of my life. These darker days almost caused me to leave a special girl behind and they did cause me to leave a great deal of the things that defined me and gave me joy. I have found my way back to some of these things, but others are gone forever. These things aren’t to be mourned. Life works in funny ways and lately I have been finding myself in milder climates, using the parlance of the song, and I am finding new joys, while allowing myself the fond memories of those closed chapters.

It is a beautiful song. I hope you enjoy it.

 

A Day In The Life And Weakness As Strength

I want to start by recapping the highlights of my day yesterday. It was typical of a day in the life. There have been much worse, and there have been much better. My day to day life runs pretty similar to this experience.

I have written of late that my stomach gave me a nearly three week reprieve before letting me down again late last week. It has continued to be unsettled and cause me anxiety, but things have generally been better than that first day last week. I had to leave yesterday for work earlier than normal. It certainly wasn’t early by most standards, even mine, but for this job it was earlier than I typically get on the road. I left the house at seven for a rather remote destination about 2 ½ hours away. About twenty minutes from home I passed through the biggest town I was going to see on the way. My stomach was feeling uneasy, but I felt a little hungry too so I took the chance and swung into a fast food joint. I know this crappy food doesn’t help my stomach, but it doesn’t bother me every time I eat it, and my stomach acts up plenty when I haven’t had any in days.

Thirty minutes or so later it was clear that I was going to pay a price for this. The discomfort was higher in my stomach than normal, of course right? I did just eat, and it felt as if my body may reject the meal from either direction, or maybe both. At this point my mind drifts to the talk I had heard about a stomach bug that has been around lately, and the thought that I may actually be sick creeps into my mind. About thirty minutes from my destination I pass through the last town of any size I will see and strike off down a lonely road towards a place that truly feels like you have reached the end of the earth.

As I travel down this road I feel the anxiety building. My mind starts to race…There are no bathrooms until I get back out to the main road, what if I puke, what if I shit myself, I could turn back, but somebody would have seen me. How do I explain that? Even if I turn back I am 2 ½ hours from home. Other people are expecting me today. They changed plans to meet me. I have to see them to meet deadlines. How will I deal with the new timeline if I cant do it?, and on and on and on… Suddenly I cant sit still in my seat. I feel the urge to move… To flee. I adjust myself in my seat to release some of the tension. I take a deep breath. Slow in. Hold it. Slow out. The urge passes, but the general feeling of unease stays. My stomach is upset still but I carry on.

At my first destination I get out at a guys house, and we do our business. We are outside and it is raining and about 31 degrees. As I begin to get cold my body wants to shiver and some of the physical sensations of fear are replicated by my body’s reaction to being cold. Luckily the business is short and I am back in my vehicle with the heat cranked up to take off the chill. About halfway back to the main road I have to make a second stop. Here I am alone, but again outside in the rain, and the chill triggers the anxiety false alarm again. Again the heat is cranked as I make my way back to the world.

When I get back to the first store I stop and go in to grab a box of Altoids Mints. The strong peppermint sometimes settles my stomach and I eat them three at a time. They actually begin to help some. By now it is ten in the morning and I am two hours into a constant feeling of physical illness and general unease that was punctuated by one pronounced anxiety spike. I make my way to the next stop and am feeling somewhat better when I arrive. Much of the stomach pain has quieted down, but the uneasy feeling won’t go away. At this stop I have much to do. I am making patterns and taking measurements. The process will take about 90 minutes and there is no restroom. About half way through with paper spread all over the place I begin to feel trapped. Not claustrophobic, but it occurs to me that I cant just leave. I have a lot of stuff to pick up and I would take me ten minutes or so to be in a position to leave. Normally this thought would not have entered my head, and if it did it wouldn’t have bothered me, but in the aftershocks of the morning’s anxiety it result in instant stomach cramping. I try to let my body relax and keep working hoping it will pass and it does. They cramping comes and goes one more time while I am there. Throughout the remainder of the day I am plagued with repeated short bouts of stomach cramping. Luckily they are never all that severe and they don’t last all that long before passing, but here is still one more surprise in store for me.

In the late afternoon I am scheduled to see my shrink to update him on the Klonopin situation. This blog post notwithstanding things are going well, and it is time for him to write me a letter and get this process with the Coast Guard moving again. It’s about three in the afternoon, and I have switched from light hearted sports talk radio to an afternoon current events show I enjoy. The show is often funny and a little irreverent so I can get some interesting perspective on the day’s news while still getting the occasional laugh. Of course to get to the show I have to get through the actual newscast. One of their stories talks about seventy some odd people being killed at an Egyptian soccer match when the fans rushed the field. I later discovered that the deaths resulting from actual fighting between fans on the field, but that information was not in this initial broadcast. My mid is flooded with images of people being crushed by a wave of humanity. I am suddenly one of the players seeing the swarm of people and turning to escape only to discover the swarm is coming from every direction. Before I can stop it I am in the crowd. I can feel the pressure of the bodies pushing against one another. I can feel the fear of trying to escape the crowd, but not being able to press through the mass of humanity. I imagine the consequences of falling to the ground. Finally my mind returns and I chastise myself for allowing my brain to go down that road, but it happened so damn quick. It was all over in the time it took to read this, but I cannot allow my mind to do that to me.

The appointment goes well, abd the ride home should take an hour. It has been raining on and off most of the day with temps either side of freezing, but now it is dark and getting colder. As I drive away from the coast the roads go from wet to frozen. There are cars off the road. Traffic is moving at rates from 15 – 25mph. On one hill an eighteen wheel fuel truck is stopped. He cant make the hill because of the ice. I pass a truck who had blown by me just prior to the point where the roads went to shit. He is off in the trees, and the police are already on the scene. Conditions are dangerous and I am tight, but there is no anxiety break through. In fact my biggest anxiety issue is what if my line of traffic gets stopped by an accident and my stomach acts out. The last twenty miles takes nearly and hour. When I get home I pull into my drive which slopes downhill. I put the van in park and let off the brake. As the van rolls into the parking break and is stopped I slide another foot down the driveway. It was a nasty night. My stomach does eventually explode, but thankfully I am home, and it only involves a couple trips up the stairs. The day is done.

So by now if anybody is still reading they are probably wondering what the hell the point is to all of this. It’s simple. Many people who have never lived it or been close to it look at those who suffer from depression or anxiety as weak. It makes no sense to them. Having lived through this I say the opposite. I challenge anybody who thinks folks who suffer from depression and anxiety are weak to live through the day I just described, or any other sufferer’s day, and complete their job. I will freely admit that my job is affected by my condition, but I live through better and worse variations of the day I just described every single day of my life. Despite all of that I function reasonable well. I have heard that those who are anxious can’t be counted on if things get dangerous, but I made that trip on horrible roads with no increased anxiety at the end of a day dominated by anxious thoughts. I am not weak I am strong, and I bet you are too.

Not Just Mental Pain

The peace and quiet in my lower GI was violently shattered this afternoon. I was in the last little town I make calls in, which is located about 30 minutes from home. When the cramps hit it was clear that I was going to have a problem so I bailed on the rest of my accounts and struck for home. I got about ten minutes down the road when the cramping abruptly subsided. I have experienced these warning shots many times before, and I generally have an hour maybe two of reprieve before it all returns. Sometimes I get lucky and it stays away for longer, and sometimes it only passes for a few moments.  I have been feeling guilt lately about my work being affected by my health so I decided to roll the dice. I turned around and drove back the way I had come. I was leaving my second of three stops when the cramping returned. I again headed for home. Again the cramping subsided at nearly the same spot as last time, but once they start coming regularly the frequency ramps up quick so I didn’t tempt fate again. A couple minutes from home they came back a third time and much worse than the first two times. I was actually kind of happy that they hit when they did as I was able to run inside and be done with it for now.

While I sitting on the can with my insides being turned out I began to think about the physical pain that comes with anxiety and depression. I imagine when most folks who aren’t in the know hear the word pain in the same sentence with depression and anxiety they think of mental anguish. In my own experience they would be half right. Maybe less than half right. My truth has been that physical pain, usual in the form of stomach upset but not always, has been the precursor to the onset of depression as well as a symptom of ongoing depression and anxiety.

As a child I suffered from what everybody I talked too referred to as a nervous stomach. I have already touched on the pure terror that is caused by the slightest inkling that I may vomit, and I have touched on the other problems I have had with my stomach for longer than I can really remember. In a nutshell it boils down to feelings of nausea, stomach cramping and diarrhea whenever I was put under any form of physical stress. The problem peaked during the spring of my junior year of high school and then for the next six years where largely a non issue.

In one of my very first posts I wrote about the first days of depression and anxiety becoming a dominant force in my life. I wrote about being a flight instructor and having a very frustrating evening with a student that ended with intense feelings of nausea while we were flying. These feelings of being sick began to interrupt my ability to function normally and I did what any other person would do. I went to the doctor. Of course the doctors could find nothing at all wrong with me. As the physical problem got worse the depression and anxiety really began to take hold, but the doctors had started with me when it was all physical and they stayed the course looking for anything that may be wrong. I underwent a multitude of tests, but I clearly remember the barium swallow. For those who have never experienced this consider yourselves lucky. Those that have know it is no fun, and I would ask that you think back on the experience and try to imagine having to do it while feeling as if you were going to vomit at any moment. They give you this chalky flavored drink that is thick like a milkshake and you have to drink it while they take x-rays of it traveling through your digestive system. When I did it there was a technician handing me cups of the drink telling me to drink it continually while the doctor was in another part of the room presumably looking at the images. I recall getting through the first cup or two of the drink before my stomach began its revolt and I refused the next cup. I remember the technician being kind of a dick and trying to force me to keep drinking. I remember getting into a heated argument with him about the potential consequences of putting any more fluid in my mouth, and asking if he was ready to get a mop and clean up the mess. I didn’t drink anymore and at some point the doctor ended the argument by saying he had what he needed.

Eventually everybody figured out what was happening and I started with antidepressants and therapy. These treatments reigned in the stomach problems to a degree, but as previously mentioned I still deal with it on a nearly daily basis with the occasional period of calm.

Besides stomach upset I deal with a steady supply of headaches. My Dad suffers from Migraines. I have seen what they can do to him, and I will count myself as lucky to have never experienced anything like that, but nonetheless these nagging frequent low grade headaches can sap a person’s will given enough time. Of course they aren’t always simple low grade headaches at times they can be very painful. I truly feel for those that have been cursed with true migraines.

The random aches and pains would be too long to list, and I wouldn’t be able to remember them all anyway. I just count these as generic pain that tends to subside when I am feeling better, but when things turn down they reappear randomly through the day. I would imagine most who suffer from depression and anxiety have stories of physical pain to share. Feel free to comment and share your story.

How Full Is Your Crucible?

This afternoon I have had some time to myself, the first that could be counted in more than minutes in some time. I haven’t used it well which is no real surprise. I have been mostly reading about the ills of the world on the internet, and catching up on the details of the NFL weekend, really nothing important. One thing that I did do was cue up some music, which isn’t something I have done in a very long time. As I sifted through my long neglected iTunes library I was picking out the songs that resonated with me most, and recalled a trailer for a movie I saw while flipping channels with my wife last night. The movie was “War Horse”, a new Dream Works production that opens Christmas Day. Suffice to say this is going to be a sad movie, and I reacted to the trailer by telling my wife there was no way I would be watching that movie. It was an odd thing for me to say out loud as we have a two year old, and movie nights are few and far between. As I sat here pondering my reaction to the trailer the music started with a live version of “Life in a Northern Town” followed by Jeff Buckley’s rendition of “Hallelujah”, I’ll spare you the rest of the play but it is an odd collection of tunes, anyway; as the music played I felt something begin to change in my head… I just felt heavy. I recognized the feeling right away and it’s not new. Entertainment, music, movies, tv, can have an astonishingly potent impact on my mood, and at times the impact is not temporary.

War Horse (film)

My first memory of having been impacted by what amounts to pop culture was my sophomore year of college. I was still more than two years from having depression and anxiety take control of my life, but in that particular program the second year was really the make or break year. The academic pressure was high, but I was surviving. At some point along the way the movie “Titanic” was released. I had little interest, but my girlfriend wanted to go so we went. I don’t really remember the whys, but I remember feeling a deep sadness after that movie that lasted for two weeks. It didn’t have anything to do with the movie, but it was a feeling of despair that I would recall a couple years later when it returned in force. At the time I didn’t really think that much of it, and I have no idea what made it finally go away. I suspect it was nothing but time. I can say one thing for certain; I have never watched the movie again. I have seen parts of it, but I will not let myself get dragged into the story.

During the initial years of the fight with depression and anxiety I can’t recall specific instances of a piece of entertainment having that kind of specific long term impact. I do know that in the past I have reacted to the prospect of seeing sad movies the way I reacted last night, and have made an effort to avoid them when I can. In my head I always rationalized it by telling myself I had enough sadness in my life I didn’t need to pay money for a couple hours more. In truth I am sure I have been avoiding the chance for a repeat of the “Titanic” episode. Interestingly however, I have unwittingly found myself watching unbelievably sad movies since (read “The Notebook”), with no long term effect. Still, I don’t like sad movies.

In recent months I have had two encounters with pop culture that are worth mentioning. The first did lead, or at least contribute, to the funk I pulled myself out of just before I started this blog. Oddly enough it wasn’t a sad movie or song, but a violent and intense television program. One evening I was home alone with time to kill, and was surfing through Netflix when I came across the “Sons of Anarchy” a drama that plays on FX. I had heard good things so I pulled up the pilot and watched it. I was fucking hooked. Hard. I don’t know why, but I was drawn into the story, and with access to episodes on demand I tore through the first season, fitting in an episode whenever I could find the 48 minutes I needed. What I didn’t notice was my darkening mood. One afternoon I had several hours free and watched four episodes of season two back to back. While I watched, the sun set, and the house grew dark around me. When I finished and pulled myself away from screen I had fallen to a dreary place. I started snapping lights on around the house, but I was low and there was no changing it. That was about two months ago, shortly before I started this blog. With time my mood improved, and I pulled myself back from the brink of another major depressive episode. I wish I knew how for next time, but for now I am content to know I did. What surprised me is how this television show could have had this impact. I have given it a lot of thought and still am not really sure, but could probably write a couple thousand words on what I think happened. I will spare you the amateur psychoanalysis and just say that while the show isn’t particularly sad it is intense and emotional. It speaks to urges that are primal, and the conflict that arises in a thinking person brought up in such a basic world. Since that night I have watched one episode, last week, and am not sure if I will watch any more.

The second instance came from a song just a few weeks ago. It was a short lived event, but I was overcome with sadness. I am a country music fan, and I was listening to the radio in the car when a song of no particular interest to me came on. The song was “Jesus Take The Wheel” by Carrie Underwood. It’s not a new song by any means, and I have probably heard it a hundred times. I remember it came out when I was college the second time because I guy I used to spend some time with hated the tune. I had really never paid that much attention. I was familiar with the story in the song, but for the first time I guess I really “heard” the lyrics or was in a place emotionally where they resonated. The idea of letting go of my life, of no longer being responsible for myself, of conceding control to a higher power was overwhelming. Several years ago I knew a man who was a recovering alcoholic. He was an old boat captain and he was a wise man. I didn’t have to tell him I was troubled he just seemed to know, and he would often reference the step in the AA recovery process where you admit you are powerless, and there are things in your life over which you have no control. Of course you have to believe it for it to work, and it is a notion I have always resisted. I am not an addict though I think I could easily have been one. I quit drinking during that sophomore year I mentioned above when I realized I was pouring a shot of unmixed rum into a glass and drinking it every night before bed. I don’t know if this is something that needs exploring on my part. I have very little interest in organized religion, and always feel like a fake when I am in church. There is likely an entire blog post coming at some point on religion, but there has got to be a take away from that experience. Or maybe there isn’t and I am just over analyzing, because I have never done that before 😉

So what’s the point here? I don’t know if my experience is common. I suspect it is in part, though no two people process anything the same. Why do I seem to be so sensitive to the impacts of pop culture? First when it comes to my aversion to sad movies I am not sure it is all rationalization. There is truth to somebody with a depressive personality saying they experience the feelings of sadness often enough that they don’t need to make those feeling more acute my subjecting themselves to somebody else’s emotional pain. I think that quite often depressive folks are very empathetic and they feel other people’s pain on a whole other level when compared to a dispassionate observer. I am reminded of reading a book called Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner when I was a child. The story is about a boy and his dog in a sled dog race, and at the end of the race just before the finish the dog’s heart explodes. Later for some reason I was required to watch a movie version of the story and as it got to the end I wanted to stop watching. I remember telling my mother in tears that I didn’t want to finish the movie. I had seen the dog die in my imagination when I read the book. I didn’t need to see it again in “real life”. Just writing these words now twenty five years later is painful. That is a powerful image.

Cover of "Stone Fox"

Back on track here… So after giving it some thought I have come to a conclusion that may be quite obvious to some, but maybe not so much to others. I think a person’s capacity to hold and process emotions is similar to a crucible. The level of emotion in an ordinary crucible varies over the course of a life as does the amount of heat applied, but it would be a rare occasion that the combination of emotion and heat would be enough to overflow. The depressive on the other hand goes through life with a crucible nearly full. Like anybody else’s the level varies with time and circumstance, but it is higher to start and easier to fill. The ingredients are more toxic and less stable than typical so add a little more emotional stress or heat and it would be quite common for their crucible to overflow. More simply stated when you feel more of your own life, and you feel more of the lives around you, it is easy to become overwhelmed.

When it comes to pop culture the intensity of the experience adds to the level of your crucible, and if it is already nearly full it can easily be caused to spill. Once the chemicals for depression in my brain get flowing it can be hard to turn them off. It takes time, patience, and sometimes drugs to get everything reigned back in. I am never comfortable letting these chemicals flow by choice. Life happens and sadness is part of life, but I do not want to voluntarily subject myself to a situation that will stimulate these feelings artificially.

A person who has never suffered from depression may read this and think I have severely overstated the potential impact of watching or listening to entertainment that evokes strong emotional response. On the other hand I have seen folks with no depressive history that I am aware of listen to too much political talk radio and be in a bad mood all day. It happens to me a lot, but if it happens to non depressive types wouldn’t it make sense that those more susceptible to emotional distress would have even stronger negative responses to emotional stimuli? I think so.

Going Through The Motions

Most days I can’t tell if I am dead or alive. My life has become nothing more than going through the daily motions. It wasn’t always this way. I try not to dwell on the past as it rarely serves any constructive purpose. I try to take my lessons and move on, but there are days when I look back on who I used to be, that confident young man full of potential, and pine for what has been lost.

To paint a complete picture and be fair to myself my teen years were not fantastic, and I would not wish to relive them. That said there are things I miss from my youth. At that age there was an almost daily thrill to being alive. The adrenaline rush of life was a regular occurrence. I have said in the past that the tell tale signs of depression were there even back then, and I was a sensitive serious kid, but I had yet to feel the deep dark lows that were to come, and I had the ability to feel the rush of life on a regular basis.

The rush I am talking about came from a lot of sources in those days. I was successful in academics, and treated school like a competition.  By my senior year of high school I had developed into a mostly straight A student, but those grades were mostly a function of me being good at school. Sure I was bright, but I had also figured out how to play the game that was school. This was a skill that I really capitalized on in college. When I am taken by the feeling flatness as an adult the rush I really yearn for is the one that came from athletics. Forgive me while I let me inner jock out for a moment. I was blessed to be from a small town and attend a small high school. This meant you didn’t have to be particularly talented to participate in varsity sports. I began swimming competitively when I was eight years old, and competed until I graduated from high school. We didn’t have any youth football programs, but when I got to high school I joined the team and despite being only 160 pounds I played all through high school including two years of varsity where I was co-captain my senior year. I am not trying to relive my “glory days” here. I have run across acquaintances from that time in my life that never left the area and still talk about nothing but the days they spent in pads. I have gone on to do many more things, but I do miss they rush that came from standing on that field. I was 160 pounds and a very slow runner which meant I couldn’t play on the outside with the other small kids. They were all way too fast. I played inside where all the big boys were. I was easily the smallest kid down in the “trenches”, and there was an intensity that came with those circumstances that I miss feeling. To physically overcome another guy who outweighed me by anywhere from 20 to 100 pounds to make a play was a rush that defies description. I felt strong, vital, and alive. Anybody reading this who has ever watched a football game has probably seen a player make a big play and break into spontaneous celebration. I didn’t have any stupid or offensive dance like you see in the pro game, but beating another guy in a contest of physical skill and making a big play in a football game takes a lot of energy and intensity, and when it all comes together and the whistle blows that energy needs an outlet which usually comes in the form of jumping, yelling, fist pumping, and helmet slapping. Imagine having such a rush of positive energy that it actual needs a physical outlet. It was a thrill to play down in the mud with guys so much bigger than me and be successful.

I got the same charge from swimming. The contest was not one of trying to overcome or control another physically, but putting forward your maximum output of energy over a race had a similar effect. The nice thing about swimming was that it was often as much about beating the clock as it was the guy next to you. You didn’t need to win the race to get the thrill. There were times when I started a race knowing full well the guy next to me was faster and was probably going to win, but chasing him could lead to a personal best in an event which was a rush in itself. Swimming was the only place I ever saw the loser of a contest celebrate. Hours, days, and weeks, of practice would culminate in seconds of racing and seeing that effort and dedication show up on the clock was exciting.

My junior year of high school I discovered another source of life. I have often repeated that we had no money growing up. I didn’t really know what a family vacation was. I had never traveled. When I was 16 a small group was selected from a pool of applicants to spend a month in Ecuador on a community service trip. I was one of ten picked to go, and spent the better part of a month living with host families and traveling about the country. We were with a group, but lived alone with our host families. I heard and saw things over the course of that month that a small town kid from the north could barely wrap my brain around. We weren’t on vacation we were immersed in the culture and it was an amazing experience. When I came home I was all fucked up. I had seen too much poverty, too many dirty hungry kids, and my perspective was clouded. I eventually got my shit put back together, but the wanderlust seed was planted. A couple years later I was sailing to the Caribbean where I would again be living in the island communities as opposed to behind the walls of a resort. I was pretty well grounded all through college, but a couple years out of school I had the chance to move a sailboat from Fiji to Australia by way of Vanuatu, and was again able to breathe in the life of new cultures. Other than a business trip to Europe that was the last time I had any significant travel and it was nearly ten years ago.

There has been nothing in my adult life to replace any of the above. I am sure many people get their rush from success in their work, and others have interests or hobbies that keep that spark going. Some may get a sense of purpose from raising their families. I am in a job with no future, circumstances have taken the hobbies I had and most of my passion for pursuing them. I love my wife and my child, but I don’t find personal serenity in either. I am no longer strong, and I don’t feel vital or alive. I mostly feel angry, tired, and short tempered. The routine of daily life is a long way from exploring new cultures where a fresh experience is waiting at every turn. Adult life is about monotonous repetition, and it is snuffing out any spark that may be hiding somewhere in my soul.

I am tired of just going numbly through the motions of life. I am tired of missing out on the experience of living. On paper it seems easy to recognize this and plot a new course towards a better place, but there is nothing easy about the real world. It’s like solving the world’s problems in a classroom or at the water cooler. Things are easier said than done, and are often simpler in theory than in reality. Every decision has its consequences and the grass is not always greener. A drastic change in the direction of my life would likely lead to unacceptable personal consequences so I am left with finding acceptance in my heart for my life as it is or with minimal changes. Changing my perspective on my current circumstances to find some peace for my soul is the goal, but the path is not clear. Sometimes I think peace in the Middle East is more likely than peace for me, but that defeatist attitude is not productive either.

Through this blog I hoped to skip another expensive trip through therapy and a return to the world of SSRI’s. The thing is I know what the first thing a new shrink is going to say. Get more exercise and better rest. They all say the same damn thing, but here is the truth; I have tried exercise, and as an adult with no competition to train for I have a hard time staying interested and it becomes just one more chore. It is just another piece of the monotony.  I have given it an honest try a few times.  I am not saying I couldn’t use a little more activity, I can see that in the mirror, but I have never felt and great lifting of my mood from sweating at the gym. Regarding rest it doesn’t seem to matter how much I sleep I am always tired…  hello depression we have met before.

So I suppose I am at a cross roads of sorts as I have been since this blog got started. Something needs to give I know that for certain. When and in what direction remains the question.

Depression Foreshadowed

Yesterday I shared a piece of writing from back in college that was written before I was in an active battle with depression and anxiety. It showed that I was allowing my mind to spend time is some dark places back before depression was running my life, and that I have been struggling with making the “right” decision for years. Last night I was reading through a Word document in which I had brainstormed on “paper” before I wrote that essay. I was thinking that maybe I should post these raw thoughts when I came to the bottom of the screen and found a poem. Now to be clear I am no poet or even fan of poetry for that matter. I have stumbled across some that I enjoyed, Robert Frost The Road Not Taken comes directly to mind, but mostly I just don’t “get” poetry. This poem, and I use the term loosely, does give another window into where  my brain was as I approached graduation and the reality of what that would mean began to sink in.

 

Its strength is immeasurable growing stronger with

every puppet that falls in line.  It forces conformity

from all it can, and destroys all that it cannot.

 

It sucks the energy from everything around it

destroying what is unique with its unyielding power

forcing its will upon all.

 

What is its plan for me? Will it bury me with its

fantastic power? Can I be who I want to be? or

just another puppet on a string?