In the last week or so, I hit a writer’s block of sorts. I had thought writer’s block was a dearth of words (and ideas), but that’s not what I experienced; I just couldn’t get into the creative headspace in the time available. It was partly that my time that week was especially broken up, and its hard to be creative in bits. But also, the demon Anxiety returned.
I could shut up about it, but I feel that would make me the good little bitch again, and screw that. I would imagine that most people who the demon visits feel the same as myself; you don’t want to talk about it. So we don’t communicate. I know this is how it was for me, from my earliest childhood experiences. I lived in a big black hole for years as a child, and not even my parents knew, because I never told them. I couldn’t, because the threat of anxiety is that if you talk, things will get worse, way worse. Like an abuser. Creepy.
So I’m breaking the rules. The demon has been hanging around in the shadows for a few weeks I guess, and last night he leapt on me as the sun went down. I was backed into a corner and so I called on my old friend Jesus (though we hadn’t spoken in a while). My religious/spiritual journey has been long and winding, and is still a work in progress, as is everyone’s. But more recently, I had lost not just my religion, but my faith also. Last night I had nothing left I to pull out of the hat; I’ve taken my supplements, and was doing CBT techniques, but I was drowning. I’d had a conversation earlier in the day with my mother in which I’d queried the validity of calling on Jesus , as suggested by an auntie to another over-thinker who’d been a friend of my cousin, who killed himself earlier this year on account of the demons. I challenged it at the time, but that evening I had nothing to lose, and I’ll say my bacon was saved, and leave it at that.
Today life is good, better than it’s been for a while. The trees in my garden and the ones I can see over the road make me happy. There’s a world of leafy green out there. The sun is setting, but the starkness of the winter-bare branches of the liquid ambar against the silver sky raises my spirits.
There are labels for people like me, one of them being “highly sensitive”. Labels are complicated – they have their place; for one thing, I’ve appreciated their Google-ability. But for whatever reason, I’m reluctant to take on another label, or be defined by it. However, I am very sensitive, and that explains a lot. I wondered for years how a person with no trauma or abuse history could end up in such a black place at 8 years old. My family were no more dysfunctional than the next family, which is to say they were not perfect, but it was a loving home. Things were complicated by my lack of social ability. It was like every situation stood alone; I wasn’t able to bring any previous understanding, sparse as that was to begin with, to bear on any given subsequent circumstance. That sort of thinking does have advantages – if every situation is new and fresh, then there’s always a new way to approach it, and that means thinking outside the box, that is, creative thinking. But a child like that who has no support will be very vulnerable, and I was, and every blow to my self-esteem was felt way more deeply than it warranted.
I recently heard of a lesser known Romantic poet, John Clare (lesser known to me anyway, even with an English literature major), who went mad enough to spend the latter part of his life in an asylum when the common lands in the English countryside were fenced in during the Agricultural Revolution. That’s how I heard it, anyway. Of course there was a preamble to his eventual madness – but you could say it was as simple as his sensitivity. Why not? What makes a person mad? Psychologists label brain chemistry and wiring, but they’re just describing a thing that is, with or without whatever words they use to describe it. Sometimes I’m so aware of how barbaric some of our medical, and especially psychiatric, knowledge and practice still are.
In any case, I think the world does conspire to make sensitive people crazy, and I can understand how someone who had found healing for a troubled mind in wandering the countryside freely would be affected so profoundly by a restriction to that saving liberty in his lifetime.
I think if you were to ask any sensitive type, almost every one would say that nature is soothing and healing, and living in an environment where nature is subdivided and caged and fenced off is a strain. We take the way we live today for granted as if it were ever thus, but obviously it wasn’t. In fact, for most of our history, the land on which we’ve lived has been open and unowned. We don’t tend to think much about it, because it was a long time ago in relation to an individual lifespan, but hunter-gathering is still our most long-running way of life as a species. A profession older than prostitution. I’m not saying that iteration of society was perfect, but it’s what our species is adapted to. We haven’t had long enough in evolutionary terms to have adapted to living in close quarters and away from the land. So it stands to reason that the most sensitive of us will suffer, and the more we struggle, the more demand on our serotonin, until it’s depleted, which then leads to depression and anxiety, and a host of other problems.
The approach we are taking in our family, which is stuffed with sensitive, over-thinking types, is that it’s not if or when, we will have to take care of ourselves always, taking a multi-pronged approach to mental well being; understanding the psychology and physiology of anxiety (edit: here‘s a great resource for exactly this), cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, diet, supplements, exercise, recreation, spirituality, are all going to have to be part of our long-term plan.
I’ve suspected for a while that an emotionally sensitive person is likely to be sensitive system-wide, in other words, gut, skin and brain will be sensitive as well. It’s my experience and it seems logical. Something to think about, anyway. Me, I avoid grains, and have drastically reduced my sugar intake in the past couple of weeks. I had been on an SSRI, and it did hold the anxiety at bay, but I was always exhausted and lacking in any go-forward. I never associated those symptoms with the SSRI until I came off it and felt my motivation and energy return. I am now taking St John’s Wort, and I am about to start 5-HTP, which has great reviews. I’m also going to try a liquid form of magnesium. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.
And I tell myself, to put things in perspective so this latest experience doesn’t set up neural pathways of distress, that anxiety feels like shit, but it’s a feeling not a reality, and it’s temporary; when you’re in it, it feels like you always have been and always will be, but that’s an illusion.
And now I’m off to read our nightly installment of Lord of the Rings to my family. It’s cosy, the curtains are drawn and the lights are warm; the night is banished. The kids are still munching dinner, the youngest making those disgusting slurping and chewing noises bad mannered children with negligent parents make. I’ll tell her off (again), and then we’ll be off to Middle Earth.