Monkey Mind Panic Attacks

Since I know you love hearing about them.  I am writing about my most recent panic attack which was yesterday at 2pm.  It lasted until just after 4pm.  This post will give the reader a picture into what a panic attack accompanied by chronic illness feels like.

In brief, if we named panic attacks, I would name this one like an interesting flavour of ice cream.  I’d name this panic flavour, Monkey Mind Panic.  Caution, contains nuts (pun intended).

icecream

Monkey mind, a phrase I picked up a while ago, is “from Chinese xinyuan and Sino-Japanese shin’en 心猿 [lit. “heart-/mind-monkey”], is a Buddhist term.”  (Wikipedia)

I imagine the monkey habitat at the zoo.  A deafening, dizzying, cacophony of “Ew Ew Ah Ah.”

monkey-mind

 

Racing thoughts obviously go along with every anxiety disorder.  They play a particularly powerful role in the anxiety before, but also during a panic attack.

During a panic attack, it’s like an argument erupts in my mind.  The mind does not heed the warning, Don’t Feed The Trolls.

I wanted to tie this into chronic illness.  It might explain why I had the attack.

Here are some of the contributing reasons:

  1.  I have issues getting around my apartment.  I was spending the day and this night on my own
  2. I regularly take some serious medications, one of which is for my anxiety disorder.  I had run out on the weekend and the pharmacy didn’t deliver until later
  3. I have on-going concerns about my recent surgery.  I feel frustrated that the surgeon’s office has not returned my calls
  4. I have a phobia of vomiting and choking.  My stomach was off from a Meatloaf I made that was too fatty (I went on one of those Everyone loves Bacon kicks)

bacon-double-cheeseburger-stuffed-meatloaf-2014fb-wide2

 

So I add bits of those ingredients together and add the secret Monkey Mind ingredient that I called Existential Freak Out No. 9 aka “Oh my god, I’m going to die.  I am dying.  I need an ambulance.  I should call one.  I don’t need an ambulance.  I should be seeing the doctor more because there must be something they don’t know about.  I’m too young to die.  Everybody dies!  Yes, but no one is especially good at it…”

Okay, okay, take a breath.  STOP!!

And this is the quiet moment when the Monkey smiles at you and starts peeling a banana.  It’s gotten its way.

 

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This is that moment of lucidity, the calm inside the eye of the tornado.  It’s here that I remember that I talk a lot about mindfulness.  I give myself a nervous laugh at the irony.  The irony makes me feel more human and asserts that I’m not the only one who might be feeling this right now.

At this point I did what I needed to do.  In that moment, I need to calm my stomach, so I took a stomach medication.  I also needed to deal with the Monkey.  I did this by getting up, changing my perspective, hobbling around on my crutch and tidying up in the kitchen for just five minutes.  Then I took some breaths, called the pharmacy to ensure my medications were coming.  I then sat and waited.   Things were winding down, I was exhausted but I had to stay awake.  I decided to grab one of my journals and a Sharpie and make a list of words I knew in French.

My medication came and that solved the other physical issue.  I made myself a tuna sandwich.  Then I fell asleep.

So take what you will from that!  Can you relate?

 

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The Case Study of Mister Woo

First, a story.

 

Mister Woo is a 45 year old male.  Three years ago he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

Woo had lived a moderately healthy lifestyle.  He had gone to the gym twice a week, ate broccoli and two portions of fish a week, and subscribed to Men’s Health magazine.

Since his diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, Mr. Woo has upped his exercise routine to everyday, though he feels more tired and needs pain medication to get through just a few hours of his schedule.

He has done a juice fast, consulted experts in naturopathy, acupuncture, Reiki, as well as allelopathic surgeons, though he gave up his health benefits when he quit his job.

He no longer reads Men’s Health but instead spends his days logged into a chatroom for persons with his autoimmune condition and shares links from a huge bookmarks folder he adds to from obsessive Google searches.

Mr. Woo has given up his dream to go on a month long photo-history journey throughout the Netherlands.  He is now planning a trip to a research hospital in Detroit to participate in new clinical trials.

Mr. Woo has started suffering marital problems because he doesn’t share his thoughts and feelings with his partner.  His partner complains that Mr. Woo no longer acts and talks like a regular person but is a walking encyclopedia of his disease.

Woo admits that he becomes mired in debates about diets and supplements.  For all Mr. Woo has tried, his condition has not improved very much.

Today he was diagnosed with clinical depression and required to give up his hunting rifles because he’s been making suicidal threats and gestures.

Mr. Woo is taking a break.  He voluntary admitted himself to a psychiatric inpatient program.

He feels resentful toward his wife and brother who suggested that there was more going on than just his autoimmune troubles.  His wife cries into the shoulder of another man as she feels rejected for trying to help and wishes that Woo would stop yelling at her that she doesn’t understand anything about his condition.  She feels guilty for wanting to go out with her friends and for not having a chronic illness.  She is entertaining the idea of separation.

Mr. Woo’s brother visits him once in the hospital.  He offers Mr. Woo some extra accounting work for his business and wants to take Mr. Woo on a meditation retreat for 3 weeks.  Mr. Woo grudgingly accepts the work but laughs at the idea to go for any type of retreat without the risk of a guaranteed benefit.  He claims that he failed at yoga, “just like everything else”, and that he has the perfect treatment plan mixing biologic pharmacotherapy with a diet infused with Turmeric (which he has bulk ordered from Amazon) and juices made from raw green vegetables only.

Mr. Woo attends a multidisciplinary team session with his psychiatrist, his specialist, a dietician, and his wife.  Mr. Woo walks out of the session and discharges himself from the hospital.  He shouts at everyone in the meeting that they do not care about helping him and that their ideas will make him worse and that his wife needs to cut out her moaning, and no he won’t do couple’s therapy.

Upon leaving the hospital, Mr. Woo checks himself into a motel.  His funds are dwindling as he sits on the edge of the bed washing back narcotic pain medication with a bottle of whiskey.

Mr. Woo is discovered dead by the housekeeper the next day.  It doesn’t appear to be a suicide per se.  It appears that he just wanted pain relief and had been hiding misuse of his medication, pain medication bought illegally, and engaging in binge drinking.  Everything in his system had caused him to stop breathing in the night.

Mr. Woo is cremated.  Two years later his brother marries his widow.  The life insurance company is refusing to pay out.  His former partner has discovered over $26,000 in credit card debt.  Still, every year she runs in a 5 k marathon to raise money for the autoimmune disease research charity.

Mr. Woo died before his four year old son could get to know him.

–THE END–

What the heck was that?!

The above story is meant to be fantastical and is just a piece of fiction.  Yet, I can imagine that most of you have known someone or heard of these similar fates before.  And, maybe, you can see ways that you are like Mr. Woo or perhaps his brother or his wife or his young son.

The point isn’t that we hear a story and we judge Mr. Woo.  The point isn’t that chronic illness and disease are relationship killers or precursors to addiction and suicide.  The point isn’t that natural treatments or conventional treatments are somehow better or worse than another.  The point is not that a meditation retreat would have saved Mr. Woo.  No, none of those make an intended point..

The point I take away from this story is that we, by default, want someone or something to blame.  And yet, that isn’t helpful no matter which person’s shoes you decide to try on.  Maybe, the point is that many little things can build up.  And they usually do.  But, instead of obsession, rumination, and trying to do it right, we come to face that acceptance is the only tangible control we have.

Life isn’t an easy journey.  Chronic illness, be it mental or physical or both, poses many complicated dilemmas that further make life unpleasant and complex.  But I’m here to tell you that, at any point, accepting THIS moment and not taking it too seriously is likely the most positive thing you can do.  I know it’s true for me.

 

 

Pain Tolerance: Musings on …

As I lay here writing this sentence I am in pain.

Correction.  I can feel pain.  Correction.

 

It hurts and I want:

a shot of morphine

 morphine

a big bowl of pasta with meat balls and cheese and a dry white wine

FN_Ina Garten Real Meatballs and Spaghetti.tif

my mother

mother

 

to sleep

to wake up

to do

to not have to do

to fling myself off a moving train

to be bathed in healing light

to scream bullsh*t! at a doctor

(  X  )   all of the above

 

What is pain?  Is pain some psychotic demon throwing lit matches at our nerves?

No.  Pain is a signal.

We say it hurts, what do we really mean?

Is it an ache today?  Does it start small, pulsating, and then radiate outwards like a cat’s tail whip in slow motion?  Cold wind and bee stings upon exposed flesh

 

cats-tail-whip.

Pain?  Are you real?

Yes.  I’m a matter of fact.

Pain?  Why do you hate me?

I don’t.  I am merely saying something is wrong.  If you want to dress this up, here’s the number of a shady guy who does that sort of work:

555-5555

Mr. Suffering, Esq.

 

cat-are-you-done-yet

 

 

 

 

Gray clouds, rain, and no.

I am the Cancer

An ego identity is the face we show to the world. It is also a way we define ourselves to ourselves.

 

who-am-i

 

Many people with chronic illnesses choose the illness as an ego identity. There are many reasons for this, but most are psychologically unhealthy. We may claim that we seek community, but relationships built around suffering usually start to create suffering. We might claim that we wish to help others from our experiences, but to truly help another is not to limit them but to share in discovering unlimited potential.

 

Wellness is experienced when we don’t limit our identity. The whole of our lives is greater than individual aspects. Wellness is about opening and acceptance. One dead tree, even if it is the tallest and oldest in the entire forest, does not nullify the grandeur and the many complex systems found in the forest’s entirety.

 

While a person may suffer limitations due to a disability, illness, or circumstance, life can still be as fulfilling as we wish to make it. Not limiting ourselves with a diseased ego identity is a simple way to admit that there are possibilities and passions that we are opening to discover. We refuse to be pigeon-holed into a universe that is mired in pain and suffering. Illnesses can be very painful, but no one can claim that pain is all there is to life.

 

young cheering woman jogger open arms at sunrise seaside,vintage effect
Be Limitless

 

What good things can you identify about yourself that open your heart and realize the potential of your mind / body / soul?

3 Lessons from Carl Rogers

carlrogers

 

A few weeks ago I went on a bender of complaining to my therapist that I needed more appointments, that I was feeling rushed through our sessions, and that I didn’t feel we were talking about the things I needed help with.  My therapist was kind enough not to react to my venting but waited to respond.  She said to me that a lot of the “resistance” I push back with is because I have been in therapy for years.  I am used to the way old school therapy works.  Today, the model that many mental health agencies used is “brief therapy”.  The goal is to sort you out and then get you out.  Personally, I don’t agree with this approach.  Yes, I can hear the arguments about becoming dependent on a therapist, but my curt reply is “look at the other things people become dependent on — and tell me what’s worse!”

I spent some time in school studying therapy and psychology.  And as I’ve mentioned, I’m also a consumer or client or patient (whichever works for you).  I am probably the sickest person I know (being hubristic) but there a few things from my studies which I think everyone can use.  Everything I’m going to tell you, I am pulling from Rogerian therapy, also known as Client Centered Therapy, or Person-Centered Therapy.  It’s a humanistic psychotherapy.  Humanists believe in capabilities of other humans.  I think…

Maybe you’d like to watch a video of Carl Rogers giving “Gloria” therapy.  I find it entertaining, but then again, I’m an oddity.

YouTube – Carl Rogers and Gloria

Here are 3 lessons we can learn from Carl Rogers and the therapy model he created.  I feel these things can benefit most people and their relationship with their self and their relationship with others.

LESSON ONE

#1  –  UNCONDITIONAL POSITIVE REGARD68

Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) is psychobabble that means accepting and respecting others as they are without judgment or evaluation.

How to do it:

  • Don’t compare yourself to others or others to others
  • Forgive yourself / others – you did your best at the time
  • Do something to know yourself – journal, blog, paint, stare into the mirror

 

 

LESSON TWO

#2 – VALUE YOUR RELATIONSHIPSgrandma-cookies

In a sense, even the most antisocial of us still need people.  Relationships are powerful forces for good and not so good.  Relationships define part of you and facilitate your growth or stagnation.

How to do it:

  • Identify the people in your life – friend, lover, mother, child, nurse, mailman, warden, etc. even Tom Hanks character had Wilson the volleyball on the deserted island
  • Be aware of the time you give others and yourself.  Are there parts of your day that are invested in tripe?  Could you be investing more in yourself or others?
  • Write an email, bake some cookies, don’t screen your calls, crochet a scarf, have a date night, go to a tupperware party, smile at strangers, spend an afternoon in the ‘self help’ section of Chapters

 

 

LESSON THREE

#3 – PRACTICE EMPATHYempathy

Empathy is to put yourself in the shoes of another.  It’s a manner of caring that brings us very close to understanding from another’s perspective.  A lot of people don’t want to be fixed, they want to be heard.

How to do it:

  • Listen, ask questions, seek clarification
  • Be a participant, be vulnerable, be genuine
  • Close your eyes and imagine someone; what do they see, what do they feel, what do they want?  What is their “point of need” where you can fit?

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this post.  It feels very basic and limited because well… this is a blog, not a textbook.  And yet, if you practice a few of the things I mentioned, especially in the ‘How To’ sections, you will find a deep experience and some beneficial insights.

 

hug

 

Are You Buying?

mindfulness_poster_UK

 

It really is that simple; Are you buying?  Buying what?  This post is about that feeling that you are always being sold something.  Maybe it’s an idea.  Maybe it’s an online service.  Maybe it’s dinner.  Maybe it’s the Pandora’s box of sensual delights that will transform you into an ego-tripping love hustler.

What does this have to do with mindfulness?  A lot!   A key component to any mindful moment is seeing things for what they are.  Maybe you are shopping, but maybe you aren’t.  Maybe, you are being told what will give you your finally perfect egoic identity.  Maybe, just maybe, you can spot the pitches and shut them down.

The truth is that that this moment contains all that you need.  If you need answers, are you honoring your inner Buddha?  Or, are you going to Google?

If you need love, are you opening your heart to others or are you looking for the best transaction that you might qualify for either in the bar or on Ashley Madison?

If you wish to learn — who are you allowing to teach you?

I am sure you recognize that there are legitimate assaults on your sensibilities.  I notice the targeted marketing that overwhelms my email, that informs the advertisements when I use a search engine, and that really is spreading like a wild fire throughout our world and the experience we have of living.

The single most dangerous idea out there is that you are incomplete and that you can become complete by doing more, buying more, practicing more, meditating more, praying more, and so forth.  This includes all the things you are told to do less of:  smoke less, drink less, sleep less, eat meat less, weigh less, stress less, trust less, love less.  Take a moment to think about ways in which you’ve been given a message along these lines.  Sure, it’s easy to say, “smoking less is actually going to be good for me”, but is that all that you are buying?  What suggestion comes next?  Soon enough, have you enslaved yourself to some product or healthy living ideology and consented to giving away your sovereign choices over your own body?

I don’t mean to be alarmist.  Certainly, being reactionary toward all these pitches defeats the benefits of being open, authentic, and objective.  Reacting is not mindful.  Responding, or not responding, is a choice that honors truth, your values, and doesn’t treat the external world as a predator.

I am sure this post has given you a lot to think about.  If there is a single take away, it is this, you are being sold things and you can bring your consciousness to this.  Yo can make decisions that reflect your true nature and expose the delusions of not being enough, of the compulsive need for more, the obsessive anxiety for less, and the ultimate lie that you don’t have the answers.

You are sufficient in whatever form you are taking.

You have everything you need for this moment.  May the riches come forth from your heart.

Don’t worry about living a perfect life.  Just live a life; don’t overthink it.  Nobody get’s out alive!

 

b2b-business-marketing

 

 

 

Get a Hobby

everybodyneedsahobby

 

I often do two things:

  1.  Tell everyone to get a hobby, and

  2.   Feel a sense of anxiety for people who claim not to      have any hobbies

 

You could call me a hobbyist.  I have many interests and activities that I find pleasurable that I fill my days with.  Having physical and mental health limitations has meant that I actually have time for quite a number of hobbies.

 

jimihendrixinstudio

I play guitar, write songs, and have learned how to produce music in a home studio

 

Other times, I write.  I’ve since stopped; am I cured?national-poetry-month_inspirational-quote_typewriter-poetry_facebook_30

 

I have enjoyed the more tactile crafts

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And I spend a good deal of time researching 20th century deep politics

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I haven’t even really scratched the surface, but those are a few.  Each of my hobbies adds something to my life in a different way.  I believe — on the whole — that they give me depth and texture.

Everyone should have a hobby, but some people claim that they don’t.  I met a woman who claimed not to have any hobbies.  In fact, she claimed that she didn’t do ‘anything’. . She didn’t cook.  She didn’t clean.  She didn’t have a favourite television show, movie, or genre of music.  Her partner, on the other hand, was a fishing enthusiast, weekend car mechanic, and loved taking his nieces and nephews for outings or playing video games with them.

Who do you think was happier?  Why?

When people do things that make them feel good, like a hobby, it activates an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens that controls how we feel about life

– Dr. S. Ausim Azizi, chairman, department of neurology, Temple University School of Medicine, PA

The definition of ‘hobby’ is ‘an activity pursued in spare time for pleasure or relaxation. The word originates around the 13th century from ‘hobbyhorse’ which either referred to an actual tiny horse or a child’s rocking horse.  The connecting notion being “activity that doesn’t go anywhere.”

In our world, hobbies can get a bad rap.  Some people avoid them because they are often a money-pit and don’t create a profit.  Others look down on hobbies because they claim that they are too busy and have more meaningful duties that they are preoccupied with.  Such martyrdom!  Common sense easily argues that this is poppycock.

One of the great things about hobbies is that they get you to DO something.  They take your focus off the problem loving mind.  When I’m absorbed in playing guitar, I am not thinking about my diseases or needing to use self-talk techniques to combat depression.  I am, if you will, in my happy place.

Do you have a hobby?

Is there something that interests you that you keep hoping to get into?

 

 

😀  Here are some suggestions if you are stuck:

doghairknitttingeroticdots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pacman