sikkdays

Unfinished Business

I like lists. I've learned that they can get out of hand very quickly. So, my strategy has been to put a max of 3 things on a daily list. Still, things change and items get pushed back. That feels awful.

I worry about time, a lot. It feels like things always take longer than I think. This is a result of my self-hate and believing I am not enough. If journaling is on my list and then I have a terrible sleep and wake up late, I may skip the journal to proceed to the other tasks. However, I see this as a failure. There were only 3 things on the list! Frustrated, I internalize the failure. I tear at dry skin, eat junk food, and stay up late trying to ignore that painful feeling. The next day, I sleep in again and the process continues.

The underlying issue is one of self-love. Of course, one psychiatrist told me that they prefer to treat the symptoms, not the condition. The conversation was about the DSM. The idea that it is a manual is misleading. It's more a glossary of terms so that mental health professionals have a common vocabulary. And, unfortunately the despicable insurance industry uses the manual to allow or deny coverage. Back to me, the symptoms are shoulding myself. I should have journaled. I should have finished the list. I should have got more sleep.

The self-love and shoulding are connected, partners in crime. Increasing my self-love would allow me to be empathetic to myself when I do not finish everything I hoped I would. Removing should from my inner monologue would go a long way towards finding some self-love.

What are some other good strategies for shoulding on oneself? Perhaps a question for a therapist. At the moment, I feel that I should know the answer already as I have been here before. That sucks. (Deep breath)

This is the value of journaling, taking time to have these conversations with myself that I have spent years ignoring. This is a consistent fear I deal with daily, “What if I fall back into old patterns?”

Fear of Relapse

I spent a lifetime stuffing emotions away without any care or thought. I only functioned day-to-day with this practice. Work, relationships, university were all elements that required concentration and focus, not emotions. After the trauma of breaking down I went back to the comfort of avoiding emotions. The break was more than just feeling vulnerable and exposed. I felt raw and fragile. I spent a lot of times with my psychiatrist and groups talking about my fear of being curled up in a ball on the floor if I allowed my emotions out. After all, my first real experience with them was a breakdown in which suicide felt like the answer.

In the movies people pull the ripcord and the parachute jerks them suddenly from terminal velocity to floating in an instant. My all or nothing thinking believed that giving myself any room to emote would result in a similar whiplash. In an effort to challenge that type of thinking I tried to remember that my emotions were wholly connected. I could not just choose to turn off sadness, anger, and shame without losing joy, affection, and pride. Yet, my 40 year old default setting was, and is, hard to let go of.

Somewhere in my journey, I started to compartmentalize my ability to compartmentalize. I decided I needed to be numb to complete work or my volunteering. I cannot have emotions right now because I need to be productive. I'll deal with the shame later. Perhaps this is how others around me function?

No time to think about the crisis of my identity, anxiety, or depression. I have to work.

All emotions are on a hiatus while I clean the house, cook dinner, and do the laundry. I will take time to worry and explore my feelings later.

Other strategies included using meditation to sit with my feelings at the beginning of the day and then flipping the switch to shut them down so that I could live life. You know, nothing happens throughout the day that would require any emotional response or processing. I'm sure scheduling emotions will work just fine? Similar to my Morning Pages, meditation became charged with reluctance. If I am going to schedule time with my emotions, I can certainly avoid the schedule.

In true all or nothing thinking, I had decided I was a blob of emotions curled up on the floor or an emotionless robot charged with being productive and consuming goods. I could not see the gray between the black and white. It continues to be a struggle daily.

Therapy and processing emotions also fell under the lens of all or nothing. If I am not expressing my sadness, shame, anger, etc. I must be bottling it up! I felt as if I had to tell everyone walking by me on the street how I was feeling. Otherwise, I am clearly falling into my old ways of supressing things. Certainly when I look back at the last month where there are no journals, I fear I have relapsed into the old Chris.

No journals in July must mean I screwed up again. I failed. Yet, when I look back at my month there is not evidence to support that. On the surface, there are no journals. Yet, the strongest feeling I have is guilt for not writing the journals. There are not other regrets to ruminate on or traumatic events that I can recall in an instant. That doesn't mean I was a unicorn pooping rainbows of joy last month. I did struggle at times, but here I am, on the other side of the month.

Going back to my parachute metaphor, pulling the ripcord does not result in a sudden jerking upward. The chutes are complicated things that must be packed in a way to ensure the chute doesn't get caught on the lines that bind you to the chute. A pilot chute comes out first to guide the rest of the actual chute out of the bag. The chute expands in a way that slows the user to minimize the jerking motion from falling to floating. Perhaps I am not stuck between sobbing blob or cold robot. Maybe a lack of journaling or meditation isn't a sign of failure. I am no longer free-falling because I have some skills to guide me down. My chute doesn't work perfectly every time. Sometimes, I may pull the cord too late.

It feels a bit foreign to give myself some credit because I am not used to it. I am not fully feeling like this is a victory, but I will acknowledge there is change. Rather than jumping to the conclusion that I am failing again, I can see that I do have a parachute on my back. I just have to practice using it.

Anticipation & Anxiety

Making a plan and creating structure is a strategy for dealing with anxiety. It can be effective, but is it helpful?

I imagine even people without severe anxiety can relate to the following example. It feels like 9 times out of 10, anticipation of a stressful event, like a job interview, is far worse than the experience of the event itself. That fear of the unknown is something we can ruminate on, and those of us with anxiety cannot stop the rumination. Thus, some structure is helpful. I find that using the calendar to plan my days allows me to get all the tasks out of my head where they stir up insecurity and shame.

I need to clean the house, finish 2 projects for my client, walk the dog, buy groceries, call a contractor, make dinner, meditate, journal, exercise, edit some podcasts, finish an art project, oh, there's another art project as well, return some emails, water my bonsai, do the dishes, organize my photo files, plan a holiday...

All of that is not going to happen in one day. In my mind, it must or I am a failure. Then, I freeze. It's an impossible feat and therefore easier to sink into depression. The next day, that list is compounded with new tasks and I become more anxious. It is too much and I am overwhelmed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

If I take the list and break it down into the week using a calendar, I can focus on things a bit easier. I do not have to worry about cleaning the house until Wednesday because today I am focusing on client projects. Managing anxiety in this way compartmentalizes the unrest. Of course, my anxious and fearful mind can now pay full attention to the client projects. In other words, anxiety is on an extreme alert still.

Control

Structure is a form of control. If I can absolutely influence an outcome and know what to expect, anxiety goes down. Since I don't understand my emotions and learned to avoid them, I seek control. Anxiety and I ruminate on every outcome in hopes to dodge any surprises. I can live with failure, insecurity and shame. They are the comfortable norm. (Well, they were until things got so heavy that I broke.) At times, I would rather disappoint myself than feel accomplished. Should I have success, it will be expected of me in the future. That sounds like more pressure, stress, and anxiety.

In reality, control is an illusion for the most part. We can plan to go on a bike ride together, but I cannot control all of the factors of our trip. A flat tire on my bicycle may result in you feeling as if you have to turn around and walk back with me. I may feel that I have ruined your bike ride. Of course, the flat tire is not my doing. Though I could argue that I saw the hazard and reacted too late. Maybe I could have been more responsible and brought a patch kit and a small pump. It was your decision to turn around with me. I do not control your emotions or reactions. In this example, my structure/plan was unable to mitigate the painful feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt and anger at myself.

As I have shared before in my journals, our biological, human system is quick to store these types of painful experiences in an effort to protect us in the future. This system that developed to protect our ancestors from death have not adapted to the modern stresses of today's world. So, that fictional bike ride adds fuel to the shame I already have. You'll never want to hang out with me again. I shouldn't make plans like that with friends because I will just screw it up. I will control the self-inflicted pain by avoiding these situations in the future.

Priorities

I do not like who I am. I have a historic pattern of outsourcing my self-love. I jump to help others to gain their affection because I have none for myself. My structure and plans for the week will go out the window if someone needs something. I drop everything. I prioritize others before me because I do not have self-worth.

Once I have deviated from the plan, there is no control. My anxiety level rises and I use self-deprecating humor as a defense mechanism. I will 'tease' myself before others have a chance to offer constructive criticism. Again, I want to control the narrative. I want to feel disappointed in myself because that is my comfort zone. To rush to someone 's aid with a subconscious hope for praise and affection and then disappoint them would be devastatingly painful for me.

Should my aid be of use and I do get praise and affection from someone, it very quickly becomes a fluke. They were just being nice because I helped. They don't really think that about me. Or, that was a very simple deed to do that any friend would have done. This is nothing that I should celebrate.

Once I have dispatched with the foreign feelings of pride, happiness, and compassion it is time to look at the damage I have done. I dropped everything to help a friend. My task list has suffered. Thus, the list drops onto the next day's list. I get overwhelmed and wash, rinse, repeat.

All or Nothing

This very journal entry (likely convoluted and confusing) is an example of the many Cannot Win situations my depression loves. If I add structure and planning I will disappoint myself if I drop everything for others. If I do not drop things for others, I will not get any affection or praise at all. As brief as it is, without it I will endlessly beat myself up. Again, that cognitive distortion of black & white thinking sparks up and I am unable to see the gray here. I do not have to jump at everyone else's whim. I could prioritize myself sometimes. Perhaps that would result in some self-compassion? I do not have to control everyday of the week with structure because there are too many factors to control. The interruptions in my productivity can result in good things. No really, Chris, it is possible. All deviations from the plan do not need to result in shame.

I guess I wonder if structure is a good strategy for anxiety in my case because it may not be mitigating much. As I said above, splitting tasks to different days does not make me less anxious. I am 100% anxious about all the things I must finish this month! Scheduling it out allows me to be 100% anxious about today's task. I can ruminate on all the ways it could go wrong, how I could fail, and how painful the eventual failure will be.

Perhaps, simply letting the anxiety be there without trying to minimize, avoid, or reality check it would be more effective? This makes me anxious. Hey anxiety, welcome. Feeling exactly where the emotion is in my body and observing it versus ruminating with it could be a better strategy.

The difficulty comes in making any progress when I do not feel as if I have worth. Shame has always been my motivator. Currently, I want to be perfect, but I am human. What if I sit with my anxiety and still find myself getting carried away with thoughts of failure? I'm not good enough. I'm broken. This strategy doesn't work. Shame once convinced me to end my life. Now, it motivates me to not have one. If I try, I will fail. That's a hard rule in my mind to overcome. I suppose each day that I am here on this Earth is progress.

Escape

When are you doing self-care versus procrastination?

When are you being productive versus avoiding other things?

When I do not like who I am and therefore do not fully trust myself, these are difficult questions.

The pattern of escape is a very, very old one. Avoiding emotions and thoughts started early. Perhaps, dealing with a life-threatening illness when I was younger had something to do with it. Being bedridden for over 2 months with nothing to do but think was too much. There were TV shows and video games to distract me from the fact that I was not to move in hopes that my body would heal on its own. Otherwise, it was open heart surgery for a twelve year old me.

The family was never one to discuss emotions. My father's serious illness was always looming over us. Best to not think about it. So, I learned to avoid emotions. It was best to show love and affection through actions. Unfortunately, I burned out on that very quickly. I couldn't perform perfectly. Arguably, children (and adults) learn by making mistakes. I learned that I was not good enough with each of my mistakes. I retreated inward.

As I got older, I tried to disguise my insecurity with productivity. I moved up the ranks quickly in every retail job I ever had. I felt that each one of them demanded more from me and lashed out by moving to a new job. I projected my fears and anxiety onto supervisors, managers, and corporate masters. Yet, I was the one who pushed myself over every edge. I had to prove to the world I had worth because deep down, I didn't believe that.

On This Day

I recognize these patterns, but I still get caught up in them. Where I used television and video games to avoid my father's health, I now use the strategy of distraction to avoid the pandemic of COVID 19. I escaped into nail-biting as a teen. Today, I look up and realize my foot is bleeding because I have removed skin from my feet.

The inescapable deadline puts me into productive mode. With a project only finished minutes ago, I spot a dirty dish or a dusty surface and jump into cleaning. It may be 11pm, but what else is there to do? If I go to sleep, I will surely be that lazy, no good, procrastinator tomorrow. No, I have to keep being productive.

Where yesterday I wrote a journal about the cognitive distortion of black and white thinking, today I really feel balance in this case is near impossible. I am either go-go-go or burned out and into escape.

Today, I have been avoiding some work because of all the trauma associated with failing. I am scared to start something and be told that it was not enough. So much of this is from my past. The emotions are alive today just as they were when my first boss scolded me for not cleaning a toilet. My trainer told me I didn't have to, but he was just another 16 year old kid too. I should not have believed him. Now, my boss hates me. I am physically uncomfortable writing this. And logically I can see there's a self-fulfilling prophecy in the works. If I avoid the work, I will prove myself right, I am awful. If I get work done just in time, it will be sloppy. It will be not good enough, like me.

Living in a Community

There's a cognitive distortion where some of us see things as black and white. This all or nothing thinking is polarizing, “you're with me or you are against me.” The truth is that emotionally things are far from right or wrong, bad or good, black or white.

I do not want to disappoint you. In reality, I will. I am human and we are far from perfect. Logically, I understand that you being disappointed in me is different from you wanting me out of your life completely. Emotionally, that does not fit. I've participated in groups, talked to therapists and psychiatrists. I can recite that fact about the difference of disappointment versus banishment. I am not sure that I believe it.

If the part of me that assumes I disappoint others was a movie villain, he would be a masochist. It's almost as if I seek out ways to find ways to convince myself that I am a burden and not enough. Funny aside, looking up “masochist” will reveal another term, Self-defeating personality disorder. A brief read and it looks like this term isn't even good enough to be in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. Regardless, my point is that this is my doing and not the responsibility of others. I assume I am a disappointment and not wanted.

This is as difficult for others to grasp as it is for me to understand the opposite— we are not responsible for the emotions of others. You cannot make me feel sad. That's my brain chemistry and neural pathways. Just as you cannot influence my back pain or stomach ache, you cannot directly change my emotions. You can say, “This is not an attack on you. Next time you try to blog about emotions, double check your grammar.” I assume that I am a complete moron. My mind discounts the phrase, “this is not an attack” and focuses on that which fits into my personal narrative, I failed.

In personal relationships this is challenging. However, if I can communicate my struggles with loved ones who actively listen we manage. Friends and family are invested in me, just as I am in them. Professional relationships are somewhat more troubling. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it just isn't the job of my boss/manager/supervisor to help me through these things. So constructive criticism in this venue still feels hurtful and feeds that failure narrative. I am not enough.

I suppose one could argue that you can have leaders that are also friends. Again, it goes back to my own perception of the events. I screwed up again. I assume they will fire me soon.

I have been shadow boxing with my thoughts about returning to my volunteer role. When I think of the supervisors I worked with, I see looks of disappointment. I have had a number of conversations with them about my needs and being involved in mental wellness (with the work we do), the supervisors practice what they preach. I have let them know where my head is at and how I have these blinders on. I asked for more praise and reassurance that feedback is only to improve on what I am doing. Still, there is a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety associated with returning to the role.

Conversations with my former EMDR psychiatrist and therapist have brought me to a place where I believe I would be better off not returning to that role in the organization. I know that my anxiety gets in the way of serving those people who are depending on me.

Yet, my volunteer contract is nearly complete. Out of 192 hours, I only have 60 to go. Can I not just stick it out? Would it not feel good to finish what I started? I know that would make my partner happy. Of course, I am not responsible for her emotions. There is a chance that if I choose not to continue the contract she will be disappointed. She will also still support me and be there when I need her. I say that with the memorized performance of a talented actor. I wish I could feel it. What would it feel like to know that in my heart? Instead, I latch onto that which fits what I have been telling myself for years. You are a disappointment, Chris.

If you are interested in helping others with mental health you can donate to the fund raiser I am trying to participate in, Ride Don't Hide. Or you could sign up and participate to show support.

Where Is My Journal?

I fell off the journalling wagon, but why? There is a tendency to overthink these things.

My natural pattern of self-criticism is quick to point out fault and failure. As such, I want to explain away a void in journalling with shame. I also recognized I was overwhelmed over the past week. The overthinking kicks in and I wonder if journalling is helping me or if it is another venue for shame. Is it okay that I missed a few days or is this pointing to something else?

Stop.

Too much thinking has been achieved. Rewind. Break it all down.

I was overwhelmed over the week because of a project. That project was triggering that performative nature within me. 'I am not enough' so I must do the project perfectly to get praise from others because I am incapable of feeling gratitude towards myself. That pattern of perfection and performance is dialed in to feel that I am productive. Being productive is the internalized capitalism we are taught in the West. Maybe I will be enough if I get more done.

The issue at hand is not the journalling, but this desire to be productive. I drop things like meditation, journalling, self-care, and art to be productive. I put a lot of pressure on myself to finish a project last week. Additionally, I am still trying to help raise money through the Ride Don't Hide event. I dropped my activity in the event to 'focus' on the project. Realistically, I never dropped it and the event, like journalling became a new avenue for shame.

Journalling is helpful. I can continue to share my thoughts, even if they are 'positive' thoughts. Missing a day or more may be a sign that I have more growing to do, but it is not the end of the world that my mind proposes it is. Rather than ruminating on missing a number of days, I will try to focus on this moment.

It Has Always Been You

The Ouroboros is a circular symbol of a serpent eating its own tail. Is this self-efficient or self-destructive? Can it be both?

One common thread through the various mental health strategies I have tried is the idea that we are not in control of other people's emotions or actions. In fact, we are not in control of our own emotions. We can only choose how we react. Psychiatrists, self-help books, groups, and formal courses of cognitive behavioral therapy stress that change comes from within. A doctor can guide you, but you are the one really doing the work. I may not be able to choose whether or not I am angry, but I can choose the behavior of walking away versus throwing a punch.

We have agency, even in our internal, emotional world. No one can remove the tail from the serpent's mouth. The serpent is the only one with the ability to stop themselves. There's no magic pill, no secret therapy that will completely erase trauma. It is up to us to move forward ourselves. Unfortunately, this strategy aligns perfectly with the shame based philosophy that has been distilled in many of us, 'You have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.”

At least for me personally, that ol' chestnut feels shameful. We know that systematic issues are prevalent in the world. In many cases skin color, financial worth, gender, sexual orientation, and race will actively prevent us from helping ourselves. Even if we set aside the systematic problems, I think I am not alone in seeing the phrase, “It is nobody's fault but your own” in the “bootstraps” mantra. Telling a child he will never graduate school is not a great way to motivate him to succeed. There's also resistance to 'pulling myself up” because if it were possible, I have already failed. I wouldn't be here to begin with if that strategy worked, right?

Psychiatry

Questions work far better than fortune cookie wisdom. Why am I struggling? I hate school. Why am I angry at the school? Exploring emotions allows us to accept and process them. This can clear our minds a bit more to then work on picking yourself up. Drilling down to the core of the issue is not something we are comfortable with. It is scary. The path of least resistance is assigning blame.

In my own journey, some of the shame and self-hate came from some childhood experiences of peer pressure. When the doctor reminded me that I was a child and did not know any better, there was a desire to blame others. My peers mistreated me. The adults around me never taught me to handle things properly. Again, the emotion was still there, anger. After sitting with the anger, allowing it to be without pushing it away or acting it out, I was then able to apply the strategy of agency. It's okay to be angry. It's natural and completely human. Now, I would like to move forward, and I can because nobody is forcing me to eat my own tail.

This is super difficult work. There's a tendency to want to leave the past in the past. Yes, I got upset, but today is a new day. That's the path of least resistance again. It is not a flawed thought, but one must determine how they feel about that thought. Am I now mad at myself for remembering that time I got upset? Is there still some anger here today? Am I okay with feeling angry? Or, perhaps I am here in the present. Perhaps, “Yes I got upset,” is me telling myself that I accept my emotions.

Body scans are really good for those of us who do not have a lot of experience with noticing and labeling our emotions. If I am clenching my jaw while thinking that today will be a new day, that means I might have some anger inside me. If my neck and shoulders are relaxed, and my chest feels uncharacteristically open it is safe to think I am being mindful and moving forward in the present.

A bit of a ramble today. I had what felt like a run-in with the bootstrap bullshit today. I felt like I wasn't being heard. However, I may have been not listening well either. Goes to show that I might apply the asking questions advice externally as well.

Be curious, not judgemental.

Embracing Challenge

I feel like a trope. I am a living, breathing sitcom joke. The way I push back against household chores or actual paying work is the stuff of bad television shows. My habit of making things “have tos” permeates everything.

I have a task at the moment and a deadline of ASAP. I worked hard on it last week and through the weekend. I set aside my cycling for mental health goals because I “have to” do this work. My jaw has been tight for four days. Things that may bring pleasure or any self-care ideas are only fuel for shame. I should be done with my work already so that I can enjoy myself.

Like a cancer, my mind absorbs the joyful things and makes them “have-tos.” Rather than enjoying a dog walk in nature and relaxing with the bird songs and the breeze on my face, the walk becomes something I must do. Like the star of an 80's sitcom, I hate my job and it has made me bitter about everything.

There are layers here. I do have some sense of them. I am afraid of failure. Procrastination and frustration come from the same place, shame. I have been taught that shame is a motivator. Thinking “I cannot enjoy myself until I finish my work” is supposed to motivate me to finish. However, it just demoralizes me. I have done it for 40+ years and gotten comfortable with the narrative that I do not deserve enjoyment or success.

If I see work and tasks as “have-tos” I can project my emotions onto others like a boss or a family member. I will imagine that they are disappointed with me. Once again, it is shame.

My mind turning everything into a “have-to” means I will not experience any unfamiliar emotions. I could not handle experiencing happiness after completing a task and then failing a different task the next day. This wall, a guard I cannot let down protects me from disappointment in myself. The hills and valleys of a natural, emotional life are too jarring for me. I'd rather stay in the valley, it is predictable.

In this way, I avoid embracing challenges and feeling accomplished when I overcome them. The cancer of shame taints everything and I become robotic. I am singularly focused on finishing work. If I meet a deadline, I feel as if I miscalculated my estimated time and feel shame for that.

There is a glimmer of something else in art. In the process of painting, creating and shaping my artwork I feel hope. I see joy. I let go of perfectionism. Shame will poke its head into my artwork. Shame tries to compromise with me and tries to convince me to make art a hustle. Sell your artwork. To do that you must produce more, daily. Yet, it does not ooze its way into the actual process. There, I enjoy the challenge.

It's a difficult balance. There are things that “have-to” be done. There are legitimate reasons to set aside art, like a paycheck. Those genuine needs are where shame thrives. You are not doing enough and do not deserve the hope and joy of art. Get back to work. Biologically, this is a group of neurons that have created a super highway within my brain. “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” The plasticity of the brain is well documented and change is possible. Unfortunately, it will not happen overnight and I call it a super highway because those neurons have wired together 40+ years. Time will be necessary for healing. Shame will always live within my mind. It would be nice if I could trim that super highway into a rural road, though. Perhaps accepting and embracing challenges is one way to do that.

Asleep

The time is 1 am. Suddenly, I am awake. It is as if I went to bed at 4:30 pm. My body is awake as in, “let's start the day.” Though, I only went to bed 2.5 hours ago. What is happening?

I have struggled with insomnia for most of my life. It comes and it goes and lately I have let it keep me company. Then, exhausted and able to do nothing but sleep, I was done with this month's episode of insomnia.

Or not.

At 2:30 am I went back to bed, but what got me up in the first place? Recent journaling here and therapy has me looking inward. Perhaps my insomnia is a result of my insecurity. What do I gain from being awake when everyone else is asleep? Peace and quiet. There are no expectations to meet and no one to disappoint. Is the insomniac Chris the real me? Without the fear, anxiety and shame, I can just breath and relax.

Could I really be awake for me, similar to Revenge Bedtime Procrastination that I spoke of before in my blog? Trying to please everyone else all day because I do not believe I am enough and seek approval from others has led to me to putting on a performance. In the evening, when everyone else is sleeping I can eat that pint of ice cream, watch that horrible reality show, and self-harm without anyone knowing. I do not have to be “on.”

Unfortunately, the evening makes way for the morning. Then, I am left exhausted. This is 'beneficial' in two ways. First, it is a form of self-sabotage. My mind foggy and my body drained, makes accomplishing things difficult. Secondly, This failure to perform is fuel for my shame. It is my fault that I stayed up late. I am to blame. I do not deserve success.

I went to bed at 10:30 pm. I was unable to keep my eyes open. Too many nights where I stayed up until 2 am or 4 am. Finally, my body says, “no more.” Yet, my mind gets me up at 1 am. It's time to relax. It is time to sit in the dark and just be me. Maybe some day I could introduce that person to people in the day time. Perhaps I have already once or twice. Next, I need to either remember this issue every time I have the urge to stay awake late at night, or forget I ever had this conversation with myself. I know which of these options I have chose in the past.

Wired for Trauma

It is my understanding that alcoholics can actually die if they do not have alcohol and need to be weaned off the drug. This is our brain, it adapts to a situation and goes with it. Like wild animals that lose the ability to forage and hunt because humans have fed them, our minds are also susceptible to the environment.

Biologically, our brains have evolved to ensure our safety. Ancestors learned to avoid dangers like poisonous plants and ferocious wildlife by first-hand experience. Just as a toddler learns never to touch a hot stove top after trying one time. The memory is burned into the neurons.

Today there are still plenty of dangers, however many of us live far more comfortably than our ancestors. The biological system still exists and comes at us in new ways. To protect ourselves from a boss' wrath we've learned to work late. Our protection system works overtime to shield us from emotional pain and maybe even emotional pleasure.

I was walking the dog and thinking about a recent misunderstanding. Pardon me if I cannot recall exact details to create a better story. As a misunderstanding it was cleared up once myself and my partner communicated. There was no need to be upset. Yet, we cannot control our emotions only how we react to them. That emotional trigger locked the event in my head like a hot stove. As I walked the dog, my chest tightened thinking I better never do that again. We resolved the issue. However, I seemed to have retained the trauma of the misunderstanding anyway.

I had to tell myself the story of the misunderstanding again, but it was like reciting a script I had seen for the first time to my brain. It was numb. The emotional reaction and charge was all in the first 'negative' reaction, do not do that again!

As I said above, the story is not a great one without more concrete details. Unfortunately, I cannot recall them at the moment. I only know the anxiety and fear I felt. It still follows me. Have I bottled up the misunderstanding in hopes to ignore it? Did my chat with myself during the dog walk help to take the charge away and that's why I don't remember? Or, am I going to be transported back to that space and emotional feeling the next time something similar happens?

Biologically, I am wired to protect myself. My neural pathways have taken this factor to superhuman levels. It is one thing to recall the trauma of my father's death and quite another to hold onto trauma of a simple misunderstanding. I can hope that I may have processed the trauma from the recent event. Though, I know that my brain has a sixth sense that detects when I have done something wrong. It retains anything that may be construed as 'proof' of my incompetence. I seek that information out. Sometimes it feels like my body and mind need it like a drug dependency. My sixth sense is shame.