Author:Paul Gilmartin

My Blue Jebuses by Emma

This guest blog is from a listener named Emma.

Last week I had an unexpected anxiety/paranoia day.   Earlier this year a run of them, capping a gradual shift into the unhappies, sent me into therapy.

Sudden onsets stink.  Heightened anxiety/paranoia with no obvious triggering incidents brings a painfully out-of-control feel to the party.

I’ve been learning that recognition is nine-tenths of the battle.  I don’t know how many other people struggle with sudden onsets of anxiety, or what alerts them that the blue jebuses are on board.  It would be interesting to find out if recognition is part of a learning or management curve for other people, and what that curve looks like.  I’ve also noticed some great management strategies on the forum – my personal favorite of those so far is the “giant green salad” ploy.

During my crap day this week, I figured out what was happening when the road rage hit.  In retrospect, probably the first clear manifestation was waves of panic when a supervisor left a phone message asking me to call about some paperwork.  The next clear sign was a marked increase in snapping and snarling at other drivers.

But the clue made me recognize my own toxicity was when I heard myself snarl at a plump Hispanic woman in the parking lot of Costco.  She was walking a HUGE cart in the center of the driving lane.  There were three cars backed up behind her.  There is no question she was irritating, but not to a degree that I should seriously think about stopping my car to rank her out.  I mean, the woman was wearing an office suit — a cute little black and white blazer, sad little black office pumps — and she was clearly upset because someone yelling at her on the phone.

Where was my compassion?  I know the pain of those un-foot shaped little pumps, of being yelled at on the phone, of pushing a too heavy cart full of things I can’t afford but need.

I realized I’d been eaten by the blue jebuses, by an Oscar in a garbage can, a slash of anxiety/paranoia washing over my consciousness like watercolors going muddy.  It is a horrible feeling.

But as horrible as it was, the fact that I was able to recognize the external quality, the otherness of this state of mind, helped.  Recognition offers potential for control.

I also had a management strategy: I slowed the car down, pulled to the outskirts of the mall, and began self-talk.  In a loving tone of voice, I said the things I’d want to hear, things that would ground me, calm me, which a loving friend would say: “E, you’re OK.  It’s OK.  Sounds like you’re having a pretty wretched time right now.  It happens, and it doesn’t make you a bad person.  Let’s let this wash over us, around us, through us, and eventually we’ll step out on the other side of the anxiety.”

There was more of that, a soft dialogue from the empty car seat to the empty car seat.  When I got clear enough of the nastiness to not shame myself with poor behavior, I went into the store and got through my shopping list (which included a frightening purchase, perhaps the trigger for all of this), then I went home.

Now, of course, I’d eat a giant green salad during some phase of this.  Vitamins, eating therapy without high calories, the ritual of preparing salad, the distraction of variety… and all those wonderful dark green leafies – premium self-care.

In general, one goal in therapy has been good self-care, including consciousness management.  I’ve worked hard at learning to recognize a bad head and be realistic about what it’s doing, prioritize what is important, and contain the damage.

In practical terms, once I understood how much anxiety and paranoia were driving me in that parking lot, I managed the immediate crisis, then went into longer term damage control.  Among more extended strategies, I clipped off several other errands from that day’s list (re-allocating them to later in the day, tomorrow, or if necessary, later in the week).

Then I prioritized what absolutely had to get done (always a surprisingly small part of the list).  I got out of my car determined to shut up as much as possible, and filter what I said and did through compassion and necessity.   I abstained from engaging except for the immediate business of my purchases and drive.  At home, I stayed off the phone and email, got much needed sleep, food, relaxation, and when I woke up in the morning, almost all the anxiety/paranoia was gone.

And I’ve been thinking ever since about what it’s like when the stain of bad head doesn’t go away, what it would be like to live with it all the time, what larger portions of it might feel like.

Emma

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Teresa Strasser (Voted #1 Ep of 2011)

Adam Carolla’s former sidekick comes guns blazing to the fear-off.  Holy shit she brings it.  This one gets dark.  From her being vanquished by a stepmother at age 3 to seriously considering suicide earlier in the year. Touching and funny.  She is also the author of the critically-acclaimed pregnancy memoir Exploiting My Baby.   Paul made a mistake when he uploaded the first version of this interview.  Though an editing error, a reference to another female guest (with a book), sounded like Paul was talking about Teresa.   Hopefully this version clears that up!   Apologies to T for the mixup.

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Hank Adams

Prostitution, alcoholism, fetishes, swinging, abandonment and being stabbed by a bayonet.  Handyman Hank Adams has experienced them all.  Paul’s friend has to literally pause to count how many stepdads he has had.

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Paula Newman

Part-time actor, friend and meditation teacher talks with Paul about her life being profoundly affected by her painful English upbringing, Hitler and Back to the Future.   They also discuss the importance of Vedic meditation and the Body Ecology Diet.

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Shame of Thrones by Hank Thompson

Let’s talk about shame. Like all stories about shame this one is about a penis. As a small child I had a condition called meatal stenosis. Either I was born with it or it developed as a result of circumcision. It’s a partial closing of the hole on the end. Or, if you’re an optimist, it’s a partial opening.

What this meant was I couldn’t fully urinate. I would go, and I’d dribble for some time, and then I’d move on in search of my next sugar high or bout of confusion. I never experienced full relief, but being new at existence I didn’t know you were supposed to. The problem went unnoticed until the age of six when an irritated 2nd grade teacher informed the school that I was asking to go to the bathroom fifteen to twenty times a day.
A week later we were at the hospital in a room made of curtains, where I was being prepped to be put under. I was deeply afraid of needles and I asked if there would be any. When my mom told me the truth she saw the sudden fear in my eyes and then she lost it, crying like a worried mom, which in turn made me cry.
I woke up right where we’d started, in that curtained prep room, a little groggy and completely oblivious to the time that had passed.

For the first time in my life I experienced a fully emptied bladder. One might think the result would be a feeling of tremendous relief, joy even, but it was the opposite. What for most is a gentle pleasure of the day was for me a tear-inducing bout of pain and dread. Penises are packed with nerve endings, and the delicate damaged tissue of mine awoke as if on fire when the stream of ammonia and urea coursed over it. It was torture. Rather than give me drugs, the doctors told my mom about a simpler technique. For three weeks every time I had to pee she would fill up a cup of warm water near to the brim, and would hold it right next to me while I hurried and suffered and then I’d dip my penis into the soothing water and feel the pain wash away. That image, right there, is the definition of love.

It got better, of course. Other than the occasional whiskey affliction my penis has performed as expected throughout my life. But the physical pain of it was nothing next to the wider bruise the experience left on my brain.

In the following years and decades I felt tremendous shame. That my penis had a defect, that it was somehow flawed, which meant that at my core I was flawed. I don’t know where it came from. No single event stands out as the moment the well got tapped.
It wasn’t all-consuming, the shame, but it was there. It was as if I had a terrible secret and that I didn’t trust anyone enough to tell them, for fear of judgment or scorn. Or that I’d lose one of the few friends I had. Who would want to hang out with a mutant like me? When I imagined myself having competency with girls I recoiled at the idea of having to tell one about my defective penis, knowing full well the role genitalia can play in a relationship.
The deck was stacked against normalcy as it was. Divorce was an ankle’s wade compared to the havoc my mother’s bipolar disorder wrought on her life and mine and my two brothers, not to mention the whirring ghosts of deep untreated childhood abuse that followed her around and still do. I credit a stern and loving father for any sanity I have.
Through high school and college, as time and DNA foisted adulthood on me, I still carried the shame. But its imprint was fading. I’d managed to convince a few girls to hold still long enough to let me hold their hands and I had made substantive friendships. Finally, in my mid twenties I was able to tell a buddy about it, and he was just confused as to why I thought he might care. I was confused, too. There wasn’t any reason at all, I realized. The cloud lifted.

Unshackle yourself from the ancient burdens of your past, whatever they may be. Forgive yourself for your simple human flaws. Let your shame go. Trust me; your bladder will thank you.

Hank Thompson      You can contact Hank at his website.

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