I won’t say that today has changed my perspective on holidays.
But I will say I enjoyed wrapping gifts and buying last minute ones. Wrapping paper on boxes requires a certain level of logical, structural thinking, kind of like building houses out of legos, and I think that’s what makes me enjoy it so much. It’s something concrete to do with my hands that makes me focus.
Then again, I see patterns in everything.
Here’s a tip: If you’re ever panicking or in the middle of a panic attack or anxiety attack, whip out the old math book and get to doing some problems. Works every time.
If you know a little bit about psychology, it makes sense.
If you don’t, this is how I developed this little trick:
When you’re panicking or you have high anxiety, where are your thoughts focused? What’s hijacked the entirety of your brain and body? Your amygdala, right? That old bean shaped geezer in the middle of your brain that you’ve had since your chimp-like ancestors birthed into existence.
We’re all monkeys. I don’t care if chimps aren’t monkeys or apes aren’t monkeys, they’re chimp-monkeys and ape-monkeys to me. They’re monkeys. Get out of here, anthropologists, I’ll believe what I want! Viva La Free Thought About Monkeys!!!!
My favorite are the Bonobos. Google them and you’ll know why.
Anyway, it takes control of your frontal lobe and therefore your rationality and suddenly your arms are going numb and your having a heart attack and you know you’re going to die so you just wait with your pulse throbbing behind your eyes for death to sneak up behind your back and crack his scythe against the back of your skull.
Did you know death played dirty like that? Everyone assumes he’s a skeleton but he’s really a pudgy middle aged, uni-sex being with soft skin and a nervous giggle. He never actually slices anyone’s soul out with that thing, he just sharpens it to be intimidating. He actually has a lot of social anxiety and hates meeting people face to face, especially when he has to, you know, take their life, so he wears black to blend into the shadows and bangs you on the back of the head. Why do you think people rarely see him coming?
Your frontal lobe is the executive. It’s the man–or woman–in the blue suit with his arms folded and a computer chip installed in his eye so he can make calculations near the speed of light or . . . or whatever. I don’t know. The dude–or chick–just makes decisions for you, alright? It’s good at judgement and problem solving and it’s supposedly highly evolved although . . . I don’t think many people use it to its full potential. I mean, if we are than . . . than shit.
I guess if you compare it to monkeys it’s highly evolved.
Although monkeys are some smart little bastards. So are dolphins. I’m pretty sure dolphins are smarter than us.
I was talking about the amygdala.
Focus. Focus. Focus.
Anyone ever try that “Cram” brain supplement they sell in natural food stores? It’s supposed to help you focus and “Cram” for finals. I saw them in an aisle once and grew perturbed. I’m pretty sure it’s either a stimulant prescription drug crushed up into little crystals you’re supposed to dissolve in water and definitely not snort, or it’s straight up crack cocaine that you are definitely supposed to snort.
I’ll probably become a victim of it in Medical school. I’m pretty sure all my peers will too. People be selling Ritalin left and right up in those joints.
Let me go to medical school to learn how to save lives while simultaneously putting a substance in my body that probably isn’t very good for me just so I can get an A on this test because that’s the kind of smarts that got me into Harvard Med.
Oops, did I say smarts? I meant thousands upon thousands of dollars for donation and a long history of family attendance.
I apologize. I talk to myself all the time and I’m starting to wonder if the conversations I have are completely incoherent.
The amygdala is your worst friend–so far. So far, according to biased research. So, you know, take it with a grain of salt here. It could be your best friend and we just don’t know it yet. It could kill you maybe, somehow, what the hell do we know?
But from what we know, yes, it has a lot to do with anxiety in an evolutionary standpoint and a current standpoint. So what do you need to do when it takes over?
Think of it as a screaming toddler. You don’t curl on the floor and let the toddler scream at you. You don’t give up and let the toddler run your house. Some days you might be tired and be a little more lenient when the toddler screams but you know you can’t condition yourself to let the toddler do what it wants. It’s YOUR toddler.
You’re not going to stuff pill after pill into your toddler until it’s woozy and sick and puking in the bathroom and expect the magic pills to do all the work, are you?
No, you gain some control over the toddler. You enlist the executive for some help.
How do you enlist the executive? Why, simple math of course! Tasks, structural things, things that make your hands work. Take apart an electronic and put it back together. Do some algebra or trig or maybe first semester calculus. Something that doesn’t tax your entire brain, but makes you focus a little.
That’s putting the executive back in charge.
So you’re not punishing the toddler. You’re not fighting the toddler. You’re not screaming back at the toddler or physically subduing the toddler. You’re just showing the toddler that you’re not going to feed into it’s tantrum.
It’s a coping mechanism. One that doesn’t involve substances or physical pain or mental pain (unless you really, really hate math in which case, uh, stick to building legos or something, drawing patterns, taking things apart) or a meltdown. Once your executive is in charge you stop crying and your heart rate slows and you realize . . . what the fuck is going on?
And then you have clearer vision. And then maybe you identify what caused the anxiety. Maybe you see nothing caused it. Maybe you see something large caused it. But you rationalize your reaction wasn’t right. Does it cure your anxiety? No. But it’s better than being up all night rocking yourself to sleep in a pool of your own tears or stumbling into the emergency room just so they can shoot some Ativan into your veins and send you home.
Don’t be a victim–there’s no need to be.
Rely more so on yourself to control your life than something outside of yourself. Use all your resources. Use medication, use therapy, use coping mechanisms, use family and friends, use supportive programs, use blogging, use books, use art, use them all and use them well.
DO NOT use only one of them and expect your life to change. Do not use one of them and sit on your bed and cry about how horrible your life is. That’s being a victim. If you don’t put your all into your recovery what makes you think you’re going to recover? Magic? This weird, infectious idea that there are quick fixes for everything? What world do you live in? Obviously not planet earth.
That’s like giving you a computer monitor with no desktop and saying here, Photoshop my photos please.
That’s like expecting life on earth to proliferate with only an atmosphere of oxygen. No spinning rock, no O-Zone, no nothing, just . . . just oxygen.
You think your brain only uses one neurotransmitter to do all the amazing things it does for you?
Do you see how effected people are when they have a stroke and their left size is incapacitated?
By choosing one method for recovery and moping over it’s ineffectiveness, you’re incapacitating yourself in the same way.
I could just go to therapy once every two weeks and never step outside of my house or practice controlling my anxiety or combating depression or changing the way I think or socializing or speaking up. I could think that’s going to do something and I could lay on my bed and think, and think, and think about it and you know what? I’d probably kill myself.
That’s how you get stuck in a rut. You think more than you actually do.
So when you feel the urge to give up or you think a little pill or a couple sessions of therapy will solve your problems, remind yourself how much you appreciate your left side.
You can choose to be your biggest advocate or you can choose to be your biggest opposition. Doctors aren’t choosing it for you. Your friends aren’t, your family isn’t, your medication isn’t, your psychologist isn’t, your cat isn’t, your dog isn’t–you are. Those are catalysts for you, not cures.
That doesn’t mean don’t not struggle–that means embrace the struggle and understand it. Because you’re going to struggle. I do every day, you’ve heard me whine about it all the time.
But I’m still here, aren’t I?