Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Very Busy Few Days

Retail therapy, or in this case, retail anxiety. That’s what I got in spades having decided to get a new computer and go through all that entails. Getting all the software working, getting all your mail back in place and the printer and scanner working—all requiring so much interaction with strangers bringing on, of course, extreme stuttering.

But what ride I have now on the Internet highway. I got a new faster modem and router so I watch videos with ease and the sound system is Bose. It’s such a treat to watch music videos with such clarity and rich big sound.

In the photo, you may also notice the water. It's such a change for me to be an avid consumer of "holy" water.

Oh… and I got the most elegant pen that accessorizes my new jacket perfectly.

My home is my sanctuary as I heal and I have enriched it with all my purchases. And I get them in my new convertible. Life is a blast when it’s a blast. But the stuttering, aching and exhaustion are tiresome.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Diary of a Madman: Post #2: Love's Divine

Each night, as I lift my legs into bed I welcome sleep. I drift off proud that I have gotten through another day. In sleep, all the tension of the day disappears. Then, in the morning, the reverse happens: I feel the unwelcome tension/anxiety that dominates my life pour into me. The tide comes in and goes out every day.

It’s inconceivable that I could sleep anywhere but here at home until I am much stronger. To experience the incoming tide anywhere else would be awful as it once was here. 

This week is my third post-breakdown week. I awaken now and feel like Chris.1 — "old" Chris, the Chris I used to be. But when someone comes to visit or I go out hyper-vigilant Chris.2 takes over. It’s a Jeckyll and Hyde existence.

I saw the delightful Mark Ruffalo on the Graham Norton show talking about playing “The Hulk.” I don’t know anything about The Hulk, but I believe he is a person who becomes The Hulk under certain circumstances — perhaps to combat crime in the same way that Bruce Wayne becomes Batman or in Clark Kent becomes Superman. These characters could easily be the creation of a broken mind like mine, living as I do as Chris.1 and Chris.2. The switch, by the way, is out of my hands.

The issue of  becoming a single Chris again — no .1 and .2 — was the big concern in my session yesterday with Dr. Shoja. She brought up my ability to speak with accents and my strong disinclination to use them. She suggested that I can speak in accents without a stutter because doing so enables me to “be another person.” Friends theorized the same thing; I accept it now.

But right now it's impossible to be just "Chris." I’m “broken.” That’s what I like to say. The perceivable symptom of my broken state is my stutter. The cause is too much abuse, and the work ahead involves processing it. When I am done, my stutter will be gone and I will be “integrated.”  I’ll be a “new” me, emotionally reconciled with my past.  

The trauma is complicated. For me, it’s a double-headed snake. One head is vicious and cruel. It is the physical abuser that snorts, roars and breathes fire. It's my father. The other is silent and still. It stares. It’ the one that doesn’t love. For me, it’s the scariest one.

In light of all I have written above you will understand why I was gob smacked last night when I heard Seal’s song Love’s Divine. Click on the video above to hear it while you read the lyrics below.

Then the rainstorm came, over me
And I felt my spirit break
I had lost all of my, belief you see
And realized my mistake
But time threw a prayer, to me
And all around me became still

I need love, love's divine
Please forgive me now I see that I've been blind
Give me love, love is what I need to help me know my name

Through the rainstorm came sanctuary
And I felt my spirit fly
I had found all of my reality
I realize what it takes

'Cause I need love, love's divine
Please forgive me now I see that I've been blind
Give me love, love is what I need to help me know my name

Oh I, don't bend (don't bend), don't break (don't break)
Show me how to live and promise me you won't forsake
'Cause love can help me know my name

Well I try to say there's nothing wrong
But inside I felt me lying all along
But the message here was plain to see
Believe me

'Cause I need love, love's divine
Please forgive me now I see that I've been blind
Give me love, love is what I need to help me know my name

Oh I, don't bend (don't bend), don't break (don't break)
Show me how to live and promise me you won't forsake
'Cause love can help me know my name

Love can help me know my name.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

PS to the Previous Post.

As I go to bed tonight, I wonder what will happen next. I thought the horrifying part of this crisis was over but it seems to come in waves. I've had three really scary episodes in as many weeks.

I've been at home recovering from the day. But come tomorrow, I have to venture out again. I have three medical appointments tomorrow: Two in the morning and one in the afternoon; the afternoon appointment is with Dr. Shoja.

I'll be taking pills tonight that give me an even deeper escape than silence in my home where, alone with my thoughts, I feel like my old self.

Diary of a Madman: Post #1

  1. Last Sunday night things got very very strange.  I wanted to die but lacked the courage to do anything about it. Realizing I was too weak to do it made me feel even worse and the thought of calling a suicide help line was laughable. By Monday morning, things got so bad I decided I wanted to hire someone unemployed to watch me. When I called my friend, Leslie, to explain my plan she talked me back to feeling better.
  2. I was in line to pay for a diet coke at the 711 behind a guy who was about to buy a package of beef jerky. He'd opened the package and he was already eating some. I still cannot fathom anyone wanting to eat something called “beef jerky.” My mind seized on the name. Why “jerky?” I asked myself: “What is a jerk anyway?” It was very clear to me that “jerky” was negative in connotation and so, to my mind, both naming a food product “jerky” and putting something “jerky” in one’s mouth seemed horribly wrong. I got so wrapped up in my thinking, I become blind to my environment and miss noticing, for example, that the store clerk is calling me forward.
  3. In a discussion about empathy, Bruce said we were “hard-wired” that way … and off I went. As he went on talking I stopped listening as I tried to understand why he would use the term “hard-wired.” I still find it unsatisfying; it seems meaningless to me. I wanted Bruce to say: “We were born this way.” I've become extremely literal.
  4. Are you ready for a shocker? Today I went to my weekly massage therapy session with Christopher and we began, as usual, with me saying which muscles hurt the most. In response to me saying how exhausting stuttering is, he said: "Maybe we should try some work on your diaphragm." So about 35 minutes into the massage, he started doing exactly that. On my left side, things went fine but when he got to my right side, I became convulsive. I was locked into muscle spasm all over my body. The uncontrollable spasms of my muscles hurt like hell. I signalled for water but had to be fed. It was easily the most alarming experience of my life but Christopher stayed calm. He kept rubbing my chest and kept repeating that it would end and that I would be fine. I flashed back to thinking: I cannot live like this. But soon it all passed. I asked Christopher if he's ever seen anything like what had happened before. He has not. Not in seventeen years. He is the finest of men, Christopher. In his tone, touch and eyes I only saw and heard care. Once up on my feet, he hugged me. He, hugged, me; not the other way around and to me, that meant everything.
  5. To close friends, perhaps nothing will be more shocking than this (in spite of all of the above): I am seriously cutting down on Diet Coke. Chris.2 is a water drinker and I'm stunned.
  6. On the way to see Christopher, I walked in the lanes. The lanes are quiet and I took the following photos with "new" eyes. I am thrilled to discover that my breakdown has changed my aesthetic for the better. I am excited about what I may do, creatively, when I recover. This blog is a place to keep my impressions and memories in case I do do something. This change may be to subtle for you, but for me this is truly exciting. 

I've always loved beauty. My friend Jessica theorizes that I chose to see the beauty of the world better than most to compensate for what was going on at home. Chris.1 would not have taken this photo. The yellow cup propping open the window and the central window with cardboard would have seemed ugly "to him.". What has changed? Read on.

Same building, different view and Chris.1 would, again, never have taken this one. Neither this one nor the one above are earth-shattering compositions; I took them thinking about writing all that I am putting into this post having noticed my "changed perception.' So what changed?  Read on.

Look back through this blog and you'll see that architecture has always been part of my vocabulary of beauty. But Chris.1 would never have taken this photo because of those bright blue garbage cans. Chris.1 saw no beauty in garbage at all. Nor in backyards or parking signs. Chris.1 liked façades.

And then I saw this building. This is Chris.2's favourite photo. Why? Because of the green bin, the car and all the vertical structural supports holding up the balconies—those balconies where so much life has played out they need support.

The yellow cup, the cardboard in the window, the structural supports, the bins, the parking sign and the car: They are all the detritus of people. Chris.2 is interested in people. For Chris.1 there was only beauty in animals and nature; there was no beauty in mankind. What was beautiful about people to Chris.1, was not something you could photograph. But Chris.2 loves images that include evidence of people, if not people themselves. 

This is Chris.2. This is a man raw from re-learning how to live with (temporary) mental ill-health. I am fine with my new status. I think—I hope—the worst is over, and my new way of living is giving me a vastly different way of seeing the world. The adjustment is hard but there are extremely interesting benefits.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Officially a Bore

I'm not happy with the way things are going. It's starting to feel like my breakdown was actually an invasion of my body by some other personality. I've become someone I don't like and have no control over. I'm someone I wouldn't really want to be with, so I'm increasingly disinclined to get together with people.

Last night and this morning was as bad as life has ever felt. I will spare you the details. I got help. I am struggling to get to Wednesday when I see Dr. Shoja.

When I'm alone at home, I feel like who I used to be. But outside and in reaction to others, I become this raw, easily confused overly-self-aware bore.

Yesterday I visited the flowers in the Blodel Conservatory but they too many guests.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

DInner for Four

I’d say it took almost six hours to bake the cake and the fancy Waldorf salad took another two hours; all this after about 45 minutes of shopping. The socca took about two and a half hours and the eggplant Kadaifi nests took a good three and a half hours. That’s almost fifteen hours of cooking and baking for my friends. I loved doing it all; it’s the perfect activity for me as I recover.

I’d made everything except the nests before. I get really nervous/excited trying something for the first time. They are very elaborate to make, like many things in Mr. Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, but reward is proportionate to effort.

The baked eggplant is mixed with ricotta &
pecorina cheeses, Italian parsley egg, etc. and
then it's wrapped in Kadaifi pastry. This is how
mine looked before baking.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Back to Baking

Things keep getting more complicated.

Yesterday I went to VGH again, this time to check on my lungs. During my anxiety attacks, I’ve been experiencing a scary shortness of breath. The last part of the visit involved a kind of “breathalyzer” test I have had many times. I hate it and I was dreading doing it. I was supposed to do three blows into the machine but after the first one I was a wreck so they exempted me from the other two. I go to St. Paul’s for more tests next week.

Dr. Shoja called and can see me next week, thanks to a cancellation and I already have an appointment for the week after that. 

I am really exhausted from all this anxiety. It is like carrying a huge load on your back.

I made a tall génoise cake. What an epic piece of work.

I only have one spring-form pan the right size, so I had to make two cakes to get the height I wanted. Then I made the raspberry filling to put between two of the four layers and then cooked up some lemon curd to put between the other two layers. After that, I had to make Chantilly for the icing. It should look fabulous when it is sliced.

But by far the worst part was making the candied lemon rind for the top.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thursday's Advances

  1. I am getting used to telling people I've had a breakdown. The term is meaningless to me, but it gives people a general idea. I think a better and more accurate name is acute anxiety disorder. (Caused by nervous exhaustion.)
  2. It's extraordinary how kind clerks and shop keepers are to me due to my stutter. I've felt no frustration at all. The kindness of everyone makes going out easier for me.
  3. I got a three month supply of sleeping pills and I will use one every night. Art says they are not addictive or in any other way dangerous.
  4. I got a "medical certificate" explaining my disorder as hyper anxiety so I can stay in my car on the ferries.
  5. I really feel good on the street. Not a busy street, but a side street. And sunshine does not feel so harsh.
  6. Lots of time alone at home is essential.

My Daily Insight

My breakdown was April 9th. A huge huge aspect of my recovery has been writing therapy to Dr. Shoja and here on this blog. Every single morning the words pour out of me; my mind, bursting with new insights. This is healing folks.  Here is today's insight:

Wiki explains a “mental breakdown” this way:
A mental breakdown is an acute, time-limited psychiatric disorder that manifests primarily as sever stress-induced depression (not me), anxiety (me!) or dissociation (me) in a previously functional individual, to the extent that they are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis until the disorder is resolved. It is defined by its temporary nature, and often closely ties to psychological burnout (me!), severe overwork (not me), sleep deprivation (me!), and similar stressors that may combine to temporarily overwhelm an individual with otherwise sound mental functions. 
“Mental Breakdown” is not an “official” medical condition. The terms “nervous breakdown” and “mental breakdown” have not been formally defined through neither the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders nor the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

I wanted to know what is wrong with me and now I do.

I understand my breakdown this way: Childhood traumas caused me to disassociate with my emotions as a defense. The burden of that behavior exploded on April 9th and now I am raw. My emotions hit me in the extreme. Healing involves  getting to the point where I feel my emotions at “normal” levels.

I can be in a "normal" state now when I am with someone I trust. It's as simple as that. Alone, I am not yet able to control my emotions. And now I understand why I want the effects of marijuana when I am alone.

I get it. And I get it better and better every day.

And there’s one more thing!  “Childhood traumas” caused my breakdown. If you identify with that term in any way, I don’t want to hear about it unless it broke you. If you had a breakdown, I seriously want to listen to you. 

But a lot of people feel they had childhood trauma or parents who didn’t love them but the thing is, when you equate your experience to mine but you have not suffered a breakdown it offends me. “Abuse” is not a lack of attention. Plus, I cannot tell if your lack of parental attention is justified or merely the perceived deficiency of an overly needy personality.