Previously, in Acting Up
~ Week 01: Addy vs His Triggers ~
A polite request…
Under normal circumstances I’m not a fan of the ‘read more’ button. Normally, I reserve its use only for posts of epic length and/or boredom inducing whiney tediousness. However, it’s use in this series is for neither of these reasons but something entirely different.
I am aware that some of the staff at GT House (and Gateway) read this blog from time to time, so it is to them I politely request to read no further in this post. This is not because I’m about to insult the organisation (quite the opposite) but because it reveals something I’m not comfortable with the workers knowing at this point in time. It’s nothing bad, saucy or intimate, just something mental health related that I’m sure I’ll share somewhere down the track.
So, as you’re workers in the mental health field (ahhh, isn’t emotional blackmail fun!) I would be most grateful if you could respect my privacy on this occasion.
Thank you kindly :)
Everyone else may continue (if you wish to) :)
One big step for Addy…
Following on from last Friday’s declaration that I would share my trigger with my support worker I’m happy to report that I did! In spite of my insecurity over how insane, pathetic and weird it would make me look, I faced up to my insecurities and admitted not only my trigger but why she is a trigger; as reported in last week’s Acting Up post.
I’d love to say this information was shared with openness and ease, but insecurity goes hand-in-hand with social anxiety, so I stuttered, stumbled and figuratively had to drag the words out of mouth with a crudely fashioned metallic hook. For some reason admitting that Sarah is a trigger is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in many (many) months. Not because I don’t want people to know she’s a trigger but because I don’t want people to know how broken I really am. A “man” so consumed by trauma, irrational fear, guilt and insecurity that a single, beautiful woman has the power to reduce me to a vomiting, blubbering, spineless amoeba purely because she has a more than passing resemblance to someone from my past.
As I tried to cover-up my worthlessness with badly timed self-deprecating humour (a trusty defense mechanism) my worker asked whether or not I wanted her to have a quiet word with Sarah. However much I thought this would be a good idea the insecure part of me took over and I told them I’d think about it. Part of me doesn’t want Sarah to know in any way, shape or form. I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable, uneasy or insulted by my irrational insecurity. But as we hypothesised – if I were to run out of the Acting Up group because of a panic/anxiety/meltdown, it would be Sarah’s job as coordinator to follow and make sure I was ok – it dawned on me that the trigger trying to calm down the person they’ve triggered is something that could only end in chaos.
So, as usual, I’ve taken a ginormous step but still not moved forward!
Facing your fears…
After last Tuesday’s event I was understandably on-edge about what may happen during today’s group. I had spent the entire weekend psyching myself up for the second installment of my Acting Up group and when I arrived (on time this week) I realised that, aside from Sarah and the other group leader, I was the only person there. The moment I arrived my heart rate increased, my palms began to drip and my head began to spin – so I bolted outside for a calming cigarette and a stern talking to; I am supposed to be a man. I am supposed to be able to sit in a room with other human beings. She is not the person she reminds you of!
Ten minutes later I returned to the room, discovered someone else had arrived (phew!), made a soothing cup of tea and immediately began implementing mindfulness techniques to interrupt and soothe the waves of anxiety that crashed over me:
- I tapped the Doctor Who theme with my feet almost constantly.
- I allowed myself to drift into one of my ‘happy places’; even if that meant phasing out of the group for a few minutes.
- and repeated poems (Daddy Fell into the Pond) and Winnie the Pooh songs in my head.
It kindof worked. But being in such close proximity to a trigger was always going to keep my anxiety raised and fight-flight response in gear. But, as I said last week, one of the only sure-fire ways to combat a trigger is to face it head-on and hope that you kill it (metaphorically) before it kills you (literally!)
So far, it hasn’t killed me!
Character Development 101
As mentioned last week, in addition to combatting the above trigger, I attend the Acting Up group because I hope it will help me reduce my social anxiety. So far, it hasn’t. I haven’t once shared any of the things I’ve written during the group; primarily because when I’m in such a heightened state I can’t write anything even remotely interesting.
Take, for example, this week’s activity. The theme was character creation, which – given my love affair with unwritten Urban Fantasy chronicles – is something I rather enjoy doing. However, when I sit down to create my characters I’m not doing so in a position of anxiety or whilst battling a MH trigger.
Thus, the character I created was not exactly well fleshed-out or particularly interesting:(Note: this is an exact copy from the notes I made during the group.)
Harris is a 274 year old skinwalker; a man who has the ability to become his animal totem, a golden eagle.
Height: 5′ 9″Build: Muscular (more Bradley Cooper than Arnold Schwarzenegger)
Voice: speaks with a Scottish accent
Hair: A blend of warm reds, yellows and golden browns
Scars: (1) Extending from lower left eye to the tip of his mouth, (2) Large gash across his chest (approximately 11 inches), (3) Several thin whip-like scars on his back.
Tattoos: (1) a Sleeve tattoo on his right arm, (2) A sun/moon symbol on his left ankle
Born on the Isle of Harris (Outer Hebrides), Harris became a skinwalker following an encounter with a mystic hermit. Initially viewed as a curse, Harris has accepted his condition as a blessing, one that he uses in his self-given role of ‘protector of the island’. A pseudo-Superhero, although he becomes agitated when anyone compares him to 80s TV classic Manimal.
His condition has rendered his life solitary in nature. His extended age making relationships difficult and his eagle identity (which can manifest in times of great emotional release) tends to freak people out; obviously! The only “friend” he has is Isobel, a woman who works in the field of ecology, doing whatever she can to nurture the wildlife of the island. She is unaware of Harris’ eagle-self, despite being saved by him on a number of occasions and his yearning to share this side of himself with her.
Harris’ ageless state and solitary nature has seen him retreat into the field of self-education to pass the time. As such he is a highly educated individual, despite not having any formal qualification.
Although rebellious in his youth, his skinwalking identity has given him time to take stock of what is important, and in contemporary times is a noble hero. Showing great pride, compassion and strength whilst never resorting to cocky arrogance. He has a reserved respect for the world and the various people and animals who inhabit it.
Despite this strength, he is hesitant when it comes to sharing himself with others. He is far more action orientated; preferring gesture over conversation to show his feelings.
~ An epic battle with a Stoorwormy sea monster (this was Meadhbh’s suggestion, I personally think it doesn’t quite fit)
~ Saving the child of his childhood sweetheart from a fire.
~ Rescuing a stranded walrus (which he did for Isobel, without her realising it was he)
~ Obtaining urgent medical-aid for Isobel after she was poisoned by a mutated crab (again, this was Meadhbh’s suggestion)
So when it came to the second activity – where we had to write a letter from our character to an important person in his life – feelings of inadequacy had asked my anxiety and panic for a wee dance. Alongside grieving army Colonels and ravishing secret agents (with awesome fight-skills), Harris the Loner Eagle Dude seemed rather crap in comparison, so all I could come up with for my letter was:
[Insert name here]* once said:
“If you care what other people think you will always be their prisoner,”
and I write this letter because I am tired of being held in chains.
As a result, I was the only person (yet again) to have nothing to share. So I sat there looking like a pathetic wanker listening to everyone else’s beautiful words, wondering how I could take my anxiety by the horns and wrestle him into submission.
Where do I go from here?
The only thing I came up with was what if I were to select a piece from my blog, print it out and then – if the other group members didn’t mind – read it aloud at next week’s group? Granted, my blog writing isn’t fiction, but it is something I’m (on the whole) proud of and my passion for the blog should make it easier to share with others.
This way I could break through the ‘anxiety over not having shared anything yet’ barrier which should (hopefully) make sharing things in the future that much easier to do.
Which is where you guys come in.
Does this sound like a reasonable idea or the ramblings of an inane lunatic?
If it does sound like a good idea, what blog post do you think I should share? Any suggestions would be appreciated! :)
Throughout the group – and the conversation with my support worker in the afternoon – I made (some) headway that I’m proud of. There was no collapse, no anxiety attack and no vomiting in a public toilet. There was simply the realisation that I’m more broken than I thought I was and the understanding that if I don’t share something with the group soon, I probably never will!
Which is why in next week’s Acting Up report I hope to able to tell the tale of how I shared some of my writing and the various feedback it received. Be it good or bad, I don’t care. All I care about is doing something to smack this social anxiety into submission for a few meagre minutes! :)
Things I learned at the Acting Up group this week:
- I cannot write under the pressure of anxiety, panic and battling triggers. Perhaps this makes me weak. Perhaps it just proves I’m human!
- Axis of Awesome are rather brilliant musicians. (Don’t believe me…check out the superb “Four Chord Song“)
- I have ‘Winnie the Pooh’ songs memorised! :D
- Not so much something I learned, but something I realised; I think I’m stronger than I think I am.