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hope this one says all it needs to!

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Yeah. So keep your eyes open, be wary, and don’t get pushed off course…

My planning went out the window, as did my eating plan, my exercise and pretty much everything else. Having the cold for two whole weeks then putting my back out hasn’t helped, but it’s amazing how anything can become an excuse to stop being vigilant. Now I’m dying to get back to therapy and start exercising and things again…

Here we go again, I suppose 🙂

 

No SSRI for a while… again! But I’m really proud to post the latest guest strip, this time by my boyfriend, Mitchymuss Alexander. Here he’s very openly portraying something I struggle with daily; RUMINATION (click the image to embiggen).

Rumination (from The Free Dictionary):

Noun 1. rumination – a calm, lengthy, intent consideration

cogitationstudy – attentive consideration and meditation; “after much cogitation he rejected the offer”
consideration – the process of giving careful thought to something
meditationspeculation – continuous and profound contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects of a deep or abstruse nature; “the habit of meditation is the basis for all real knowledge”
meditation – (religion) contemplation of spiritual matters (usually on religious or philosophical subjects)
introspectionself-contemplationself-examination – the contemplation of your own thoughts and desires and conduct
retrospect – contemplation of things past; “in retrospect”
2. rumination – (of ruminants) chewing (the cud); “ruminants have remarkable powers of rumination”

chewingmasticationchewmanduction – biting and grinding food in your mouth so it becomes soft enough to swallow
3. rumination – regurgitation of small amounts of food; seen in some infants after feeding

disgorgementemesispukingvomitingregurgitationvomit – the reflex act of ejecting the contents of the stomach through the mouth

It’s actually sounds fine, eh (apart from maybe the last two!)? A bit of meditation, self-reflection, surely that kind of thing’s good for the soul, and for self-awareness?

Well the psychological definition is a bit different (from Wikipedia):

Rumination is usually defined as repetitively focusing on the symptoms of distress, and on its possible causes and consequences.[1] Extensive research on the effects of rumination, or the tendency to self-reflect, shows that the negative form of rumination interferes with people’s ability to focus on problem-solving and results in dwelling on negative thoughts about past failures.[2] Evidence from studies suggests that the negative implications of rumination are due to cognitive biases, such as memory and attentional biases, which predispose ruminators to selectively devote attention to negative stimuli.[3]

As Mitch’s strip today demonstrates, rumination can make even the most simple internal decision a minefield. It affects problem solving because we’re predisposed to think of all the times we got problem-solving wrong, and to completely reject the (often magnitudinously larger) amount of times we got it right… And we often become the only people in our lives who don’t trust us to do the right thing.

I do wonder if the last definition from the dictionary is somehow the most appropriate one – that instead of self reflecting, we endlessly chew over and regurgitate useless thoughts…

 

So I’m back after a fairly long break, and I thought it’d be nice to come back with something positive. I’m still anxious, I’m still avoiding some things, but over the last three or four weeks of going to therapy I’ve been using CBT to stop rumination and I’ve practised being mindful – stopping and using my senses – listening, smelling, seeing the things around me, to bring me out of my head.

I’ve also been kind of re-patterning – hence the strip today. One of the biggest vicious circles with my anxiety has been putting things off then struggling to get them done. Basically, one of my biggest enemies has been disorganisation. You could say that anxiety is the product of a disorganised mind, but I’m not a psychologist, so I can talk about my own experiences with any certainty.

Realising that, I’ve transformed the space in the house I use as a studio, and have everything mapped out in calendars and planners, giving myself realistic deadlines and always re-checking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still struggling with deadlines and things, it’ll take a while; but I’ve been ten times more productive because I’m spending far less time worrying about not getting stuff done.

I’ve also set myself a routine of relaxing, meditating and exercising, as well as, believe it or not, cooking. Rather than waiting till the last minute to decide what I’m eating, which usually resulted in me realising I didn’t have the proper ingredients for a particular meal or whatever and relying on fast carbs instead, I’m planning my meals, and the result is that I’m cooking much more.

All of this is stuff I’ve tried before, but at different times and without properly planning for it. This time I’m doing it gradually, but as one massive big lifestyle change.

I gave up coffee, dudes… COFFEE.

Caffeine, sugar, all that stuff that causes more anxiety, and all that stuff I rely on for comfort, which has helped me get fat, is getting cut out. I figure that if I remove the majority of anxiety-causing influences from my environment then all I’m left with is me. I can work on that. But only when it doesn’t feel over whelming. So I’m hoping that as all this stuff becomes habit, I can focus even more on the therapy and CBT and try to bed in some of this stuff.

It’s precarious – I’m aware that if something “bad” happens I could go back a few steps, but I’m hoping the routine thing will help me to get back on track if that happens.

Also, I’ve given up the citalopram… So in one sense, this strip is now wrongly named! I never wanted to stay on anti-depressants – they were a means to an end for me, and that end was getting to therapy and starting to make the changes in my life I needed. But I was left with a residual physical anxiety by the tallys, and it was affecting my libido too. I was getting to that stage of mediocrity a lot of people report on anti-D’s, where you’re neither up nor down, but in some middle place.

It was a bitch coming off them – I had a rollercoaster week last week, major highs and really, really deep lows, the worst I’ve had for a while. But luckily I could talk it over with Mitch, which meant I never felt like I was on my own.

If you’re going through something like this, I can’t stress how important it is to be able to communicate it. Even if you don’t have people close to you who you can talk to, find a therapist, or at the very least, find someone else who’s gone through it and talk to them. A lot of the difficult stuff you go through is a necessary part of the process, I think, but it can be enough to put you off track if you don’t know how to cope, or even if it’s normal.

If you’re out there on your own reading this and need to talk, feel free to drop me a PM – there’s not just me here, but all the other people I know who’ve experienced it too, and we can all offer our advice and encouragement.

So I’m left with “brain zaps”, or head spangs as a mate calls it, which I love. It’s a side effect of withdrawal from SSRIs, little brain rushes when you turn your head or eyes too quickly. But my libido seems to be returning, and the constant anxious stomach has gone – now I just get it when I am anxious. I also feel a lot more clear headed.

So I’m not there yet – there’s loads of stuff still to do, and I have no idea if any of it will be permanent. It could be that I’ll be anxious for the rest of my life and I’ll just need to manage it. Or maybe that some years of this routine will be enough to get rid of it – I just don’t know. But this time round I’m determined not to slip, to just keep going.

 

First of all, I apologise profusely for the lack of updates recently – I’ve been going through some big changes, and I’ll post up soon to let you know what’s been happening, but they’ve distracted me enough to keep me from SSRI for a while…

Secondly, while I get myself back in gear, here’s the latest guest post, this time from Cosmic Designs’ workshop alumni and Team Girl’er, MJ Wallace! Thanks for such an honest post MJ, I know I can relate to this, and I’m sure many folk who read it will too 🙂

Back soon!!

 

So this really happened, post-therapy, which was nice… 🙂

I’ve been doing diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, and it seems to be really making a difference. Apparently my general day-to-day level is so strung out that it makes even the wee things in life seem massive.

Interesting thing is, after relaxation I’m this completely chilled person that I haven’t been since I was about 19 or 20. I can remember it, being that groovy and chilled, but it didn’t last. But remembering it has made me realise that beneath all this anxiety and worry, that’s who I really am, and hopefully can be again.

 

Anyone who knows me knows I can be an opinionated prick – and those folk also know that I’m not a protester, or an activist, or someone who really gets up off my arse to campaign on things that I’m passionate about. I like to think that balances out more recently with the community art work I do – small changes and all that – but nevertheless, I’m an angry guy who doesn’t do a lot with it.

I’m angry at many things – I’m angry at the polarisation of politics. I’m angry at capitalism. Angry at religion, and the way it’s often wielded, the lack of true compassion and spirituality at the heart of things, and the fact that more often than not in this world, we spend more time worrying about what other people are doing than ourselves. All these things make me rage.

Probably more so now because of the online nature of things. Knowledge is a good thing, if you can use it. But if it just gets you angry, then what is the use? Is it better that I know more about US right wing politics than I ever have done? Should I even care?

Does it matter that our government in the UK has never been under so much scrutiny when it (regardless of political party) appears to be able to get away with pretty much anything? I don’t know. All I know is that I feel like I’ve spent too much time lately getting angry, and doing nothing with it.

So for one, I started putting the brakes on – using ‘Comment Blocker’ on Chrome to block reader comments on most blogs I read, stopping myself from posting big comments that tend to only add fuel to the fire. I’ve got draft emails sitting with me moaning about various things that I’ve stopped myself from finishing and sending. It’s a little, but it will hopefully help.

On top of that, I’m pouring all my anger and rage into a comic book I’m writing and drawing, called ‘Gonzo Cosmic’. It’s a wild sci fi epic, channelling (hopefully) the spirit of Jack Kirby mixed with weird psychotropic 70s cinema. But it’s also intensely political, and I’m managing, I think, to find ways to get all of my anger in there, to play with it, mould it, reshape it, question it and generally turn it into something that I really hope will be more positive in the end.

Meanwhile, I try to stop reading so much online commentary…

Here’s a sneak preview of Gonzo Cosmic #1, which won’t be out until 2013.