Now Hiring: Professional Hugger

 

jack-sharp-579583-unsplash

 

unsplash-logoJack Sharp

It’s been five months since I was diagnosed with a panic disorder.

It’s been that long on Zoloft and Ativan.

I endured a very hard childhood and thought I had escaped the worst of it when lo and behold, one day back in October I had my very first panic attack.

I thought I was dying.

Ran off to the E.R. and the doctors told me that I was not having a heart attack nor was I have a stroke.

They performed an EKG, took blood, and a CT scan of my noggin and everything came back fine.

From there, I was sent home with a script of meds.

Getting used to those was like getting used to having the flu for 3 weeks. I was nauseous. I was hot and then cold and then clammy and the panic attacks weren’t done. As soon as I felt anxiety coming on, knew what to ‘look for’, the symptoms would change and suddenly I’d be flush with a burning sensation from my waist all the way up to the top of my head.

In the interim, I started eating healthier, cutting out soda, coffee, anything with caffeine. I started drinking more water and working out to rid myself of extra energy.

I’ve slimmed down in places and bulked up in others.

Yet – there is one thing that I wish I had on tap. Something I could just press a button for.

A hug.

That has been the oddest feeling that I’ve had since this all began. The desire for a bone-crushing, all-encompassing, shit’s gonna be alright, I love you, man,  hug.

I swear to God if there were a six foot seven, Mexican, biker gang member named Jerry who was willing to administer so said hug.

I’d let him.

Seriously.

I would just go with it.

It’s the weirdest feeling. It’s like hunger pangs.

I am thinking about having a t-shirt made for when I go out in public.

Panic Sufferer: Hugs help.

Anxiety Author

nik-shuliahin-251237

unsplash-logoNik Shuliahin

Living with anxiety is like living with a ghost who, on occasion, like’s to pop out of the closet, from behind the door, or behind a shower curtain.
Yes, that’s exactly what it’s been like for the past three months.
The first attack was bad. The second was worse. The third was a little more expected but having one makes you feel like you’re dying.
Your body is screaming at you that something is wrong.
You feel terribly light headed, you shake, your body feels off and you feel like you’re in another world.
Sometimes it gradually comes on, sometimes it hits you like a freight train after you get off an elliptical machine.

After several trips to the E.R., an EKG machine, and a CT scan to make sure that I was having neither a heart attack or a stroke, I was given medicine for it.

I let the medicine run out because I thought I was too much of a man to need it.

I regret that decision as of late as they’ve returned. My therapists have talked me through how to bring myself down off of one, and those techniques are somewhat effective. The key is to try like hell not to give into the fear.

But it’s lonely as hell.

I haven’t been able to work very much since all this started. I’ve been silent on social media (for the most part and probably to the pleasure of some folk) as an attack can eat up an entire day.

I will be going back to the doctor and will be getting back on medicine for this. White knuckling your way through something like this isn’t healthy long term. While there’s nothing wrong with your organs, yet, a constantly elevated blood pressure can cause injuries and lasting medical issues later on.

I don’t want that.

I’ll be going through the blahs again once I am medicated. Contemplating cracks in the wall and dealing with nausea as my body adjusts to the chemicals I am putting in me.

Meanwhile, I’ve been drinking warm milk and working out on my machine. I’ve gained some weight, enough to stretch my buttons on my pants to the breaking point, but I think it’s because I’m building muscle underneath my insulation. But slowly, and surely, I’ll work on getting both my body and mind back under control.

There have been a lot of friends who’ve helped me out – who’ve talked me off the ledge. They’ve assured me in the throes of the panic that I am not dying and the doctors I’ve been to aren’t crazy. To them, I say thank you.

I do, however, have a greater appreciation for mental illness. I really appreciate and am humbled by this mess going on right now and could only imagine what someone with a more powerful illness must go through. When your mind speaks, it demands that you listen, and that gray matter is a powerful and very loud instrument.

I know often times I am not the most diplomatic person, sometimes to the detriment of popularity, but as a mental health advocate, especially my brothers and sisters in arms who suffer from PTSD and other service-related injuries – I am pretty much ready to become even less so.

Mental health should not be put into the shadows, I agree. But it shouldn’t be brought out into the light and treated as a trope or a money maker. It should be respected as the diseases of the mind are extremely powerful. They hurt in ways that are impossible to explain. Depression, S.A.D., Cyclical Dysthymia, Eating Disorders, Panic Disorders, G.A.D, Borderline Personalities, Bi-polar Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Schizophrenia are just a few of the many issues that American’s have.

There’s an entire doorstopper of a book called a D.S.M (it’s up to volume 5 now) that psychologists and Psychiatrists use to treat and diagnose these maladies. Psychopharmacology that is used to treat these and many other illnesses often times makes the treated physically ill. Personally, they made me weepy, tired, they gave me diarrhea, dry mouth, and made me very tired. There were zaps in my head that would make me feel scared and it takes up to a month to get into your system and become therapeutic. In the interim, the patient takes benzo’s (a highly addictive fast-acting medicine) to calm down should a panic attack happen.

Googling your symptoms is a double edge sword. BEcause according to WebMD you could have a panic disorder, or you could be dying of cancer. But that’s always their second choice, even if you stub your toe. You could ice it, or try chemotherapy. However, also thanks to Google, there are a lot of forums and support groups that pretty much list every symptom you possibly could have and there’s something to the knowledge that what I am going through isn’t unusual for my condition.

I mouthed off about a book recently that had some controversial topics about it. I don’t apologize for that, especially now that I am going through this. But I will apologize to anyone who reads this about not listening to other’s when they said that some of the things being written were hurtful. I brushed them aside. I now know what it’s like to feel invisible, to not be heard, to be sitting next to my husband who’s laughing at a television program while I sit on the opposite side of the couch trying to catch my breath. It’s not fun. It’s not something that should be brushed aside.

Hurting someone whether intentionally or unintentionally isn’t funny. Making a buck off of someone else’s misery is …well, I promised myself I wouldn’t cuss about this…fucked up! (sorry, I didn’t make it) If you’re going to get into an issue, I would encourage you to get into it. Learn something, teach something, elevate the conversation into something that can educate the world. If you don’t feel like you can, then don’t. Let someone else do it.

Meanwhile, I will continue drinking my warm milk. Exercising. And keeping my breath Trying to get my head back on right. In the interim, consider me batshit crazy – but that’s always been the case.

Empty Threats (poem)

christian-sterk-218727

unsplash-logoChristian Sterk

It started with a statement on the television
from the leader of the free world
‘He want’s to hang all of em’
he said with a smile and a hand gesture
as they talked about men, like me

My chest tightened
the floor fell away and suddenly
I was falling without moving
Shaking, sweating,
the rope tightened around my neck
“You are dying,” my mind screamed

Empty threats
from an exhausted mind,
fear of murder of my own kind,
where can I run?
Now that liberty’s run dry

I am not on my own anymore
my vagabond existence
two trash bags of clothes in the trunk
fleeing my past as soon as it
catches up with me

No more no-name face
no more hooking up
with cigarette smiles
trying to remember what’s his name
some random fuck, in some random place

there’s another, now
a family, now
I’m a husband, now
trapped by my vows
my marriage license now
a potential death warrant

Two pills a day
significant weight gain
gasping for breath at the edge of sleep
empty threats from my
tired brain
God, how do I deal with this?

I feel like there’s a storm coming
and I’m naked and standing in a field
with mud up to my knees
how long before it crawls up to my chest
and down my throat?
How long before the empty threat,
becomes too real?

Slip into the river (Poem)

 

william-ferguson-113915

 

 

Slip into the river
let it take you down, down
slip into the river
where no air can be found
Float, face up, and look at the sky
float, face up, watch the clouds pass on by
block out the sound, your ears submerged
slip into the river
and let it take you down, down

Slip into the river
let it take you down, down
forget the worries of the world
and all your worldly cares
Float, face up, and let the water caress your weary mind
Float, face up, what a way to pass the time
slip into the river
and let it take you down, down

Don’t you know the world is ending
Can’t you feel in tremble under your feet
All the progress man has made is now burning down
there is screaming in the night
and fear stalks the day
but slip into the river, child
and let it take you down, down

For safety’s sake, so you’re body isn’t torn
come down to the waters edge and ease yourself
into eternity
London Bridge, Ring around the Rosie
pockets filled with stone
slip into the river, child
and let it take you down, down

Slip into the river
let it take you down, down
slip into the river
where no air can be found
Float, face down, and look at the silty floor
float, face down, and know you’ll breathe no more
slip into the river
and let it take you down, down

Heaven underneath the sound (poem)

nathan-anderson-157614

 

I am jagged fears
and raw emotion
nerve endings exposed to the chilly air
wanting to go back, wanting to go back
to a time when the pain wasn’t as painful

But was it better then?
or has time erased the worst of it?
Perception is never to be trusted
so much lust, turned to rust, the wine has all been poured

What I want?
Do you know? Can you fathom?
I want warmth and the smell of a fire burning
I want arms around me – but not a lover’s touch
that’s not what I’m hungry for at the moment
although I often hunger for that

I want comfort of a family, familiar
those I love surrounding me in gentle moments
where nothing has to be explained
where nothin’ has to be maintained
except only by showing up

With people who don’t see the words I write
with people who don’t see my back bent over as I work
Where I am not the writer, poet,
I’m just me. A little fucked up but worth loving anyway

Is this age that I’m feeling?
Is this the begging of what the aged and sick beg for
when to live is too much?
when they yearn for something higher?

I want your company and I don’t know
how to beg you for it
or make the distance close between us
or make time stop so when we are together we can stay
what do I want?

What do I want?
Heaven?
I think so. I think this is what this is.
I want heaven.
If just for a moment.
I can almost hear it underneath the sound of the world

Deadly, the clock on the nail on the wall (Poem)

eder-pozo-perez-32852.jpg

(Photo: Eder Pozo Perez)

 

Deadly, the clock on the nail on the wall
a constant reminder of the seconds spent and going fast
the world is trembling underneath the weight
of dissolution antipathy for itself

Murder, is a broken tail light
in the name of Justice men are thrown from rooftops
say her name, say her name, say her name is chanted
However, Destiny is no longer a child – but a wilted bitter old woman
angry that bitch down the street with the four kids
is getting WIC when she can’t get a raise in her stipend
as if it’s the mother’s fault and not the ak47 that took her husband away in some desert far from home

Fear, is the preacher rising like a star
who’s teacher was geography that informed his philosophy
and now power is the lust between his legs
with a wolfish grin and a blade in his eye he ushers the flock of poorer than he
who foolishly pay him to beat them in the face with their own humanity
before he drives away in his Mercedes Benz.

Hate, is the word passing the lips of those
who empower long dead cowards who’d set their grandparents’ world on fire
when people stand up, the exorcists, trying to banish the demons
that try and cast them back to the void, the pits of hell, from whence they came
become the aggressors in the twisted tales told on conservative news.

Armageddon – is the revelation
of self interest, Ayn Randian theology
of me, and mine, and thee, and thine
no money? Well die.
Your problem, not mine

Deadly, the clock on the nail on the wall
a constant reminder of the seconds spent now pounding like a hammers’ blow
suddenly, deftly, drawn out
where anxiety is riddled not in the knowledge of the passing of time
but for when it all comes screaming to an end.

Madness (Poem)

ian-espinosa-177961.jpg

(Photo by: Ian Espinosa)

 

I wish we could all go back
When mornings dawned with brilliance and dew hung on gossamer spiders threads
And trees were alight with a flock of birds gathered about chatting away with such urgency and ferocity
The passerby wondered if he believed in something that passionately

When the sounds of a lawnmower meant the beginning of lazy summers
Of long car rides, and busy nightlives, and fresh new love
When peaches left sticky sugar on our chins
And everyone waited for the jingle of an ice cream truck

And now summer rolls close again, and those sounds are there once more
But there’s a shadow over everything
An anxiety
Is it war? Undeclared?
A famine? Not according to my waist line
Is it death? Well, that’s always close by

What is it? What is it?
What is this thing that creeps in the shadows
That alights in the eyes of friends?
What is it that pulls a shiver down our spines
And bristles our less evolved senses?

What is this anxiety? This nervousness? This nameless fear?
This mysterious other that presses it’s face against the windows of our souls and makes us flinch?

Who is it that’s stolen the blue and white from the skies
And the promise of a new spring coming?
Is it us? Is it us?
Dear God, is it us?

No. No. I know what this is
It’s as ancient as the Mediterranean sea
And it once held France in the belly of a beast
And had Alice, once, over for tea

What is it you ask that claws at your sleep
And sets your heart beating with fear
Just lean close, I’ll only whisper this once
Tis madness, madness my dear!

Anxiety (poem)

I can feel the shattering blow
glass breaking in the air as the trees bend
something is different now
wolves prowl the shadows

it has set our teeth on edge
and our nerves are finely tuned to the change
our blood thrums as the chord is struck
something, something
but what is it?

It is as if the whole world has inhaled
waiting for the hammer’s blow
waiting for the cock to crow
waiting for the sickle’s stealthy swish

the worst of man has just stepped through
black knights on carrion horses
long dead rumors left unspoken
now find ears to listen to its song

There is light and hope
but the devil’s in the details
because truth is something chosen
and what was once pure has turned to pitch
and what was once black now glitters in the sun

This isn’t the fairy legend fables
nor nursery rhyme of brother’s Grimm
this is concrete level modern madness
as the feeling of uneasiness sets in

But where oh where do we find repose?
the rest of the wicked and worn out heart
in a place where even the daylight feels funny
and a nightmare where everyone is afraid of the dark

Is valiance an attribute buried deep in us all
awaiting the chance to break through and empower our sword-swinging arm?
or has high hopes blinded our eyes from seeing the world as it is
a contrast of light and of dark?

I don’t know, I don’t know! I can’t even venture to guess
as I wait and listen and watch the gathering storm
and like you I can only sit still in the moment
will Tomorrow bring help or will it bring harm?

I’ll wait here, like you, I’ll wait here to see
brave enough to look up toward the skies
to see what happens to a world that cannot rest
that cannot even, not for a moment, rest it’s eyes.