I’m taking some advice from army training today in order to deal with my anxiety. Which is through the roof today. I feel like I can barely breathe, on the verge of a panic attack probably. So far I’m coping, and I think it’s the most helpful thing I’ve been able to find today.
One of the things that I was reading about was putting yourself into positions where you have to face your fear. And while I won’t be visiting a biker bar anytime soon, I forced myself to leave the house earlier for an hour and face the fear of being around other people.
Another tip is talking about it, which is what I’m doing right now. Keeping things bottled up is, from what I’m reading, a bad decision for soldiers. Just writing this out is allowing me to break down a little bit, and release some of the emotion that feels trapped inside of my chest.
And that’s really what I feel the problem is sometimes, that I just need to cry about it and move on. But something blocks that out and I can’t express physically the emotions that I feel. I’m well beyond the issue of worrying about being a man who cries, it’s more that I don’t feel safe enough to let the emotion out. I don’t know how to describe that feeling, other then the emotion is there but it just won’t come out.
Even just thinking about what soldiers must face on the battlefield and the stress that they undergo is proving to be a huge help for me. Knowing that they must feel the same sort of physical feelings that I have right now, and still go on and complete their mission, tells me that people can and do overcome their fears. And feeling powerless is probably the biggest hurtle that I have to overcome with my illness. Knowing that sometimes a soldier breaks down and cries for their mama is helping surprisingly enough. It tells me that even the tough ones need that emotional release in order to cope. I’m sure that isn’t the case for all soldiers, but for some I’m reading about it’s just something that happens.
I’m so afraid of being the target of a gang or organized crime. It’s not a rational fear, it’s something that consumes me. I don’t want them to torture my family, I don’t want them to torture me. I don’t want to be forced to deal drugs for them, I don’t want to be some sort of slave to their organization due to threats to my family.
I had a strange experience in the mall about two and a half years ago. I think by talking about it I can start to deal with the emotions attached to it.
A man came up to me in a store, and asked me where I got my coffee. I had a bad feeling about him from the look in his eyes, and felt like something just wasn’t right. I stuttered and flushed red, and could barely speak. He started asking weird questions, and looked as though he had a gun in his jacket pocket pointed at me. I was with my younger brother at the time, and I was fearful as much for his life as for mine. When this man asked me for my name, he pulled his hand very quickly out of his jacket as though he was going to pull the gun out to shoot me. I have no proof that a gun even existed, but there was something gun shaped and heavy in that fucking pocket.
The man continued to ask me strange questions, that I have no memory of right now. The only question I remember is being asked if I felt guilty for something. I blubbered some things that I have no memory of now either. The thing I can remember is he asked if he could pray for me, and put his hand on my shoulder. He said strange things in the prayer, as if it would be my last prayer for me. “Deliver him from evil, let him be free” etc. I can’t remember the exact words anymore, but that prayer was just as scary as the “gun” in his pocket. It was like something out of a movie, something a religious gangster sais to his victim before killing him.
Eventually, he asked if I would go talk to him outside of the store. I agreed, and at this time felt like I was surely a dead man. I agreed because I didn’t want my brother involved, and thought it was better he shoot me where my brother wouldn’t have to witness it.
My dad had been sitting outside of the store, noticed something was up, and intervened. He basically told the guy that was enough, and pulled me away from him. The guy grabbed me by the shoulder, and began praying again. I told my brother and father I loved them as I thought he was about to just kill me right then and there. At this point my dad grabbed the guy and told him to get lost, and he finally walked away.
This is the most basic way I can relate the story of what happened that day. I can’t remember it anymore, it’s been blocked out from fear or something. I just know it was strange, and that I thought in my heart I was going to die that day. The gun in the pocket, and the prayer, will always stick out in my mind like it happened yesterday.
There’s even more that happened later on that I just don’t feel able to talk about today. Put simply, I fled my hometown, to another town 4 hours away where I had family living. And in this town I had another traumatic experience with a religious person that used to be involved heavily in gangs. I also don’t remember the details of what happened during that time.
I was put in a psychiatric hospital in the closest major city to my hometown. It was another traumatic experience in itself. The reason I was put there was because I was so afraid after fleeing home and going to my families house in the countryside, that I felt suicidal. I tried to get help at the hospital there, just to talk to somebody about it, but this was a small town that didn’t have the right people to deal with that sort of thing. And so I was transported in an ambulance down to the big city to the psychiatric ward. They treated me like shit there, and it took everything to pretend I was completely okay for five days so that they would let me out. I wasn’t okay at all, but they were far from helping.
It was a lot of stress in a short period of time, probably the span of 3-4 weeks. My nerves were shot, and I was fearful for my life and the lives of my family every single day for months. It was during this time that I found a medication that finally worked for my illness, and began the road to recovery.
Bad days still come, like today, and I have to deal with them head on if I am to overcome them. It is only through courage and ambition to be greater then myself that I am able to cope with these fears that I have. Sometimes it’s not being a big chested, prideful, mans man that takes courage. Sometimes it’s letting my fears out in words, and dealing with them on an emotional level. And some days it really is about accepting death as unavoidable, but treating fear as something that cannot control me.
This is where some of the army stuff is helping me today. I have a mission in life, and I can’t let fear get in the way of that. I have to be brave and overcome the fears and live my life to the fullest that I can. I cannot control the things that may happen to me, I can only control how I react to them.
One last thing that I was reading about was imagining the worst case scenario, and dealing with the emotions that it brings up. So I’m allowing myself to think about what I am most afraid of, and practising deep breathing exercises to control my nervous system while I think about those things. This actually helps tremendously, thinking about the worst puts the fear into a more tangible place, it’s something I can see in my mind and face. It’s much worse just having a feeling of terror without even knowing why.
Talking about all of this is helping as well. I’m sweating, I’ve cried, I have a headache, but the feeling in my chest is going away. Perhaps it will return once I’m finished, but for the time being I am conquering the physical effects of fear in my body.
I wish there was a division of the army that people with mental illnesses could join. I feel the regiment and discipline would be good for me. So far nothing exists that I know about. Maybe this will change in the future, but for now I’ll just have to stick to reading about how they deal with stress.