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[Other] Fight or flight, General Panic Disorder, and PTSD. What a horrible combo.

Discussion in 'Health and Advice' started by Gared, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    ***I do not currently need help, please do not worry. I do, however, need to write this all out, and frank discussion of mental illness should never be discouraged, so I'm going to do it here.***

    I don't usually do trigger warnings for posts, but this one is going to discuss a lot of stuff - depression, anxiety, suicide, PTSD, hunger, bullying, and some harsh language. So I'mma spoil this whole thing.

    The Setup (open)
    I've discussed my anxiety problems here before, most recently in the Minor Rant thread regarding a home purchase, but also back in February with a lost job and a few years before that with ER visits for panic attacks. The good news is, after the February incident, I got help. I connected with a therapist with whom I had worked in the past, semi-ironically at the place that caused the panic attacks that sent me to the ER. We had a good rapport, I loved her background (UN Peacekeeper, Air Force navigator, had seen combat, if anyone knew panic, it would be her), and she is genuinely one of the most caring people I know.

    With the help of some solid therapy, and the cessation of the Zoloft that was just holding a 100mg blanket over everything and shattering when something of 101mg strength came along, the replacement of the Zoloft with medical marijuana (which I'm sure will be discussed in detail later), and some mindfulness meditation training, I was actually able to get control of the panic. Eventually, with training, I could see a panic attack coming on, close my eyes, take three deep breaths, sink into a meditative state, run a quick wellness scan, see that there was nothing wrong, and the attack would stop. A couple more deep breaths and the tremors would be gone and that would be that. Life wasn't really getting any better (due to external factors), but it sure was getting a hell of a lot more livable. I had some peace for the first time in five years.

    What I hadn't done, of course, was really dial down into the cause of the panic attacks. I was working on it, but was concentrating on work-related causes in an attempt to pin down what had caused my complete breakdown in February. We discussed how toxic the work environment had been at the cabinet company, and she clued me into some things to which I hadn't been privy, and I made some progress in at least recognizing that I shouldn't feel so guilty about the place going under, but I still didn't really feel like things had been settled. It wasn't until I walked into one hell of a coincidence¹ that I really came to the realization that I felt responsible for the company's collapse on a personal level - because I was the main purchaser - and to be able to come to the rational and emotional realization that it wasn't my fault.* That was a big deal, an actual weight off my shoulders. For the first time in a few years, I was genuinely happy and at ease (I'd been happy in the intervening time, just not both). And then I spent some time trying to apply that to February.

    *Seriously, by the time projects made it to purchasing, they were already so far in the red that even when I could get multiple vendors for high-volume products to undercut their competitors by 50% or more it wasn't good enough on a lot of jobs. There were a lot of people upstream of me who were responsible for that problem, but I'm afraid that mostly, it comes down to my brother-in-law and some of the policies he changed without understanding their consequences.


    February - Nervous breakdown number two. (open)
    A little recap - in early to mid-January my wife and I had dinner with her mother, and we discussed how difficult it was getting to pay bills, seeing as how I hadn't even had an interview in months. She told my brother-in-law that I was still out of work the next day, and he called me on the following Monday to go have a talk with him. We cleared the air a little (we hadn't really seen each other since the cabinet company went into receivership), caught up on things, discussed some difficult coworkers, and then he told me that he might have another job for me, and filled me in on the job... sorta. I interviewed with the department manager, we worked out some pay stuff, and from the sounds of things, I was gonna be busy. It was a customer service/tech support job for a compliance software company, but at the same time it was a restructuring in preparation for a sale, and we would be shutting down the entire department within 6 months.

    This whole "shutting down the CS department" situation is one I've been in before, multiple times. In the past, I was pretty good at it. I was always brought in after the fact though, I never had to get to know the people who worked there, whose jobs were being eliminated, except for that first time, when I was one of them. I think the difference in dynamics, as well as the still-pervasive guilt of seeing the previous company go down and knowing that all but 40 of my previous coworkers had been laid off by the new owners (I didn't know then that the laid-off workers were the lucky ones), were the real reasons that I couldn't cope with the new position, leading to the breakdown.

    Now, this was no mere panic attack. Not even one of those ER-trip inducing panic attacks. No... this was an event. It started on a Friday afternoon, as I was driving home from my third interview at the software company, where I had been formally offered a job. I mistook it as a "relief attack" at first. It felt so good to finally have a job, much less one that paid enough that we would be able to pay off all our debts and start saving money again. We had this kind of half-dream at the time of moving within 6 months and possibly buying a house. Little did we know. By Sunday, I was seriously contemplating backing out of the job, but money was so tight, and I was so concerned with people being disappointed in me (my parents, my brother-in-law, my wife's entire family) that I stuffed it down as best I could. Monday morning rolled around, however, and it was obvious that this was a bad plan.

    I couldn't get out of bed Monday morning. I don't mean that I was tired, or that I couldn't keep my eyes open. I was curled up in the fetal position bawling my eyes out about all manner of things that weren't really threats (the election, nuclear war, volcanic eruption, the next 'big' quake to hit the Puget Sound). The thought of leaving the house that day was so terrifying that it took a massive dose of cannabis to even get the crying to stop, much less the tremors. But, I showered, got dressed, and my wife drove me to work. Then things got really surreal.

    The entire previous week I'd been hearing about how overwhelmed this department was - all with busy work that could be handled by a temp with a step-by-step instruction sheet. I was being brought in to be that temp while my brother-in-law got the company ready to sell. When I got there, though, and saw the ticket queue, I knew. These aren't people who are completely overwhelmed by a massive volume of banal support tickets and overflowing call queues; these are burnouts. There were less than 10 total tickets in the system, and more than half of them were being handled by the software engineers. The first day I was there, the phone rang twice. Clearly, my brother-in-law was being completely misled about the amount of work. The second day, my manager was out, so I read training docs and listened in on TS calls. Then, after morning break, I listened to all of the voicemails, opened tickets for them, resolved all of the open tickets that didn't require engineering, and was done at 1pm. This was not good.

    By Wednesday, I knew that I couldn't go back. I didn't know who was misleading whom, but there was a level of bullshittery going on that was NOT acceptable. I called in sick on Wednesday, there was a big flu going around, I blamed that. My wife and I knew, however, that the emotional turmoil that started with my "relief attack" the previous Friday and was being barely held at bay by some seriously strong (85+% oil cartridge) Blue Dream was getting out of control again. On Thursday, I had to call my brother-in-law and tell him I couldn't go back to work. Then I had to email him and explain why I couldn't. I couldn't even talk to him on the phone - it was too painful. At the time, I thought my only concern was getting myself cut off from his inner circle. Now I know better.

    But this was all before my therapy sessions, and my realization in May that I hadn't been solely responsibly for the cabinet company's demise (I was still hanging on to some guilt but it would go away soon) allowed me to look at the situation more honestly, and realize (at least partially) why the job was a bad fit, that I'd known it from the start, and that my then-fresh guilt over 210 of my friends and coworkers being laid off compounded with my planned role in shutting down yet another CS department had led to the breakdown, and my fear that I'd never be able to hold a job again went away.


    ¹The ultimate coincidence. (open)
    Now, the reason for the weekend getaway, where the "ultimate coincidence" happened, was because even though I'd lost my new job in February, my wife and I had promised ourselves we were going to go away for her birthday and Valentine's Day; and when we did, we came upon the idea of buying a house on the Oregon coast. The Thursday before that fateful weekend began, my wife had been informed by Experian that her credit score had plummeted to an un-lendable level, despite months of going hungry (we never went without, but one small meal a day can count as not going without) to pay bills; so we said "fuck it, let's kick this can down the road and go get a burger." And off we went, to our favorite burger joint, which just happened to be 6 hours away in Pullman.

    Pullman, Washington, is where my wife and I met. We were both students at WSU, though I was a local and she was a west sider. She was also my girlfriend's roommate. It being a college town, there are a surprising number of really good restaurants for a shitty little city with nothing else going for it. Our favorites are Cougar Country, a burger joint; and The Emerald, your typical Chinese-American place, but our tastes are acclimated to their recipes.

    Now, at least once every year or so, we drive back across the state, get a hotel room, and eat at those two restaurants. We drive around the old back roads, we check in on my teenage home and hometown, and we just generally revert back to our college days, when our biggest concern was whether or not we would pass enough classes to keep going. By about a year in my original gf and I had broken up and, while my wife and I weren't dating, we were really good friends with occasional benefits (until she started dating some quack off the internet, then we were just really good friends).

    It was while we were in Pullman, licking our wounds and figuring out what to do next, that we took a lunch break and headed to our burger joint. Sitting at the laminate-covered table, on the laminate-covered booth seat, I always keep an eye out when the door opens, ostensibly in case one of my old highschool friends shows up (I did grow up in Pullman and Colton, after all). This visit, one of my door checks revealed a group coming from a baseball game of some sort - a couple guys in their 30s or 40s and their kids. One of the guys looks familiar, but not enough to trigger that "who is that guy, now I have to figure this out" feeling, so I went back to my burger and forgot about them. My wife, however, was catching snippets of their conversation (they were sitting behind her), and noticed that one of them had a brother, who used to have a job at a big cabinet company, in Tacoma, who doesn't work there anymore now because it went into receivership, got bought by a door company, and all but 40 of their staff were laid off, but it turned off that they were the lucky ones.

    Yeah. We drove six hours to eat at our college burger hangout just to have the brother of one of my old coworkers sit behind us and kibitz about the layoffs with one of his kids' teammates' dads. Fuck. Me. We got back to the hotel before my world came apart at the seams, but only just. And it wasn't just idle speculation, or convenient similarity either, we confirmed it, the guy was the brother of one of the Detail department workers at my old cabinet company. In any other circumstances it would've been awesome. Instead, it was soul-crushing, but it lead to a realization and real healing, so I'll take it.

    Now I need a break. When I get back I think I'm going to be discussing hunger, its influence on my future plans, and how it led to a real revelation. Plus we still have the bullying and PTSD portions to get to. So, y'know, still not terribly pleasant.
     
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  2. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    Ok, break time over. Let's get back to work.
    Hunger can suck an even bigger dick than cancer. Seriously. (open)
    I mentioned up above, and in other threads here and there, that my wife and I were attempting to pay down bills in order to buy a house, and were going hungry in order to pay those bills. I don't say that lightly. Food prices in our area have skyrocketed in the last 3 years, probably mostly due to inflation. At the same time, the decision to remove inventory and purchasing decisions from individual stores and place them in the hands of a regional staff by Albertson's-Safeway led to some incredibly dodgy meat and produce hitting the market. I shit you not, for some incredibly stupid fucking reason, every holiday for a two year period they local Safeway has been trotting out the same fucking Hormel pork back ribs. Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Easter... ribs. No ham, no corned beef, no turkey or lamb, just... ribs. And the first year it was noticeable but not really weird, but then the second year they switched from using the defrosted meat cases to only using the frozen meat cases and the "use or freeze by" dates hadn't changed from the year before. Then quality overall slipped, ordering and stocking went all to hell, and now more often than not the store looks like a Canadian Target but somehow is still holding a couple dozen people hostage in lines that reach down the aisles (they took out their self-scan stations due a chip reader incompatibility, which was patched before they left the store, but corporate won't pay for them to be put back in). The store is fucked, but it was a regional decision, and it affects all of the local Safeway and Albertson's locations. If you think ribs for every holiday is crazy, the local Albertson's (which charges just as much as the Safeways do, mind) doesn't even bother packing meat in separate cuts most days. I went in on multiple days and I am not exaggerating when I say that there were packages of beef, pork, and chicken all being sold as "assorted pork, $3.59/lb" or etc., and it really would be assorted pork. All cuts, all thicknesses, all lean/fat ratios, some boneless, some not - all packed together and looking like someone sat on it and wrapped in plastic. Most of the time it was all slightly green.

    The other options in the area were just as bad, or so we thought, so we were subsisting mostly on soup and sandwiches, and then that got too expensive, so we switched to bag salad and eggs, and that got too expensive... and eventually it reached the point where we were eating a couple of eggs once a day as our only meal and then supplementing with whatever I could bake. By the end, I couldn't afford to buy yeast, or flour, and we were down to less than a dozen eggs, with a week before payday, and things were getting bleak. We were out of rice, I had one can of black beans left, and even the condiments were getting low. It was a horrible week, and on the fourth day we were incorrectly informed that our chances of qualifying for a mortgage (the entire reason we'd pushed our budget this hard in the first place) had completely evaporated. We couldn't take any more, so the next day when my wife's paycheck was deposited, we didn't pay our utility bills - we went to get a burger. But this was the end of the hunger. I need to talk about the depths of hunger.

    Here's the thing. I've led an incredibly privileged life up to this point, with some exceptions. Those exceptions are getting bigger and bigger, but they're personal issues still, not systemic. I'm a cis-gendered, heterosexual, white male in my mid-30s, from a middle class background, who never wanted for anything actually important in life. There were times I didn't get the latest and greatest toy that I wanted, but only if that want was really a whim. My parents are still happily married, they're loving, they disciplined me when necessary, they instilled a good conscience, work ethic, manners, and morals. I did well in high school, before ultimately dropping out of college (there's a whole lot that goes into this), and - though I was bullied near-constantly from 1st grade through the end of my sophomore year - a good group of friends, and a number of extra-curricular activities. I'm an Eagle Scout, I had a part-time job that I managed just fine with school, and I'd had several girlfriends. I had a "normal" childhood. Life was, for the most part, pretty good. Aside from a brief period in my early 20s when I was in a really bad marriage, I'd never known anything other than comfort until things started going pear-shaped back in '09 or so. Huh. It just now occurred to me that this has been actively bothering me for eight years. No wonder I've been such a wreck lately. This all goes back, ultimately, to the bullying that started in 1986... 31 years of torment. I should be more understanding of myself. Anyway, hunger.

    I don't know if it's the same for everyone that experiences it, but this is how it felt to me. We had to eat at least one solid, healthy meal every three days, or we'd be too sick by day four to function until we ate something filling, so that was the rhythm we fell into. One 700 calorie meal, consisting of an appropriate balance of protein, fiber, and other nutrients, with a healthful carb (whole grain or legume based) every three days. And in between? Well, that's the problem. We're both diabetic. We couldn't eat mac-n-cheese, rice-a-roni, chili, canned stew, or any of the other cheap, over-processed options. So eggs became our go-to protein, meat being too expensive, and too frequently iffy at the store. Let me tell you, there are a lot of ways to mix eggs, beans, and frozen veggies; but not enough. Bag salads also featured heavily in our diets, and I was baking bread as frequently as I could, until I ran out of flour and yeast. Being too poor to buy flour is hard, but we managed it. Since our health wouldn't allow us to eat cheap, unhealthy food, it frequently meant just eating one meal a day, and having a nice, satisfying glass of metamucil or little bit of cheese for the others. From Christmas until early March our food budget was uncomfortably tight; from March until mid-May, we went to bed hungry two of three nights.

    The first day was never that bad, you were only experiencing surface-hunger, you could manage it with sufficient application of water or metamucil. The second day, the depression kicked in, and the cold. Your body needs food to keep itself going, and when it feels threatened, it stops sending blood to "unnecessary" systems, like arms, and legs. Our heating bill skyrocketed, but we were paying it a month past due anyway, so we just had to keep it going. Only bills that would hit my wife's credit report if they went unpaid had priority, and rent. We didn't buy weed, or anything else unnecessary. On the first day, when you got hungry, you could ignore it. On the second and third days, you could ignore the first wave. If you ignored the first wave, it would eventually pass and you'd feel fine for the next few hours. After a few hours, though, you'd start to sweat, and get cold, and shaky, and then another wave of hunger would hit. On the second day, if you ignored the second wave, you could last a few more miserable hours before eating something if you had to. On the third day, if you ignored the first wave, ignoring the second one meant risking slipping into diabetic shock. After a couple of weeks of this, the "first day" disappeared, and then the second, and eventually we hit the limit. But, on the other hand, our respective blood sugar levels are rather firmly in control now, and we're both off of our insulin, taking lower doses of Metformin, and are getting much closer to our goal weights (I'm 10 pounds away). As far as diets go, though, I can't recommend it.


    And that has what to do with the future? (open)
    Hunger is terrible. It's a truly horrible experience that I don't wish on anyone. That their are so many people, all over the world, who are struggling with hunger is abhorrent to me. So, after my little epiphany at the hotel following our burger joint fiasco, I decided to do something about hunger. Now, hunger is a big problem. It has more facets than a fancy gemstone and more causes than the ACLU, so I needed to pick a specialization, essentially. Malnutrition was something I had experience with, on both the "not getting enough food in general" and the "getting plenty but eating poorly" sides. So, I decided that I would like to teach people, of any budget level, how to cook to a diabetic friendly diet. It was my plan to go to a culinary school, not because I need to learn to cook, but so I could learn the proper cooking techniques, so I could then teach. Exact teaching plans remained undecided - there's plenty of time, after all, and a lot that I don't know yet (I don't even know the questions that need to be asked yet, much less the answers). As it turns out, however, the answer to a lot of those questions could lie in moving to the Port Orford / Curry county area, since the OSU extension is working on expanding community learning opportunities in the area, and one of the things they're looking for is people with experience cooking for diabetes friendly diets. It's like a match made in sugary heaven.

    The problem, though, is that those are volunteer opportunities. We can afford to live in this house on my wife's salary alone, but she shouldn't have to support us like this, so I need a job too. And then more self-doubt comes in, because I don't even know what I would want to do as a job again. I've worked in a number of industries, in a number of types of jobs, and the only one I wouldn't want to do again is wash buses in the winter in a snowy area. Trying to get white buses spotless during winter, with sand and gravel being applied to roads on a daily basis, and dirty slush all over, was horrible. That job alone motivated me to get off my ass and back in school one winter. But I digress. For too long I've taken this lack of direction as a lack of ambition or a failure, somehow, to grow up and be a proper adult. It occurred to me the other day, though, that it's just that my actual job doesn't matter to me. What matters is that the work I do directly benefits people in some way. I enjoy and am good at cooking and baking, so I tend toward the idea of running a restaurant (to help a local economy, and provide jobs) or a private, non-profit cooking school; but I certainly wouldn't say no to working as a purchaser for someone else' non-profit, or working with the several unlicensed contractors, plumbers, and electricians in the area (there are a lot of defunct mills, and a lot of laid off mill maintenance workers) and putting together a handyman/remodel/restoration company to get them work and get some historic buildings in the area restored. It's not that I don't have ambition, or even that my dreams are too big for my capabilities (I don't have a college degree, and that's preventing me from getting a job, but it doesn't mean I'm not capable); it's just that there are so many problems, it's hard to pick just one to help alleviate. Ultimately, it's going to come down to what the community that we wind up moving to needs most, and we won't know that until this housing deal goes through, and that's a real worry.

    All I want to do, in the end, is help people. I'm an Eagle Scout. I've had service to others hammered into my moral fabric (yeesh, how does that work?) since I was a Cub Scout, and before that by my parents and community members. This ties into getting over my complete and utter shock at Trump's election last November.


    The election? (open)
    That really, really shook me, and it still does. I can understand conservative values and ideals. I can understand religious views and the desire to apply them to everyone (but I can't agree with it). I can't understand some of the bullshit that's going on in this country right now, and I sure as hell cannot understand the complete and utter lack of response by an entire political party and a large portion of their supporters. But that's always been an issue for me. It would never occur to me to want to treat anyone any differently than anyone else, nor would it occur to me to have that treatment be anything less than the best it could be. It was hard for me to accept that racism really still took place (outside of the deep south, but I had a personal experience with that on my first day of kindergarten, so I knew it existed there), because I would never treat someone bad because of their skin color, or their gender (or lack thereof, you do you, it's none of my business), or for any other reason. It just... why? Why would you want to hurt someone? So yeah, the election, and the campaigns leading up to it, really, really shook me.

    It took a long time, but eventually the shock started to wear off, and the fatigue of constant scare-tactic fundraising by the Democrats started to take hold, and I was able to do some critical thinking about the election, the circumstances surrounding it, and the state of the country in general, and some clarity came to me. To put it relatively simply, and leaving aside questions about outside interference on the election (not that I don't have my own opinions on this, there's a perfectly good other thread for that), what it comes down to for me is this: There are two reasons people voted for Trump. The first, is because they're actually hateful people who agreed with some, or all, of his inflammatory views. I can't do anything about them. I can't change their minds. I can't make them stop. It's a lost cause. The second reason, though, is because there are a lot of really desperate people in this country who - for one reason or another - don't feel represented by the democratic party, and who really need help. I can help people. I don't think of myself as being "above" or "better than" any job that needs doing, so long as it's a job that directly helps others instead of tearing them down. Plus, there are those aforementioned experiences that lend themselves directly to areas of need that people have. Somewhere along the way, between the hunger, and the realization that we're all just people, and we all deserve help, and the divisiveness of the red state/blue state bullshit that's gotten us to where we are today - at some point it all just became so much bullshit. So here it is. I have skills and knowledge that I can use to help others, so I'm going to. And I don't care who they are. And I don't care who they voted for². And I don't care what their background is. If they - if you, if someone you know, needs help, and it falls within my areas of expertise, I'll help. And maybe, if we can get enough people to realize that there are no red states, or red voters, and blue state, or blue voters - there are just Americans, who need help from each other; maybe we can get past this bullshit without completely failing as a country. And if we can't, then fuck it, I'll do what I can for as long as I can. I've enjoyed the privileges of this country, it's only fair that I work to repay it. The military wouldn't take me, and I'm not cut out for law enforcement or the medical fields, so I'll have to help out on the community level.

    And when I say I don't care, that doesn't really do a good job of conveying what I mean. I've struggled for years to come up with a succinct way of putting my feelings on equality, but really, isn't it a topic that deserves the occasional verbosity? I want to be able to tell people of minority groups that I don't care that they're of said minority groups; but that's really dismissive of all of the struggles that they've endured. I can't look at a female engineer and tell her that I don't care that she's a woman, when that means not caring about everything it's taken for women to get access to engineering jobs, because it's not true! I do care, very much, and I want to support further efforts to expand women's rights. So it's not that I don't care. But then, I want to say that your gender doesn't matter. But gender (by which I mean gender identity) matters in a big way, and it's a huge issue for a lot of people right now, including me. I have three mothers-in-law, because two of them are a married lesbian couple. I have more than one transgendered friend (if counting Hylian as a friend isn't too much of an assumption), and a whole host of crossdressing, gay, straight, and anything in between friends and family members; and it matters to me that all of them be able to live their lives in a way representative of how they feel comfortable about themselves. So it's definitely not that it doesn't matter. So really, what it comes down to is this: I will take into account, when considering someone, their background as I know it, their gender as they intend regardless of how I might perceive it, and anything else I know about them; I will consider everything that I know about the struggles that any groups they may belong to went through; I will take into account everything I know about the person themselves, and when all of that is said and done, unless any of that is directly pertinent to the matter at hand, I'll ignore it. Most of it isn't any of my business anyway. Sorry, but it was a necessary tangent.

    ²This is my one caveat. It's a failing, and I acknowledge it, but I'm just going to have to live with myself for it. If you voted for Trump because you believe in any of his America first, anti-immigrant, take healthcare away from people, undo everything Obama did because we can't have the black guy making us look bad bullshit, I do care. I hope that, in time, you see the error of your ways; but I'm not going to be the one to try to help you come to that realization. I can't handle hatred on that level, and I shouldn't have to.

    Ok, that's another several hours of typing. It's time for a break, and maybe some meditation. The next one is a doozy.
     
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  3. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    One step forward and how many steps back?! (open)
    I'm a reasonable man, so I didn't expect therapy to be a one-and-done situation, and I understood that even if I was able to figure out a trigger for my panic attacks, just knowing the trigger wouldn't make them stop. That's why I started with getting tools to help deal with the panic attacks and then moved onto what was causing them. It's a good thing, because not only did figuring out the trigger not fix the problem (as expected), it wasn't even the right trigger. It wasn't until after our first trip to the South Oregon coast looking at houses that I clued in to the fact that there were deeper issues, however.

    One of the problems that I've been known to have when living in long-term stressful situations is a habit of not being able to keep food down. It's not actually necessarily an ulcer - though I have had ulcers, including recently - and can happen alternatively because there's too much acid in my stomach and it's mostly empty, or if my stomach is full and not digesting quickly enough because the acid is too weak. It took a lot of time to understand what was going on, and that no amount of antacids or pepto were going to help, but now I'm learning to moderate my acid levels through dietary adjustments. It's slow going, but at least now I know that I need to be doing it. Originally, we took a reappearance of this problem as a side effect of recovering from hunger. Our stomachs shrunk so that we could no longer eat big meals, so I took the occasional vomiting incident to be the result of either overeating or a too-quick reintroduction of a fatty or rich food that I hadn't had in awhile. However, it occurred to me on our trip home from the Oregon coast that I had a much, much bigger problem.

    I was afraid to eat meat. It occurred to me while sitting at a little mom and pop burger joint in a small town on highway 42 in southwestern Oregon. They had a special on bacon cheeseburger combos, $7.50 for a 1/3lb burger, order of fries, and a drink. My wife and I both went for it like hungry wolves. The diet soda choice was limited to Diet Pepsi, which tastes like ass, so we went for iced tea. Our food came out in the appropriate amount of time - you could tell that the burgers had been cooked to order, as well as the fries. The burger came dressed with fry sauce, lettuce, tomato (hot house, but whatever), onion, and pickles. The bun was toasted briefly on the flat top, with clarified butter, and had sesame seeds on top. The fries were hot, crisp, and just salty enough. This was a burger joint whose chef knew their job. The only criticism I could levy was that they used cheddar, which doesn't melt quite as well as american cheese; but being that close to both Tillamook and Umpqua dairies, you couldn't expect them not to use cheddar - it just isn't done. You may as well spit on the flag, or criticize a veteran; they'll ride you out of town on a rail, and rightfully so. This was my perfect food. I took a bite. The smell of the near-perfect burger combination hit my nose, and... I gagged. It was foul. In a long, long life of smelling really horrible things, this was THE WORST thing I could have imagined smelling. What. The. Fuck.

    I had no idea what to do. This couldn't possibly be. There was no indication whatsoever that this burger should smell like anything other than pure heaven. My wife was sitting across from me devouring hers, and she has a better sense of smell than I do. I managed to chew and swallow my bite, but only just. A big drink of tea was a must if I wanted to keep it down. I took a swig and then sniffed the burger again. There was nothing wrong with it. It smelled fine. I was confused, but went for another bite. I was able to take about three bites of this near-perfect burger* before it dawned on me. I was afraid to eat it. What if I got sick again? I would be trapped in a car for the next 7 or 8 hours, I sure as hell didn't want to be doing it in a puddle of my own vomit, or diarrhea. It made perfect sense. I've been sick a lot recently, it's easier not to eat than it is to deal with being sick, this isn't good, but at least I know what's causing it, right? WRONG, MOTHERFUCKER! But, intelligently, I brought it up with my therapist at my next visit, and she helped point the way with a personal story. Her body reacts in an unfortunate way due to stress when she's traveling, regardless of how unstressful that travel may be. It's just how her body is, and there's nothing she can do about it, even as an experienced therapist herself. It had completely escaped me that the vomiting could be stress related, even though I have a history of both stress-induced vomiting, and ulcers.

    It was that realization that allowed me, late one night while I was working through some stress-induced anxiety attack symptoms (I've been overwhelmed lately, unable to really reach that meditative state that I need to stop the panic, so I've just been riding them out. Marijuana of the appropriate strain puts the panic in a box way out in a fuzzy part of my brain so I don't have to cope with it, but it doesn't resolve the problem like meditation does.), that made me think back to the first time this stress-induced vomiting showed up in my life...


    <Wayne'sWorldFlashbackEffect.gif> (open)
    It was 1997, and I was about to end my junior year in highschool. The beginning of the year had come as a complete shock to me, when the people just a year above me, who had bullied me relentlessly the entirety of the previous year (and, indeed, each year before that going back to 7th grade), suddenly had no interest. Several of them even apologized, in a heartfelt fashion. I still have no clue what happened that summer, but it was a very welcome change. Without the pressure from the upperclassmen, everyone else was able to just chill and work out our differences, and by winter break my school life had taken a complete 180. No longer a barely tolerated outsider, who was relentlessly and mercilessly bullied, at every opportunity, even by people who then professed to be his only friends; I was actually an accepted member of the community. It didn't happen overnight, and there's still room for a bit of bitterness there, but I'm not sure if I'm actually bitter or not, yet.

    Anyway, partially as a result of my newfound acceptance, and partially as a result of my own natural talent and intelligence, a lot of opportunities came my way junior year. Two of them conflicted, and believing that I would have another chance at one of the two the following year, while the other was a junior only opportunity, I chose the latter. I had no idea at the time, but this choice would be the defining choice of my life. Overall, I think I chose wisely. It's been a hell of a ride, but I love my wife, and I love myself, and I wouldn't trade either of those. Nothing would be the same if I'd chosen the other trip, so I can't say I regret not choosing it. My life would have been a different shade of hell, is all. The first time I got sick after eating came on that trip, on the way home. I'd met a girl on the trip, she came from a different school, and was a senior (apparently each school had their own criteria), but she was attractive, she liked me, and she was a good kisser. We were sitting in the back of the bus on the long trip back home, making plans to keep seeing each other and telling each other everything about our lives in between makeout sessions. For a bit of reference, the trip had been a visit to the state capitol, in Olympia, WA, and we lived in Whitman County, on the opposite side of the state, though in different small towns; so when I say it was a long trip, it was going to be at least 7 hours by school bus until she was dropped at her school, and then another 2 for me.

    We stopped in for a lunch break in North Bend, WA, the last real stop before you start to climb the Snoqualmie Pass, on I-90, which is a real bitch of a pass in a school bus. Situated as they are, the town of North Bend is well suited for welcoming buses full of students, tourists, the elderly on casino trips, Greyhound passengers, detrained Amtrak passengers, you name it. There are multiple fast food options, right off the freeway, as well as a grocery store and several convenience stores. My new girlfriend and I chose Taco Time - a Pacific Northwest taco franchise. Make of that what you will, the tacos, up to that very instant, were tasty. Two very inconvenient things happened right then, unfortunately. The first was that Taco Time changed the recipe for their soft taco. It used to include sour cream. Starting that day, and continuing even until today, they came with a weak-ass, runny ranch dressing. They didn't have any signage indicating the change. IT. WAS. NASTY. The problem was the runniness of the dressing they used. This is the stuff you get from Sysco that pours onto salad, has the consistency of water. It's like the American Mass-market Lager of ranch dressing, fucking near to water. When you put that much liquid into a flour tortilla wrapped up like a burrito (but with both ends closed), it turns the inside wall of that tortilla into slime. And then, you're not biting into bread-lettuce-tomato-cream-cheese-meat-bread; you're biting into bread-slime-lettucy tasting goo-slimy tomato-wet cheese-meat-slime-slimy bread. It feels nothing like what you're expecting. The second problem was none of their fault in any way. But I didn't know that at the time, so it didn't get dealt with.

    So that was it. It started when I met Tonya (not her real name), which made sense since it was such a stressful time of my life. I mean, just look at everything that was going on. I was being accepted by people, and making friends. Summer break was coming up, I still had my car running great, I still had a job that paid enough for gas and insurance, plus some spending money and some saving money besides. I was doing great in school. Junior Prom was coming up and I had a date who looked great in her dress and who let me play with her tits. I was close to getting my Eagle Scout award and the 50-mile hike this year was one of my buddies' plans, so that was going to be awesome. Huh. Y'know... when you look at it from that perspective, it doesn't really sound so stressful. That sounds like the time of my life. The most difficult part of that time was deciding which of the many universities that were bound to accept me I should choose to attend. Foolishly, I decided I was going to follow Tonya to her university, since she was a year above me and would be out of the dorms by then, so we could get an apartment together. At the time it seemed to be all about teenage hormones, sex, and young love. We were wrong.

    Realizing that there was nothing actually stressful about that time of my life made me reconsider the circumstances surrounding the meal in question. I wasn't diabetic then, so it wasn't the sugar content of the soda. I didn't have any problem sucking up bag-loads of greasy chips or whole pizzas, so it wasn't the greasiness of the tots (they call them mexi-fries, but they're just deep fried, salted tatertots). Ranch dressing with cheap taco meat was one of my favorite combos, so it wasn't the taste of the taco. The texture was iffy, but come on - it couldn't have been that, it doesn't explain any of the subsequent episodes. I know my stress tolerance, and slimy-taco is in no way stressful, much less stressful enough to induce vomiting. That means there had to be an external stressor. What else was going on at the time? Well, I mean... I was technically dating someone else when I met Tonya and I had to have my buddy Sam (not his real name either) break up with her for me. Now, what was her name again?

    Wait. What do you mean by that? You remember everyone's name. Your memory is legendary. You just recently, within the last month, found your boyhood (pre-elementary) home from Google Earth satellite images and a vague memory of the nearby towns alone. What the hell do you mean, "What's her name?"!? Well... what was her name? Uh... shit. We dated twice. It was a big relationship. She had two brothers. One of them taught me how to ride a motorcycle. His name was... oh shit. It took me hours to remember her first name, and two days to figure out the family name. It finally came down to using Zillow to link to the county website and finding the last property transaction for their home, and seeing their last name, before things started snapping into place.


    We have to go back a little further. (open)
    It was the summer of 1996, and I had just finished my sophomore year of highschool. I had a car, a summer job (bagging groceries at Safeway), and a girlfriend whom I'd started dating the previous school year, whilst on a band trip. Rachel (not her real name) played the flute, and I played the clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, bass trombone, piano, and bass clarinets. I have no idea what kind of trip it might have been, but it involved another of those bus rides. It almost had to have been a state basketball tournament or maybe one of those big combination band performances or something. Either way, Rachel and I had a good relationship that year. There was a lot of making out, but nothing too serious. Only above the waist stuff, and mostly over the shirt stuff as well. It was actually a pretty innocent relationship. But it got way too serious way too quickly, and I bailed at my first opportunity, and in a bad way. We were at Rachel's place one sunny summer day. She was a year below me, so she didn't have a car and I did, plus my parents weren't huge fans of her family in a "they come from the wrong side of the tracks" kind of way, so we spent more time at her place with her brothers. Her mom worked all day and her dad was a long-haul trucker on the road all the time, so her older brother was her father figure, and he and I got along well, so I had his blessing. Her younger brother wasn't really around much, he preferred hanging around his older brother or wandering around with one of his buddies. Martin was a year or two below us, so we didn't really care about him. We mostly hung out on the couch and watched TV while sitting close to one another, or wandered around town and hung out, but since I had a car, we also occasionally drove down to the river to go swimming and suntanning.

    It was one of those river trips that changed everything. Rachel had just turned 16 and her mom let her buy a bikini, and upon seeing her in said bikini, our makeout sessions became much less innocent quite abruptly. We started spending more and more time together, in increasingly secluded places, eventually culminating in her bedroom one day when we knew her dad was going to be several states away, and her brothers were going to be gone. We had the place to ourselves. We were both still novices, however, so it started out all nervous and giggly, before retiring to her bedroom and taking our shirts off. Before getting too X-rated, we were rounding third on the way to home plate when the slightest, faintest crunch of tire on gravel snapped us to attention. Her mom was coming home for lunch! PANIC! We threw our clothes back on and I was sitting on the couch when her mom walked in, allowing Rachel to come out of her room with a book she'd "gone to retrieve" and we managed to pull it off. But I was scared. I wasn't ready for sex! I wasn't ready for 3rd base! What the hell happened to second? It was comfy. This was way too far.

    Good things to realize, eh? Of course they are. How I handled those realizations, on the other hand, not good. I stopped all contact with Rachel. I never called her. I never went over. I didn't respond to her calls and when she saw me at work I ran away from her and hid in the back. It's not one of my prouder times, but the worst of it was, we still had to go to school together the next year. And it's not like we went to a big school either, my graduating class had 17 students. The entire school, K-12, had 150 in a high-birthrate year. We were both in band, and we were bound to share several classes the following year. It was a disastrous lack-of-plan, doomed to failure from the start. Only the fact that I'd suddenly been accepted by members of my class and the senior class at the beginning of the next year allowed me a cushion to use to ignore Rachel and her friends and their oh-so-appropriately righteous anger and pain.

    I don't know how it happened (by which I mean that I can't remember), but by spring of 1997, Rachel and I had made up and tentatively resumed dating. I had my class ring by that point, and made a habit of letting her wear it whenever we were together (my parents really didn't approve of the relationship now, so I didn't let her keep it). We were both a (tiny) little bit more mature, and that panic of things going too fast was gone. The biggest problem was Rachel's little brother Martin. Her older brother had gone on to junior college and Martin was trying to step up into his shoes on the "take care of the family" front, only Martin was a little psycho. In fact... two weeks before that trip, Rachel and I had officially gotten back together, and I went to her place after school to hang out and watch TV - it was bound to be a fairly innocent affair, since Martin was home. It was while I was there that Martin decided to show off his masculinity. He grabbed a .22 rifle from the hall closet, loaded it, leveled it at me, told me to get up off couch, jammed it into my back, and told me he'd kill me if I hurt Rachel again. It never occurred to me to tell anyone that I'd been threatened at (loaded) gunpoint, by a psycho kid who liked to torture small animals and talked about killing people all the time. We all laughed it off and went on like nothing had happened. But then, there I was, two weeks later, at a restaurant, laughing and joking around with my new girlfriend Tonya and her friends. Except, I haven't broken up with, or even had a chance to tell, Rachel. Here I am, doing the exact thing I was just threatened against doing, and I'm hurling in the parking lot. I'd say that would count as an outside stressor.

    So that was that, right? PTSD based on having been threatened at gunpoint against doing a thing that I specifically went out and did not two weeks later, by a psychopath that I believed would follow through on his threat. Who I told no one about. Why wouldn't I tell anyone? Surely, as a respected Boy Scout, who was working with the county sheriff's department to set up SAR training for his troop at that time, who was good friends with the town marshal, and whose assistant scoutmaster was a lieutenant with the WSUPD, I would've been believed. It would have been taken seriously. I may not own a gun myself, but as an Eagle Scout I have had at least two separate NRA certified gun safety courses. I know that you don't point a gun at anything you don't intend to destroy/kill even if you believe it to be unloaded. Loading a weapon in front of someone, then threatening them with it? Are you fucking kidding me?! Had it been a year later, I would have gone directly to the cops and not even thought twice. I know this because of another experience, but that's another story. We might get to it, we might not. At the time, though, I was still getting used to not being a constant bullying target, and therefore didn't have any reason to believe that a person of authority would take my concern seriously - adults stopped taking my bullying seriously years beforehand, why would they help now? Completely without noticing it, I started avoiding my hometown. I hid as much as possible. I ran from possible conflict. My one point of solace through all of this, was that I wasn't going to be around much longer. One more summer, which would make it easy to avoid Martin, and then one more year and I would be gone and going to school in Alaska. That's right - Tonya and I were going to go to college at University of Alaska - Fairbanks. It was going to be OK. I had a way out. Martin couldn't hunt me forever. Of course, none of these were conscious thoughts.
     
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  4. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    Y'know, I don't exactly come off smelling like a rose through all of that up there. I guess I'm not the hero of the piece, just the protagonist. Anyway, some of that behavior - and complete and utter lack of communication - up there is inexcusable, but I can't change the past, so all I can do is try to do better in the future.

    It all started coming apart. (open)
    It was late summer of 1997, and my senior year of highschool was just around the corner. The problem, though, is that my girlfriend had graduated the previous year and was headed off to college, in Alaska. But dammit, we were going to be the exception to the rule. We would be the long-distance relationship that worked. We'd see each other on breaks and talk every week on the phone (if not more), and we could always write, and... yeah. We were not the exception to the rule. Within weeks of getting to school, Tonya was cheating on me with three guys in a hot tub under the influence of some legendary Alaskan weed. In any other circumstances, I think I would've been fine. The rest of my life was still going well. My grades were great, my test scores adequate to get me into any of the schools I was interested in, I had plenty of extra-curricular activities, and my scholarship money was piling up. I continued to be accepted by my peers (especially when a bunch of us started smoking), and was actually attending parties for the first time. I was also getting ready for my Eagle Scout award ceremony, with my best friend since first grade by my side. Things were looking up, all in all.

    But, life is never all wine and roses. I was also dealing with some loss, and - all unbeknownst to me - a sudden loss of my way out. This was when everything started to go completely sideways. My stomach issues, which had largely faded over the summer, returned with a vengeance. There wasn't enough pepto in the world to keep my stomach contents where they belonged, so my doctor prescribed Prevacid. We were all under the impression that it was an ulcer due to stress of upcoming college stuff. By this point, I'm fairly certain that I'd completely forgotten being threatened by "Martin," at least in easily accessible surface memories. At the same time, my Scoutmaster - the man who had watched and guided me from a shy, retiring Tenderfoot into a confident Sr. Patrol Leader (the scout in charge of everything the troop does, and of keeping the troop under control during meetings) - died, following a brief but ugly battle with skin cancer. His funeral was held in the church that hosted our troop, but attending the service was the first time most of us had been in the actual congregational portion of the church. Almost none of us were Methodist. I was Catholic, my best friend was Baptist - or Calvinist, or something - we had some Atheists, none of it mattered to us. The BSA preached tolerance and acceptance of those of all religions and/or lack thereof, and I was a good parishioner. I just think it was kind of odd that, at least in my patrol, none of us were Methodist.

    Anyway, I digress once again. Following the death of my Scoutmaster, just weeks before I was due to have my award ceremony, what had been intended as a long-awaited and well-deserved celebration wound up being a bit somber. Immediately following his death, Tonya and I broke up. It was impossible for me to be the chipper and bubbly personality that my manager wanted for courtesy clerks, so I was moved to closing shifts to do the custodial work. It was lonely, depressing, and really nasty. That store should've been shut down by the health department, bulldozed under, and treated like superfund site; but I had it in hand within a couple of weeks. They were just really, really nasty weeks. Still, the isolation wasn't helping. At one point, near Christmas time, I started counting the amount of days that it had been since another human being had touched me in any way. By the time the counter hit a month, I was in a lot of trouble.


    Trigger Warning - Suicide (open)
    I didn't know why I was so depressed. I didn't feel trapped, or hunted, or anything like that at the time; I just felt completely alone. My parents weren't physically demonstrative of their love for me past the beginning of puberty, because my grandfather attempted to rape my mother when she was a teen, and she wanted to make sure nothing even slightly unacceptable even appeared like it might be happening. My friends and I weren't the kind of people to hug each other, or even to high five or fist bump or anything like that. I wasn't being bullied anymore, so I wasn't even getting hit. I couldn't tell my parents what was going on either, that I was depressed more than anyone else would be after breaking up with their long-distance, cheating girlfriend, because I wasn't aware that I was any more depressed than "normal." I didn't jump straight to suicide though, I started with hurting myself. I started with cutting - though at that point it was more popular to carve cool sayings or symbols into your arms. When that didn't seem to spark any interest from anyone, I moved on to sparring with solid objects, bloodying my knuckles on a daily basis. That didn't do the trick either, though, and as the days without human contact dragged on, my desperation became complete.

    I didn't have access to a gun, and I didn't like the idea of slitting my wrists. That was too messy, and the last thing I wanted to do was inconvenience my parents by dying messily. I could have poisoned myself, but I threw up so much it would be hard to guarantee that I'd keep anything down. So I decided to choke myself out, and thank God for that. As I'm sure most people will know, you can't choke yourself to death by putting your hands around your neck and squeezing, you just stop choking yourself when you pass out. It's a very, very good thing that I chose such a flawed way to try to kill myself. I didn't want to die, I just wanted a way out, and I couldn't think of any other way. I'm sure if I'd wanted to die I could have figured out a way to actually kill myself.

    Unfortunately, my attempts to choke myself to death at night have had a lasting effect on my psyche. Falling asleep can be an incredibly difficult thing for me to do, and taking conventional sleeping meds made it much worse. The issue is the feeling just before losing consciousness, of control being handed off from my conscious mind to my brain stem. The sensation is the same as it was when I thought I was going to die and finally be done with all of the torment. I'm getting ahead of myself though. This didn't start being a problem until much, much later.

    Regardless, one way or another, the dark clouds parted and my depression lifted. School was coming to an end, I was headed off to college; and though I was going to school 12 miles from home, I was going to be staying in the dorms, so I got the full college experience. That summer, following a two-week tour of the state with some of our extended family who were coming to visit for my graduation, I was headed to Wisconsin with my besty, and we were going to pick up union construction jobs with his uncle and make a killing. Every senior had to complete a job shadowing assignment during the second semester, and I managed to parlay mine into a job for the coming school year, with the shadowing counting as an internship and excusing me from one of the more odious parts of the job - computer lab duty. We had a music department trip to the Edmonton Mall (we were a small school, so that was all of about 50 of us), with a one week tour of Alberta thrown in for good measure. Life was going good.


    It made the upcoming fall that much worse. (open)
    Yeah. The summer didn't exactly go as planned. My buddy and I made it to Wisconsin that summer, though we'd been forced to drive my car there instead of our plan of towing my car with an International Travel-All that my buddy had fixed up and was ferrying to the uncle we'd be staying with. (Side note: I know that it should be "the uncle with whom we'd be staying," but I'm more concerned about sounding like a know-it-all than I am with being correct.). The Travel-All broke down 20 miles from home and couldn't be fixed. But we were still going. We had a lot of fun on the road trip, slept in campgrounds, ate in little diners and cafes as much as possible, or regional chains that we didn't have, and made it to Madison (well, Belleville) just in time for a hiring freeze to hit the unions and all of the work to dry up. We wound up spending two absolutely agonizingly boring weeks sitting around the house, or driving around little towns and sucking up butter burgers, cheese curds, and frozen custard, before I'd had enough and decided to head home. My buddy wanted to stay and wait out the hiring freeze, so he stayed behind. Looking back now, that was when we started drifting apart. We didn't see each other again for the rest of the summer, and most of the fall.

    This left me with time to kill before Hell Week started (I was in the marching band), so I went back to work for the department where I'd interned. That was when I learned that all of the deals we'd agreed to the previous year had been canceled. The student department head decided it wouldn't be fair for me to never pull lab duty (though I'd already pulled plenty), so the terms of the agreement were null and void and if I wanted the job I'd have to choose between marching band and the job. I chose marching band, and bit my tongue about how pissed off I was, because my mom worked for the university and had to work with that department frequently, and I had to put her reputation over my feelings, so I did. After a quick stint at communications services I spent the rest of my first semester jobless. Of course, I also dropped out of the marching band. I was enjoying the freedom of college life, but it wasn't the freedom of being away from my parents, or traveling to a new city, or anything like that. It was the simple freedom of never having to leave campus; having large crowds of people to disappear into. "Martin" couldn't find me there.

    The freedom went to my head. I met a girl and started shacking up with her almost immediately. I moved into her dorm room, and before you knew it, we were spending all day in bed and never going to class. It was sheer luck that I managed to contract mono that semester, allowing me to take a medical withdrawal from all of my classes. The following semester I had to pay for my own housing, but I still spent all of my time with my girlfriend (and her new roommate, the woman who is now my wife), and I still didn't go to classes. And you only get one medical withdrawal per disease, so since I didn't contract anything new, I took a full quarter - 15 credits - of 0.00 grades. It didn't make any sense to me, and even less to my parents. Nothing made sense any more. We all chalked it up to "love," and piss-poor decision making. Having failed out of college, I had to go get a job in town. I wound up at the local McDonald's, begging my way into a job, but not before I spent a good chunk of summer driving a combine, harvesting peas, and another bit of time working for a gyro joint on campus. My girlfriend and I moved into an apartment in town (we were getting back into school), and started pretending to be adults, just like we pretended that we had a good relationship, and not an abusive co-dependency. It was the job at McDonald's that would eventually lead to me being pushed over the edge, but no one could've predicted that at the time.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
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  5. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    I think we're pretty much done here. There are only a few topics left and realization is beginning to dawn, so let's get this done. Still gonna spoil these, though. More unpleasantness comes up before things get better.

    Do you want cheese with that McDeaththreat? (open)
    So before I get to the terrible marriage that I essentially wound up in by default, I have to do a little more setup. So far we've made it to me failing out of college, and getting a McJob. In and of itself, the McJob wasn't a bad thing - it was a busy, college-town McDonald's franchise, owned by a local restaurateur who was/is an amazing man. The store manager was a bitch, but the supervisors and shift managers were all awesome, and it really taught me a lot about what to expect in the working world in the future. Plus, it's easy as hell, you get discount food, and if you show any promise at all, you can occasionally do a few work-fun things as well. I got to work inventory, both ordering and unloading freight, and I loved it. It's part of what drove me toward Data Science in the first place and all of that time throwing boxes of (non-fragile) supplies did wonders for my upper body strength. The issue, of course, was that this was a very public-facing job, in a still very small community, which meant that Martin could get access to me anytime he wanted.

    As it turns out, he wanted that access three times. Three times, Martin came to the McDonald's where I worked, reminded me that he hated my guts for what I did to his sister, and that if her now-tolerable life were to deteriorate at all, he knew where to find me and he'd come kill me just like he promised. I still never told anyone, even when my coworkers overheard and were horrified for me. You see, bullying had taught me a very, very strong lesson. Never, under any circumstances, stand up for yourself. Standing up for yourself gets you hurt, gets you in trouble with the authorities, and - for a little Catholic Guilt™ bonus - is the very definition of the Deadly Sin of Pride³. See, when you're being bullied at school, your parents really can't do much about it. They can offer comfort at home, they can talk to your teachers, the administration, the other kids' parents, counselors, etc.; but they can't take a direct approach, and they can't observe the behavior directly. They don't know exactly what their kids' individual bullying experience is like. They don't know why the bullying is taking place. Chances are, the bullies don't know why the bullying is taking place (but that's no excuse). So when you're a kid who's being bullied at school, all your parents can offer for advice are the old saws:

    1. Stand up for yourself, and they'll leave you alone.
    2. If you ignore them they won't have any fun, and they'll leave you alone.
    3. Don't fight back, and they'll get in trouble and learn to leave you alone.
    All due respect to parents - these are all bullshit. Not a goddamn one of them works, and if you try to combine them all, well... apparently you wind up like me. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the only way to stop bullying is to stop people from being bullies, and that can require terrific investment in counseling - even assuming the bully's parents see the behavior as a problem and are willing or able to deal with it. If you stand up for yourself, and fight back (but are weaker, because bullies don't pick on equals), you get beat. If you don't fight back when they pick a fight, you just get pounded on until you're a bloodstain, and that bully may get suspended, but the next beating is worse, and there are always more bullies. If you ignore them, they'll find something that gets to you and pick at it until it sets you off, so then you take the first swing, and you get in trouble instead of them.

    So what I learned was:
    1. Don't stand up for yourself.
    2. Don't seem smarter than anyone else in class.
    3. Don't be exceptional.
    4. Don't try.
    5. Run from confrontation.
    Along with the traditional "you're worthless," "nobody loves you," "no one would care if you died," "you're too weak," etc., that just seems to come standard with being bullied.

    So no, when Martin showed up at McDonald's and threatened to kill me - even in front of witnesses - I didn't say a Goddamn thing to anyone. I didn't mention it to my girlfriend (then fiancé), I didn't tell the cops, I didn't tell my parents. I just hid, and felt threatened, and hunted, and unsafe. It certainly didn't help the self-destructive, co-dependent relationship I was in, feeling like I was only safe when I was hiding in our apartment, where Martin couldn't find me. Eventually, after much thrashing around and making everyone in our lives miserable, my fiancé and I broke up for good, but not before I moved across the state to live with her, in a shitty apartment in Sedro-Wooley; and she decided that I wasn't working hard enough to support the two of us on my sole McDonald's wages, so she wanted to break up because her life was too hard. Her method of breaking the relationship off was a little... contentious. She decided she was going to call her parents to come get all of her stuff (to her, everything was her stuff), and when I objected she slapped me across the face (stone side of her ring toward my cheeks), and threatened to call the cops and tell them I was hitting her. Luckily for everyone involved, and especially me, her parents showed up to get her stuff and dissuaded her from doing so. It was good that the horrible relationship ended, but we had moved back to the west side of the state to get away from our troubles in Pullman, and now I had to move back home. That was all after the first time Martin threatened me.

    ³For those of my fellow Catholics on the boards who don't recognize this as a hugely emphasized teaching, it may have had more to do with the fact that I split my time about 50/50 between my home and my bff's, and his family was Fire and Brimstone Baptist. I got all of the guilt of Catholicism and all of the holier-than-thou'ness of Calvinism and Four Square Baptism. When you throw in the facts that I find it really difficult to actually believe the creation mythology and the soaring hypocrisy of so many clergymen and churchgoers, I was all fucked up. I mostly profess to Paganism now, but it's more from a desire to have something to believe in, without having to conform to anyone else' ideology, than out of any real dedication to the mysticism side of Paganism.


    Trigger Warning - Rape Accusation (open)
    When I moved back home after three weeks away, my old McDonald's location was thrilled to have me back. I was less thrilled to be there, but at least I had a steady job, at my old rate of pay, and some sympathetic female coworkers. I managed to finagle that sympathy and a little bit of bravery into a brief, but temporarily fulfilling relationship with one of the shift managers. It's never a good idea to date people that you work with, but for once, this one was just a nice little interlude. The biggest thing post return-home was getting back into college. It took writing a big essay on how much more mature I felt, and how I know now not to get seduced by the freedoms of college, and all that; but WSU let me back in. Just, y'know, without all the scholarship money or the honors college acceptance.

    Getting back home, and getting back to college, did give me one very important opportunity, however. It gave me the chance to reconnect with my friend, my ex's former roommate, who is now my wife. We hung out a bunch more, developed into friends with benefits, and were looking like things could work out well for us. She met someone online and started dating him, however, and then he moved to Pullman to live with her, and that was that for the benefits and any hope of a relationship. On the outside, I was happy for my friend. On the inside, I was crushed, on the rebound, and looking for love anywhere.

    I found it in psych class, with a woman seven years my senior, recently out of a marriage, and the newly single mother of a very rambunctious second grader. Being a fairly oblivious person, I had no idea that she had any ulterior motives when she asked me to come over one evening to help set up her computer on the campus network (which was easy as hell to do and she wasn't technically challenged). She'd seen the way I looked at her in class, appreciated her form and figure, and she was horny. She wanted a fuck buddy, and I was only too happy to oblige. She had a little money from her divorce settlement as well, so she was a little bit of a sugar momma too. The sex was good, she took my mind off my other troubles, and we could actually study together. This could have been a step in the right direction. We had to mess with a good thing, though, and start dating. My parents got to know her, and didn't have too much of an issue with the age difference. They liked her, and her son, and - while they were divorced, the split was amicable - "Sarah's " husband was still in the picture with their son, so I didn't have to try to be a father.

    It was that lack of fatherliness, or at least the lack of stepping up to be mature enough to be a father, that Sarah used as an excuse to break up with me halfway through Spring Semester. It was devastating, at first, but as it turns out she really just wanted to go back to being fuck buddies, and I was still horny as all hell, so I went along with it. It meant we could still be together, I still had a friend on campus (more and more of my friends were starting to get back in touch, in fact), and I was getting laid on a regular basis. So, when my parents called my workplace one morning, out of the blue, and pulled me out of work, I was completely unprepared. Sarah, it turns out, had called my parents and told them I'd raped her the night before. They came to my McDonald's location, took me out of work, took me home, and started grilling me over and over - Why did you rape her? What's wrong with you? Do you have any idea how much trouble you're in? We're going to take you to jail and turn you in. On, and on, and on... after about an hour I got a word in edgewise and was able to protest my innocence.

    It had been as normal a night as any. Sarah and I went out for dinner, went to see a movie (It was Chocolát - I can never watch it again, but I'm not sure that's a big loss), went back to her place, and headed for the bedroom. Once there, she told me she wanted me to "take charge," and "be in control." One of her kinks was being a sub, it had featured semi-prominently in our sexual relationship, so it wasn't a surprise. The sex was great, and I crashed next to her until I got up for my opening shift. Not once did she say no. She didn't act any differently during the act. She gave no indication when we were done that she was anything but satisfied. She had said, earlier in the evening, that she wasn't sure she wanted to have sex that night. I was ok with that. We were still friends as well, not just friends with benefits. So it wasn't until she pulled me into the bedroom, told me she'd changed her mind about not wanting to get laid that night, and started stripping me that I was even expecting to spend the night, much less have sex. So this accusation really, really came out of nowhere. And my parents' response - well, that ended any chance that I would EVER go to them for help with a problem, or for advice, or for anything really.

    Sarah never filed a police report. She admitted later that she'd promised a girlfriend from back home that she wouldn't have anymore extramarital sex, and regretted giving in to her urges. This had come months after her original accusation (and after she sent my parents a letter explaining the truth), and at the same time that she admitted to me that she'd been cheating on me the entire time we were together, with a guy she'd cheated on her husband with (leading to the divorce), who was cheating on his wife with Sarah. It was devastating to my life emotionally and mentally, but hey - she didn't really mean it, she just felt guilty and didn't know what to do.


    And I think that's break time for a bit. I have to go start my puff pastry - I 'm going to try to make beef wellington for dinner, from scratch.
     
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  6. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    Alrighty then, my beef has been seared off, brushed with Dijon mustard, and is resting; the rough approximation of mushroom duxelles is chilling in the fridge; and the first two turns have been done on the puff pastry. That gives me a good hour before I need to get up and go do the next two turns on my pastry. Time to get back to it.

    McDeaththreat number three. (open)
    Following the explosive and completely unfathomable accusation by Sarah, and the complete and utter dissolution of our friendship/fuck buddy relationship/whatever it was, my life got even darker. I had no idea what to do, I only knew that campus was no longer a safe place for me to be, and home wasn't a safe place, and my hometown wasn't a safe place, and work wasn't a safe place. I started hanging out with the only friends I had left, all of whom were good influences (thankfully), because Martin didn't know them and Sarah wasn't friends with them; but that can only go so far, Pullman only had 13,000 people then and 7,000 of them were dorm-dwellers at WSU. My parents and I patched up a fairly tenuous relationship (mostly we ignored the rape issue once it was done and pretended that nothing had changed), and that summer we were getting ready to go on a nice, long vacation to Mexico. I wound up not going to Mexico because I had a job interview at a big engineering lab in town, so I stayed home. It was while my parents were gone that everything came to a head. I knew full well that you shouldn't quit a job to take a new one until you have the new one, but Martin had dropped by McDonald's to threaten me again, and had started driving by my parents' house during the day when I was home and stopping at the top of the drive to honk and make sure I knew he was there, so I quit my job at McDonald's, and then didn't get the job at the engineering company.

    So I ran. As soon as my parents made it home from Mexico, and we got my dog's health squared away (she'd been attacked by a coyote and torn the ACL in one of her back legs, so we were nursing her back to health post-surgery), I moved to Seattle. I'd been talking to my good friend (now-wife) "Emma" and knew that she and her ex-fiance had broken up, and she needed a roomie. I was convinced that Pullman held nothing for me anymore, so I tentatively dropped out of school (leaving me with 19 completed credits, at a 1.7 GPA, after three years of school), packed some stuff, and drove to Seattle. It didn't take me long to get a job, at Princess Cruises and Tours, and to be accepted by Emma's newfound social circle, The Camarilla (the old LARP group), which was where I met the first woman I would marry. Emma wasn't ready for another relationship yet, so we were just being friends (with very occasional benefits) while I casually dated Minerva.

    The summer came to an end, and of course, a terrible thing happened. This time it was completely out of anyone in my life's control. I was getting ready for my temp position at Princess to transition into a fulltime job, with full benefits, and decent pay, when 9/11 hit. After spending a couple weeks cleaning up all of the chaos of stranded passengers, a hiring freeze hit the company and my job evaporated. Out of work, feeling rejected again by Emma, and dealing with the emotional turmoil of a terror attack, I tucked my tail between my legs and limped back home. I kept talking with Emma and Minerva, of course, and Sarah and I started talking again (after she apologized and came out with the truth of what was going on), and I was just planning on going back to school and working wherever I could find work. Wherever I could find work wound up being the WSU Creamery, packing cans of Cougar Gold and other cheese into boxes and shipping them around the world. Since I'd only been unenrolled for one semester, I could have gone back to school the following Spring, but I decided to join the Navy and Fight For Our Freedom against in the War on Terror. Only, I was already pretty close to the breaking point, mentally and emotionally, and in the end I was at RTC Great Lakes for 4 weeks, 2 of which were spent in Seps, waiting for a bus ticket home.

    But I'm getting ahead of myself again and glossing over the entirety of my courtship with Minerva. It wasn't much of a courtship. In fact, I'm not sure there was much courting at all, aside from the county courthouse where we were married. Mostly, what we did, was fuck. It was during one occasion of our favorite activity, in a hotel somewhere west of the Cascades, that I said - all innocent and unthinking - "I wish I could marry you so we could have sex all the time." Minerva took it as a proposal, and even though I really didn't want to get married, I was too afraid to hurt her to say anything, so we got married. Huh. Guess it wasn't much to gloss over. It wasn't a good relationship. Minerva loved sex a hell of a lot more than she loved me - and the feeling was mutual - and convinced me that an open marriage would be a great idea. Her boyfriend moved in as soon as we got back to her parents' place, while I flew to RTC Great Lakes, and then took a really shitty Greyhound ride home. Minerva and I stayed together for almost a whole year, before separating due to certain inequities in our marriage (she was the only one for whom it was open). When we broke up, I couldn't stand the thought of going back home (and my parents had mostly disowned me during my marriage, since they hated Minerva), so one of my roomies and I took off again - this time to Birmingham, Alabama. He had a girl down there that he wanted to hook up with, and I had nothing better to do, so we hopped a greyhound and spent a few weeks in the south. It'd been 15 years since I'd been to Birmingham, and I was really looking forward to it. But, there were no jobs, we had no money, and the lovebirds realized they didn't work well together. I took my tax refund and we went back to Spokane, and I headed back home with my tail between my legs again.


    The end of the beginning. (open)
    At this point, I'd been out of college long enough that I had to reapply, and was turned down. WSU had given me three chances, and I'd left as a third-year freshman with a 1.7 GPA. That left work. I took the only job I could find - washing buses in the winter. I think I said earlier that that particular job had inspired me to go back to college once - apparently my timeline was off. Can't really blame myself for having events out of order, my brain blocked an entire family of people out of my memory. Regardless, I was washing buses, living at home, with no hope or future in sight, when I decided to move back in with Emma and her new roomie. I got a job at a call center for a bank (WaMu, back when it existed), met another girl in the Cam (Emma and I were sleeping together again, but she still didn't want to be in a relationship with me, so I moved on again). Kelly helped me serve Minerva with our divorce papers, and we got together for yet another emotionally abusive relationship, where my then-girlfriend was a lot more interested in just getting laid while she waited for another guy to get out of a relationship he was in. When that one fell apart (again after moving in together, this time in Portland), it was back home again. Only now, home had changed. Home wasn't eastern Washington anymore. Home was Wisconsin. Home was safe...

    Home was boring. I was working as a relay operator for MCI, trying to find a place to live that wasn't my parents' basement (though our relationship had improved dramatically, I was 25 years old by now), when it occurred to me that I'd probably be better back in Seattle. So, believe it or not, I moved back in with Emma again. And, of course, I went back to casually dating Kelly, and sleeping with Emma, and working - this time for a water filtration company (where Emma still works). Kelly and I dated casually, neither willing to commit to moving in with the other, until we realized it just wasn't a good idea. That was 2007, the day one of my good friends (and the officiant of my wedding to Emma) got married. Emma and I finally got together as an official couple that Thanksgiving, and, following the economic crash of '09, I got my first job with one of her brother's companies, leading to the events that led me to my first major panic attack, and ultimately led to the unraveling of all of this bullshit.


    Conclusion (open)
    So there we have it. Ten years of daily bullying (when I wasn't being bullied at school I was generally being bullied at camp, scouts, daycare, pretty much all the time really) taught me to keep my head down, never be exceptional, and to run from my troubles. Death threats from a psychotic little freak, including being threatened at loaded gunpoint lead to the feeling of being hunted. My parents completely siding (without even having head my side) with my ex-girlfriend when she accused me of rape left me completely without support. Running the hell away was the only thing that made sense.

    My parents now know what really happened when Sarah accused me of raping her, and have apologized, and we've made up; though they don't know about its effects on me. Now that I know what was behind the hunted feeling, I'm working on letting it go. It's not been easy, it hasn't just gone away, but I don't feel hunted anymore. I'm through running away from my problems. I've realized that I do want to be exceptional. I've spent most of my life not trying my hardest because I didn't want to get bullied for being good at things. That's no fucking fun. The best times of my life have been when I've been giving it my all - whatever "it" may be. Kelly, Minerva, Rachel, Martin, Tonya, all of my bullies; they're all out of my life now. Emma and I are happy together - truly happy - and my one big worry, that unraveling all of this would reveal to me that I'd allowed myself to be trapped in another bad relationship, has proven unfounded. Here's the thing. I love my wife. She loves me. Our families love and accept us. Our therapist thinks we're a great couple. None of these people are known for keeping their true feelings hidden.

    I don't know what I'll wind up doing for a career, but I have a lot of options open. Sure, I'm 37, and it's gonna be hard for me to get back into a four year university, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. My dad was near 50 (if not older) when he successfully switched from an Ag Research Tech II to an R&D engineer, going from the dairy industry to the material science (wood/plastic extrusion) industry. He was 40-something when he went back to cooking for enjoyment, instead of my mom cooking all of the family meals. My mom graduated college at 40+, after having dropped out of highschool to have my half-brother at 17. I have a phenomenal work ethic, I'm intelligent, and I've somehow managed to conquer my social anxiety. Nothing can stop me. Hell, even my diabetes is going into remission. I'm not weak. And if people want to put me down for trying to succeed, especially since what I really want to do is help others, they can get fucked. I'm for success, for hope, for peace, for love, for acceptance.

    Now I just have to find a mantra or something to help deal with the panic attacks, assuming they don't recede with further meditation training and self-realization. I had another one last week, while driving again, and they're just crippling. How am I meant to drive anywhere, ever, if I can't get these things to stop or even predict what might set them off? Sitting at long traffic lights makes me apprehensive (all three attacks that have happened while driving have made their presence known at the same intersection, but it's just because it's the last long-cycling intersection before I get home). Let's face it, the homebuying process is anything but calm and tranquil - we're on our third attempt now. I'm dealing with a hell of a lot of emotional turmoil for the first time in 31 years. And I'm still recovering from the hunger and its' intersection with my diabetes. The stress isn't going to just go away - ever.

    All of the musculoskeletal pains in my chest/back/shoulders don't help either. I'm currently dealing with some sore ribs, which seem to ache more and more when I knead bread, or push a shopping cart around corners, or anything that involves that motion. The bulging disc in my neck has a really unfortunate habit of sending a random pain shock down my left arm, which causes me to think I'm having a heart attack, which causes a surge of adrenaline, which makes my heart start pounding and makes me start to shake, and then I can't stop the panic attack. All of this tends to lead me to grind my teeth at night, and keep my jaw as tense as possible, which leads to the muscle just in front of my ear tingling as it gets over-worked, which makes me worry that I'm having a stroke because my temple is tingling. I am horribly, horribly hypochondriacal and have to avoid WebMD like the plague.

    Rationalizing the fact that my heart is healthy, that my labs keep improving each quarter, that I've never been short of breath since quitting smoking 2.5 years ago, that the pain in my torso comes from atrocious posture - these only get me so far. Hopefully all of this other stuff coming to the surface helps.


    Fin.
     
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  7. drawn_inward

    drawn_inward One Of Us

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    I hope you don't mind me commenting sort of off topic, but we made pork wellington, and it was great! We didn't use beef 'cause $$$, but I bet it's great. We didn't make our puff pastry. Probably the fanciest thing we've ever made. We've only done it twice.
     
  8. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    Topic Shmopic - this is Halforums! We're the class of the world when it comes to semi-off topic conversations. You don't absolutely have to use beef tenderloin (though I did), it would work well with any cut that can be roasted quickly, but pork wellington sounds great too. Or salmon wellington, or anything in puff pastry, really. And don't worry about not making your own puff pastry. Every single chef or baker I've ever heard talk on the subject (and that's a lot) has always said that store bought puff pastry is just as good as homemade. I just really love cooking and baking, and wanted to try something that's difficult enough to be a challenge dish in so many cooking competitions and reality shows. It was a challenge, but it was a lot of fun and I'll definitely do it again. Hell, this time I rushed the recipe - it calls for 3 days of prep, with 2 overnight rests, and I did it in 5 hours - so one day I'd love to see what happens when you give it the full 3 day prep. But now that I think about it, I think what I'd like to do next time is use up the rest of my tenderloin and make the pastry with a compound butter with some fresh herbs that would complement the meat.
     
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  9. WasabiPoptart

    WasabiPoptart Village Crazy Lady

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    I haven't had beef wellington in years. My grandmom used to make it for special occasions.
     
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  10. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    So, as it turns out, there may be another cause for a lot of that crap up there - at least, for everything that happened after November 2014, when my anxiety issues first hit Panic Attack and ER visit intensity. Agoraphobia. Apparently, roughly one in three anxiety disorder sufferers develop agoraphobia as a response to their attempts to avoid places and situations where they've experienced a panic attack in the past. Frankly, this seems a lot more likely to be the cause of my recurring issues from February on than my brain finally being incapable of coping with all the bullshit from my childhood thru early 20s. However, self-diagnosis of psych issues is a pretty bad idea, so let's see what a professional thinks first, shall we?
     
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  11. WasabiPoptart

    WasabiPoptart Village Crazy Lady

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    You could always suggest it to the person you're seeing. I've done that with my therapist. She usually will give me more information why I'm right or wrong or some place in between. I think as long as you don't approach it from the angle of "I did a Google search of my symptoms..." they may be willing to explore it with you.
     
  12. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    Actually, right now the issue I have is that I have to get a recommendation from my old therapist for a new therapist - she moved. Still, shouldn't be an issue.
     
  13. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    Ok, obviously, things got a little rough last weekend. Trips to the ER are never something to which I look forward, but it was just the right choice then. I was stuck and I couldn't get back on my own. I needed help. It was OK to ask for help. And now I'm back on the Zoloft (50mg this time, the doc wants to start me low, and I'm ok with that). I have two Valium left, which I'm saving for Saturday - moving day. I picked up a CBD cartridge for a fast-acting anxiolytic instead of the THC laden cartridges I've had - CBD is much better for anxiety, and once in awhile a break from the psychoactive can be nice. This thing is crazy - it's 1.4% THC and 79% CBD. One hit stopped the day-long tremor I'd had going and a second took care of the back pain I earned carrying our dining room table downstairs by myself - not smart, but a good feeling accomplishment. I realized I'd been attacking this issue with the wrong cannabinoid yesterday when a couple hits off a bowl of Medi-Haze took care of a Valium-level acute panic attack in seconds. But, with every episode now, comes more revelation. I'll put the crazy personal history stuff behind a spoiler, as is tradition.

    Show Spoiler
    Two realizations hit during/following this most recent episode, and I think I'm really getting to the roots of the issues now. The first one hit as I was sitting in the back of the ambulance, being transported, watching my wife's car through the rear window. It occurred to me that I was lost, and traveling away from the one person who could anchor me. It was OK, of course, she was just following in the car since we were headed to a hospital further North.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
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  14. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    As it turns out, I didn't have the energy for the full exposition last week. Also, I wasn't done yet. The three root causes, as near as I can figure, come down to a) the first time I really knew existential fear (or any fear not related to a physical sensation), b) having taken on too much responsibility and getting burned, and c) losing my purpose in life.

    Show Spoiler
    The fear came when I was 12 or 13 years old. It was old enough to be in Boy Scouts but young enough that I wasn't driving yet. I was down at the local riverfront park and marina, in the swimming area, when something grazed my leg under the water. I'm sure it was a piece of "seaweed" or a fish or something completely normal, but it was the freakiest fucking thing in the world, and I couldn't get over it. Submechanophobia is a fear I will deal with for the rest of my life. That meant I was stuck on the little island separating the swimming area from the shipping channel (lots of barge traffic on the Snake), and couldn't get back. My parents couldn't get me back, there was no lifeguard on duty, and eventually my dad had to find someone with a small boat that could go over and get me. It was horrible, and it kept me out of the water until I was 16 or 17 years old. I actually came really close to not being able to get my Eagle Scout award just because I couldn't finish the swimming merit badge because the only place I had to do some of the required diving was in dark water. Eventually, in a monumentally stupid effort to prove that I was tough enough to conquer my fear, my best friend and I went to yet another riverfront park on the Snake, this one much larger, and nearer the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers, and swam across the damn thing. It got me through the merit badge requirements at the little pond at our old scout camp, but it left a time bomb in the back of my mind that ultimately went off Labor Day. It was on Labor Day, as my wife was disappearing out the rear-window of the ambulance, that I realized the big fear that kept getting in the way of me driving, or leaving the house, or (by that weekend) being out of sight of my wife for more than 5 minutes, was a fear that I wouldn't be able to make it back. It was OK when I was driving my car if I had a panic attack and couldn't get home - I could call my wife and she could come get me in her car; but with my car being out of commission I've been driving hers, and she can't drive mine, so if something goes wrong, she can't come get me. That problem was alleviated in a big city by the presence of Uber - but one of the good things about our move, is that Myrtle Point has a population of 2500 people. You can walk from one side of town to the other in 30 minutes. It will be very difficult for me to get stuck in town. And, as the fear of the possibility of getting stuck goes down (and as the Sertraline builds up to therapeutic levels), I can move my borders further out.

    The responsibility thing? Well, that goes back to my cabinet company; but it's also just kind of... who I am. When I'm working somewhere, and I see a role going unfulfilled - and it's a necessary role - I step in and fill it. Most of my career, managers would see that, they'd either appreciate the initiative but warn me to pare it back some, or they'd be upset that I took it upon myself to do something without instruction and tell me to knock it off. At the cabinet company, management loved it, and let me run with it, without giving me any authority or support to back it up. Within the first month of my time there, I had taken responsibility not just for purchasing almost every single type of material that goes into building, shipping, and installing cabinets; but also for getting it all there on time and under budget, so that my shop guys could keep the lights on and put food on the table. I always felt that my primary responsibility was keeping the shop supplied, so they could keep pumping out cabinets, and so we could keep getting big jobs and paying our engineers and estimators and everyone else. It went great, while the company was rolling in cash; when it ran out, I couldn't keep up what I saw as my responsibility. We started to have to cut people, reduce employees' pay and hours, gear down, switch to cheaper (and crappier) materials, abandon the standards and destroy the reputation that we'd worked so hard, for so long, to build. But the thing is - none of that was my responsibility. My responsibility was to order material as requested by the departments that were supposed to be feeding me ordering info. That was it. Buy what people told me to buy. I went so far beyond that, and felt so guilty, for so long, for not being able to save everyone's job when the company went down. I mean, I didn't even mourn when one of my friends died mid-week, because one of the other members of my team had been much closer to the decedent, and needed a shoulder to cry on and a friend to listen to his pain, so instead of mourning I just bottled everything up.

    There was a third issue that I didn't realize until Sunday, when talking to my mother-in-law on the way to the airport (she very graciously agreed to drive our U-Haul for us, and then we drove her to Medford to fly back home). Lack of purpose. It's been almost two years since I lost my job. I had no team, aside from my wife and I - nothing to work for or toward aside from this house, and there was very little I could do about that, since none of it could be in my name/credit record. So, I've spent the vast majority of that time doing absolutely nothing. Sunday I staged all of the boxes and furniture off of our truck. It was heavy, hot, sweaty work and I haven't felt that good for a loooong time. Now, all of a sudden, I can eat again. I can relax from time to time. I can feel good, and not feel guilty for feeling good "undeservedly."

    Labor Day Weekend, this all came to a head, as one stressful door closed (buying a house) and another two stressful doors opened (moving, and paying the mortgage for the next 30 years). The new stresses, combined with my lack of sertraline, some really crummy weed (like, ditch weed), the stress of having to find an emergency tetanus shot on a holiday weekend, my concern for Houston with Harvey hitting right around then, all of the political bullshit that's been going on - it all added up to a complete mental breakdown, which then released the guilt center in my brain to unleash Hell on me, whipping me constantly with thoughts about how badly I'd failed at my last job, how many people's jobs had been lost (we took a couple vendors down with us), how I couldn't finish college, yadda yadda yadda. And that led to a complete emotional breakdown, and then I couldn't get back home.


    Also, we've re-discovered that I have GERD, and are treating the symptoms of that lovely disease while identifying triggers, changing my diet (again), and getting care established with the local doctor's office so I can talk to her about some control meds. I really think these are the deepest, darkest, root causes of all of this hellishness. There was a dark, painful, fear-filled hole in the back of my head, behind my right ear, where all of this lived and was leaking out, poisoning my mind and then scaring the hell out of me when I looked deep into it. As they say - I stared deeply into the abyss, and the abyss stared back. Now, that hole is still there, but it's getting shallower, and wider, and less dark. It hasn't just gone away - mental illness doesn't work like that. But with more meditation, appropriate medication, and more time, I have hope that it will.
     
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  15. jwhouk

    jwhouk Stuck In North Central Walkerstan

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    Dude, if you're still under warranty, I'd suggest going back to the dealer, or seeing if you're under a recall order...

    (Yes, valiant but lame attempt at being funny, not trying to make light of your issues...)
     
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  16. Gared

    Gared One Of Us

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    You were only allowed to stand in one line; warranty, or smarts. I chose... wisely? :p
     
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  17. jwhouk

    jwhouk Stuck In North Central Walkerstan

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    See? You can at least laugh about it.