Learning to Float

Sometimes it takes simple things
to help settle the restless soul
despite the illusion only grand gestures
could get us unstuck

The stillness below the chaos
is where true safety lies waiting
while we keep covering ourselves
with gleaming trinkets and lofty ambitions

It seems silly to suppose
a couple extra glasses of water
could cleanse this nagging agitation
simmering ceaselessly inside

Impossible to imagine transformation
taking shape from a few moments
of mindful breathing in the evening
while the mind is insisting we need more

Soft bubbles of splendid space
open up when we stop moving
savoring the sensation of buoyancy
when we finally stop swimming
Advertisement

Mercy

I've never mastered the mercy
of letting something die
fear compels me to keep
a cold corpse animated
with artificial light 

Clinging to a casket ensures
I won't ever come to learn
what else life has to offer
but I feel too unworthy
to ask for anything more

There is no energy left inside
for seeking rising suns
settling for a soft hand to hold
as the darkness of night descends
seems all I can manage

Still that hot ember inside remains
more and more often sparking into flame
threatening to devour any illusion
I may choose to cling to for small comfort
whipped up by the wind of all that's ingenuine

Searching for deeper answers beneath
the one that keeps surfacing
unable to decide my own suffering
a life spent floating restlessly down-river
when will the ocean finally come?

Everything At Once

Why do I only identify with
the worst parts of me?
there is nothing more inherent
in my fear, exhaustion, or anger
than in my energized, inspired, charisma

My compassion and joy
seem to me less real than
my anxiety and cruelty
for some strange reason
I can't quite understand

Why is it so much easier
to internalize all of my mistakes
than to take credit for
the things I've accomplished
throughout my life

As if any success was an accident
but all of my failures, a reflection
of who I truly am deep down
I'm tired of denying the aspects of myself
that I can admire

Is it so impossible to accept
that I can be magnificent and flawed
at the same time?
my mysterious soul knows
it can be everything at once 

Unable to Move Forward

I have the disease of discontent
frantic to change my external circumstances
anxiously envisioning the imperative of upward mobility
while simultaneously shrinking from the idea of change

It's hard to remember that mindset is what matters
while also understanding there are choices I can make
how am I to determine if action is needed or
if it's just an ego's sad attempt to avoid responsibility?

Equally afraid of things being different 
as I am of things staying the same
is there any true escape from this
paralyzing paradox of self reflection?

Should I focus my energies on being happy where I am
or on grasping for new paths in life?
what would be the best use of my time?
or is it all about preference and perspective?

There are so many questions
I know only I can answer
but I'm left spinning in circles
inside my own uncertain mind

I just want someone to take my hand
and lead me confidently onward in any direction
as of now I foresee myself simply starving to death
at the impassible crossroads of doubt

Sizzling

A mind too scattered
to stay connected
thoughts that vibrate
like hummingbird wings
creating a blur that
obscures all focus
attention divided between
two thousand threads
spreading thin spiderwebs
over my consciousness
catching dewdrops
that glisten and reflect
a mind full of mirrors
creating intricate illusions
impossible to untangle
and examine up close
awareness as a run-on sentence
pondering without punctuation
perpetual engine of possibilities
leaving my heart pounding
an old TV set with only two options
solid black screen or sizzling static

Stifling Myself

Imperfection paralyses all endeavors
the subtle ache of not enough
clipped wing of creativity

The hovering eye of criticism
haunts each heavy pen mark
lips pucker with impatience

Who am I to exert my existence
in the form of further manifestation
polluting the world with more mediocrity

Embarrassed at the thought of
presuming myself to be a great artist
through blundering attempts at self-expression

When really I'm just letting out
slow exhales of tangled thoughts
in an attempt to postpone an implosion

Third Level Anxiety: The Paradox of Overthinking

Anxiety and overthinking go hand in hand. It’s a chicken and the egg scenario. Does the anxiety cause the overthinking or does the overthinking cause anxiety? Hard to tell. In the end, I’m not sure if it even matters which comes first. The result is the same, discomfort, distress, and inability to make decisions. The prefrontal cortex shuts down in that all consuming sympathetic nervous system reaction triggered by the amygdala, or the emotional center of our primitive little lizard brain.

Over the years, anxiety has a way of building. The pathways between stimulus and response get more and more defined. My anxiety used to be directly related to specific instances. I would get anxious in social situations. Soon that anxiety would begin to bubble up at just the thought of being in said situations. Now it’s transformed into more of a vague fear of the anxiety itself and trying to avoid all situations in which I may start to feel anxious. I’ve reached third level anxiety, fear of the fear of the fear. This stage is practically paralyzing. It can cause you to avoid your life completely just in an effort to avoid anxiety. It can manifest in a covert way, such as the inability to make decisions.

I have to admit it is humorous to realize I’ve always tried to “fix” my anxiety by somehow thinking myself into a sense of ease. But it’s pretty hard to use logic and reason to defuse a completely illogical physical reaction. It’s counterproductive to try to think your way out of overthinking. But what else can you do?

Learning to Cope

One of the reasons I have my doubts about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’s effectiveness when it comes to my mental health specifically and anxiety disorders in general is the focus on the thinking mind. CBT’s primary method is changing the way you think in order to change your behavior. But you can’t solve the problem of too much thinking with more thinking. A lesser known therapy called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT feels like a better fit. Rather than teach you how to reframe your thinking, this therapy helps you cope with and understand your emotions so that you can feel safe and accept yourself.

Even though in the moment anxiety feels like it’s demanding action or some solution, I’ve learned by now that there really isn’t anything I can do or think that can dispel my anxiety completely. The frantic effort to avoid it only causes more mental suffering. The only real way I can learn to handle this fear is to let myself feel it. More than any catastrophic imagined outcome, I’ve become afraid of the physical sensations themselves. I’m anxious about feeling anxious. However, that quickly dissipates when I face those feelings rather than try to run from them.

How to Face the Feelings

Coincidentally, I’ve found the advice from my previous post about how to help yourself focus and be mindful in a calm, neutral setting works just as well when you’re lying in bed on the edge of a panic attack. This time rather than being unable to focus because of the vague sense of disinterest or boredom at the everyday objects around me, it’s the exact opposite. It’s hard to focus because everything just seems so overwhelming that I don’t know where to begin. But nevertheless, imagining I have to describe what is happening in that moment as if I’m writing a story is tremendously helpful.

The next time you find yourself feeling anxious, overthinking, or distressed by indecision, take a moment to step out of the thinking mind all together. Accept that the solution you’re desperately trying to find with your mind is not in the mind at all. The solution is surrender. It’s accepting that sometimes there is no solution but to sit with the sensations. Try to describe the feelings of anxiety swirling around in your body to someone who has no idea what anxiety even is. Be as detailed and creative as possible. Get curious. What is anxiety? Where does it manifest in the body? What does it physically feel like? How long can it last? Does it ebb and flow? Does it get stuck in your chest, in your throat?

Avoid concentrating on what it is that’s making you anxious. That is irrelevant once you’ve determined that it is irrational. Let it go. Show yourself that you are capable of feeling these difficult feelings. Even if they don’t go away. That’s not the intention. It’s learning that you can handle them. When I slow down and breathe into my anxious feelings, I often realize that the feelings themselves are no where near as bad as my struggle to avoid them. I can befriend these sensations by simply allowing them to exist.

Conclusion

I know all this is easier said than done. It’s hard to do anything with intention and mindfulness when your brain and body are on red alert. However, knowing that this is an option available to you is the first step towards practicing it. You won’t be able to every single time, but the more you notice the opportunity to sit with your difficult feelings instead of trying to fight them, the easier it will become. Give yourself the time and the space and the permission to experience even unpleasant situations with patience, curiosity, and equanimity.

Overwhelmed by Imagination

Mental illness is a side-effect of great intelligence
the convoluted, crippling creativity of an aimless mind
consumed by endless possibilities others cannot conceive
a life held suspended in anticipatory anxiety

A feedback loop that becomes incapacitating
a simple fear can become compounded tenfold
fearing the fear, fearing the fear of the fear, and so forth
spiraling into a paralysis of infinite indecision

Stuck in the self-deception of finding a solution
trying to think your way out of overthinking is absurd
salvation lies in the surrender to sensation instead
forsaking the mental landscape for the physical body

What does this fear feel like? Where is it held inside?
a jittering energy of dis-ease beneath my chest
the dizziness that sets in from a blood pressure spike
an unsettling static nestled deep in my stomach

The fever of neurosis is broken by awareness
how strange it seems to have survived the sensation
I've been running from all of my life
the cure of quiet curiosity

Being present in the storm as it passes
acknowledging the connection between
frightening delusions and flowering imagination
the balance between benefit and burden

Learning to embrace the full scope of being
this incredible entity with boundless potential
finally finding gratitude within the fear I carry
my best qualities sprout from that same seed

Quick Fix

At some point alcohol became
the weighted blanket for my mind
something solid to make me feel secure
a heavy shroud to hold me down
in the present moment

Over ten years of diligent practice
I've become a master of self-medication
caffeine, cannabis, kratom, and liquid courage
a witch's brew of corrosive ingredients
to subdue my writhing soul

Quick fixes never work for long
so many mornings left picking up the pieces
of poorly planned promises to myself
smoothing over the soft doubt deep down
that this really will be the last time

Sometimes it is strange to see others
experience true joy without chemical assistance
I wonder if my synapses are too damaged to do that now
Imagining a life without my caterpillar quantity of crutches
seems just as alluring as it does absurd

Still nothing could be worse than this ritual self-denial
this refusal to allow myself to exist as I am
accepting that I am unable to overcome my small fears
by burying them stealthily beneath bottles of booze
next time I'll try harder to be brave