A few weeks ago, I woke up one day feeling awful. I inventoried my symptoms. I didn’t seem to be getting sick. I hadn’t had too much to drink. Was it food poisoning? No—the slight ache in my stomach wasn’t, exactly, physical. And then it all came crashing back over me, and I realized the truth: I had a gossip hangover.
You know, it’s funny, how humans can be. We genuinely want to be happy, and it makes us happy to see others happy. And yet, we go to great lengths to make others miserable. As though hurting someone else is really going to make us feel better.
In a way, I suppose it does. I mean, consider the popularity of combat sports (which, based on the recent head-hunting fouls by some players, may sometimes include football). MMA, classical martial arts, boxing, rugby… and more… Not to mention Twitter. Everywhere you look, you can find evidence that people seek to relieve their own pain by visiting it on others.
I’m also included in the ranks of fans of the combat sports listed above. I’ll happily sit down to watch an MMA bout, a martial arts contest, a whole night’s worth of boxing, or a afternoon and evening full of overly combative football (e.g. Steelers / Bengals). I’m less “into” rugby (which probably sits on the cusp of not being a combat sport, depending how you play), mostly because I don’t know all the rules and I never acquired a taste for it.
And when players get hit hard enough to get knocked out, yes, I cringe. But I also get a secret enjoyment from it.
Because I’m not the only person feeling battered, these days. And when the players get up and get back in the game, it tells me that I can, too.
Now, if we can find a way to provide this same sort of community and commiseration, without causing brain damage to the players we admire and support, and tossing their futures aside for the sake of the immediate moment…
Just a quick note before I head out the door to work — I had a somewhat rough weekend, feeling sick and out of it, after my meltdown on Friday. I really felt like I’d screwed up, and I didn’t know how to make it better or what to do to fix it. I knew that I’d been over-tired, that I’d been stressed, that I’d really had a hard time handling everything, and that the next time I needed to do a better job of managing my time and my energy — and come up with an alternate plan, in case the first one doesn’t work out (d’oh).
Yesterday, though, while I was doing some work around the yard, I was giving this all a lot of thought, wondering what the hell would have possessed me to say and do the things I did. It made no sense. I know better. I have better sense. I am capable of better things than that, and I know it. I tried to do better. I really did. I almost pulled it together a bunch of times, but I could not let it go. And it tore the sh*t out of both my spouse and me.
So, why didn’t I do better? Why did I end up getting hijacked by those emotions and carried away to the abyss? Seriously, the things I was “up against” were minor, compared to other more serious things I’ve faced with more agility and control. So, why was I in such terrible form on Friday?
It occurred to me that the thing that got hold of me was not psychological. It was not mental. It was not a problem with my thinking. After all, on Friday while I was having that meltdown, there were periods when I was completely calm and lucid and at peace — then BAM! — everything changed in an instant, and I was off to the races again. The only explanation that fits, is that it was an actual neurophysiological reaction — a physical thing that got sparked by something that actually precedes rational thought in my mind. Of course, I could not defend against it, because it got hold of me before my mind could get a hold on it. And that has the hallmarks of an over-activated fight-flight response written all over it.
That is, it was not a problem with my thinking, per se, it was a problem with my body. The whole drama was based on a purely physical response. It was not a psychological drama that I created, it was a physical phenomenon — a physiologically rooted set of behaviors that kick into action way before any kind of logically calm and mindful activity could take place. In fact, it was based on a system of response that is hard-wired into me (into all of us, actually) to save me from being burned up in a fire or carried away in a tsunami. When things seem dangerous (and my body is primed to be hyper-alert to danger), like they did on Friday when things weren’t working out the way I wanted them to and I was really uptight over not having enough time to rest, my fight-flight kicks in big-time. And then look out.
Like on Friday.
Oh – I’m running out of time. Gotta go.
More on this later.
One last thought for the day: 50 bucks says that before the end of the decade, people are going to have a friggin’ clue about the role the autonomic nervous system plays in not only trauma and PTSD, but problems with TBI healing and recovery, panic-anxiety, anger management, various behavioral syndromes, ADD/ADHD, self-injuring behaviors, mental illnesses of many kinds, as well as autistic spectrum disorders… and they are going to actively incorporate physiological therapies (including regular well-designed exercise) into the mix that target specific physical elements that need to be strong and balanced, in order to get your act together. Less drugs, more exercise and attention to the body. Better health overall.
And fewer meltdowns. At least for me. (And not before the end of this decade for me 😉
It’s ridiculous, I know, for me to be this tired. I know better. But somehow I think that if I just manage my anger issues, if I pay closer attention to my impulsiveness, if I monitor my behavior more closely and have that under good management, I don’t actually need to sleep.
I need to sleep.
Of course, now it’s 9:05 and I haven’t yet eaten supper. Not a good move. But I needed to see if I could catch a glimpse of the Venus Transit (it’s not happening for another 100+ years), so I figured I could make an exception tonight.
I’ll have a light supper — some soup and a little meat and veggies — then digest a while and go to bed. I don’t have to be at work early-early tomorrow, and I have a light exercise routine planned for the morning, so I don’t have to drive myself like a mad person.
Still, that doesn’t fix — right here, right now — the fact that I am so wiped out. I keep meaning to take a break at work, but I’m filling in for two co-workers, and I have to be on point through tomorrow, maybe Thursday too.
I guess the best I can do right now is just relax. Take it easy. Stop obsessing about some sh*t that someone was saying about my spouse behind their back — supposed friends who are anything but… I can’t get all caught up in that. Can’t get dragged down. And I certainly cannot let it keep me up tonight. That tends to happen when I’m tired — I get so easily caught up in other people’s stupid sh*t.
I just need to rest. They’re not paying rent to take up space in my head.
I need a break. So I’ll give myself one.
Breathe. Just breathe. Eat. Rest. Digest. And then sleep.