I’m sleep deprived this week. As I hit the snooze button for the third time I wondered what it would be like if we were like dolphins which as I understand it, shut down one hemisphere of their brain while at rest. I know we couldn’t realistically do this because of many reasons, but that aside, would you prefer to be able to shut off your left brain or right for a few hours per day? I would. Just to be able to embrace creativity and emotion for a few hours without all of the chatter of reasoning, or shut off the left and get some things done that feelings get in the way of.. If there wasn’t a biological need for actual sleep, there may be enough hours in the day to feel like I’m not neglecting some part of my own needs or desires. It’s totally impractical for a number of reasons, but it’s a nice thought. What would you do if you could do this? What would your day look like?
Some nights I am too tired to stay up until my wife gets home from work I am on the 7:30-4:00 shift plus a half hour each way. I leave at around 6:15 in the morning giving myself a little time to pick up something to eat and to give myself extra time in case of an accident on the highway. My wife works 3:00-11:30. She’s a wife on a unit for incredibly ill patients at a nearby hospital. She gets home at around 12:30am. We usually talk for a half hour to an hour. We are married and actually enjoy the company of the other (something rare, so we’ve been told).
She told me that tonight on her way home that a young kid was driving very fast through the city she drives through to get home every night. So fast that if he had hit her by t-boning her that she’d be dead along with the passenger in his car. She stopped within inches of him hitting her. She said he had to have run the light (long after it would have been red) doing at least 55-60 miles per hour. I know this intersection as I drive through it every morning and his speed would be totally possible through there. She caught up to him to tell him off and he flipped her off. It shook her up pretty bad. She’s been hit and threatened by patients. That’s always a concern, too. It scares me that instead of waking to her being visibly upset it could have been that terrible call or a knock at my door from the police. She doesn’t scare or get shaken easily. She’s not one to embellish. I’m so, so glad she’s ok…. Life can change or end in an instant. I’m glad that wasn’t the case tonight.
I love you, C.
I’d be amiss if I didn’t write about some other sides of me. One thing I’ve always fought was an internal aggression. I would become so full of anger and self-hatred that I’d pound the sides of my head when I was a young child. It’s amazing how one can internalize external stresses. Regardless, when I was between the ages of 7 and 12 I wasn’t very aggressive. I did get into a few fights at school, but I can’t recall of any within that time frame that I started myself. Around age 13 though, that was changing. I was a quiet nerdy kid without the grades that would come along with that stereotypical persona. The only class I performed well within was art class. By the time I was 13 though, I was simply fed up. I was fed up with my home life and fed up with bullies at school. I was in a number of fights from that point until about 10th grade. By that time, conflict at school was pretty much over with and I was left alone.
Since high school I’ve been one to verbally rage. As I have aged this too has slowed a lot. I still detest conflict, but I came to the realization that I almost crave it when it’s something that I perceive to be wrong. Fighting over simple things is pointless to me. My wife and I have had at most 10 arguments in the last 3 1/2 years since getting married. Neither of us like conflict, at least at home. My wife is more outwardly assertive than I am. Most things don’t bother me as I simply don’t see them as being things to be confrontational about. Luckily, when something comes up we can actually talk it through. We can agree to disagree sometimes. We’re more like friends who happen to be married. When I’m upset about something I literally ask myself if this is something that I’d be upset about if she were my friend and not my spouse. The only real line of distinction is fidelity. That’s the one thing where marriage comes into play with us. Even then, I’d not argue. I’d not yell. I’d simply leave.
I do have hot-buttons though.. I need to make the distinction between healthy versus unhealthy reactions where anger is appropriate. If you see someone harming someone else, anger is appropriate, as are a number of other feelings. If it involves a child, then more anger. If it involves an animal, well, I guess it depends on how you feel about animals (for me animals rank very high). It’s one thing to react with anger to stop a situation. Sometimes, in very rare instances, the only immediate choice is violence. Maybe that’s just me – I’ve cast away the flight in fight or flight. I’m not one to flee from anything. Regardless, situations like this in the rare occasion when they present themselves are ones that I thrive on. I know my response is overreaction. It isn’t even that I perceive a situation to be more than it is, either. I simply *want* to engage.
A few weeks ago I was put into a situation involuntarily where there was a high risk and probability for physical violence to unfold. Out of respect for some involved I will spare the exact details. I will say that there was a significant amount of alcohol involved from the perpetrator, they were living in the same building as others that were victims. The perpetrator had forced entry to an apartment and physically assaulted a female in that residence. She was taken to the hospital by the police while other officers searched for the assailant whom has sped off in his car before the police arrived. We received a call in the middle of the night and were asked to give the victim and an elderly relative of the victim a ride home from the hospital. It was around 2:00am when we received the call. There was travel involved, so I got out of bed and dressed for work in case things took awhile. As I drove the two women home one recalled what happened in detail. A number of things struck nerves with me. Alcohol – I’m no fan of violence further fueled and enabled by alcohol. A perpetrator who was roughly 20 years old and was very arrogant. He also had a long history with the police for domestic violence and minor crimes. He was having sex with a minor who was also living in the same residence (though she was technically the age of majority for the state). He regularly gave the same minor alcohol. Other descriptions of this character didn’t help my overall idea of what I may be walking into when arriving our destination.
Here’s the thing though… Most people would be uncomfortable in that situation. I wasn’t. This wasn’t anything that I wasn’t prepared to deal with emotionally or physically. I wanted this conflict. I so wanted it to get physical with this kid. It wasn’t about wanting to teach him a lesson, put him in his place or anything like that.. He was an abuser on a number of levels. I wanted to do harm to him simply for that alone. The details were irreverent once I had made up my mind that he was “bad” enough to be one to attack. Only when I deem someone to be bad enough am I willing to engage physically. If I see someone being attacked or abused I will intervene. I have in the past and would again. This is different though.. This isn’t completely about being in defense of someone in need of protection. This is an outlet for a deep anger that makes my blood boil sometimes. I’m not one to go around looking for an excuse to justify a fight, but that night I felt blood and adrenaline coursing through my veins. I knew this feeling well. I hadn’t felt it in years, but something about this situation triggered it in me. I was bothered by this later. Obviously it didn’t come to that, though I dare say, if this character would have come out of that apartment in even a slightly aggressive tone or manner, the night would have turned out much differently. I’m glad it didn’t. I’m an imposing figure and physically very powerful. At best, one of us or both of us would have been very harmed. At best..
Recently I’ve stopped listening to the news. The sad thing is, I only have been listening to it over the course of the last year to hear if some nut set off a nuke somewhere. Not that knowing this would make any difference, much less that I’d inevitably hear about it upon arriving to work or interacting with anyone in public. Politicians upset me on a deep level. Intellectually I see so many things deeply wrong with governance on nearly every level that I can’t help but be infuriated. So, I don’t listen to the news anymore. Leaders or organized religion infuriate me. In particular the leaders of the Catholic Church and their archaic views on sexuality and a number of other social issues. I’m not saying I’ve a problem with members of the church, just the upper management. I’m good with people whom have faith. At times I can say I wish I could have faith myself, but I simply can’t reconcile that one in my own mind. At least not for now – never is too powerful of a word. After removing those two things from my day to day exposure of things in the world, I’m left with those whom wish to force their views, beliefs or themselves in general onto others who are unwilling recipients. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has any right to take moral high-ground over anyone else, especially myself. That said, I itch for the opportunity to kick out the leg of the pedestal that someone puts themself upon. It’s not about taking higher ground myself, either. I simply don’t like being talked to in a condescending manner, and I particularly don’t like others being talked down to. Being mild and meek may work for some, but in some instances, people like me are of use in that moment.
So, why this need to fight? I’m a self-proclaimed man of peace, but see that sometimes the only way to maintain peace is to act in a highly aggressive manner. Arguably, some people cannot be reasoned with. Still, instead of working within the confines of the systems in place to remove someone from a position of power of one sort or another I simply see a mental kneecap that just needs a verbal strike to accomplish the same thing without all of the sensitive or politically correct means to an end. Am I better than those who have harmed me? Maybe.. Maybe not. Maybe I’ve just been more selective of those that I choose to abuse and rationalize the hell out of it to make it feel like a virtue, or worse, that I’m doing someone a favor.
I can’t argue that I have a lot of unprocessed anger. I need to find a healthy outlet for this. A physical one, at that. I have a couple of health issues that complicate exercise at the moment, though I’d wager that 3-5 hours in the gym every week would likely do me good on a number of levels. One of those health issues I would be able to grit through with pain medication, but I’d prefer not to go down that route again. It was necessary when I was on them years ago and will likely be necessary again. I’m in kind of a tough spot with that as well… I’ve an unknown liver disease (not deadly, but I can’t drink alcohol very much, and if I do in very small amounts). Pain medications are generally hard on the liver. That and I don’t ever want to go through opiate withdrawal again. I’ll figure out some way to make this work. I’m pretty good at avoiding triggering situations, but would rather be proactive in finding an outlet over time than being disturbed by how I think and feel when angry. Anger can be healthy, but I assure you, this is of the toxic variety.
If you are reading this, what do you do to alleviate anger and aggression? I always feel in control, meaning I don’t fear losing control and doing something horrible or anything like that. I just dislike the extreme discomfort of it. It goes against the grain of who I am, or at least who I believe myself to be. Internalizing it isn’t healthy – I am certain of that.
I’ve always been fascinated with psychology and neuroscience. I’ve nearly decided on a course of study to the end of my working in neuroscience from a research perspective. There are so many things I want to explore, I now think of things in terms of my lifetime, given that I will likely be involved in some rather lengthy pursuits if not only one. Unraveling the mysteries of the mind however is a challenge I readily welcome in any capacity. My future job duty being purely to learn and work on incredibly complex challenges in understanding doesn’t seem like work to me at all in the traditional sense of toiling for enough income to sustain a comfortable quality of life. I dare say, this is the experience of looking at the world through fresh eyes like that of a child where everything is new and exciting. I welcome this late-coming experience in my life and am eager to embark on starting the next chapter. All of that said, how memory and psychology intertwine has been on my mind today.
Conventional thought, at least until recently has been that the mind is like a constant infallible recorder of everything that we see, hear and experience. Once a memory is recorded, it remains unaltered essentially for the rest of our lives. With more recent advances and studies however, it has been proven that this isn’t the case at all. In fact, the fallibility and inaccuracy of human memory is astounding, even as it related to trauma. Even more fascinating is how memories are recalled and actually rewritten upon recall. I refer to this particular article that I read not so long ago (The Forgetting Pill – Erases Painful Memories Forever).
Memory has been a curiosity of mine over the last several years. I’ve alluded to to the fact that I experience memory in fragments. It’s extremely rare that I feel anything when recalling specific memories. More generalized concepts and the mix of memory fragments that surround that idea may illicit a faint feeling, but nothing more. This is at least in my waking hours, dreams and nightmares being a completely different experience. I find it odd the things that I seem to have some choice in keeping in the forefront of my mind as far as memories. There’s been a mix of experiences in my life. There’s likely as much good as there has been bad, though I tend to recall more readily the negative things. Accuracy of memories vary. So much so that because of all of the fragments it’s hard to discern what’s real or actual versus something I’ve seen or heard. I was told by one therapist that it doesn’t matter how accurate the actual memory is, only what I’m left feeling and believing as result. Is it possible to be haunted by memories of things that simply didn’t happen? I would guess so. Or maybe something happened and my recollection of it is very skewed.
If we are the sum of our life experiences leading to this moment, what if my beliefs and insights are based on a past that may be more fiction than fact? Is that a product of a self-fulfilling mantra about my life on a psychological level mixed with the fallibility of memory? Am I more a product of whom I believe I am versus who I think I should be? Am I a fraud, even to myself? Who am I really? This is an intellectual curiosity of mine, not a disruptive force in my life or a crisis of self. It’s merely exploring the possibility and asking the questions. Know thyself is a loaded proposition. Especially for someone like myself trying to figure out just how full of shit I really am. I do like myself, however. I like who I’ve become regardless of how I’ve manged to arrive where I am in my life. Many people that I’ve had any lengthy contact with tell me that they respect my thoughts and opinions greatly. They tell me that they hold me in high regard. They hold me in much higher regard than I hold myself, of that I am certain. I wonder sometimes if I’ve managed to hide my true nature from both myself and the one whom holds me in high regard. After all, I don’t have skeletons in my closet. No, my closet door merely leads to a cemetery of epic mistakes and failures. Certainly I’ve shined at times and made very real positive changes in the lives of some, but I’ve left some far worse off than before having met me and making me a part of their lives. Perhaps what I choose to remember of my past is a psychological manifestation of low self-esteem, though consciously I’m a very confident person. I question myself often, but not from the perspective of having a low level of self-worth. Perhaps I’m lying to myself and don’t realize it.
I do wonder though, if one part of the circular thinking is more oval in nature weighing more heavily than others in my case. I suppose everyone would be more weighted one way or another. Even with having what seems to be confirmation of a long-held belief that I have a rather severe chemical imbalance, I tend to be someone who has a melancholy about me. That’s my natural state. I seem unable to focus purely on the good or joy of a situation without seeing the downside of things. When someone complains about their coffee being made in a way that displeases them and seems to be in genuine distress or anger over it, I can’t help but think of people starving within a mile of this person who just spent $5 on a cup of coffee. Or in the larger scale of things, that there’s active genocide happening in the DRC and has been for years. And that as a country we do little to nothing to put an end to it because they aren’t sitting atop a large amount of a natural resource that we want. I do laugh genuinely and often, but not without thoughts like these being at the back of my mind. Perhaps I’m still depressed and the medication has done nothing for me other than allowing me to experience the placebo effect.
There’s so, so much more to this train of thought. If what I’ve written here about it were quantifiable mathematically it would likely be around 1-2%. My brain doesn’t process things in a linear stream of words – it’s beyond words and spiders out in so many directions.. I’ve cherry-picked a tiny snippet of one of many, many complex and intertwined threads. One of my brothers nailed it when he described it as nebulous thinking. We both experience the same way of processing things. Our two other brothers don’t experience anything like this. The other odd thing about this type of thinking is that it forms in detail and complexity like this without conscious verbal thoughts in the matter of seconds to a couple of minutes. The structure will hold for minutes to hours before collapsing. Then another thought will explode. This will go on like this for several days up to a month, then smaller expansive thoughts will be present. It never shuts off. I’m lucky though, since being medicated. I’m able to shut it off enough to sleep at night.
Perhaps I think too much. As I mentioned before, I may be more full of shit than I know.
Random inclusion of a photo from a photo outing last Sunday deep into the woods of a property in our town. There were no trails leading to this waterfall and we were amazed to find it without any trace of people visiting it. We walked for nearly an hour through thick brush and briar bushes to find it. This is a crap shot, but at least it shows the waterfall. I’ve some better ones that I’ll post to my portfolio website. I’ve been on a black and white kick lately, which is kind of redundant, given that it’s winter and there’s hardly any color anyway. Nature is one of the few places that my mind slows down a little. I center there. Before moving out on my own I always took refuge in the 20 acres of wooded land that was behind the house. There was peace and safety in the woods. To this day, the sound of breeze through the leaves and wood flexing making that sort of cracking sound comforts me greatly.
It’s quiet in the bedroom right now. I’m sitting up trying to pass the time online. It’s my wife’s birthday, so I’m staying up to see her when she gets home from work a little after midnight. I’d try to sleep early for awhile, but I can tell it’s probably going to be a rough night. I’m debating on whether or not to take something powerful to sleep. The lights are on, the dog is sleeping at the foot of the bed, and the two cats are curled up on the bed next to me. The only sound is the howling wind outside. We live in a very small town where we’re at the end of a street which borders a wooded area. The only sounds you hear here are the occasional distant siren from the fire department or the dog barking next door. Today was a good day. Work was hectic, but it always is. It’s nothing new and that doesn’t get to me most days. Aside from today being my wife’s birthday, it was for a coworker of mine too. Someone I’ve come to regard as a friend. I insisted on paying for lunch. We had steaks from Applebee’s. After work I took my wife coffee and something from Edible Arrangements for her and the other nurses on her floor. Nurses need coffee..
It’s been a good day. My mind is wandering to some places in the past that I’d rather forget. It’s rare that this happens in waking hours, but it has today for some reason. When my eyes are open I can stay present. I can tell that the here and now is indeed here and now. I know my age and where I am. I know I’m safe. I know I’m an adult in my own home, and a formidable adult at that. When I close my eyes though, that’s another story. I see fragments of memories going by at a blinding pace. None of them are in relation to the other. Some last less than a second. A muffled voice here, an image that’s distorted that my brain doesn’t have time to process when or what it’s part of specifically, but the feelings are attached and building with each one. I try quieting my mind but it’s futile. I open my eyes and snap back to the present. I close them again and the familiar violent images that I always see regardless of the day or time are now mixing in with these that are actually causing me distress. I go back to what I’ve learned to cope with.. Breathing exercises, attempting to control or change the outcomes of the visualization I see in my mind’s eye, blocking it out by going to my happy or safe place, using any number of techniques to get present… It helps a little. The images don’t go away though.
One thing that living through these things is though is a set of skills that get me through situations.. They aren’t useful for things like this though. If I’m in distress and need to maintain composure, I can literally shut my emotions off. I can turn ice cold at will. Not mean, cruel or angry – just completely numb. I can get things done in times like that. I can get through a current traumatic event unfolding in front of me while others freeze and try to process what’s happening, or get through a workday, or even a social event. I’ve managed to go through the motions without drawing attention, and when things are critical I can act when many others simply can’t. It comes at a price though. As soon as things are calm or safe, it rushes back all at once with a force that I can only describe as an emotional sucker-punch. That skill was acquired through years and years of.. Unpleasantries. That’s not tonight though. This is just an ordinary night. It’s best to just go through these things when they come. I’ve stopped trying to understand why they do and just accept that it’s part of life as lived through my experience. I make it sound as though I brush it off.. After it passes, I do brush it off, but in the moment – it’s awful. Unspeakable at times.
Tonight, my demons do have a name. I’ll leave it at “A”. A is still living in my home town. He’s again remarried and as far as I know, he resides in the house I grew up in. He has a good life, but I can only assume he’s still just as angry and hateful as he’s always been. I’ve heard from others that this is the case. What must it be like to live in a mind full of hate and anger all of the time? I see horrifically violent images every time I close my eyes every hour of every day. It sounds more terrible than it is. I’m so used to it that I only rarely notice it. It’s always been like this. But to have such hate and anger nearly every hour of every day.. What’s that like? For all of the pain and suffering you’ve caused me A, which of us suffers more? I’m not trying to compare apples to apples. One can’t compare the impact of maladies of the mind. It’s pointless to do so anyway. Your reality and the lens in which you see the world through that’s unique to you may have the same history as me, but your orientation to the world around you may be quite different. As much as I’d like to thing that you and I are complete opposites A, I see similarities to you in myself. When I’m seething with anger or rage, it’s your words that shoot from my mouth, not mine. It’s your blind rage and hate I feel. Or maybe it is purely mine and I see myself in you. Tell me A, when you close your eyes at night, what do you see? Do you see whomever made you into the person you are today, or do you see me? Maybe I’m being too self-centered or self-important to believe that I even cross your mind. Maybe part of me still hopes that I do and that maybe you feel remorse. I used to think like that, but I don’t anymore. At one point I felt pity for you.. After all of my pain, anger, hate and sadness eventually passed. I stopped asking why. I wanted to know why, A. How could you be that way to me – a quiet, shy and meek child? No answer would have been good enough, much less justify any of it. When I’ve been awful I’ve taken responsibility for it. I’ve owned it. I don’t blame you for that. It’s a choice. I choose to not be abusive. I don’t know why you did’t make the same choice A. I’ll live with seeing you in my nightmares, A. Can you live with being so miserable? Maybe you’ve found peace. Maybe it’s gotten worse for you. Regardless, I’m glad that I don’t have to ever see you again, A. I did wonder, just now as I wrote this, what’s it like to live in such an angry and violent mind. Maybe for you, the horrific violent images don’t go away when you open your eyes.
My lovely wife will be home in a couple of hours now. I think I’ll go take a hot shower and watch something funny on Netflix. I’m glad that she and my friend at work are here for another year. I’m glad I’m still here to say that.
So, the last couple of weeks have been interesting. Continue reading March 6, 2013 – A mix of things.. Time to get off of my butt.