Monday, December 16, 2013
Changing My Mind: Storytelling Gone Toxic
When I was little, I would lie in bed and tell myself stories. Every night. I would lie there and whisper stories aloud to myself to soothe myself to sleep, but I also told these stories as a sort of magic.
I thought I could ward off the loud anger that could so abruptly penetrate the space inside our home, waking me from deep sleep and creating a lifelong sleep problem (which I am finally, just in my 40s, starting to overcome).
These stories were good. They were about my future as a happy adult. Most often I would tell myself grand tales of my life as a singer and dancer and actress.
Somewhere along the way, the stories morphed into worry.
Somewhere further along the way, the nighttime of these stories turned into all the time.
Storytelling started out as a healthy coping mechanism used by a frightened and nervous little girl.
Storytelling turned into a toxic, superstitious crutch leaned on by a frightened and nervous little girl in a woman's body.
Since starting my Changing My Mind project, I am becoming painfully aware of the constancy of the worry stories running through my brain and their waste product of anxious ick that drip drip drips through my veins almost all day long.
I get tiny moments here and there where I feel totally relaxed, when the poison is not dripping. Recently I have realized that those moments are so rare that I can recall them.
Noticing the stories, like all mindfulness practices, is the first step, of course.
Saying no to them every time I notice them is step two.
Step three, replace them with real true things -- like love and the fact that all is well.
I came upon a forth step that I had not anticipated.
I went to my doctor who is also an acupuncturist. I was going in for another reason.
My doctor is one of the most compassionate humans I have ever met so when the word "anxious" came up, he asked me to explain more and I found myself telling him. (Which is odd...especially, for me, with a male physician.)
In Chinese medicine, he told me that the anxiety I describe is like a possession. This word makes total sense to me. This kind of anxiety -- it POLLUTES everything.
Everything -- including, he said, all the good things that I do to combat the anxiety.
He decided on the course of acupuncture and I seem to have responded well to that.
Last night, 48 hours later, I suddenly just felt...relaxed. Deeply. Marcy came home to find me in the floor nest of pillows and blankets, listening to some Dr. Wayne Dyer CDs and in this sort of twilight space...not sleeping but not totally awake. This does not happen for me. Ever.
The stories are still with me. But there is something slightly softer about them. They aren't so damn insistent.
I'm going to try more acupuncture for this.
But I don't believe it's totally about that. I think it's about the whole mix of things I am doing -- the constant effort thing.
And now I have one more, healthy, helpful tool.