I am in a very anxious place right now. It is as though I have done everything wrong and fucked thing up beyond repair. My paranoia tells me everyone knows this and they are judging me and everything I do. What? Cameron is paranoid? Yes, I am very paranoid - not bad enough to keep me from going through my daily routine but I am always looking over my shoulder.
I am not sure paranoia is the right word. Actually, I know it isn't but the right word is escaping me at the moment. Today has been absolutely brutal. Everyone at work is looking at me and talking about how much I am fucking up behind my back - I can see it in their faces. I just took a short walk to get lunch and the people on the street were looking at me and commenting to themselves about my big, fat gut. I came back to work just to ride the elevator with a man who was judging the way I pushed the elevator button.
WTF! This is no way to live but I live in my irrational mind. My mind grabs control of any rational thought and smashes it. In its place, my mind inserts a negative thought and plays with me by telling me that people are judging me. As I write this blog, I can feel my co-workers looking into my office (they really aren't but I think they are there) and shaking their heads at me. The imagined whispering between my co-workers makes me want to run home and hide in my bed.
The anxiety that comes from living this way is unbearable. The constant nausea and chest pain of anxiety rules my life on days like these. This is accompanied by debilitating exhaustion that makes the anxiety worse because I am too tired to function properly.
Wow - am I whining or what?
Snakes make me happy - they really do. When I am talking about, looking for, or holding snakes, my entire mood changes. The anxiety melts away almost instantly (I can feel it as I even write the word snake - shit, I think I just smiled for the first time today) when I am with snakes. I think I need to start keeping a snake in my pocket at all times (Not that kind of snake - wow, you have a dirty mind!).
This past Tuesday evening, I gave a snake presentation to a homeowners association in a small community just west of Loveland, Colorado. About 25 homeowners attended and heard me talk about the snakes in their backyards. I started my talk with a quick introduction of what a snake really is and how they differ from other organisms. Then I went into where snakes hibernate (the HOA is in the foothills with high potentials for hibernacula to near or even in the human homes). When I finally got to the snakes in their neighborhood, the participants had already given me their full attention. I never understand this - I am just talking and teaching about snakes but somehow I have a talent for getting everyone's attention. In this case, I was giving a PowerPoint presentation so I figured a few folks would use the time to nap.
After briefly describing their neighborhood snakes, I got out a few snakes. BAM! My 30 minute talk grew into a 90 minute talk. Yes, it is easy for me to go long once the snakes come out but no one ever complains - actually it is the audience that keeps my talks going into extra time. I want to tell people everything I know about the snakes I bring and then let them ask questions. This is the part of my snake talks that I really, really like. It is informal and very interactive. The audience gets to see and touch the snakes I bring. This gets everyone fully engaged in LEARNING about snakes which ultimately helps change human perceptions about snakes.
Snakes make me happy. This past Tuesday night was just one example of how snakes can change my mood. My mood raises to unbelievable highs when I am actually out looking for and finding snakes. Snakes are a stimulant to the parts of my mind that are still intact with positive feelings and not the self-loathing or judging bullshit. Engaging this part of my mind can help eliminate my paranoid feelings that everyone is talking about and judging me. Snakes are my drug of choice.
Snakes make me happy - see video below. :)
THE FLIP from Snakes on Vimeo.
There is one HUGE problem with me being happy - this is the guilt that follows. I am feeling terrible guilt (or is this shame?) for taking 30 minutes out of my work day to write this blog. The guilt/shame for leaving my family Tuesday night to go give a snake talk had me binge eating at McDonald's. I feel shame for bragging that I am good at capturing people's attention when talking about snakes. The guilt/shame for taking time for myself to look for snakes is paralyzing because it comes with a paranoia that everyone thinks I am a slacker for snake hunting instead of working or taking care of my kids.
The shame comes from the negative self-talk in my head that I am not good enough to be successful and that anything I do to make myself happy is selfish and wrong.
How do I walk myself through this low and painful place? First I need to bring my anxiety and paranoia out into the open where I can see it. Second, I need to attack it with positive thoughts that I am doing the best I can and people are not really judging me. Third, I need to believe all this and in myself.
Tall orders to change a lifetime of paranoia, judgement, and self-loathing. I will keep you posted.