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Anxiety Is Your Past Calling Out

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Anxiety Is Your Past Calling Out

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John Michael’s newest Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise column, “Anxiety Is Your Past Calling Out,” examines anxiety, paranoia, self-forgiveness, and marijuana use. 

Anxiety is your past calling out, asking you to come back and take another look, with some love in your heart for yourself.

I wrote that several days ago. Last week, I was pulled back, screaming and kicking, into some very old anxiety. Feelings I knew were inside me but did not know how to access.

I’ve written about having some numb spots in my lower back and other areas of my body. I consider myself a spiritual person and try and walk the walk as best I can. I pray and meditate, serve others as best I can, and do things like writing and painting and hiking and picture taking that give me joy.

I had several dreams that marijuana might be helpful for my healing and, for a while there, I was taking a low dose of some edibles before bed twice a week. I did find it beneficial in many ways, but chose to take a break for a month.

I’ve argued with people who said they don’t like marijuana because it makes them paranoid. My argument was that the pot didn’t make them paranoid, it just revealed the paranoia already in them. If you have had your boundaries broken by trauma, paranoia can be a natural response. I was deeply paranoid for years without even knowing it. I recognize it now when it comes, and it has eased over time.

Don’t let suicidal thoughts get in the way of your happiness.
Suicide can’t kill you, so why bother?

Those are a couple of Hobo Metaphysics I wrote while still living on the streets. The idea behind the second one is that you are an eternal being, and death, even by suicide, won’t kill your essence.

Once, I had secured myself deeply enough to my foreverness that I knew whatever sad things were still inside were not going to pull me off the good path and back into self-destruction. Still, I had, and have, some lingering shame. It has arisen occasionally since being off the streets and there is still an impulse toward self-hate when shame arises. I imagine people who cut and do other types of self-harm know this feeling. You feel like you have fucked up in some unforgivable way and are irredeemable. Nothing is further from the case, however.

I picked up a few more edibles last week and decided to eat a whole one before bed, instead of the usual half. Probably a mistake in dose. I stayed up and actually experienced feeling a little high before I went to bed.

I imagine most people have heard the phrase “dark night of the soul.” It’s really not a dark night of the soul, it’s more of a dark night of human psyche as it reaches for the soul. You can’t dwell fully in spirit, so to speak, if you still have shame and hate circulating through your psyche.

You can’t dwell fully in spirit, so to speak, if you still have shame and hate circulating through your psyche.

As I was falling asleep after the pot, I had some cynical thoughts about mankind and human cruelty. I thought about the book Sophie’s Choice and wondered how a person could be so cruel as to make a parent choose which child would die. I thought about how disturbing the movie Seven was and how sad it made me. I cursed Hollywood for years after that. I mean, I’m sure there are people that clever and twisted and cruel out there, but why would you want to bring that story to the screen? I have looked back in horror at my own cruel words, and on occasion my cruel fists. I fell asleep wondering if I wanted to live in a world where those things happen.

I’m not sure how marijuana or any psychedelic works on the brain, the nervous system, and the emotions. But it seemed as if I was traveling to an unhealed aspect of myself and into my own sort of death wish.

I think I was taken back, emotionally at least, to the night I was molested. I felt this deep sting in my tailbone, which I recognized from past panic attacks as a signal that my survival fears were triggered. I had a friend come over that morning and he hung out long enough for me to feel comfortable enough for me to sleep again.

But I woke again, full of panic and dread and with enough shame circulating that I did not feel well at all. So, I called another friend and explained my feelings. I thought I might die that night and, after it was over, felt like I wanted to die. I almost went to the hospital for a tranquilizer. But I kept my prayers going, told myself I loved myself despite what happened. Replacing the shame and dread with some love.

At some point, I heard myself say in sort of disbelief and exasperation, “I didn’t say anything.” I didn’t say anything as it was happening, and I didn’t say anything after it happened. I may have been in denial of this as a way of protecting myself against the idea that my silence allowed it to happen to a bunch of other kids over the years.

I had told myself that I told my mom, but I know I never did. I’m sure she understood something had happened just by the way I was acting. I even blamed her at times for not doing anything, but she was sensitive to my emotions and probably didn’t want to make it worse for me. The next day, I was able to cry some healing tears about keeping my mouth shut about stuff I should have been screaming from the rooftops. I have come to some true self-forgiveness, something I preach all the time.

Also on The Big Smoke

I went to a concert Wednesday night in Spokane and spent the next day and half in the Sandpoint area, drinking in some natural beauty. At some point I had the thought, Shame-free. I checked in with my body, no numbness in my lower back, no stiffness anywhere. I was nice and relaxed. Shame-free has been the goal for a long time now. It was hard to go through that dark night, I admit. But a couple of times during the internal chaos, I felt the presence of God very near to me, it was very comforting and I knew I was going to pull through, then it was back into the chaos for a bit.

After the panic had subsided a great deal, I was sitting inside a local fast-food restaurant looking up at the dusty hills of my hometown. I had the thought, A time for kindness. My heart lurched a little, as if to say, “That’s what it’s all about, kid.”

If you are struggling, please feel free to reach out to me, I have been through it and I want every good thing for you. I am becoming, and have become, a kind, peaceful presence. We are a society that believes in punishment, both for our enemies and ourselves. The antidote for our cruelty, our self-hate, is our kindness. Let it shine, people, let it shine.

p.s. I may use some pot again in the future, but it’s going to be a minute.


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John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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