Working with energy

Nope, not a New agey post from me today, more a pondering of how the biology works, or in my case, doesn’t, partly prompted by reading some excellent material from Dorothy Abrams. I don’t have a deep understanding of bodily energy systems, but I can observe, and am starting to notice, and question a few things.

For the last ten years or so, I’ve run flat out whenever I could, punctuated by times of illness and burnout when I could barely move at all. To do this I have learned to ignore pain and exhaustion, which is something I’ve been trying to unpick for a while. Yesterday I noticed that my muscles can be tired, while the rest of my body jangles with restless energy. It’s like being on a caffeine high, without drinking the coffee, and it contributes to not being able to sleep. My guess is that it’s the adrenal system.

Adrenaline is there for short term bursts of life saving fight and flight activity. It’s there for emergency dashes to the water hole, and for when you’re going to need to walk a long way to find any food. It has its place and its uses, but we aren’t supposed to use it all the time. I find I’m easily tipped into anxiety and often feeling threadbare in a way that leaves me wide open to depression, and I think this is because I’m pumping more ‘energy’ into my body than my body is realistically able to use. What I’ve been calling ‘running on willpower’ might better be labelled ‘running on adrenaline’.

In the last few months I’ve started to feel like I need to take proper care of me. I’m tired of living with pain, and the depression and anxiety are no kind of fun. I’m looking for root causes. Most of the circumstantial causes have gone, leaving a legacy of thought and behaviour habits to tackle. If I kick into fear/adrenaline mode at the start of each day, I start pushing and forcing myself from the moment I get out of bed, and then later fall into bed so wound up I don’t sleep, thus perpetuating the whole cycle. I can afford to stop doing that now, so am trying to get my adrenal system to step down.

This is another form of being vulnerable. Risking saying ‘no’ to things, and people. Not trying to do everything right now. It’s a process of learning not to think of myself as a commodity that should be available on tap, but as a person. I still struggle with that one, it’s another legacy issue. When people don’t treat you like you’re a person, you can end up believing it – it’s such a tidy explanation, you don’t have the same rights as real people because you’re too flawed to count. Intellectually I’ve been resisting that for a while, but the emotions often move more slowly.

I think that to move forward, I’ve got to explore making the constant adrenaline drive stop. I’ve got to let myself be tired and sluggish and a bit useless for a while. Then perhaps I can get some better rhythms going around being able to rest and recharge. There’s every reason to think that if I can sort this, I can reduce pain, exhaustion, depression and anxiety such that I end up with more energy and more scope for doing things. That helps me feel less self-indulgent about the process, because I still struggle with ‘because it would be better for me’ as a justification for anything.

Being with someone who supports me, and who will manifest that support in practical ways, is a huge difference. Being with someone who soothes my anxiety with gentle physical comfort, and who encourages me to take care of myself, not because I’m a massive inconvenience if I get ill, but because I am worth taking care of. Having the space in which to do this is so important. Head space as well as right physical environment. Having the inspiration from other Pagan writers to challenge my ideas about physical and emotional pain. I’m going to try and do something radical to change my life, and to be well.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Working with energy

  • Chantelle

    I learned recently that adrenaline has a great deal to do with anxiety and depression. There are various ways of trying to lessen the impact of adrenaline on one’s health and, actually, breathing techniques are one of them.

    This is because the body needs oxygen to increase levels of adrenaline. Then we have the fight/flight/freeze reaction, we often find out breathing becomes faster and shallower because we’re trying to get more oxygen into us to fuel the adrenaline. The primal parts of us tell our body we need more adrenaline to do what we need to do to protect ourselves.

    By trying breathing techniques like 4/7 (breathe in for 4, breathe out for 7), ‘Castle’ breathing, even making sure we breathe from deep in our bellies as opposed to up in our chests then we can work to reducing adrenaline levels.

    I hope that helps *hugs*.

    • Nimue Brown

      That makes a lot of sense. A panic attack is so much an exercise in overbreathing… it’s getting to them before they get properly started… and finding the off switch for the adrenaline.

  • Jenny

    There’s so much here that resonates with me, the burnout/overstimulation, the anxiety and depression and particularly the belief that one is “too flawed to count”. A constant theme in my head, especially since being diagnosed with M.E is “I am broken beyond repair, useless, worthless, a leech on those who manage to cope”, so I spend my days believing that and struggling against pain, depression and a constant level of anxiety which can tip me into panic at the slightest thing, trying to cope, failing, tripping into the mud. Sorry, this wasn’t meant to be ‘look at me!’, just that I absolutely understand what you mean and wish you all the success in the world with your healing, because you do deserve it.

  • Nate

    I know you aren’t looking for advice but something to think about. Daily exercise is an excellent way to use up some of your pent up adrenaline. It’s treating the symptoms as you work through the causes. Just a thought. Have a great weekend.

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