Thursday, January 7, 2010

My anxiety

I feel so relaxed today, deep in my body, that a quick scan of the past doesn't turn up a comparison. Better than Valium, I think. Better than the phenobarbital I was given at one time for irritable bowel syndrome - that's when your gut can't stand the way you're living or, maybe, who you're living with. A relaxation as good as what I used to feel after doing yin yoga with Kit. That good.

The source of this peace and freedom from anxiety seems to be getting good lab results yesterday. Of the various things they check in my blood every month, two figures stand out: hemoglobin and eGFR. Hg is easy, red blood cells. My poor little kidneys are still producing enough of the hormone that makes them, no downward slide since the last test. Good news.

eGFR is something you probably don't know about unless your kidneys are failing - a number arrived at from plugging your creatinine into a formula. The number indicates about what percentage of kidneys you have left. Mine went up from 8 to 9 this month, not down. What a relief! (What is the new punctuation mark we're going to get that is a quiet sort of exclamation? I imagine the kids, texting, are going to invent it.) It means I don't have to get serious this month about preparing for dialysis.

Peace. It's wonderful. Wouldn't you think that 12-plus years meditating would make it possible for a person to call it forth at any time? I would have thought that, but it turns out not to be true in my case.

Americans underrate Karma, in my opinion. I mean, the reality that our personal will is not in charge, that a great many causes go into making us act the way we do. I wonder, if I had an identical twin turn up, would she be like me in myriad small ways? A person who tends to throw her clothes down instead of hanging them up, say. Or who has to try hard to be punctual. Who gets anxious about things when being anxious doesn't help a bit.

Anxiety is a lot like anger that way, I think. That is, it doesn't do any good, and in fact, probably gets in the way of a good outcome. But my experience is that anger has been easier to work with. Practice has impacted my tendency to get angry until these days I don't get mad. I may feel frustrated, but I can let that dissolve, the way you let stories dissolve when you're meditating.

My anxiety though exists on a deeper level. Maybe I need to do a Chod practice that has helped me with other things - sit down with that anxiety, personify it, name it (Ann Gzieti?), and give it what it needs. That's a serious full-bore approach.

The things I've done up till now have certainly taken it down quite a few notches. Yet, talking to myself about how dialysis is just a medical treatment, telling myself that it won't be what I imagine - nothing is - reminding myself that anxiety will not hold off reality - these intellectual strategies just involve the left brain. They have not gone to the deep layer of self or body where that kind of anxiety resides. Maybe it is something innate, a fear that is natural to us as vulnerable animals. Maybe I only notice it's still there because I meditate, and have become more sensitive to my feelings. Maybe, maybe.

There turned out to be a sure cure for my anxiety, the way there is a cure for the panic you feel when you dream you are confronted with a test in a subject you know nothing about. That is, to wake up. The anxiety was also a sort of dream running in the way-back movie theatre of my mind, and the way to stop it was to for reality to step forth and present good lab results. I couldn't make that happen, but here it is, a gift from a personal karma that has kept these faltering kidneys working for years longer than predicted. Last night I slept an amazing 11 hours. Today I feel the gratitude in my abdomen.

It is snowing here in Ohio, a persistent fall of small flakes, vertical, no wind. We are expected to get several more inches. I don't plan to go out today. My Appalachian friend might add, "the good Lord willing an' the creek don't rise." That is, we'll see what karma brings.


  1. Hiya DG,

    I recently got turned on to your blog and I love your posts. I wish I had had a grandma as insightful as you. My grandmas are both gone now, will you be mine?

  2. I don't think I have ever posted but I enjoy your musings tremendously. I have also been contemplating this anxiety thing - it really is waay more insiduous and amorphous than anger though I had never thought to compare them this way. I am down with a very bad flu and the anxiety over exactly what 'kind' of flu it might be or might suddenly become in the dead of the night is really driving me nuts. I take deep breaths, I try to settle, to sleep to no avail - which is very confusing to poor cat who prefers to wake me up in the wee hours not the other way round. Dearly beloved sleeps like a log, thank god, no anxiety there... I really do think that the practice in some ways makes you more aware of the ramblings of the addled mind and sometimes envy his ability to just go blank... this peace you speak of sounds just loverly... I'll have some of that please :)

  3. Oh, and congratulations on your excellent test results! May they be a sign of continued stability and success for 2010!

  4. Hello zenfant - At 67 I am a little young to be your grandmother - But I gratefully accept. My only (other) grandchild just turned ten.

  5. To Anonymous with the flu - You are in my meditation. May you be free from danger.

  6. woot, i got a new grandma, ya'll!

  7. one thing I remember Steven Levine saying in one of his books was that instead of claiming it as "my" anxiety, or "my" anger, to say "the" anxiety or "the" anger. it's a way to remind yourself that you're not alone, that these are human experiences. i know for myself that when I remember to do so, it somehow helps to lesson the knot.

    i think you're right that anger is easier to work with in some ways than anxiety or flat out fear even. maybe because it often has such an obvious storyline tied to it, whereas the other two can just appear without a narrative, or without a clear narrative anyway.

    i'll have to sit more on this on. thanks for the post.

  8. I had anxiety before, but I got a lot better now, thanks to I HIGHLY recommend ordering from them, they have a section on their website for anxiety pills and the best part there is no prescription required!!! uc