Thursday, December 17, 2015

Don’t Try to Stop Smoking if You Don’t Smoke



The boyfriend is quitting. He has been carrying around a disappointingly full packet of mints, in which, when I suggested he take one instead of pulling out a cigarette, he said, “Have you tasted one? No, seriously. Taste one.”

Now, I suppose this was stupid on my part. I mean, I know it was. But my thought process was that cigarettes don’t really do much. People described a “buzz,” but reflecting on the half of one I’ve smoked in my lifetime, I guess I didn’t really understand how strong nicotine actually was.

I looked at the mint and it appeared more like a pill. I popped it in and, upon realizing how terrible it tasted, I chewed. Big mistake.

I’m the sort of girl who doesn’t put a lot of crap in her body. Including food, at times. That day I had had yogurt, Grapenuts, milk, and cranberry juice. (Not all at once.) If you’ve been following me (more for the people who haven’t), I have always had an abrasion to food, and in the last year it’s gotten far worse, and I don’t know if this affected things, but I hadn’t eaten for hours either. I had even stopped drinking caffeine for the most part.

Immediately I wanted to puke, and my heart spluttered like it was about to be dragged to the executioner’s block. An intense desire to cry overwhelmed me as I walked to buy movie tickets, but I managed to keep the weird buzz at bay.

I found myself confused at the Australian kind of-American-but-just-different-enough method of purchasing, my mind almost spinning, and I’m pretty sure the cashier now thinks Americans don’t have credit cards.

When I reach my seat, everything started to calm. My heartrate slowed, my thoughts settled, and the modest dizziness subsided. I went to the bathroom. On the way there, I still felt sick and unhappy.

Then, inside, I found the most decidedly Australian toilet I had seen yet, complete with not only two different water levels for flushing, but three, a toilet paper dispenser that released in individual tissues, and a bizarre hand blower that I had to smack in a couple of different places where it shot out at me from an unexpected orifice.

I burst out laughing.

I hadn’t laughed at something stupid like that in a long time. I mean, I rarely laugh anymore anyway, and to hear myself genuinely amused by how weird that damn dryer was was delightfully releasing.

When I returned to movie, I felt warm, not like my usual freezing self. The lingering buzzing of anxiety that I don’t even notice anymore was gone. The untargeted anger and frustration dispersed, and what was even more shocking, I paid attention to the movie.

I have never liked movies, especially in theatres. Even T.V. shows are better as background noise and not something you just do. I remember watching boyfriends growing completely immersed in a film, eyes glossed over, and thinking, “What is wrong with you?”

I always got bored in theatres, especially action sequences. I have never experienced the ability to just watch it, not think about anything else, and grow completely immersed in the story. Now, it could have been because it was the new Star Wars film, which most people are saying are epic anyway, but I’ve watched good movies before and I didn’t have my eyes trained relentlessly to the screen like that.

I know I had been relatively numb for a while, but I attributed that to my refusal to have bad feelings as well. By avoiding any chance at unpleasant experiences, I knew that I was stripping myself of the ability to not only have funny stories to look back on, but get that catharsis that comes from successfully getting out of a bad situation or even the contrast of joy against misery.

Yet living with anxiety is difficult because even when you know you’re not really afraid of anything, it is still fear, and a fear that doesn’t go away after you make the proverbial leap, but stays with you as long as you commit to the action, usually causes you to embarrass yourself with stilted and forced conversation, and keeps pain with you long after it’s done with. Telling someone with anxiety to just get over it is like telling someone to stop being tired. You can sort of force yourself out of it, maybe even get a sudden wind free of it, but it is fleeting, and the motivation of not wanting to feel that way is held back by the lack of motivation caused by feeling that way.

I understand why nicotine is so addicting, and why so many people use it to self-medicate. It calmed my emotions, narrowed and focused my thoughts, and made me stop caring about things that I honestly don’t want to care about (or think I should.)

I didn’t like the idea of ADD, especially when it refers to kids. Using medication to alter our personalities just to help us get along in society terrifies me for the reasons you’d think. I never thought I personally had it, especially because I have the ability to focus on one project for many hours at a time. But only if I cared about it. I don’t tend to act up in situations and have a lot of self-control when it comes to social settings. Too much, in fact, in which I completely restrict and censor myself when surrounded by people I don’t know very well. But one of the reasons I struggle to talk to strangers is the flow of my thought process in speech tends to be weird to someone who doesn’t know me well. I jump subjects and make connections others don’t follow. It’s hard for me to express my opinions when no one can figure out where I’m coming from.

I have heard that nicotine is a stimulant and stimulants are most commonly used to help ADD, and because it made me able to concentrate on the movie before me, quieted my mind, and stilled my body, I am beginning to think that ADD might be my problem. I never considered it prior because I didn’t think my mind was all that loud, I didn’t realize how it could feel to actually focus throughout a whole film. I didn’t see how disruptive my thought process can be.

I’m not going to immediately do anything about. For one thing, I’m in another country. For another, due to past experiences with doctors, I am struggling to put myself in a position to be belittled and written off by someone who doesn’t have time to even consider their wording when they tell me to go to someone else. I know better than to come in with a self-analysis I’m not positive about, and yet I’m not going to waste my time and money to be told to “wait it out” and come back because they don’t know what to tell me. Plus, I’ve read all about that hypochondria thing and I have all of the symptoms for that too, so we can’t be sure.

And do I really want to go on medication? Maybe therapy, but that would require me trusting a professional which, for various reasons, is going to take a lot more than a diploma on their wall.

But, at the very least, it gives me hope. After being told off by a cutesy urologist who couldn’t even bother to look at the test she charged me for, every time I felt queasy, like not eating, got a headache, or spent an entire day going back and forth to the bathroom (which is pretty much every day), I felt helpless, like I was always going to feel that way. I don’t think that ADD can be singularly blamed for my chronic pain (which is what I told to the smirking woman as she tapped her head and insisted after knowing me for five minutes it was all in my head), but it can be exacerbating the issue (as I also told her). Under the stimulate, I felt better. I didn’t focus on every discomfort in my body. My headache went away, I didn’t notice my dry mouth, and I could even hold my bladder much longer, not so disturbed by the usually intense discomfort. It reduced my stress about things outside of my control and helped me live in the moment. At the very least, it gave me a reminder of how life could be, how I could feel, and that maybe there is a solution not dependent on me throwing myself at another professional who may or may not push me off onto someone else.

So while I don’t recommend popping a mint compact with nicotine, I am actually somewhat glad I did.