Writing is a means of expression, which I am extremely passionate about. Summarizing my journal is difficult, due large in part to the facing of my own dysfunctions. Condensing six weeks worth of daily experiences into one thousand words is not an inconvenience, moreover it is extremely difficult insomuch as it disregards a great deal of pertinent information. As far back in time, that I am able to trace why I am the way I am, I look to my grandmother as the archetype. This is not a pleasant thing; moreover she could be most aptly compared to the queen in a beehive where she bestows her negative qualities to the workers- the workers being her ten children. This does not fall into the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) models, as they do not believe that delving into one’s childhood is necessary- this would be more of a psychoanalytic modality and Freudian in nature. Allow this to be stated at the commencement- I agree with all one hundred points in the irrational beliefs inventory. So, there the quandary presents itself. Not a single trait was found to be irrational. Most of all, none of them encapsulated me as a person, or challenged me to reflect on my own inadequacies. What made keeping a journal so helpful was that I was able to document how I was feeling. It was also possible to concentrate on the emotions I was experiencing during my writing, in order to discern whether or not they were intrinsic or external. In other words, discovering who or what was causing me to feel a specific emotion, gave greater insight into the CBT and REBT models.
In my journal, I disclosed a paradox that I am unable to quantify. The paradox has to do with deceased loved ones. More than often, I reach for the phone to call someone, or ask my wife about someone. What happens is that I immediately retract my question or cease dialing the phone because the memory of their death defeats the impulse to contact them. This is akin to a song I wrote, both as a tribute, but also as a release. The song is entitled “Schrödinger’s Cat,” and the complete explanation is not necessary for this body of work, but briefly stated; it is a paradox, which deals with death and perception. However, I am unable to see this as an irrational belief, but more of a cognitive dysfunction. While writing in the journal, I made a list of the five people that are involved in this paradox. As I did this, I realized that the grieving process may have not ended, or was never acknowledged as a necessary component of healing. In my life, it is an absolute fact that I do not have time to seek appropriate counseling, or be allotted time to grieve. This could be attributed to my employer or my responsibilities as a husband and father of two. Either way, I now know that a healthy grieving process is necessary if I am to vanquish this cognitive inconsistency. A cognitive behavioral counseling session is not something that I believe that I need, as I am able to accept that this paradox, or inconsistency exists and is vulnerable to extinction.
At no time have I ever been diagnosed with depression. Depression is an always-present comorbidity with persons who suffer from anxiety and or panic disorder. That last statement is absolutely false, as I am living proof that one can exist without the other. It is a blanket statement used to justify treating all sufferers of anxiety with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, which are non-addictive medications and have never helped me. The rationale is that the medications that make the greatest impact are associated with addiction, dependence and tolerance. What’s more, is that this approach does not look at HPA axis dysfunction or other underlying biochemical imbalances, which more than often lead to an anxious state, or a complete panic attack of immeasurable proportion. The flight or fight mechanism is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, and the parasympathetic nervous system is unable to override the former. In my journal, I became more aware that if my suffering is attributed to an inherent flaw, or my own unique neurochemistry, then this is all attributed to probability. Taken directly from my journal, if my mother contained one allele responsible for anxiety, and my absentee father possessed a complimentary allele, then they would have the highest probability of creating a child who would be predetermined to have the trait.
Scientists call its two alleles Val158 and Met158. Depending on ethnicity, more or less half the population carries one copy of each. People carrying two copies of the Met158 allele of the COMT gene showed a significantly stronger startle reflex in the unpleasant-picture condition than did carriers of either two copies of Val158 allele or one copy of each. The two-Met carriers also disclosed greater anxiety on a standard personality test (Montag et al., 2008).
The process of writing everyday pulled these new discoveries from areas of my mind that I may have never accessed. Simply stated, it was a revelation, because for the first time I was able to look in the mirror and tell myself that none of this is my fault.
There were aspects of my psyche that became apparent, some of which I had never thought of again. It immediately reminded me of my favorite quotes from the late French writer, Émile Zola, which states: “If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.” From this exercise, in recording my daily thoughts, obsessions, flaws and cognitive distortions, it has not provided me with a primer on how to correct them, only to accept that they exist and perhaps something may be done to be rid of them one day. Albert Ellis was a genius, and if he could correct his irrational beliefs, without employing the help of another, then it is safe to state that anything is possible. However, will this benefit a client?
Both Ellis and myself have nothing to hide and like Émile Zola do not wish to bury the truth. Clients may not be as forthcoming with information, fail to write everyday or even weekly. If one does not desire to make a change, simply stated, change will not occur. However, there may be others who are cooperative and see the benefit in keeping a journal, as it allows one, as it did for me, to be completely forthcoming, while simultaneously keeping a written record of the one’s issues. Again, complacency and an apathetic personality will achieve nothing and this exercise is for naught. I however, found it to be a great insight into my daily issues, as previously mentioned, and will continue to keep a journal chronicling my anxiety- looking for patterns, triggers and situations in an effort to regain my life back. I look forward to a life without medicine and I thank you for helping me explore myself better than I thought possible.
Montag, C., Buckholtz, J. W., Hartmann, P., Merz, M., Burk, C., Hennig, J., & Reuter, M.
(2008). COMT genetic variation affects fear processing: Psychophysiological evidence. Behavioral Neuroscience, 122(4), 901-909. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.122.4.901