Friday, June 12, 2015

The Panic Disorder

I like to say my brain broke.

I couldn't leave the house, I couldn't walk on stairs ... or grass ... or wet anything, or street grates, or over trash, or in heels. I couldn't be in a car without having panic attacks, or around drunk people, or children, especially not drunks or children while on stairs. I couldn't watch movies where people might fall. I couldn't watch people on swing sets, because what if they jumped or fell.

At the height, I'd have over a hundred panic attacks a day. Mine take the form of hyperventilations, phantom pains, intrusive thoughts and at worst, total retreat into a cornered weeping ball of frenetic energy. I spiraled out of control, desperately trying both to control this automatic response to stimuli and to HIDE IT from everyone. I would lash out, make snap "run-away" decisions, be irrational and often just plain mean. If anyone saw me in this state, it would send me down a horrifying rabbit-hole of shame and self-hate.

I don't like to say my diagnosis. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and hyper-vigilance. I like to say my brain broke.

March 2nd, 2014, me and two friends were getting ready to go to brunch.

(just knowing I'm about to tell the story I start to feel triggered)

My cat, Super Bon Bon, ran out from under the bed where I was sitting. (now come the tears) She's cute, I went to chase her. I stood up, my feet stayed on the carpet and I twisted my hips to begin to chase her. This torsion (now my hands are spasming as I type) caused my lower right leg to break in four places, most notably the big bone was straight broken all the way through. I fell to the ground and looked up at my two friends and said "I think I just broke my leg." (<~ typing that is about where the video starts).

One says, "no way." Because the movement was so small, impossible. The other has a total look of horror, he says, "no, I heard it." They carry me to the car. At the emergency room, I was under a big doctor's care within 3 minutes of entrance. They thought I'd been in a car wreck.

The break was so clearly (typing that is where the hyper-ventilations start in the video) bad they admitted me right away. LONG story short, the doctors couldn't operate for over 3 days. Wednesday afternoon I went into surgery. They had to wait because I was at risk for compartment syndrome. Which (thank you McDreamy) I know means that if I'm not in surgery real quick when the swelling cuts off circulation then it's amputation.

Pictures: me in hospital March 2, 2014, a drawing of the 4 breaks from the cat chase.

No drugs touched the pain. That little jerk that happens when you first doze off kept me from sleeping for nearly the entire time. There were endless tests because finally in my life some doctor asked why on earth I had 16 broken bones over my life, each of them happening after what is medically called "minor traumas."

Apparently my body doesn't absorb vitamin D. All my panels came back normal/healthy except for that I had ZERO vitamin D in my system. It's not osteoporosis, it's not anything they could tell me. The doctor said the only thing I can do is take supplements and start lifting weights.

I had surgery, they kept me 6 days total for observation. Over a leg break. Then home to a month of required bed rest. NO WEIGHT on the leg. A powered ice pack (so it never loses its cool) on the leg for 24 hours a day. No coffee, no ibuprofin, I quit smoking. In bed for FOUR weeks.

When the time came to start crutching around, I walked out of my house and confronted the ONE tiny step down from my front porch to the walkway.

You know how you get that funny feeling when you are standing at the edge of a long drop off, and you think I could jump and feel all weird, but you also know that you are never really going to jump?

That's what that step was like for me. There was no fucking way I was actually going to step down that step. (typing this starts hand spasms up again) I've later thought that the amount of effort that square foot of step took me is equivalent to the amount of effort I put into getting my college diploma.

I was terrified. Because I'm imbalanced, on crutches, and it's guaranteed in my life that I will continue breaking bones. Hello, Ms. Glass, right? The hyperventilations began. I forced myself ... well, I take that back ... Mateo forced me to walk down that stair.

Mateo forced me very gently and with tremendous love to leave the house. He didn't know anything about ptsd or therapy, I was undiagnosed at this point, he is like a giant wonderful helpful puppy who just wants to go for a walk and have fun. Mateo suffered immensely at my hand when I was in the first stages of my panic disorder. I treated him terribly (tears now), and he just kept (mostly) happily after me. He was determined to give me my fun, daring, big and happy life back. He wouldn't let me give it up, he carried me when I couldn't bring myself to walk, he waited for me when I walked at approximately a mile/ a million years. He held me while I cried all night, inexplicably. He suffered and had bad days, too, but Mateo gave me a stunning gift with his love and help. He carried me through the dark.

Imagine if everyday, everytime you said to yourself "I'm not doing that" ... you knew that meant you had to do that thing. That's what the next few months were made of. It felt I couldn't do anything. I once collapsed because I needed to get to work and there was a mopped floor between me and my spot. I couldn't jump off that ledge. A co-worker had to carry me across while I wept uncontrollably.

One day a masseuse came into my work to offer free massages. She accidentally dropped her portable massage table on my right leg (I almost called it my broken leg, it's not, it's healed). I leaped out of the way and it barely grazed my foot, but set off a tremendous panic attack. Top level hyperventilations, total hand spasming, sobbing, backing into the nearest corner with that crazy wild eyed look of a trapped and injured mother possum, my head jerking to the spastic movement of my eyes, searching searching for an exit. The massage lady sees this and comes toward me (it's hard to not say at me) and grabs a hold of both my shoulders, asking (demanding) "are you ok?" This perceived aggression pushed my broken brain to the very edge.  I threw her arms off of me and literally ran out of the building, hid in an unused, outside stairwell and wept uncontrollably while shaking and holding myself and just saying "it's ok" over and over. I was completely deranged in that moment.

So here comes the shame and embarrassment of being caught in the complete control of my irrational mind. These people saw me in a state of utter weakness. Disempowered, out of control, incapable. As a person who loves solutions, I know there is no pat solution to this. I'm smart. I know that it is irrational and that I'm reacting to what might be and not what is. I even know that the more nervous I am, the higher the chances of actually hurting myself. I'm in love with logic, and there was absolutely no logic behind this panic disorder. It is beneath my logical brain. (ha! I mean that both ways). And then, having people see me be victim to myself was (is) mortifying.

I forced myself everyday to leave the house, to walk up and down stairs, to get in people's cars, to be around children, dogs, so many things. But most, the wet floor thing kept persisting. The first time I got in a bath (shower was a whole other challenge) was probably a month after I got home. Mateo had to put me in, stay with me and bathe me while I just openly wept and sobbed with both relief and terror. I slept for over a day after that. Summer was sliding by and you know ... winter's coming. At this point I had entered therapy for the first time in my adult life. The irrational and (shame) abusive behavior I inflicted on Mateo along with my total inability to take step on a wet surface prompted my to start seeing a professional.

Then came the first rain after a long summer drought. I'd been waiting for this day, and I'd promised myself that when that first rain fell, I'd go out and walk around in it. I've danced and played so joyfully in the rain in my previous life, and I would have this back. This broken brain was not going to keep me from joy.

I watch the rain fall over the bleeding hot day, the temperature breaks, falls ... I'm feeling brave and utterly determined. Mateo is with me and knows exactly that I've been waiting for this day. We walk outside together. It's funny to think of a 1/4 mile of Broadway Boulevard speckled with sprinkles as being the gateway to freedom. But, the aversion finally ebbed. I walked it, dotted with rain. I was back in the world.

There is so much to this story. Let's backtrack a bit to bring in the invasive thoughts. They are all centered around breaking more bones. When I couldn't leave the house it was because my brain kept saying "crush injury" over and over. The act of leaving the house would make me feel like every bone in my body would be crushed by the weight of the atmosphere. My body would not be able to withstand the pressure of going outside.

Then, one day, laying in my bed, I thought, "hmmnn, I feel that a bone just broke in my body." At this point I was undiagnosed and hadn't really put together the extent of my brain's suffering. I couldn't really move my leg at all yet, it was in air cast, so there was no way to test it by putting weight on it or testing movement. And of course I thought that I was crazy. It is insane that a bone would break spontaneously. I had a doctor's appointment in a week, so I put the thought out of my head, not being willing to entertain that irrational thought.

I got my x-rays taken, and the nurse pulled them up on the monitor in the room where we were waiting for the doctor. I could see clear as day that the little bone on the lower right leg was actually broken in a spot it was not before. Now, I'm up to 17! I immediately began having a low level panic attack. I held off on thinking until the doctor arrived. I recited poems to myself and did deep breathing and pretended I hadn't seen what I saw. You can see in this pic the brace they put on in surgery and if you look closely at the top inside little bone, you can see the new break.

The doctor came in and confirmed that I had a new bone splinter. He also didn't seem to think it was any sort of big deal and said it happens when the bones grow back together sometimes. My brain didn't care about that detail, though, because I KNEW when that bone broke. I felt it. And then the intrusive thoughts had a fact to work with, which gave them a whole new level of power and control.

A new sort of anxiety emerged, in addition to crush injury was joined there's a bone broken in my body. Most often, it's that little right leg bone, sometimes it's my left pinky. Frequently it's one of the other many broken bones of my life. Rarely, but in the absolute worst situations, it's the big bone in the lower right leg. I began doing checks to reassure myself that whichever bone wasn't really broken. I began fantasizing about full body x-rays. I actually have phantom pains. No more bones have been broken, but its like since I know it is inevitable, it already is.

At some point, I realized the checks were compulsions. That if I reached down and checked on the bone, I'd keep doing it. No amount of checking would totally convince me, so now on my list of "things I don't want to do" is not allow checks. That's a lot of double negatives, but I want to really highlight how much negativity and fear is embedded in the panic disorder. It is a rotting fruit, a malignant tumor, a growing sickness. I have to do the things I don't want to do and I didn't want to NOT check. So, no checking allowed.

At some point, having a panic disorder feels like you are completely out of control of yourself, and simultaneously you feel like you have to over-control every situation. There is no overstating how exhausting, futile and degrading the disorder made me feel. For months, I felt that I had in fact, died. The beautiful, charming, wonderful, together person I was had died. This shell of a woman was some damaged, irrational monster who was haunting my old body. I grieved for myself every day. I lost myself, I lost 37 years of growing and learning. I was nothing.

Still, like my love Sisyphus, I kept exposing myself, doing the things I didn't want to do. And I made a lot of progress, I mean a lot. I decided to make myself anew, to just keep pushing the rock. I've gotten to the point that I pretty much only have a real panic attack if I trigger myself on a big aversion, maybe once a week or so I'll do that. Little organic panic attacks happen about once a week, too. I recently moved in with some folks who have a pit bull, and the idea of taking this sweet and powerful girl for a walk gave me a tiny panic. So now that's on my list of things I have to do which I don't want to do.

Right now, I'm working on skipping. I can walk in the park grass, climb trees, swing, play in the rain, I walked on snow and ice over the winter. I have so much of life back. The leg is long healed, and I believe that the brain will heal too.

And I found out that I didn't die after all.
I'm so happy to still be here.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

On Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Dear Witty,

Well, it's high noon at the center of town and me and you got a show-down. I've got advantage on being the faster draw, being still living ... but you put up a good fight for being long dead in your grave. Your Tractatus sent chills down my spine when I opened the slim volume and saw that it was an axiomatization.

Who else does this, who else cares? O Witty, so systematic, so ordered, so aware of the nuances of logic. No one was surprised I slept with you on the first night. I wasn't surprised when we began to fight. And I'm telling long-dead-you that I am here to redeem our mutual father figure's hope for life, When Bert said in the introduction, "Yet I do not see how any easier hypothesis can escape from Mr Wittgenstein's conclusions," I knew my path was righteous and good, and ...

I will destroy you, Witty.

all my love,

On Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Witty wants simplicity and systematization, if you are axiomatizing, this is the only start. He discusses the problems with language and notation. He understands the gap between logic and ethics, he favors approaching the inductive from a base in physics. He asserts that philosophy is an activity, a critique on "the limits on meaningful language." He claims that inference is inherently a priori (5.133).

What's useful about Witty?

To axiomatize is to attempt to reduce a thing to essential components. Without this understanding and tool in your thinking arsenal, one cannot fully understand any thing.

He gives limited tools: true and false. Contradiction (  => <=  ): This is a blog. This is not a blog; and Tautology (  <= =>   ): I know this is either a blog or not a blog. Sense and nonsense.

He claims all axioms are inherently tautologies, which is what causes such things to be transendental. He is unwittingly asserting an absurd universe whenever he transcends ... for instance, the most profound moment of his thinking is when he is asked why one should practice philosophy under these circumstances, he claims that one does so in order to "throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it."  This is a stunning claim for a person who also claims no absolutes and no ought. The logician tells us we ought to abandon logic. This is an essential moment.

He also encourages destabilization, breaking illusions of the mind, destroying paradigms and rebuilding them based on observation and with conscious choice. He does this at an axiomatic level, but later these same ideas will make excellent  elements for the set of ethics.

Wittgenstein understands the difference between a model and physical reality. This conversation is glossed over frequently, and is as important as the solipsistic paradox. Are maths invented or discovered? He neatly skirts this with a statement of fact: "4.01: The proposition is a model of the reality as we think it is."

What is important to note about models is that they take a chosen set of elements and name those legos axioms of the set. 

Now we get to enter the world of meta-logic. The logic of logic. Observations of models reveals the nature, structure, proposition, function, equation; in short, the relationship, of things. It is a very useful practice to unearth the commonalities between modes of "truth-finding." Popularly, Zen and Quantum Mechanics are grouped in just this sort of meta-logic.

We are searching for isomorphisms. This is what we have in lieu of proof at the axiomatic level.

He has a great definition for logic: "logic is the theory of forms and of inference." And if, as I compel in the next section, the forms of the universe include the random and chaotic, our humble charge is to order disorder.

We will infer a form which allows logically for self-destruction, obviation, meaninglessness.

What's outdated about Witty?

He cannot get past Descartes' existence/knowledge paradox. He claims "closed system" as a solution, which still leaves an "extant universe" problem. Hence why he dedicates any space in an axiomatization treatise to Solipsism, and both entries are extremely important to the whole of his logic.

Start with the famous 5.61: "... What we cannot think, that we cannot think: we cannot therefore say what we cannot think."

The first reference to Solipsism appears next in 5.62: "This remark provides a key to the question, to what extent solipsism is a truth. In fact what solipsism means, is quite correct, only it cannot be said, but it shows itself. That the world is my world, shows itself in the fact that the limits of the language (the language which I understand) mean the limits of  my world.

Witty dances about this paradox through the end of subsections of axiom 5, it is the conclusion of "Propositions are truth-functions of elementary propositions. (An elementary proposition is a truth-function of itself.)". Axiom 6 takes the solipsistic paradox and is chosen to be: "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."

So, to Witty, he asserts that we must logically close the system in order to put disclaimers about our inherent problem of perspective. I think he makes a small mistake in focusing so much on the nature of our language, though I'm glad he covered the ground and the rest of that species can be left as exercises for the reader. The real problem is that our perspective is limited physically and we are trapped in the senses our ACGT doled us out.

However, this is by no means a death sentence on the existence of reality or place for logic and systems. What Witty is missing is the distinction between general and specific, between axioms and emergence patterns. Language emerges from perspective, perspective from existence. We are talking existence, so it is a mistake to apply the logic of language to the logic of existence.

The logic of existence is what we are chasing.

Interestingly, Witty also mentions "a priori" in this section, something he talks rarely of considering the book is an axiomatization ostensibly. He also mentions in 5.64, "an extensionless point and ... the reality co-ordinated with it." This is one of the many points he approaches my concept of the importance of the dimension shift. (that's gonna have to be its whole own post).

2.021: Objects form the substance of the world.
Here is a good example of how Witty could be much more careful about his own language. And we don't have to have a special lexicon of unique metaperturbation language to be more precise and clear. We can just use the very loose understanding we share and have lots of meaningful discourse.

ENERGY, not objects, forms the substance of the world.
Energy forms the substance of the UNIVERSE, not of (just) the world.
Energy IS the substance of the universe. Forms might imply a "form"-er, so is unnecessary.
Energy EXISTS. Because we've assumed the substance of the universe is real.

Energy exists.
That's a mighty fine axiom.

Witty is outdated here because he frequently uses emergent things as general things: ie world instead of universe, or object instead of energy.

I assert Witty is no basic bitch,
unlike me.

A critical error of Witty is inside axiom 4.211 where he asserts, "It is a sign of an elementary proposition that no elementary proposition can contradict it."

My contention is that it is precisely paradox which is an earmark of "elementary propositions" or axioms. Just as "energy exists" is the a priori assumption based upon the solipsistic paradox. By finding paradox, we find "truth".

For one admitting he knows math language is a model, Witty is awfully dogged about his notational nuances. It seems to me that both precision and accessibility are important in a math language. He needlessly dwells on semantics due to his consistent error of treating language as elemental rather than emergent. None of his internal semantic battles are actually about the universe, but about our ability to communicate about the universe, therefore a bit misplaced in an axiomatization.

What's after Witty?

5.4541 reads: "The solution of logical problems must be neat because they set the standard of neatness. Men have always thought there must be a sphere of questions whose answers - a priori - are symmetrical and united into A CLOSED, REGULAR STRUCTURE."

There is much to unpack here.  Most important is simply that: because men think there is a grand unifying theory which implies a closed universe does not mean that is the case.

I assert the opposite. Energy exists. Infinity exists. Therefore the things of the universe have infinite potential, of which irregularity is included. I would rephrase Witty to say: The solution of logical problems is neat when there is a limited set of axioms and the model fully describes the chosen system. The analysis of closed, regular structures reveals an underlying symmetry and unity. We call this logic.

However, the universe does not care if solutions are neat, there are also random and chaotic solutions. The truth of the universe must have the characteristic of allowing for open, irregular organics as well as closed, regular structures.

Witty asserts that, on principle, nothing can be said about that which is unbounded. All advancement into the attempt of truth finding outside of the solipsistic paradox ends here. He accepts that raw information is impossible to offer.

I fundamentally disagree. The problems of philosophy do not magically disband because I assert an opinion, the canon of significant questions remain. What is interesting to me, though, is the set of questions which arise if one, as a thought experiment, just takes the assumption REALITY EXISTS and applies it to existing models and (importantly) paradoxes.

For instance, we then exist, perhaps even existence matters. Think of that: EXISTENCE MATTERS. Matter as in has inertia, takes up space, substance of which objects are composed. Matter as in to be of importance, significant.

This might be the stuff ought is made of.

Elementary Units and Emergence Patterns

Philosophy is a diverse intellectual ecosystem. People are inspired to think about just about every aspect of reality and imagination.

My focus in the sophi is nearly always what I call "axioms." These are elemental units, building blocks, basics; what I sometimes like to call "legos." A good way to think of this is to image the ACGT of DNA: from these legos are built every known instance of life. The types of life which emerge from these basics are part of what I call "emergence patterns."

=> => => => => 

It is a mistake to think that one can treat a frog in the same way as a DNA helix. It is also a mistake to try and apply the problems, systems and causalities of emergent patterns to the nature of philosophical axioms. One might also think of these two types as general (axiomatic) and specific (emergent).

These two types of thinking are often confused, and I think it's a good practice to consider the reach of any one idea. Is it a basic of something? of everything? Is it a repercussion of something?everything?

For example:
axiom: energy exists
emergent pattern: atomic bombs exist

Suppose one says, "atomic bombs are bad" and gives thoughtful reasoning as to why this should be. It would be a mistake to respond: "that's like saying energy is bad!" There exist too many interactions between e=mcand Hiroshima to apply the same conclusions to both instances.

Axioms tend to be observations, whereas emergent patterns easily run the gamut from observations (I see that butterfly), to physical interactions (that butterfly is pollinating a flower), to ethical decrees (you should not kill that butterfly).

I'm interested in axioms because the puzzle of finding the true commonalities between things is fascinating. <poet> I'm not making idle chatter, I'm chasing the truth. </poet>