Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My Hovercraft is full of Eels: It's like spoons, for anxiety!

So many folks are familiar with the Spoon Theory of what life is like with an invisible illness.

Which is honestly fabulous. As someone with a couple invisible illnesses (asthma, allergies, and IBS) and close family members with others (lupus and rheumatoid arthritis) that follow the the spoon model of issues the further the spoon theory spreads the better.

However, the spoon theory doesn't map well to panic and anxiety issues.

As someone with a history of trauma who has anxiety issues that can be debilitating I've been mulling over how can I explain to folks what happens when I get pushed over my anxiety edge and wind up triggered and/or having a panic attack.

Well, at first I thought "it's like a gauge in an RPG and once you fill it up suddenly you get to use your combo attack, but its actually a panic attack" but that doesn't grok out well to everyone.

Then I needed a way to tell my coworkers "y'all, I gotta go, I'm going to have a panic attack if I don't" or "I have passed the threshold and am now having a panic attack/triggered state" and I thought back to Monty Python.

My Hovercraft is full of Eels.

It's a random line in the Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook skit that is utterly nonsensical and supposedly vaguely sexual but…

It's perfect for my needs. Especially if you imagine the eels are the shrieking eels from the Princess Bride. (Refresher, for the folks who aren't familiar.)

Let's imagine our brains as being hovercrafts with a more or less set volume in them.

We can carry around most of the stuff we need to get by, and everything is typically pretty happy.

Then the anxiety eels start infiltrating your hovercraft.

If its an eel here or there, no big deal — you can self-care them away and bail them out.

But when you're overwhelmed, when you start to get triggered — you can't bail the eels out anymore.

They start piling up and shrieking.

You can try to keep going about your daily life in your hovercraft, but they get in the way, and trip you up, and they distract you with their constant keening wail.

Sure, maybe you can press on, and fight your way through the eels, and keep being productive for a while, but the eels just keep coming in.

Eventually you have eels up to the place where you can't move anymore. Your hovercraft is full.

Maybe one of the big old crafty eels wraps you up, and hold you hostage.

The options at this point are pretty limited.

Once the hovercraft is full you can't function anymore. You have to focus on getting the eels out of your hovercraft and repairing the damage they've done to it.

Clearing out the anxiety eels is not easy. To really, truly keep the eels from coming back you have to address them with compassion individually and get them to stop shrieking. Sure, you can bail them out without doing that, but they will come back.

"I see you eel. I understand why you broke into the hovercraft and stopped me from carrying on with my life. I'm working on the issues you represent, and I need you to go back into the waters of my unconsciousness and let me keep making progress."

I know eventually I can calm down the eels that are a part of me, and given enough time I can release the eels that aren't (because we all have societal introject eels that are forced upon us), and given time, I'm sure the eels will live happy eel lives in my subconscious.

For now though, I gotta go grab the bailing bucket. International Women's Day has the eels in a furor.