The spunky girl with asymmetrical hair energetically drew our attention to the front of the cold white conference room. “Let’s start with something fun! Pick a number between 1 and 10 and a letter A to J and write it down. With that, I am going to tell you your poet name today.” As we went around the room, each name pealed off a new round of laughter. The spunky girl in the front of the room was the Spoken Word Poet, Shane Manier, and she was leading a writing workshop that made me fall back in love with writing poetry. Her glowing optimism and joy is contagious, and her down to earth way of talking brings a comfortable connectedness quickly. Yet, at the drop of a dime (err…poem), her words grow fiery with anger or her eyes watery with tender emotion. She appears to feel it all and still it doesn’t engulf or control her. She is a master of her art. An art which came from her experience.
Hi Shane. Thank you for speaking out about your experience with this little known disorder. Could you tell a little bit about what Adrenaline Disorder is and your experience with it?
Adrenaline Disorder happens when your body is caught in survival mode, fight or flight, for too long, and it starts to affect your body on a health level, as well as your mental and emotional state. Some of the things that will happen with adrenaline disorder are sleep deprivation, paranoia, frayed nerve endings, and rapid weight fluctuations. You are more susceptible to illness, like I had shingles and skin issues as well as stomach ulcers all the time. Along with your immune system crashing because you are going going going and constantly on guard and tense, you will have muscles issues. It can cause long-term damage. In fact, I am still experiencing residual effects like sensory overload. There is also a high pain tolerance because you are constantly moving. You don’t want to stop because you will have a panic attack. A lot of times people with this disorder will become a workaholic and go until they crash. I became an activist and developed the martyr syndrome. I was constantly doing shows and fundraisers that were great but not great for my body. You will keep going and going, then crash and then get back up again. You keep repeating the cycle until you decide to stop and work on your healing.
For me, it took a culmination of situations making me feel on edge…my mom was in the hospital, I needed to move and buy a house, my cat died, and my relationship of 3 years had just ended. My old operating system immediately kicked into high gear because it thought that had worked in the past. I had thought I was okay but my past trauma had not been healed. So when something else triggered these past wounds, I immediately jumped into fight or flight. And the crazy thing about adrenaline disorder is that you could be doing fight and flight at the same time. So I am running away from the fact that my mother is dying and I need to buy a house– avoiding these issues– but through activism, I am going to fight the government, fight the power!
In your body it feels like an earthquake. Everything feels like it could fall apart at any second. Everything is back to back and back to back and there is no time to process. When you live in that state for a long period time, your body just frazzles.
The reason Adrenaline Disorder is not talked about much is because it is not commonly known as a disorder. People who are highly productive don’t see that as a health issue until it is too late. Most people don’t recognize it until someone points it out to them. When I spot people with the signs, I tell them about my experience and send them articles to learn more. Then they have the language for it and can talk about it with a doctor or counselor.
How would someone know if they or a loved one is experiencing adrenaline disorder and not just general anxiety?
For me, it took someone who had had it to point it out to me. So now, I can recognize it and point it out to others. The biggest tells are weight fluctuation from day to day and just not taking care of themselves (not sleeping, not eating, super busy, etc.).
If someone identifies that they have this disorder, how do they heal from it?
Initially some nerve suppressant drugs would be helpful just to make you physically calm enough to think and do the work on yourself. Then learn what you need to make you feel safe. You may have been running thinking that made you feel safe but that isn’t helping you. Do like they do with PTSD– sit in the back of the room, near the door, with no one behind you, so you feel like you have an escape if you need it. Learn how to be safe inside of you, through meditation. When I started, I did short meditations with the mantra, “I am my safety. My safety is inside me.” I also read personal help books that transformed my way of thinking from limiting beliefs to empowering ones. The book, Claim Your Power by Mastin Kipp, was huge for me. This helped me get in touch with my root traumas. I took notes on what I noticed and learned about myself each day. If something triggered my old operating system, I asked myself, “Was there a boundary that was crossed or not put into place?” Another program that I recommend is Love Equals by John Donovan.
You recently came out with a collection of poems called Divine Disturbances based on your experience with Adrenaline Disorder. What inspired that title and what does it mean to you?
As I was writing these poems, I was noticing disturbances all around me. And it was a reflection of the disturbances within me. If I see someone cussing another person out in line, instead of thinking they are crazy, I can see it for what it is. When someone is responding from a place of trauma, it is exposing a need from the subconscious. It is an opportunity for us to look in and see, what does this person need? This is their humanity showing and it is always a call. It is a call to respond with grace and make true connections with each other on a human level. And there is so much healing and power in that. That moment is divine.
I’m not saying to give people a pass, but what I am saying is that it is a wound opening. If everyone approached it from that perspective, we could really take care of each other and ourselves. It even teaches us to be kinder to ourselves. Whenever we do something, instead of beating ourselves up, we can ask, “why did I do that? why did I react that way? what’s going on with me?” We can uncover the answers and be grateful that it happened because it will lead to our own healing and growth and our ability to help others. I think those moments are holy. We get an opportunity like no other to connect in our humanity and practice grace and understanding.
Wow, that is really beautiful. I love that idea.
That idea came from working with my students. I could do it naturally with my students but not with adults. And I thought, if I really mean this with my students, it has to apply with other age ranges. And it has to apply to me as well. Instead of going down that spiral of negative thoughts when I did or said something, I could step back to see situations with a clearer head and give myself more grace.
I can see that you care a lot about the community and the way we treat each other. As an activist, what are your ideas about how we can partner together to create change?
During my adrenaline disorder, I became an activist who never rested. I was coming from a place of anger which wasn’t accomplishing the purpose. My angry energy just made me want to fight. Now my activism comes from a place of healing. I had to learn to have compassion and grace for myself and then I could give it to others. This is how we are able to listen to each other and learn from each other. Now it is about empowering others instead of fighting others. So I suggest teaching people how to be sustainable…grow their own food in a community garden, make their own soap, develop their skills that make them feel some sense of power. Volunteer to mentor or work with teenagers and the youth. The youth can make the greatest difference…. invest in them.
It seems like you are always offering workshops and community building events. Do you have anything coming up?
My group, Guerilla Poets, has free online monthly open mics and poetry workshops through the Promise Resource Network. (Every 2nd Friday at 6PM poetry workshop, Every 4th Friday at 6PM is open mic.) The poetry workshops are not just for writers but for anyone interested in learning more about themselves. We incorporate personal development tools throughout the workshop. And anyone is welcome to come rant about anything on the Open Mic nights. It is an outlet to give you a voice and a community.
Thank you for all you offer to the community, Shane! You truly are an inspiration.