Tag Archives: Anxiety

Relapse away

I am having a relapse.

I’m just going to write here, since I haven’t written in two months, and most of it will be terrible, I expect; I need to talk.

This is real, this is not a drill. This is anxiety, GAD, knocking down my door with a jackhammer. Oh hi, want some tea, I’ll just- *steamrolled over* Right, well, um, just make yourself comfortable. I’ll clean up your mess later, I guess.

Patrick was away for 6 weeks. That was very lonely, especially as my roommates were mostly gone, my students were on holiday, and my supervisor was away too. But he’s back now, and things were going really well until about 2-3 weeks ago.

I started getting upset at little things. Dropping things, rushing a lot. Forgetting more. Pushing Patrick away frequently, when just the week before I couldn’t be with him enough. Then I started having panic feelings – terror at forgetting items or being late, heart beating in my chest, frequently having to try to calm my breathing, acting jittery…Then Patrick forgot to bring home asparagus. And I shut down. I couldn’t make dinner without the asparagus. At all. We had a twenty minute discussion about whether dinner was ruined forever. Now my nightmares are back. I watched something with an alien in it, and now I’m awake at night, envisioning its carapace leaping down on me from the ceiling and sucking my face off with its lamprey face.

I’m not sleeping. I can’t focus on anything – I can’t even play a video game. I just start throwing the mouse around in fury. And today it’s my dad’s birthday, and I want to be a cheerful happy daughter, today of all days, but mostly I just want to call him and cry.

I keep circling around the question of ‘why’. I stalk ‘why now’ like a tireless jaguar. I chase my triggers through brush forest, catching glimpses of ‘causes’ in hunter’s eyes. But I am weak, and they are fast. I have learned nothing. ‘Reasons’ haunt my thoughts, teasing me with a litany of environmental factors – I’m trying to squeeze extra daylight, sugary foods, overworked, financial stress, moving house, lack of exercise, and fear of failure into a monster sized multivariable spreadsheet, as if the only thing I lack right now is sufficient analytical capacity.

Anxiety is making me repeat old mistakes. ‘Why now’ is irrelevant. ‘Causes’ are fleeting. ‘Reasons’ are simply yearnings not to be at fault. Even if I could determine exactly why I was suddenly so anxious that I’m fantasizing about knives and skin, the reasons would not be simple, easily solved, or few in number. All the reasons are interconnected, and influence my feelings in different ways at different times. (Secretly I still am largely convinced spring has something to do with it. Spring is an evil time for mood disorders).

I have to accept that it’s simply here. I just have to ride it out, basically. The more wiling I am to let it happen, the less it will affect me. The more I worry about it and try to control it, the more it will control me.

It makes me wonder where the anxiety was all this time. I keep thinking that once I’m officially ‘better’, this will not happen anymore. That’s a total fallacy, of course. But I still feel as though the anxiety was simply gone for a while, absent. On holiday.

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A bit of a rant about applications

You know, there are people who take things too far when complaining about systemic biases against disability. There are limits to what is reasonable. We will not all start to use wheelchairs because a portion of the population has no other choice. But sometimes, it’s worth pointing out an issue, so I’m going to go ahead and say it:

The entire process of applying for scholarships is next to impossible for people with anxiety issues.

I can’t stand it. It isn’t just some chore that I hate. It isn’t just an awkwardness or modesty or lack of self-confidence. It is truly, insanely difficult to get my head around the basic issues involved in applying for funding. This is a bit of a problem, being a graduate student who has not yet procured funding. Let me enlighten you.

***

Part 1 – Writing a letter of intent.

Basically, in this letter, you are asking me t overcome my perfectionism and obsession with accuracy, my social anxieties about committing any kind of faux pas, and my inherent inability to represent myself in a positive light.

The accuracy issue is thus: I can’t tell you want I’m going to do in five years because I could be dead. I could be hit by car. My parents could be hit by a car. Hell, if my goldfish was hit by car my life has basically become a shambles. My illness makes my life seem (to me anyway) inherently unpredictable. We both know that life is unpredictable and that I’m going to do my best to follow my interests while still feeding myself and any possible dependents I have, and that whatever opportunities appear will simply happen. The idea that I can lay out for you my vision of the future and maintain my dedication to telling the exact truth is ridiculous.

Theoretically, anxious people should be good at talking about the future. But we are terrible at predicting it. Thinking about the future consumes our lives, but it doesn’t tend to be a positive future. You want me to paint you a gorgeous picture of success, vibrancy, and strength. My brain regularly tells me that my family will probably be dead, if they aren’t already, and that I have to go visit them and arrange funerals while attempting to mourn and pick up the pieces of my life, meanwhile my house has almost certainly burned down, and there’s all that student debt accumulating and wait, what, you wanted a happy future? Nice to know that you aren’t haunted by waking nightmares.

The faux pas issue is related to the representing myself in a positive light. I can’t boast. I must be modest. I adhere to social rules so carefully and diligently that Marx would have dropped everything to make me a case study. Good people don’t boast. Good people, frankly, are quiet, meek, and just happen to get recognized for their brilliance on the side. They don’t do anything to make it happen. That would be bragging, boasting, challenging, pompousizing…No, I cannot tell you a single good thing about myself, because that would be inconceivably rude.

Not to mention that I generally think I am a horrible person anyway. After all, my own brain tortures me with reminders of how generally crap I am as a human being about three times per minute, all day long and all through my dreams. Hot pincers of verbal destruction sear my mind in a constant stream of abuse. Where, amidst that, do I have time, let alone ability, to find good qualities about which to write? It is simply not possible.

 

Part 2 – Asking for reference letters.

You want me to ask someone for something? You want me to ask them to do something for me? Are you ABSOLUTELY INSANE? Firstly, I’m a horrible person, so they won’t want to help me. Secondly, I’m a horrible person so they shouldn’t want to help me. Thirdly, ARE YOU BATSHIT CRAZY? They are good, proper people, who have lives and careers and things to do, and you want me to ASK FOR SOMETHING? They are busy. They can’t possibly attend to me. There is no way they would ever have the time. I will never, ever get up the courage to ask them. I would rather kill myself. I would rather walk off a cliff and fall onto sharp, pointy rocks, and have my wounds washed with salt water until I bleed to death several hours later. No, no, absolutely not.

***

How is it possible, in any universe, for someone with anxiety to apply for a scholarship or funding with these dialogues in their heads?!? How???

Let’s be honest – applying for scholarships is not likely to change its process because the mentally ill are handicapped when applying. It’s not like one can even declare the mental illness difficulty (the way one might declare being a minority, in some job application processes) – it’s likely to make you lose the scholarship, on account of being unstable (unlike declaring a physical handicap, such as blindness or other physical challenges, which often can make one eligible for scholarships, or earn perseverance points for having survived and for still fighting the fight – that kind of affirmative action does not yet exist for the mentally ill).

But there, I’ve said it. I’ve had my rant. I don’t think that the process is inherently flawed as a whole. I do not have a better idea for evaluating applicants. It is what it is – the best we can do for now. It’d just be nice if one day it were easier for those who have extra difficulty.

Trust

Dear trust,

 

My dear trust, why must you, of all strongholds, play truant? I remember our high school days; you and I were earning each other’s respect. I looked you up in the Oxford English Dictionary and there you were, ready for me to hold a ‘firm belief in the reliability, truth, and ability’ in myself.

But somewhere along the road you abandoned me. You reversed yourself, turned yourself inside out in a macabre show of organs and blood vessels: fickleness, uncertainty, inconstancy.

When you left, I was nothing. My trust in myself evaporated as ‘myself’ became changeable, and unknowable. I had no trust left, no trust in my own being.

How can a person manage without trust in themselves? What happened to the inner world I once inhabited? The landscape was no longer solid. The babble of internal voices on the wind turned frosty. The paths were hidden, and at every twist were liars.

Where once was confidence, now emptiness fogged my thoughts.

Where once was possibility, now doom gonged, low and constant and harrowing.

When fears reigned over my thoughts, there was no firm ground to hold my feet. They changed minute by minute, swerving to avoid collision with each other. Nothing was true, nothing was false, and so nothing was. Unable to manage swimming, daily floating, I could only run, wildly searching every room for the trust I’d lost. Where did you go? Where did you hide? It isn’t funny anymore!

The meds only tricked me into thinking you were there, or that I could get by without you. Now, finally now, I am beginning to find you again. I know you’re gone now, and you aren’t coming back. I have to build you from scratch, just as before, because you’ve always been an automaton that I made. A teddy bear in the night when I miss home.

Because I’ve always only ever had what was here. But I will build you a roost and you will be made again.

 

Yours faithfully,

Christina

Meds free, two and a half weeks in

I’ve been meds free now for about two weeks. There are a lot of tiny details that have changed.

For starters, thank you so much to those who sent me thoughts of encouragement and support! Thank you thank you thank you! It was so incredibly kind of you to reassure me and I am so glad I’m not alone in this. Thank you.

The brain zaps appear to have stopped. I don’t get sudden shivers anymore, and I don’t feel high.

It’s funny to think back to when I started taking the drugs. After they really kicked in, it felt like waking up. The world was alive again. The air had warmth and action had meaning. Yet I now feel, not reawakened, but unmuted. I had woken but not emerged. I find my thoughts shaking hands with a really quite cheerful enigma, a sincere camp counselor that’s been around enough to know when to be cynical and when to be upbeat.

On the outside, apparently this comes across as – well my dad calls it ‘sharp’. Interrogation has revealed he, and others, think I have become a much larger bird now – a raptor with a freshly honed beak that likes to sit on your arm and be cozy, but you can’t quite shake the impression that it knows something and is secretly grinning with a cocked eyebrow at plans of world domination. More plainly, I talk a lot more, without a filter, and I say some rather mean things.

And I don’t really care. I like it.

I can’t help but like this smiling, mischievous, expansive figure. She has opinions. She has big feet. She has: defiance, a double, twelve-years-aged in an oak barrel, bold and appreciated by true connoisseurs.

So I’m meeting, or re-meeting, and certainly re-introducing, this facet. That’s part of it.

But in the name of anecdotal evidence, what about my other symptoms?

Sleepiness: Largely unchanged. Hard to tell due to being in a different time zone. I’d like to say I’ve noticed less of the head bobbing, but I haven’t read much for work recently, so that could be another factor.

Guilt: Yep, still there. Still pretty darn loud.

Banana indigestion: So far so gone! Haven’t had any on an empty stomach yet.

Anxiety: Worse. Easily irritated, and my overly confident self doesn’t seem to mind taking it out on others. Apparently the tag line, “look I’m not mad at you, I’m just mad and you’re there” isn’t comforting. I get angry more easily, and I’m worry quite a bit. But it isn’t interrupting my work very much.

Sex: This is the bit you’ve all been waiting for. Yes, sex is better!! You know how there are things, and some things turn you on, and then when those turn-on-things happen, it’s almost like additional physical pleasure? Ya, that didn’t used to happen. That happens a lot more now. Which only serves to make me all the more interested in sex, boosting my already better sex drive. Bam.

Depression: I’m not. Wow. Seriously. I am the luckiest person alive. I need to write that on a post-it and stick it on my computer to remind me how lucky I am, not as a guilt-ifying punch to the stomach, but because that kind of reminder actually sounds like a good idea right now.

So that’s the upshot so far. Pretty damn worth it, as you lovely people told me it would be. I’m going to go eat a banana on an empty stomach. Boo yeah.

People on a plane.

(Please forgive my late post. I had planned to write and post last night when I got in, but instead I made the mistake of lying down, and was transformed into a log, complete with toadstools, for the rest of the night.)

Plane travel is a horrible thing. A couple of hours is not so bad. But any long haul flight, typically transatlantic or transpacific, is a form of voluntary prison. One may as well self-flagellate for eight hours – it would at least be more interesting, and you could at least have more space.

I can’t imagine how many panic attacks a flight attendant has to deal with, let alone how many go unnoticed. I was on the verge of one yesterday, flying to Canada from the UK.

In my experience, an eight hour flight means eight hours in the air. That does not include the inevitable hour on the tarmac, sometimes on both sides. No one, in a regular course of existence, willingly spends ten hours in a space half the size of a bathroom cubicle, immobile. We do it because it is currently the only way. Lots of websites explain charming ways of avoiding in-flight stress and tension – get up every hour and stretch, drink lots of water, get an aisle seat, upgrade to business class – fuck them all. I can’t afford an upgrade, more than 50% of the plane inevitably has to live with a non-aisle seat, and getting up is inevitably rude and difficult. Stretch you say? Where? You cannot stretch in the aisles. I can barely walk down the aisle to the toilet without hitting someone on the head. The space at the back is strictly for employees. No. These are not feasible suggestions.

We are bound in planes by strict codes of conduct, and strict physical limitations. There is no escape. You cannot move. Fidgeting is rude. Contacting the back of someone’s chair is rude. Getting up from a non-aisle seat frequently is rude. Touching other people is rude. By virtue of these other conditions, stretching, getting dropped items, exercising, expanding, relaxing, breathing, putting a sweater on, taking a sweater off, anything – it’s all like knocking on the jail bars of society with a metal cup. Brrrrrrrrrring. Everyone in the cabin has a migraine worth of taboos, exacerbated with each bang of the cup on your cell.

Anxiety is such a lovely addition to all the tension building up in your body. It’s a lactic acid byproduct of worry, withheld feelings, and bottled up desires. Boredom gives you a free reign to think about the anxiety, to dwell on it, to relish it.

I feel so frustrated writing this, reliving the experience. By the time the plane landed, we had spent one and a half hours on the tarmac (well, those of us in the back who had to get on first had) in the UK, seven and a half hours in the air, and then we had to wait. The plane was stopped. Everyone who could stand was standing. We were racehorses at the starting block. Except we had to be polite racehorses, neither neighing, trembling, stretching, moving, or screaming. Half an hour later, when the gates opened, literally, we could finally give it a jumping start. Ha. Wrong. We could then slowly file out of the maze of chairs, stiff and achy, eyes bulging with politeness. I had been biting my sweater for the last fifteen minutes, in the hopes that my tight jaw could inflict the pain on my sweater that I wanted to reap on the crowd. I wanted to put my shoulder to their backs and charge, bulldozing the stupid sheep until I could wail on the exit door with my fists.

If I suffer another “Oh you go first” by the person in front of me in the next few days, I will probably rip out my hair.

Surprise sex doesn’t work with anxious people

Why do anxious people avoid sex? Am I alone in avoiding sex? Sure, I have other reasons for avoiding it, but I feel certain the anxiety is part of the problem.

It dawned on me yesterday.

Patrick was getting cozy fairly close to dinnertime. Now, Patrick has been working 13-hour days for the last two weeks. I have hardly seen him at all. We didn’t get to have our evening meal and TV program together, and we missed that. So we had planned to have Sunday night dinner together and watch Top Gear. But if we were going to have sex…then the schedule would get messed up. We wouldn’t get to watch Top Gear. We wouldn’t do the thing we were Supposed To Do Next.

This is it. This is why any hints towards sex usually meet a wall of avoidance. I can’t handle changes in my plans.

Ridiculous you say. Yes, it is. But seriously – this is the problem. Sex very often is spontaneous. ‘The Media’ certainly portrays sex as always being spontaneous (and perfect). Sex that is planned lacks allure. Putting sex in your schedule is akin to wearing pocket protectors in terms of attractiveness. That or staring at your smartphone while you’re on a date. To schedule such a romantic detail is to be a nerd, a control freak, a heartless businessman, or an incompetent. I envision a high strung woman in a pencil skirt adding the sex date to her smartphone before getting back to work and ignoring her partner.

Does it have to be this way?

Could there not be room for scheduled sex? The secondary problem with a schedule is that then those with anxiety have lots of time to worry about their sexual performance before the date even starts. I’ve tried scheduling ‘date night time’, and I end up not enjoying the date night because I’m worried that we have to include sex. This is challenging.

But at least I know a big reason why I always say no. Surprises trigger a contingency volcano in my brain. I do not have any answers yet. I will have to ponder this.

How to prepare for a trip, by me

Traveling! Aka. How I have stayed sane so far on this trip.

 

1)   Have copies for yourself, and for someone staying behind of:

  1. Where you are going, with addresses and phone numbers
  2. Prescriptions
  3. Passport photocopy

2)   Keep a list of what you pack, especially items you are likely to unpack and repack a lot during travel

3)   Imagine anxieties for each stage of the journey. For me, this would be:

  1. On the plane

i.     Fear of being late for check in, etc.

ii.     Fear of take off, flying in general, death by falling into the ocean

iii.     Fear of not sleeping enough

iv.     Actually not sleeping enough and the resulting crankiness

  1. Food

i.     Not finding something to eat

ii.     Sugar low

iii.     Food poisoning

  1. Finances

i.     Spending too much money

  1. Getting lost
  2. Losing Patrick
  3. Losing part of my luggage
  4. Getting sick and not being able to sing
  5. People not liking me

4)   What will make me even more anxious?

  1. Not eating enough
  2. Not getting enough sleep
  3. Not taking my medications
  4. Forgetting my skills

5)   Come up with solutions

So! On the plane, I had a mantra to remind myself that plane travel is safer than car travel, and that even if it is the end, I am living my life to the fullest by going on this trip and that is the best way to live.

More practically, I closed the window so I couldn’t see outside. I tensed and relaxed my muscles while taxiing around the airport to keep from getting stiff, and focused on gripping Patrick’s hand as hard as possible when we took off.

I have taken every opportunity for exercise that is practical, such as always taking the stairs, taking long walks, and dancing on the spot while I’m waiting for things to happen. I’ve gone on a lot, but not all, of the side trips and sightseeing activities. This has kept me distracted and occupied, so I don’t have too much time to worry. However, every three days or so, I take the day off from those things, so that I can recoup and do something unscheduled. Today I’m spending the day at a café by myself! With a group of about 80 people on the trip, I needed some time alone.

I’ve kept a fruit in my backpack in case I’m hungry. I’ve also told myself to expect to spend more money than I want, but aim not to get luxuries. I keep to a budget for most meals, and am trying to swallow the nasty exchange rate to pounds sterling, and the extra expense of items here (exchange aside). This is an opportunity for repeating the logical to myself – it just is more expensive and there is nothing I can do. Eating healthily and enjoyably is more important than having money when I get back, as it will be easier to live frugally to make up for the trip when I get back than it will be to starve myself now. Also, I signed up for prepaid breakfast everywhere we go, so I always have a full breakfast to eat.

I go to more social things than I want to, but so many that I don’t pay attention. Last night I was exhausted, and really, really just wanted to go to sleep, but when my friend was really quite disappointed that I wasn’t coming, I came down a half hour later, and had water instead of wine.

Lastly, I’ve been trying to remember to take a multivitamin and eat a very balanced diet. I haven’t had to yell yet, and I pray I do not need to. My voice is my instrument, and I’m playing every day for a few hours.

Compromise! I am going to have a panic attack when I get home about the money, and about the size of my waist. I can’t, after all, make up for not being at the gym while here. My rock climbing will be really terrible.

The hardest part right now is that I have never not planned a trip I’ve been on in my life. I’m a complete sheep on this trip. I am trying to go with the flow. It’s good practice, I guess, at being mindful, present, and accepting my lack of control. Ackkkkkk.

Any other precautionary ideas?