Here's the anxiety log...please keep in mind that at the end of it, in January, I was really no further than when I started...I started seeing Dr. P. later that month...some are in the form of e-mails to my mom.
9/2, afternoon: Had my first anxiety attack yesterday. I can see now that the hypochondria and tics and irritability of the past four years, and even longer, has led up to this. It was all anxiety. At 3pm I called mom and spoke with her on the phone, managed to frighten her, and went back to the office. I think I could feel it building, which is why I phoned mom in the first place. Back at the office, I felt like I had to flee. The sensation of panic got really bad, I felt a nervous warm feeling in my stomach, and all in all it was very scary. Thought about hailing a cab, and even stopped one, but he wouldnít go to Brooklyn and I decided I could take the subway. On the train, the feelings switched between the extreme panic and a calmer sensation that brought with it extreme fatigue.
What I feel when panicky: butterflies in the stomach, some chest tightness, wandering thoughts. The big mental thing is fear that it will get so bad and so permanent that Iíll have no option except *******. This is a brain trick, I have to keep telling myself. I donít feel depressed, or suicidal, but my brain is seeking out the worst thing and thrusting onto me when Iím in my worst state: panic. Even now, typing that, brings about the symptoms to a degree. Got home, napped for a while, woke up every few minutes, had to pee a lot. Finally it went away, and I had an elated feeling. Went running, thought things would be okay. Watched the Yankees for a while, but then the feelings started coming back. So I went to bed, talked with mom again, and managed to fall asleep.
When I woke up this morning, the feelings were with me. Tension, worry, etc. The train ride to work was pretty bad. I thought about getting off at Union Square and walking to the NYU emergency room. Decided against it, got in to work by 8, and by 9 things were better. I made an appointment with the employee health counselors. Called my doctor and left a message, hopefully heíll give me a good referral.
Starting at 11 or shortly after, the bad feelings came back. Same as always.
Hereís the crux of the really bad thoughts: what if this lasts so long, or becomes so regular, that I canít live with it anymore? Thatís the thought that tortures me, and that I have to learn to beat. I feel like maybe Iíve sensed this coming for a while, but always hoped Iíd never have an actual breakdown. Not sure if this is it, or if it will disappear in a couple days. But Iím not feeling good.
9/3, morning: After an excellent afternoon yesterday, nighttime brought the bad feelings back. Went to bed at 9:30, very tired, managed to fall asleep without much trouble. When I woke up around 4am, was feeling good, but waking up again at 7, not good. The train ride to work was rough, but not as rough as yesterdayís, so I take that as progress even though I was hoping yesterday afternoon that the worst was over. Didnít have the urge to get off and go to the hospital like yesterday. Just have to keep it in my head that this is a cycle, a diminishing one, hopefully, but one that requires a lifestyle change to permanently defeat. Things worrying me today:
*I have to take the GRE tomorrow morning, and this isnít the best time for me to be put in a stressful situation.
*I havenít read much or written anything since Wednesday, and am feeling kinda tentative about itÖworried that literature or the thought processes needed to write the stories will bring back the worst of the bad feelings.
*Last night the hunger returned, but now itís gone again. Had half a bowl of cheerios this morning, along with an orange. Stomach doesnít feel good, have that butterfly feeling still.
Yesterday the bad feelings went away in the morning around 930/10ish, so itíll be interesting to see if the cycles stay more or less the same today. Going to stop hoping for the quick fix and just try to make it day by day through the weekend.
Wednesday, September 9:
How are ya? My cell phone died, so I have to wait to charge it after work today. Things are going okay here. The anxiety is not disappearing like I'd hoped, I'm starting to get discouraged. I saw the work shrink yesterday, she was really nice, but to talk about the attack again sort of brought the feelings back. Had a rough night and a rough morning. I'm scared of having to go on meds. I know it's only been a week, so I'm gonna stick it out a while longer, but this is just no fun. No fun at all. I feel like my outlook has changed, I've gone from being uncertain of the future to sort of terrified of it. I don't want to stay at this job, obviously, but now I'm kinda worried if I'm even capable of going through the stress of a change. I know this is the anxiety talking, and I'm hoping it goes away again this morning/afternoon, but the feelings are so difficult. It's like the brain battling for control of itself. Bleh.
I just want to be clear that the ******* stuff is a case of obsessive thinking...my mind is trying to scare itself, sort of, and I have to train myself not to do that, or to think about something else when it starts happening. It's different from being suicidal. I don't want you to worry about me. When I was a little kid, I would sometimes make myself cry at night by thinking about you or dad dying. This isn't too much different. It's a weird tendency to think the worst thing. It's also not uncommon for anxiety sufferers. I go on this message board sometimes, and today I was in a chat room and everyone told me it was really normal.
Now, it's obviously not good, and needs to be dealt with, but I don't want you thinking I'm on the ledge over here. I love you and would try everything in the world, including lobotomy, before succumbing to that.
Anyway, I'm feeling slightly better this afternoon. I'm so tired, I think that's why today was really bad. I made an appointment with a full-time psychiatrist. I'll meet with him next Tuesday. He can prescribe meds if he thinks that's what I need. I'll be open and honest with him about everything
I love you mom, and I'm glad you're tough. I'm committed to fighting this and persevering through the really shitty times like this morning. I'm sorry this is happening now. I know you get frustrated with me.
Thu, September 10:
This has been a much better morning than yesterday. I did sleep all the way through last night, which is kind of incredible. Bed at 5 when I got home from work, up at 5:45 this morning. Did yoga with gf The anxiety was there this morning, then went away soon after yoga, and it's kinda below the surface now. Still there a little bit. It's going to take a total health commitment to beat this thing. Yesterday was a bad reminder. I stayed up late-ish the previous two nights, didn't get good sleep, and paid for it in a big way. Anxiety is always waiting there if I go back to the old way of doing things.
I'm trying not to get too high when I feel good, thinking it'll help me not get too low when it's bad. I feel okay now, but I also know it'll come back, maybe really quickly. The therapist thing scares me. Talking about the whole thing Tuesday with the work lady brought the feelings back, and I'm afraid it'll happen again next Tuesday with the psychiatrist. But I'm told that in the end, it's good to go through therapy, even if it provokes bad feelings at the moment. But the thought of it is not fun.
That's about it. Plugging along! Love ya.
Friday, Sept. 11
Hey momma, hanging in there. Yesterday was a really good day that began and ended with a bit of anxiety. This morning is going pretty well too. A minimum of the bad stuff, though it's not completely gone. I still get surges of the panicky feeling. Keeping it contained, though, which is about all I can do. I'm hoping it keeps gradually slipping away. Thinking about unpleasant future things tends to bring it back, like going to the therapist Tuesday, to the wedding next weekend, or what the hell I'm going to do with my life in the long term.
The good part is the bad thoughts have mostly been quieted, since I've recognized them as obsessions and not realities, and I'm feeling pretty good (knock on wood) that I can get by without recourse to meds.
Love you! Hope school calms down for you. Mwah.
9/14: Just giving you a status update. Feeling okay this morning, a few remnants of anxiety from last night. K gave me a call after the Giants game, and T was in the background. Word has traveled that I'll be bringing gf up for the wedding, so after a few cracks about her being blind or deaf, T told K to tell me that "when he sees me with my girlfriend, he's going to punch me in the face."
Which, for a while, brought the bad feelings back. I kept my head, and asked K to ask T if he wanted to talk, but of course the answer was no. I hung up soon after, and my immediate reaction was "no way am I bringing gf up." But I'm reading this book called "Don't Panic," which is really good, and part of the thing is that the way to deal with anxiety or panicky situations is to meet them head on. So I'm not changing any plans. I'll have to grin and bear whatever happens up there; can't start avoiding problems because I'm afraid of a reaction. The hardest part will be avoiding an anger reaction if he does something stupid, which he probably will. It's funny how an otherwise lazy, dumb-ish kid can be kind of smart when it comes to being mean.
But this will be a good test, I think. Of course it'll make me anxious this week to some extent, but I can face it down and prove to myself that things aren't as scary as they seem. I need to keep reminding myself that I'm mentally strong, and can take the abuse that comes and roll with it. The minute I start isolating myself from unpleasant encounters, that's conceding something, I think. Which I haven't done so far, and I'm not about to start. And that means I have to be nice to T, and remember how hurt and angry he is inside, and try at least not to provoke that further by giving in to the cycle of anger and retaliation. Being the bigger person is everything here. And actually, even though I sort of dread bringing her, having gf around should make that easier.
So I'm plowing through the day, letting these feelings run their course. Conflict defines that side of the family, sadly, but I'm determined to stay out of it this time. If that means leaving Saturday after the wedding, so be it. Okay, just wanted to get that off my chest.
Love you mom!
Had a second anxiety attack on Tuesday. This one very clearly set off by a specific eventÖI was trying to get tickets all day for the Yankee playoff game, and then K said heíd be coming for the weekend, and I was tired and stressed and hadnít done yoga in a while and etc. Then I spoke with gf on e-mail, and she told me about the possibility of following her boss to Long Island and getting into med school that way. Gave me a dark feeling in the pit of my stomach. She came over at night, when things had started to get Ďyucky,í and we spoke, and she cried and said something like ďI hate how to get one thing, I have to give up something I love.Ē This gave me the idea that sheíd already sort of given me up in her head, and I said something like ďyouíll meet someone else.Ē ďI know, but I want you,Ē or something to that effect, was her response, which panicked me because I was fishing for ďweíre going to make it through this!Ē We talked, and decided weíd try, but the damage to my head was doneÖstarted with the obsessive thinking, about her happy future and me alone, and etc. until when we were lying in bed I started to lose it. Made myself get up and go to the bathroom, and started shaking. My teeth were chattering, my hands and feet turned ice cold, gf tried to warm me up. Then I made myself go to bed, but I had the cold sweats throughout the night and bad dreams. I had the next two days off and could basically sleep it away. Today was my first day back at work, and itís been off and on all day. All told, I think the cycle isnít as bad as the first time, which maybe means progress. But Iíd hoped I was out of the woods. Still, I recognize that I didnít stay with my planÖstarted abusing my body and mind again with bad habits. Gotta focus! This weekend should be interesting.
Friday, October 30:
Made it through the above mentioned weekend with Kyle and his friend pretty well. Even had a good amount of beer, and didnít have huge anxiety problems. I went for a couple weeks without feeling too bad, but the last couple days have been very hard. Triggered on Wednesday by talk with gf of our futureÖshe said her deepest fear was that I was using her to get through this anxiety period of my life, and that maybe I didnít actually love her. I told her it wasnít the case, but my brain, trained to look for the worst possible outcome, wondered if there was any truth to it. Then I thought maybe it would be most responsible to break up with her before she came with me or wherever, and then I imagined trying to deal with this without her, which brought 2 thoughts: 1, I donít know how well Iíd do with this all alone, and 2, does this mean itís true, that Iím really just using her for stability purposes? I actually donít think thatís the case, but it started the negative thinking loop, and Wednesday was kinda rough. Yesterday was real bad, culminating just as I went to yoga. On the mat beforehand, I imagined life after school, and what if I hated it, and what if I lost all enthusiasm for life, and what if the anxiety stayed forever, and what if I then had to 0473 to escape? Awful thoughts, and again, typing them know gives me knots in my stomach. Iím trying to make an appointment with a shrink. Itís semi-bad this morning. No panic attacks, and Iím trying to follow the advice I read in my book, which is too accept the anxiety as practice. Itís now been 2 months of this crappy cycle. My hope is that it fades as I make the change to grad school.
Monday, Nov. 2:
Rough Thursday and Friday night last week. The bad thoughts came in strong while I watched a movie on Friday. Saturday I was completely exhausted, got some good rest. Played football Sunday and had an okay day, but today has been rough. Pretty tired from the Yankee World Series game. I listened to an audio recording of Dr. Claire Weekes, kind of a self-help thing. The main advice was to accept the anxiety, let it flow over you and try to prevent the secondary fear reaction, provided by me, that makes it really bad. This made me feel better Friday night and intermittently throughout the weekend. Iím having less success now, but I do feel Iím keeping things in order. These suicidal thoughts are absurd, but very powerful. Iím trying to recognize them as symptoms of anxiety, and not anything realistic, but the panic is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dr. Weekes says these things take 2 months, maybe more, to emerge from, so Iím not banking on any kind of quick recovery. Itís a matter of teaching my body that the original anxious feeling is not necessary, not a true threat, and the way to do that is by nullifying my own fear response. Iím very exhausted today, though, so itís been a bit harder. I know once I get my life together, start getting good sleep, get back in the habit of writing, etc., Iíll be much better. I need this World Series to end! In the meantime trying to accept all anxiety, and delaying the obsessive worrying about ******* or a dismal future as a strategy. Currently trying to put it off until 11am. Iíve been visiting the anxiety message board, which helps. gf has been great. Plugging away here. I am one big vessel of acceptance. Course through me, anxiety. I have time.
Wednesday, Nov. 4:
Things have been better over the past few days. A few spikes here and there, but in general the trend is positive. Last night I went with Brandon to the opera, which was a blast. Nice to see I can still enjoy going out with friends without being overcome. I have to keep doing that. Iím reading David Foster Wallaceís book again, trying not to engage in avoidanceÖmy friend just came in and asked about him, and I told him about DFWís *******, and he got curious, so of course I had to look it up and read all the awful details. Which caused a spike, but Iím dealing with it. My first therapy appointment is Friday at 4, hopefully the doctor can give me some useful advice. In the meantime, Iím trying to accept all instances of anxiety and let it sweep over me without adding my own secondary fear. Out for a walk now, hoping the lessening anxiety trend continues.
Monday, November 9:
Things were good Thursday and Friday, then I saw a shrink Friday night, and it didnít click. She was nice, and way better than the crazy psychiatrist, but it was a lot of delving into past issues. I donít really buy into that, I donít thinkÖI understand circumstances in my life have led me to this point, and have brought on anxiety (whether genetic or environmental), but I also have a good idea what they are, and how to change them. What I need is a plan to deal with anxiety, and encouragement in those efforts. In that sense, I believe a cognitive-behavioral therapist is the best bet. The shrink Friday just told me some obvious things, and maybe seemed like she was prying into divorce-related stuff. Thereís no connection between us. Anyway, that panicked me for Friday night, but I kept myself together. This weekend dad and the kids came, and we had a good time. Very tired today, but having a good day anxiety wise. Yoga after work, some errands, and then hopefully an early rest.
Wednesday, November 11:
Something semi-good to report today: I was reading Gís music blog when I saw something about claustrophobia. It reminded me of the MRI, then I started thinking Ďoh no, what if I get claustrophobic in my own body?í This sent me on what Iíll call Ďthe spiral,í but extremely so this time, with flashes of panic approximating the first attack. I felt the fight or flight kick in, but I made myself cool down, absorb the anxiety, and not leave. Iím not sure if I actually overtly thought of the processes that had led to it, but the acceptance thing worked, to some extent, in the sense that it didnít erupt into a huge attack. I feel like crap now, and am totally tired, and I was pissing every ten minutes or so afterward, but itís still something. Iím in the midst of a big fitness kick, doing yoga or running every day. Itís yoga today, after work, then home to gf and some relaxation. Also, Iím making an appointment with a CB therapist. Weíll see how that goes. Plugging along with this thing.
Friday, November 13:
The past two days have been pretty good. Keeping my energy up, exercising, doing yoga. Last night was gf'ís birthday and I had two beers, sleep was just okay. Woke up a little tired and considered calling in sick, but here I am. Some enthusiasm starting to return. Today Iíve sort of forced myself to consider some of the thoughts I was feeling, ie the fear of depressive future and the claustrophobia feeling. My idea is if I encounter them when they arenít at their worst, it might familiarize me with them so when they do rear their heads, itís not as frightening. Not sure if this is intelligent or I should just let them sit and not worry. In any case, when the thoughts do come (the name David Foster Wallace from reading a previous entry just sent a shot of chemicals through me), Iím able to absorb it and not add secondary fear. Itís a nice feeling. Memory alone seems to want to keep me in the anxiety funk. Being tired makes a difference, though; Iím more on edge, or more susceptible to anger, I feel. Still, where I am today compared to last week is positive. Hoping to keep the positive vibes flowing and continue to accept, absorb, and remain cool.