Archive for the 'anxiety' Category

The woman who wasn’t there

February 9, 2010

Deep breath.

So I get really, really anxious sometimes. Not normal anxious. Sick-feeling anxious. Sweaty-palmed, thudding heart, tightened throat, shallow breathing, cold chills anxious. Lose my desire to eat and ability to sleep normally anxious. There’s a low-level anxiety that’s pretty much always with me, but the stronger anxiety attacks tend to be triggered by higher-stakes situations.

If whatever I’m dreading turns out well, then I’m euphoric afterward. So excited and happy and glad it’s OVER and that I wasn’t punished this time–I wasn’t made to feel horrible. I got away with it. Sometimes I think I’m happier that I simply got something over with than I am with success.

If whatever I’m dreading does not turn out well, then I’m depressed afterward. So dark, down, foggy, ennervated, guilty, low, low, low. I’m still glad it’s over, but the rejection or criticism just floors me. I am being punished. I was caught. These feelings are my punishment.

As a result of the above, I am afraid of interacting with authority figures, even in casual ways. I have gradually stopped going to social events. I don’t even really talk to my friends or family these days. I oftentimes have trouble leaving my apartment. Sometimes I won’t go out for days and days. This behavior has worsened of late, probably due to both career- and personal-life stress. Hiding, in one way or another, is my natural response to problems.

The extremity of my reactions makes me put off dealing with whatever the decision might be. I may put off reading that important e-mail for a week or two or three. I may put off returning someone’s call. I may put off rescheduling that appointment. And for every day I put off the confrontation, the worse my anxiety grows. If it goes on long enough, I start to feel depressed and a little panicky because I know I’m being unreasonable, that I need to DO something.

If I still can’t force myself to confront the situation, then my thoughts will turn toward self-medication. Drinking helps alleviate my anxiety. I probably would’ve turned into a drunk if not for the fact that alcohol makes me sick. And perhaps fortunately, I have no idea how to get my hands on other substances that might help in the same way.

I become restless with nervous energy, but completing a simple chore like going to the post office will drain me. I think about breaking things. I have to remind myself not to drop glassware and china I may be holding. I get a strong urge to throw fragile things around, to rearrange the world, to do something strong and dramatic. I throw energy into small, useless tasks to avoid dealing with the important matter. Procrastination is a way of hiding.

And I’m afraid to tell people about any of this. Why? Because I hate the idea of anyone pitying me. Or being weirded out by me, thinking I’m crazy or just trying to get sympathy. Or just thinking about me at all.¬† It’s easier for me to not make an impression on other people, to not stand out, to hide. It’s easier for me to be unnoticed, alone.

I feel like these tendencies have gotten worse since I began living sans roommates. I have license to stay in as much as I can, and to avoid talking to people for days and days. I am safe in here and I don’t really want to come out.

But I’m not a hermit. I can interact with people somewhat normally, especially if I have to. I’m a pretty good actor, but I have to force myself out there. I have to force myself to talk to people. I have to force myself to get past the wall of dread that I build up before interacting with anybody. Sometimes I think the anticipation is worse than anything else. The moment right before I open my mouth is so fucking fraught. It’s ridiculous and irrational, I know it. But I can’t help myself sometimes. It’s hard to turn it off.

I’m hyper-aware of other people’s expressions, their body language, the way they seem to be taking me in. I’ll analyze interactions to death and obsess over problematic details. I’m also hyper-aware of my own reactions, the posture of my body, the gestures I make, the pitch and timbre of my own voice. I hate seeing pictures of myself, watching video of myself, hearing recordings of my voice. I hate when people watch me do anything. I don’t want to be noticed at all.

I hate being this way. I wish I could not be me. I wish I could silence that inner voice. I wish I could interact with people in a more easy way. I wish I didn’t feel so panicky over stupid shit like e-mails and phone calls. I wish I didn’t get so nervous about speaking in front of people, or interacting with authority figures or strangers. I wish I didn’t get such a lingering nasty feeling after a bad interaction, that I could just shake things off.

I’ve learned to deaden my affect somewhat, to present a cool, distant face to the world to prevent people from getting too close. But I do get lonely. I do crave affection and camaraderie and normal relationships. Sometimes I get into good patches, when I feel more capable of facing the world, and things get better, and I convince myself that I’m fine. And then something bad will happen. It doesn’t have to be catastrophic, but it usually involves feeling betrayed by someone I had felt close to, someone I’d trusted. And then everything falls apart. So I can start things, if I put in an effort, but I have trouble maintaining them. I haven’t been in a serious romantic relationship in a long time. I know I’ve alienated some friends over the years. My parents don’t know what to make of me.

For a long time, I didn’t know what to make of me either. My most intense wish has always been to be shipwrecked on some little island somewhere, alone and free. Though I would settle for the power to become invisible whenever I wanted second. I could walk around and not worry about how I look or whether I’m walking funny or what the person who just passed thinks about me. I could walk around and be free of the anxious inner voice that only arises when other people are there.

That’s fucked up, isn’t it? What kind of person wants to be alone for the rest of her life? I’ve known there’s something wrong with me for a long time, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Knowing there’s a name for it helps, but I still have a lot of mess to work through. And I have to figure out how to live my life in a completely new way, to distrust my own instincts, to try to sort the personality out from the disorder.

A revelation

January 31, 2010

By way of typing words into Google at 2 am. And no, sorry, nothing sexy or kinky here.

I’ve been frustrated with how badly I feel I’ve been botching all my relationships: personal and professional. I couldn’t figure out why everything was going wrong for me. And lately, certain tendencies I’ve always had have been getting worse. It’s gotten to the point where these tendencies are taking a serious toll on my life, narrowing it, damaging possibilities, ruining friendships.

When I read the list I found, I was able to put a mental checkmark next to most  of the items on it. Memories of past incidents, situations, relationships suddenly revealed to me an underlying pattern of behavior. Viewed through the narrative of the list of symptoms, my life began to make a scary kind of sense. Scary because it revealed the seeds of a possible, unwanted future.

For awhile, I thought I just had a constant, mild case of depression. Now I think the depression was just a result of the actual problem. It is comforting knowing that there are other people just like me, that it’s a recognized disorder. My personality finally makes sense to me. It is also not comforting because it’s not well-understood and can seem like normal behavior since aspects of it affect everyone in certain situations. I think it will be difficult to explain this to people in a way that doesn’t make it seem like I’m just a fuck up or trying to get sympathy or something.

The difference is that the things everyone feels and does on occasion are things I feel and do all the time. The same kind of thinking arises in both casual and high-stress situations. And the behavior arising from that thinking is automatic, irrational at times, hard to control, more extreme.

It wasn’t so bad for awhile. I was able to fake normalcy pretty well, convincing even myself that I’d changed. But the past few years have been really rough. I’m in a more stressful place, professionally, and I think that has exacerbated these disordered patterns. I just wish I’d known about this a lot earlier. I don’t think I would have done things in the same way if I’d known that there was something that distorted my perception and affected my behavior in these very specific ways.

I’m going to set up an appointment to talk to a professional about this. I have tried therapy in the past, but it didn’t work, I think, because neither of us knew what the real issue was. And annoyingly, the disorder tends to make you want to avoid situations where you have to talk about your problems, which is why most people who have it are diagnosed later in life.

But strangely, I feel so relieved that I’ve figured out what’s wrong with me that I want to tell everyone. I want to have cards printed up with a little explanation so I can hand them out to people when I first meet them. But another part of me, the messed-up part, is strongly vetoing that idea: “They’ll think you’re crazy and unstable! Or that you’re just high-strung and hysterical! Keep quiet, lay low, don’t draw attention.” Now I have to figure out how to not only identify that controlling, anxious little voice, but resist it.