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Anxiety [Sep. 13th, 2009|11:11 am]
I'm having some anxiety/over-energized feelings and I'm talking about how I feel and how I'm trying to deal. I'm putting it behind a cut-tag because I'm not sure if this might be troubling for some folks.

This is not a plea for sympathy, and please, do not offer any - it will make me feel bad in this moment. It's just me trying to get something down, and share something with the world.

So, for the past week, on a moment's notice, I can get that jumpy-feeling in my abdomen - not my guts, mind you, but that tense, anxious feeling. My heart can go into fast mode.

I can feel what it feels like to be "toxic", to feel that your presence poisons other people. I can feel what it feels like to feel hated. I can feel what it feels like to want to beg for crumbs of companionship, and realize that desperate people begging for companionship are energy sinks (at best) and vampires (at worst), and you either have too much pride and just suffer, or decide your pain trumps your pride and you go begging. And, probably, end up hurting both yourself and others.

I can feel all of those feelings, and others, and they're all competing with my normal thoughts in my brain.

I can feel incipient anxiety and I don't like it. I can feel incipient hypomania and I'm trying to avoid it. I feel buzzy and frazzled and a large part of me wants to drink enough alcohol to get to an even keel, but I come from a family with alcoholism in its history, and I know better than to tempt that particular fate.

So, how am I handling it?

Well, I'm taking stock of my symptoms and reminding myself I know them all. That buzzy feeling? Yeah, I've had that before, I don't like it. And that feeling of energy/adrenaline in my gut? Yeah, I know that pretty well by now. That headachey feeling? Yep, that happens sometimes. That jumpiness? Yeah, I get that.

And I keep reminding myself that it's not real, it's just a set of physical sensations.

Does that sound dry and analytical? "I take stock of myself and remind myself that it's all just a set of physical sensations." If you say that in the right voice, and the right tone of voice, and you know how this feels, you'll probably burst out laughing at the thought, the very idea of someone saying that.

But that's what I'm doing.

I'm helped by thinking of an LJ acquaintance - I'm shy about giving the name because I can't even remember if it was a public post - who said that she didn't expect even her best days to be pain free.

It would, in some ways, be easier if this was a physical pain. Everyone knows that if you hurt, things suck. But we all have our pains, and only some of them are the kinds that trigger the responses that make us go "ouch". And if I was in intractable pain, I would have to live with it, somehow or another. I wouldn't like it, but I'd still have to deal. Because what else could I do? Not live? Not a really good option.

But I think it's the same sort of process. "Ah, *that* pain. Yes, I know that one. It's normal - well, it's known. It's something that pops up and I can't just make it go away. Okay, I'll have to learn to deal."

Because this is the funny thing about these pains. If I start to be afraid of them, if I start to get anxious over them, or hate them, or if I start to judge my day by whether or not I still feel them, then I'll give them more emotional energy. I'll keep making them worse.

This is *not* a blame thing! Okay, I'm not saying that if they get worse, it'll be my fault. But I do know that if I let myself go down the path of fear/worrying/hating/judging, I know that will generally cause them to get worse. So I have to find a way to deal with having the pains, and not letting them drive me down that path. And I need to learn to live a healthy life while still feeling these pains.

And I'm trying to deal.

I mentioned to a friend that if there was one thing I really wanted right now, it was a peek ahead a bit further in my life, so I knew if I was getting through a storm or whether this was normal, and if I'd learn to deal with it or what.

I still don't know, but I also know that if I'm not able to be patient, I won't ever learn if I can get through this and find a happy balancing point.

[User Picture]From: phoenixpdx
2009-09-13 07:00 pm (UTC)
Huh. This isn't by way of sympathy, but of another piece of information which may or may not be helpful; do with it as you will.

I had a friend some time ago who had regular adrenaline dumps, out of nowhere, with no particular trigger. What he said it felt like is a lot like what you say your feelings feel like. His doctor called them "panic attacks" (and it was different from "anxiety attacks"), and said it was a bad circuit in the adrenal/limbic system. There were meds he took to ameliorate it somewhat but they didn't go completely away. He said that one that helped a lot was to exercise a bunch when it started coming on. He said that gave the adrenaline "somewhere to go"...so he'd go for a long walk, or get on the exercycle or something. He said it had to be "sweaty" to work, and preferably involve moving lots of big muscle groups.

He used to think they were anxiety attacks and would try to sit calmly and breathe deeply. Never helped. Moving around did.

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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-09-13 08:08 pm (UTC)
Nod. This wasn't a problem, and didn't come across as what I was asking people to avoid.

In this particular circumstance, at this particular part of my life, I'm actually seeing exercise as being like alcohol. I know that it will reduce the symptom temporarily, but I also don't want to lean on it as a crutch, and I know I need to be able to get by without *needing* to exercise, because I might have to - if I'm injured, say, I might not be able to exercise, and I'll have to be able to deal with this anyway.

(And, I've gotten enough exercise that if this was acute, it would have gone away. So, even with exercise, I'm a bit stuck with this, for a while at least.)

But it is very good advice; exercise helps drain the nervous energy, and helps engage the parasympathetic system as your body returns to normal, which means it can have additional happy effects in bringing a person back to an even keel.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-09-14 08:35 pm (UTC)
Well, I *am* exercising pretty frequently. What I meant was, I don't want to go out and exercise with the express purpose of feeling better, because then, if I don't feel better, it's like "crap, it didn't work" and then the anxiety gets worse because, hey, I *can't* get rid of it by exercising.

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[User Picture]From: 64tbird
2009-09-13 08:02 pm (UTC)
FWIW, anxiety is the most frequent "disorder" in the book... a lot of folks attribute it to evolution. We needed that feeling once, to keep ourselves alive. We just haven't managed yet to adapt it to modern living.

I know that feeling too and hate it. I usually catch myself speaking out loud to no one during those times and hope to God no one heard me either. Usually I say, "I hate everything!" or "I wanna go home!" (Home being some place not on this planet or maybe not even this time space continuum.)

The good news is that:
a) it seems to hit lots of people all at once so we are likely all in our own little anxiety headspaces,
b) it passes. It passes every damn time. Which is irritating as hell as it throws me into fight or flight for no good reason and then slips away like nothing ever happened. But it does pass.

I just assume it's normal, and treat it that way, and incorporate it as best as I can towards getting through life without ending up in a hospital in a room with bouncy walls.

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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-09-16 06:34 pm (UTC)
Nod. Right now, the biggest nerve-wracking thing about this is, I think I could probably fight this off - by getting depressed.

Which is making me feel a bit funky, like, what, is that my choice, live feeling like this, or being depressed?

I'm hoping the choice isn't quite that; I'm hoping things will get to a more even keel.
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[User Picture]From: 64tbird
2009-09-16 09:41 pm (UTC)
Helluva choice indeed.

I can't remember if you are on meds... but anti-depressents work quite nicely on anxiety too....
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-10-05 05:16 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm not med averse - and I have enough Wellbutrin to take to last me until I can get to the doctor. But right now, I want to know if I can handle this without meds. I've no intention of being stupid - but I also don't want to think "oh no, I've had *three bad days in a row!*" Doctors aren't supposed to treat depression unless it lasts a few weeks (maybe even two months?).

Part of the reason I'm doing this is that I'm experimenting with a type of therapy from the inside. And it's working. It's Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the first step is to accept how you feel, without hating it, and then trying to live your life, with your problems, counting your victories by whether or not you're living your life well, *not* by whether or not you're happy.

So, e.g., if I'm anxious, but I can tell whether or not it's good to go to a social gathering, and if I go and have fun, even though I'm anxious, then it's a victory. I'm still anxious, but the idea isn't "don't be anxious" - if I try to do that, I get anxious over anxiety. The idea is "live well". And, eventually, I'll be as anxious as I am - I'm not feeding the anxiety by other worries (like "what if I never stop feeling anxious?"). Maybe then, it's time to consider ADs or anti-anxiety meds.
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[User Picture]From: 64tbird
2009-09-16 11:45 pm (UTC)
And then this came up as homework and I found THIS article...

The anxiety is a good thing...see:
"Anxiety is often a component found within many other mental disorders as well. The most common mental disorder which presents with anxiety is depression. Clinicians generally regard such anxiety as a good sign, because it means that the individual hasn't simply accepted their depressed mood as they would a free meal... "
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[User Picture]From: anansi133
2009-09-13 08:40 pm (UTC)
It really doesn't seem very common, for people to use their coldly rational thinking mind to try to analyze problems of the heart. If thins kind to thinking was more common, there would be far less addictive behavior methinks.

And kudos for the self-discipline, BTW. That's exactly the sort of post i most need to read on LJ, even if it's about less than pleasant stuff.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-09-16 06:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks; I was hoping it might be helpful to someone. I know it might have helped me to read it at one time or another.
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[User Picture]From: ftemery
2009-09-13 09:29 pm (UTC)
This resonates for me in two areas I need to work on: physical pain, unless you have blood or a bone sticking out, is not necessarily something other people "get".

Begging for companionship - I see a certain amount of voluntary vulnerability in offering what I have - my needs, to see if the other person finds something in me that they need. It's not begging so much as a possibility of trust. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not.

I deal with a lot of "not good enough" thoughts from my past. I don't always have good insights into it, like you do here.
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[User Picture]From: submarine_bells
2009-09-13 10:53 pm (UTC)
So, how am I handling it?

Well, I'm taking stock of my symptoms and reminding myself I know them all. That buzzy feeling? Yeah, I've had that before, I don't like it. And that feeling of energy/adrenaline in my gut? Yeah, I know that pretty well by now. That headachey feeling? Yep, that happens sometimes. That jumpiness? Yeah, I get that.

And I keep reminding myself that it's not real, it's just a set of physical sensations.

Does that sound dry and analytical? "I take stock of myself and remind myself that it's all just a set of physical sensations." If you say that in the right voice, and the right tone of voice, and you know how this feels, you'll probably burst out laughing at the thought, the very idea of someone saying that.

That sounds to me like *exactly* the right way to handle it. It's how I handle chronic pain, and how I try to handle my (thankfully rare) panic attacks. It gets one's "self" a bit of distance from the feelings, and able to deal with them rather than being them, if you know what I mean. Sounds to me like you're definitely on the right track there. :-)
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[User Picture]From: tigerbright
2009-09-14 01:34 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: marypcb
2009-09-14 12:17 am (UTC)
sounds like a really practical way to handle it... FWIW, while I'm not sure how congruent your symptoms are or whether there's a specific repeated pattern, I found a cognitive therapy very helpful for flying-related panic that analysed the progression of symptom and reaction, numbered them, and walked me through them 'out of order' to break the associations of the progression. more of a meta tool than a specific treatment like exercise/alcohol; having once gone 2 7 4 3 1 6, going 1-7 in order was no longer the only choice IYSWIM.
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[User Picture]From: erin_c_1978
2009-09-14 01:47 am (UTC)
In my experience, what you describe is an incredibly useful way of managing anxiety. More and more, I've been able to say to myself, "Well, I'm feeling really anxious, and that sucks, but it's not going away, so I might as well do something I've been wanting to do or wanting to get done." Even when that doesn't ameliorate the anxiety -- sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't -- well, at least I've gotten shit done. I've also been getting better at enjoying myself in spite of or alongside anxiety. This has the side benefit of helping keep depression at bay, as I have an unfortunate tendency to let anxiety curl me up into a ball of scared-to-do-anything.
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[User Picture]From: ljgeoff
2009-09-14 02:03 am (UTC)
Thanks for this.
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[User Picture]From: fourgates
2009-09-14 05:42 am (UTC)
Just another data point: Your analysis reminds me of my own analysis, from years ago, of causes of my chronic mild-to-moderate depression. After some years of this I decided to try acupuncture (actually, I tried it after convincing others to try it for other purposes). I found acupuncture to be amazingly effective, though the reset wouldn't last for long. Over time seeing the contrast between "tuned" and "not tuned" helped me to better figure out what causes me to get untuned.

Now changing the patterns is a different story. :) But I digress.

Back to the main point: I had lots of reasons to attribute the depression to psychology, and ran circles trying to fix those things I thought were root causes, to no avail. When I tried a different track it was better than I ever imagined possible. I found it quite a relief to be able to self-check and say "ah, it's a chi thing."

By the way, the effect of acupuncture is profound enough that I later started studying full-time at the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Then they went bankrupt and I decided that while I appreciate it a lot and find it fascinating, I'm a better accessibility technology geek. I can decide to go back to that later when I can't keep up with techies any more.

So I would strongly suggest giving acupuncture a go. It might be a chi thing. Either way, checking it out might be enlightening.
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