Friday, September 06, 2013

Weathering the Week That Is

Here's another glimpse of what it's like to live with anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia.

As I've talked about, I'm extremely anxious/nervous about the wedding tomorrow (and the rehearsal dinner tonight). And I've talked about how I've been unable to find a medication that works for me as far as evening me out.

So I'm just trying to keep in a calm space and get a lot of exercise so I can stay active and get some of that serotonin to keep from stressing out too much (and also to resistance-train myself a bit so that, honestly, I don't crumble when I'm standing up in the ceremony, because my obesity also comes with the bodily strength of an infant... those years on Lex ruined me).

Now, for the first part of this week, I'd been doing pretty good. I've been developing allergies the last few years, and there's something going around in the air right now that's really aggravating them. My nose is running, I'm sneezing a lot, and I just generally feel tired and sick. At first I was worried that this was something my subconscious was doing; last year I figured out that getting sick all of a sudden was actually a subconscious defense mechanism that kicks in when I'm really afraid to do something. (I actually have really good control over a lot of things my body does. I'm trying to figure out how to turn this to my advantage for weight loss.) But then my therapist showed up, also sick from allergies, so I know there's actually a reason I've been like this. (And for the record, allergies don't usually bother her, either. But Becca has bad allergies and she's not bothered by whatever's in the air at all. Weird, man.)

Lately in therapy we've been talking about my specific anxieties. My therapist and I made a list on notebook paper. I was a bit embarrassed because my list of fears took up most of a page, but then she told me that having only one page was good for a man as low-functioning and anxious as I am. So... good?

Here's how some of those anxieties have been manifesting themselves in a week when all I want to do is relax.

Tuesday, our internet went out. Only the internet. Becca called the service center and talked to a heavily accented man who seemed to think he was on a social call. He couldn't do anything to help us, other than tell us to power cycle the modem. When that didn't work, he told us we needed to replace the modem for one of the newer models, which we could just trade in.

One of my biggest anxieties, born of the many computer and external drive crashes I've weathered over the years, is technology not working correctly.

So that was stressful, but I managed to swallow it and walk over to the modem, unplug everything, and jam a pen through the tiny reset hole and reset the entire machine. It came back on fine. So, I apparently know more about how to fix these things than the professionals whose job it is to help me fix them. Good to know.

I did okay with that, but it was hard to swallow my residual anxiety from that. In fact, I didn't each much of my dinner because I felt sick from having felt anxious before then.

Moving on to Wednesday. I had something too sugary and had diarrhea all day long. (TMI, maybe, but I'm being honest here.) I was worried about the sick feeling lasting for more than an afternoon, and it made the day more stressful for me. The biggest add-on to that was that I was, in a sense, having a fight with my pet rabbit that afternoon. Princess has a strong burrowing instinct, and her claws are too long right now (she's got an appointment to get them clipped on Monday), and she's shedding, so she's extremely irritable. Every time I had to go into the bathroom, she would start digging at the carpet, trying to pull it up, and it would just add to my frustration, because I can have a really hard time with things like patience.

One of my anxieties is that I'm going to be unable to control my anger and I'll accidentally hurt someone or some innocent animal.

Princess knows, on some level, that what she's doing isn't allowed. But she also has a strong instinct to do it. Rabbits are pretty trainable, but this is one of her biggest biological urges. And I know all that. But it's also hard for me to not get frustrated and yell and get angry. So it really pulled a lot of energy out of me that day. I didn't scream at her, but she could pick up my irritation and didn't want me near her for a while, either. It just made things tense. We were the only two home.

That's another anxiety: being alone for too long. Becca works from about noon until invariably 8 or 9pm on Wednesdays, and that's really hard for me, too. It's hard for her. But I talked to some people on the phone and it instilled me with more confidence. Plus I wrote my toast that night and I was very happy with it. I talk about Carl Sagan and the Voyager program in it. It's pretty cool.

Yesterday started out as a good day. I had an appointment with my psychiatrist, which happens every couple of months. I always have to wait and wait there. I was having a good day up until then, even though the internet went out again. Actually, cable went out entirely; there was a city-wide outage after a fiber-optic line somewhere was accidentally cut. We had just decided to turn in the old modem and exchange it for a new one, but we couldn't because of the outage. We went and had some really nice frozen custard and enjoyed the cool breeze instead.

So, at my psychiatrist's office, the nurse takes my vitals and notices my already-high blood pressure is higher than usual. Not the highest it's ever been, but pretty high. I think it's because I had some soup with lunch that turned out to be saltier than I expected, and then had a burger with all kinds of hot stuff on it. She starts telling me I have to go to a doctor, which sets me off inside because I can't afford to go to a doctor and I'm uninsured and that whole anxiety just bubbles up to the surface.

Besides being treated like a criminal at the clinic for daring to want health care and not have insurance, one of my big anxieties is that I'll have something truly medically wrong with me and won't be able to afford to do anything about it. So I follow my usual pattern of catastrophizing the event in my mind. The nurse told me that the psychiatrist might just send me to the hospital, and I actually wanted to just walk out without even seeing him because my anxiety was getting out of control.

Of course, it was the usual 45-minute wait to see him, so I had time to go through my usual thing and then calm down from it. But the nurse also told me I lost six pounds, and my panic disorder took any joy I could have felt about that away from me. Like it always does. I don't feel good about it because I associate it now with that terrible feeling I had at the time, and I don't feel like it's a real accomplishment because it was just me that did it, and if I could do it, it must not be anything meaningful. Yeah, my mind does that to me, too.

After that was the long drive to Geneva (anxiety: being a passenger in a car) to pick up my tux for the wedding. I was supposed to have the free tux, but apparently Carl had forgotten to tell me that there was no longer a free tux because they had to cancel one, and he intended to pay for it because he's been very sympathetic to my financial situation. I tried on the tux... damn, was it comfy. I don't think I looked good in it, but that's hardly the fault of the tux. It's very nice. Unfortunately for it, it has to drape my body. Damn, I am not a good-looking guy.

Once again, I lament that the antibiotic I used to take to clear up my skin was taken off the list of $4 generics. That helped me a lot. Made me more confident actually not being a guy who's almost 40 and has terrible skin.

Honestly, while at Men's Wearhouse, it was Becca's turn to panic. She didn't know what we were going to do about the cost of the rental. When Becca panics, that actually has the effect of calming me down: I have to fix the situation so she doesn't spin out, because it's far more important to me to make her comfortable than it is for me to be comfortable. I called Carl about that, and he apologized for having forgotten to warn me about that. Perfectly understandable: with less than 48 hours until the wedding at the time, he had a lot on his mind. I'm sure he's been putting out little fires for months. As they were hemming the pants, I talked to him and sort of absorbed his calm about it. He's calm and even excited; I started to feel that way, too. And he took care of the rental cost over the phone.

I have to say again that Carl's really gone out of his way on this whole thing to make it easier for me to be included. I know I'm only one component of this, and I'm making a big deal out of it because my anxiety is so hard to control. This isn't about me and whether or not I screw up: this is about Carl and Kate and them getting married, and they'll get married and be married whether or not I screw up my toast or trip and fall on my face while walking out of the chapel. It won't stop them from having a wedding.

I know I talk a lot about how scared I am--having literally any responsibility placed on me right now, even if it's just the responsibility of making cake frosting from scratch, feels like the weight of the world and makes me panic--but I really am also excited for it. There's a part of me that can't wait until it's over and I can just be lazy and watch Netflix and not have to worry about doing something. But there's also a part of me determined to just enjoy it and do well and not be tense the whole time. Because you know what? As much as I feel like this is going to really boost my confidence and make me feel more capable, it's ain't my day. It's Carl and Kate's day. I'm just lucky enough to be there.

I have to say, too, as low-functioning as I am, it kind of amazed me the way Carl was in a good mood and apologized and just coolly took care of it. I don't know how people just do that. I used to know, but now I'm just so overwhelmed by anything.

So, I didn't freak out about the tux, except of course for my lingering suspicion that I'm just not going to do justice to the thing. And I decompressed a bit on the drive home. We drove through a more rural sort of area and it was pretty and made me feel good. When we got back to DeKalb, the outage was over and we exchanged our modem. I had a bit more anxiety pop up when trying to get our wifi receiver to line up with the new modem, but after I just shut the wifi off and turned it back on, it picked it up and now our internet is actually faster and the HD cable looks better than before. So that turned out.

Today I woke up a little anxious but without that stab of panic that characterized last weekend. My allergies are acting up again today, too, so I guess that's keeping me subdued. I'm also just going over what I have to do in my mind; the rehearsal dinner is in six hours, and then I've got to get up early tomorrow to get ready and I have to be there by 9:30, so I won't really have time to let it get in my head and psych me out. And you know, even if it does, I'm doing it anyway, so there.

Wow, that's a long, rambling post. But talking about all of the anxiety this way is just really therapeutic for me. Having just sat here listening to psychedelic rock while thinking and reasoning this out has made me feel loads better.

I'll take a nice, long bath today and just relax and try to meditate.

And my psychiatrist wants to put me on something called buspirone that I start taking on Sunday, so we'll see how that goes.

For now, I just need to... well, I was going to say get through the next day and a half. But I really don't want to just get through them. I want to experience them.


Kal said...

You got this...mutherfucker. Good luck. I look forward to your post game report. Think of it like a performance. That is what Alfred told Batman once. It's a performance. I know, not helping. Know you will do great my brother.

Roger Owen Green said...

You'll do great.
I don't know if you drink, but if you do, have ONE and nurse it all night.

Starly said...

You sound like you're getting stronger mentally - you'll take this challenge and "run with it"! I'm proud of you and the ways you're working these things out. Stay strong! You're my inspiration!!!

DrGoat said...

You're a mensch, no doubt about it. I know what it's like to deal with anxiety, and you are doing very well with it. Good luck. You'll do great.