Tuesday, April 08, 2008

History Lesson

I don't remember my first panic attack. I remember having recurring nightmares all through my childhood- nothing visual like a conventional dream, but physical feelings. It was like my lungs filled with concrete, my body was paralyzed, and I would flash back and forth between being crushed by all the gravitational pull in the universe to complete lack of gravity- weightlessness, almost like God and the world and everything abandoned me in nothingness. And the flashing back and forth was so intensely strong and terrifying, accompanied by not being able to move or scream out or breathe- I thought I was dying. And as a kid, I thought it was a ghost or a monster doing something to me while I slept. I remember making my dad check the closet. As I got a little older, my younger brother would have them as well. I remember one night, my dad was comforting my terrified brother, who was so scared because his hands felt like they were swelling (in hindsight, I think they were just going numb- also an affect of panic attacks), and my dad was telling him he was ok, that my dad used to get them as a kid too, don't worry, just try to breathe slowly and relax. My dad called it night terrors.
When I got to high school, I experienced my first panic attack while awake. It was the exact same sensations as the nightmares I'd always had. It hit out of the blue and I felt this crushing weight on my entire body, causing my heart to feel like it was going to jump straight out of my chest, my lungs were suddenly made of steel. I got severe tunnel vision and all of the periphery blacked out. My hearing had the same quality- minor sounds like the clock ticking or wind blowing- became so ear shatteringly amplified I thought my head might explode. And the attacks continued more or less exactly like that all through high school. Some days I wouldn't have one at all, some days I'd have up to 3. Some days they were so bad I'd actually pass out. I remember waking up one morning and getting struck so hard by one- I went to the window to open it to try to get some air to breath and the next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor with a bruised shoulder.
Anxiety disorder sufferers also often deal with periods of depression, and I'd say mine started around 16 years old. With depression, I'd feel this overwhelming uselessness. Meaninglessness. Worthlessness. I was completely apathetic about myself and it led to a lot of very destructive behavior. I was bulimic for about a year and a half. I realize most girls in high school or college suffer an eating disorder as a result of warped body image. I had the self-esteem of any 16 year old girl, but I'd attribute my bulimia more to a grasping at some feeling of control rather than to weight issues. When you are dealing with untreated anxiety disorders and depression, you feel this dissonance between what's occurring in your life and how you react emotionally. To me, "normal" was having an emotion as a result of some event that happened. Someone gave me a present therefore I was happy. My pet rabbit died, therefore I was sad. But my emotions didn't work that way- I'd be sad for weeks straight and have absolutely no idea why. No reason to be. And to be cognizant of this made matters worse. I had this desperate feeling that I wasn't in control of myself- my thoughts, feelings, behavior. But blaming this for my bulimia isn't necessarily accurate either. It's part of it, but everything to do with these disorders is so muddied and inter-tangled and unclear, that I can't say "if a then b" definitively. Just like my vicodin addiction, starting smoking and and wreckless partying and mdma abuse, I can't say that I did this to myself so that I could have something I felt control over. Because I knew they were harmful and I knew it wasn't good to do, and I didn't always want to do it. I might have started these behaviors because it was something I could control, but I quickly lost control in all of these cases to addictive behavior. I remember my senior year of high school, waking as the sun was rising, finding myself on some mattress in some parking lot in the warehouse district in Oakland.
When I went away to college, I decided it would all stop. All of it. The panic attacks, the abusive behavior, the smoking, the drugs. I was leaving it all behind and starting fresh. And for a while that worked. The depression was the first to come back. By sophomore year of college, I was having panic attacks again. By graduation, I was suffering such frequent and severe panic attacks, that I was nearly housebound, leaving only to go to work most days. I would have attacks in grocery stores, at the beach that was at the end of my block, at the coffee shop. I was terrified to leave my home for fear of having an attack in public. When our lease was up, I decided that moving to college almost cured me, maybe I should try for a bigger move.
I found myself in New York. 3000 miles away from my problems, I thought. I had money anxiety, but didn't think it was the same problems because they were sensible anxieties- I was still trying to settle in and find a job and make friends. For the first few years, I was fine. Then the depression came back. I thought it was just winter blues, but it lasted nearly 2 years. Waking everyday to feel like my veins dripped with a thick, black tar. Wanting to hurt myself and everyone that crossed my path. Hating everything everyone said. There's so much more intense and dark emotion that I'm not really sure how to explain, but it sets in and doesn't go away. I had my first severe panic attack since moving to New York late in 2004. The next January, I started seeing a therapist. I was terrified of being trapped again in the life that I had suffered through for so long, living in constant fear of myself and not knowing how to make it stop. His sessions helped, but they stopped. Then I lost my health insurance and now I'm dealing with general anxiety disorder with panic disorder and episodes of depression without any professional help. It's hard and it's terrifying and it's a struggle I'll deal with for the rest of my life.
I don't want to be the most fucked up. I have no desire to be the most disturbed or the most broken or the one with such severe problems that no one can understand. The problems I do have are scary and isolating enough and it's creates enough hopelessness that I couldn't bear dealing with anything more. So I don't understand people who compete for who is worse off. I've found one friend ever who could even remotely relate to any of what I was going through. We'd talk at length about our thoughts and feelings and while a lot of what she dealt with was similar, it wasn't exactly the same. But to have someone who at least had something similar felt good. I don't go around talking to everyone about it because it's no one else's business. And when people know you have something wrong with you psychologically, they treat you like they know it. I don't want everyone to know because they walk on eggshells and assume I'm going to flip out or get hysterical. Or what's even worse, I'll get paranoid that they think that and will treat me differently because they know about me. I'll worry, and feel anxious. So I only really discuss it with people it's going to directly effect- my closest friends and my boyfriend. Sickness isn't a race and it isn't a game. It's not a competition, so people who feed off of getting attention by creating sickness, to me, are stupid. They're not crazy. I'm crazy. People like me are crazy. But at least we're not stupid.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

It's not just me, it's sideways

I was also thinking about how it's just kind of the nature of guys that makes me so nervous. Every boyfriend I've ever had has gotten wasted and hit on my friends right in front of me, and hard. Not just flirting, but hitting on so that I can see the uncomfortable look on the friend's face. Once, I even watched as my drunken boyfriend made out with my best friend. Right in front of me. When I brought it up later, after he'd sobered up, he actually got mad at me that I was nagging him and picking fights. Half of past boyfriends/guys I was seeing have cheated on me or at least lied to me about dating other people simultaneously. And so many times (about 3 times this last week alone), I've felt intense pressure from guys who, granted they were out of control drunk, I am friends with their girls. Zach told me once that every guy is both of the guys from Sideways, and I hate that. And every time some friend of mine gets drunk and starts hitting on me hard, half the time his girlfriend is sitting next to me, I think back to him telling me that, and how it makes my stomach sour and makes me so intensely insecure about relationships on the whole. No matter how much I'm told I'm loved and adored, I know that when judgment is impaired, the best decisions aren't made. And attention is craved and sought hard. And as innocent as that is, I'm a girl and movies and romantic novels and Disney teaches girls that somewhere out there, there's a prince who will go to the ends of the earth and fight the evil witch and slay the dragon to win my love. And I'm conditioned to think that someone willing to go through all that would want the attention of some other girl. But when a guy gets drunk and hits on a girl that's not his girlfriend, it sort of makes the whole love and relationship thing seem impossible and hopeless.

And if it's not Princess Bride kind of forever one and only love, then why invest in it?

I could never be a polygamist. Being ok with sister-wives means you're just deluding yourself.

What it comes down to, really, is lack of confidence

I'm absolutely insane. That's already known. And the problems don't come from anything anyone else does- they come from me not having enough faith in myself to feel worth anything. He's the most giving, loving, supportive, attentive, generous boyfriend to have ever existed, and for whatever reason I'm still terrified that I'm investing myself into something that is inevitably going to fizzle right in front of me no matter what I do. And no matter how inseparable and close I am with a friend, I feel in the back of my head somewhere that someday, they too, will move on to bigger and better and leave me behind. When I was seeing a therapist, he explained to me that this fear of being left because of being inadequate was most likely the biggest cause of my anxiety problems. And it makes no sense that I feel this way. My parents are still together and in love after how many years (my mom video IM'ed me yesterday to show off the flowers my dad gave her for Valentine's day), so it's not like I have broken family issues looming over my head. He tells me I'm crazy often enough, but that's because I act crazy. I act terrified that out of nowhere he's going to change his mind about me and our life together. I don't try as hard as I should with my friends because I feel like if I put in more than they do, if I open up more than they do, then they're going to realize that we aren't equal and our friendship will fade. For whatever reason, in therapy, we never went over how to stop feeling this way. How to learn to feel better about myself. I've tried googling it. They say to make lists of your 50 strongest traits. I get as far as 10, usually. They say, "Say it til you believe it", but how long does that take? Because it's not working yet.

And the anxiety and depression are directly responsible for my gastro problems, I think. I was feeling good emotionally/mentally for a while, but I've been kind of a wreck lately and the bleeding is at it's worst so far.

Here's to hoping I figure it all out before it literally kills me.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

This is me, venting and complaining about all the things I never say out loud.

(This is really disorganized and not well thought out at all.)

Everytime we have a fight, I think back to that night when he was trying to help me write a song. He was so patient and had such an amazing way of explaining it. I was already becoming greatly attached to him as a friend because we'd been spending so much time together. I already knew him as fun and adventurous, with creative ideas and who needed to have lots of projects going on. So much like me. But the instant I saw this new, gentle, generous and caring side to him, I was done. Game over. This was it. I was fallen.

Now I've always been the kind who flights instead of fights. I hate relationships for the same reasons I don't want kids. I am selfish and I don't like settling for other than exactly what I want. I hate giving in. Why shouldn't I have things exactly the way I want? It usually means I can't be with other people because I won't compromise for them, but who is that hurting besides myself? It's my loss, being alone, right? And if that's my choice, then why should anyone else be bothered? Except that I met this guy and I want him to be in my life, so I make sacrifices. I try to do nice things for him and compromise things I want. I can't stand clutter around the apartment- for whatever reason, I can really only understand it existing in the work room. So the bottles on top of the vanity in the bathroom aren't my favorite thing, but that's where he wants to keep them, so fine. I really can't stand the piles of junk all over the bookshelf with the radio, but that's where he wants to unload his pockets, so I made a space for his clutter. He takes all of the remotes out, I put them away. Instead of getting mad and complaining that the VCR remote is always on the coffee table even though it's only touched on Thursdays, I put it away because I'm the one that doesn't want so many remotes out. We made an agreement that I would dust and sweep and keep the bedroom, living room and work room clean, and he would manage the kitchen and bathroom. In the time I've vacuumed and kept my area a total of 4 times now, the kitchen and bathroom have been cleaned once. By me. Maybe I'm anal, but I like things the way I like them. And I realize that that's my taste and that just because we love each other doesn't mean we're the exact same person with the same standards. I'm the one that chooses to like things a certain way, and he shouldn't be punished for that. And in the past, rather than deal with this stuff, rather than get upset, I'd just end the relationship. It seems petty because these are such trivial things, but when it's your everyday life, it becomes kind of a big deal. Is it better to be alone and not deal with any of it? But I think the value I get from him- the love and happiness he does give me- are more important that not getting upset about having too many remotes on the coffee table.

So now I realize I need to figure out how to not get upset. How do I control myself and learn not to care when it looks like me like he's taking his unemployment as just an extended vacation, sleeping in, watching movies. He has made a few big accomplishments- the video he edited for ab looked great and he worked really hard on it and I'm really proud of that. He has put a TON of stuff on half.com, which is outrageously tedious and time consuming, and by selling that stuff, he's not only making a bit of money, he's clearing up much needed space in the apartment, which I totally appreciate. He's been trying to get a lot of exercise in, which I'm really proud of. There is so much I do love and appreciate and adore, and I don't tell him enough.

I feel myself turning into my own mother all the time- my entire life, nothing was good enough for her. She was constantly criticizing my every move and it drove me insane. And now I'm doing it to him and it's really not fair.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The One Thing Dr. G Could Not Teach Me

I know what I need to figure out in order to start to fix myself, but I am really at a loss for where to even begin. Dr. Glicksman told me at pretty much every session that what I really needed to learn was to like myself. To have some self-esteem and see myself as a person of worth. I know it's completely ridiculous, and I can speculate and point fingers as to how I got this way (my mother didn't love me enough or whatever), but what do I do now that I see it? I'm not convinced that I am a valuable person and I recognize that I rely on other people telling me I am to feel any sort of worth at all and that is completely unhealthy. How do other people decide they are valuable and like themselves?

The Hardest Part

The biggest Catch 22 with the depression and anxiety is the feeling of complete worthlessness. I feel so unimportant, undesirable, and completely lacking in any value to anyone. And now I've become so dependent on Chris for feeling valuable, but he gets so drained by all of my moping and negativity that he doesn't want to be around me or touch me, and I don't blame him. I would react the same way. This morning I went into the bathroom just to give him a little kiss on the cheek and he said, "Oh here she is, begging for affection time". I feel like a huge burden on him. The one thing that could make me feel better is for him to want to spend time with me and want to be affectionate with me, but my needing and depending on it so much is pushing him away. I don't know what to do about it or how to fix it. I know the only solution is for me to learn to feel ok on my own, like I was before him. And I know I can get there again, I just hope he has the patience to wait for me.

I think the thing that's making me stuck this time around is the conflicted feeling I'm having about each of us choosing to be together. I feel like everything you do in life is a choice, and to be happy, you have to be comfortable and sure of your choices. I've chosen a life with Chris and am completely happy and confident about him. I know he's here and he's in this life together too, I think the discrepancy is that I don't think he knew what he was really in for and now he might be regretting his choice or feeling disappointed that he got short changed or cheated in some way. I want more than anything for me to get better so that we can work out, I just hope that he's ready and willing to be supportive while I work on it and to be strong and patient. It's a lot to ask for and he has no obligation to do this for me, but in my choosing him, I guess I'd assumed he chose me as well, which means choosing to be all of those things.

Really, I just don't know what I'm doing. I've always chosen to be alone rather than deal with being in a relationship as it is so complicated and hard, and now I don't know how to be in a relationship and be fair to the other person.

Anyway, this is rambling. There's so much muck in my head and I can't get it clear and I don't know what to do...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Let Your Imagination Run Away

I have an anxiety disorder, which are commonly linked to depression. My case is not severe- it's actually relatively manageable. I've never been on medication for it, though I had a short stint with counseling, which was all in all pretty ineffective as you have to be willing to open up and talk fluidly with a counselor, which I was not. My disorder comes and goes in waves. When it's high tide, I'm completely out of control of myself. Insecurity hits and completely takes over and I feel lost and unsafe. I feel completely insignificant and worthless. I become irrational, paranoid, and unreasonable. I get easily angered (enraged, really) and demanding of those closest to me. The worst is that I feel completely swallowed by it- broken, irreparable, and discard-able.

When it wanes, I realize how insane I've been and usually come out embarrassed and facing much damage control in my relationships. I've said things I don't actually mean but that were prompted from me feeling things that were founded in nothing. I'm lucky that most of the people closest to me have outstanding volumes of patience and understanding for me, and that they are willing to wait for me while I try to overcome this glitch in my brain.

I had dinner tonight with Flynn. While I've felt for a long time that we've become estranged, the moment I told her I wasn't right and needed her, she was right at my side. I hope she knows that it's reciprocal and if she needs me, I'll drop everything for her. I feel ashamed to think she didn't value our friendship, attribute it mostly to the insecurities that swell up, and mark it on my list of things to work on about myself.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

It Feels Like the End is Inevitable

It's happening again and this time it only took 6 months. Chris looks at me and talks to me with what seems like the same exact feeling of distance and near disdain that Mikey did just before he gave up on me completely. His complaints and comments about my behavior are exactly the same, and his desperation to get away from me parallel as well. The stiffness and rigidity of his body language speaks volumes, so even though he says he's still trying and still loves me and still likes me, I'm hearing otherwise. I've suffocated him and wilted away any joy he might have viewed me with just simply by being me. I've managed to drive another one away. And this was probably the best one I could have ever found.

I know I need to start going to counseling again, but I don't have mental health coverage and can't afford it otherwise. The anxiety and depression is getting to be too much to deal with not just for myself, but for the person closest to me. I'm once again finding myself fantasizing about either falling in front of trains or packing a bag and not telling anyone where I've disappeared to. I know running away from things won't fix them, but it's easier than dealing with the disappointment I've caused myself. I miss his exuberance for me. I miss his warmth and tenderness. I miss his urgency about spending time with me- making me feel important and desirable. And I know that I extinguished that spark with my unreasonable demands and expectations. I know that my inability to just simply be in a good mood has drained everything out of him so that he can't even sleep next to me comfortably. I know it's completely my fault and I know I need to stop making it worse, but I don't know how. And his reactions to me- which are completely sound and understandable- only make me feel worse and more desperate, which compounds the situation.

I feel like I'm just waiting for him to give up and leave me. From the first day I warned him that I was crazy and that he would change his mind about me and here I've gone and forced it to happen. And I'm completely devastated and heartbroken and it's my own fault.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Poop in a cup

So now that things are fully out of control, my doctor is making me poop in a cup for 3 days. As if I don't have enough stressing me out. The GAD is pretty high level right now and I'm feeling like a panic attack is due at any moment. Dr. Landes said there's probably no direct correlation between the anxiety problems to the gastro problems, but that symptoms can be worsened with heightened stress. So from the store to the living situation to the drama between all my friends, I just feel so exhausted and want to curl in a ball somewhere and hide until it all goes aways. Especially the gastro problems.

Kate and Matt are back and they're moving in with Jesse. Not the best idea, but it's happening. And I get to hear all the gossip and I really don't want any part of it. Some of my closest friends are being shattered and smeared and I refuse be involved. I don't know what's true and what's not, but either way, friends of mine are being careless and someone is going to end up really hurt and I can't be around it at all. It stresses me out so badly.

The store closes one month from yesterday. There's still so much to clear out and to get rid of, so much planning to do. I just wish everything could get settled now so that I don't have to worry about figuring things out last minute. Not that I can't handle that, but I'd rather avoid it if at all possible. It's terrifying to think I'm going to be unemployed on purpose. To think that I'm going to go on unemployment and ask to borrow money from a bank and possibly put myself into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt on what right now feels like a whim. But it's a chance I have to take. I have to find out if I can do it.

Things with Flynn have gotten no better. She's farther away than ever before and our friendship feels like an acquaintanceship. I've spoken up so many times about it I don't have any words left to say about it. And I keep hearing how she's so busy and just has too much going on, but I can't help but feel like it's still just us that's left neglected. That she still has time for other friends and just chooses to let our friendship fall to the wayside. I can't make her be my friend and I don't know what else to try.