Category Archives: misc

in a safe place

For longer posts, dealing more with theory, I usually start writing them three or four days, sometimes weeks, before I post them. I have an idea in mind, and I like to watch it grow, like a piece of art. As of late, though, my moods have been fluctuating so much that I often times abandon my original idea altogether or change it so much that it barely resembles its original form–which is the case for this post (the latter issue, that is).

***

Put simply, I had to give two class presentations this past week. One on Thursday, and the other on Sunday. I haven’t had to do any sort of public speaking in over a year, so I clearly was very nervous/anxious going into it. I decided to try to get some of my thoughts out to help not only understand the anxiety (and where it’s coming from), but alleviate it as well. What you’ll soon find out is that the presentations went well. Sure, I was nervous, but I did fine, probably better than most people, in fact.

Anyway, here are some highlights–

Anticipatory anxiety hit me on Wednesday: I feel like shit. My stomach is tense and wound up in a knot. I’m having trouble swallowing. I’m sweating. I feel like I should take an Ativan or something, but I sort of feel like I’m becoming dependent on them. But none of my relaxation strategies are working. I’m sick (with a cold), so I can’t go running. I don’t know what to do.

Honestly, I’m mostly worried about the questions after the presentation. What if I won’t be able to answer them because I’m flooded with anxiety? What if I sound nervous? What if I fail?

I eventually calmed down, but anticipatory anxiety returned before my presentation (no surprise there): My presentation is in less than 3 hours. I’m in denial (sort of). I just ate, took an Ativan (1mg) and a Propranolol (10mg), and went over my presentation again. My stomach is tense. I’m sweating pretty bad, especially under my arms, and I feel an impending doom. I know the negative thoughts are hidden under this doom, but I’m scared to see what’s under there. I wish I had therapy tonight–and I wish even more that I hadn’t skipped therapy on Tuesday (because I was/am sick).

Again, the presentation went fine: It’s over. It didn’t go bad at all. I got hung up on one question, but overall, it went really well. I feel stupid for making a big deal out of nothing. About five minutes before the presentation started, I chatted with the professor and the other students. I then stood up, shook my body all over, and then went to the mirror and smiled (to make sure I still could). This helped to calm me down. I can now strip off my sweat-stained undershirt and move on.

Anticipatory anxiety started again on Sunday, about seven hours before my next presentation. I’m starting to feel a bit nervous. I feel that impending doom again. It’s scary because I don’t know what lies beneath. It’s unknown. Thoughts, on the other hand, are tangible, while this feeling is not. I can hold thoughts. I can touch them. They are real. But I’m too scared to find those thoughts.

Then two hours before the presentation depression hit: I’m depressed, and I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE PRESENTATION. I don’t know where these feelings came from or why I’m having them. Maybe they’re connecting with this doom feeling?

The depression wore off for the presentation, leaving me with anxiety, but it came back immediately after: Well, the anxiety  pushed the depression into the background. I took an Ativan (1mg) before the presentation. Again, the presentation went well, and, again, the anticipatory anxiety was much worse than the actual presentation. I feel good about the week, but depression is hitting me again. I’m scared.

***

By the end of the night I was really low. I binged on food, drank a big beer, and had a cigarette (the first one since the wedding)–nothing helped. I woke up feeling even lower. What’s going on? I asked myself. I had a fairly good week. I mean, I not only got through the presentations, I did really well. I should be feeling good. I should be feeling great. As always, though, there’s much more going on than what meets the eye.

Actually, depressions usually hit me after successful social situations because that part of me that wants to be messed up–that part that likes having social anxiety, that part that I know, that part of me I think is me–flexes his muscle and brings me down. He, my anxiety, wants to maintain control. Does that makes sense? However, I still think there’s more there.

I’ve been triggered by quite a few things this week, namely this post and this post and this post and the movie Black Swan.

For the sake of length, I’ll try to not go into too much detail.

As some of you know, I’ve been dealing with this question as of late–Without social anxiety, who am I? The answer is a resounding I DON’T KNOW!, which is exactly why I’m so scared to find out, which is exactly why I sometimes like my anxiety–and even fuel it. My illness is warm and fuzzy; it’s familiar; in some ways, it’s all I know about myself.

There’s also my perfectionism, my need to always be perfect. I can’t make mistakes. I can’t have any flaws. I have to anticipate every move. I have to always be on the guard. And yet, perfectionism, is about mistakes, because a perfect human is flawed. Thus, by not allowing myself to make mistakes, I prevent myself from not only being perfect, but knowing what it means to be truly human. There is a part of me that does want to let go, but I’m still wrestling with the question of what exactly that means–and how to go about doing it when all I know is rigidity and repetition and compulsion.

But maybe I got a glimpse of what it was like to not be hindered so much by anxiety or my perfectionism this week? I engaged with people and was able to give two presentations without feeling too much anxiety. I also let go (somewhat) during them. I allowed myself to fail a bit on the question and answer section afterward. I could of been more thorough. I could have answered them better. But, frankly, I didn’t give a shit. I also have a huge, 15-page paper–30% of my grade–due on Thursday that I haven’t even started–and, again, I don’t give a shit.

I’m wondering, am I feeling depressed because I’ve seen a glimpse of myself in a new light–without so much anxiety and perfection–and not liked what I saw? Or is my ego (my anxiety) just flexing it’s muscle, wanting to maintain control?

***

Finally, without my anxiety, I’ll have to deal with deeper issues–

I really hate this system I’m living in. As reminded here, we’re just living a joke (capitalism) and our lives are the punch lines.

Here, I’m left with the difficult question of how do I fill this void inside of me? I’m continually looking to the future for happiness. That is, my next goal, my next achievement, my next cure, etc. What happens when there is nothing left to cure? What happens when I actually have to start living, and what if I really don’t believe there is any point to living besides not dying?

Finally, here I’m reminded that these feelings I’m having are temporary. In fact, I’m feeling much better now–but even that is temporary.

How did I know that someday–at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere–the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?  ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

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i am the norm

I came across this “artwork” in a cafe yesterday, and, even though I’m on a cocktail of drugs, I found it funny–and quite fitting.

high to low and back again

I started writing this post yesterday afternoon, and it was originally called, stable .. for now, but nothing I wrote felt right, and by the evening I had abandoned it altogether. Some highlights–

I’ve been fairly stable since the wedding. That is, not depressed. I’m caught up with schoolwork again, and I’m starting to enjoy activities again, like reading, writing, running, and cooking. (I even went to a yoga class on Friday!) I’m looking forward to seeing my student on Wednesday and tutoring in general (I volunteer at an adult literacy center), as well as Thanksgiving. (I’m not delighted about being around fourteen people, but I do want to see if my mood holds up and how, or if, that will affect the outcome of the social situation. Plus, I want to test out some of my new cognitive techniques. So, it’s not so much about the social situation itself; it’s more about seeing whether I can get through it without being flooded with anxiety [an experiment, really]. And I’m actually feeling more confident that I will be able to do just that, and if I don’t–NO BIG DEAL!)

I’ve been doing lots of CBT lately. I still don’t know whether it’s working or not–whether it’s affecting deeper change–but I do know that it’s changing the way I think. I’m more positive and upbeat. I haven’t been engaging in my normal destructive behaviors of finding faults in the past and using those to ruin the present, etc. It’s a strange feeling, really. I’m not comfortable with feeling good–or, more precisely: not feeling bad. I guess I’ve just been feeling neutral lately. I look to the future and I don’t get the hopelessness that I got a week ago; it’s more like a staleness.

Finally, I’m also excited about trying a new drug. I’m not comfortable with taking Klonopin daily, so I’m going to talk to the pdoc on Tuesday about trying an MAOI–Nardil. A friend of mine who also has social anxiety is on it and I have noticed a huge difference in her behavior. Yes, MAOIs have some pretty bad side effects and you have to be on a strict diet to avoid hypertension, but maybe the ends will justify the means (for once)? I just have to talk my pdoc into it, because he had a patient die while on Nardil because s/he ate the wrong kind of cheese (aged) and didn’t seek medical attention.

Anyway, somewhere between writing and watching a football game and reading and taking a bath, my mood changed. By the end of the night, I was pretty low. Actually, I could feel my mood turning pretty much throughout the evening. My energy level dropped, and I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. I’ve been pretty hyper (or hypomanic) this past week. I’ve bounced from activity to activity to activity. I haven’t given myself much leisure time or given myself time to think about things, which is good and bad. Sure, I didn’t think about the bad things, but I also didn’t get to process and own my negative feelings. I pretty much suppressed everything throughout the week, and maybe some of the those feelings were coming up while I was writing.

It’s a strange feeling knowing that your mood is going to turn. I started to panic a little, actually. I wanted to do everything I could to stop it from happening. I stopped writing altogether, and I tried to just sink into the feelings a little with the hopes of crying. I always feel better after I cry. I think it allows some of the feelings to release. It’s healthy. But it’s very hard for me, especially now that I’m on medication. I need to find more triggers. Last week I found a good song that brought me into tears almost immediately but I played it like ten times over the week, so when I listened to it last night, nothing happened. I need to find more triggers. What works for you?

I’m also very stressed about school and the holidays in general. I have three papers and two presentations to do in less than a month. The papers are no big deal. Sure, they’ll be a lot of work, but I’m more worried about the presentations. For those who don’t know, I’m in an online graduate program studying Library and Information Science. I’m becoming a librarian. Anyway, the presentations are done over a conference call, and even though they aren’t in person, I’m still a little upset about them. CBT is helping, though–I may have had lots of anxiety in the past, but I’m doing better. And it may not go exactly how I want it too, but I will get through it–and it will be okay. Again, I don’t know how much of that’s suppressing my feelings and how much of that is subtly dealing with the feelings but not letting them take control. I don’t know.

The holidays are another big thing. Thanksgiving is coming up. As I said before, I’m going over to my girlfriend’s brothers, where fourteen people from her family will be there. I am still hopeful that I’ll be able to get through it without getting flooded–with the help of Ativan and Propranolol, of course. I’m counting on there being a little anxiety there, just not the debilitating kind like I had at the wedding. I want to be able to converse with people and smile and not have to worry about sweating through three sets of shirts and looking like a complete idiot all the time.

I’ll address Christmas at a later date.

So, with my mood rapidly changing, and without being able to release some of the pent-up emotions through crying, I went to bed feeling like I’d wake up feeling even worse. But here I am. I feel a little down, a little stressed and depressed, but a little happy and hopeful too. Maybe I avoided a depression? I don’t know, only time will tell. But for now I am going to continue with what I’m doing: schoolwork, running, keeping myself busy.

Oh and I probably won’t be updating much until the end of the semester (12/9). I hope you are all doing well, by the way.

Finally, I’m curious how you deal with things when you know your mood is getting ready to turn. Do you just accept it, knowing you can’t change it, and try to do your best to weather the storm? Or are you more proactive about it–are there ways for you to avoid the depression altogether, or at least lesson the severity of it?

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you. 🙂

stepping back ..

I had a setback yesterday. Put simply, I woke up feeling down about the social situation from Monday, but instead of trying to deal with those feelings, I went right to my obsessive behaviors.

I’m obsessed over how many people read and comment on my blog. So, I shelved my feelings and went right to looking at my blog, and then I read and commented on someone else’s blog (with the hope that they will respond by checking my blog), and then I checked my blog’s stats (and felt disappointed), and then I commented on a message forum (with the hope that people would make their way to my blog), and then I checked my blog’s stats (again, dissapointed), etc. etc. This lasted for about an hour.

Afterward, I had to go back to my feelings, and, by that point, they had grown. That, coupled with my disappointments with my blog (which I can probably never satisfy), I fell into a depression, and I made a conscious decision to binge after my g/f left for work. So .. she left, and I binged.

Now, I haven’t binged in almost a month, and I thought I didn’t need to eat as much to get the desired effects (pushing the negative feelings back down in my body). Well, I was right and wrong–I got a terrible stomach ache (which I don’t normally get) and the feelings only grew along with my depression. As the hours progressed my actions grew more and more erratic. By the end of the night, my g/f was rubbing my forehead while I laid in our empty bathtub with all my clothes on, turning the water on and then back off again (just enough to get my back wet). I wish I could explain, I guess I just find comfort in the bathtub but I didn’t want to take a bath, I don’t know.

***

Anyway, my original intent for this post was to focus on the scope of this blog. I waver between thinking I can truly help people with social anxiety and thinking I can’t help a soul because I can’t even help myself. I’ve talked a lot about the healing process as of late, abstractly–I haven’t really thought about what it means to me, that is.

There’s always going to be setbacks. Two steps forward, one step back. Forward, forward, back. Forward, forward, back. It’s not quite that simple, either: there’s ups and downs, and yesterday I just felt like I was spinning around and around. But in the most general sense, yesterday was a setback.

This past month I’ve been trying to focus more on my steps forward. I want this blog to be positive. I want to provide support for people going through the same things I am. I want to be a leader. But I guess I’ve only been sharing one side to the healing process: my successes. Healing is also about failing. It’s about setbacks and destructive behaviors and hopeless, suicidal feelings. Having those feelings is good every now and then, because they are proof that I am healing.

So, I just want you–and I–to know that I am going to do my best to show this process more completely. To show the darker sides even if that’s not what you want to hear or what I really want to write about.

***

Finally, I’ve been taking care of myself today. I just got back from a run, and I’m going to eat a healthy breakfast. My g/f made pumpkin soup for lunch. I’m going to try to not stress about schoolwork. Maybe I’ll take it easy and watch a movie or go to a gentle yoga class or something. Or maybe I’ll just write a few posts. Or maybe I’ll take a bath (with water this time). Or read things like this. We’ll see.

Also, I’ve noticed that my obsessions with my blog only come out when I’m feeling depressed and/or anxious. They help to mask my feelings. I’m going to try to take it easy and just let things play out the way they should, but it’s hard. I know there will be a setback or two .. and that’s okay!

What’s My Name Again?

I currently volunteer at the public library’s adult literacy program, Project Read. It’s very satisfying, and it gets me out of the apartment.

I started the program last November, and after going through training, I was assigned someone–let’s call him Mr. C–in January. So I’ve been working with him for almost ten months. For the first six months or so we met once a week for about two hours a session; and for the past 4 months we’ve been meeting twice a month, two hours each.

Anyway, things have been going well, until our meeting earlier this week, that is. We met, as usual. Started chatting, as usual. Baseball, weather, public transit, that sort of thing. Then the conversation drifted toward smart phones, and Mr. C mentioned that he just purchased one. I asked if he got a new number and he said yes, and then I asked for it and he gave it to me, and then he asked for mine, and as he was putting my number in his phone, he asked–

“What’s your name again? Mike, right?”

I froze. For the most part, I don’t get much anxiety around him. We’ve been meeting regularly for so long, I’ve been able to open up (somewhat). I think things can be very awkward between us, though. I don’t really know what I’m doing, and I believe he can see this lack of confidence, but other than that, I feel relaxed around him. Because of this, I said exactly what was on my mind, without filtering it first–

“We’ve been meeting since January and you don’t know my name by now,” I said. This came out in a very harsh tone. I was pissed. “It’s Mike.”

I had to go to the bathroom to cool off. When I got back, I started editing his writing. We just moved on.

In retrospect, I’m angry at myself. I’m angry because I allowed my emotions to get the best of me. It’s not about him–it’s about me. There could be any number of reasons why he didn’t remember my name. Maybe he was trying to clarify whether I go by Mike or Michael. Maybe he has anxiety issues too and maybe he was flooded with anxiety when we met. I know I often don’t listen as well when I’m flooded. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. I’m angry at myself.

But I should be happy because I was able to be present and say what was on my mind without judgment and scrutiny, but–and there’s always a but–I still wish I could have been a little easier on Mr. C–and myself.

Yet another example of my perfectionism.

Final Redesign

Okay, this should be my last redesign, I think. If you have any suggestions or complaints, or anything at all actually, let me know.

Have a great day!

yesterday’s google searches …

… and my responses …

social anxiety can’t smile

I hear you on this. Smiling can be really, really hard, especially for photographs.

For photos I get really anxious beforehand because I’m worried how they’ll turn out, and this anxiety, in turn, makes it almost impossible to relax and smile. So I avoid them at all costs. I use excuses like “I’m the least photogenic person” or “I’m camera shy” to get out of them. I think people think I’m weird when I say things like that.

The only time I really feel comfortable when taking pictures is when I’m wearing sunglasses. I hold a lot of my pain and anxiety in my eyes, and I can pretty much cover the anxiety up everywhere else but there. My eyes don’t lie.

As far as smiling when you greet someone: just do what you can. You don’t need to produce a full smile. Just curl the corners of your mouth up a bit.

Make it look like you want to smile.

i lied to my girlfriend about my past

Everybody has things they want to hide from their past, and I think it’s not good to reveal things too quickly with someone. Our partners don’t need to know every little detail about everything.

With that said, I’m guessing you probably covered up something big, because otherwise you wouldn’t be searching for advice on Google. I don’t think it’s ever too late to open up and confess a lie. I’ve definitely had to make some difficult confessions. They were really hard, but I felt so much better afterward. You’d be surprised how forgiving people can be.

Give this some thought. How important is your girlfriend to you? Is she someone you can trust? Has she been there for you?

Again, everybody keeps some things tightly wrapped up. I’m afraid of my past, but it’s always there, guiding me in the present. You can’t run from it. But if it’s too painful you can cover it up. You probably had a good reason to lie. Maybe you were ashamed. Maybe you thought your girlfriend wouldn’t want to be with you anymore. If she really is important to you and you can trust her, I would open up to her. You’ll feel a lot better.

does cyclothymia get better?

This is an interesting question and one that isn’t easy for me to answer. I’ve been managing the disorder a long time (and it’s been pretty bad for at least the last year), but I just got the diagnosis a few weeks ago. So not only am I not qualified to answer this, but I don’t have much experience with it either.

But I’ve still got an opinion.

The question really is: Is Cyclothymia a mood disorder or a psychological disorder? If it’s the former then it’s more of a chemical imbalance that should be treated with medication. If it’s the latter it should be treated with psychotherapy. But let’s not think in absolutes because the world never ever works like that. Let’s just say it’s both. Meaning: There’s probably some chemical imbalance that’s been exasperated by our experiences; thus, a combination of drugs and therapy should be used to manage it.

I use the word manage because I don’t think it will ever go away. Yes, things can get better, but I don’t believe mood swings will ever disappear.

I mean, it’s okay to feel sad sometimes, and it’s okay to feel happy and euphoric sometimes, too. As long as you are somewhat content with the swings and they don’t control your life, the disorder is manageable.

I’m not there yet, and it may take a while for me to get to that point, but I’m hopeful (when I’m feeling good, at least) that I’ll be able to get there.

Some day.