I had my first follow-up appointment with my new psychiatrist this afternoon. He asked how things were going, and I told him about the event on Saturday – how I didn’t have panic attacks beforehand like I’ve been doing recently, and how I handled the minor panic attack at the event. He said that it sounds like the Zoloft is working as expected to control my anxiety, perhaps even a little bit better than expected, and he said that he was going to keep my meds where they were. He wanted to know if I felt myself wanting to do things that I had been avoiding and I told him that the event on Saturday was my return to an aspect of the SCA that I hadn’t felt up to pursuing in years, so he was pleased to hear that. He inquired about side effects and I told him that I haven’t seen anything. I was honest – not every day is rosy, but very few days are truly down right now, and he commented on how things seem to have turned around for me pretty notably in a short period of time. He advised that the Zoloft still hasn’t reached maximum efficacy, so I might see that similar attacks like the one I had on Saturday are even easier to deal with in another month or two. He asked if there was anything on the horizon that might test the Zoloft at full strength and I told him that I was returning to school in the fall, and that the plan was for me to be working again about this time next year. He was happy to hear that I’m looking forward to school and to getting back to work. He wants to see me again in August, just to follow-up around the time that the Zoloft has well and truly kicked in. All in all, it was a very good appointment.
Today my wife and I attended an SCA event a little over two hours from home, the longest we’ve commuted for an event in over a year. It was a symposium of classes, and I took five during the day. All the classes were very well taught and I learned a lot about how things are done now. (There were some major changes made to the rules governing this aspect of the SCA back in 2011, when we were inactive and out of the region, and this was our first foray into learning the new rules.) We both took the warranting class (local branch officers need to be warranted to hold office) and I got some new information and a lot of new resources for an area that I already knew a bit about. There was a court (for those not in the SCA, it functions as, among other things, an awards ceremony at the end of the day) and several people we’re friends with got well-deserved awards. Two of them were announced to receive the Society’s highest award for service at a future point in time. (For the Society’s highest awards, there’s usually a period where the recipient receives counsel and congratulations from individuals that wish to pay them respects, followed by an elaborate presentation ceremony. When the recipient is announced, they are usually given a choice of receiving the award on the spot or choosing an event in the future in order to better plan the ceremony and to make sure that those people important to the recipient are all in attendance.)
It wasn’t until the end of the day that my wife remarked that I hadn’t had a panic attack at all regarding this event. Events that I’ve gone to over the past few years were usually marked by a panic attack the evening before the event and another one the morning of the event – this time, there was nothing. She also mentioned that I wasn’t exhibiting any signs of anxiety during the day, something that usually gets me at some point – that’s because she wasn’t there for the one time I did start to panic.
I was in a class where I was asked a question that I didn’t have an immediate answer for – I could have answered it given a few seconds of thought, but I was panicked that I didn’t have the answer right on the tip of my tongue, and so I begged off answering it. For a good portion of the rest of that class, I was fighting that part of my brain that was telling me that I was a screw-up, that I should be embarrassed, and that I should run screaming from the class. But I used my tools to counter all the things my lying brain was telling me and eventually I calmed down to the point that I went to the instructor – a friend of mine – and apologized for freezing up. She said that it was fine, and that it lent itself to something that she was trying to accomplish more often in her classes. The same friend later told me that while she rarely comments, she follows this blog, so if you’re reading this – and you know who you are – thank you for the opportunity to put the tools I’ve learned into use.
The day was a wild success and I’m very pleased with how I came through the event. Now time to fall down and go boom. Five in the morning was a long time ago.
My wife is back in town, and we celebrated by … catching up on laundry.
It’s been hanging over our heads for some time now, but between travel out of state and sore backs and general malaise, we’ve let it pile up. (Again.) Apparently events while visiting her dad made laundry a necessity pretty much immediately. On a related note, my wife changed her first diapers in over 20 years while on this trip.
Because the trip was so rough on her, I wanted to alleviate as much of the stress of doing laundry as I could, so we deviated from our usual system this time. Normally, when there’s this much laundry (don’t laugh, you put laundry off too) I take one basket down to the car and she takes the other, then she drives to the laundry facility on site to start the wash, drives back to the apartment, drives to go trade the washers for the dryers, drives back to the apartment, then drives to go pick up the clean and dry laundry so we can both take it upstairs and both work to put it away, me working on folding clothes and her working with the hangers in the closet. This time I went with her to the facility and helped load the washers, went with her to help move the clothes from the washers to the dryers, then went along to empty the dryers and take the clothes back for us both to put them away.
This is an important step for me in that I’ve somehow worked myself into a panic about laundry. I’m willing to help by carrying a basket down to the car and bringing one back up and putting away the clean clothes, but I’d gotten it worked up into this horrific thing in my head about actually going to the laundry facility. While I was there loading the washers, I had to fight down a panic attack, and the whole experience was just overwhelming to me throughout. I made it through, however, and I didn’t die, nor did anything bad happen the whole time.
It seems silly to make such a big deal out of something as simple as laundry, but then again, I’ve managed to put a lot of everyday activities into that category of “too scared to do.” I still don’t drive unless I have to, and even then it’s almost always back home from dropping my wife off at work, then to my therapist’s office and back home, then from home back to my wife’s office to pick her up. Almost all of that driving is on surface roads, except for a stretch of feeder road from one exit to the next between home and my therapist’s office. Getting back and forth to the airport for my wife’s trip was an exceptionally difficult thing for me to do and I was fighting down panic the whole time.
So today, a little progress, and a little celebration. It was a nerve-wracking day, but I survived.
I got a lot of good advice about yesterday’s panicky, frantically written post on both WordPress and Twitter. I want to thank everyone that commented and tried to talk me down off the ledge; it eventually worked.
More than one person essentially said “this part of the book is not written about you.” I tend to disagree; the subject matter is relevant to my life. The problem that I had is that I saw one phrase and hyperfocused on that, to the point that the rest of the chapter wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I let that one little bit of cognitive dissonance run amok with the book and with my blog, and I apologize for not having better control of the situation.
It’s true, I am on the internet most all day. I only take a break when I’m doing chores around the house or on those rare occasions that I’m watching a movie. But the internet isn’t a situation that I can’t stand to be away from; if it were, I wouldn’t be able to go to SCA events and forget about my smartphone with the exception of it being my alarm for my medications and vitals throughout the day. The internet is my primary conduit for communication with others, and that’s what I crave, a lot more than the usual content. The things I do on the internet are just filler for the times between conversations.
So yesterday’s panic attack was over nothing, as they usually are. Thanks again to the folks that helped me reframe the situation in my mind into something much more manageable.
As I’ve said here recently I’m reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. For the last two days I’ve been reading “Guidepost #3, Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness.” I split my reading at the section entitled “Numbing and Taking the Edge Off,” and I read today from that point forward to the end of the chapter.
This section defined addiction as “chronically and compulsively numbing and taking the edge off feelings” and then went on to give examples of what people can be addicted to. The last example given was the internet.
From the moment I wake up until the time I go to bed, all day, every day, I have my computer on and I’m sitting in front of it compulsively searching for anything to occupy my time. Sometimes I spend hours just staring at it hoping that something will change and I’ll actually have something to engage in. I take breaks long enough to get things done around the house, but I’m never far from the internet and I’m never away for it for long, unless I have an appointment.
Am I addicted to the internet?
Do I have a bigger problem than my mental illnesses?
How do I know how much of this is searching for something to occupy my time and how much of this is the complete inability to step away from it at all?
Am I really disabled, or just addicted?
This passage is basically causing me to question everything I do with my day and it’s starting to convince me that what I’m doing with my day is wrong, that I need to shut down the internet and find something else to occupy my time, or just sit and stare at the walls, anything to keep from feeding the addiction.
I don’t like this feeling.
I’m not sure whether the book is even speaking to me with this, but it seems to be because I can’t put down the internet. I’ll skip watching almost any streaming media service like Netflix or our own movies or what have you because I have to be connected. What if someone needs me for something and I’m not available? I can’t have that on my conscience.
I think I have a problem and I don’t know how to solve it.
I HAVE to be on the internet twice a week for my radio shows. The rest of it is just me goofing off and not moving forward. I’m not accomplishing anything with my day at all. i sit and do literally nothing all day long and it’s a problem.
But how do I solve it when I can’t figure out how to detach myself from the internet?
I think I’m panicking for no reason. Or am I? is this what my life really is all about or am I living a lie? Is it impossible for me to get better, because I can’t stop with the internet? Will this completely shut down any further progress on this book?
I was given this book by a former therapist of mine and now I’m kind of wishing she hadn’t. I don’t like being called out for what I actually am – a stupid addict unable to rip himself away from his fix for even a moment.
I don’t like that what this therapist gave me is causing me to panic. She was supposed to be helping me, not making things infinitely worse.
But should I break who I am an rebuild myself entirely into something new in order to overcome my obstacles in life? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to be doing with my disability, fixing the problem and getting back to work? I don’t know how to fix this and I only have a year left before I have to go back in for a review and there’s a good chance they’ll tell me that I’ve been wasting my time not getting well and that they’re going to yank my disability and then I’ll be right back where I was before it kicked in, not contributing to anything around the house and just being a time and money sink that is wasting everyone’s time. I can’t have that. I can’t be that person. I have to get better and I have a year to do it.
I feel so stupid and anxious right now. How could I have let this take over my life as completely as it has? I don’t know what to do.
Has anyone else read this book? Can you help put it into perspective for me so I can stop panicking about wasting the last two years of my life hiding behind a laptop and not actively addressing the things that have to happen in order to get me back to work in a year? I’d really appreciate some feedback. I’m not really expecting any but this is my problem to solve anyway so I better just suck it up and fix what’s wrong with me somehow.
I spent the better part of the morning and afternoon in bed. I woke up in a dead panic because I had forgotten to do something in the kitchen, and went to do it before realizing my wonderful wife had already done it. My panic didn’t go away, though; now my brain is telling me that I have to accomplish everything humanly possible before I can do anything that I want to, and it’s so frantically screaming at me to “do all the things” that it’s not telling me a single thing to do, which is panicking me more.
I hate panic attacks like this.
At least at this point I realize that it’s a panic attack and can address it that way, but I need to pop my head back into rationality before I can adequately do that.
Blogging is helping with that.
The action of putting emotion to paper, as it’s occurring, is helping me to analyze my behavior and combat what my brain is telling me. Looking at my situation from the position of an outsider, an observer, is helping me to calm down and take things at face value instead of the rampant irrationality of earlier.
Fortunately this didn’t last very long. I was able to take my tools and put them to good use.
However, now my brain and my stomach are now telling me to hurry up and finish writing so I can have lunch, since that’s the next thing on my checklist to do, so I suppose I’ll do that.
Yesterday ended on a sort of rough note. I accomplished everything that i was supposed to do yesterday, with the exception of watching an episode of Supernatural and exercising, and yet I felt this overpowering urge that I hadn’t done something yesterday. I felt antsy, hypercritical, and completely lost as to what I was experiencing. It was acting for all the world like a wave of panic about to crest and fall.
I tried distraction, and that just dropped that feeling down beneath the surface, so now instead of just feeling like I’d missed something, I felt like I was missing something and I was doing wrong by not putting my finger on what it was.
At various times last night I went around the apartment looking for something to do, but finding nothing, I kept on being fidgety. It wasn’t until my body very suddenly told me it was time for bed that I shook the feeling.
Until this morning.
I woke up this morning, not really fidgety, but determined to be productive, perhaps to make up for the perceived failings of the day before. And I have been. My to-do list today is long and involved and mostly done already. I’m almost where I should be at this point in my daily checklist, and I’m feeling pretty good about how today is going.
I don’t know where that feeling came from last night, but I’m pleased that I was able to stay rational about it, not let it get the best of me, and satisfactorily control it. I’d call that a win in my book.