Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Crippling Anxiety and the Fear of Monotony

So you may be asking (all 3 of you regular followers), "What's with the radio silence, Magnum?" Well, I'll tell you. For the past 3 or 4 months, I have been oddly suffering from panic attacks and anxiety. I have always been susceptible to the panic attacks; anytime I stood up in front of a class I would shake and stutter until I eventually had tunnel vision- one of the reasons why I never liked or have done well in school. While these episodes limited themselves to when under extreme social pressure, they have been appearing with awful regularity and usually without any sort of familiar social trigger.

Without a thing to do all day, I sit in my bed and shake and sweat while my heart pounds out of my chest and all I can think is "I'm about to fucking die. The apocalypse is now and an earthquake is about to tear my house in half".  I wake up in the middle of the night sweating with fear as I hallucinate strange men in my room. If you can imagine it's even worse when I actually have to be a productive citizen, like say for instance, make a living. At the restaurant, my heart starts to pound so hard I get tunnel vision and feel as though I'm going to pass out. My heart, gripped with fear, threatens to beat a throbbing SOS until it's final sob and eventual surrender to the impending blackness. My table waiting for me, their server, my hands shake just as hard as they can, and I approach them in a form of half consciousness. I barely comprehend what they ask, and this is obvious because I reply in half sentences, breathless words that don't make any sense and stutter when they come out. I shake so hard I can't carry martini glasses. When I think about the end of my shift, which is uncertain judging by the amount of people walking through the door, it honestly feels like the end of the world. Like there is absolutely no possible way that I can do any more than I am doing to stop my final breath from approaching.

Back in November and December, these instances were predictable because they usually came after a night of heavy drinking or from too much coffee. Since probably January, they have been increasing to the point that no matter what I do, every day is a struggle to overcome an anxiety that prevents me from being who I am.  Instead of thinking about how to make people laugh, or carrying a conversation, I am quiet and reserved, and have to constantly think to myself "one step at a time" in order to quell the growing and overwhelming fear that has taken root somewhere inside my brain. I lead a generally privileged life. I have a good job, friends, two a-freaking-dorable cats, possess slightly better than mediocre looks, an amazing family, a good sense of humor... In short, there is nothing in my life to be anxious about. So what the fuck is happening to me?

When my daddy was in town, I could barely function. I would have a sip of coffee and all of a sudden I was crying at lunch. The anxiety would be so great I could not even laugh with my favorite friend in the world. I got sick while he was in town, too. Prone to tonsillitis, I developed a weird condition that prevented me from swallowing properly. Eventually it started to feel like I had something stuck in my throat, which, while at work, I started freaking out so bad I got- you guessed it- crippling panic attacks. I had read earlier in the day about how sometimes people get stuff stuck in their throats and fall asleep and asphyxiate. This did nothing for the hypochondriac fear of dying that I now have the fucking privilege of understanding.

So I went to the doctor the next day. Zoomcare, a magical clinic where you can get an appointment anytime you wish, as long as you are willing to pay out the ass for it. I saw Dr. Klein, a flaming gay man with no social filter, who determined that I probably had Strep Throat. While swabbing my throat, and I swear to you this was the 3rd sentence that we had said to each other, he said to me, "Wooow! You don't have much of a gag reflex! Good for you, honey!" 
"Umm... would you mind if I took juuust a quick look at your medical license Mr. Zoomcare?"

He could not find a single thing wrong with me, even though doctors in the past have said "Tonsillitis!" And promptly given me anything I wished for including, but not limited to, antibiotics, notes to miss school, and Vicodin. By now I have convinced myself that later that night I was going to choke on whatever I had caught in my throat and die a slow, painful and silent death in which no one could hear me scream.

We bought a book on Anxiety, my Dad and I, which turned out to be even worse than not having it, because each story I would identify with would give me the same fucking anxiety that they were describing. The only other solution I can possibly think of is to go see a doctor, a non-Zoomcare doctor, to see if this isn't a side effect of some greater condition, which really turns up the fun-filled terror-notch. In a best case scenario perhaps we find something wrong with me and fix it, because I swear to you if I have to live with this anxiety every day... well... I'm not sure what to swear but I will tell you that this is no way to live. No one should have a great life and be fucking scared of it. To be terrified of nothing, day in and day out.

While talking with my friend Jeanot, he noted the prevalence of anxiety these days. He said he has been seeing more and more Facebook statuses of how anxious people are, even when they have nothing to be anxious about. If this is a general feeling becoming exponentially more noticeable? What is it about our generation that spurs this unreasonable panic? Many of us have never been in a national or natural disaster, and lead  responsible lives. As compared with people who have to fight to eat every single day, or have to walk 2 hours just to gather water, we have it fucking easy. I have it fucking easy. In the Anxiety Book, it talks about panic attacks occurring because the body isn't responding to "fight or flight" appropriately. With panic attacks and anxiety disorder, your body goes into "fight or flight" for no reason, or silly reasons, like being out in public. Maybe I am constantly in a state of "fight or flight" because I no longer have a reason for my body to actually utilize the primitive response. Could it be that the root of my anxiety is the lack of having anything to be anxious about?

My life has become ruled by monotony. Every single day I wake up and at some point have to work. The restaurant is horrendously monotonous, requiring little to no creative thought. It is the same thing, every single day. The only escape from the monotony for a loner like me are things like drinking, movies, television... Over the summer I was creative. I had a fucking amazing internship that allowed me to utilize my creativity for something I loved. This is no longer the case. My work is not creative and my mind has gone blank from boredom. How could this tie in with the anxiety?

In a week I leave for New Zealand, for three entire weeks. And by myself!!! Finally, back to my element. One of the happiest times in my whole life... (the happiest time?) was when I flew by myself and for the first time out of the country to live and volunteer in El Salvador. There, a few weeks in, I met one of my best friends I will ever have the privilege of knowing, a New Zealander named Grace. She visited me a couple years back, but it has been far too long and I can't describe my excitement in seeing her. Even the thought seems to stifle the anxiety and helps get that 'excited' feeling back that I have been lacking the past 4 months. Although Christchurch, her hometown, has just suffered a terrible tragedy with the 6.3 earthquake that shook it loose, I believe that good has to come from this trip. Whether it be disaster relief or oogling New Zealand's beauty or enjoying Grace and her new family's company, I firmly believe that it is better to live in a state of 'new and uncertain' than boredom, at least for me anyway. And I might also be hoping that it will take my persistent panic away.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, if anyone's reading... I promise the radio silence will not continue. I will have stories for you. Glorious and horrible and hilarious and ridiculous and awesome stories for you. It just might have to wait until New Zealand.

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