Socially Phobic

April 28, 2007

It’s 4 a.m.

Filed under: Anxiety,Life in General — iambrave @ 4:40 am

and I can’t sleep because I am so nauseous. I ate WAY too much for dinner including rich dessert and I feel awful for it. I can’t believe that I used to binge like that so regularly. I have lost 62 pounds as of today in around a year and a half and I guess my stomach has shrunk or something. Maybe I should feel lucky that I’m just not physically capable of eating that much anymore. I don’t feel particularly lucky right now, however; it’s hard for me to feel lucky when I literally feel like I could throw up at any second. Poor me. All right, self pity ends now.

Stress levels feel somewhat manageable, I suppose. I was really super happy a day or two ago on the high of having gotten 2 out of 3 research papers done. I had the whole day off today and I really should’ve spent it working on the third, but I didn’t. I feel cranky and out of it and laid on the couch for hours and if I weren’t under so much actual stress I would say that I was having some sort of episode of random anxiety but I am learning that there are in fact times when real life is stressful and I can’t attribute everything to my Illness. I still have all weekend to complete my third paper, and then a fourth paper which is a vocational evaluation of myself (hard emotionally, because it feels sort of shitty to have to look back on my less than stellar work history, but easy because clearly my self is my favorite topic to expound upon).

And then I have four finals next week, three in-class and one take home, and then I WILL BE DONE WITH SCHOOL FOR THE SEMESTER!!!! Wow. I seriously can’t believe it.

And then, the Wedding is in less than two weeks now. Craziness. It is in a different city from the one that I live in so we have to travel for it. Traveling always makes me really anxious. I used to think of myself as someone who loved to travel and in a way I do because I am so fascinated by what there is to see and how people are living in other places, etc. (though this doesn’t really count for that because I’m going back to my home town and I pretty much already know the deal there). I panic, though, when a trip is coming up and for a lot of the time that I am actually gone. It’s like the anxiety I get when I have to leave the house (Is the stove turned off? Did I feed the fish? Did the house explode while I was gone?) but worse because there’s no way to go back and check. I’m not a compulsive checker but at least when I’m in town I know that the option is there. I worry about the dog even though he will be boarded at a place that I trust…I think. Hopefully I will be able to get through it and have a little faith. At least all of the pets will be out of the house so if it does explode or something they will be safe from that. Minus the fish…I don’t mean to sound cold hearted; I will worry about them, too, but the emotional attachment just isn’t as strong. No offense, little guys. I didn’t cry when the two eels that we bought didn’t make it which is actually kind of good given my overly intense emotional attachments to pretty much EVERYTHING. Not to mention the stress of the actual traveling portions. A nine hour car ride doesn’t make me happy. Hopefully it will not be raining and thus decrease my constant worries about crashing and dying at every single moment of the drive.

To top it all off, I randomly have a job interview this Monday so I am stressing about that. I had applied for the job online over a month ago and then they got their system up and running and I had a phone interview on Wednesday and they’re bringing me in. I think I did well on the phone interview because it so wasn’t the first thing on my mind at the time so the pressure was off. In a way, it still is…I wasn’t expecting to get this job because I hadn’t heard anything for so long so I don’t feel pressure in the same way that I would if I were in the process of a full-time job search. But then again, I put that pressure on myself for everything so I am still stressed and the main focus of my obsessions for the past couple days has been how to answer the interview questions. I want the job, on the one hand, because it looks like a really good company and it would be really good experience and I would be making positive contributions to the world. On the other hand, if I were to start working this summer it would cancel out my plans to just chill and get my shit together and have a lot of time to focus on getting off meds. Well, I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. It’s not officially an opportunity yet because I have by no means received an offer but on the topic of opportunities, maybe it is true that things happen just when you’re looking for them the least.

I guess life is good on the whole. I have sort of just gotten to the point of stress where I am almost beyond feeling the stress. Like, unnaturally calm when I should have hyper energy to get things done. I guess that’s a good sign. I will take it as a good sign instead of viewing it as a sign that I am totally shutting down emotionally. Finals week? No big deal. Wedding in two weeks? No problem. Job interview DURING finals week? Sure, why not? Either I’m at a good point or I’m losing it entirely. You be the judge.

The good news is that I am feeling a lot less nauseous. Maybe it wasn’t all of the cheese and cake and…bleh. I don’t even want to write it. Maybe it was just Blog Withdrawal Syndrome (BWS). I need to go to bed now so that I can get up in 4 hours and go shopping for a corset bustier to wear under my wedding dress and some ribbons to tie around some freaking napkins, because apparently that’s what’s done. Yay for weddings. But like it or not, it will all be over in 2 weeks. I have had temptations to take incompletes in a class or two but I really don’t want to put things off and have things hanging over my head after it’s all said and done. So I suppose that I will just soldier on and push on through.

April 20, 2007

Anxiety

Filed under: Anxiety,Social Phobia — iambrave @ 12:48 am

is a funny thing. I got to thinking about this when I was writing last night about the events of this week; I had read this post that is partially about HSP’s need to avoid certain stimuli/topics of conversation that cause her to panic, and I was struck by the fact that on Tuesday, the day after the shootings, I was absolutely TERRIFIED to go onto a college campus not because of my fear of getting shot, but because I was scared of what people would think of me at a party. It seems incredibly trivial in the grand scheme of things, but the fear was 100% real.

Last year, on the other hand, I was convinced that I was surrounded by death. I’m not in the right frame of mind to get into the reasons why right now, because I am irrationally afraid that it will take me back to that place, or maybe it actually would, but I constantly felt like I was in mortal danger. I remember being on a train in late summer by myself, convinced that a massive disaster was going to strike at any second. Those were the days, the weeks, the months, that I could barely leave the house. The social aspects were there, too: I started a new job and then quit after three days after spending the previous afternoon panicking for four straight hours because I had made a little mistake.

I am so much better now than I was a year ago. By late summer 2006, the real-life stressors were maybe more intense than they are right now, though I do have a lot on my plate. But as for what precipitated the initial breakdown a year and a half ago? I don’t really have an answer for that. I wish that I could say that I knew, because if I knew then I would be able to trust that it wouldn’t happen again. I wish that I could believe that it was within my control, and that my feeling better was a direct result of changing the way that I think and act, because then I would be able to trust myself.

I have been taught several times in my psych classes that people with an external locus of control are more prone to depression and I have been pondering how to relate this to myself because I take on way more personal responsibility for things than I should so much of the time and blame myself for things way too often, implying an internal locus of control, but when I just wrote that I realized that I do see my brain as this external entity that is prone to fucking me over a lot of the time.

Where do I draw the line between blaming myself for all of my problems/feeling guilty all of the time and taking responsibility for my mental health?

April 19, 2007

And as a side note,

Filed under: Uncategorized — iambrave @ 2:53 am

ranting about media sensationalism and what have you does NOT help relaxation. Just to let you know, in case you were wondering. I just couldn’t let that last thing be my final word for the night.

My head is spinning

Filed under: Life in General — iambrave @ 2:36 am

so I thought I would try writing a little to try to calm myself down and get some sleep. This wasn’t even what I was obsessing about, but every time that I have started up Firefox all night this is what I see on my (Yahoo) homepage:

[update: removed image from video manifesto because I couldn’t stand looking at it anymore]

My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by this tragedy this week…I have read all sorts of commentary on the issue which has ranged from gun control to poor university response, etc. and also what I am about to say, as well. I CAN’T STAND THE WAY THAT THE MEDIA IS HANDLING THIS. I can’t think of any other reason for publishing his manifesto than to fulfill the public’s desire (or at least, perceived desire) for blood and gore. It’s giving this young man the attention that he obviously craved so desperately by sending the information to NBC. As my professor pointed out tonight in class, people are going to start seeing him as a cult hero and while I know that the story needs to be told, there are people who will think, “He killed 34 people? I can top that and be on the front page of everything too”. I would like to see more thoughtful mourning of the people who were lost and less about all the “warning signs” that everyone apparently should have picked up on and the photographs of him pointing a gun into the camera.

I do not think that the manifesto should have been publicized. I think that it is an example of the worst kind of media sensationalism. There are clearly factors contributing to the rage of the young people who are committing these acts and maybe being able to walk into WalMart and walk out with a shotgun is a contributing issue but I don’t think that showing millions if not billions of people this video is helping our society to understand a damn thing. The event itself is inspiring a lot of debate and rhetoric, which could turn out to be good in the long run (although Columbine was 8 years ago and I can’t see how we’ve made any progress since that time), but I don’t see how publishing the video and photos is contributing to that.

I wish that I had something more insightful to say along the lines of mental illness or what have you but I don’t right now. I am just sick of seeing this damn picture every time I go online and I am scared of what the long terms implications may be for this sort of publicity. As for myself, seeing the picture is not helping me to think rationally about the issue and what can be done to help or to emotionally identify with those who have suffered such great losses. All that it does is make me feel scared and voyeuristic and frankly, I believe that is the goal of its publication. Sure, it makes for “great news”. But the media, including my most respected sources, needs to think more seriously about the fact that it is not just a passive observer of what is happening.

At its least harmful, I think that this is distracting to people who want to be able to think clearly about the problem and encouraging to troubled people who may view this awful act as inspirational. It’s making me feel about as smart as if I were watching a horror movie. What does it tell us? The guy was pretty messed up. Is that not completely obvious already FROM WHAT HE DID IN THE FIRST PLACE?

So, that is my rant. And now I will have this on my page as a constant reminder of all that I am condemning here. Am I part of the problem by even posting it? Ironic, to say the least.

April 17, 2007

I am unbelievably

Filed under: Social Phobia — iambrave @ 2:00 pm

anxious because I have to go to a small party tonight. It’s up at school, and my boss asked me to come up there early and be there. I am so dizzy right now that I can barely even write.

I want to be able to do this. I have class right after the party, and I have to go to that because there is a quiz and I have already missed one. I need to be able to do this. But my heart is racing and my head is spinning. I’m not really supposed to be doing this, but I think I need to take another Xanax. First of all, I hate that. I wish that I was able to do things without having to pop pills.  I want to be able to write my way through it, but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible this time.

Why am I so afraid? Is it an unthinking, conditioned response? I don’t think so. I believe that there are cognitions behind it. Whenever I am in a work situation, and in this case school is my work, the emphasis that I place on what other people think of me is distorted way out of proportion. I guess part of it is fear of the unknown – I have never been in this particular situation before, so I don’t know what it’s going to be like. Parties are hard enough for me, let alone a party at work where I don’t really know anyone all that well or trust that they like me. I know that the worst that can happen is that I feel uncomfortable for a couple of hours and then it will be over, but in my head it stretches far beyond that. It feels like if I don’t perform well at this party, my entire career will be over.

That can’t be true, can it? Will this really be one of the things that I am still thinking about for years to come? I do still think about things that happened years ago and view them as failures that have all led up to this exact second. I know that I need to stop thinking that way, but it is so hard.

I feel like I am going to pass out.

April 14, 2007

Note to self:

Filed under: Life in General,Social Phobia — iambrave @ 9:33 pm

drink more caffeine. I usually avoid caffeine completely because it makes me so anxious. I was having a craving today for iced coffee, however, so I got one…I have been told before that some anxiety is adaptive, because it is what propels us to get things done. So if that’s what’s responsible for my crazy awesome idea to get all of my references for one of my papers and write the entire thing tonight, bring it on! The fiance and the dog have been asleep on the couch for around 3 and a half 4 hours now, but I’m trying to hang in there and actually get some work done.

It was sort of a rough morning. I had a small anxiety attack because I had to go get a facial at my salon.  I know, I had to get a facial at a salon (cue violins.) It didn’t make a whole lot of sense then, and I still can’t explain it now. My anxiety is like that sometimes, though. Sometimes I just freak and I don’t want to do anything at all and I feel like there is no way that I can go out into the world and face people for no reason in particular; it’s a completely emotional and physical reaction and there don’t seem to be any ways to use my CBT skills because it’s so hard to identify whether or not there was even a thought that triggered my panic in the first place. I seem to lose the ability to play the “What’s the worst that could happen?” game, and I just plain don’t want to go.

I’ve been trying to use this as a place to keep track of my triggers, and I will note that I often get a lot worse on weekends. People have offered up the theory that maybe it’s just because I can. I fight through it to the best of my ability all week and then as soon as I have a little bit of unstructured time, I crash. I can actually remember this being the case for a very long time, whether it’s symptoms of anxiety or depression or both. It’s not the happiest way to live: looking forward to the weekend all week long and then feeling like shit when it actually gets here. I’m working on it.

I ended up having my fiance drive me and he had to wait for around an hour and a half. I feel really guilty a lot of the time because I feel like I need to be taken care of so often. I am so grateful to be in this relationship but it’s hard to remember anymore what it was like for all the years that I was single, facing the world alone and somehow getting by. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, I guess. Every time I go to school or work I am doing it alone. It would probably be a better strategy to focus on feeling grateful instead of feeling guilty. To be happy to have the support that I do and to know that I can and will and do try to pay it back when I am able. I will be an optimist someday, dammit!

I guess I should try to get back to work. Do other people put off writing by writing something else? Can I turn in my blog for extra credit?

I am a very

Filed under: Mood Swings — iambrave @ 1:14 am

loving person.  Regardless, there are times when it all goes wrong. Most people do not ever catch a glimpse of the wrath that lurks within, but it is there. I honestly don’t know why he puts up with me. I am lucky to have found him. I have anger problems. I have evil, evil mood swings. I have been known to punch, to kick, to scream “I hate you!”, to hang up the phone. And that was just today. I’m kidding. Sort of.

I’m a little better since I’ve been on Lithium. I’m not “officially” bipolar anything these days, but I am on a very low dosage of Li.  These days I’m more likely to just scream and yell but I have more of ability to control my impulses to physically attack. The whole thing makes me feel like shit about myself, if you want to know the truth. I feel abusive. I feel out of control.

I have certain triggers. One of them is being woken up. Tonight we were both really, really tired and laid down for a nap. I know I shouldn’t nap, but the feeling of falling asleep for a nap is pure joy for me (as opposed to the feeling of trying to go to bed at night which completely SUCKS for whatever reason). After a little while, my cell phone went off downstairs and somehow alerted my bionic hearing and woke me up. I was pissed. Not angry with anyone or anything, just ANGRY. I woke him up and yelled at him. I told him I hated him.

I don’t hate him. I love him. He apparently knows this, or he wouldn’t be here. Like I said, sometimes I don’t know why he’s still here.  But I’m glad he is. And I’m really sorry. I wish that I could change this about myself for real, forever, but I don’t know how.

April 13, 2007

The wedding

Filed under: Good Days,Life in General — iambrave @ 4:07 pm

is four weeks from today. My to-do list is daunting. It’s mostly school-related. We leave for our out-of-town wedding three weeks from tomorrow, and somehow in that time I will have written four papers, taken four exams, and done other miscellaneous homeworks. Have I already posted about this? I am having a sense of deja vu right now. Maybe it’s because I having been telling anyone and everyone who will listen the exact same thing. I have two research papers due in approximately a week and a half. I don’t even have all of the references for them yet. And yet, they will get done. I may have to revert to some late-night cramming sessions. Luckily one thing that I can do is write. In an attempt to make myself feel better about the whole process, I copied and pasted my last post before this one into Word to see how long it was: 3 1/2 double-spaced pages. And that maybe took me an hour, if that. Granted, there’s no references and I’m a hell of a lot better with stream of consciousness. I could probably literally write nonstop as long as there was no specific topic needed. The blessings and the curses of a brain that never stops running.

And yet, with so much to do, I am taking a quiet day today. The dog is bored as hell but I can and have been amusing myself for the past 5 hours just lying on the couch and reading random things online. I rarely get bored anymore. Time in general just flies by, and it’s almost 3:00 now and then it will be time to go to bed again before I know it.  I suppose that such is the way when you have so much to do and so little time to do it…

What was I talking about? I put this down for around an hour to talk on the phone amongst other things. Such is the nature of this lazy, lazy day. We are not living at our highest level of functioning. That is not a metaphor. Pretty much every dish in the house is dirty, save for maybe the baking ware. We have no food in the house. This is not in a literal, I am starving to death sort of way; what it really means is that I just made oatmeal for lunch which had been sitting in the cabinet for about 6 months. I don’t really like oatmeal. I can’t recall the last time that we went grocery shopping. I guess that for now we are just trying to get by, to get through, to conserve energy.

I feel almost like I’m stoned. It’s rather pleasant. The wind is blowing way too harshly outside for April, but the dog and I are safe on the couch. At this very second, I am the calm at the eye of the storm.

April 11, 2007

We did something really cool

Filed under: OCD,Social Phobia,Things that help — iambrave @ 1:10 am

in class tonight. The professor had us all lie down on the floor and led us through a guided meditation. I have done some meditation in the past, but never in a group of people and never with guided imagery. He had us imagine ourselves three years from now, going through a day at work, and it was a really positive experience for me. I have had a very bad habit for a very long time of not letting myself imagine the future positively, as if even thinking good things would automatically make bad things happen. It’s like having to say “knock on wood” after you acknowledge that the traffic is light or the weather is good (which I do) except more extreme because it’s all based on my thoughts.

I am trying really hard to let go of my superstitions. People have been talking a lot lately about the power of positive thinking and how you can make good things happen just by thinking about them. However, for good or for bad, I do not want to believe anymore that my thoughts have power to influence the universe, regardless of what The Secret might say (although I have to admit that ever since I saw a piece about it on TV or possibly online, I have been imagining the perfect parking space magically appearing in front of my house and I have found good spots subsequently and apparently if I even let any doubt into my mind that it’s because I envisioned it there won’t be anywhere for me to park anymore. I haven’t actually read the book, just the hype). In fact, I would like to be able to believe that my thoughts have zero impact on the universe, and the reason is that it is way too much pressure to hold on to the belief that you are making things happen simply by thinking. A positive superstition is still a superstition and given my obsessive tendencies I think that I need try to let go of superstitions as a whole. I’m still knocking on wood, though. I do have one compulsion that comes readily to mind which is that I can’t wear socks that don’t match. I am having trouble letting go of it because if I did wear unmatching socks and something bad did happen it would probably just drive me out of my mind.

So, I really don’t want to believe that my thoughts/socks have extraordinary power.  On the other hand, I think that allowing myself to think positive thoughts has a positive impact on my life because it has a positive impact on the way that I think about myself and my own capabilities for success. I pretty much put the “O” in OCD, but just writing this has made me realize how far I have come.  I did strict CBT for a few months last year, and while I didn’t like some things about it, particularly that the therapist didn’t really give me much time to just talk and I am a firm believer in the fact that just being able to randomly vent to a paid professional can be helpful sometimes, it taught me a lot about managing my thoughts. I don’t know if you can ever change the fact that negative thoughts pop up, but you can become more aware of them and learn to refute them and I’m living proof of that. This post does a pretty good job of explaining what I’m trying to say.

I don’t really like my Tuesday class, and it’s embarrassing for me to try to articulate it but I’m going to try anyway. I guess that it kind of makes me feel like I’m in high school again because there’s a lot of pretty, young people in there and I waste a lot of energy feeling left out, even though I do rationally realize that it’s all in my head. Here’s a secret: people tend to congregate before the class and it makes me really anxious to walk up to a group of people that I don’t really know so I try to get there a little late, or RIGHT on time. I guess I do the same thing on Wednesdays, too. But I’m glad that I was able to relax enough to have the experience that I did tonight.

One other thing: I got to class really late tonight accidentally (I didn’t mean to be 15 minutes late or whatever it was) and apparently I missed some sad news. At the beginning of the semester, we saw a talk by a man named Jack with bipolar disorder who had become a peer counselor/public speaker and it blew my mind to hear him talk so openly about his illness in front of a group of people. That experience was one of the biggest inspirations for me to start focusing so much energy on disclosure issues in my own life and gave me a lot of strength and courage, one of the end results being my writing here. Well, it’s my understanding that he has since committed suicide. I didn’t know him personally, but I just wanted to put it out there that I think that Jack was an amazing person and that he had a huge impact on at least one person. I am sorry to hear that he was hurting so badly and I hope that he is at peace now.

April 10, 2007

I can’t

Filed under: Drugs,Good Days,Insomnia,Life in General — iambrave @ 2:29 am

sleep. Now, there’s a surprise. Not! (I watched Borat this weekend.) I had been doing better for the past couple of nights because I have gone up again to 2 mg of my Xanax XR. This time, I think it’s because I’m sunburned. Can you call it “sun”burned if it came from a tanning bed? Talk about cognitive dissonance – the concept in social psychology that states that you feel intense mental discomfort when you do things that are in opposition to your beliefs. The relief from cognitive dissonance comes from either 1. changing your beliefs to match your behaviors or I guess 2. stopping doing whatever it is that’s making you feel bad. The point is that I have always thought that tanning was bad, am now going tanning to look better in my wedding gown (never thought I’d wear a wedding gown either, for that matter), and am frankly not changing my mind about it given that 1 minute longer in the tanning machine than the previous time had a massive impact on how much my skin burned. Please don’t lecture me, if that’s your inclination. There’s nothing that you can tell me about tanning that I haven’t thought a million times already. The plan was to quit smoking when I started tanning so that I wouldn’t be engaging in two blatantly carcinogenic activities at the same time, but, well. Not to mention the fact that I have eaten McDonalds and Papa Johns and…gross.

4 more weeks, just 4 more weeks. Although the hot tub won’t be much fun with a sunburn.

At least I have gotten enough done over the past couple of days so that I don’t have to feel too guilty if I sleep in a little tomorrow. I’ve been making lists and crossing things off of lists. In actuality, I have only crossed one thing off of my list so far, but one is better than none. Actually, I think that going to work and going to class should count as massive accomplishments so cross those off of the list too. I would have been able to cross a second thing off of my list if I hadn’t put each and every stamp on the wrong side of the envelopes that I was sending out…you know, where the return address is supposed to go. Duh. ehow.com has informed me that it is, in fact possible to unstick a stamp from an envelope but I have made the executive decision that the $10 or so spent on wasted stamps and the 20 minutes it will take to readdress envelopes is a small price to pay for Getting Things Done.

Anyway, the drug update is that I have not started the Effexor, though the irritability that I have felt all day has made me start questioning my mood state again. I hate questioning myself. I want to be able to make a decision and trust myself. I guess that part of that is learning to be adaptable and trust that I can make new decisions as circumstances change. But I also know that there is a distinct possibility that the mood issues are related to my upping the Xanax XR. It’s an interesting drug. Apparently I am the only person in the world that takes it, because any pharmacy where I go to fill it has yet to have it in stock. My psychiatrist told me that it is rare because they don’t even stock it on the psych ward where he works. It is also the most ridiculously expensive generic medication that I have ever purchased. Unromantic reason to want to get married #612: the glory that is health insurance and a drug plan. I like the XR because it keeps me from wanting to pop pills in stressful situations – guess that cuts back on the issue of psychological dependence. And I have been feeling less anxious in the two days that I upped it. I had cut back because I thought it was making me depressed – it makes me sleep 10 hour nights and want to sleep a whole lot of the rest of the time. And now I’m wondering if it’s the reason that I’m so irritable, too, though that could be stress, I suppose. Negative thought – is my entire life going to involve developing a strategy to use one medication (an antidepressant) to offset the side effects of another (the benzo)?

So, the entire front of my body is bright red (should be wearing a bra, perhaps, ’cause those puppies have never seen a UV ray before) and prickly and itchy (doesn’t itching mean that it’s healing?). I put some lotion on, and it helped a little, but…my goodness, this is a ridiculous discussion.

In general, I’m doing all right. I just keep telling myself this quote, over and over again in my head, when I am worried about how things are going to go when I get somewhere:

“90% of life is just showing up”. – Woody Allen

It really helps me, for some reason.

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