Socially Phobic

April 20, 2007


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. 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.

April 7, 2007

It’s funny,

Filed under: Drugs — iambrave @ 4:12 pm

not funny ha ha but funny weird how I went to the psychiatrist today, told him that I was planning to try going off medication in around a month and a half, and yet somehow managed to walk out of there with something new prescribed to me. Yup, I have a bunch of little boxes of Effexor XR in my purse right now. Effexor is a SNRI (hitting both the serotonin and norephinephrine receptors), and quite frankly I am scared as hell to start taking it. There are a couple of reasons: 1. I have read about the horrible withdrawal that some people go through when they try to go off of this med, so is it really the type of thing that you really want to just “try” for a couple of months? 2. At the low dosage that has been prescribed for me (37.5 going up to 75), it’s probably not even going to hit the norepinephrine receptors and basically work as an SSRI for me. SSRIs are not typically kind to my system, but I’ll get back to that in a second. The only good news is that I have been on Effexor in the past (not surprising given the fact that I’ve been on literally 20+ psychotropic medications in my life) and lived to tell about it.

Now, I am not a doctor in any way, shape or form and if you are reading this, please do not look at this as advice. This is only about me. So, what I do know about myself is this: I am not in severe danger at this time of hurting myself or others. I know why he prescribed it to me: I probably did qualify for a major depressive episode (being depressed for 2 or more weeks) over the past couple of months from a clinical standpoint. However, I’m feeling all right today. I have been on and off medications for long enough to know that finding the right drugs is a long, often painful process of trial and error and I have no idea whether this is specifically a problem in the field of mental health or whether the same thing happens with other types of illness. If I could wish for one thing, it’s that someday there will be a blood test or a brain scan that will be able to tell a person exactly what is occurring neurologically/biochemically and therefore be able to be prescribed the right medication that specifically targets the right problem. I don’t really know the scientific literature well enough to be able to say how close we are to having something like that or if it’s something that I will see in my own lifetime. If I had to guess, I would say no.

In any case, the point that I am trying to make is that I am currently trying to decide whether I want to start taking this drug and my personal thoughts and feelings on the matter, developed over years of experience, are that JUST BECAUSE A DOCTOR PRESCRIBES SOMETHING FOR ME DOESN’T MEAN THAT I HAVE TO START TAKING IT. I am sure that my psychiatrist is a smart man. I am sure that he knows more about the brain than I do, or at least I certainly hope he does. He has a magical ability to write down the names of drugs on magical pieces of paper that allow me to go buy them. This is what he can do that I cannot do. But what neither of us can do is predict exactly how I am going to feel when I put this pill in my mouth, what side effects are going to occur, and whether or not it will ultimately prove to be a positive or negative experience.

In the fall of 2001, I starting feeling incredibly nauseous all of the time and basically couldn’t eat anymore. I starting throwing up and would even make myself throw up sometimes to help myself feel less nauseous. I had diarrhea. I lost 30 pounds. I thought that I was dying. I was incredibly anxious all of the time. I went to my primary care doctor (who insinuated that my physical problems were caused by stress) and two prominent GI specialists in the city where I was living at the time. I had bloodwork done and the full gamut of GI tests, which range from vaguely unpleasant to thoroughly disgusting. I could barely work, and ultimately believe that I was fired from a job because of this (but that’s a long story for another time). No one could figure out what the hell was wrong with me. Can you guess where this is going? Guess who ultimately diagnosed my problem. Yeah, that’s right, it was me. What all of these brilliant doctors couldn’t figure out was that my problems had started at the same time that I started taking Luvox, an SSRI. I stopped taking Luvox and presto, like magic, my problems went away. This was one of the biggest learning experiences of my entire life: doctors don’t know everything and, in fact, completely suck at diagnosis a whole lot of the time. It didn’t even OCCUR to any of these people to question to medications that I was on. All right, I said that I wasn’t in the advice giving business here, but if I did have one piece of advice to give it would be this: you need to be aware of your own body. You need to monitor your own side effects and pay incredibly close attention to how you feel when you take any medication. I will say it again: PAY ATTENTION.

Luvox was by far the worst drug experience that I have ever had. It was the worst because it dragged on for close to a year. It was one of the worst years of my life. However, I came out of this a whole lot wiser and with the knowledge that when I take an SSRI there is a large chance that it will 1. make me extremely anxious – it is possible that maybe some of my GI symptoms were related to the profound and intense anxiety that I was concurrently experiencing and 2. may make me unable to eat. Frankly, if I wanted a pill that had the primary effects of making me thinner and more anxious I would go pick up a box of diet pills. Since the hell that was Luvox, I have started taking other drugs and stopped them after about a week or so due to side effects. Many of these have been SSRIs; I think that I have referred to the problems that I had the last time that I tried Lexapro. Actually, the worst that I have ever felt after initially starting a drug was not an SSRI at all – after taking Lamictal for around a week and feeling like I wanted to die the entire time I stopped. But imagine if I had not made the association in my head and had kept taking it for a year. The truth is that a lot of these meds have horrific side effect profiles and if it’s truly what you need to take in order for your brain to work the right way you probably just need to learn to live with it. But ultimately, it’s a personal choice and involves weighing a lot of pros and cons and the key is full awareness at all times.

So, yeah, about that Effexor? I’m sort of thinking no.

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