My struggle with Anxiety

This has been my story …

I keep having some symptoms that mimic a heart attack, but I know it’s not that. Doctors and numerous tests verified it. But I noticed it still happens right when I would normally feel anxious about certain life events, such as going on a family vacation trip or stress at work.

It almost ruined my family vacation because of these symptoms. I had chest discomfort, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath right when we were preparing to head out for the trip. My wife noticed and spoke with me about it. I confessed I was not feeling well (I tried to hide it from her so she wouldn’t worry) but refused to let it ruined our mini vacation. So I took a few minutes away from everything to relax and it slowly went away. I drove for two hours, mostly taking deep breaths and disputing negative thoughts until I felt better upon arrival to the hotel. When we went to eat dinner at a local restaurant, the palpitations started creeping up again. The restaurant was noisy and crowded, so I associated it with the anxiety I would normally feel at a busy place like this. I tried to ignore it by eating and it slowly went away.

Next morning while eating breakfast, I started feeling lightheaded again, but took deep breaths and kept going. I did not feel it again in that evening. So I spent the rest of the weekend with no symptoms and enjoying my family.

Next day at work, the palpitations started again. I was driving a client to his lab appointment while taking deep breaths and trying to do some mindful exercises. It went away as soon as I returned to my work office. It seemed like an eternity.

I went to the doctor for a follow up appointment. He recommended for me to simply keep taking anti anxiety medication and follow up with the GI (which I truly believe is a waste of time since I don’t think it is gastrointestinal related).

And to no surprise, the G.I. doctor thought that this was not G.I. related but still wants to do a small test just to be completely certain.

Today I attended a meeting at a city office and had to present the services offered at the program where I work at. There were judges, directors of other social services programs, and other city officials present. I was feeling OK until it was time for me to present and then I had an episode again. It came up suddenly. It began with heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. I was feeling so bad that I almost stood up in the middle of the meeting and walked out of the room. But I began to take deep breaths, tried to do some mindfulness by observing my surroundings, and I even tried to snap a rubber band on my wrist to redirect my attention. It helped a little bit but I still felt extremely anxious.

I managed to give my presentation, although I made several mistakes and felt like I was rushing it. Words couldn’t come out of my mouth clearly. It was an embarrassment. I could’ve done a better job presenting to all these important people, but my anxiety got the best of me this time. I got up right before the meeting was done and stormed out of the room gasping for air. I couldn’t speak. I could hardly walk. I feel I made a fool of myself . And I’m upset about it.

This anxiety is affecting my personal life and my job performance. It’s not just an annoying nervousness that we all go through. It is actually a debilitating condition that cripples me and paralyses me. God forbid if I go to a job interview, give another speech to an audience, or go to the dentist.

So this has been my experience so far with what seems to be extreme anxiety.

It has been sort of a wake up call. I remember vomiting as a kid before heading to the school bus during the first week of school. I’ve also had extreme nervousness giving speeches. In the last 5 years or so I have tried to practice mindfulness, yoga, meditation , and exercise , but it seems I have not done enough of it. I have also waken up to the realization that I have been anxious most of my life and now is the time that my body is telling me to slow down. To catch myself whenever I am feeling anxious. To not let the small stuff get the best of me.

So I will schedule routine yoga, exercise, and meditation. And continue to manage this anxiety, almost as if it were a normal part of my life. I am learning to pay more attention to how my body responds to certain situations, and starting to catch myself before I get too anxious. The next time I have an episode, I will do my best to cope by taking deep breaths, being mindful of my surroundings, and changing environment if possible. I will also make positive self affirmations and remind myself I am not having a heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, acid reflex, or any serious medical condition.

I am having anxiety attacks.

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Going to the ER (existential reflection )

Today I went to the ER at a local hospital. I was working and doing the usual thing when all of a sudden I started feeling pressure on my chest and shortness of breath. I asked a nurse that works with me to check my blood pressure and it was too low. I continued to feel light headedness and exhibited shallow breathing. I was starting to faint. They insisted on calling paramedics for me.

A thousand thoughts came through my mind. I really thought I was dying. So I asked the nurses to tell my wife I love her. Paramedics came quickly and took my vital signs and was still too low. I was about to faint. The world became darker and quieter. They transported me to the hospital in no time.

I then had a major existential moment, especially about dying. I reflected deeply about my state of existence. What will happen to my family if I die? Will they be ok in my absence? Will they have a different father in the future ? What about all the things I haven’t accomplished yet in life? Will I get a second chance?

And the greatest question of all: Will I face my creator or simply be in an empty state of eternal nothingness ?

Even during the time that I was riding in the ambulance I kept thinking about facing death. If this was a heart attack, it’s amazing how a small organ can determine if I live or die.

I have contemplated a lot about this subject for a long time. But this was like the culmination. This was like : “Alright, this is it!”

I have been moved to a room now. Heart rate and blood pressure are back to normal. Doctor wants me to do a stress test in the morning and go from there. I had one before, but not to this extent. I’ve met so many medical staff members since I’ve been here, including paramedics , doctors and nurses. And they have all been very nice. Not sure how the medical bill will be. Trying not to think about that so much .

So I’m still reflecting on this profound subject . And I don’t think it can get any deeper than this. What other profound topic can intrigue us and paralyze us and scare us more than what dying really means? But death itself is not the greatest mystery, but rather this existence we call “Life.”

I kept tearing up every time I thought of my family and loved ones. It was almost as if I was reminded about the fragility of life. About the importance of keeping loved ones together. About living one step at a time …and not letting small stuff get the best of me.

My family came to visit me. That was an emotional and precious moment for me. I had coworkers and friends text me. That was a good feeling.

This may have been a wake up call. A drastic reminder of this existence. It was definitely scary. It was a teaching moment. It taught me to let go. To not sweat the small stuff. And to live each moment.

As if it was the last.

Let’s be honest , let’s look at the Bigger picture

Think of one thing that troubles you.

Bills. Physical pain. Difficult marriage. Dirty dishes in the sink. A noisy neighbor.

Now think of it among other circumstances that surround it .

Bills of things you already enjoy. Physical pain with healthy mind . Difficult marriages with wonderful children/pets. Dirty dishes but the kitchen or house are cleaner (or it’s an indication you have food to eat) . Noisy neighbor but at least you are not alone in the universe.

When you consider other circumstances surrounding whatever bothers and troubles you, the pain itself becomes a little smaller .

If you look at the blank piece of white paper, with a black little dot close to one of its corner , what will you notice first?

The little dot.

No matter how small it is, your focus will be on the dot.

No matter if the dot is on one side or close to the corner of the paper, your focus will be on the dot .

Why is that?

We like to be pessimists. We tend to look at the negative . So we miss the bigger picture. We tend to obsess about what is perceived as a threat or a nuisance.

So stepping back and looking at the bigger picture will help to alleviate the frustration and the pain that comes when we only focus on the negative .

Note from a nihilist

Warning: the following note is a hypothetical sentiment about how I would feel as a true nihilist. This is Not a sign of a potential suicide.

My dear loved ones and acquaintances . I have come to conclude that this existence is no longer worth living .

I have struggled and questioned a lot and is worthless to continue to live. Everything we experience is based on our interpretation . Nothing seems to be objective . We create what is good and what is bad. Nothing that we do and prepare lasts forever.

Nothing.

Everybody does things to obtain some kind of self satisfaction and reward, including helping others with the real purpose of feeling good about themselves. Nothing is done with genuine selflessness. Every act of kindness is done based on self righteousness.

The only reason to make efforts to do good to others is with the hope that the good we do today will impact others in the future with favorable outcomes. But that is not guaranteed .

I have tried to do good. But I have realized that many times ( if not all the times ) I have acted out of selfishness . To relieve some guilt or alleviate a pain. And my mission, whatever it was, is over. I’ve done my part.

We fabricate meaning and purpose based on our own interpretation of reality.

It’s all subjective.

It really does not matter unless you give it importance. It has no meaning unless you give it meaning.

What is really out there except what is interpreted through my mind?

What is in my mind can be changed at any moment. There is nothing concrete and tangible out there.

So when I leave, I leave nothing behind except other people’s interpretations of my temporary existence. Memories .

Those who never met me will not care. Those who know me will eventually forget me.

And life will go on.

So don’t feel sad.

Because one day it will be your turn.

And we may (or may not ) meet again.

The Reason We Fear Death

Why do we fear death ?

Death is the only certain thing that brings up the ultimate uncertainty .

It is the ultimate mystery of this existence .

Death is the only experience we cannot control or prevent .

Maybe that is why we fear it so much… because we cannot control it. And because we don’t understand or know for sure what it will bring afterwards.

We merely comprehend it as the final stage in this limited awareness we call Life.

It seems as if it’s the end of our identity.

And the identity we were told we have from the beginning and we constantly defend during our lives is what is always threatened by the inevitable death.

What and who will we become upon death?

What kind of awareness, if any, will we experience when death arrives?

It is this and other similar questions that make us ponder and fear the only experience we have no choice but to accept.

We can deny it, fight it, ignore it, hope it never comes. But at the end it always wins.

We can choose our careers, our friends , our hobbies , our political and philosophical views . But we cannot chose wether to die or not . It is the end of all experiences.

Or is it?

We can do better 

We humans constantly deceive ourselves with false ideas.  We trap ourselves with fabricated concepts about who we are and what we are supposed to be.  This existence we call “Life” is a great mystery that few of us consider exploring further than what our five senses allow us to .  

We complain of feeling depressed.  That’s simply our habit of focusing too much on the past that we regret. It is also our selfish way of thinking only about our perceived mysery which is masked by hopelessness.  We are basically trapped in our own living hell, refusing to look beyond ourselves. 

We miss the big picture . 

We complain of feeling anxious and nervous. That’s simply our habit of focusing  too much on an unfavorable  future which will never happen.  It is also our selfish way of thinking about our own perceived  vulnerability and limitations which is masked by helplessness and fear. It paralyzes us, so we make ourselves stagnated in our own ruminating thoughts.  We are basically trapped in our own living hell , refusing to look beyond ourselves. 

We miss the big picture. 

So we tend to create our own addictions to temporarily and superficially cope with the mysery. We become slaves of technology, slaves of substances , slaves of unhealthy relationships .  We fill our minds with more junk that come from the media, religion, and politics.  We dig a hole in the ground and stick our heads pretending we are okay when in reality we are drowning in our own created hell. 

We miss the big picture . 

But we have a choice. 

We can look beyond ourselves and start looking at the bigger picture.  We can start by accepting our mortality and be ok with it.  We can consider the fact that we are not alone in this existence and start helping each other instead . We can escape from our own selfish mysery. 

Donate . Volunteer .  Visit.  Assist.  Serve. 

Reach out to others in need and we will automatically be helping ourselves.  Like living cells that help each other to maintain the organism alive.  Our planet is the organism. 

When death comes, let’s mourn together. When hunger and disaster strike us, let’s assist each other . When blessings come, let’s celebrate together.  Let us embrace our humanness, including our  limitations along with our strengths. 

Not in our own selfish, individual mysery.  But collectively and selflessly in cooperation.  

Let us embrace our fellow human beings. 

Category 5: a reminder of our fragile lives and the audacity of the federal government . 

The island of Puerto Rico where I was born and raised has suffered a severe storm catastrophe.. it has been almost destroyed. One hundred percent of its power was wiped out. There was no communication for days. We could not reach our loved ones in the island so we did not know if they were dead or alive. It has been one of the worst natural disasters for puertoricans in a century.

It just makes me think about how fragile human life is.  In a few hours everybody’s lives were dramatically changed. . A few people died and others were just left homeless .

Now people are struggling to survive in an island with no power , no water, and few resources .. Food is scarce and gas is limited.  And now the federal government is finally arriving and helping out… but it’s not enough .  The mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital, Mrs. Cruz, made it very clear that there are people who are dying and there is  not enough help from the federal government.

No way to go to hospitals or gas stations because there is not enough gas… can’t get gas because the gas stations are empty or have long lines.. can’t go to the grocery stores to get water and food because there is no gas in cars… can’t call anyone because there is no signal or internet… so on and so forth. 

And now the president of this “great nation” is saying that the mayor of San Juan has poor leadership skills, and that the people of Puerto Rico want ” everything to be done for them.”

Screw him! 

Now he is planning to travel to Puerto Rico this Tuesday.   To do what? Make a show and pretend he cares about the victims ? It’s all politics, and he should be politically incorrect ..  the government will spend too much money sending this clown and protecting him during this trip . This money should be spent helping the people of Puerto Rico.  

The mayor or San Juan said she is mad as hell… we should all be mad  as hell.