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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A day at work

imageHere I am. Just coming out of a counseling session with a client who is feeling depressed and physically tired and sick.  He lost both of his legs due to diabetes and he has no hope for the future .. He used to be a great man, he used to educate  other people about history and writing.  But now he does not have any hopes of doing any of that again ..  He is afraid of dying .

Yesterday I saw another client with schizophrenia. His apartment looks like a total disaster , but he is content with his chaotic life.  It is his norm.

The other day  I saw a woman with PTSD with psychotic features.  The voices tell her to cut herself but she tries to ignore them .  She says it is not easy to ignore.  She tries meditation and walking to cope .  But she has been abused and threatened so much in the past that it has become part of her life to be anxious all the time .

I hear all the stories when I go visit the clients that I see. I feel bad at the moment but as soon as I leave,  I go back to my routine. I go back to my own life with my own problems.  Because if I don’t temporarily leave it behind, I may not have a life of my own.

And the next day I do it all over again.

Paranoia

Who is behind this?  What is causing all of this?  What is the hidden agenda? What are they trying to do to me? How are they stalking me? Who is watching me? Where can I hide?

Paranoia

I have discovered that it is easier to feel paranoid than secured.  Let me explain.  When things don’t go as planned or hoped.  When we lose control of our situation.  When circumstances are going sour and we don’t seem to be able to change it for the better, it is common to link it to an external locus of control.  In other words, we tend to start to believe there are forces beyond our control that are causing what we cannot control.

We  blame it on the government, the employer, the supernatural, etc.

Paranoia.

It is also a coping mechanism to continue to entertain these thoughts.  And I think this is so because it gives us a break from having to figure out what to do about the situation.  It takes away from us the responsibility to try to fix the situation.  So therefore, we give the responsibility to other “unknown” or “unreachable” sources and blame it on them.    It gives us an explanation to what otherwise seems like chaos.  It serves as a quick fix to the unknown.  Instead of trying to further explore, study, and try to find ways to develop a way to act accordingly, we sit back and act like we are hopeless.   We tend to prefer to play the victim role because this way we don’t feel pressured to act upon it.

Paranoia.

It makes our minds narrow.  It forces us to focus on limited information.  It does not allow us to look at the big picture, but rather leads us to be focused on what we choose to believe is causing the chaos, the problem.  We get obsessed with conspiracy. It maintains us in a stage of stagnation.  Can’t think of a solution.  Can’t figure out a way out, except through blame and superstition. It allows us to be dormant, instead of active. It paralyses us.

Paranoia.