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.

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 .

It’s (almost) all in our heads

Imagine living in a comic strip where every scene and character is in a separate box, with bubbles above everyone depicting and showing what everyone’s saying and thinking . What the reader would see in the pictures themselves is what is truly happening. What the reader reads inside each bubble above characters’ heads is what the character’s interpretation of what is happening . In other words, what’s inside their minds.

In their heads.

And this is exactly how we all live in our lives: inside of our heads.

Think about it. In your head. If you meet somebody and talk to them for a while and then walk away, you will still have the image of that person in your mind , but not the actual person. When you go to a restaurant and have the wrong plate served to you, you would have an unpleasant image of the restaurant in your mind for a while , but not the actual restaurant.

We fabricate what we decide to interpret in our heads, including people, places, things, and ideas. But we do it so automatically that we don’t notice it. So we live life constantly living and experiencing what our minds interpret, not what is truly out there.

We also create all these labels and ideas in our heads which helps us to identify with something. It could be gender , race, culture, religion, fashion, sports, or a combination of any of these .

It is the same as saying that we create our own realities. We assume that the ideas and images we have in our heads is really “out there.” But it’s not. It is in our minds. So we continue to live the delusions that our minds automatically create. And every time we encounter a new experience, either meeting a new friend, getting a new job, reading the news, or visiting another country , we process what we experience based on our delusions. We filter everything through our biased minds; through our preconceived notions.

It takes a large amount of courage and independent thinking to put our biased preconceived notions aside and experience life as it really is.

Mindfully.

When we meet someone with a different political or religious view, do we see them through our biased mind and delusion , and therefore, judge them as being wrong and delusional themselves? Or can we try to experience them with appreciation and unbiased acceptance ? We don’t have to agree, but we can certainly accept them as fellow human beings worth of respect.

I was seeing a video about a community that believes that the earth is not a globe, but rather a flat plane. My automatic preconceived respond would be to perceive them as ridiculous. But if I put my biased mind aside, I should be able to listen and accept their views even if they’re different than mine. And by doing so, I would be experiencing this moment in life outside of my mind; free from my own created delusions . Even though I still don’t agree with their views .

So stepping aside and experiencing every moment without biased is a difficult task; but it is essential

Is God love?

If God is love (1 John 4:8) , and Love is patient, kind, and does not keep record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), then why would God be impatient , unkind, and keep records of our sins to the point of punishing us eternally in hell?

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.

We are owned

We think we are free entities.

We believe we have the freedom to choose what we want. We think we have free will and can make our own decisions.

But, we are wrong .

Think about this.

You believe you are an individual, unique person? In the United States (can’t speak for other countries) we are assigned a number when we are born. It is called the “social security number.”

You think you can independently identify yourself? We are also assigned to have a label, it is called “first and last name.”

You think you have freedom to choose your way of life ? Most families raise their children in a religious or cultural organized system and tell them what to believe. They are also taught how to view the world , and it becomes their reality.

You believe you can do whatever you want without restrictions in this society? In reality, we cannot do most things without the government’s permission.

We are not allowed to drive a car unless we have a government appointed license, which we physically have to carry with us every time we drive.

We cannot get an education unless we are assigned a school or a private certified teacher and a student number.

We obtain a job only if we have a government given identification card and ( you guessed it) a social security card.

We cannot get officially married unless the government gives us a marriage certificate. Or have and adopt children without the government forcing us to appoint them a birth certificate or permission ( and a fee) to adopt.

We cannot buy groceries unless we have a currency or food stamp card fabricated only by the government . Even if you go to a food bank, you have to present a government given identification.

We cannot even travel to other countries unless this government gives us the ok to do so through a passport .

Your fingerprints serve as further evidence that the government knows who you are.

We cannot vote for whoever runs in government without being registered by the government itself to vote.

We cannot fish, hunt, carry a weapon, own a farm , or climb a mountain without some sort of government intervention.

We have to dress up a certain way and refrain from being completely naked in public if we don’t want someone to report us to authorities .

We cannot even be homeless without worrying about a government official telling us where we cannot sleep or obtain food, which are basic needs.

Sounds extreme? I agree , but that’s the way it actually is in today’s society.

In summary , we are not free human beings after all.

We are basically owned by the government .