Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The No Updates Update

I've been very busy at work and so I haven't had much time to post to the blog. I've also not posted because I haven't made any significant progress in my routine. Over the weekend and yesterday I rode the subway with Pam but not ever on my own. I had a golden opportunity to "get my feet wet" last night -- I was meeting Pam and my cousin for drinks at City Crab on 19th and Park, so I could have taken a two stop subway ride. However, I didn't. I didn't even try. I walked to the subway stop and then just kept going. It was a beuatiful warm not and so I walked the 15 blocks.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Working From Home

Today I worked from home. Not for any anxiety related reason but because it made sense. I have been working primarily on two projects. Project "A" was completed yesterday and project "B" is almost done. Project "B" required some bug fixing and validation of the bugs being fixed. I felt I would be more productive working at home on Project "B" than I would at the office. Part of that is due to an annoying co-worker.. but I won't get into that here.

Tomorrow I am probably going to drive to work. But I have a good reason. A while back my company started providing bagels on Fridays which is great. A co-worker and I, (not the annoying one mentioned above) are both big fans of donuts. (I have a sweet tooth). Said co-worker and I have been alternating buying Dunkin' Donuts on Fridays. Last week was my turn to bring in donuts but I forgot. So tomorrow I am planning to bring in special donuts -- ones made right when you order them. The place where I plan to purchase the donuts is not near a subway stop and I want to get them to the office still warm from the oil they were just cooked in. All of this adds up to driving rather than taking the subway.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Easier Said Than Done

I left my office yesterday and headed down to the subway. I moved to the front of the platform figuring that I would get on the front of the train so I could see out the front and that would make me feel better. The first train that arrived was packed and so I didn't even attempt to get on. The second one came and wasn't too bad as far as the crowd. I got on to the front car, however there were people at the very front so I could not get the seat I hoped to get where I could look out the front of the train. I stood on the train for a minute but then felt a surge building up inside me and so I quickly got off the train.

I waited for a few minutes to see if another train would come quickly, but it didn't. After what was probably only a few minutes but felt a lot longer, I started to get amped up and so I went back outside.

I walked across town over to where I would catch the bus but ended up taking a cab because I was getting sleepy from the Klonopin and just wanted to get home.

Today, Wednesday, I was supposed to take the subway in with my wife and attempt to go it alone from 23rd to 33rd street (only two stops.) However, we ended up driving in because my wife had her laptop and some other stuff for her meetings and preferred the car. Plus, since she was traveling into NYC for business she said I could put the parking garage on her corporate card.

So, as I've said often, tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I ended up driving to work yesterday. I got an early call from someone at work regarding an issue with a client and so I started working from home. My wife had a call scheduled so we had a narrow window for her to travel with me to work but by the time I fixed the issue for our customer and was ready to head to work there wasn't enough time for my wife to make the trip and be back in time for her call. The drive was uneventful and one bonus was I found a cheaper garage to park in. So it wasn't all bad!

Today I'm at work -- back to the morning routine of going on the subway with my wife. However, I'm getting ready to head out from the office and try my first small step of taking the subway alone.. at least a few stops. There are several motivations behind this attempt. One, as I wrote about on Friday, the bus service really sucks. Two, I really want to get over this anxiety thing and enjoy one of those good cigars I promised myself. The third reason is that tomorrow I will not be able to travel the whole way with my wife. She has a meeting in NYC and so she will get off at 23rd Street. I realize that I could get out and walk or take a bus from there but is only two more stops from 23rd to work and so I'd like to accomplish that small step too!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Better Way?

There has got to be a better way to travel in NYC than the bus. OH RIGHT .. there IS! The subway! Now if I can just get my sh*t together so I can get back to riding the subway.

Last night I left my office to catch the bus down 2nd Avenue to Wall Street where I would hopefully take the subway one stop to Clark Street. I got to the corner at 5:30 and watched the bus pull away. It stopped at the next block because of a red light and so I ran to the corner to see if the driver would let me on. No dice.

I went back to the bus stop and checked the schedule. It said the buses ran every 6 - 7 minutes at that hour so I figured, no big deal. Well, it was more like 15 minutes before the next bus came. Never the less, I was on the bus and on my way down town to Wall Street. Or so I thought..

As we were waiting to make the turn on to Houston there was a blizzard of sirens and flashing red lights and I swear the bus almost got creamed by a fire truck. The bus finally made the turn on to Houston and pulled over at the stop and some people got off. However, no one got on and the bus doors stayed opened. Then there was a garbled annoucnment, the gist of which was that this was now the last stop due to the emergency activity more or less in front of us. GREAT!

I got out of the bus along with everyone else and walked a few blocks south and then grabbed a cab home.

I REALLY have to get back to riding the subway.

Friday, November 12, 2010

5 for 5

Today is Friday, the fifth day of the week and the fifth day of the week that I've made it to the office! I know for most people this would not be such a big deal, but given my recent anxiety issues it is quite an accomplishment. I can't remember the last time I was in the office all five days on any given week.

As much as I should be happy with this accomplishment (and I am) I am still a bit disappointment in my reliance on taxi cabs to get home each day. I believe from Monday to Thursday I spent nearly $60 on taxi fares. Today I will take the bus down to Wall Street (assuming the bus is GOING to Wall Street!) and attempt to take the subway home the last leg. I've discussed with my wife the possibility of her meeting me at Wall Street but we'll see if I need that or not.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two Steps Forward One Step Back

Today started out as a normal good day. The subways were quiet, probably due to it being Veteran's Day so the commute was low stress. As has been the case recently, my wife was with me. I arrived at work a little late -- shortly after 10am - but no big deal.

However, the day got stressful as the annoying co-worker who sits next to me was his generally annoying self. And I had projects to get done - including assigning some tasks to him to complete. And while I toiled away at my PC working on multiple projects I watched him pretty much EAT all day. I really don't know how (or if?) he gets any work done when his hands never seem to touch the keyboard. Also, our boss is over seas on business and so I think his absence makes my co-worker feel less motivated to do any work.

I finally had had enough around 5pm when he interjected himself into another conversation that he wasn't part of. I REALLY wanted to remind him that he had like, actual WORK to do.. but since I'm not his boss I just kept my mouth shut and left.

Since I left work earlier than normal I figured I could catch an earlier bus downtown -- hopefully one that would actually go to Wall Street this time. No such luck. I waited for 15 or 20 minutes as multiple bosses (not mine) stopped at the stop before decided to walk across town and try my luck on 2nd Avenue.

I got to 2nd Avenue and waited another 10 or 15 minutes for a bus but never saw one. At this point I was tired and still agitated from the day and said screw it and grabbed a cab. I realize I should have at least TRIED the subway - even from "way" up town where I was but I really just wanted to go home and take a nap.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Worse Than I Hoped

So I set off from work on the bus, in theory, to Wall Street for an attempt on a one stop ride from Wall Street to Clark Street. However, for reasons unknown the bus' final stop was City Hall. Not the end of the world as their is a subway station there that I can take home too -- Park Place to Fulton Street to Wall Street to Clark Street. The same subway station I entered yesterday. Like yesterday I entered the subway station and waited on the platform for a train to arrive. Unlike yesterday no train arrived. Instead, THREE subways heading the wrong way (uptown) came and went with no sign of a downtown train. After the third train I decided to abandon the subway experiment, at least for another day, and grab a cab.

I headed back to the street and flagged down a cabbie. I got in and told the driver where I wanted to go but he asked me to wait one second while he closed his trunk. Not sure what was going on but apparently his trunk was broken. After he slammed it shut five or six times (only to have it pop back open) he informed me that, unfortunately, he wouldn't be able to take me with an open trunk. Not a big deal I thought - there are plenty of other cabs.

I got out of that cab and quickly flagged down another one. I told the driver where I needed to go, "just across the Brooklyn Bridge.." The cabbie responded "the bridge is bad.." at which point a pang of panic radiated through my body. "We can take the Manhattan Bridge" I suggested to the driver. "No.. its too far.." was his reply. At this point I whipped out my Android phone and pulled up Google Maps which thankfully has traffic info. Normally, traffic conditions are one of three colors - green for moving well, yellow for some delays and red for long delays. Well, the "color" for the Brooklyn Bridge was BLACK with red dots. Definitely not a good sign! At this point I informed the cab driver of the scary traffic prognosis on Google Maps and directed him to take me across the Manhattan Bridge. He agreed but we were almost immediately in a traffic jam. Presumably we weren't the only ones thinking the Manhattan Bridge was a better route.Trigger full blown panic.

I quickly swallowed down a Klonopin and called my wife at home. Ring.. ring.. ring.. voice mail. Shit.. Try the cell.. Ring.. ring .. "hello?".. "its me.. ".. "I'm on a call.." ummm "ok.. call me back".. tick.. tick.. heart racing.. breathe.. who can I call? Mom! Ring.. ring.. "hello?" "Hey Mom.. its me.. I'm in the back of a cab in a traffic jam"

Fortunately, Mom is not in the middle of anything and so I end up speaking with her from traffic jam to the Manhattan Bridge and across it. Once we got on the bridge the traffic was moving fine. When we finally got across the bridge the driver needed some guidance so I said goodbye to my mother and directed the cabby on how to get me home. I should not that during my conversation with my mother my wife did call back.

So I did get home without any major breakdown.. but instead of a $2.25 subway ride or a $9.00 cab ride the cab ended up costing $19 with the sitting in traffic and the extra distance. Not exactly the most cost effective way to travel a relatively short distance.

Tomorrow's another day.. and hopefully the bus will actually go to Wall Street this time!

I also enjoy an occasional cigar and I recently purchase a box of 20 cigars on special for $35 but also treated myself to my favorite (but very expensive) cigars.. a 5 pack of Ashton Aged Maduro's at $10 per cigar..

I told my wife that I wouldn't smoke one of those special cigars until I made the round trip to and from work on the subway on my own.  So now, in addition to the therapist recommend "achievable goals" I'll have a nice cigar waiting for me when I finally get myself pulled together enough to ride the subway/

A New Approach

I've discovered that the bus I take down town actually goes all the way to Wall Street. The reason this is of interest is because the Wall Street subway stop is the stop before Clark Street in Brooklyn so I could take the bus to Wall Street and then take the subway one stop to get home. This is the plan of attack for today.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 2 - Trip Home

So I took a bus downtown as planned and then attempted to take the subway the last bit from downtown NYC to Brooklyn but was unable. I got as far as entering the station and standing on the platform. The train that arrived it was one of the old trains which aren't my favorite, and tend to be darker because of a different lighting configuration than the new trains but also because many of the light fixtures seem to be broken. In addition, the train was crowded -- not super packed, but no seats were available -- and so I didn't get on the train. I stayed on the platform for a few minutes thinking that perhaps another train would arrive quickly that would be less crowded and, most likely, a new train. But that didn't happen in the few minutes I was standing there. So I ended up taking a cab home. I'm not super happy about that, mostly because of the $9 cab ride. But I guess that's better than driving to work and paying $20 to park the car, or taking a cab the whole way and paying $24 for the cab plus tip. Tomorrow is another day...

Day 2

I'm in the office again today! Because of the joys of parking in NYC (or Brooklyn) we had to move the car this morning and so my wife drove me to work. I'll take the bus downtown and then try a subway home.

Yesterday, unfortunately, I didn't make it on to the subway. I had an errand to run after work and so I took a bus across town for that errand. After the errand I took a bus down town but since I was on the far west side I ended up at 14th Street and 9th Ave. Instead of taking another cross town bus back east and then perhaps yet another bus down town I just grabbed a cab. I feel like thats a "FAIL" for yesterday but.. I shouldn't dwell on failures so I won't!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 1

After my difficulty with my anxiety over the past week I saw my therapist on Friday. In addition to tweaking my meds he suggested that I stop working from home. More importantly, he believes that when I have some anxiety related to traveling to work I am to quick to say "I'll just work from home." He wants me to act as if I can't work from home so that I push myself to get to work. I think he is right and that this is a good mental approach. He suggest that I make small attainable goals for myself to progress through this current bump in my anxiety. Today I am at work! Pam accompanied me on the subway but never the less I am here. Today is day 1.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekend Trip

I traveled to Long Island this weekend to see my parents. As I mentioned in my opening post of this blog, my father had most of his left leg amputated a few months ago and is, unfortunately, still in physical therapy. I had not been to see my parents in almost a month and so my wife and I felt it was a good weekend to make the trip. We had planned the trip a few weeks ago - before my anxiety had flared up to its current level. Not that we really had much to "plan" -- the ride is a little over two hours and we stay at my parents. Had we decided on Friday to not go (or, just decided last minute TO go) it wouldn't have been a big deal.

All that being said, however, it was a big deal. For me at least. You see, this past week was particularly difficult for me anxiety wise. I made it to work okay on Monday but ended up working from home Tuesday and Wednesday because of anxiety. Thursday, after yet another failed attempt to make the short trip from Brooklyn to NYC my nerves were so frayed that I told my boss I was taking Thursday and Friday off to get my self together.

So when Saturday morning rolled around and we were preparing to head out I was a bundle of nerves. I had taken a klonopin shortly after I got up but was still feeling very nervous. I was able to calm myself down however, by talking to my wife about how I was feeling. I realize that one of the things I have not been doing well recently in terms of my anxiety is opening up to Pam about my mental state. 

Now that we made the trip and I didn't have any issues on the drive in either direction I am feeling good about this coming week. Pam is not traveling for work at all so she will be able to accompany me on the subway each morning to work. I'm hopeful that at some point in the week I will be able to take the subway myself -- perhaps not all the way home, but at least for a stop or two. I want to set small reachable goals for myself to accomplish.

Pam and I are also planning to start taking walks after work. Another thing that I realize I have not been doing is exercising. I had been very busy with work and so when I would arrive home I would plop on the couch in front of the TV. I had forgotten how good I feel after exercising and so I'm again hopeful that reintroducing exercise into my daily routine will help me with my anxiety also.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Story

I suffered my first anxiety attack on November 1, 2003. The only reason I remember the exact date is because the night before was Halloween. I had gone to a party on Halloween night and gotten home late. At the time I was living in a rental with housemates and one of my housemates got up early – around 6am – and made enough noise to wake me up. I tried falling back to sleep but had issues doing so because I was meeting a girl for brunch that morning and was a little nervous.

The girl I was meeting was someone I had met online and this was our first time to meet face to face. She lived about an hour and a half from me and I had agreed to make the trip to where she lived to have brunch.

About half way into the ride I started feeling more than nervous – I felt a little sick. I stopped at a gas station to get some water, figuring I was just not feeling well from the lack of sleep plus some nerves. However, as I continued to drive I continued to feel ill. I finally called her and told her I was not feeling well and that I was going to cancel. I told her I thought it was just nerves at first but then it felt like more than that. She confessed that she too was feeling nervous and hearing that actually made me feel less nervous. As we spoke I decided to continue on to meet her.

I hung up the phone and continued driving but was then swept over by what I can only describe as intense nervousness. I started to have tingling sensations in my hands. At that point I turned around and called my friend to tell her, again, that I was cancelling. I explained what I was feeling physically and that I had already turned around. She was very understanding and told me to call her when I got home.

As I drove the sensations got more intense in my hands and moved up my arm on my right side and into my chest. I began to drive faster but then realized that I could not (and should not) drive like a crazy person with the sensations in my arms and chest. I realized there was a hotel near where I was and so I pulled over and rented a room at the hotel.

Once inside the hotel I called my parents and explained the whole situation and asked them to come get me. They drove up together in my Dad’s car and then my Mom drove me home in my car.

When I spoke to some friends later in the day about what had happened some people thought I might have had a stroke. I really didn’t think that was the case, but not wanting to let something like that pass by without a visit to a doctor, I scheduled an appointment with my physician.

I went to my doctor a few days later and they did all kinds of tests and blood work and took a urine sample. All of the tests came back normal.

A week or so before Christmas I had planned to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Westchester which was about two and a half hours from where I lived. I was not nervous about the trip and so I set off on my way. However, less than an hour into the trip I started having symptoms to those that occurred on my previous car trip.

I called my brother and explained the situation and told him I was not coming. I then called a friend who lived near where I was and asked if I could stop by. I visited with my friend and his family for about an hour, felt better and headed out on my way back home. At this point I was about 45 minutes from home.

Again, however, I suffered from anxiety – this time about 10 – 15 minutes after leaving my friends house. I called my parents and spoke to my Mom on the phone and she tried to calm me down and suggested that I get off the highway and take a more local route, thinking that seeing  the people, stores, etc. might help me relax. I did as she suggested but it didn’t help.

I wound up stopping at what is essentially the “next town over” from where I lived – about a 15 – 20 minute drive – and again called my parents. I asked my Mom to come to where I was and I would follow her home. While I waited for my Mom to arrive I went back and forth between being relaxed and being hysterical. During those times I would call home and speak to my Dad (my Mom didn’t have a cell phone so I could not call her while she was on route.) My mother arrived and I followed her home. At that point I decided that after the holidays I was going to see my doctor again and talk about what was going on.

I met initially with my doctor in early January of 2004. He suggested that I was suffering from panic attacks and prescribed me Xanax. I took the Xanax for the next month or so but didn’t feel it was really working well for me as I had multiple “small” panic attacks. At this point, however, I wasn’t trying to go anywhere further away from home than work. However, on occasion I was asked to travel 15 – 20 minutes outside of my home town and almost always had anxiety and was unable to complete the trip.

After that first month I spoke with my doctor again and he referred me to a psychiatrist who he felt could better diagnose my problem and provide better insight as to what medication might help the most.

I began to see a psychiatrist, Dr. F. and eventually he suggested that I see a psycho analyst weekly while seeing him once a month to see how things were going and how I was responding to medication.

I started taking medication with Lexapro. I don’t remember the dosage that I began with but I recall that we ramped up the dosage periodically. However, I didn’t feel that I was making the desired progress and so we changed medication to Paxil. Again, we slowly ramped up the dosage to the point where I am now which is 75mg a day. I am taking Paxil CR which is a slow release formula so it, in theory, stays in my system at a more constant level throughout the day.

During the period of time that I was on Lexapro I was beginning training for becoming a volunteer EMT for my local fire department. Because of my awareness of my anxiety I would often go on an ambulance call but not get in the ambulance to go to the hospital. This, of course, did not go unnoticed and eventually my Captain addresses my behavior with me. I told her about my anxiety disorder. She was initially understanding but told me that unless I could complete the call (by going to the hospital) I would have to leave the department. I tried at one point to go with the ambulance to the hospital, however, I ended up having an anxiety attack in the back of the ambulance and, amazingly, was able to convince them to drop me off! Needless to say, after this incident I was no longer part of the ambulance core.

Around this time my psychiatrist recommended that I have Klonopin wafers with me to take “as needed” in the event of an anxiety attack. His theory was that this would help calm me down and hopefully get me through some bumps and eventually, hopefully, lead me to having less anxiety attacks. I was able to use Klonopin successfully in various occasions and made great progress with the combination of Paxil on a daily basis and Klonopin as needed.

As I stated, when all of my anxiety issues began I was attempting to make a trip to meet a girl I had met online. That relationship didn’t work out for obvious reasons. However, in August of 2006 I had the good fortune to meet a great girl, Pam, who is now my wife.

My relationship with Pam was not, however, without its complications due to my anxiety. Pam lived in Brooklyn and I lived on Long Island. Initially Pam was spending time on Long Island because her mother had a place there and eventually should would stay with me. However, as the warm weather months drew to a close Pam wanted me to come to visit her in Brooklyn. I eventually confessed to her about my anxiety and my apprehension with traveling alone via train to Brooklyn. She was very understanding and supportive and made the train trip with me a few times so I could get comfortable being on the train. Eventually I was able to take the train myself – with the help of Klonopin – and then later without the Klonopin.

After two years of dating, Pam and I decided to move in together which meant getting a job in NYC. I was easily able to get in and out of NYC and take the subway to job interviews, etc. and got a job. I also proposed to Pam and we got married in September of 2009.

When I first moved to Brooklyn I was able to take the subway without issue as long as I had taken a Klonopin before I left home. There were the occasional ‘mini’ anxiety attacks if the subway stopped between stations for some reason, but those situations were usually a few minutes (or less). The worst case scenario for those was that I would feel my heart rate rise and I would get out of the subway at the next stop. These kind of events, fortunately, were few and far between.

Recently, however, I have had serious issues attempting to get to work each day.
The return of the more severe, regular anxiety attacks began in April of 2010 and coincided with my father having health problems. My father is in his early 80’s and had suffered from circulation problems in both of his legs. He had one leg operated on in 2009 but due to the length of the recovery time he delayed the operation on his second leg. Eventually, the circulation issues got to the point where surgery was no longer an option and the leg had to be amputated.

I began to have anxiety while riding the subway while all of this was transpiring with my father. I eventually began to take the bus to and from work but eventually was able to get back on to riding the subway. However, Labor Day weekend of 2010 I suffered a major anxiety attack when attempting to ride the LIRR to the Hamptons. Since then I have been apprehensive about riding the subway alone and returned to taking the bus to work. In late September of 2010, due to MTA budget cuts, the bus that I took from Brooklyn was removed from service. I began to alternate between taking a cab to work and having my wife accompany me on the subway. This, however, was not the best solution as taking a cab to and from work is quite costly. My wife is also not always available to accompany me on the subway, but even on the days when she can “take” me to work I take a cab home. Because of the cost involved in the taxi I eventually began taking our car to and from work, figuring that the cost of a parking garage was less than the cost of one cab ride.

I also returned to regular weekly therapy sessions and this is where I am now. I’ve been seeing a new therapist for about a month and I’ve been mostly driving to work.