Friday, September 16, 2011

Vacation (All I've Ever Wanted)

Pam and I have just come back from a wonderful two weeks of vacation. Getting out of the city and back to the "country" life on Long Island was ideal for me and my current state of mind / state of anxiety. And making it all the more wonderful was coming back to Brooklyn to a new job that is ALSO in Brooklyn meaning I can walk or ride my bike to work! SCORE!

We ended up being out of town for the better part of two weeks, one week due to Hurricane (Tropical Storm) Irene and the other week being a scheduled week off between jobs. All in all it was just what the "doctor" ordered as far as some low stress down time for all of us - Pam, myself and our doggy who also has anxiety issues.

I'm happy to be back in Brooklyn and thrilled about my new job that not only allows me to walk or bike to work but in which I'm learning multiple new skills -- Android and iOS app development!

Due to the two weeks away - again, one unexpected because of the weather and one scheduled, I did not see my therapist for two weeks. However, given my mental state during that time away I think I was okay with missing some therapy sessions.

Of course, once I got back to "the grind" I started having weird dreams about my brother and having altercations with him.I'm sure this is due both to my sometimes acrimonious relationship with my brother as well as my mostly always acrimonious relationship with my brother-in-law, but I won't go into the details of either of those unhealthy relationships here!

I'll be turning 40 soon and I'm in a period of mixed emotions about that. My new job is awesome and on some level feels like a post-college-graduate kind of situation, and yet I'm realize I'm 40 and I have responsibilities -- a mortgage,  a wife, a "child" (okay, a dog) but never the less it's a lot too think about..

But I guess I'm looking forward to whatever kind of party my wife has planned for me and willing to except that you only get older, you can't go backwards and get younger.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Anxiety or Health Issue?

Recently I have had some episodes of what feels like maybe anxiety but what might also be something more serious. Basically, what is happening is I wake up with what I can only describe as a "fluttering" feeling my my chest, almost as if I'd had too much sugar or caffeine  However, since I'm just waking up in the morning I know its not from too much sugar or caffeine. Anyway, along with this feeling in my chest is some nausea and feeling hot and/or sweating - even after taking a shower.

The first time it happened was about a week ago and that day was the morning I was going to give notice at work (I got a new job, more about that later). Anyway, I tried to just let it go and started off on my way to work but the feelings continued and so I took an anxiety med. The med helped a little but not enough and made me tired so I ended up calling in sick to work.

These feelings happened again this weekend -- Saturday and Sunday morning. On Saturday I was up earlier than I normally would be on a Saturday because I was playing in a touch football tournament. Again, I chalked it up to anxiety because my wife was away and I was driving with a friend to the event. But my friend knows about my anxiety and so I pressed on.

Sunday morning though I felt it again -- less so than the previous two times, but still on some level. I had slept in on Sunday and had no reason to be feeling any kind of anxiety so I started to get a little concerned. I did some research on my symptoms and found that they could be associated with an arrhythmia.

Now, it should be noted that I was diagnosed as having a slow heart beat when I was young and have had one my entire life. One type of arrhythmia is a slow heart rate. Additionally, these kind of feelings can be caused by anxiety; however, these kind of heart issues can also cause anxiety so its a chicken or the egg kind of thing.

I'm planning to go see a cardiologist and will report back his/her findings.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dream Log

In therapy yesterday I told me therapist about strange dreams that I have had over the past two weeks. (She was on vacation last week so it had been two weeks since I last saw her.) Her feeling was that my psyche is trying to work out a lot of issues that I have conflicting emotions about and so that explains some of my dreams.

I've decided that I'm going to try to write more regularly on this blog and part of that is going to be chronicling dreams that I think are of interest as far as my anxiety.

So on to last nights dream.. I was in the town I grew up in and, as is the case in many of my dreams, I was having difficulty with my legs. Basically, they felt tired and heavy and I was able to walk but not very quickly - or what would be consider a normal pace. I was also leaning forward as if to use my upper body to help push myself forward. I then went into a place to get food - it was a buffet type place, similar to where I often eat lunch when I am at work. In the dream the buffet place had a seating area and that is where the cash register was also, but they were closing up the seating area so I was trying to finishing pick my food quickly so I could get in to pay for it. However, the dinning room / register closed before I got there. And because I was rushing I some how wound up with two plastic containers - one inside the other. So I exit the buffet area and figure I guess I don't have to pay for my food since the register is closed and so I start to leave. Then I pass these three girls I went to grade school with - they are sisters - and their Dad is with them but he is in a wheelchair. Now what was weird was that they were all still young in the dream - as when we went to grade school - but their Dad was older, and as I mentioned in a wheel chair. I said brief hello's to them and then continued out the door but then I realized that the plastic container I was carrying was empty -- and I only had one, not the one inside the other one. It was as if I had dropped the container with the food in it. So I went back into the food place - and again my legs were tired and heavy so I could not move very quickly - and as I walked in I saw my food container on the floor and a janitor guy was about the sweep it up and throw it out. I called out to him to stop but before I could get his attention he hit it with his mop and it flipped over and all the food spilled out. Then I woke up..

I'm not sure how interested any of you will be in my dreams but I want to post them to my blog so I have a record of them and I can share them with my therapist later.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I've finally signed up again for the mindfulness and meditation workshop that I blew off earlier this year. It starts on September 14th and runs 8 weeks. The classes are 7:00-9:00pm so it will be a total of 16 hours.

On Tuesday when I got to my therapy session I am planning to work with my therapist to semi-induce an anxiety attack and then talk through what I'm feeling, etc. with my therapist. I read an interesting article on the Psychology Today website about this approach ( The idea being that when an anxiety attack comes on rather than trying to get out of the situation and stop the anxiety, you "turn into" the anxiety and try to deal with it head on.

I'm excited but also nervous about doing this. However, Pam will be home so I will have her to help me post-therapy session if I'm still in an anxious state when I get home.

Friday, July 8, 2011

End of Day 2

I spoke to my boss over the phone today and he was very understanding and supportive of my anxiety issues which was a nice relief. My old boss knew about my issues but I don't believe he had let anyone know so when he changed positions and I started reporting to the new boss I wasn't sure who knew what.

I still feel bad about not getting to the office, and I realize that I have to be at the office for meetings, etc. unless its a pre-arranged "work from home" day. I get more stressed from the potential repercussions of the anxiety.

It is ironic that I would feel more comfortable if I had the car to drive too and from work since my anxiety started out as a driving anxiety. I guess I could consider my anxiety "travel" anxiety.. Getting from here to there is stressful.. Crowded buses or subways, traffic, planes.. even elevators (although not so much recently). Basically if it moves me from point A to point B it causes me anxiety.

I wonder why that is? I should talk to my therapist about that more. I had always thought it was the fear of feeling trapped -- or not in control. Hmmm.

So I ended up having a productive day work wise and then I watched some TV and the start of the Mets game (they are playing on the west coast so it was a late start.) But now its 11:05pm and I'm a bit wired. I know if I try to go to sleep I'll just toss and turn and so I'm sitting at my computer writing this blog post, trying to decide what to do next.

Anxiety, Day 2

I'm working from home again today.. Even though I really should have gone to the office. I had borrowed a friends iPad and he is leaving today (he lives in Virginia) so now I have to mail it back to him. My boss is also coming to the office today and wants to chat about the next phase of a project I've been working on. I sent him an e-mail and told him about my anxiety. So now that's out there.

I'm not sure whats going on with me these days. I made sure I got a good nights sleep last night -- well made as "sure" as I could. I went to bed early, etc. I felt like I slept okay, although I did have this strange dream. In the dream I had apparently been in a car accident -- I was hit head on and then another car hit me from behind and flipped the car. I apparently ended up being in a coma for a few months. I know this because when I woke up (in the dream) baseball season was over and football season was on. Then people told me about the accident, etc.

I woke up with a headache on the right side of my head too. Normally, when I have sinus issues I'll get a headache on the left side of my head so having it on the right was odd. It almost felt like a hangover but all I drank last night was ginger ale.

The other "pressing" reason to go to the office today - or at least into the city - is to pick up my prescription refill since I took my last pills Thursday night. I think I'll be okay for a few days without them. I am going to encourage my wife to come home early on Sunday so she can drive me into NYC to pick up my meds.

Thats the other thing about the anxiety -- I've been driving myself to work but when Pam is away with the car I don't have that option. In theory being in a cab should feel the same as driving myself, but it doesn't. I don't have the same amount of control when someone else is driving.

I'm really not sure how to proceed from here as far as my therapy, my meds, etc.

I so fear having an anxiety attack that I get anxious thinking about it that it prevents me from even trying. I guess if I could find some way of inducing a panic attack in a controlled environmental I could learn how to cope with them and then the anticipation of having one wouldn't be so bad.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Anxiety Now

I'm home alone and I had a mild anxiety attack this morning. I think there were many factors involved in triggering the attack. Firstly, I didn't sleep well last night -- I had a lot of weird dreams, including some strange "where am I" / "How did I get here" type dreams. Pam is away too -- with the car -- and so my normal routine of driving to work is not an option. I took a cab to work on Tuesday but worked from home yesterday and so I'm working from home again today. I think the other part of the trigger was I have a dentist appointment scheduled for this afternoon (which I've now cancelled). The appointment was to have a post implanted in my jaw to eventually support a fake tooth. I was definitely nervous about the whole procedure and how I would feel after it and so I wasn't looking forward to going. And again, not having Pam here always ramps up my overall anxiety level.

I took my "as needed" meds to help calm myself down and then told my work supervisor about my anxiety.I think he was aware of my anxiety but since he is my new supervisor I wasn't 100% sure.

I'm trying not too think too much about tomorrow -- I "have" to get into the city at some point because I borrowed a co-workers iPad and he is leaving tomorrow (he isn't normally in our NYC office) and I also have to go to Duane Reade and pick up my daily meds. I'm thinking that I could make the trip this evening when no one is in the office and traffic will be light. I can drop off the iPad and e-mail my co-worker about where I left it and then go to Duane Reade and then take a cab home again.

I hate that I feel this way, especially when Pam is away, because I don't want her to feel like she can't go away. Of course, not having the car makes it harder -- being in a cab makes me feel like I have less control, although you'd think that, on some level, having a person in the cab with me (the driver) would make me feel better. However, the drivers typically are on their cell phones (even though they aren't supposed to be) and even then, don't seem to speak much english.

Okay.. I guess I should actually starting working now..

Monday, June 27, 2011


I've been putting off this post for a while because I was still working on my reaction to some sad news.

I found out that other day that someone I knew had died. He was a doctor - a chiropractor - that I knew because I had been a patient of his from 2003-2006. He was only 35, so I'm older than he is. I guessed that we were around the same age. He was such a good guy. He died of hantavirus..such a rare thing to die from. He left behind a wife and three children.

I was really effected by learning of his death because I read about how he was cleaning the basement of the house he and his wife owned and that the virus he died of probably came from mouse droppings in the basement. When I was his patient I remember him speaking fondly of the "old" house he and his wife had bought. The work they had put into it. His oldest child is five - I remember him telling me about his wife being pregnant and how excited he was about the pending birth of his first child.

He was a great doctor and after almost three years of treatment I stopped seeing him because my back felt better. And it still feels good. I've had other problems with my upper back and I've moved from one place to another and so I see a different chiropractor when I need too. But the problems he helped me with - my lower back - I had suffered with off and on for almost 8 years before I found him. He treated me, and after 8 years of suffering he "cured" me. It took almost 3 years but he did it and I felt great. And now he is gone.

I was almost sick to my stomach when I read the story about him. It was "news" because it was such an unusual way for someone to die. But it should have been news because this young man, only 35 years old, died. Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, it should be brought to the attention of the general public. Good people shouldn't die.. but they do. I know that there are many brave and heroic men and women who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan or who died in countless other wars, and I know that often their deaths go unnoticed or unaccounted for by the general public. And those deaths are no less important, but this death, really struck me. Maybe because I knew him, maybe because we had a lot in common -- our age, our attempts to start our own businesses, other things.

I'm so sad thinking about him being gone, and that doesn't even include when I think about the wife and children he left behind.

And I guess on some level, this sad story helps me put things in perspective too. I have my anxiety, I worry about getting stuck on a subway or an elevator, but the reality of this sad news makes me realize that my life is pretty good, and being stuck in some scarey place, for minutes or even hours, doesn't compare to the pain his famiyl must feel.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I saw a new psychiatrist last week and I like him. The reason I switched was because my company's insurance changed and my old psychiatrist wasn't on the new plan. Plus, she was basically just a pill dispenser - I started seeing her when I first moved to Brooklyn and wanted to continue on the same meds I had been on and I never did any real "talk" therapy with her.

The new psychiatrist , Dr. B, was referred to me by my new(ish) weekly talk therapist, C. I guess C is a clinical social worker but she may be a psychologist. I'm not really sure the difference.

Anyway, I like Dr. B. I had to fill out all sorts of paper work before I saw him and I included in that the multi page document I had written about my history of anxiety. Of course, he hadn't read it when I first saw him, but that was okay as we covered the highlights in our session.

So for now he decided to keep me on my "regular" meds, Paxil CR 75mg a day -- which he said was a very high dose, but I knew that. But he also prescribed me new meds - beta blockers - which are used for people with high blood pressure. The theory is that the new meds will help reduce the my body's normal fight or flight response and so I should feel less anxious. He told me to take one about 30 minutes before I want to visit the subway. Of course, he told me to take a test pill first to make sure I wasn't the one in a million person who ended up passing out from it! 

The whole thing with "visiting" the subway was C's idea. Basically she wants me to slowly get back into being comfortable in the subway, first by just hanging out on the platform and then eventually going at least one stop, and then two, three, etc. So far I've had "bad" experiences because I get anxious just being in the subway station, even though I know I'm not going to get on the train. So Dr. B thinks the new meds will help me with that general anxiety and help me to evolve into getting on the subway again some day.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Anticipatory Anxiety

I'm supposed to meet some friends in NYC around 7pm tonight for karaoke. I'm meeting up with people I played touch football with and the get together was actually my idea. However, I'm feeling a bit anxious about the whole thing. I believe the anxiety is mostly because Pam is on Long Island at her Mom's as opposed to here in Brooklyn with me. Even if Pam were here she most likely would not be joining me at karaoke but I would feel better for two reasons -- one, she would be here and reachable if I "needed" her and two, I could drive. 

Of course, she is still reachable - she has her cell and I can call her. I can also can any of the many others who know about my anxiety and have offered to "be there" for me. But I think having her physically here would make me feel better before leaving.

And driving would be nice on one level but on the other hand, if I don't drive I can have a cocktail or two and not worry about the effects of the alcohol as I would have to worry if I drove.

I know myself well enough to know that this anxiety is not new or unusual and that once I get to the bar and meet up with my friends I'll most likely be fine. However, I am considering taking a med before I leave our apartment. And speaking of meds - I need to do another blog post about the new psychiatrist I started seeing and the meds he put me on.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A New Chapter

Start a new chapter
Find what I'm after
It's changing every day
The change of a season
Is enough of a reason
To want to get away

One of my relatives just turned 30 and she had a nice outlook on her big birthday -- she said she saw it as an opportunity to start a new part of her life. Her 29th year was filled with some work related uncertainty and she felt like the timing of her birthday coincided with a new job and some other changes nicely.

I have a significant birthday coming out in October -- I'll be 40! I'm now thinking that for me 40 will also be a good turning point. I'm going to get back to aggressively "challenging" my anxiety and trying to over come my inability to tide on the subway. Even if that means having some failures that include having anxiety attacks. I used to get migraine headaches a few times a year (over the past four years I've only had two) and after the first few that really freaked me out I learned how to handle them and so, although they were unpleasant, they just became an annoyance, not a "big deal". I always thought I would get to that point with the anxiety attacks. My goal is to get to that point now.

*The lyrics at the top of this post are from the song "Fly By Night" by Rush

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I just found out that a good friend's mother passed away tonight. She had apparently been ill for some time, but its still sad when someone dies.

I sent him a message on Facebook after hearing the news. Later, when I was on Facebook again to see what others might have written in reaching out to him I was surprised to see that he had posted something. The specifics of what he posted are not important, but the content was basically about Heaven and his Mom being there now with his Dad. I was moved by this and it got me thinking.

My parents are older -- both in there 80's -- and as I've discussed some on this blog, my Dad's health is not great. When the day comes that one of my parents is gone I know I won't have the positive outlook that my friend did. I'm not religious and I don't believe in heaven.

I know this is a strange post but I just wanted to share my thoughts.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Some Transitions Are Good!

On Friday I met with my new boss and got a promotion and a raise! I'm quite excited - but also a little nervous. The reason I have a new boss is that when my company was acquired my current boss was given the option to move into a more long term strategic / planning role and along with that was the opportunity to move he and his family to London so he jumped at the chance.

Anyway, when my boss told me of his transition I made he and others aware that I thought I would be a good candidate to take over for him as the "leader" of our development team. At first it looked like this wasn't going to happen -- we had been told that we, the development team, would all report to someone else. So that someone else is my new boss.

However, when I met with him on Friday he told me he was glad to learn that I was interested in becoming the team leader and that he was really hoping to rely on me for a lot of help and guidance on the internal transition of our companies following the acquisition.

Now the reason I'm a little nervous about the promotion is that it MAY require some travel. And as you all know, I'm not a great traveler right now. My old boss knew about my anxiety but I'm pretty sure he has not mentioned it to anyone else. There is no travel on the radar at the moment but its something I have to think about and figure out how to handle if / when it comes up.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's All My Ex's Fault

I had a great session with my therapist today. We talked a lot about my last serious relationship prior to Pam. I will just refer to that girl as "D".. which is progress because I used to refer to her as "the C-word".. YES, that C-word!

I was almost surprised to realize that it was just short of a year between the time I broke up with D and the time my anxiety started.

The thing that is so funny about my relationship with her is that, at that time in my life, I was probably the most secure and confident that I had ever been in my life up to that point. I had quit my job to start my own web design company. I was more or less living pay check to pay check but I was okay with that. When D and I were together and she was job hunting (more on that later) I was willing to relocate pretty much anywhere she wanted, as long as I was confident we'd be there for a long enough period of time that I could build a business there.

But it wasn't all upside with D and that of course is why we broke up. We started dating in January of 2001 and were together until just after Thanksgiving on 2002. During the time we were together I went from living in my own place to living with her, even though I originally resisted moving in together. I had made arrangements to rent a room from a friend but she wanted us to leave together. We fought -- we did that a lot -- and I caved -- I did that a lot too -- and so I moved in with her.

And, looking back, that was the beginning of being trapped in my relationship with her. I didn't have anywhere else to go so I had to stick it out with her. I know that had I been living in my own place I probably would have broken up with her long before November 2002.  After living together in what had been her mother's house we moved closer to NYC so she could work in the city. I really thought that moving out of that house would be great for her, that it would help her and our relationship. It turns out I was wrong.

D's mother had passed away in 1999 and she had moved from Pennsylvania to Long Island to deal with her Mom's house and estate. Despite having two sisters, D took everything upon herself. I think this was part of her psyche though -- that she could, or more likely "had" to do everything herself.

I think D was very upset about losing her mother -- as most people would be -- but more than just because her mother was gone. D was on a cruise when her Mom died and I think D blamed herself, as though not being on the cruise would have made a difference. The only problem with that theory is that D lived in Pennsylvania so she would not have been with her Mom on the night she passed.

My therapist thinks that D was stuck in the grieving process and I think she is probably right.

During therapy in 2004 my then therapist suggested that I write a letter to D -- not one that I would ever send, but just a chance to vent. I've decided to include that letter here..

Dear D,

I’m sitting in my room in East Hampton listening to music that makes me think of our relationship –

I've lied to you
The same way that I always do
But this is the last smile
That I'll fake for the sake of being with you
I've tried for you
To do everything you wanted me too
But this is the last time
I'll take the blame for the sake of being with you

These lyrics makes me think about the end of our relationship – the terrible time I had at Thanksgiving and what a bitch you were and how I told myself that after the holidays, I was leaving. But I couldn’t even make it through the holidays, and I’m so glad that I left when I did. I’m just sorry that it took me so long to get up the courage too leave.There were so many times I wanted to go and I didn’t. The time we had the big fight at the house in Montauk – had I been living at Peej and Jess’ like I wanted too, I would have left then. But I didn’t take the room they offered because I chose to not fight with you over it. If I had stuck to my guns and rented the room from P and J, our relationship would have ended so much earlier.

I also think about so many minor modifications I made to my daily routine to please you, such as drying off in the shower so the bathmat didn’t get too wet. But the ironic thing about that was the whole reason you didn’t like it when the bathmat was wet was because you insisted on not wearing shoes in the house, and that was another change I made for you while living in your house in Montauk.
I look back, too, and compare you with N. Most outside observers would say that there are not similarities between you, and yet I see so many. You were both completely insecure; it’s just that your insecurity manifested itself in different ways. With N, it was her physical body that she attempted to manipulate through her eating disorders. With you it was your attempt to please everyone around you all the time, and to never be a bother. An example of this is bringing your own sheets and towels to someone’s house when invited to be an overnight guest. Your response to that would be that it is the “polite” thing to do, except 99% of the world would say the polite thing is for the person inviting you to spend the night to provide linens.

Another demonstration of your obvious insecurities were the way you left messages on people’s answering machines – and I remember noticing this when we first started dating. You would start with “It’s just me”, but in a tone in which the subtext was “don’t get excited, it’s no one important, just Dorothy.” What I would love to understand about you, but I know I never will, is why you are so insecure. You did well in school, you were a successful nurse, and probably could have been a successful nurse-paralegal had you stuck with it long enough. I can only guess you were trying to get the approval of your parents, but unfortunately, they had both passed away before I met you, and so I know that they was never going to happen.

Another thing I hated about you – and it’s funny that I use that word, “hate” – because you are the only one of my ex-girlfriends that I have feelings of hate and animosity towards. But on to my point – the way you looked at the world with such a negative perspective. It’s so sad to see someone with so much to vent about – so much anger. And I know that you would think I was the angry one in our relationship, but at least I expressed my emotions and then moved on. You insisted that your jadedness was based on life experience, and if that’s so, then I feel sorry that your life has been so miserable. And yet, having met your friends from Pennsylvania and your family, I can’t believe that your life was ever that bad that you would become so jaded.

How could you paint this picture?
Was life as bad as it should seem, 
that there were no more options for you?
Did daddy not love you?
Or did he love you just too much?
Did he control you?
Did he live through you at your cost?
Did he leave no questions for you to answer on your own?
Well fuck them,
and fuck him,
and fuck you,
for not having the strength in your heart to pull through.

The only thing I can think of is that you carry with you bitterness about B breaking off your engagement and resentment towards your sister Carol who got married around the same time you would have married Bernard. And so you carry anger and hatred towards both of them because your sister has the family you think you should have but don’t because B didn’t marry you. And of course, had you married him all those years ago, your mother would have been alive to see it and to most likely see grandchildren from you, and I think that is why you lived in somewhat of a state of denial about your mother being dead. I remember having an argument with you about the fact that you always spoke about your mother in the present tense, like she was still alive. And thinking how creepy it was that her room in the house in Montauk was basically untouched 3 or 4 years after she died. I was amazed when you let me move things around in that room to create an office. I know a part of me hoped doing so would be therapeutic for you, but I don’t think it changed anything. The ironic thing about all this is that I really did want to understand you, and on many levels you remind me of a younger me – when I was uptight and anal retentive and no fun to be around. 

But my experience with N, driving across country and living in San Diego for a year, away from my friends and family, and living with a manic depressive, bulimic girl made me a stronger person, and made me realize what was important in life, and more importantly, what wasn’t important in life. Things like money – which we fought about all the time. You worried about it constantly, yet you had a good job. I was struggling to make a web design business work, but I never worried about money. Because I knew, if I had to get a job, I could – and I would. Just like the summer we met and I worked at the hotel. You can always get a job and figure out how to live within the means you earn. But to contemplate that scared you. And I can relate to that because I was there. I didn’t want to live “pay check to pay check” and so I didn’t make the movie with B and C when I graduated college, and, although the movie wasn’t a huge success and C and B don’t speak to each other anymore, there is a part of me that regrets not taking the leap – the risk – and doing that movie. 

I know a part of me thought I could change you, because I felt like I’d been in your shoes before – but it took me a long time to realize that you didn’t want to change. I guess you either liked who you were, although I don’t think you did, or you were just scared of change. But everyone is scared of change, but that’s what makes it exciting and worth doing. Of course, being scared of change is why I stayed with you for so long – because I didn’t know where I would go, where I would live, what I would say to people about why we broke up. But I finally found the strength to make the change, and I guess that’s part of why I’m writing this letter -- because change has come to me once again. 

I’ve sold my half of my company and started working a full time job for DM, which, looking back seems so ironic. I always felt that part of you was waiting for me to give up the web design business and get “a real job.” I never felt like you supported me emotionally in any way, and I know you never supported me financially. But when I made the one offer to you – that I would move to Pennsylvania with you when I had finished the hotel program, and get a job working for someone else – but that to do so you would have to stick it out in NYC and pay most of the bills because I would not take on any new work, you declined that offer. I don’t know if that was because you were so obsessed with money, or because you didn’t have faith that I could find a job, or what, but you had your shot.

I never felt I got any support from you in the things I tried to do, and yet, any time you “did” something for me, it was always about how you made some sacrifice for me and how I should somehow be grateful or indebted to you. A classic example of this was one of the times we were visiting Montauk while living in North Bellmore and I had a meeting planned with G for the following morning. He called to see if we could meet during the evening of the current day and I asked you if that was okay or if you had too much to do to get back to East Hampton in time. You said it was okay, but then proceeded to storm around the house like you had too much to do and too little time, and you blamed me for putting you in that situation. Yet, it never crossed your mind that I gave you a choice and you made a choice and then didn’t want to take responsibility for the consequences of that choice.
So that’s what this whole letter is about – and why the lyrics at the beginning of the letter seemed appropriate to me… This is the last time I'll take the blame for the sake of being with you. How many times did we have fights, and how many times did you take responsibility for provoking me or perhaps overreacting to something I said or did? Zero. None. Zilch. 

And that’s why I’m still so angry at you. And it seems so ironic, given that you are a nurse, and were a critical care nurse before we met. Maybe that’s part of it though – in that line of work, you can’t make mistakes, because if you do, people die. And so maybe you thought that you were perfect, and that you didn’t make mistakes in your everyday life either. 

And that of course makes me think of, again, your bad attitude about the volunteer ambulance core in Montauk, and how you blamed them for your mother’s deaths – that they didn’t respond fast enough or do enough. You couldn’t accept that they did the best they could. I can guarantee you – no one on that crew decided that night that your mother’s life wasn’t worth saving. But that wasn’t good enough for you. You couldn’t accept that they did the best they could, because their best wasn’t enough to keep your mother alive. But I’m sure there have been times in your career as a nurse where patients have died despite the best efforts of the doctors and nurses at the hospital, and in those cases, I certainly hope that the families of the deceased didn’t blame the medical staff for a lack of effort.
The whole reason the idea of writing this letter came up is because I’m in therapy again – I’ve been having panic attacks since November of last year. The first one came while I was on my way to meet a girl whom I had made contact with over the Internet. The funny thing about therapy is looking back at the time you and I spent in therapy and what a farce it seems like now. I’m so curious to know what you talked to the doctor about during your solo sessions. And I so strongly believe that you only went because you thought I would change, and that you didn’t need to change. I like to write and I remember some snotty comment you made to me about how I wasn’t writing any more while we were together – but I was.. just nothing I could share with you, because it was mostly me venting about you. 

Of course, when we first started dating I gave you 10 or 12 poems that I wrote because I was curious to see what you thought of them, and I know you never gave me any feedback, and I wonder if you ever read them.

Probably not..

Ok this is a really long post so I'll end it here but I'm sure I'll have more things to add about D later.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Double Agent

There is a great Rush song (well, they're ALL great.. but..) Anyway, there is a song by Rush on the Counterparts album called "Double Agent" and it starts out like this..

Where would you rather be?
anywhere but here
When will the time be right?
anytime but now.

I wrote a poem a long time ago called "Anywhere But Here" which is about my anxiety. I just came across it and thought I'd post it on the blog.

Anywhere But Here


my head
my heart
and no
where I
I’m never
I want
            to be


The thing I fear most is a lack of control. There are many ways a lack of control - or the sense of a lack of control - can strike. For me, originally it was traffic.. being stuck in traffic triggered a panic attack. And then just the fear of being stuck in traffic could cause an anxiety attack. I have what my therapist described as anticipatory anxiety. This shouldn't surprise me as I've never been good at waiting. I'm usually early for things - appointments, dinner reservations, whatever. But then I have to wait and I get anxious. But I don't like the feeling of running late because then I get anxious looking at the clock and thinking "I'm late.."

So I had my anxiety under control for a while but then the lack of control snuck back into my head -- this time on the subway. Once those doors close you're stuck until the next station and the doors open. And since its a subway you're underground in a dark claustrophobic tunnel. Its not like being in a car in traffic where there is air and light and cell phone service.

So then again the anticipatory anxiety took over -- what if I got stuck in a subway ? What if the train stopped in between stations for more than just a minute or two? What if some crazy person got hit by the train and we were stuck for hours.. So now I can't even get on the subway. I've been, ironically..driving to work. I don't mind the drive, its short, and I have music and my cell phone so I can call people if anything "bad" happens.

I know this is 'old news' but I just started writing this stream of conscienceless.

Monday, May 2, 2011


This is a poem I wrote at some point "early" in my days of dealing with anxiety. Since I'm approaching 8 years of dealing with panic attacks I'm not sure how I define "early" but I know this poem was written at some point prior to 2005 and so it was somewhere between 0 and 3 years "in".

Sometimes I feel like
I want to heal
the world
Sometimes it seems like
I can do anything
But then sometimes
I realize
that I’m human
and I can’t do
I lie awake in my bed
curled up like an infant
wanting to leave
it all
I cry out to you
but I’m not sure
you hear
I want you to hold
but I’m not sure
you care
I’m shaking
I’m not awake
but my sleep
doesn’t offer me
Dreams are nightmares
a focusing of my
into a light beam
I don’t want
to see.

I remember writing this poem after reading the latest blog entry of Panicking Teen (

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about "transitions" lately -- mostly because of posting to this blog an old journal entry about my thunderstorm anxiety reappearing (back in 1995) and my comment about how my therapist from "way back when" suggested that my anxiety resurfaced during periods of transition.

I've gone through a lot of transitions over the past few years. I moved from my home town on Long Island to Brooklyn, got engaged (then married!) and have had a few jobs since moving. However, none of that seemed to trigger my anxiety the way my father's health problems did. 

Is my anxiety really because of Dad's health issues? Or was that transition just the last straw? The proverbial straw that broke the camels back.

Transition is really "change" and no one likes change. Although President Obama ran a campaign based on "change", he just called it "hope"

I spoke to my therapist this week about transition and the fact that I feel, on some level, that I'm in a perpetual state of transition as I wait to see what happens with my Dad. But the fact of the matter is I know, or at least I feel like I "know" he won't ever leave the rehab facility and return home. The place he is in is really an assisted living facility.. Except I have this fantasy idea that a real assisted living facility is more like a nice hotel with nurses or something. A place where you actually live and do stuff.. but where Dad is living is more like a hospital than a hotel. And I guess I want to feel like that transition for Dad is over -- either he is home again or he is in a place where everyone - including Dad - know that he will be for whatever life he has left.

I feel like, when I see or speak to my Dad on the phone, that I am being disingenuous by asking him about his progress with rehab, and asking about dates when he might be able to get home. I know he won't ever leave -- there are two many variables. The reoccurring c-diff infection that prevent him from doing PT. The apparent lack of motivation on his part to do simple exercises while in the wheel chair or his bed. But apparently he still talks to Mom like he will be home one day. But I think the charade needs to stop. 

And speaking of transitions -- although a bit of topic from this post -- I need to find a new psychiatrist. My company changed health insurance and my old psychiatrist isn't on my new plan (Oxford). When I told her about the new health insurance she suggested I find a new doctor. Its sort of like being dumped! I wish my current therapist could prescribe me meds. Oh well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thought Catalog

I found this posting about having an anxiety attack on the subway on a site called Thought Catalog. I thought at first the person who posted this article was the author/owner of the entire collection of writing on Thought Catalog but that was because I had only viewed the site on my mobile device. Having now, finally, looked at the site on a real computer I realize it is a collection of works written by various authors. None the less, there are a lot of interesting / funny pieces.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I've posted a bunch of "new" blog entries that are really not new - they are excerpts from journals I kept off and on from high school through a period of my life post-college. I compiled these specific postings for my current therapist and decided they were good things to post on this blog.

I was supposed to start a Mindfulness and Mediation workshop yesterday (Monday) but I bailed on it. My reasons for bailing were.. well partly anxiety related -- I arrived at the building on Madison Ave about 40 minutes prior to the start of the "class" and felt uneasy -- but also there were other factors. I had read more about the workshop online and wasn't sure it was my cup of tea. Of course, I probably should have done that research before I signed up. But the other contributing factor was softball. See, I play on a work softball team and many of our games this season are on Monday's. Because the workshop was also on Monday's I would have missed almost 1/2 the season. As I explained to my therapist today, my anxiety prevents me from doing things I want to do - like flying to California or Aruba -- and I don't want my anxiety treatment to prevent me from doing things I want and CAN do - like playing softball. Of course, my therapist (and my wife) reaction to that idea was that dealing with my anxiety is more important than softball.

I could say that I don't agree but they would both argue I'm just justifying not dealing with my anxiety.

In any event, the workshop - because of my "late" cancellation - is non-refundable so my only option is to re-enroll in a later workshop. So my "justification" for bailing is rendered mute, unless I want to forfeit the rather substantial payment for the workshop.

So many things to think about in dealing with the anxiety.. Yet another reason I wish I didn't have this frickin' issue / disability / whatever-you-want-to-call it.

Elevators II

I think these two paragraphs were written after the text above because it seems like the phobia related to elevators has gotten worse. Above I reference riding the elevators in my building every day but below I talk about struggling to get on the elevator. I remember the struggling part – I think it was after the original World Trade Center attack when I returned to school for the last semester of my junior year that I really had trouble getting on the elevators. The first semester of my senior year I lived with my sister Susan (the one I don’t like) in her apartment. My parents were helping her with her rent and my roommate, knowing I was planning to move out of NYC after the first semester of our senior year, had moved to Brooklyn with another one of our classmates when our leased expired. Since I / my parents didn't want to sign a year lease with plans to not be in NYC for a year my parents made a deal with my sister relative to me living there. I guess maybe she had been paying her own rent but since I was living there my parents helped out with the rent. (I’m not sure if they weren’t paying part of her rent all along)

Now it's gotten to the point where I can't get on any elevator other than the one in this building, and here I can only get on if I'm accompanied by someone and then I don't want to go past the third floor, regardless of who I'm with.. What is the fucking deal? The fear is about not knowing what to do if we get stuck, the odds of which are slim to none, I'm sure, but WHAT IF... It's all about control, and not having it. That is where the fear lies. Anything else that is "what if" I have some control over. You see, if I could take the stairs any time, then I'd have control, and so when there was someone with me, I could go either way. If I was feeling wimpy, I'd take the stairs and if I was strong I'd take the elevator.

Part of the fear definitely resides in the lack of "feedback".. I mean, when I was in the train in the tunnel I was a little nervous, but as long as I could see some light or something outside the train I was okay, knowing that I was in the dark abyss. I think that part of the reason I was okay with someone else in the elevator was that in the event we got stuck I had someone to talk to, so I wasn't "alone"..


This was written sometime after the initial attack on the World Trade Center. I remember that was in the winter and then I was home for Christmas break and I heard on the news about a class trip where a group of students got stuck in an elevator. I don’t remember for how long, I think it was a few hours though. Anyway, in the news report they mentioned how the class (along with their teacher/s) sang to pass the time and keep each other calm. My friend Brooks lived in a building on Mulberry Street where the elevator made a low buzzing noise when it reach the floor instead of the typical “ding”. I knew this from experience but it still freaked me out. I was scheduled to see Brooks and his girlfriend and have dinner at their place and that is what I reference going to his place.

What about elevators. Why do they freak me out so? I mean, honestly, what can happen? And of the two million people in New York City why do I think that I will perish in an elevator? People ride them every day and nothing happens to them. I mean, if it did, you would hear about it because it would be such an odd occurrence, you know? God I'm a weenie sometimes. It sucks. Of course the weather isn't supposed to be great this week either but I've finally learned to cope with it.

It's so stupid, you know? I don't know why I get all worked up. I mean, it's the shortest ride it could possibly be. What's the big worry? No ones ever died in one. It's not gonna freak out a jump out of the walls it's in.. And so what if I get stuck - there's nothing I can do so I might as well sit back and enjoy it.

I think the fear is all related to not being in control. I'm worried that once the door closes, I'm no longer under my own control. That's where the fear comes in. It's not so much elevators, just as it's not so much subways or thunderstorms, or heights, or anything else. It's a lack of control that I fear so much. If I could just come to terms with the idea that there will always be things that are beyond my control then I could deal with my fears more rationally then I do now. The other weird thing is why I feel more comfortable with someone else in the elevator, even if I don't know them. Maybe because then I know that I'm not alone in my lack of control. There is someone else who has to go through the whatever with me, so if we get stuck we both have to deal with it. Or maybe it's knowing that we're not gonna get stuck (most likely) and the person I'm with doesn't have a remote thought about the possibility of getting stuck. The strange thing too is that I don't ever remember being afraid of elevators.. I guess it's because I didn't ever have to ride them in my youth, and then when I came to school here I was suddenly thrust into a situation where I had to do it. But what I don't understand is why is there such a great fear about Brooks' building? I ride the elevators in my building almost every day..

The fear is because of the way the elevator sounds.. You get on, the door closes, the "engine" or whatever, starts, and then it sounds like it stops and there is a buzz, and it sounds like something has gone wrong, but that, of course, is what the elevator does EVERY time, but it seems abnormal to me because the elevator I ride in this building doesn't do that. It's that uncomfortableness with knowing what's coming.. the way the ride sounds, etc. but it's stupid.. it's a short ride and I know that that's how it sounds.. but because it's abnormal, I think what if it doesn't sound that way? Either way it's not good..

More on Thunderstorms

This was written shortly after I moved in with my friend PJ (“Peej” as I called him) to a house I bought but before I started dating Diana so this would have been sometime in mid-1995. Diana and I started dating in late July of 1995. Robby Stein was the therapist my Mom brought me to see when I was in grade school and who I saw for a few months because I was having such anxiety about thunderstorms that I was missing (or wanting to miss) a lot of school. The wedding I’m referring to is my friend Chris from college. I asked Diana to go to the wedding with me – the wedding was in Buffalo. I asked her partly because I wanted a “date” but also because she and I had dated in high school and she knew about my thunderstorm issues.

I'm really beginning (or not really beginning, but deeply into) digressing with T-Storms. Last night, for example, I left here at 12:30am because of visible lightning // sounds of thunder to sleep at Ma & Pa's.. not a good sign.. I think what's getting to me is, well, several things -- first, the move.. as Robby Stein remarked once before, the fears seem to crop up during periods of transition.. and this is definitely one.. I mean, I own a house for god's sake.. but suddenly things have changed -- I haven't been doing the yard work, mostly because the god damn weather has been too hot, but I'm just not up to it.. and then this whole thing with Chris' wedding.. sometimes I think about the trip and I'm like -- it's no big deal, but other times I look at the map and I'm scared.. scared mostly because the trip is drawing ever nearer and the weather pattern seems to be staying the same.. I'm gonna be a fucking wreak if we have storms, etc.. especially on the drive, which I'm not to psyched about to begin with... I've thought about calling Robbie Stein for some quick treatments.. basically give him this.. I don't know what it is about me.. last night, for example, Peej was home.. I was okay the other night when he was here.. but maybe it was the not-knowing factor -- radar showed nothing (as is the case tonight) and so I was like -- where is this fucking lighting coming from ?? and I'm still wondering..

What About Thunderstorms?

The three paragraphs below were written either in late 1992 when I was back at school and there was still summer type weather (thunderstorms) or else in May of 1993 before school had ended for the year.

And what about thunderstorms? Why am I so frightened of them? What happened to me during my childhood that put this profound fear into me? I don't remember always being afraid of them. I don't ever remember being worried about the weather. Was it little league? Maybe that game we started to play in a thunderstorm and then it was finally called off? Or the other one we played down by John Marshall when it started to thunder and suddenly I felt sick.. Was that before, after, or during the time I was in 6th grade and I had this fear of nuclear war? It must have been during that time. When I was in fifth grade and we had the bad storm the day the ambulance came for show and tell and we were all getting ready to go home, standing by the windows packing our bags and the thunder cracked and people dove out of the way of the window because the thunder was so loud. But I remember helping Mariano with reading science before we were getting ready to leave and being scared about the weather, but dealing with it. That was in Miss Zay's fifth grade class. I mean, I can rationalize to myself that nothing is going to happen - especially here in New York, but still I wonder about them three days in advance.

So we had some thunderstorms the other night and I knew they were coming, although in my heart I didn't think they would, just like they never do, and they did! But I was okay. At first I was a little nervous but then it ended and it was no big deal! Can I do that this summer? I was home so I was okay. What if I hadn't been? But what's the difference?

So this summer (1992) we had some T-Storms while I was at work an I dealt with them.. Am I finally over it?

Can We Resolve the Past? Part II

I wrote this passage while in college – I think it was during my sophomore year – my plan was to stay in NYC during the summer between junior and senior year and work and hopefully use that job as a spring board to a “real” job after graduation. I didn't end up staying in the city that summer. I was dating a girl named L and she commented to me that I talked a lot of “the past”, which was high school which wasn't really that far in the past. S is a girl I was really good friends with in high school – I was “in love” with her, or whatever it was I defined ‘love” as back in high school but I never told her how I felt for fear of losing the relationship we had if she didn't feel the same way.

Am I holding on to the past? Do I hold onto the past because I'm scared of moving forward?

I sit here, still waiting for the semester to end. I'll return home this summer, but that will be it. Then it's off to school and work in NYC for the summer. Why do I feel so alone? My roommate is here but he isn't present. When I drove a long time alone I feel like I want to cry. What is my life becoming? How come I don't seem as happy as everyone else? Are they miserable too? Just not expressing it to me? Can I do better? Or am I still insecure about myself? About growing up? Will I sit in my fucking apartment and rot away until school ends? I need to get out of here. Why does my future feel so bleak? I can make it in this world, just maybe not as a cinematographer. I hate to travel. I hate New York.

I love S but do I? Or is it just that she symbolizes a time in my life when I was secure? Do I long for her or do I long for that time? Is this poetry? Is this symbolism? Am I just one of the masses? Why aren't I different? What does Shannon really think of me? Am I'm living in a Hollywood dream, or does she think about me? Is she insecure? Does she need me to be there for her or has she found someone else.. Does she need someone else? Do I? YES!! I need someone I can talk to, relate too. I need those phone conversations with Shannon where I can feel secure and she can confide in me. I need a relationship where I can be nonthreatening and feel nonthreatened. Do I look for that whenever I meet a girl? 

"No one told you when to run, you've missed the starting gun."

These are thoughts that constantly run through my mind, and now that they are on paper for me to confront whenever I feel strong, they suddenly no longer seem so dangerous. I look this all over and think - fuck it. I'm happy and I'll always be happy. I can do whatever I want with my life and so I will. I have no real reason to be insecure, or unhappy for that matter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Post From the Road

I've downloaded the Blogger app for my Android phone and I'm writing this post from my phone. However, even with Swype its taking way too long to enter text so I don't think I'll do this often.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Can We Resolve the Past?

I have been re-reading old journals that I started keeping in high school. I kept up on them for a long time - probably 12 years or so -- but then only sporadically after that. Once I got more into writing poetry regularly I stopped keeping a journal. Part of me misses the tactile experience of writing in an actual notepad with a pen or pencil. Now I feel like I can't write unless I'm at my computer. (I've started posting some of my poetry online, in another blog,, if you are interested in reading my poems.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because, as I said, I was re-reading some of the journals and I am almost surprised at how often I wrote in my journals about the past. The title for this blog entry comes from a Jim Morrison poem and it seems that I spend most of my time writing about the past. Trying to determine why I did (or didn't) do something, what I could have done differently, etc.

But it is also interesting to look back at my previous writings and see how often the same fears come up -- fears about myself. Different kinds of insecurities about me, my job, my love life, my friends, my family.

Looking back it seems to me that my current anxiety isn't all that different from any other anxiety I've suffered from in the past. First it was thunderstorms, then elevators, then driving and now subways. But its always about control - or lack of - or at least the perception of a lack of control, and the fear of losing control.

I also often second guess myself - usually when I didn't act - and then I tend to dwell on the potential missed opportunity.

I'm thinking about posting some of my old journal entries on to this blog as they may generate some interesting feedback and I think that those old insecurities will still resonate 20+ years later.

I'm back to therapy tomorrow -- I didn't go last week because I only had one appointment scheduled and I woke up with bad stomach ache - I think from the lime chipolte marinade we had on our steak.

I'm looking forward to my session tomorrow because I feel like I have lots to talk about -- most of it good! 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Embarrassment Factor

Another issue I struggle with related to anxiety is embarrassment. Should I have an anxiety attack in front of a group of strangers -- say on a subway or airplane -- I will be very self conscious about the how thing. This factors greatly into my anticipatory anxiety syndrome -- I fear not only the anxiety attack but the feeling of becoming the center of attention in a bad way. (Although I've never liked attracting attention to myself, even "good" attention) And then I have to deal with what I feel is post-anxiety embarrassment -- like admitting to people that I had an anxiety attack and didn't go to Aruba. I'm not so much concerned with those closest to me but rather "in between" people -- my neighbors, my co-workers, people on my touch football team. For those who know nothing about my anxiety do I lie and tell them I went on the trip? Or if I see them before my scheduled return what do I say about why I'm home? 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aruba.. Or not..

I was again unable to get on a plane and go to Aruba. This time, however, I had my anxiety attack, complete with uncontrollable sobbing in our apartment before we had even left. The only upside to having it earlier is that I convinced Pam to go without me. As bad as I felt anxiety-wise I felt even more guilty about the possibility of Pam missing out on a vacation. I think of all the times my mother had wanted to go (or has gone) away and the angst that my Dad went through and his attempts to get her to not go. I don't want to have Pam miss out because of my anxiety.

So with Pam in Aruba and me still off from work next week I"m planning to see my therapist multiple times and work on a plan to aggressively conquer this whole stupid anxiety thing, including, hopefully, figuring out a way to induce anxiety attacks in an otherwise controlled environmental so that I can learn how to work through them on my own but also so that they are no longer this big scarey unknown. The panic attacks are, I think, a lot like the anxiety I had about thunderstorms when I was younger -- I would stress about thunderstorms days in advance if I saw them in the forecast. However, I started to get better about thunderstorms when I learned more about weather patterns and even clouds so that, although I couldn't control them, I felt like they wouldn't "sneak up" on me and also if a storm was coming I had a better sense of what to expect. This is my goal with my anxiety -- to learn more about the panic attacks themselves and learn to know what to expect.

Additionally, I'm hoping to work with the therapist to determine the root cause of the anxiety. As she pointed out, the anxiety is most likely a metaphor for something else. I had hoped to make a break through to an "a ha!" moment while I was in therapy early on (2004 and beyond) but lacking that kind of break through I accepted that the medication was enabling me to do things without anxiety. However, since my anxiety has reoccurred - mostly in response to Dad's health issues -- I have been unable to ride subways alone and, of course, unable to face getting on a plane.

Although I'm disappointed in missing out on two vacations - California and Aruba - and frustrated with my subway issues that effect me daily, I feel good in that my new therapist seems very proactive as far as dealing with all this and I also realize I can't commit myself to doing things I'm not ready to do (like flying places).

Friday, March 18, 2011


My wife and I are flying to Aruba tomorrow. I'm feeling quite anxious about the trip because of my inability to board the plane when we were supposed to fly to California in January. However, I feel like I've taken all the right steps to get it done this time. We'll get to the airport early and I've spoken with the airline about boarding first which I think will help a great deal. I also have Xanax to take in addition to my normal Klonopin and I'll make sure to take the meds further in advance this time around. Also, the flight is early in the morning -- 8am -- which works well in the sense that I'm not a morning person and so being tired should help me sleep too.

I'm also planning to tweet throughout the trip from home to the airport and while we're waiting to board the plane. I think too that there will be wifi on the plane (but I'm not 100% sure) and so in some strange way, feeling "connected" to the world via the internet would make me feel better too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I read online about various vitamin and mineral deficienes that can cause or rather increase the likely hood of panic attacks. Included in this list is magnesium. Based on the list of foods containing magnesium, very few of which I eat, and the fact that certain stomach problems can also cause loss of magnesium I have come to the conclusion that it couldn't hurt to start taking a magnesium supplement. I started on Monday although I haven't done any anxiety attack "tests" to see if I feel any different. I'm planning to start Monday the 31st by attempting to get on the subway alone.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

No Fly Zone

My wife and I had planned a trip to the west coast this week. We were to fly from JFK to Burbank yesterday, spend a few days in LA and then head south to San Diego for the rest of our time before heading back to NYC on Saturday the 29th.

Instead we are still in NYC because I had anxiety and couldn't get on the plane.

When I last saw my psychiatrist I told her about the upcoming trip and she prescribed me Xanax to go along with the Paxil I take every day. She told me the Xanax would take about an hour to kick in and to make sure I took it long enough before any potential anxiety attack.

I slept well enough on Friday night and woke up Saturday feeling a little nervous but nothing too terrible. We planned to be in the car by 10:30am so I took a Xanax at 9:30. As the time to leave neared I could feel myself becoming more anxious but I knew I wasn't really having an anxiety attack.

We planned to leave our car at my mother-in-law's house as it was not far from JFK and we'd arranged to take a cab from there. My nervousness continued at the same level until it was time to get in the cab for the last part of the ride to the airport. At that point I took a low dose Klonopin, not entirely sure what effect it would have with the Xanax but willing to take my chances.

Once we arrived at the airport and unloaded our bags from the cab I actually felt good. I was excited about getting to sunny California and overall had a positive attitude about the day ahead.

We checked our bags and went through security without any issue and after a trip the mens room I joined my wife at one of the food court places and we picked out some food to eat on the plane. Then we headed to the gate.

At the gate there were a lot of people milling around but it wasn't overly crowded or anything. It was about 11:20 and our flight was due to take off at 12:20 so we had an hour to kill. I found an outlet to plug in my cell phone and played with it a little bit, including sending some text messages to friends.

When they made the announcement that the plane would start bording shortly I had an immediate knot in my stomach. I decided it was time for another xanax. This was around 11:40. I packed up my electrical charger for my cell and sat down next to my wife.

When they called out our section of rows (we were in row 19) we got on line and waited to board the plan. At this point my heart really started racing. I dont like waiting in general - and in this case I REALLY didn't like the waiting. I wanted to just be on the plane and in my seat. My wife kept me involved in conversation which is a good way to keep my mind off of anxiety causing things. Finally we were able to board the plane - however there was a line in the plane of people waiting to get to their seats (why don't they load the plane from the back forward instead of from the front to the back?)

When I saw this line I freaked and exited the plane, pulling my wife behind me.

We waited in the area at the end of the hallway by the door of the plane for a minute but then a JetBlue employee asked if we were getting on or not. My wife explained to him my situation and he said that they needed to close the door so we either had to get on now or not at all. My wife looked at me and I shook my head and headed back up to the terminal.

I sat for a minute in the terminal to catch my breath and the felt like I might get sick so I went quickly to the mens room. I didn't end up getting sick but instead sat in one of the stalls sobbing. I finally pulled myself together and went back to the terminal where my wife was waiting for me.

We got home around 2pm and after canceling all of our California plans - hotels, rental cars, etc. I went to bed and slept. The drugs had kicked in and made me quite tired.

Looking back, there are many things I would do differently -- I would have taken the first and second Xanax sooner. I would have requested to be allowed to board the plane first. I might have encouraged my wife to not let me bail on the whole deal. Of course, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The More That Things Change..

the more they stay the same.

I was going through some old files on my computer tonight -- I couldn't sleep -- and I found a two page document I had written some time ago. I'm not sure when I wrote it exactly, but it was sometime after the first anxiety attack. I'm guessing I wrote this as a "prep" for going to see a therapist, but it might have been later on after I had already been seeing someone for a while.

I think that the anxiety relates to feeling alone on many levels and the trip away from my “comfort zone”, which is most notably in the vicinity of both my parents house and my own house, triggers subconscious feelings and / or emotions that trigger the panic attacks. I think, if I were to be able to stop myself in the midst of the push of anxiety and really think about what I’m feeling, this is what I would come up with..

My parents are aging, my siblings all live 3+ hours away (two of my siblings live in Colorado) and I have not had a serious relationship with a girl since I broke up with XXXXX. And I think a portion of the feeling of being alone, or more appropriately, isolated has a lot to do with the unhealthy nature of my relationship with XXXXX. She clearly did not support me financially and on many levels I never felt much support from her emotionally either.

I think that isolation is a better word to describe what I feel. Being alone implies being the only person around, but in this case, I feel isolated even when people are around. The most explicit example of this is when I am stuck in traffic while suffering from an anxiety attack.. I am definitely not alone, but I am still panicky because I feel that everyone around me is a total stranger and therefore indifferent to my suffering and therefore I am isolated. Of course the one time I dealt with this fairly well was on the way to Liam’s wedding when I was stuck in traffic and I reminded myself “This is not a conspiracy, these people all want to get where they are going too.

Interestingly, feeling alone and/or isolated while driving is not a new phenomena for me, as this entry in my journal from college illustrates:

Why do I feel so alone? My room mate is here but he isn't present. When I drive a long time alone I feel like I want to cry. What is my life becoming? How come I don't seem as happy as everyone else? Are they miserable too? Just not expressing it to me? And so what if I'm not successful.. All my family are around, except Clare. I just have such high expectations. But how come I still think about XXXXX? Can I do better? Or am I still insecure about myself? about growing up? "And then one day you find ten years have got behind you." No shit. I feel like I'm still in high school, and yet it seems I've been here for years. To many years. Why does my future feel so bleak? I can make it in this world, just maybe not as a cinematographer. I hate to travel. I hate New York. I want to work a 9-5 office job? I want to graduate and make something of my life. I want to be successful immediately. But what if I'm not?

I remember writing this passage after driving back to NYC in Aunt Kips car. I don’t remember what year it was, obviously sophomore or junior year.

The isolation is not a new feeling either, and some of it may stem from being the youngest of five, and having not only the 5 ½ year gap between myself and my next youngest sibling but also the gender gap. There were times when my sisters were doing things with each other or with my Mom that I was not included in, either because I was “too young” or because it was “girl” stuff. 

And I think its most interesting that the original panic attack happened on my way up island to meet a girl - a perspective relationship. The girls name was XXXX and I had met her through an online dating site and we had spoken many times for many hours on the telephone. So I was on my way up and not feeling well, but I think that some of the feelings, in addition to the normal nervousness about a first date had to do with circumstances. I had been up late the night before because it was Halloween and I had not slept well because my housemate had woken up early and woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep. And since I was meeting this girl for brunch I didn’t eat much before I left the house.

I wonder though if the symptoms of the panic attack came after the initial feelings of not feeling well. And they were a reaction to thinking that I might pass out or whatever. 

Of course, other anxieties that have affected me during my life also relate to feelings of aloneness / isolation. The biggest one that comes to mind is the elevator fear. This fear, like the current anxiety fear, was one that was much more manageable (or almost non-existent) when I was with someone else in the elevator:

I think the fear is all related to not being in control. I'm worried that once the door closes, I'm no longer under my own control. That's where the fear comes in. It's not so much elevators, just as it's not so much subways or thunderstorms, or heights, or anything else. It's a lack of control that I fear so much. If I could just come to terms with the idea that there will always be things that are beyond my control then I could deal with my fears more rationally then I do now. The other weird thing is why I feel more comfortable with someone else in the elevator, even if I don't know them. Maybe because then I know that I'm not alone in my lack of control. There is someone else who has to go through  whatever with me, so if we get stuck we both have to deal with it. Or maybe it is knowing that we're not going to get stuck (most likely) and the person I'm with doesn't have a remote thought about the possibility of getting stuck.

Now here I seem to believe that the issue relates to lack of control, so its interesting to think about how this would play into the anxiety issue. Mostly, I guess, the loss of control would come from one of two sources – either being stuck in traffic and therefore unable to return to my “comfort zone” or, more probably, being incapacitated by the anxiety to the point of not being able to drive myself (traffic or not) to my comfort zone. And this second part is again where the isolation comes in – if I can’t get myself there, who will? Obviously in the past I have relied on my parents, and after a period of time they have arrived at my location and gotten me home. But this brings me back full circle to my original point of my parents being older now and knowing that they will not be around forever and so once they are gone, who can I rely on? My siblings are far away, and at this exact moment in time, my closest friends – XXXX, XXXX, XXXX all live out of the area. 

And so my next “level” of person to rely on would typically be a girlfriend, but again, there isn’t one. And the last one I had was not all the supportive and by extension, not thought to be someone I could rely on in a jam.

And then who? So here we are..

What strikes me about this passage is as much the body of it as the excerpts from my high school / college journal. Clearly anxiety is something that has been with me for pretty much my whole life. The only thing that has changed is the way it manifests itself.