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.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year New Post

I realize I have not been good about posting to this blog regularly. I'm hoping in the New Year to have more time to spend with regular posts.

Generally, not too much has changed since my last post and this is part of the reason for a lack of posts. Never the less, here is what has been going on.

I decided with my therapist to drive to work for now. I know this doesn't seem like a big deal since I had already been driving to work. However, the difference is that previously I had been driving to work if my wife had been unavailable to take me on the subway in the morning. The problem with her accompanying me TO work was that inevitable I would end up taking a cab home. Usually I would take a bus part / most of the way down town and then grab a cab near City Hall but that cab ride ended up costing between $9 - $11 depending on where I got the cab and what time it was. I also would stress a little each day about how I was getting to work (was Pam going with me) and about "failing" to get on the subway to come home.

The plan now is to just drive to work every day - no anxiety about Pam being available or not to go to work with me, no anxiety about how to get home and no anxiety about ending up in a cab. The hope is that the decrease of stress about going to and from work will help put my mind in a better place.

Also, Pam and I are going to California the last week of January. I'm very much looking forward to that trip as I have not been back to San Diego since I lived there in 1997-98. (We are flying to LA, spending a few days there, then driving down to San Diego and spending three days there before heading back to LA to fly home). I've also never had much anxiety related to flying and I'm hoping that after the vacation and the flying I will feel more confident about just getting on the subway.