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.

No comments:

Post a Comment