Anxiety -- How do you deal?

Thanks for the link. Some of what he discusses relates to the first episode of the new podcast Invisibilia, which was also worthwhile.

The issue of social anxiety came up in the depression thread and I ended up talking about how I cope with that, seems like the kind of thing I should share here.

I wrote:

For me, I'm a definite introvert and both shy and socially anxious. I've (quite accidentally) developed some pretty awesome coping strategies, and many people that aren't real close to me would be surprised to hear that. Some even think I'm really confident and sometimes an aggressive bitch. Whatev, I am, in fact, neither of those things!

For some reason, as a painfully shy child, I got involved in theater and excelled there. I'm a very good entertainer, sing and play guitar in public without anything more than normal butterflies before a performance. I've emceed many shows and people think I have a gift for that sort of thing. In social situations, I will either blend into the background or move to take control or entertain. The middle ground is most uncomfortable for me, probably because that's where the face-to-face stuff happens. Any real interaction with other humans requires considerable alone quiet time for me to get back to normal.

For me, this is the most comfortable kind of anxiety to deal with, I've gotten pretty good at it. "Creep" is a song I like to play and sing, I can get my grungy dissatisfaction out. But, depression and the sort of dizzy-chest-pain-flying-off-the-planet kind of anxiety is what worries me the most.

I'm really not sure why I said all these things here, but I guess I wanted to reach out and talk to you folks, so I'll leave it.

Edit: I should probably post this in the anxiety thread too.

Edited because my joke just looked stupid.

That's a good read. If I'm not known best here as an instigator on P&C I'm probably best known for buying and selling stuff. Consoles, games, etc. Basically a mild (or not so mild) form of obsessiveness about keeping my life "tidy" bundled together with a giant heaping of guilt that goes back to my childhood. Now that I've largely gotten that aspect of myself under control I feel really bad that I inflicted so many threads on people here about what game I should buy or sell. Basically using the community to try and "treat" this weird compulsion that no one could understand. There was a thing underneath that. A real thing that wasn't going so great. And the actual hobby itself was great plaster, as Walker says. I have so many fond memories of games that I played A LOT in really turbulent times. I just wish I wouldn't have burned so much good will and probably ended up on a few people's ignore lists due to this.

Nevermind all of that wasted energy. That's one of the worst things about anxiety. It's bad enough that we beat ourselves up over the things we aren't good at or the people we are, but then we beat ourselves up over the wasted energy OF the anxiety. Time we can never have back.

I also really like that article. I admit to using gaming as one of my primary coping mechanisms. I like the comfort of well-defined systems that I can understand and catalogue.

Demyx wrote:

I like the comfort of well-defined systems that I can understand and catalogue.

I wonder if this might partially explain why I get so much satisfaction and relaxation out of games where I collect lots of things; Pokemon, Elder Scrolls (collecting all the books!), games where I can "collect" objectives on a map like Assassin's Creed, etc.

Farscry wrote:
Demyx wrote:

I like the comfort of well-defined systems that I can understand and catalogue.

I wonder if this might partially explain why I get so much satisfaction and relaxation out of games where I collect lots of things; Pokemon, Elder Scrolls (collecting all the books!), games where I can "collect" objectives on a map like Assassin's Creed, etc.

I have very specific tastes when it comes to things that I find comforting.

Not too difficult
Collecting lots of things, especially if I can organize them in my inventory or fill out a chart/journal/list
A well-defined set of randomized elements (I'm quite fond of rogue-lites and card games)
Lists of tasks that I can neatly check off in order - if the game doesn't provide this, I usually go looking for a game guide that does
Crafting, especially if I can also gather the crafting materials
Incremental gear upgrades, especially if I can actually see the gear on my character

Your tastes run right along with mine, Demyx.

The main thing I would add is how easily I can lose myself in a game that allows me to explore the game world. If there's fog-of-war on the map to reveal, I feel compelled to reveal it all before I move on (this became a struggle by halfway through Dragon Age Inquisition, as I just wanted to finish the game and had to fight my compulsion). And if there are landmarks to find, I must find them all.

I usually can't get into a game if my anxiety is high. Somehow they seem to amplify the anxiety and I just end up irritated. Historically, I cope with food, but I'm trying to change that.

I also cope by blowing a fuse and allowing my frustrations come out in anger, usually at family. Also something I've worked on for years.

Can't believe I didn't see this thread before. I found yoga to help me a lot. I only took it during my second pregnancy, but it helped a lot, and I still took some of those lessons to heart. Sometimes, things can really get overwhelming, and you have to stop yourself for a second, take a few deep breaths, recenter yourself, and try to get your footing before you can keep going again. I don't even know if that makes sense, but it helps, at least for me.
Therapy also helped, talking things out. And friends. And music. I have this "zen" playlist.

I think it's mostly trial and error, and just finding what works for you, and trying to hold on to some semblance of balance.

Work has been a cascade of frustration and anxiety as I work on a project where I have no real control but a sense of responsibility nonetheless. I feel like I'm full of adrenaline at basically all times and it's exhausting

Got stabbed by anxiety out of nowhere yesterday while at work. One of those "HI REMEMBER ME?!?!?" moments. Haven't had one of them in a while (Paxil has helped me tremendously) so I'm chalking it largely up to coffee (which I can drink again) and lack of sleep (damn cat!).

Years ago that attack would've sent me on a death spiral to hiding in my apartment for a couple weeks, so progress. Of course, it was a mild attack in the sense I was able to breathe through it, but the out of nowhere is always scary. One minute I'm just doing my job, the next I'm hyper aware of a weird feeling in my body or brain and yup that's adrenaline and yup that's anxiety and yup my breathing is speeding up and yup ....

Thankfully I'm in a pretty good place overall, just f-ing tired all the time, so it was merely a small road bump and not an earthquake where I'm worried about aftershocks. Progress!

Demyx wrote:

Work has been a cascade of frustration and anxiety as I work on a project where I have no real control but a sense of responsibility nonetheless. I feel like I'm full of adrenaline at basically all times and it's exhausting :(

Ewwwwwww. Hate that, I really do. And once the adrenaline calms down you feel terrible and even more exhausted?? This is how my gf is getting through grad school (two more weeks!) while working full time with a kid.

Hopefully the project doesn't last too long...?

I've tried lots of things but pills are expensive and annoying side effects happen. When it gets nutty all I need is a hot shower in a dark room, and when possible masturbation provides temporary and harmless relief.

Currently on a company trip with my wife. Daily interactions and nightly dinners with strangers where those interactions could affect my wife's career. This is really stressful and frustrating.

The adrenaline rush and social contact wear me out too. The meditation and meds help a lot, as does exercise. I can honestly say that I'm as happy now as I've been in a while, but it's due to good self-care. Meditation has made the biggest difference. Still, I have many moments of irrational worry, even paranoia throughout the day. My husband's usually really good about letting me bounce my worries off him to see if they are rational, but my goal is to get better at recognizing them for myself. I think that yoga would be good to fit in, but this term has been simply too busy to fit a regular class in, as I have been working long days every day of the week.

garion333 wrote:

Klonipin saved me.

It also took me years to get off the stuff.

I don't know how I just saw this. Weird. I'm going to PM you. This is my nightmare right now.

garion333 wrote:

Got stabbed by anxiety out of nowhere yesterday while at work. One of those "HI REMEMBER ME?!?!?" moments. Haven't had one of them in a while (Paxil has helped me tremendously) so I'm chalking it largely up to coffee (which I can drink again) and lack of sleep (damn cat!).

Years ago that attack would've sent me on a death spiral to hiding in my apartment for a couple weeks, so progress. Of course, it was a mild attack in the sense I was able to breathe through it, but the out of nowhere is always scary. One minute I'm just doing my job, the next I'm hyper aware of a weird feeling in my body or brain and yup that's adrenaline and yup that's anxiety and yup my breathing is speeding up and yup ....

Thankfully I'm in a pretty good place overall, just f-ing tired all the time, so it was merely a small road bump and not an earthquake where I'm worried about aftershocks. Progress!

FWIW, I've had a couple of episodes since this one, but nothing quite as severe. Gf being out of grad school has been a huge boon as we've both been able to eat better and exercise more regularly.

Been thinking about backing off of Paxil though. As much as it has helped me get back to a place of normalcy (such that it will be), I'm tired of the side effects. I miss the clarity of thought when not on the meds. There's always a slight blurring when I'm on them, which is probably why I'm not overthinking myself back into anxiety.

garion333 wrote:

Been thinking about backing off of Paxil though. As much as it has helped me get back to a place of normalcy (such that it will be), I'm tired of the side effects. I miss the clarity of thought when not on the meds. There's always a slight blurring when I'm on them, which is probably why I'm not overthinking myself back into anxiety.

This is the thing that I really dislike about my meds too. When I'm on medication, yes, my anxiety is better kept in check. But I'm more absentminded and have trouble getting really focused at times. Off of meds, I'm able to focus with much more precision for extended periods of time, and I can think both more clearly and more quickly. However, the obvious and severe downside of being off meds is the propensity to go from zero to infinity on the anxiety freakout meter ridiculously fast with little warning.

I miss the way I can think off of medication, but I don't miss the anxiety attacks.

Yeah, that's the big fear, obv. Not sure if I can handle it or not. Hubris tells me I can, but I'm not so sure.

Today, poorly. I didn't take my ADHD medicine (forgot it in a rush to leave this morning, ironically), which seems to have a side effect of calming my anxiety down significantly. Ugh. Feeling super-twitchy today as a result.

Yeah, my gf's ADD feeds directly into her anxiety. For sure.

My experience is that the anxiety is worse than any gain I'd get by dropping the meds. Seriously. It's easy to forget how bad it gets.

I stayed home all last week with wrenching stomach pain that started with nausea on Monday morning. I've been having seemingly anxiety-related stomach pains on and off over the last year+, so I went to the doctor on Friday and she said it's constipation, possibly from stress. So I got some Metamucil and we'll see how that goes.

But like I said, the pain has been coming and going for over a year, usually concurrent with an anxious situation. I also worry a lot, about everything, and internalize it, to my wife's frustration. I recognize a few of the symptoms of general anxiety, social anxiety, depression, and OCD, but they come and go. When they come, I feel bad to put it one way, and my wife has made it clear how hard those days are on her and our marriage and how I don't see it; but when they go, I feel fine and everything is manageable and that's that. Which is how I feel now, mentally, but now I have this week-old knot in my stomach. So in addition to the pink lemonade psyillium powder, I also finally called my EFAP and have a phone appointment with a counselor in a month.

In a way, I feel like an imposter posting in this thread because I haven't been diagnosed with anything (?yet). But I know my wife would remind me that how I can act and think isn't normal. Plus this stomach pain. And there are things I haven't told anyone that I recognize from that John Walker article. But I'm on the first step of finding out what's going on. I could almost guarantee you that I have social anxiety disorder (or avoidant personality disorder? Thanks, Dr. Wikipedia) at least (on top of being shy and an introvert), and I've a family history of depression. On the other hand, I'm afraid that if I'm diagnosed with anything(s), it'll be like an excuse—oh I have x, y, and z, not my fault, just inherently broken, deal with it. Like it's a privilege, if that makes sense. And if I don't have any disorder, then it's just me being an idiot, so get it together. And even though I believe that while I'm typing it, I also know, intellectually, that it's the other way around: being diagnosed with a disorder would be first step on a concrete plan for getting it together, and not an excuse.

Anyway, my stomach hurts and I don't know what's going on, but a lot of feelings in this thread are familiar, so here's to starting to find out. Have to catch the bus now so I can't immediately delete this post.

#1 - You're not an imposter. If I had gone to therapy when I first started having trouble with anxiety my life coupe have been better. Not *would* have (many of us are wired differently). But could have.

#2 - It's great if loved ones are understanding, but once you're impacting them that's a pretty good sign you have something real to deal with. You're doing everyone a favor (yourself, your family, your friends) if you at least look into it and consider it.

It's possible some better coping mechanisms and some diet changes, etc. can keep it in check. If so you'll be glad you went. If not then you've started dealing with it before it's worse.

And a diagnosis isn't an excuse...it can be an explanation.

I know my brain chemistry just isn't right. Meds help with that. It doesn't excuse my behavior when I lose it, but it does function as a warning sign that I may need more help or some adjustments for now.

You wouldn't tell a diabetic to just deal with the lack on insulin. Same thing with brain chemistry issues.

Hang in there. The appointment is good.

Yeah. I take medication, go to therapy and try to modify my diet, etc. There's stuff under your control, there's stuff that isn't. Any medical diagnosis is ideally both an understanding of why you are how you are and a chance to improve. Diabetics take medication, but they also have to watch what they eat. The same goes for anxiety. You might need medication and you might also need to lay off coffee and alcohol and learn how to cope with stress better.

I always feel like an impostor, not just with anxiety but with everything else too. I've never been diagnosed with anything and every time I go for a physical, they never find anything wrong with me. In some ways, I've hoped that they would find I've had some disease or some physical thing that could explain my (sometimes severe) lack of energy despite having a very strong desire to do stuff. Then all the anxiety on top of all of that.

At the same time, I haven't wanted to be diagnosed with anything because then I feel it would limit the places I could work since there always seem to be question on the various applications if I've ever been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, etc. At least this way I can always truthfully say "no" and my application won't automatically be tossed in the trash the moment they look at the question.

It's also ironic that during the times I have absolutely no money to spend on medical care is the exact same time I think I could use something like mental counseling the most. I think it would also help me a lot if I had a really good life coach, but insurance doesn't even cover stuff like that so I'm usually left to flounder around on my own, which of course causes more anxiety and the cycle just continues.

It's just so frustrating ALL the time. Even on days I feel completely fine, it's an illusion because the very next day could wake up in a complete panic even though absolutely nothing about my life situation between the two days has changed.

I'm thinking that in a lot of ways I'm still feeling trapped by everything and I can't help but wonder if I might have a minor case of PTSD from that job I finally escaped when I went back to school a couple years ago. I still have some bad dreams about it and I think it's causing me a lot of avoidance when I think of getting back to work, especially for anything other than a temporary situation. I'm so terribly afraid of getting back into a similar situation of never-ending emotional abuse that I felt i had to tolerate because of money. Just the thought of putting myself back into such a situation has me near tears.

I haven't been able to depend on loved ones to help me either. Nobody really understands and they end up getting angry with me and I end up crying and getting more and more upset. It's usually easier to put in my "I don't really care" mask, or my "pretend to be happy at all costs" mask when I'm in one of my bad states of mind and yet still have to deal with other people. Sometimes I just have to avoid certain people entirely until I've repaired enough of my armor.

As far as the stomach pains go, I can't help but think maybe you would want to get a more in-depth test just to make certain there's not a more physical problem contributing to the issue. Years ago, my dad had bad pains and was vomiting and the doctor diagnosed it as the flu when it was really appendicitis. Then my dad was in ICU for a long time because his appendix had ruptured due to not getting it correctly tested and diagnosed in time. It doesn't sound like you have something so serious or immediately life-threatening, but I'm wary about physical conditions like that being diagnosed as solely something mental.

I am glad you are taking steps to take care of yourself though!

Wasn't sure if I wanted to say anything here now that the thread resurfaced, but what the hell, I've been referencing it repeatedly.

About a month ago, I was on vacation with my aunt and uncle on Long Island. The Saturday before Labor Day, my uncle had a big ol' party for all his relatives (he's non-biological, so none of these people were blood relatives to me). I had no idea how big this party was going to be. I came downstairs around noon, walked to the door outside and saw like six kids in the pool with my aunt. Cue a massive panic attack and me running back upstairs to my room. I cursed myself and paced the room, trying to rally. After about 15 minutes, I tried to go back downstairs again, but I froze at the bottom of the stairs, before I even made it to the kitchen. My stomach started acting up, and my throat started tightening. I gave up and went back to my room to hide until someone came looking for me. Eventually my aunt came up, and when I told her how freaked out I was, she said point-blank it was "severe social anxiety". Nothing new, I'd sort of just resigned myself to it, but now it was reaching a point where it was impacting what I would consider "normal functionality". It would be one thing if I was in my room because I straight-up didn't want to be around people, but I clearly wanted to be down there, otherwise I wouldn't be so upset in that moment.

At the same time, I've been dealing with intestinal issues for... years now? Probably partially dietary, but many folks in my family, including my parents, have had issues with stress and their intestines. I've been taking powdered fiber for maybe six or eight years at this point to help with regularity, but I still would have physical distress on occasion, and it got really bad in the last year or so. I can distinctly remember during some of the most stressful moments of my unemployment phase, my intestines were a wreck.

So finally, about a month ago, I went and saw my internist. I laid down the line with him: my intestines hate me, I'm having social anxiety so bad it's getting in the way of me doing things I would like to do (as opposed to just naturally not being interested, sometimes it's hard to tell), and I think the two might be related. He ended up prescribing me Lexapro, an SSRI, on a trial basis. The first week or so took some serious getting used to, but after that I can safely say that I feel much better. My intestines are calmer, and I followed up with a GI doctor to make sure there aren't other possible concomitant issues (e.g. - celiac disease). I'm also down to one cup of coffee a day (my afternoon coffee was probably keeping me awake at night) and I'm trying to be better about my diet in case that was contributing to my intestinal problems (too much fat/grease/etc.). Last week, there was a happy hour for my department after work; previously, I would see the invite and summarily throw it out, but this time, not only did I not throw it out, I was actually excited to go. So I would definitely say that starting an anxiety medication has improved my quality of life several times over. I still have a little work to do in terms of being more comfortable seeking out social situations (lack of experience as much as anything), but that "energy barrier" that used to feel insurmountable now just feels like a speed bump, if it's even there.

Obligatory schmaltzy advice: my family has a history with mental issues, including anxiety. If think you're having problems, talk to someone, preferably someone with some training on the subject. It's not worth it if the metaphorical pain is easily avoidable.

P.S. - @bekkilyn, I can't remember ever answering any questions about mental health on a job application, it might actually be illegal for employers to ask now. Moreover, I would think dismissing an application based on that is a violation of Equal Employment and/or the ADA. Not sure I'd want to work somewhere like that in the first place, that kind of screening just sends a big ol' red flag about other aspects of their culture. No idea if that's helpful at all, I can't begin to imagine what your situation must feel like, all I can do is be supportive from afar.

Spoiler:

Bubs, I'm glad you got the care you need. These things are always so multifaceted. I also have stomach problems and have for almost 20 years. They've gotten better the last 4 years as I cut out alcohol and dairy and cut back on sugar and carbs. However, I honestly couldn't tell you how much of that is truly dietary and how much of that is changing how I deal with anxiety.

bekkilyn, Companies can't ask you about your health, much less your mental health. Who is asking you about that?