This year began with a bang, and the pattern continues. 

Patterns:  this is part of what life with OCD is made up of.  Patterns, rituals, behaviors that seem like habits but are much more deeply rooted. The accompanying anxiety comes just at the moments it should, and is comes out as everything from anger to tears to pacing the room. 

The tears hit me the hardest; tears are the classic sign of weakness. You’re either crying like a girl or like a baby, both of which diminish the underlying reason. Both minimize the fact that crying can be a response to anxiety, overwhelming fear.  Feeling weak undermines confidence, which is said to be a factor in anxiety.

My ‘anxiety spiral’ goes something like this:  

Big/scary event===> anxiety===> rituals/tears/attacks===> SHAME, loathsome thoughts===> harsh rules to control===>more anxiety

I know it’s difficult to understand the kind of debilitating anxiety that some of us suffer from because at some point, most people feel anxious or nervous about something.  But this is different; it’s not just nerves, it’s literally a stress response to life or death; it’s the flight/fight response gone out of control.  It’s having a three hour anxiety attack in response to just lying in your own bed, your own personal safe spot.  It may just be a matter of semantics:  Anxiety is an all-purpose term, and does not describe my feelings exactly. 

Just get over it:  this is the pat response that I’ve heard more times than I care to remember.  If I could indeed just get over it, then it wouldn’t be a daily life issue.  I’d just get over it and move on to the next issue.  But I’m stuck; this is the hill or mountain that I can’t seem to get over.  Aren’t metaphors fun? 

I had a medical procedure scheduled for this morning.  My spiral started yesterday afternoon, after I’d done all of the chores I could think of and had nothing left to occupy my mind.  I got angry; I picked fights.  I drank chamomile tea.  I watched the Grammy awards and tried to think of anything else but this appointment.  Nothing worked; my thoughts grew obsessive and by midnight I could think of nothing else.  I lay awake until nearly 2am trying to convince myself to do this thing. 

I cancelled 30 minutes prior to the appointment. I feel guilty and the tone of the receptionist’s voice made me feel even more so. 

Amazing the capacity of others to make you feel badly for cancelling an appointment or rescheduling.  Shouldn’t healthcare professionals have more empathy?  Shouldn’t they be more understanding of anxiety?  I may be asking for too much. 

The thing is, I have fairly severe anxiety.  It’s been worse over the past year than it has my entire life.  My file reads like a case in the latest DSM.  The numbers are adding up:  300.3, 300.01, etc. (An amusing aside about numbers: they figure heavily in my OCD thoughts, and revolve around the number 3.  Irony is fun, isn’t it?) 

Louis Menand wrote about anxiety in The New Yorker recently; she reviews a new book written by Scott Stossel titled 
“My Age of Anxiety” (just out this month).  Menand not only discusses Stossel’s book, but also the (short) history of modern psychiatry, and the mentality of the way in which we (in America) approach the subject, both philosophically and medically.  Where does anxiety come from?  How do we treat it?  Depends on who you ask, really.  If you ask Big Pharma, anxiety is a transmittable disease and pills are the answer.  Ask a Freudian, and it’s psychoanalysis.  Ask a nutritionist, it might be a vitamin deficiency.  

What I gathered from reading the review (and a short excerpt of Stossel’s book in The Atlantic), is that no one really knows where anxiety comes from.  Could be genetics, could be environment.  Could be the stress of Modern Life.  Could be a stew made of all of these things.  And treatment might focus on many things.  And, most importantly, there’s no cure. I think this is the downside of Stossel’s book:  he has severe anxiety and self medicates, but nothing really works for him.  For another sufferer of anxiety, that’s downright terrifying.

Modern psychiatry has given us some hope, there are some pills that do work for some folks.  Yoga, meditation and diet changes work for others.  I’m hoping some combination of these things will help me, and soon.  I don’t mind feeling bad about missed appointments, but I do mind feeling anxiety for no reason.   

 

 

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