Friday, January 31, 2014

Fight or Flight: Forfeiting Fear

So about that hypochondria.

People think that anxiety is all in your head. I do not deny that the mind doesn't play a role - it plays a huge one. However, it is not the entirety of it. For example, right now I have a random tingle on the left side of my face. I am trying very hard to convince myself that it's nothing to worry about, just from me tensing my jaw muscles too much (even though it's not by my jaw muscles!), or something else harmless (but left side face tingling is symptom of a stroke! and I just smoked a cigarette!), and even if it was a stroke, there's nothing I can do about it (go to the hospital!), because whenever I go to the ER they look me over and tell me I'm fine (maybe they missed something!). See what I mean? I have real physical symptoms but then my mind runs away with it.

Another example is the bulge on the right side of my neck, partnered by my swollen lymph nodes (confirmed by a doctor!). I'd really like to go to the hospital and get the blood work done my doctor recommended but I have no insurance and can't afford it (making my health anxiety even more fun!). I used to be a chronic Googler when it came to my symptoms. I don't do that anymore (which takes a lot of self control - what if I have thyroid cancer?), but I know from doing it in the past that thyroid problems also cause anxiety. Hurray!

When you have health anxiety, you get into the habit of "checking". Taking my pulse, comparing each side of my throat or whatever part of my body I find a random lump on, even pestering those around me to let me look into their throat with a flashlight so I can see if theirs looks like mine (what are those white bumps? why is that one tonsil larger than the other? should they be shaped like that?!). I am very, very fortunate to have the most insanely patient husband on the planet earth because he puts up with all my insanity. I'm trying to get out of the habit of checking because as my various self help books on anxiety have informed me, it just perpetuates a never ending cycle of temporary reassurance. Much like the frequent doctor visits I would likely schedule if I still had health insurance.

Since I've read a plethora of self help material regarding this problem I have, you may wonder why I still have this problem. They offer many ways to work through this, after all. The one thing that did help, as I mentioned in my previous post, was anti-anxiety medication. Truth be told, if I could afford it, I would gladly go back to being a zombie in exchange for no longer having nightly panic attacks. I thought that I could treat myself in other ways but so far, the things often recommended to reduce anxiety actually trigger my panic.

Exercise? Panic. Hypnosis? Panic. Meditation? Panic. These are all things I once used successfully but now they induce terror. Forget smoking weed and cutting is useless. Truth be told, the most effective anxiety relief for me at this point is a good orgasm. Unfortunately, it's a little tricky to get myself in the mood when I feel like I can't breathe.

I'm now trying to make time for muscle tension-relaxation techniques since that gives my mind something to focus on. More often than not, though, I use distraction as my weapon against anxiety and in that regard I praise Lauren Faust for making the most happy, carefree show in existence. If I could watch it right now, I would. Maybe it's not healthy to "run away" from my anxiety instead of confronting it but after over a year of frequently being forced to wait out anxiety attacks, I have to say that facing them head on hasn't changed a damn thing.

I have spent years not believing in God or praying. In my logical mind, I know the concept is utterly ridiculous. Yet very recently, in my desperation to feel normal, I have been given it some reconsideration. The main trigger being the serious illness of someone I care for very much. It goes hand-in-hand in with the theory of the law of attraction. What you envision, you bring to you. Is this not the same basic principle of prayer, except with the faith that those things are being brought to you not by energy but by the will of an omnipotent being?

Don't go freaking out on me, my atheist friends. I am a student of logic and I know that God, as well as the law of attraction, commit a myriad of logical fallacies. I do not care. While I still remain highly skeptical and unconvinced of both notions, I have begun to think that a little prayer and positive thought are not incapable of good.

Will these warm and fuzzy practices cure my anxiety? The answer is unclear though I am sure if it is possible, it is a long shot. Will they be responsible for my friend escaping intensive care? That will most likely be more the result of modern medicine and willpower. Will prayer and positive thoughts hurt? I feel I can safely state that no, it will not.

Now, I'm not trying to get you to pray. I could give a flying donkey and his rainbow colored shit what you do or do not believe, what you choose to do or not to do as long as your beliefs and actions do not harm others. It's your prerogative. This particular little sidebar was prompted by a conversation I was having while writing and I deemed it relevant as I have been spending a good deal of time as of late trying to battle my scary, walls-closing in, whole body tingling and vision going dark panic attacks with the power of positive thought. It doesn't always work but I have to admit, speaking quietly to myself and the powers that may or may not be does take the trepidation down a few notches from time to time.

While I've yet to free myself of full-body tingling, throat closing, chest tightening, heart racing, vision blurring, light-headed panic attacks, they have been more spaced out lately and less random. Sometimes, all you can do is try to identify your triggers, work hard at being healthy and take a deep breath. The rest is out of your hands. Accepting this has been the most difficult part.


  1. I hope your friend gets better soon!

    1. Thank you. Me too. It hasn't been looking good lately but he is receiving excellent medical care. Even the doctor is telling us to pray.


Say it, don't pray it.