Friday, May 15, 2015

Life with an anxiety disorder - Part IV: Relax!! It's only paranoia!

I really don't know if that's common for all people who suffer from an anxiety disorder, but I have literally not felt relaxed in years. There's just no feeling of ever being "at ease." I am constantly wired, constantly on edge, my stress levels are constantly high, and there is no way for me to unwind. I cannot tell you how or when it started, but it may well be approaching a decade. I mean, it has been a problem all my life, that I just can't seem to calm down most of the time, but the situation that it absolutely never happens anymore is something that developed in the latter part of my life. For me, there are only periods of medium stress and high stress. Medium is when I am the closest to calm, and below medium is simply out of reach.

You can see how this goes hand in hand with anxiety, it's interlinked with stress in an anxiety disorder. Never being able to relax means anxiety never lets up. It simply varies between medium (undifferentiated fears) and high (panic attacks) like stress does. A state of mind in which stress and anxiety are absent is something I have not experienced since at the very least 2007, and it is impossible for me to recall what it even feels like. Interlinked as they may be, however, the constancy of stress and anxiety leads to opposite problems for either. Constant stress leads to explosion at the slightest trigger. Constant anxiety leads to implosion at the slightest trigger. It the very definition of "on edge", like walking a tightrope in fluctuating windspeeds, hard enough to keep balance by itself, but blown hither and wither to opposite abysses perpetually.

Stress-related explosion is just what it sounds like, and because I am constantly on the edge to it, there were multiple occasions on which I have been suggested by doctors, therapists and psychiatric nurses to suffer from a borderline personality disorder. I do not, but some of the reactions are the same, such as rapid mood swings, outbursts of anger or general "freaking out." I just tend to have a very thin skin, a very low protective shield to the slightest emotional triggers. In periods of high stress anything can set me off, and because I am in a period of high stress a good chunk of my time, and the only let-up is medium stress, this happens a lot. I'm not a violent person (though not saying it never happened), I yell, kick things, slam doors, say massively inappropriate shit, accuse people, insult people, throw things, I just get so really fucking mad. Typical fit of rage when high level stress overloads your brain and you explode.

Anxiety-related implosion is pretty much the opposite, a depth of misery filled with nothing but terror and despondency. It's when all your anxiety and panic comes together and focuses into one tight beam melting you from the inside. It's a dissociative state in which nothing feels real anymore and you literally feel your mind and body disintegrating. It reminds me of Harry Harlow's "pit of despair" (see Wikipedia), a place of utter desolation and terror. This is what happens when high level anxiety never lets up and eventually pushes you to a level at which you collapse. When you feel all of yourself and the world around you as unreal, that dissociative state of being helpless in a limbo of fear, that's the kind of implosion you end up with when you don't get one second of a break from constant high level anxiety.

The big question to me is why. Why can't I relax just once? Not for an hour, not for five minutes, not even for a second. Why am I constantly on edge, constantly wired? I've been trying to figure it out for a while now, but due to lacking memories of certain periods of my past I have a lot of difficulty even pinpointing when and how it started. My thoughts have constantly been racing since childhood, but I know as a kid I at least got periods of calm. I know the extreme bullying I've been through in high school constantly put me on alert because I could expect an attack any second without warning. But I'd like to not think of something as trivial as bullying as the cause of such a deep issue. I've had some messy break-ups, a really crappy job career, and i think my huge problem with alcoholism contributed a lot, but none of that really makes sense as a cause of this problem. Soon I will be entering long-term anxiety therapy at a high profile clinic specialising on that diagnosis, and I hope finding the causes will be one of the priorities of therapy. I just can't figure it out on my own.

This paragraph may just be mad hypochondriac rambling, but there's also a theory that there could be an issue with my adrenal gland. It would explain a lot. A few years ago a benign tumour was found on my brother's adrenal gland and it was found to be the cause of all his restlessness, fidgeting, nervousness, restless leg syndrome and other things. Removing it surgically has helped him a lot. The doctors then said it was probably genetic, so there is a chance I have the same issue. It's just a wild theory, but it's something I'll have myself tested for at the clinic. All it requires is for me to collect my pee for a day, then doctors can see if there's any issue with the adrenal gland (and my kidneys while they're at it.) It's worth a shot at least looking into it, the symptoms certainly fit perfectly. But if the issue is all psychological, that will be taken care of as well, I hope.

Now after the emotional strain of writing another one of these rather intimate posts, I'd really like to sit back and relax for a few minutes. I know that isn't possible. C'est la vie.

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