Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I can feel my skin tighten. It’s like it’s pulling taut and squeezing the sweat out of my pores. I flush, and can feel the heat on the surface of my skin. My throat tightens, and a wave of tension travels from my face down through my body and limbs. Any more, I can hold back the tears. It’s hard, though. I still get the catch in my voice, because of what’s happening with my throat, unless I use some iron self-control. Paranoia jumps in. My mind, so accustomed to racing ahead of me, begins figuring doomsday scenarios. I’ll lose everything: job, home, family. I’ve let everybody down. It’s all I can do to keep from collapsing in a heap and whimpering, like I used to do when I was younger.

Someone asked me a question earlier about something that got messed up 14 months ago, and not necessarily by me.

I consider myself in control of my anxiety, these days, because unless the stress is big, I can function. I may not function well, but I can function. When it’s big, though, I have to drive myself to do anything. I just want to collapse inward and let it take me, let the fear consume me. I almost want that fugue where I can’t eat, or recall where the last fifteen hours went, or whether I’ve moved. The fugue is better than the breakdown. The breakdown is what I get when I can’t just lock it all away; it’s uncontrollable paranoia and tears. Breakdowns, for me, are almost like seizures; I can’t control or stop them once they get started. It’s much more rare for them to happen, because virtually all of the coping mechanisms I’ve created over the years are geared toward preventing them. Collapse in front of a classroom full of kids a couple of times, and you’d work on it, too.

I’ve been thinking about it more lately, because my wife has been having some troubles with anxiety. I can empathize; for good or ill, my anxiety had a large hand in shaping who I am. I know that there isn’t much I can do for her other than offer support, and that kills me, because I know what kind of things she’s dealing with inside. She’s seen a doctor, and because the issue seems to be related to work stress that may eventually lift, she’s taking medication to help stabilize her until her environment stabilizes.

That’s one thing that I wonder if I could do. One of my biggest phobias has to do with brain function. I’m terrified of dementia altering who I am. While that doesn’t translate straight to “Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors are bad, mmkay?” it has been part of what drove me toward being as much of a teetotaler as I am. I can trace my original complete lack of alcohol or drug use to the idea that stuff like that affected my brain, and I felt that my brain was literally my only asset. Why would I do anything that could bugger up the only thing I had going for me? My reasons have evolved, but the idea of anything that could seriously affect my brain chemistry ranks right up there with an organic decline of brain function. What do I know, though? Quite a lot of the people I’m close to have really enhanced their lives and happiness by medically balancing their brain chemistry. I could probably use it myself; it’s not like there’s dearth of crazy in my family tree. Of course, I’d have to overcome my anxiety about brain chemistry to do something about my brain chemistry. Such is the Catch-22 of mental health.

Maybe I should just become a Scientologist and let a galvanometer solve all my problems. I doubt that would work, though. I may be a little crazy, but I’m not stupid.

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