Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Anxieties - the Hidden Demons in our Minds.

It starts out the same.  Your heart starts to pound a little bit more and its pace quickens as your body starts to sweat, but you aren't hot... you are actually shivering a bit. Uncontrollably, you body's physical presence starts to spiral out of your control and you cannot understand why? 


Was it something I ate?  Do I have the flu?  Am I going to get sick right here or am I going to pass out?  Why does it feel like I am having a heart attack?


This is one of the moments when you find that those people who have experienced the above know exactly what I am talking about and those who have not, think the rest of us are crazy.


I am talking about anxieties.  Of course, today, with drugs being prescribed left and right by every Doctor under the sun, a lot of things are categorized as an anxiety or a panic attack of sorts.  But those of us who had nothing to combat but our inner mind, wrestled with demons on a daily basis.


Mine didn't develop until after I was involved in a very bad traffic accident in 1993.  I sandwiched a 92' rental Chevy Beretta between my 92' Ford Ranger and a late 80's Volvo.  It was not entirely my fault, but the change I received from my exchange that morning allowed me to get a first hand look at the inside of an ambulance as the patient and not the EMT (I was a volunteer for the Saratoga Fire Department and an EMT-D).


What then developed over the years, was a driving anxiety.  I could not drive on the freeway without invoking an anxiety attack. I took the back roads from Saratoga all the way to Milpitas because I could not get on the freeway.


But here is the problem - I had no idea I was suffering.  I had no clue that what I was experiencing was a psychological issue that was creating a physiological change in my body and a persona change with my attitude.  It took me years to figure out that I was suffering and my ability to interact with people in certain situations suffered.  I left musical performances half way through, because I felt sick to my stomach - I didn't realize I was having an anxiety attack because I was wedged in the best seat in the orchestra area.  I hated my early vacations with my budding family (my in-laws) because I was afraid that I would get sick on the beach or have a bout of diarrhea and the nearest bathroom was a 15 minute walk.  I couldn't stand going to my night courses at San Jose State University, not because I thought they were boring, but because I was being locked into that room with 30 kids, a teacher and expected to learn while fighting an anxiety attack.  I cannot tell you how many times I would try to get to the class first so I could either sit by the door or an open window and everytime... I would focus on finding the nearest trash can in case I had to vomit.


THESE ARE REAL SYMPTOMS FOR MADE UP ISSUES!!!  Call it a chemical imbalance or some sort of bad conditioning growing up, but whatever it is, I have come to terms with it. 


Of course I still get them, but I have a better defense against them than I ever have.  Knowledge, for one.  I met with a psychologist in 2004 (I think) and we talked about my anxieties through several sessions and I explained where I thought my anxieties started from.  (I will leave all that for another entry). 


But the knowledge of being able to identify the starting signs, coupled with some techniques to help calm me down have enabled me to better combat my demons and in 2007, allowed me to hike the Grand Canyon with my father-in-law.  We hiked down, camped out for two days and hiked back out.  It is a tough challenge and an awe-inspiring trip.  I will be making my way to the Grand Canyon again in 2010 with Andrew, my  9 year old, and my father-in-law this time and we will together, traverse one of God's most beautiful wonders.


For those of you who suffer anxieties.  It is not easy and the battle will never stop.  We will never be fully cured of our ills nor will we forget the time lost and the opportunities forfeited by this almost insidious affliction.  Given the right tools and the right help, it is possible to rejoin society on a functional level and to not lose valuable time with family, friends or even with yourself.  I hope to be reflecting more on this in time.


Keep the faith - Bill


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