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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Changing your view

Anxiety can be a real bitch.  Or bastard, depending on how fluid you wish to make it.  Driving down Highway 5 late at night last weekend, that familiar tingle begain in the middle of my back - a feeling that usually means I'm about to spend the next 20 min. talking myself out of driving straight to the nearest hospital.  Which, ok sure, I'm so used to dealing with this that I can usually cope, and even though I will always think something could possibly be wrong with me, odds are everything is fine.  The bitch of it is, I wasn't even stressing out.   Usually, one thinks of anxiety as coming from stress, or some sort of stressful situation.  Granted, driving 300 miles down what is possibly the most boring piece of road in California isn't what I call fun, it's by no means a stressfull event.  The only thing I can think of as being a trigger in this situation is when I started thinking, "Hey, I feel pretty good right now" ...

What I don't understand about myself is why I sit and think about the absence of bad feelings.  Perhaps that in itself is my anxiety coming out - if nothing is wrong that means something is about to be wrong.  Right?  After all, axniety is pretty much your brain rebelling against itself. 

"Something bad is going to happen!"
 "Because it hasn't happened yet!"
"Oh shit!"

And you go around and around, work yourself up, and eventually it can manifest into actual physical sensations, most of which can also be taken as real medical emergencies - pain/numbness in your left arm, sweats, inability to think straight, long-lasting headaches, etc. 

As I'm catapulting myself down the road, I sat in the car and just thought about what I was doing at that time specifically, and how incredible it was.  "I'm driving a car down to see family, to go to Disneyland, and to have a great time with friends - what cool things am I going to do?" was pretty much the conversation I was having with myself.  I tried to focus on the fun I was going to have, and how privileged I was to be able to take this trip in the first place. I didn't try to ignore the feeling in my back or my arm (or head at this point), but simply acknowledge those feelings, and then shift my thinking to something that I knew would take up more brain power than driving in a straight line needed.  In otherwords, I out-thought myself. 

That tactic isn't anything new, and it sure isn't something that I pulled down from the sky - it was my way of grounding myself and telling my brain to take a break.  Being several days removed from this experience, I have the benefit of being calm about the whole thing, but in that situation, it's sort of impossible to be rational.  Like that part of you just shuts down and heads to the bar.  Maybe practice makes perfect for this stuff.  Simply trying once or twice doesn't cut it, but maybe twenty times does.  Or thirty?  I can't say. 

I wanted to share this with you all because it's one of those times that anxiety can surprise you, derail you, or knock you out and steal one of your kidneys.  That is the most vexing part of this thing for me, because it doesn't seem like you can avoid it.  Like some much in life you just have to walk through it. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Overall Update and Announcement

Look, blogging is hard, ok?  I know I said I'd keep this as a record of my post-surgery life and all the complications and wonderful feelings that go with being cancer-free, but each time I think of a post to write, two things happen:

1) I talk myself out of it by saying nobody gives a shit.

2) The cancer I had was not really life-threatening, so there isn't much to say.

Sounds like I'm downplaying it, but each scan and blood panel I have done have been clean, and that sort of makes a boring post, yeah?  I mean, where's the drama?!   It was still a primary cancer, and impacted my life in a very real way, but that's about it.  I'll still give some updates here and there, but for the most part I'm shifting to another problem area in my life.  Anxiety.

For those of you who like reasons and lists, here are both as an explanation for me doing these things:

1) I enjoy writing.  Though my vocabulary is fairly limited, and I over-use commas and hyphens, doing so helps me get my thoughts out.

2) My real hope here is that I can help someone else out there who may be dealing with these same issues. 

To that end, I thought it would be a great use of the small public forum I have carved out for myself to talk about my issues and experiences in case I can help someone else realize they aren't alone.  That there is a light at the end of the anxiety tunnel.   Not that I'm an authority or have all the answers - we are going through this together - but sharing a journey can be pretty good medicine.   It's helped me at times, maybe it can do the same for you.

I suppose I've always been concerned with small, mundane things in my life, but that personality trait went unchecked and somehow developed into a problem that has prevented me from really living life to its fullest.  I've held myself back from doing things I want to do, avoided certain situations, and in general just became a miserable person at times.

Anxiety is a tough thing to describe.  It's not like a broken leg, where it hurts, and people can see that there is something wrong, and we all know how quickly it will heal and how soon you'll be back to normal.  Having anxiety is more like ... holding in a giant fart in a room full of supermodels.  Single ones.  Ones that are there specifically to meet you.   Well not really, but it's close.  You have this uncomfortable feeling inside - this pressure - and you can't let it out.   And it spreads.  From your chest, up your trunk to your neck, maybe your head.   Sometimes the side of your head can feel numb.  Sometimes your arm.  Oftentimes both.  Then real panic can set in and you worry about all the things these feelings could be symptomatic of.  Heart Attacks.  Strokes.  Permanent, life-altering shit.  So the only thing you can do is return home and try your hardest to wait for it to pass. 

Sure, that's a dumbed-down description of a pretty serious problem, but it's the only one that comes to mind right now - with my love and over-use of analogies, I'm sure I'll try again.

Recently, I started seeing a therapist for my anxiety, and even though I've only had one session with her, it's been a pretty big relief.  I've always been a believer in therapy for everyone, actually, but especially for people who are sort of silently suffering with things like anxiety.  In order to solve that knot of an issue, you have to find the root cause of it, and that's best done in the comfort of a therapists office.  These people are trained to sort out your bullshit from your problems and help you smooth out your life. 

At any rate, that's my big intro to this new direction.  I've mentioned my anxiety issues before on the various podcasts I do, but not in this way, and for sure not with as much honesty.  While this isn't a coming out or anything, it's pretty huge for me and represents and culture shift within my own mind.  My plan is to write about what I'm feeling, what I'm going through, what my breakdowns feel like - all the gory bullshit that one goes through.

Do you suffer from Anxiety as well?   Hopefully this clumsy blog will help in some small way.