Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Duck and Cover
My mother is a high school teacher now. Today they had a "Code Gray" drill---locking down all classrooms in preparation for a Columbine-style student attack.
Has anything really changed in forty years?
Habits can be broken...can't they?
When I got back from New York, the first week of October, I was in the habit of normalcy. I took the bus to work everyday. I take transfer buses to get to work. I walked faster, there was, I daresay, a spring in my step. Then, one afternoon at work, my stomach was really bothering me. I took a cab home. The next day, I took the bus to work like normal, but my stomach was really bothering me--the "please don't let me throw up on the bus" kind of bothering me. When I got off the bus at work, I was waiting to cross the street, and started to feel really dizzy. Now, whether this was due to having a stomach bug or anxiety, I'm not sure. But, the next day, I took a cab to work. Habit broken.
I've only taken the bus to work twice since then. I tried to convince myself that the next day I would wake up, cured, and be able to take the bus in. It doesn't work that way. I need to get there.
So, I am working on a new habit. Everyday, I take a little walk towards the bus stop. What I do is this: set the alarm on my cell phone, and when it goes off, I turn around and go back home. Once a week, I add a minute to my walking time. I am at three minutes. It doesn't sound like much, but for me, it is great. Three minutes takes me to the door of my ATM machine. That means that if I do need to take a cab somewhere, I can get the money for it.
Happily, I have some time off from work. My job is somewhat unique. Three weeks on, three weeks off (though I do seem to end up working for them in the off weeks too). I had all last week off, and I go back for some odd-job type stuff a week from today, then get back into the real work the following Sunday. This is giving me some time to concentrate on "getting better." Also, since I don't have to go anywhere, I can save money that I would otherwise be spending on cabs. It's nice to have downtime.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
I had a dream a week or two ago. In my dream, I got involved in the anti-war movement, and was a supporter of Gold Star Families for Peace.
In my dream, I came up with a simple, yet in my mind, brilliant anti-war slogan. I made T-shirts and distributed them to GSFP members. I could not wait to wake up and get started.
But, then I did wake up, and realized that the world was not ready for my statement. The phrase....................
My son was killed in Iraq, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.
I guess some ideas are just ahead of their time.
The Greatest City on Earth....
I spent the last two weeks of September in New York. It was a working vacation, you might say. I was on a film (yes, another reveal-that's what my secret freelance job is....but what do I do on film sets exactly? That I will leave vague for now).
For two weeks, I walked everywhere--mostly alone. I took the subway by myself, went places I'd never been before, was on my own (except for nights and my days off-but that's another story). And you know what-no panic attacks, no agoraphobia. New York was wonderful in that I just did stuff. Got things done. In New York, I had a fifteen or twently minute walk, by myself, to the subway station. Not only was I not scared, I actually liked it! Here, the 4 minute (timed, from apartment door to bench) walk to the bus stop is overwhelming.
Why is that? What makes New York so different?
The Secret of..
Simply put, panic disorder is when you suffer from panic attacks. But, what is a panic attack? Let's start with what it is not. It is not what happens when you are late for work and can't find your keys. That is stress. So everybody, please stop saying that you had a panic attack, unless you actually did!
So a panic attack, is, officially, from the National Institute of Mental Health, this:
If you are having a panic attack, most likely your heart will pound and you may feel sweaty, weak, faint, or dizzy. Your hands may tingle or feel numb, and you might feel flushed or chilled. You may have nausea, chest pain or smothering sensations, a sense of unreality, or fear of impending doom or loss of control. You may genuinely believe you're having a heart attack or losing your mind, or on the verge of death.
It's a pretty good description of what happens. My personal symptoms are the dizziness, flushing, pounding heart, rapid and difficult breathing, and the believe that I am going to stop breathing and die. It's not fun.
Panic Disorder can lead to Agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is NOT the fear of crowded spaces (though it can involved that). Another quote from NIMH:
Some people's lives become so restricted that they avoid normal, everyday activities such as grocery shopping or driving. In some cases they become housebound. Or, they may be able to confront a feared situation only if accompanied by a spouse or other trusted person.
Basically, these people avoid any situation in which they would feel helpless if a panic attack were to occur. When people's lives become so restricted, as happens in about one-third of people with panic disorder, the condition is called agoraphobia.
This is another pretty good description. I am definitely agoraphobic. The best way to describe my agoraphobia is that I don't like to be in situations that I can't exit from. So, it's not taking the bus that I mind, so much as that once I'm on the bus, I can't change my mind and take a cab. I don't drive, so that is not an option or an issue. There are certain situations that are especially difficult for me: walking alone, waiting in lines or for buses/subways (the longer I wait the more agitated I get, grocery shopping, getting places I have never been before, and noisy and crowded restaurants. Strangely enough, I am not shy. I enjoy meeting new people and doing new things--as long as I can go home whenever I want.
I spend alot of time hiding my problems from most people. I am afraid that people won't understand. It is a real problem, but, because it is not a physical problem, it is seen as a "made-up" problem, or something that is weakness, laziness, or shyness; a problem that you should just "get over." It is a real problem, with physical and emotional/mental components inverted upon each other.
But, the problem is, I am ashamed, and I do think that if I were stronger, or more motivated, I would just get over it.
A Change of Topic
When I started this blog, I imagined a seires of witty, pithy postings, redolent of my humor and style. I think I delivered that. But, I felt like I was acting a part, and thus was not able to keep it up. So, in the interest of full disclosure, the focus of this blog may be changing, and address the problems I have. I will still be making the witty (at least to me) postings, but I will also be testing the theory that "Blogging is cheaper than therapy." Okay, so that is a proven. I guess my test will be, "is it as effective?"
So, are you ready for the reveal? I suffer from three problems, all interrelated. They are:
- Panic Disorder
The Hypochondria is self-dagnosed, but quite obvious to me. The Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia, however, have been diagnosed by the medical community, and are not made up conditions.
So, now that I've come out, I can attack my blog with renewed vigor.