Sweaty and Worried – Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Hank had to sing an Italian song for his tests.

His music instructor did not believe that he had been practicing two hours a day. When Hank asked his voice teacher to sign off on those hours, his voice teacher still did not believe him.  He had nothing to feel shame about.  “Then why did I?” Hank wondered.  Card in his hand, signed off, Hank resentfully kicked at the rocks covering the path back to administration.

Looking out over mostly empty hard wooden seating in the music hall, Hank slaughtered the song. Even so, it was still the best performance he had ever done.  His father was there in his stained tie and largeness.  His mother in her too many colors, smiled loudly.  She was tone deaf.  Frank’s shame followed him.  He had practiced.

Hank’s older brother dressed in silk shirts, a big gold medallion, a tuft of hair coming out of his barely suppressed neckline.  When they prayed, Hank heard these smacking noises, and thought, “Pray for my nausea,” hoping they would stop kissing.  His brother always had a girlfriend.  The girlfriend was at his recital.  There were noises.

Everyone was scared Hank’s brother would marry too early and maybe marry for the wrong reasons.  His dad was always like, “Wait, wait!” But with Angie, Dad was like, “Get married now!”  Angie was the best in a long line of noisy kissers.

They asked Hank to sing at their wedding.  They insisted.  His brother, his brother’s girlfriend, his parents – they spoke in harmonics all at once.  “Hank!  You sing like Sinatra! Don’t worry so much! You should sing!”

In a rented tuxedo, Hank sang.  The mike didn’t work.  Aunt Augusta told him to sing louder.  Aunt Augusta didn’t hear well, even if there was a mike.  Hank forgot his words and had to start over.  Sweat filled his shirt and he thought about the dry cleaning.

Hank has never had a girlfriend and he is almost twenty-five.  Standing in front of all those people without the song lyrics, the only words that came to him were, “I am like a sweaty doorknob.”  His brother, facing a battle of his own between his ruffled shirt and his manliness, did not help.  Hank thought, “He is probably waiting for prayer so he can start kissing.”

The second year of college, Hank got caught with pornography.  “Hank!” His mother pulled his ear, towing him while she shook the fisted magazine through the house.  He didn’t listen to her words.  He only listened to his memories asking his music instructor for his signature. Was it as bad as the wedding?  Talking to Sarah or walking across the campus greens were bad. He fingered his worries like a beaded necklace.  He worried a lot.  Worry and shame.  He wished he could have a girlfriend but thought that was a hopeless cause.  Hank was already planning on buying a new magazine before Mom had thrown that one in the garbage.

It is so easy to explain away why Hank is the way he is.  We have heard enough to say, his parents, his brother, his isolation, his treatment from teachers.  We can use these to say, “Who wouldn’t be anxious, worried, down, and isolated, when going through these experiences?”  If we did though, we might miss the generalized anxiety disorder, the medical.  Conceptualizing the medical in this way can be so difficult.  We could call it, “the un-reasons why” we feel and do what we do.  So then we don’t have to deny it.  The un-reasons why don’t have to make sense.  They are un-reasons, after all. We don’t have to deny them by our inherent need to point at the cause and effect, or explain into uselessness the reason we are this way.  We don’t have avoid eye contact just because they can’t be seen.

Hank, like so many of us, is included in the statistics that generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is one of the top reasons why we don’t get intimate with others.  The anxiety is distracting.  It isolates us.  It preoccupies our thoughts.  It fills us with self-doubt and develops over time, almost inevitably if not treated, into depression.

Getting by with something as subtle as GAD, or other brain illnesses such as degrees of depression, have potentially devastating effects on what occupies our life-line.  The moments that construct the overall devastation may be explained away by one injustice or another, by what are thought to be personality quirks, or simply by neglect of self. But they could be different. The moments, the otherwise same moments, could be different.  The same rude, distrustful teacher, the rejection from Sarah, the quiet mike – those moments could have been different with the same guy, different only in his brain health.  Brain health makes the sameness different.

As Nancy A. Payne, of New York University (NYU) Silver School of Social Work, wrote about treating brain illness,

“There is tremendous satisfaction gained from facilitating the transition from profound illness to equally profound recovery.”

The life-line takes courage to look at.  It takes courage to believe that the effect of our negative thoughts and distorted perceptions could indeed have that pervasively profound effect.  It takes courage to consider that medical treatment can likewise, profoundly change our quality of life.

Hank tried to take his life with a rope before we met.  I’m so glad he didn’t break his neck or die.  He is now well treated and his disease is in remission.  His life-line has changed.Bo-J0zyIEAA_Y3h

Questions:  What are you brave with?  What do you spend your courage on?  Tell us about it.  We gain so much from community and connection.  Keep on.

Self-Care Tip:  Look also at the un-reasons, at the reasons less apparent, at what isn’t seen – look  into those reasons of why we feel and do.

Receive When a Gift is Offered

Ms. Stephanie Cocks

Image by -kÇ- via Flickr

Self-Care Tip#149 – Receive when a gift is offered.  Be a friend to yourself.

I am totally charmed.  Sitting in the coffee-shop, and this lovely man came up and handed me his James Patterson book.  “I’m going to throw it away and thought you might like to read it.  I’m done and it was great.”  Judge and Jury looks suspenseful and I’m too fragile I think for it, but I took it anyway.  I was more charmed by the intent and character of the giver.

I try to tell my daughter about this.  When someone offers you a gift, just accept it.  It’s not so hard.  Say thank you and in doing so, give them the gift of giving and receive the gift of receiving.  It’s powerful for both parties.  The ability to receive isn’t always natural.  It’s something I’ve tried to understand my whole life.

Well, I didn’t catch the name of the book-man but we chatted despite lacking that social etiquette.  He saw my blog-site on my open computer screen and discovered my background in mental health.

“I have problems,” he said.  “Really I do.”  Maybe he was used to people not believing him and added that to add emphasis.  “I have anxiety.”  “Oh.”  I said.  “That’s torture.”  “It is!” book-man said.  “We don’t choose our emotions!  I used to think we did, but we really don’t!”  I heard it from the source.  Speak it book-man!  We don’t always choose our emotions.

We didn’t talk long.  He walked off before I could offer too much.  Maybe it was the anxiety that called him away.  I felt sad and happy.  Sad, because his suffering connected with me.  Happy, because of all the people in here, he and I connected.

Connecting with people any time any where is a small bit of the supernatural.  It’s not something that we can distil, put in a tube or slide under a microscope.  It’s not something that obeys even the excellent paradigm of temperaments.  It comes both expectedly and unexpectedly.  It comes deliberately through labor and through chance.  An airborne-something from the spirit world.  This is not to say that the natural isn’t also family, the dear child of the supernatural.  It’s just that there is a unique charm in the unknowing.

And so the book-man and the unknown connection stays with me even now after he is gone.  His anxiety, his reaching out, his generosity, the Me drawn into his space and he into mine.  I am receiving and he gave.

Thank you Great Supernatural and Natural God for this.

Question:  When do you connect despite the anxiety of being in the position of receiving?  Please tell me your story.

Between Me and Thee, Don’t Believe it

He felt blamed by his daughter.  It is one thing to perceive it.  Believing what we perceive might be separate.

There is a disease process named obsessive compulsive disorder.  In this illness, we perceive things that at some level we understand are not likely nor true. These fears are called “egodystonic,” when we can tell that our fears don’t make sense.  For example, it may preoccupy my thoughts that I fear I just ran over a pedestrian with my car, even though at some level I know I didn’t.  Not driving back and forth on the street to look for the victim where I fear the accident happened for hours is therefore terrifying to my core.  If asked outright if any of it made any sense, I’d say no.  We all have features of this disorder but don’t necessary to the full extent.  And that is where we got terms like “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”

It goes to reason that fears consistent with our inner selves are “egosyntonic.”  In its diseased states, we see this in disconnected thought form disorders such as schizophrenia.  The healthier examples are much easier for most of us to understand and relate to.  I fear if I speed, I will get a ticket.  Healthy and connected fear.

Now what was going on with the man I mentioned above?  Did his daughter ever say she blamed him?  Was he trusting his feelings?  His Jedi-intuition?  Was this egodystonic or egosyntonic?

Egodystonic fears in a much milder form include simple personalizations.  Making something about us that isn’t.  Your girlfriend makes jokes about you being irresponsible.  A friend doesn’t return your calls.  Your daughter is moving away.  You can see the potential fears building up.  Will we believe them?

Believing our perceptions depends on different paradigms.  There are our biological illnesses that predispose our perceptions (major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, etc…).  We have our temperaments to answer to.  Some of us are wired to be more suspicious v. trusting.  There are adjustment issues, related to stressors around us.  We have our own coping skills.  And how about poor self-care such as poor sleep hygiene and little exercise?  All of that will play on what we are going to do with our perceptions.

Truth is, generally very little of what we hear has anything to do with us.  Now there is the other extreme of course.  A personality disorder who has little insight into the way they are influencing the world around them and take little responsibility.  But that is the exception.  More often, we walk around licking wounds that came from a series of misperceptions and personalizations.  It takes up a lot of time and is a disconnecting force between me and thee and thee and thee.

Self Care Tip #72 – The best way to keep the space between us open, honest, healthy, connected – is take care of our own selves.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What has happened in the space between you and the ones you love?  Please tell me your story.