My anxieties have anxieties

Despite having more good days over the last couple of months, my anxiety has also been really bad at times, and I’ve been worrying about my future a lot. Even though I only work at the stables one day a week and I haven’t been shouted at there recently, my anxiety still goes into overdrive the night before I work there, as well as while being driven to work. I usually don’t sleep very well the night before even though I’ve tried just about everything to calm myself down. My sisters certainly don’t like to make things easier for me either. I share a room with them both and need to go to my bed earlier than usual on Saturday nights so that I can be up early the next morning. Even though I explain this to both of them, and give them advance warnings that I’ll be going to bed, so that they can move, the older of the two (who is 18) always refuses to either switch her laptop/ music off or move elsewhere – so that I can’t sleep –  calling me selfish or an asshole, or something similar. She knows that I get very anxious about work, yet she seems to take pleasure in making me feel even worse. She seems to think it’s funny to make me as much of an anxious wreck as possible. Even though I’ve done many “Thought Records” about my pre-work anxiety, my anxiety still hasn’t decreased. The good thing is that I’m usually fine once I start working, aside from my anxiety about talking to other people, of course.

There was a time a few weeks ago when I would have high-anxiety dreams – I can’t remember most of them but I did die in one of the few dreams I remember – and wake up in a state of panic, breathing rapidly. As I lay in bed trying to sleep, my chest would feel very tight and mildly painful. Thankfully, that seems to have stopped now. I think it was also related to my anxiety around work, as well as more general worries about my future.

I’d honestly rather not think about what I’m going to do with my life because I literally have a quarter-life crisis every time I do. I’m convinced that no matter what I do, I’m going to end up ridiculously anxious and miserable every day, and will eventually take my own life, or that I’ll not even be able to get a job because of my SA, and I’ll end up barely able to feed myself and I’ll end up on the streets or as a burden to my parents. I catastrophise everything. Maybe I just can’t cope with adult life. I can’t cope with thinking about the future. How on earth am I supposed to just know what I want to do for the rest of my life? I don’t have a clue. I’d like to have a job that I can go to each day without wanting to shoot myself, but judging from how both of my parents feel about their jobs, and how many other people feel about their jobs, that’s pretty much impossible. I’d like to do something that would involve making a positive difference to the world in some way. I did want to become a vet nurse, but now I’m not so sure. The pay is very low and I’ve already seen (just from doing work experience) some awful things. It would be very difficult emotionally to deal with that on a daily basis. It would also be a waste of my time at university. There is also a part of me that would like to become a clinical psychologist but I’ve obviously done completely the wrong degree subject for that, and again, I’d find it very difficult to deal with emotionally. It really badly affects my mood when my Swedish online friend is badly depressed and I know that there is very little I can do to help him, despite just wanting to make everything better. So if I were to multiply that by however many clients a clinical psychologist sees, it’s one way to sabotage my own mental health. Although I think I could do a better job of it (in terms of empathy, understanding, and knowledge) than a number of the people I’ve seen, it would hurt so badly seeing people suffer, and in many cases not being able to do much to relieve their suffering. I think I would get too involved and let their problems affect me too much. And anyway, I’d need to significantly overcome my own problems before being able to talk one-on-one to a client like that. So I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m looking into becoming an ecologist at the moment but I’m not even sure if I want to do that. I can’t see a positive future for myself. It all seems so bleak. I don’t even want to think about it. Can I just try and enjoy life for a little bit before I have to face up to what is (as an SA person) the horror of trying to find employment and entering the working world? Or worse – not being able to do those things. Everyone else in my age group seems to be out enjoying life but I can’t even do that. I regret that I’ve missed out on, and will continue to miss out on, so much of youth because of this curse of a disorder. What if I never get better? What if I never gain the ability to make friends? What if I never get the chance to have a partner or a family? What if I’m never loved by anyone? I don’t want to think about that. I just want to take it one day at a time and hope that things will get better if I have the courage to face my fears. It really pains me to think of all the people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and above who have SA and have never had partners (and may not have any friends). All the things that they’ve missed out on because of their anxiety. No one deserves that. No one deserves to be all alone. No one deserves to feel that suicide is the only way to end their suffering. I worry that I’ll end up exactly the same way.

The doctor who prescribed me propranolol phoned me on Thursday to talk about the side-effects I’d been having. She was nicer to me and seemed to be more understanding (probably because she’d actually read my notes) this time. She said that, given my side-effects, I should probably stop taking the propranolol. She said that she could put me on another antidepressant to try and combat my anxiety but I’m not very keen on taking them again unless I really have to. Neither of the 2 SSRIs I tried in the past helped with either my depression or anxiety, and I think the sertraline actually made me worse. I seemed to suffer from mild akathisia when I first started taking it, and I was on sertraline when I walked to the bridge. My self-harm was also the worst it had ever been while on sertraline, and I managed to stop self-harming not long after I stopped taking it. These may all just be coincidences, and due to the depression alone rather than the medication, but I’d rather not risk it again unless I really have to. She also said she could give me some diazepam tablets to be taken only when I feel I cannot cope without them (i.e. public speaking) but after reading about other people’s experiences with benzodiazepines on a couple of the blogs I follow, I’m certainly not keen on that either. She did end up giving me 8 low-dosage diazepam tablets but I don’t want to ever have to take them. I hate that there a so few options, medication-wise, when it comes to anxiety. Of course, the fact that the GP has recommended I don’t take propranolol again has made me very worried about what I’ll do when it comes to future oral presentations at university, and future job interviews. While I would like to eventually be able to do these things without having to rely on medication, I don’t feel anywhere near ready to do that yet. Oral presentations are my worst fear. The last time I did one without propranolol was when I had the worst panic attack of my entire life in front of about 50 people. And yes, I did manage to get through it, but it’s definitely not an experience I want to repeat. I will not be able to hide my shaking. I may as well be being electrocuted the entire time if I have to do it without beta-blockers. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t think my side effects were as bad with smaller doses so I may just risk taking 10mg or something, but given that I’ve been told not to by a GP, it’s probably not a good idea. The organiser of the SA group mentioned going to Toastmasters ages ago but I don’t think I’m ready to do that either. I don’t want to think about the state I’ll be in before and during future presentations if I don’t have medication to help me.

The GP has also referred me for a few sessions of counselling. It’s not something I particularly want to do because it didn’t really help in the past, and felt it was a waste of time, but maybe the counsellor can help me with CBT.

I leave to go on holiday for 2 weeks with my family tomorrow, so I’m hoping that that’ll take away some of my anxiety for a while. Although I enjoy going on holiday, the generally much less busy schedule that comes with it makes it very easy for me to think myself into an existential crisis. So I’m going to take some thought records, ‘Feeling Good’ by David D. Burns, and plenty of games and books to distract myself, to try and combat any existential depression that may arise. I might try meditating/ mindfulness again as well, though it didn’t seem to do much for me when I tried it before. I’ll also take a journal / diary with me because writing all my thoughts and feelings down does seem to help me. I haven’t written in a diary (except this blog) for a couple of years now so I’ll see if it helps. I have so many more updates to write when I get back; I’ve just been struggling to find the time and mental effort to do so.

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7 Responses to My anxieties have anxieties

  1. I had horrible anxiety about my future all through my twenties, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. If it helps, I want you to know that it is possible to be a social phobic and a functioning adult at the same time. It just takes us longer to figure it out for some reason. 🙂

    • Gemma says:

      Thank you for your comment. 🙂 It is encouraging to know that there are people with SA who are able to work and have friendships despite their anxiety.

  2. Vanessa says:

    Sometimes I feel like you are reading my mind. All of your post strikes a chord with me, but particularly the bit about no one deserving to be alone-I often feel that way. Life really can be unfair 😦
    I’ve never tried antidepressants for the single reason: what if they don’t work? Then what?
    A kindred spirit,

    • Gemma says:

      Life can be really unfair. 😦 But I suppose we’ve just got to try and make the most of the relatively bad hand we’ve dealt.
      Sometimes I feel like the same way about antidepressants. They’re held up as some sort of panacea of the masses but they did nothing whatsoever for me. I’d worry that by trying a new medication, I’d simply be getting my hopes up for nothing all over again. What I’m more worried about, though, is the side effects of antidepressants, including the possibility of making things worse, in the way that I believe sertraline may have made me worse. That’s not to say that antidepressants are all bad. They can be very helpful and even life-changing for some people, but I’m very hesitant to try them again.

  3. I think you would make a wonderful psychologist or counselor. You’re empathic, insightful and intelligent. You’re probably also articulate, but I have a hunch that your SA gets in the way of that. A therapist who has “been there” will bring a level of understanding that I don’t think someone who has merely read about conditions in books would. You do need to heal first, though. But that does not mean you couldn’t pursue those things – healing yourself and learning to help heal others – in parallel.

    Yes on the CBT. It’s what got me started on my journey and the therapy I’m doing now uses many of the same principles. No on Toastmasters or other “public speaking” classes. It’s very structured and the only people I’ve ever known who have been enthusiastic about it have been extroverts. A friend of mine (fellow shy introvert) tried it and said it was very structured and rah rah. She took improv instead and, although terrifying, it forced her to get out of her own head and focus on other people, and loosen the grip of terror at being the center of attention. It got her away from trying to be invisible, because in improv you can’t. Would not recommend an acting class. But if there are other forms of self-expression, such as storytelling or even standup comedy, I would encourage you. You have a lot to say, and you can say it well when given the chance.

    • Gemma says:

      Thank you for the kind words. 🙂 As I say, I’m just working away at CBT self-help books on my own at the moment. I may try to find a psychologist or counsellor who can help me with CBT in future but I actually think I’d rather avoid professionals for the time being. I can imagine that improv would be terrifying! I still don’t feel that it’s something I’d be able to attempt any time soon but I may try it in the future, after I’ve made more progress. I may see if I can practise public speaking in front of a study skills advisor at my uni and ask them to give me advice on how I can improve and reduce my anxiety.

  4. Good for you for getting going with CBT. Using books on my one took me a long way toward recovering. Every step you take is a step forward.

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