I have sat down at my desk numerous times over the past three months trying to find the appropriate words as a follow-up to my last post, “Hi, My Name is Jeff, and I Suffer from Anxiety,” and each time I have sat down the words stop cold in their tracks, paralyzed with fear, then suddenly the fight-or-flight response kicks in.
Flight ticket purchased, gate c14, departure time: now, window seat, row 17, thank you, enjoy your flight, and those very words turn and run terrified in the opposite direction.
The Flight or Write Response
Writing-induced anxiety, I call it; or the flight or write response. Fear of unworthiness that what I produce for you to read is not good enough. It is actually a greater problem I have been having over the years as it relates to writing, but I will divulge that in a post all to its own—and I am happy to report, pre-admission to divulgence, is that I am on the road to recovery.
Here’s the thing. There was such an outpouring of feedback and personal response from my last post that I didn’t know where to begin; so part of me wanted to tread lightly, feel the water at my breast but not stick my head all the way under. It’s a deep pool, this subject.
Then I read a book, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, one which I will expand on in a future entry as the topic is alluded to above (writing anxiety), and it grabbed me by the back of my head, strands of my hair between its fingers, and shoved my face into the water, refusing to let my sunken orb up until every bubble gurgling for air reached the surface, popped, and my face ascended gasping for precious oxygen to suck deep into my lungs. It reiterated a message a friend sent me a few months ago via a private message on Facebook. The likely reason any of you come here at all, the reason why my last post was shared on social media so heavily, and read, was because it was raw, it was me, towel dropped, in the flesh, (sorry for the visual; granted, from running, I have developed a rock solid a–– even a bullet would bounce off) and it struck a human emotion that quite often sits in the corner of the room by itself, head down, hoping no one will acknowledge it.
As I wrote my own story of admission as someone plagued with anxiety, I started to feel a bit of freedom in doing so, but I still felt very much alone. Naked and exposed, I wasn’t sure if I should tell the world something so deeply personal that I had experienced for as long as I can remember to the point where I can close my eyes, right here, right now, and visualize standing on a dashed white line, looking down at my red chuck taylors, my head filled with despair, on the playground during recess at Phenix Elementary School when I was in kindergarten with a thought in my head asking, “If I died, would anyone come to my funeral? Would anyone even know I was gone?”
Something which I didn’t even know by name until recently.
Once I hit publish, I realized exactly how alone I wasn’t.
In the comments section, some of you shared your own struggles with anxiety and/or depression for others visibly to see and read, which, I can tell you, meant more to me, and those others who read it, than you may ever realize, whether you identified yourself or remained totally anonymous. Some of you contacted me by email using the contact form on this website or through a private message on Facebook.
Some of you told me how you have considered suicide or how you had come this close only to turn back at the last minute—and just to pause there: whether we know each other very well or not, I am glad you did turn back. You told me deeply personal things that you didn’t have to, and I’ll bet for many of you, it felt good to do that, to say those things, to get it off your chest.
Thank you. That’s how I should have began the follow-up blog entry that has haunted me these past three months. With two simple words. Two words that express my gratitude to you, the reader.
I would also urge everyone who read that blog entry, that if it hit home in some way, to take it one step further. Determine next steps and any possible barriers, and how to maneuver around or over them, so you can get the proper help, so that you can look Anxiety or Depression square in the eye, diverting his attention momentarily, fooling him as it were, while simultaneously landing a swift blow to his groin. Bam! Right in the grapes. Make him gasp for breath and know what it feels like to find a worthy foe, someone that will fight back. Sure, he’ll get back up but so will you. At least now you will know how to weaken him and, more importantly, how to strengthen yourself this day forward.
Am I even a formidable opponent; or, how I was tested by Anxiety, and kicked Anxiety in the grapes
Speaking of strengthening oneself in the face of anxiety, and then anxiety deciding to test me to see if I really was a formidable opponent or if I was entirely full of s––t, the last three months have been interesting. Maybe too interesting. Here are two things, in particular, that happened.
Dog Meet Hand
On my last day of vacation at the end of June, I was bitten (not attacked) by a dog, not with ill intent I would like to affirm, and ended up in the emergency room with my knuckle and tendon exposed and nerve damage, which I am still dealing with now in September. How did this happen? My dog and another dog got into a scuffle and my son was right there as it was happening and at the time the other dog had mine by the throat, so, as a result of immediate instinct which happened in a split second over (a) concern that my son would stick his hand in and say, no, bad dogs, and inadvertently be bitten, and (b) concern for my dog’s safety since she was being seized at the throat, I reached down to pull the other dog off mine and, unfortunately, reached too far up, and the other dog turned and got me good on the left hand. For added anxiety, my dog and the other dog had to be confined for rabies observation for 10 days (at home, thankfully), which I understand is protocol but seemed a bit much, and I had to fill out really fun forms and be the lucky recipient of an ER bill a month later, which, yes, even though I have insurance, still equals a chunk of change I was not budgeted to pay at the time.
Dog Meet Activated Charcoal
A month later, in a totally separate incident, my dog ended up in the vet hospital after being exposed to human heart medication (beta blockers), and had to have her stomach pumped, eat activated charcoal, and be monitored overnight. Fortunately, she did not ingest any of the medication but that was impossible to know at the time because the pill bottle was open and medicine was spread on the floor when we returned from eating out that night. The only thing I knew was, after calling the vet hospital, then the pet poison control line, was that even one of those pills could kill her. No signs. No symptoms. She would appear fine, then all of a sudden her heart rate would plummet and it would be too late. She would “drop dead,” and I quote. It’s not one of those “wait and see” moments.
In case you are wondering, no, I am not on heart medication and yes, I do mindfully watch my dog. These two incidents were sort of freak incidents that have never, ever happened before. Ironically, if that is the correct word, I usually, because of my fear of the worst happening, am really super cautious about ensuring that anyone who comes to visit at our house, particularly someone I know who takes medication, has their bags up, out of sight, and zipped, to the point that I check all rooms before I leave. Since I started confronting my anxiety, I left my OCD downstairs and did not go upstairs to check everything one last time before we left to eat. Then that happens.
My dog is a raccoon. She gets into everything, which is why our kitchen trashcan lives in our hallway coat closet and my son’s bedroom door stays closed during the day. Ever cleaned up dirty diapers that made their way out of the trashcan and were littered about in your hall and under your bed, your daughter’s bed, and your son’s bed? And I’m not talking about pee pee diapers. My dog knows how to open a trashcan using the foot lever at the bottom with her paw. She also knows how to open many types of doors, including the lever type which is what mostly populates our house. And if your bag is even slightly unzipped, she’ll nose her way in, which is what she did.
As I sat in the waiting room of the vet hospital, I watched a man and his wife, who had been there since we arrived, walk out with only a leash and collar in their hand and tears in their eyes and no voice in their lungs.
A woman came in with a neighborhood cat that was not her own that had had its back legs run over by a car.
A dog had a seizure.
A dog ate some ibuprofen the owner had accidentally spilled from the bottle while trying to take something for her headache.
Another dog had gotten into a woman’s purse and eaten chewing gum with xylitol and was throwing up nonstop and acting disoriented.
I stayed most of the night at the vet hospital, then left for a few hours of sleep while my dog’s breathing and heart rate was being monitored. I returned the next morning at 7:30 AM and left with my dog on her leash with her purple color around her neck, and gave her the biggest hug she’d ever received from me.
And you know what, despite these two incidents, anxiety didn’t win. Did I have some anxiety as these events unfolded? You d––n right. But it didn’t overcome me. If this had all happened in May instead of June and July, anxiety would have kicked my behind and kept on kicking. Sure, I went to the ER. But my hand survived and despite a torn tendon and nerve damage, the latter which I may or may not have for the rest of my life, I’m fine. Sure, I went to the vet hospital. But my dog is alive, and all those daily walks she hasn’t gotten as much of since both of my children were born, she is getting again. We walk at least once a day now, if not more. I pet her more. I rub her belly more. I get less frustrated with her. Why? Because that night was a wake-up call. I love my dog. I need to act like it every day.
I’ve had ups. I’ve had downs. I’ve felt the victor. I’ve felt defeated. But I’m still standing, and each day I’m learning more and more about what my triggers are and how to manage them aptly—and I appreciate every one who left their feedback and everyone who didn’t. I’ve taken a lot of it to heart and incorporated it into my daily understanding of this hideous little bastard known as anxiety.
In my next post, because this one has grown far too long, and most everyone probably stopped reading about 1,500 words ago, I want to detail a few things I have done specifically that have combatted my anxiety, both low anxiety and high anxiety. These new habits and techniques have been immensely helpful. Here’s a quick preview:
- The Pomodoro Technique
- Thought stopping
- Waking up earlier
- Incorporating daily laugh time with my wife
I’m a visual person, so I may or may not find a way to include a table in my next post. I promise, though, that my next post will not be so far away and that you will be hearing much more from me on a much more frequent basis because I have discovered not only who goes by the name of Anxiety, but whose comrade in arms goes by the name Resistance. I’m sorry in advance.
Until then, thanks for reading.
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Photo: Daniel Novotny. “Tilley for JKPP.” Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
4 replies on “Two Simple Words”
Just read this latest post, Jeff. It was really well written and you as always were very transparent in sharing what is really going on inside you.
I am not sure if you are aware, but pharmacy has been described and documented by gallop poll stamps of authenticity as being the most stressful of all professions. Since Rx school, I have buried 4 colleagues from my midst and of course my dentist (the second most stressful group) Chuck Patteson from Keysville. The most difficult one was Joan Davis from Brookneal, who not only worked for me at Charlotte Pharmacy, but was a dear dear friend, of the results of post-partum depression. Her depression and her subsequent death, made me take a whole new look both professionally and personally at people with depression and it caused me to have an understanding that I had never had before.
I am so glad that you are writing your feelings and sharing with others. You may never know the person whose life you may have saved.
I am so proud of you and every time I think of you, I think of your dad at my drugstore in Charlotte Court House. There had been an incident in Phenix involving you and he and I had a long conversation about it and about our children and about our neighbors. I can still see the smile on his face and the pride he had whenever he spoke of you and your sister.
Oh, and btw.. I have had a book in my head for many years. I seem to have a problem sitting down and typing the first line. Wanna be my ghost writer?
I can see pharmacy being a highly stressful jobs. Definitely an attention to detail type of job among other things. My condolences to you regarding your friends in the profession. As for Chuck, he was my dentist too. I remember when that happened. Very sad. My mom was once a dental assistant, and if my memory serves me correctly, she worked under Chuck.
Postpartum depression is a very real thing. Identifying and finding support and help is something we really push in my profession. There’s Baby Blues, which most women go through after giving birth, and then there’s something far more devastating as the body undergoes further hormonal and emotional changes that come along with giving birth. I am sorry to hear about your friend Joan.
Thanks for sharing the story about my dad. I would say I know what incident you are referencing, but I somehow found myself in numerous incidents when I was younger. Pretty sure the cops had a spare room at my house when I was 15 and 16 years old.
As for the book, you’ve got it in you. You’re a smart guy. Don’t think about the big picture. Don’t edit. Just write. I’d say yes to your ghostwriting request, but I’ve got a few in my head I want to get down first. I’ve written a full length (though short) book, a novella, an outline to two more novels, and about 65 short stories over the years. None have seen the light of the day except the first one and a short story I have available on Amazon. I’m still practicing.
As always, I am so glad for your thoughts to be shared on paper or technology….it’s therapeutic for the writer and reader.
Keep writing son!
Very therapeutic and something I just enjoy doing in general. Thanks as always for reading.