J and I got home a little while ago from participating in that OCD study. It was much easier for me today because J was there, we brought some drinks, and while J was being interviewed, I got around half an hour out in the hallway by myself so I listened to a bunch of loud music and did some grounding.
I thought there were three more appointments, but it turns out that while there were five parts to the study, I did two of them when I was there the first time and the other three got done today.
So that’s it. They’re hoping to publish the results of the study by the end of the year – I think I’m going to keep an eye on their website in a few months and see if they found anything out.
If you’re a psych student or a psych or medical professional and have done studies or papers, thank you so much! As someone who is getting treatment for mental illness, the thought that there is active research going on that might uncover improvements in therapies or improvements in understanding the illness makes me happy and gives me hope. We’ve come a long way from treating mental illness by trepanning, lobotomizing, and balancing humours because people are applying the scientific method to the study of how the brain and mind work. There’s always more to learn and new treatments to discover!
J has today and tomorrow off work so we celebrated her birthday today. One of the things she wanted to do was go out to a particular restaurant for supper. We haven’t been to a restaurant together for a couple of years now, but with some thought and planning, it worked out:
Since it was a buffet we both ate far too much, which is exactly what you’re supposed to do when you’re celebrating a birthday – and it was very good, too!
Happy Birthday, J – thank you for being the most amazing person I’ve ever known and for everything you do every day. I am the luckiest guy in the world!
I’m so happy the restaurant thing worked out and we were able to do that again! Woohoo!!!
Having runaway anxiety and panic sucks. Most of the things I worry about have either already happened or haven’t happened yet (and there’s no proof they will). I shouldn’t be worried about them or catastrophize – and yet, due to the anxiety, I can’t help it.
The good news is that there are techniques that can help short-circuit the anxiety before it becomes full-blown panic. It can also help shorten or even stop a panic attack in progress. The tool is called grounding, and it helps to bring you back to the here and now instead of events from the past or possibilities from the future.
There are many grounding techniques. Some work for some people but not others. Some also work with different levels or types of anxiety or panic. Sometimes they’ll work and sometimes they won’t, which is why it’s good to know a couple of them. They all take practice but for me, it is really worth it.
Here are a few of my favourite grounding techniques:
1) The 5-4-3-2-1 method
Dr C taught me this one in one of our early sessions. It has helped me immensely and is usually my first go-to grounding technique when I’m in trouble. Here’s how it works:
Look around you and find five things that you can see. The more detail, the better. “I see a wall” isn’t as effective as “I see the little indents on the inner circle of a paperclip that’s sitting on the desk”, or “I see that the store down the street has used an ‘F’ in place of an ‘E’ in their sign”.
Sit (or lie) still, and find four things that you can feel. Again, more detail is better. “Butt on chair” isn’t as good as “right sock has fallen a bit and is lower than the left sock” or “I can feel the gentle breeze of the ventilation system moving the hairs on my right forearm”.
Now focus on your hearing and identify three sounds you can hear. “Cars” isn’t as good as “the Doppler effect of the cars going by” or “the whirr of the computer fan.”
The next thing is finding two things you can smell. If you can’t smell two different things, then think of two smells you really like. Again, describe them as well as you can.
The last step is to think of one good thing about yourself. Be honest. If you’re feeling down, this can be difficult, but remember that everyone has at least one good thing about them.
If you think about it, each of the steps is harder and requires more concentration, which helps push what you were worried about over to the side. With luck, doing this once or twice will help break the cycle of anxiety/panic at least for a little while.
2) Water Over Hands
This one I discovered myself when washing my hands one day. Turn on the tap and put your hands into the stream. Now just feel and watch. Feel the water running over your hands. Feel the tiny variations in temperature. Watch the bubbles as they form and run over your hands and down the train. Look at the paths the water takes as it flows over your hands and how easily you can move it around with subtle movements of your hands.
I like this one because I can use it in public restrooms without looking too weird.
3) Ice in hot water
Get a cup of hot water from the tap and drop an ice cube into it. Listen to the ice crack and watch as parts of it thin out and become translucent, then transparent. Does the ice move to a particular side? Does it move around at all while it’s melting?
4) Listening to music
This one worked quite well for me yesterday when I was in a slump. Get some uptempo music that you really like or find interesting, put it on speakers, and crank it up (but not so high you hurt your ears). Let the music wash over you. Try to pick out and listen to each instrument or voice one at a time. No ballads, no slow music. Something fast that you can tap your toes to.
5) Sit in front of a fan
Sit in front of a fan that’s turned to a low setting. Feel the air buffet you, feel the hair on your head and arms move. Notice the cooling effect the moving air has on your skin.
6) Watch and/or count leaves in a tree
Sit comfortably where you have a good view of a tree. Look at the whole tree, then the trunk. Follow one of the thick main branches upwards and outwards, and at some point follow a thinner branch, then a thinner branch, again and again, until you end up at a single leaf. Watch the leaf sway or dance or twist in the breeze. Notice how it reflects light differently as it moves. In the event that there is no breeze, pick what looks like the highest leaf on the tree and going from side to side, methodically start counting them.
7) Pour water between cups
Take two medium to large (preferably plastic) cups and fill one 3/4 full of water. Get a towel and place it on your lap, then sit comfortably at a table. Pour the water slowly from one cup into the other. Note the sounds and the feeling of weight lessening on one hand and increasing on the other. Vary the speed – try to do everything from slowly trickling the water to dumping it back and forth. If you’re comfortable with it, try closing your eyes a few times and concentrating on the sound and feeling. If you spill a bit, it’s not a big deal – you’ve got a towel ready on your lap.
If you have a few dice kicking around – regardless of how many sides they have – pick one up and place it in your hand, then roll it around using the fingers of the same hand or with the other hand. Feel the surfaces, edges, and corners, and watch the light reflect and bend around the edges and in the indentations where the numbers or dots are. Add a second or third and do the same thing. Observe the feeling and the sound as the dice come together and their surfaces rub, making clicking and squeaking sounds.
9) Run the dishwasher
This one’s great because it can help get two things done at once. Load up the dishwasher, put in the detergent, and start it up. Sit close enough to it that you can comfortably put your hand against the dishwasher door or lean a knee against it (don’t sit right against it because it’s not good for the seals). Listen to the dishwasher fill, the valves open and close, and the rhythmic swish-swish as the dishwasher arms and jets spin inside. Feel the vibrations as the water jets pass and the water splashes around. Try to visualize what’s going on inside, from the water spraying, down to what’s happening to that single little piece of mashed potato that was on one of the plates.
This is just a tiny sample of the many grounding techniques out there. I highly recommend having at least a couple of them in your toolbox to help you cope.
I hope that some of these work for you. If they do, or if you know of any other techniques that work well, please share via comment or the Contact form as well as a name or nickname so I can give you credit!
My co-workers and I used to dream about what it would be like to retire, and a few of us had even figured out how many months or even days left before that wonderful day. We joked about the trips we’d take, or the time we’d have to go to shows or concerts, or riding our motorcycles around. All the things we could finally accomplish without that 40-hour-a-week weight around our neck.
Well, here I am, and it sucks. Things have not turned out the way I’d hoped. Not even close. Twenty years of work flushed down the drain.
I don’t know what I’ll be able to do, or what I even CAN do anymore.
I don’t spend the day relaxing at home, doing whatever tickles my fancy at the moment. I wish. It sucks when I look at a bunch of things that I enjoy doing but have to grit my teeth and force myself to sit down and play with some electronics or start up the printer, instead of just going downstairs and sitting on the couch in the dim quiet.
Started thinking too much about this stuff a couple of hours ago and had a good cry. No panic attack, at least. So there’s that.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about today (or if I was going to care about it at all). I’m sad because life hasn’t gone how I’d hoped. I enjoyed working with WG, DA, and so many other people. I enjoyed solving problems, fixing things, and figuring out ways to provide new services to clients or improve existing ones. People across the country would ask me for help planning or troubleshooting. I was proud of the work I did. Whether it’s old-school or chauvinistic thinking (or if they’re the same thing), I wanted to be the rock so that J could do whatever she wanted. Go back to school, start a business… anything. That didn’t work out, and I feel terrible about it.
I’m angry at the people at work who moved me into another department without letting me know, and the management of that new department who, through incompetence and neglect, slowly degraded and ruined the services, systems, and relationships I’d worked so hard to build. Their indifference when I begged for help or parts. Their casual, uncaring disassembly of all the plans and agreements I had with previous management that allowed me to take university courses. The humiliation I felt when I had to look people I’d known for years in the eye and say that yes, I knew that I used to be able to do that stuff in an afternoon, and yes, I knew it’d been a year, and no, I couldn’t tell them when I’d be able to help them. The dread I felt (and still feel) whenever the phone rang, or when I heard footsteps approaching my door. All the time I spent hiding in the server room or another building because I couldn’t face people and tell them I couldn’t help them.
I also feel very guilty about all the stress I put my family and friends through both after I ended up in the hospital and the months or years before that where I was unwell and acting strangely but unable to see it for myself. I honestly didn’t know that I was being unpleasant or downright dickish. I should’ve listened to J when she first suggested I go talk to someone. Or when she suggested it the second time… or the fifth time, or the thirtieth time. I am so, so sorry to everyone I upset, stressed out, inconvenienced, or otherwise bothered. Thank you all so much for sticking around and supporting me. I don’t know why you did, but I am so incredibly grateful I don’t know how to express it properly.
So yeah. I’m 43 and “retired”. It’s not as much fun as you’d think.
Argh… I better go hide in the bathroom, I think another cry might be coming and the hot water tank guy is here.
Do you know one of those kids who’s afraid to try anything, thinks that everyone is going to hate them or make fun of them, or can’t tolerate being unable to see their parents? It seems there is no lower limit to the age where excessive anxiety or an anxiety disorder can appear. The article mentions that there have been experiments done that have identified children that are overly cautious or anxious, and the researchers discovered that many of those children grow into adults who have anxiety disorders.
Researchers also think they have identified the parts of the brain involved, and what about those parts causes the problem.
The great news is that a particular kind of CBT that’s customized for kids appears to work in almost two-thirds of cases. A combination therapy with CBT and an antidepressant (they used sertraline) seems to work about 80% of the time. As it’s still a new and somewhat experimental approach, it’s not widely available yet, but the researchers’ success so far bodes well for being able to help children and potentially keep them from suffering from anxiety disorders as adults!
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a fan of hot weather. Not to be any more disgusting than I have to, but I sweat. A lot. Yes, I’m fat, and yes, I have an armoire full of black shirts, pants, and shorts, but there’s something else going on, too.
I remember one New Year’s Eve when I was in high school. I was driving friends home from a party (I was always the designated driver). Some of them lived out in the country, so there I was, squinting through thick clouds of blowing snow. It was so cold (below -33C) and so windy that my car wasn’t warming up, and to keep the breath of five people (four yelling and joking around) from fogging up the windows, I ran the defroster on full blast. It felt like my eyes were going to freeze in their sockets. I was cold – very cold, and nervous – very nervous. Despite the cold, I could feel sweat running down my chest in little icy rivulets. Once I finally dropped off my last passenger and made it home, I took off my jacket and was surprised to find my shirt was soaked with sweat.
Fast-forward to my first year of university. My vector mechanics final exam. I knew I was unprepared but had crammed as much as I could into my brain over the previous day. I made my way into the gym and sat down on one of those crappy metal folding chairs, staring at a very thick pile of exam pages turned face down. The TAs supervising the exam called out, telling us we could start and we had three hours. I flipped my exam over.
At the top, it said “IMMUNOLOGY”.
In hindsight, I probably would’ve done better on the immunology exam than I did on the vector mechanics exam, but at the time, I thought I was going to throw up. My skin felt prickly everywhere and I started to sweat like crazy. It only took maybe 30 seconds for me to get mildly scolded by a TA and moved to a table with the correct exam, but it really knocked me for a loop. As I tried to concentrate on the exam, I had to keep wiping my forehead and I could feel the sweat running down my chest, back, and sides.
Three hours later, they announced the end of the exam. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I stood up, felt something kind of weird, looked down, and sat right back down, fiddling with my pencils and staring at my watch until almost everyone else had left. Turns out I had sweat so much that I’d soaked right through my shirt and jeans and there was a puddle on the chair. I got up again, cleaned it up as best as I could, dropped my exam off at the front table, and ran as fast as I could to get back to my room so I could change. It was humiliating.
A few years later I was dating J and her parents came into town. They took us out for dinner and as we sat around talking, I said something (I don’t remember what anymore) that I was worried that sounded wrong or dumb. Nobody said anything or acted any different, but I felt that familiar prickly sensation and I started getting the sweats. I had to excuse myself from the table four or five times so I could go to the washroom and run cold water over my face and hands, and use the hand dryer to dry the sweat out of my hair.
So yeah, I’ve got a history of the flop sweats, although they used to only show up when I was in some kind of high-pressure situation. Since I got sick, though, I get a good flop sweat going for almost any reason. Getting ready to go for a walk? Flop sweat. FA coming over? Flop sweat. My parents coming into town? Flop sweat. Dr C appointment? Sitting in the truck? Setting something up? Measuring something important? Threading my sewing machine? Getting into a cab? Installing a new app on my phone? Walking through the hardware store? Taking a shower before going out or someone coming over? Waiting for a package on the day it’s supposed to be delivered?
Something that really gets me about this whole thing is that I may only be a little anxious about something in the first place and just get a little sweaty, but then I start worrying about the fact that I’m visibly sweating and what are they going to think when they see this and why is this happening… I sweat because I’m sweating! It’s stupid and annoying and embarrassing.
A little while ago I decided to try and figure out if there was anything I could do to lessen the frequency or magnitude of sweaty armpits. Two things came to mind for me to try that could possibly make a big difference: flop sweat when I’m getting ready to go out or have someone over, and lessening the visibility of the sweat after it happens.
For the first thing, I needed to figure out why just taking a shower would get me nervous. I thought about it for a while and realized that one (or more) of four songs play in my head:
The theme from the Commodore 64 game Zarjaz. Speed it up to about 50 percent faster than usual. This is the one that gets stuck in my head the most. I have no idea why – I haven’t played Zarjaz since 1992 or so.
“Rockin’ Robin” – the original Bobby Day version, but about 25 percent faster than it’s supposed to go.
The theme from the Commodore 64 game Commando, bumped up 50%. Again, no idea why. I remember the music from a lot of C64 games, but this and Zarjaz are the only two that get stuck in my head. What I would give to get Hover Bovver stuck in my head sometime.
“The Circus Bee”, by Henry Fillmore. I was in a band that played this back in… 1992? 1993? It’s already pretty fast, but bump it up 25% and that’s more like what plays in my head. It’s a great song, but at the wrong time it definitely contributes to my anxiety.
I like uptempo music, but for whatever reason, those four songs play extra fast, get stuck in my head, and make me nervous. The good news is, all I had to do was play another song loud enough that it drowned out anything I was thinking and my brain fixated on the song that was coming from OUTSIDE my head. So far, it’s been “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO. It’s a great song, uptempo and happy, and it’s one of those songs where so many things are going on that I don’t think I will get tired of it for a long, long time. It’s been over a month now and it’s been pretty consistent with keeping me from going back to those four songs and getting nervous.
As for hiding the sweats when they happen, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. I’ve been wearing black clothes pretty much exclusively for the last 18 years or so because they don’t show sweat as much as, say, a red shirt would. Nowadays, though, that’s not enough. It could be because my confidence and self-esteem vary from ‘nonexistent’ to ‘maybe tomorrow’, it could be because I have the kind of complexion where someone can look at me and tell if I’m lying or embarrassed or any number of emotions, it could be that I’m disgusted and embarrassed at the idea of being the only person sweating in an air-conditioned room.
Since I got sick, I’ve carried a handkerchief around with me whenever I go out, just in case I need to dab (or swab) my forehead, neck, or even if I have to squeeze some extra sweat out of my hair (I’m sorry, I know it’s gross). Sometimes, the hankie doubles as a fidget toy and I fold and unfold it over and over. Most of my worry in this department is about beads of sweat forming on my forehead or the top of my head and running down my face.
My experiment for this problem? A hat. I have a big floppy one that I wear outside when I’m doing yard work but I needed something a little less… silly. J bought me a baseball cap a while ago and, while I’ve never really been a baseball cap person, I find that wearing it while I’m out (and sometimes when people come over) helps tremendously when it comes to ye olde flop sweate. Not only does it hide any sweat that shows up on my forehead, it also absorbs and keeps the sweat from going anywhere. It doesn’t do anything about sweat getting into the hair at the back of my head, but with the other things minimized, I feel a lot less uncomfortable so I sweat a lot less and my hair stays dry.
Jeebus… I’ve gone on about this for two and a half pages. I guess the takeaway from this is that there are aspects of my behaviour that I seem to be able to do something about, and it doesn’t take a huge investment of time or effort. Being able to break out of that loop where I’m nervous about getting all sweaty and gross, then I start sweating, then I get more nervous, then I sweat more… breaking out of that loop helps me in a few ways. Sure, I’m still going to get nervous and sweat like crazy when I’m at the dentist, but at least I won’t have had sweaty pits two minutes after I got out of the shower, and I won’t have to worry about people seeing me sweat in the waiting room.
So yeah… I’ve figured out how to lower the number of times I have to change shirts during the day. I know it sounds silly, but every bit helps.
I didn’t sleep very well again last night – no nightmares but I kept waking up, worried about something or other. The good thing is that with no nightmares or panic, it usually doesn’t take me too long to get back to sleep. It was tough getting up this morning, though. It sucks being stuck where I can’t get back to sleep but I also can’t find the oomph to haul myself out of bed. It feels like I’m wasting time.
Despite not sleeping all that great, my exercises went pretty well this morning. I had to get up and run around a couple of times but when I was done my time I felt considerably better than when I started, and that’s the idea.
It was already pretty warm this morning when I went for my walk. I headed toward the creek, but decided to go a different way and I ended up walking around the next block over before heading for home. It was unpleasant, but I guess that’s another route I can take to add some variety if I want.
I spent some time texting again today. I like saying hello to everyone. It’s like saying hi to people when I’m pacing around the parking lot at the store, just considerably less creepy.
I gave the battery in the truck one last attempt to charge today. Unfortunately, the charger did the same thing – ran in desulfating mode for a couple of hours and then showed an error and stopped charging. I checked the battery with a multimeter to make sure the charger was reading it correctly, and it was. I guess that’s what I get leaving it sitting there for six or seven months through the winter and spring with all the electronics hooked up and no maintenance. I will put a tender on the next battery if it looks like the truck isn’t going to be used for a while. I should’ve known better, yeesh.
After hooking up the charger, I went to the back yard to take a look at the garden. Out of habit, I locked the doorknob. Also out of habit, I pulled the door shut behind me and locked myself in the back yard. The keys were in the house. My phone was in the house. The back door was locked. The gate was locked. The front door was locked.
Enter my good old friend, flop sweat.
I briefly thought about jumping the fence. Any of you who know me in person are probably laughing at that thought. I’m a lot more likely to run through a fence than try to scramble over it. Neither was appealing, so I put the thought aside. Then I tried to take the gate apart but I’d tightened things very well and wasn’t having much luck until I scrounged up the largest rock I could find in our pile of gravel and bashed at it until it loosened up. Hooray, I was free… I put things back together, closed everything up, and went inside.
[wow it just started raining really hard]
I noticed the pepper plant on the deck needed some water, so I filled up a pitcher and went out onto the deck. Out of habit, I locked the doorknob. Also out of habit, I started to push the door shut, but woke up and grabbed it before I locked myself in the back yard twice in 20 minutes.
[there’s some thunder, too… wow, it’s raining hard]
The fish tank in the living room has been getting pretty gross lately. The fish and shrimp don’t seem to mind too much but I don’t like it being all cloudy and green in there. It makes me feel like a bad fish dad. So I spent about an hour removing algae from the walls and the inside of the filter and changing out the water. I’ve got to admit, it looks pretty darn good. I missed a few algae spots but I’ll work on them tomorrow.
I played some more Star Trek Online. I played around with the new things that became available with getting the promotion to Admiral and it was pretty interesting. I also found out that the USS Pinkeye is getting a little long in the tooth. I wandered into a spot where another Federation ship was duking it out with a Klingon ship. I slowly turned and started to close the gap so I could help my ally out (you have to be within 10km to be able to attack something). Anyway, as I was chugging toward them, they suddenly darted much farther away, then closer, then way behind me, then ahead of me again. Finally, I closed to within 10km, and the Pinkeye let go with everything she had. The game shows you how much damage you’re doing, and I was seeing a lot of 40s and the occasional 65 popping up. It was going to take a bit, but I knew then that my ally and I were going to mangle this other guy. Well, as soon as I thought that, my ally’s ship blew up. No problem, I thought – I can handle this on my own. I turned to bring my torpedo tube to bear, and before I could fire, he hit me twice for twenty-three THOUSAND points of damage. And so ended my attempt to patrol that particular area of space. They’ll be lucky to find anything large enough left to make souvenirs out of.
Locking myself in the yard and my ship exploding aside, today is a significant day for me. Exactly one year ago, I walked out of the psych ward at the end of my last stay. I’ve been out for a year. It’s kind of hard to believe in some ways. There have been a couple of times over the year that I’ve almost felt like I needed to press that button again, but fortunately things worked out. I’m very grateful for being out, but I’m also very grateful that I can go back again if I need to.
J and I celebrated this evening by having chicken fingers and fries for supper and a small (but very tasty) cake for dessert.
THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE – FAMILY, FRIENDS, PROFESSIONALS. I WOULD NOT BE HERE RIGHT NOW IF IT WERE NOT FOR ALL OF YOU.
I don’t want to look like I’m taking the easy way out here, but I’m fighting to keep from falling asleep. I probably should’ve started my post with this stuff, but I will post more about it tomorrow. Thank you all again – I can never repay you for what you’ve done!