Threading the needle of correct thought.

Dear sweet person in my head that I have legitimized through the anonymizing force of the internet:

Getting out of a funk is tough, man.  Real tough. Sometimes, it’s funny how much effort I will put into actually not fixing my state of being, just so I don’t have to come up with novel ways of solving what is by now an extremely intractable problem: anxiety is occasionally running my life.  I’ve been in a state of almost constant analysis (never-mind the fact that I have no qualification to make any judgements on mental disorders) since it really got cranked up, so long ago now.  All my effort has been tied to finding (and neutralizing) some point of contact, some environmental impact, that occurred at some point in my life to cause a fairly easy-going guy like myself to transform so utterly into a mess of nerves, jangles, and jitters – and, yeah, occasionally a full-blown “anxiety attack” (if you want to call it that, which I obviously don’t).

One of the ways I have improved my situation is just by no longer being ashamed of my condition. I also quit bullshitting myself that I really used to be “easy-going” as claimed above.  I’ve always been a worrier, but I had adopted a tendency towards stoicism as a sort of primary operating principle, and when things are going well enough, it’s not that hard to maintain a facade.  Man, I wish I could pin it down, the exact reasons for my little problem, but just because I cannot explain it doesn’t mean I can’t claim it, to turn a phrase in the style of the Very Reverend Jesse Jackson.

I’m not sure that all my analysis has gotten me anywhere fruitful, but what I have noticed is this: I have been wrong about the process of thinking.  I have thought and made various claims for a long time now that human thinking is single threaded: we have one thought at a time, through a field of time, which is linear and sequential.  Now of course time does take a linear path so far as we can perceive, and it does seem evident that one can only have one thought at a time, which occurs through our language as a set of modules that we construct on the fly to build thoughts, words, sentences, concepts, whatever.  All of that does appear true.  But what I have more or less neglected until now is the importance of this other less obvious thread that weaves in and out of the thread of thought, which is like an emotional thread.  I used to think this thread was only functional in that it responds to what happens to a person in life, but now I’m starting to see that, when things are going really wrong for me, it’s because the emotional thread is going off and doing its own thing, out of alignment with what is actually occurring to me.  In a way it’s like a person is two separate beings, one which is responsible for outputting thought, and one that precedes, predicts and responds to thought.  I think in a normally functioning human these two things are supposed to line up just so, but sometimes they don’t, which causes what we call “cognitive dissonance”…..which for people like me causes an intense feeling of SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT HERE.  My anxiety does not always start or stop through the same process: sometimes I wake up with it, sometimes I’ll see a picture or read a sentence that starts it up, sometimes it will happen in traffic or driving at night (all things just seem more dangerous at night, and my confidence in myself seems misplaced), sometimes I’ll walk into one of the many places in this world that doesn’t sit right for me for whatever reason (usually big box stores, large college campus buildings) and that will trigger an immediate sort of sense of HOLY SHIT WHAT THE DEAL YO, GOTTA RUN FAR FAR AWAY RIGHT NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW. And of course sometimes you can’t run away without losing face.  And, historically, losing face is a big deal for me.  I do have some pride, and I do have a vision for the way I expect life to progress. Anxiety opposes all expectation except getting and maintaining safety.

When it gets really bad like that, I usually will have some warning, but sometimes not enough to stop it. And sometimes the things that stop it are entirely mysterious to me, as if that second thread is just easing up through some chemical process, or maybe some awareness that doesn’t escape the subconscious level.

There’s a question of what works, then, to head it off at the pass, and that really seems to be the one key thing I’ve got to figure out.  I hoped I could reason my way out of this little maze (never worked before, sure, but it’s just my first line of defense for when I’m still trying to cover everything up and act as if nothing is wrong), but the  reason this doesn’t work is because of that second thread I was just defining a moment ago: you can talk yourself out of the reasons for your negative feeling until you are blue in the face, but if that thread that runs behind the thought doesn’t match up, you’re just whistling out of tune.  So the thing to do would seem to be to somehow grab ahold of that second thread and make it do right, make it respond to the environment – as I believe it’s supposed to – instead of its own whims.  Can you take an SSRI and retrain that thread with therapy?  I’ve had not much luck at all with drugs that aren’t addictive.  Xanax works like a charm but it does run out rather quickly, not to mention that most doctors will not prescribe it for very long: there’s a liability there that I do not fully understand or agree with but have come to accept. And I’ve not done much therapy, but I’m actually getting to where I’ll give it a shot just because, why not? The SSRIs I’ve taken for years have never once led me to conclusively feel that I ended up in a significantly better headspace.  There have been long stretches of feeling really great, which twice coincided with the taking of SSRIs (among other things), but doling out credit for that to a drug has been tough for me to nail down.  Now with the latest evidence showing that SSRIs do not seem to have much advantage versus the placebo effect, it is getting more and more difficult for me to even accept the possibility that a new SSRI is going to do the trick for me, though I do accept the notion that for some few people they are really great.

I wish I was one of those people.  Instead I seem to have a condition shrouded in mystery and misery, not knowing when or how things are going to begin or end. Well poor me, I guess.  Back to the drawing board, and avoiding the depression that will follow along with this latest setback.  So far I’m actually doing well in that regard.  I’m trying to cultivate the resolve that none of this is a very big deal, while at the same time continuing to take steps to seek treatment.  After all, it’s a very fine line indeed between stoicism and neglect.


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February 2012
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Currently Reading:

Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame - Charles Bukowski

Currently Listening:

Mr. Bungle - California

Why, yes, I am cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.

You lika de juice????

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