Describing Anxious Feelings

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Something I used to struggle with immensely during my therapy sessions was finding the words to describe how anxiety made me feel. A big component of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is identifying thoughts, feelings and behaviours related to anxiety and how they interact with each other. I always found it difficult to describe feelings in relation to the anxiety I feel in social situations accurately. I honestly think the English language lacks the vocabulary to fully describe such personal things and my own feelings are more complex than just simple fear or whatever.

I ended up having to leave my CBT therapist because I was so depressed at that time that working on my anxiety with CBT was becoming impossible and he didn’t think it was effective. I wasn’t sure about how well I would get on with it either but lately I’m starting to think that I might benefit from it now even though I am still depressed, it is not quite so all-encompassing as it was in 2009/10. One thing that springs to mind is the cascade of horrible thoughts and feelings that overcomes me whenever I have to look at job listings. I tried to put it into words but some of the things are just too hard for me to verbalise.

The main thing that fills my mind is how I am almost the exact opposite of how people need to be to be successful. I am so inadequate in almost every way when it comes to work. I don’t feel confident at all in my own abilities and I can say with 100% honesty that I cannot see why anyone would want to hire me over anyone else who happened to apply for the same position.

I am immediately taken back to my first job where I could not cope at all with the demands of working there and I dread (and I really do mean dread) having to be in that position again. I would end each day completely mentally exhausted and not have the mental strength to do anything else once I had finished work. I hate being there so much, before I left in the morning I would have to fight myself from thinking too much about it because I would uncontrollably get tears in my eyes. I am not someone who cries a lot but there were several times I had to hide in the toilets when I was working there and fight back tears and there is nothing I fear more than being stuck like this.

I won’t have to opportunity to leave like I did when I was working there. At some point I will have to support myself and that would simply not be an option. I couldn’t handle being trapped like that and I don’t know what I’d do (or rather, I fear I know too well what I would do) if I was stuck in that situation.

All of this and more comes to me in a flood of sickening anxiety. Needless to say this makes job hunting quite a daunting task. I am already feeling extremely guilty because of how long I have been unemployed despite having good qualifications on paper, this just adds to my worries.

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On a scale of 1 to 10

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Back again. I scheduled this one because the last post already went over 2000 words and I don’t want to bombard anyone who still reads this site with too much in one go.

Something that has seemed weird to me during the process of trying to deal with mental health issues is trying to apply any sort of scale to how depressed you are feeling. Whenever I had to go to the consultant psychiatrist he would always say without fail “On a scale of 1 to 10 if 1 is down in the dumps, how do you feel?” to which I would usually give my stock answer of 6 because honestly I find it impossible to do.

You might think that the lowest I have felt is in summer 2009 when I tried to kill myself but the truth is that I didn’t even feel that bad compared to times in the past or since then. I find it impossible to put a number on this, it doesn’t feel like a simple continuum. People have tried to find out from me what caused me to try and do that to myself, they seem to think there must have been some event that pushed me over the edge but there really wasn’t. I hadn’t planned it on that specific day, it had been months since I had made the preparations for it and I can’t even remember what was going through my head that evening.

To me it seems like a combination of things makes up how depressed I am. The usual stuff like a sense of hopelessness and lethargy, general sadness, feeling trapped and the big one for me: whether I can see a way out of it.

The time when I’ve been at my absolute lowest was when I was working at my first job. I have probably written about it before but there were several reasons why I hated it so much. First of all I had to work from 1.30pm til 10pm which meant I barely got to see my family, and since they are the only people I really talk to this meant that I would essentially go all week and hardly speak to anyone at all (although that’s not a lot different to my current situation..) because they’d gone to work in the morning and went to bed either before or not long after I got home from work. I hated the job itself, never realised how much I couldn’t stand phone calls especially with angry customers until then. The people I worked with, with the exception of a couple, would make fun of me every single day from the moment I got in the door because of how quiet I was and I couldn’t talk to them at all. I hated them.

Due to me not being able to drive, I used to have to leave the house at 12.00 to get there on time so it would be hours of each day spent in the place that I hated more than anywhere, counting down the minutes til I could at least escape for a while and sleep, which was the only respite I had. Because the only time I got to myself was late at night, I didn’t really have a chance to do anything that I wanted to do. Even if I had some kind of social life before, it would have gone out of the window when I started that job.

I can’t express how much I detested it even though I was only there for a few months. If I had to go back again, there’s absolutely no way I could cope. Towards the end, I would have to try my hardest to stop myself from crying or having a panic attack before I left the house to go to work and while I was there I had to hide in the toilets on numerous occasions to try and compose myself. It was an open plan office so there was no hiding from anyone during the day.

If you think that I felt worse then than I did when I tried to kill myself then you can get an idea of how bad it was.

The thing that worries me most is that I will feel like this wherever I go. The overriding feeling is that there is no escape from it. When I was there, I could see no end in sight, all I could think was that I had 40+ more years of that to contend with. I remember telling my sister at the time that I felt as though I had nothing to live for, nothing mattered to me. All I wanted to do was get out of there at the end of the day. Knowing what I know now, I have to ask myself is that kind of life really worth living?

Two Thousand and Twelve

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I remember a time when it seemed like I was aching to write a blog post every day and I even had some queued up at one time, although they were usually to express my depression and general sadness about everything. Things seemed so out of my control back then, I was consumed by suicidal ideation and spent a truly frightening amount of time thinking about death and ways to kill myself. In the back of my mind I still think about it and if I’m brutally honest I still think that’s how I will end up going but for now it’s not my immediate concern.

I had such difficulty concentrating on university work as you can probably imagine given that I wasn’t even sure that I would live until the end of my course (and ended up doing my hardest to try and make sure I didn’t). It’s amazing that I managed to struggle through and make it this far. As I think I said in earlier entries, I’m resitting the final year but once again I’ve come up against a lot of problems that social anxiety exacerbates. Just after new year I had to do a mock job interview with two staff members. In a way I was at an advantage because I’ve had several real job interviews before and some actual work experience to talk about. I thought about myself when I was the same age as my classmates and how horribly inexperienced I was, this would have been a terrifying prospect but thankfully it didn’t cause me too much bother this time despite having to wait out in the hallway for one and half hours before hand.

It’s strange to think about this and look at the situation from the perspective of my ‘normal’ classmates. This was a nerve wracking situation for most people (as interviews normally are) especially since some of them had not experienced one before. I was nervous myself but not even close to how nervous I was about something which seems positively relaxing to others, a workshop where we had to work in groups.

It has been a while since I tried to break down the thought processes behind some of the situations I find anxiety provoking for anyone reading who perhaps doesn’t know what I’m talking about so here goes. For my software engineering class the lecturer said we had to get into groups of 5 or so to work together coding a piece of software. We’d be using a technique called pair programming (or group programming as the case may be). This involved one person acting as the ‘driver’ and writing the code while the other(s) are ‘observers’ and watch, trying to catch any errors. The reasoning being that it eliminates bugs and mistakes. You are supposed to change roles regularly so everyone gets a turn at doing each. Now this might sound harmless enough but here’s how my mind deals with it:

  • I only know 2 people in the class, one of them is not there when the lecturer asked us to get into groups and the other already has a group. I’m assigned to a group along with some people who hadn’t turned up (it was the last lecture before Christmas). I start to worry that because I don’t know who these people are I won’t know how to find them when I go into the workshop after Christmas and where to sit. I know this sounds crazy but I hate not knowing where to be, physically.
  • Obviously there is the usual stuff about being awkward around strangers and worrying constantly that they think I’m weird etc.
  • I can’t stand having people watch me write/type. My grades have suffered in workshops before because I’m afraid to ask for help because I hate people looking over my shoulder while I’m working.
  • I don’t want to bring the other people’s grades down if I am not good enough at the project. Conversely,
  • I don’t want to be the only one who knows what to do because I don’t have the mental attributes to take on any kind of leadership role in groups.

After burying my head in the sand about it for a couple of weeks I decided to try and find some of the people in my group on facebook and try to remember what they look like (I find this difficult for some reason) and luckily when I went back after the holiday I found out who a couple of them were because they were waiting for their interview at the same time as me.

OK that was a long and pointless rambling story but this is the kind of thing that I get caught up with regularly during university. The other problem I’m having is that I haven’t done enough work on my final project and thus haven’t got anything to show my supervisor and have avoided arranging a meeting with him for weeks even though I’m supposed to see him once a week really. This has turned into a vicious circle because the longer I put it off, the more work I should have done to show him so it just keeps escalating.

I keep saying to myself that I should email him and say I’ve been struggling with the workload of the other modules (which is true) but I am afraid that my excuses are starting to wear a bit thin with them. After all I have already had the very rare privilege of being allowed to retake the final year when in almost any other case I would have failed, and even that was thanks to me calling in every possible favour from doctors and the university disability/mental health people. I don’t honestly feel I deserved the second chance.

There is a disconnect, on one level I know that I am on thin ice, there are no more second chances but in another sense I can’t face up to things and talk to anyone who matters about it, hence another long winded blog.

I’m not in such a bad situation as last year, I haven’t had to request any extensions and I’ve passed the work that I’ve submitted so far. A lot of this years grades depend on exams and I’ve got a much better attendance this year (hardly a feat compared to my sporadic appearances last year) and I’ve taken decent notes. I can cope with exams, another strange situation where I seem to be calmer than other people. I’m lucky that I don’t find exams to be too stressful.

I really hope I can turn this around and pass my degree. It started off so positively but the step up in difficulty both academically and on my mentality has been tremendous. If I can pass it will probably the biggest thing I have achieved, in my opinion. Sadly even this thought isn’t enough to spurr me on to believe in myself and get things sorted.

It’s incredibly difficult to describe the kind of ennui to people who have never experienced it. I’m veering off on a tangent here but bear with me. Sometimes you see a sportsperson who has the talent to do well but you can tell they just don’t want it badly enough to be a real success. I don’t think even the most driven and talented people are immune to this. The horrible news about Gary Speed and the brutally honest article by Dean Windass really resonated with me. I don’t really know what to make of it all, on a one level I hope that people become more aware of mental health issues and how they can affect even people who you would think have no reason to feel that way but on another more selfish level I can’t help but feel that I will probably end up the same myself.

(footnote: I wish I could bang out a thousand words this quickly for assignments…)  

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Just to break up the wall of text a bit…

I haven’t looked back because there’s some very depressing stuff there but I seem to remember I started this blog before I began my degree (I imported the first set of posts from a social anxiety website where I used to write a blog before it closed) but back then, around late 2007 early 2008 I was at a very low point (this reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to write about ‘scales of depression’ but I’ll save that for another entry to stop this post becoming novella length), I was coming up to the point where I’d been unemployed for a year and my psyche was still scarred from how traumatic I found working at my first job. I was completely without direction and because my mental problems were undiagnosed, my parents (or more specifically my mother) were not not as sympathetic to my situation as they might be now. It seemed like there was nowhere for me to go in life. I would spend ages, weeks, without leaving the house. I had no real job prospects what with my aversion to telephone calls (probably still my number one anxiety thing also apologies for the number of parentheses) limiting the number of IT related jobs that didn’t require a degree severely. I have no other real skills and all my life I’d been working towards a job in computing but reality had kicked my teeth in about that.

If you look back through the archive you can probably find where I wrote about finally getting the courage to go back to university after my first terrible experience and moving away from home which up to that point had been unthinkable. This was a big step but to look at it from another angle, all I have really done is delay the inevitable. It’s creeping up on me again, the time when I will have to find a full time job and I honestly don’t know if I can face the 9-5 grind every day being constantly assaulted by anxious and depressive feelings and poisonous people.

 

*warning: suicide discussion*

You might wonder why I think it’s so impossible if I managed it for a while before even when I didn’t have any mental health support, I’ll try and explain. I don’t know if there is a proper psychological term for this phenomenon but perhaps some of you reading this might know what I’m talking about.

The first major instance I can recall properly is from school. When I was in school I never skipped any classes or avoided school completely even though they were some of the toughest times and I would literally be in tears many nights dreading the next day of torment. You may wonder why, but I was never one to break the rules back then. Although I knew you could do that and probably get away with it, I never really thought about doing it. This changed when I started sixth form (for non-UK readers this is from age 16-18 when you do classes to prepare you for university. It is not mandatory) and I began to skip many of the most stressful classes because there weren’t many repercussions for doing so. This sort of unlocked the floodgates. I went from being the person who always followed the rules to getting in trouble for bad attendence and I think this marked the start of my extreme avoidant tendancies.

The same thing happened throughout college, my first attempt at university and so on. When I think about my first job now, I wonder how I managed to keep going back every day. Of course I was scared of what my parents would say if I wanted to quit, more of their disappointment than any anger, but back then it was unthinkable to me. Now however, I don’t think I could hack it at all. This is where my problem arises because just like how I discovered I could cross the line into skipping classes, I have discovered suicidal thinking and the ultimate escape from the pain. I want to make it clear that I’m not thinking about doing it now but since I crossed that line it is no longer an unthinkable course of action.

If I was stuck in the situation where I had to take a job like that where every day I hated each second being there and despised the way people made me feel, struggled to fight back the panic attacks every day before going, I don’t think I could promise anyone in good faith that I wouldn’t try to kill myself. The problems arises in that I think a lot of jobs would make me feel this way. I can’t rely on my parents forever, I’m already too old to be doing that and when I’m in dark moods I wonder what reason there would be to hang around once they are gone. They are not immortal. I don’t think I am cut out to be an adult in this world.

I should probably leave it here. Thank you if you read all the way through, I’m going to try and do more regular but shorter updates instead of dumping an essay here every couple of months.

Spiralling

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This might not make much sense, sorry in advance. The last few days I have felt like I am spiralling out of control, one day blurs into the next I forget when it started exactly. I have been seriously considering reckless things that I shouldn’t be (not talking about suicide) and I’ve hit 4 of the symptoms of hypomania. Not that I am suggesting that I am bipolar, I’ve never had this before and yesterday I realised I forgot my meds 2 days in a row which probably didn’t help things.

I haven’t eaten a proper meal since last thursday, I’ve been getting through work on red bull, had to call in sick one day last week because on top of everything i had a splitting headache and terrible cold and I couldn’t take it.

I’m scared about what I might do. I had tried to convince myself to stop looking towards suicide as the answer, but if I wreck up my life even more I might not have any other option.

Last night I told the person I’m closest too about how I am feeling and what crazy things I had been planning to do and I think she should have been disgusted with me and never wanted to speak to me again but instead she just wanted to reassure me that it’s my illness. I don’t know if I can lay the blame of much more at the feet of depression, I have to take responsibility at some point.

What upset me most is that she said that she felt like she has been talking to a person with a terminal illness for the past few weeks 😦 I hate to think that that is how I am thought of, I don’t deserve any sympathy, everything wrong with me is my own doing and I don’t HAVE to die, it’s all self imposed. I feel guilty as hell.

this is an extract of some things i have written down for my therapist (still got to wait until the 17th to see him)


I am a wreck. I feel like I want to cry but no tears come, there’s nothing there. I’m so sick of being such a worthless excuse for a human and heading down the inevitable path of failure.

(cut)

I am so starved of affection and I crave it desperately even if it is not real. I long for someone else’s touch. It is so incredibly hard knowing you are disgusting and repellent to everyone and that closeness and intimacy are unattainable. I plan on killing myself soon, I’d rather my inevitable suicide be seen as a tradgedy and maybe a waste of potential than people wonder “what took him so long?”

I honestly don’t know what to do. What can I do? Call crisis? They can’t help, I’m too entrenched for half an hour with a stranger to make everything A-OK. How could I possibly explain everything that is wrong to yet ANOTHER person I don’t know? I don’t know if there is any help available for the chronically suicidal.