Overcast

I’ve been a bit lost in my head lately. More than usual, anyway.

Some days it feels like the whole world is spinning along while I’m stuck in the same place. Did I mention my occasional anxiety attacks? I think I may have said something about that once.

This past week I’ve been struggling a bit about whether to write a post on anxiety or not. Part of me hesitates to do so because I don’t want to be a bummer for people who come across my blog. But another part thinks it’s silly, that I’m just being overdramatic about trivial things and trying to call it anxiety or depression. I’ve always hated it when someone’s response to depression of any sort is to say, “Just cheer up! It’s not so bad!”. And yet, that’s what I feel like saying to myself sometimes. That the dark cloud hovering over my head will vanish if I just wish really really hard.

But it doesn’t quite work out that way. So I lurch along from one day to the next, enjoying the small patches of sunshine that bring a smile to my face as I make my way through the storm.

 

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Turbulence

It’s been a weird series of ups and downs lately, with smaller peaks than troughs. Writing about it is a new experience for me, and I’m hoping it’ll provide a good outlet. Of course, that hasn’t been easy, because I’m not really sure what to write other than, “My body’s broken out into a cold sweat and I’m trying to take deep breaths to keep from completely freaking out.”

I’m reminded of a particularly nasty bout of panic I suffered for most of 2004, particularly in the summer. I had never had such a severe case of anxiety before, and I haven’t had it since. But 2004 was a bad year. It all started off with a flight.

I was headed back to the US after spending Christmas break at home. It seems a bit crazy to fly halfway across the globe just to spend a week and a half with family, but I did that up until graduate school, and it’s one of those trips I really looked forward to. With the break coming to a close, I boarded a flight on a wintry (or as close to wintry as it gets in Dubai) January morning, bound for Paris. From there, I’d take a connecting flight to Newark (or was it Philadelphia?) and then make my way to Penn State by bus.

As a child, I loved flying. Soaring through the sky, looking at the tiny cities below was a source of joy and wonder. I especially loved getting close to landing, when little toy cars would materialize on the streets and whole neighborhoods would look like homemade dioramas. One of the tragedies of my childhood was that we couldn’t really afford to travel much, so every summer I’d find myself lost in daydreams about flights to far away and exotic destinations, while surrounded by boring reality.

But that one flight to Paris was the roughest I’ve ever had. Up until that day, all of my flights had been relatively smooth, with just enough turbulence to shake things up, but nothing worrying. I hadn’t heard of, or ever experience, air pockets before. So there I was, on the redeye flight, chatting up a pretty girl next to me (who was headed to Houston) and then drifting off to sleep until landing time. Or at least, that was the plan.I was jolted awake by the plane jumping in mid-air. The plane. Jumped. That didn’t seem possible. Some people were murmuring excitedly and I panicked. The gentleman sitting on the other side of me said I should relax. It was just turbulence. He may as well have been speaking in tongues for all that did to reassure me. Despite all the bumps, the plane landed in Paris safely and, exhausted from all the panicking, I slept quite soundly on my connecting flight.

The damage was already done though. That instilled in me a fear of flying that I haven’t gotten over as yet. It also doesn’t help that the past couple of flights I’ve taken were also in fairly rough weather and had me fearing for my life. If I never have to set foot on a plane again, I will be a happy man.

Panic Button

Panic attacks are always so exciting. Especially when you can’t really pin down the source of them. I’ve been prone to occasional bouts of panic and anxiety attacks for as long as I can remember. On average, these spells would last about a week. Just one week of freaking out over anything and everything, unable to find comfort in even the smallest of pleasures.

When I was a kid, they usually happened some time during the first month of summer vacation. Most likely it was due to some mix of not seeing many of my friends for a few months (most people jetted off some place for summer, while I was home) and starting a new school year. Plus, the reality of finishing the previous year really sunk in by then. When exactly did it start? I don’t remember. I don’t know what exactly caused it.

I do have a vague memory of myself as an eight year old, bursting into tears while playing a board game with my brother. Apparently I was really upset that in the year 2000, I’d be an old man. Needless to say, other than the odd creaking joint, that hasn’t happened as yet. But this was a big enough concern to reduce me to incoherent blubbering, even though my family assured me that I had nothing to worry about. Why did that thought occur to me and affect me so strongly? I think I may have seen something on TV about the year 2000 or the future or something and it scrambled my impressionable young mind, but I cannot say for sure.

In adulthood, these attacks were much less frequent, but still showed up now and again. And I’m currently going through another round right now, triggered by some unknown source. As always, I expect this whole thing to last a week, after which things should go back to normal. I’m trying to speed up the process, of course, as I always do, but things usually play out in their own way.

Solitude

I have a love and hate relationship with being by myself.

Sometimes it’s what I crave most, to be far away from family and co-workers and even friends, to be away from any person that takes up my time, and to instead devote that time entirely to myself and my own pursuits. Maybe I’ll sit down with a good book, watch a movie or play some video games. Or, as is the case nowadays, maybe I’ll write about something. No distractions, no responsibilities, no human interaction. Just me and my thoughts, existing peacefully. It sounds…blissful.

But then comes the other side of the coin. Loneliness is one of my biggest fears. Not having anyone to care about or that cares about me, never being able to have a conversation or crack a joke, never holding a warm hand while enjoying a shared moment. The thought of it makes my blood run cold. What happens when I finish that book? Do I pick up another? Maybe I’m done reading for now. Even a game can only demand so much of my attention; I’ll need to move around at some point. I cannot be confined to my own head indefinitely. That’s where the seeds of madness are planted.

It all comes down to being around the right people. When I’m completely comfortable with someone, I don’t go looking for the retreat of solitude, nor do I find myself yearning for companionship. An equilibrium is reached. Unfortunately, the right people are rare in this world.

So for now, I go back and forth, pushing others away and then pulling them towards me like a deranged yo-yo.

Wrongheaded

What’s my worst fear? My worst fear? Boy, that’s a tough one.

Uhh..wow..I’m not sure. Flying? Lightning? Zombies? Ok, so not zombies.

I’m afraid of lots of things. I’m a pretty awkward kinda guy, so being anxious about stuff kind of comes with the territory.

My worst, though?

Being wrong. About everything.

I’m hesitant to make some decisions, say some things, do some things, because I don’t want it to be the wrong thing. Maybe the person I love doesn’t feel the same about me. I say something sweet, something heartfelt and she just rolls her eyes. How much would that suck? Knowing that I blew it because of my dumb words? Maybe that’s why I’m single.

Or even starting a new job, like I just did. My old job wasn’t great. In fact, it sucked. But it offered stability. They weren’t really gonna fire me unless I did something really unforgivable like, I dunno, punching someone in the face. It was an easy paycheck. But I wanted to actually do something with my talent and be a proper writer. So I found a job I liked, managed to get hired, and said goodbye to my old employer. Man, that was a tough time. I had no idea if I’d just kick started an awesome new career or made the stupidest decision of my life. I thought about going back to my boss and saying, “Look, there’s been a mistake. I think I’m just gonna stay here, if that’s ok.” I almost did just that.

But I took the plunge and now here I am, an almost month-old food blogger. Awesome. Guess that worked out. But what if my future blog posts suck? What if my editor just shrugs and says, “I dunno man. Why did I hire you again?” Or what if she decides that food blogging isn’t what she wants to do anymore and goes off on a tour of Australia or something? I’d be pretty screwed.

So that’s that. I could keep going, listing what ifs and maybes. There’s so much that I wish I’d said or done in the past. Things could have turned out differently. Would they have turned out better? Well, I’ll never know now. But what if I’ve made all the wrong choices? Maybe I’ll look back on my life years from now and go, “Shit”. Or maybe I won’t.

I just don’t know. And that freaks me out.