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March 25, 2016

It takes a lot of dedication

I remember reading Disney Adventures Magazine in the 5th grade. Jonathan Taylor Thomas (who I watched on Home Improvement every day but haven’t thought about until this moment) made some kind of joke about people stuffing him in a locker in middle school. That was the start of my anxiety and panic attacks about middle school, and it really didn’t let up for the next 3 years.

As I remember it, there were 3 bullies and a sea of strangers. I remember Karl putting little globs of spit on his finger and flinging it at me, and I remember thinking, “What the hell? Is this a thing now?” Then there was James. One summer, we were friends at Boy Scout camp and his dog peed on my tent. A month later in school, he was spraying me with gatorade and blindsiding me with tackles from behind. Lots of things bothered me about all that crap–humiliation, pain, etc. But it also made me really wonder about the logic behind it. I really didn’t get it, and I hated not understanding something.

All that to say I memorized the class schedules of a few people. I also knew where they hung out, when they went to lunch and what line they tended to go in, and what buses they rode and where. I couldn’t say it was not exciting–strategically avoiding and outwitting these morons. However I could have done without the lightheaded panicking and that clenching in my stomach and abdomen that didn’t really let up until I was out of college.

March 19, 2016

A jump into therapy

I live in a relatively small town. I called every therapist could find online, by word of mouth, and in the yellow pages–7 in total. One of them returned my call. I’m on her waiting list.

But then I found a mental health clinic that had therapists who weren’t listed anywhere.

The therapist read me questions off a computer screen and typed my answers in. An hour in she tells me she’s not going to be my therapist, that she’s full, and that one of the others will be. To me that would have been an important piece of information to get up front.

So then I go in for my next appointment, with my assigned therapist. He’s Japanese, doesn’t always speak fluent english, was 15 minutes late, didn’t add on 15 minutes to the end of the appointment to compensate, and had a lot of tics that he didn’t attempt to explain.He’d stop mid-sentence and clench is face like he was in pain, and then continue on like nothing happened. He asked me questions from his computer screen and typed things in most of the time.

In some form of English he asked me if I wanted to see someone in addition to therapy who helps with coping skills. I didn’t get exactly what it was, but it was help, so I accepted. I went in for that appointment today. This guy also read questions off a computer screen, many identical to my previous two visits, and he apologized for being an intolerably slow typist. We sat in silence as he punched each letter individually and my OCD and anxiety started to kick in: Why haven’t they set their clock for daylight savings?;Why does the back of this computer have such a thick layer of dust?; All that’s on the bookshelf is a giant bottle of hand sanitizer; Why are his papers spread across his desk as though he threw them up in the air and let them land where they chose?; Why does the delete key make that chirping noise?; Why doesn’t he pump the lead in his mechanical pencil one more time so it’s not awkward to write with? You get the idea.

Finally, toward the end of our session, he asked to remind him of my name. I guess I could have said anything at that point

March 17, 2016

Be there at the beginning

When you have anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, I’m not sure how long is a reasonable time to wait before getting help from someone who knows what they’re doing. I’m fairly certain that 24 years was too long.

I was 8. Gabriel Zapata’s birthday party. There was some idiot older kid who wanted to blindfold himself and fight us. My heart started pounding, hands sweating, hyperventilating. I ran back to the house and literally dove into the bushes, thinking maybe nobody saw me. Of course all of them did. Someone said, “Don’t worry, that’s just Chris.” That made it worse. I had no idea what it meant but I was sure it wasn’t good.

Now I’m 32 and fully understand there is nothing like a trip to the ER to let you know you don’t have your shit together. Muffled hearing, hyperventilating, freezing cold, tingling hands and feet, and generally feeling completely out of control — those were my symptoms that I told the triage nurse. She sent me to the waiting room for 2 hours.

Only in the last month I have realized that no, not everyone feels either anxious about absolutely everything that happens in a normal day or too depressed to take any action, no matter how small. I’ve always considered myself reasonably intelligent. After that realization, I have my doubts.

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