Saturday, August 30, 2014

Anxiety Stuff

One weird thing about anxiety is that it likes to rear its head in different ways at different times. The one common thread is that it usually only strikes at night while I'm alone.

The most typical anxiety for me seems to be the irrational fear that something horrible is hiding in the dark, and it's why I sleep with a flashlight. To be clear, I'm not afraid of the dark itself, but rather what I imagine to be in the dark. Sometimes it doesn't bother me at all (even off my medication I can sometimes feel fine), and at its mildest I can just pull the blankets over my head while I distract myself with an audiobook. At its worst I either sleep with my bedroom light on or stay up all night.

Bad as that one is, there's another way my anxiety has popped up recently that's actually worse. That is, the fear itself isn't worse, but...I just prefer to be terrified of imaginary monsters. I'm talking about when the anxiety teams up with hypochondria. This actually took me to urgent care during a panic attack because I wanted to make sure that the panic attack was all that was going on with me. Fortunately my anxiety seems to abandoning this fear in favor of monsters in the dark again.

Of course, I've also had anxieties about other things. A common one is irrational worrying about people I care about. In the past I've lived in terror of ball lightning (super random, I know), and of the house burning down. I even had nightmares about fires, though they ended about when I managed to turn back a wildfire in one of my dreams. Then there was this one horror movie that really triggered my anxiety last summer...that was bad enough that it bothered me during the day, even at work when I was surrounded by people. (Fortunately most horror doesn't bother me.)

The good news is that the anxiety medication seems to be working, though I could still be better. I actually realized a couple nights ago that I was doing better than usual, but then that realization got me worrying that there was something wrong with me. *sigh* Two steps forward, one step back? I think I giggled at myself when I realized what I was doing, thinking of Hanners from the comic strip Questionable Content. Check out Number 801: Like A Fainting Goat if you want to see what I mean. I actually kept thinking about Hanners, and the author of the comic who also has anxiety, to help myself through the worst of it.

Now that I feel mostly ok again I need to figure out how to get back normal again. Part of this will be properly picking up homework again since I got really behind in the last month...it turns out that it's really difficult to carry on as usual when you've got panic attacks and adrenaline rushes. I've also realized in the last couple days that I seem to have lost my ability to really keep track of time, and this isn't helping me get back on track.

I'll probably write a bit more about anxiety over the next month. If nothing else, it's a way to make certain that I don't go back to hiding it again.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why Say I'm Bi?

On the subject of bisexuality there's one question that keeps popping up: why even tell anyone that you're bi? I'd been noticing this question more often recently, always with people telling us to stay in the closet for various reasons. I thought it worth writing about after a certain advice columnist compared bisexuality to plushophilia when saying why a bi woman should keep her sexual orientation a secret.

So, why come out as bi? Here are the reasons that come to mind.

Because I want you to know who I really am. I can't explain this any better than Robyn Ochs in her book Getting Bi, so I'll quote her: "The cost of silence can be great. Failure to communicate, to share important information about ourselves, creates a barrier between us and our loved ones. André Gide said, 'It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not.' We want others to know us not as their illusion of what we are, but as we truly are. Without this, we cannot truly be close." This seems like a good enough reason to come out all by itself.

Avoiding awkwardness or weirdness. It's weird to be in a conversation/argument where I'm being treated as a straight ally. This came up recently when I declined to attend a party where same sex couples weren't allowed, and those of us who said we wouldn't attend because of this rule were told off for "humiliating" the host because of our "political stance." This turned into a raging argument that I quietly observed for a while, and oddly enough things became somewhat polite once I pointed out that I'm bi and take homophobia/biphobia pretty personally. 

Lesson learned that day: conversations can go differently when a queer is known to be present. I'm not sure if this is another reason to be out of the closet, but it's worth noting.

Role models. I know I must have known bi adults as I was growing up, but I wish I'd known adults who were out of the closet as bi. This might not have helped me come to terms with my own sexual orientation in my teens, but it might have helped. I like to think that more of us being out of the closet might help future generations.


Showing people we exist. For some odd reason some people can't comprehend that we really can be attracted to more than one gender. Just read the comments on a few bi articles and you'll see what I mean. I'd like to think that these people might rethink their attitudes of they realize that they know someone who's bi, though I know I may be overly optimistic.

I want to acknowledge my community. I haven't been particularly active in the bi community, but I'm part of it, and bisexual issues are something I try to pay attention to. When I sang in choirs and was part of Girl Scout troops that meant a lot to me anyone who knew me knew about them. Why shouldn't people also know that I'm part of the bi community?

I don't want it to be a secret. Seriously, why does the fact that someone is attracted to more than one gender need to be treated like a dirty little secret? Can you imagine telling someone who's straight to keep it a secret? I don't think so.

Hopes for the future. I'm probably a bit hopeful, but I'd like someday for people to not assume another's sexual orientation. (I'll admit, I need to work on this myself. I discovered recently that a new friend is bi rather than straight as I'd assumed.) While it doesn't hurt me when people who see me with my boyfriend assume I'm straight, and I look forward to the day that it also doesn't hurt when someone is assumed to be gay when seen with their same sex partner, I hope that someday people will be aware that bisexuality is also a possibility. The first step to this, I think, is for more of us to be out.

After writing the above I realize that it may look like I'm urging people to come out of the closet. I'm not. Whether to come out is a very personal decision, as I've discussed before. But there are a number of good reasons to come out as bi, and these need to be discussed until people finally stop telling us to stay in the closet.

I guess it's worth acknowledging that despite my wanting to be out, not everyone knows I'm bi. I'm not always sure how to come out, so acquaintances often only find out if they pay attention to me online or if it somehow becomes relevant to the conversation at hand. Everyone close to me knows, though.

If you're LGBT, another minority that requires coming out of a closet, or an ally, what other reasons do you see for coming out of the closet? I know I haven't covered everything.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Daily Goals

I've been thinking about the things I do, or don't do, and wondering how I can make myself happier. I guess it was the realization that I haven't outgrown my anxiety disorder as I'd thought I had that got me thinking. Once I was mostly past the panic attacks and started getting comfortable in my own head again that's when I really started asking myself questions. These questions led to this list being created.

The following are goals, not an absolute set in stone daily to do list. I won't always accomplish every one every day. But I can try.

1) Write. This can be blogging, homework, fiction, an essay, in my diary...a lot or a little, the idea is to write something, even when school doesn't require me to.

2) Read. Fiction, nonfiction, a book, a blog, homework, for fun...the idea is to read daily. This is food for my soul.

3) Comment online more. I'd say that more than half of the time that I start to write a comment online these days I get too shy and erase it. It hasn't always been like this, and I'd like to go back to where I was before.

4) Meditate and/or pray. For reasons I won't go into I had gotten away from my spiritual practices, and that's something I've regretted.

5) Go outdoors. This doesn't mean that I have to go very far outdoors, just that I should get out of the house and into fresh air a bit. Assuming that the weather isn't absolutely terrible.

6) Do something creative. This can be needlework, writing (so yeah, number one on this list can easily cover this), playing piano...just, something creative.

7) Be grateful for something. The smell of rain, a good book, talking to a friend...even if I'm not in a mood to really be grateful, at least take note of something good.

This is a list of things to do, not of things not to do. Putting down something to stop doing doesn't really have a place on this list, but this post about how to be happier also doesn't seem like it would really be complete without the following: I need to stop judging myself. I've realized that when I judge myself I also expect others to judge me, and this can lead me to hiding parts of myself. But I've also found that when I open up I can be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Facing My Fears

On one hand anxiety is still something I don't want to talk about. On the other hand, it's something people need to be able to discuss. Speaking from experience, not being able to talk about something is a barrier to getting help, so maybe the more people who are able to talk about this sort of thing the better.

And, yeah, the last couple weeks have been rough. Sometimes really rough.

I wrote the following on August 4th, Monday of last week. I figured I may as well finally hit the "publish" button even though, yeah, I did also write another post about anxiety a few days ago. Who knows, I may write more on it soon, depending on whether writing seems to help.

... ... ...

I went to the doctor this morning because of dizziness. I've also been having more frequent migraines and a few other symptoms that have caused me to get behind on my schoolwork, but dizziness has been the big one for much of the last week. Or rather, it was the only big one that I intended to discuss with the doc, though she managed to find the other big one that's possibly a worse problem. I'm not sure what I said to tip her off, but she also asked if I've been having anxiety.

Am I dealing with anxiety? Yes, definitely, yes. And it's not a new thing, either. I'm certainly not happy with it, but I'm used to it. Resigned to it, I guess you could say. When I was younger I could talk about it quite easily, and one doctor I was seeing for ADHD decided to treat the anxiety I was constantly talking about instead of what I'd originally gone to him for. That turned out to be an excellent idea on his part. So I went on Prozac when I was eighteen, and stayed on it until a couple years ago.

I'm not sure when the anxiety crept up on me again. But it did, and I mostly kept it to myself. That was easy since it typically only strikes at night while I'm alone; if I'm with someone or it's daylight out the anxiety isn't likely to be a problem. I did say something quietly about it at first, and of course my family could see that I got nightlights for my bedroom. I'm sure they also sometimes noticed when I slept with my bedroom light on, which I've done on occasion. But I tried to handle it quietly, by myself, and I didn't even tell my boyfriend until it had me crying on him recently.

For some reason I didn't seriously consider getting treatment for it. Sure, the Prozac helped before, but I didn't particularly want to go back on it again (side effects) and I'm wary of trying new meds (too many experiences involving unfortunate side effects). Having trouble talking about it was also a barrier to getting help.

Although I still don't know why I've had so much trouble talking about it, I finally know just how difficult getting help really is. I'm facing the anxiety head on again by taking a new medication for it, and what's my response? Panic attacks. Not the worst panic attacks I've ever heard about someone having, but they're completely new to me. And scary.

Imagine being afraid that something will happen to you, and your fear causes it to happen.

I don't know if I'll publish or delete this post, but I thought writing it (and attempting a rewrite that will read better than my original attempt) might help. I probably will publish this because silence obviously didn't help, so maybe opening up will. And how much more open can I be than putting this online where the world can see it? Maybe I can even figure out why I thought that I had to deal with things alone this time around.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Questions

You may remember that I used to be a music therapy major. That didn't work out for me since I really shouldn't study music academically, so I went back to my books as an English major. But there's one question from the interview for the music therapy program that I've been thinking about in the last week.

That question was whether I'd be willing to seek treatment myself. As I recall, I saw the question as being less about going in for something like the flu and more about whether I could seek treatment for ADHD, depression, anxiety...you know, mental health stuff.

My answer at the time was an immediate yes. It was almost a "Well duh," and I went on to clarify that I had gone to a doctor for help managing my ADHD.

At the time I genuinely had no problem talking about my problems, or going to a doctor for help.

Somehow that changed.

I used to be on Prozac for an anxiety disorder, but decided to try coming off of it a couple years ago. The anxiety crept up on me again, and I didn't ask for help. I thought I needed to deal with it quietly by myself, and it wasn't until last week that I started getting help for it. But I'm not getting help because I asked for it. I'm getting help because I somehow said something to my doctor that gave it away, and after a bit of talking about medications we picked a new one for me to try.

In the last week I've struggled with (new) panic attacks, and more anxiety in general. (It seems that having the issue being addressed before I was prepared just worsened things temporarily.) But I've also been thinking back to that interview when I was able to say "Well, yes, of course I would seek treatment," and wondering how that changed.