Overwhelmed with fear and anxiety

The last few days have been pretty rough as I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. I have an almost constant tense feeling in my head which waxes and wanes a little, but is there most of the time. I’ve been finding it difficult to sleep at night with feelings of fear and dread, usually accompanied by fearful thoughts like “Will I ever recover?” and “Am I stuck with this? How long for?” I feel very shaken by the whole experience and often wonder if the four years it’s been so far will drag out to five, ten or more. The whole thing sends shivers and sweats right through my whole body.

It seems like the panic attacks I used to get years ago are back. Frankly, that scares the living shit out of me. I could hardly sleep on Friday night (Good Friday my ass!) and found some solace listening to this talk about being overwhelmed with fear, anxiety and panic. When I hear the fear in the woman’s trembling voice as she asks her question of the spiritual guru starting “I am overwhelmed with fear and anxiety and panic…” I start to cry, which is a good tension release. His answer is comforting too. There seems to be something deep in my unconscious that’s terrified of something. Fuck knows exactly what, or what to do about it. I like to think that it’s at the very root of all my anxieties about what other people think of me, about women, about relationships, about being wrong and/or foolish, about failure, about not feeling good enough and about feeling self-conscious, hypervigilant and just generally bloody insecure. In my fantasies I root this troublesome bastard out and get to live the rest of my life feeling free (and healthy as a bonus).

I’ve recently given up Toastmasters since it seems pointless learning to deal with anxiety up on stage when I can’t handle the feelings of panic I get just lying down to sleep. I also recently bailed out of an Improv contest as just the thought of being on stage and out of control was causing me to feel panicy. That’s a massive bummer because I actually really love playing Improv games, and I was hoping to fall into a new circle of friends and a new community there. Maybe that’s still possible, but it looks like I’m going to be in the audience for the time being; probably feeling envious of my friends on stage having so much fun. My dream of one day being a professional public speaker, comedian or comic actor seems totally shot to pieces right now. Oh well, I seem to have lost my sense of humour anyway.

A huge fear that I feel is about what other people think of me. As long as I can remember, I’ve felt afraid of social situations while also having an intense craving to connect with other people, feel appreciated, loved and validated by others. I wish I could switch this off and just feel free. That craving is strongest when I see a woman I find attractive, and that’s when the fear is most crippling too. I feel like a failure having not found a life partner at 43 years old, and one of my childhood fears was precisely this. For some strange reason I always saw marriage as a prerequisite for happiness when I was a kid, which is particularly odd given how turbulent my parent’s relationship seemed to be. I also remember feeling very fearful after a few weeks of feeling ill way back in 2008 that maybe I had chronic fatigue. They may just be self-fulfilling prophecies but for me it appears that some of my biggest fears have been coming true lately and this also scares the crap out of me.

I feel like an abject failure personally. All this fear, anxiety and panic has undermined my self-confidence and is the exact opposite of the sort of man I long to be. I think this puts a terrible barrier in the way of my relationships with women that I’m attracted to since I get overwhelmed with panic just meeting them, and this makes me even more fearful of how they respond to me. I don’t have a problem relating to women as friends since I’m pretty open nowadays, but when I meet a girl I really like and find sexually attractive my head just puts this massive self-sabotaging barrier in the way. I recently met a really cute, fun girl at Improv who I like, and she gets on like a house-on-fire with another guy who seems so laid back. Meanwhile I sit there watching feeling jealous and insecure. I hate feeling so insecure, and this fatigue is bringing it all to the surface. I’m going to a Tantra retreat for men next weekend which may help but I’m already pretty jaded and don’t see any magic answers to my anxieties around being openly sexual with women. Ironically I’ve just published a book on confidence and I realize all-too-painfully that I don’t live up to my own expectations. Other people seem to find my advice helpful, but I can’t really say I’ve nailed the problem myself and I hate feeling like a fraud. That’s a double-whammy since I was relying on the book as a source of income to lessen my financial anxiety and so now that’s not likely to work either.

My Mickel Therapist says that it’s normal for symptoms to get worse when people start the therapy, which gives me a small sense of hope that this is just a passing thing. But I’m also pretty skeptical at the moment about this therapy and just want some concrete results. I continue to go to an anxiety and depression support/therapy group twice a week which brings up stuff for me, but it seems like a long-haul process. The guy who runs it wants to see me one-on-one but I’m reluctant to start therapy with yet-another-therapist. I think I’ve done enough talking and need to do something more primal like hit something or someone instead; if only I wasn’t afraid of it leaving me feeling exhausted. If the Mickel Therapy doesn’t work, I plan to take up Brazillian Ju Jitsu and Mai Thai kickboxing to see if some mindful violence can help with the anxiety. I’ve only been doing Mickel for a few weeks but I’m just so desperate for the fear to subside and my skepticism is causing me to look for alternatives already.

All this whiny complaining bugs me too. I swear I’m not just doing it for attention, or at least not consciously. The tension in my head and the fear and panic are real and overwhelming. I hate feeling like a victim to all the bullshit in my head, especially when I’ve read so many books and done so many courses on positive thinking, emotional healing, therapy and all the rest of it. The thought “Why would any attractive woman want to go out with me like this?” pretty much sums up the crux of my relationship anxiety. I’m fucked. Actually, some sex would be a nice distraction come to think of it… Don’t get me started on that frustration. I’ve just started reading Portnoy’s Complaint and although I’m not Jewish and didn’t masturbate until very late in life because I thought it was sinful, I can relate to a lot of what he says about his mother. Reminds me a bit of one of my favorite Woody Allen films Oedipus Wrecks in New York Stories. I’ve read a heap of books on women, dating and seduction and they all seem to involve putting on a persona that feels fake and frightening to me. I like acting and all, but anything that feels even the slightest bit deceptive triggers huge stress in me and fear of being caught, getting things wrong, etc etc. Yet I dropped into a pub to listen in to some live music down in Bondi the other night after therapy group, and saw this guy there with tattoos acting like a jerk to this bunch of women… he started going off at one of them about being jealous of him hitting on another girl (who was clearly enjoying it at the time) and a few minutes later they were all over him hugging, arms around him, wanting his attention. Complete opposite of my experience. I know it’s my responsibility to “fix” this if I ever want a relationship with an attractive woman, and I hate just whining about how unfair it is that women go for bad boys over decent shy guys but… fuck it, I can’t even be bothered finishing this sentence.

Mickel therapy is all about feelings and my therapist says that the anxiety is just because my pressure cooker of emotions is full and so anxiety comes bursting out. I want to release the pressure so I’m trying to avoid too much analytical thinking and just stay with my emotions. Similar deal with the group therapy. I can see that I have a long history of avoiding painful feelings of loneliness, sadness and fear by getting engrossed in the head-space of computers so I’ve been trying to avoid that… with mixed success. I spend time playing songs on guitar that express how I feel, and I recently borrowed a bunch of books on guitar playing and songwriting from the library. One day I’d like to be able to express my distraught feelings through my own songs. That’s part of what I see myself doing on stage in my dreamy future imagination. Meanwhile I’m working on Cold Chisel’s You Got Nothing I want, which is how I feel about the situation I’m in… the thought of a good scream seems quite comforting. I’m also working my way through the library’s massive DVD collection in the hope of finding more joy and fun in the midst of my exhaustion.

Surely there’s more to life than just battling with fear. When do I get to have some good old fashion fun?