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?

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About Graham

I'm a guy in his mid-40's, recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since May 2009.C
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14 Responses to Overwhelmed with fear and anxiety

  1. John says:

    It's sounds like you and I have a lot in common. I've been dealing with anxiety for pretty much my whole life and I've definitely noticed that my fatigue compounds it dramatically. I'd never heard of the Mickel Therapy before but I'm now going to go look into it. Good luck with everything you're going through and thanks for this post!
    John recently posted..How to Fight Fibromyalgia FatigueMy Profile

  2. Rory says:

    Hey Graham, I often stop by your blog after finding it last year. Sorry to hear it's been a low time. I can relate to what you're saying. It's only natural to feel these things and I regularly get the thoughts pop up, such as 'Oh my god, life has passed me by, people must think I'm such a failure, I'm stuck at home with my parents while everyone else is getting married and having families." Oh, it's just an endless train of thoughts once it starts. It's horrible.

    I think I read that you know the Sedona Method, right? I've found that amazing. You have to keep doing it though, it's good to weed these thoughts out by the roots, which invariably stems from wanting control, security or approval. This whole ME 'journey' has been one of surrendering to life, to realising that life may not be the way I'd choose, but that I'm OK...I'm always OK, even when to the outside world it's far from OK. That kind of brings me back to peace and now I can usually notice these trains of thinking before I get too sucked in by them, I can kind of pull myself out. Dunno if you've heard of Byron Katie, but her technique of self-enquiry or 'the work', was invaluable for stopping believing my thoughts and ditching my story. That really helps.

    Anyhoo, just wanted to share. This blog was written a month ago, so I really hope that since then you've been feeling a bit better in every way. Take care buddy :)

    • Graham says:

      Hey Rory,
      Thanks for stopping by to comment. Yes, I too find The Sedona Method helpful for letting go of expectations, and a friend of mine is a big fan of Byron Katie. I'm pretty lazy when it comes to my thinking, and get overwhelmed easily when I'm not feeling well. Just saying to myself "let it go" seems to help. I do feel like a failure, and it tends to magnify everything else. My current plan is to get out and have a bit more fun in my life too. I don't surrender easily, that's for sure!
      Cheers,
      Graham

  3. TJ Khara says:

    Hi,

    I am new to this blog. I got diagnosed with CFS in 2008 and struggled with it for 3 years. I still have some symptoms left from it, but overall I have regained my energy and am not as anxious about things. One of the comments in the above post about not knowing when this will end really resonated with me. That was the thing that scared me the most. Honestly, I became deeply religious (and still am) during that time. I am a sikh and most of the sikh philosophy states that "whatever god (not defined, but called by many names) wills will happen," so stop trying so hard. It was very hard to go through and actually believe that and to implement it.

    I am actually a whole lot better, so if you would like you can email me at tkhara@gmail.com and I can try and share some of the things that I did and that helped me. I would love it if you felt even 1% better from some of the things that I did.

    I hope you feel much better.

    Best,

    TJ.

    • Graham says:

      Hey TJ,
      Thanks for your comment. I find it difficult to stop trying so hard; it seems to cause me a lot of anxiety when I just stop. I get bored. I want to move on. Meditation helps a little, and my body seems to tolerate exercise pretty well these days. But the goddam cold/flu-like symptoms like the runny nose and cough drive me nuts. I'd happily feel 1% better. And the other 99 too. Happy to talk to you on Skype sometime; my address is: graham.a.stoney
      Cheers,
      Graham

      • TJ Khara says:

        Hi Graham,

        Great to hear from you. I guess the not trying so hard comes when it comes. However, on a more tangible level I really altered my diet. I was a 3 times a day type meat eater and am now vegan, so that definitely helped me. Eating lots of fruits and veggies helped me a lot too. My yoga teacher - who was instrumental in my recovery - actually prescribed that I eat at least five pieces of fruit every day. Honestly, I am not an expert by any standard, but through my experience, I feel as though the diet is the first step towards recovery. An analogy that my yoga teacher gave me was when you pull one leg of a stool, the other three come towards you too. One step in the right direction is all that is required.

        I am not sure what kind of diet you are following. We could discuss more about that and try to figure some stuff out. Also, you can check out pranayama breathing exercises. From your reply it seems like you are able to exercise a bit (which was not the case with me at all - could barely do very mild yoga.) So, maybe you can try tai chi or something like that.

        Let me know what you think about this.

        Best and hope you get well soon,

        TJ.
        TJ Khara recently posted..I have reached India! Glad to be back…My Profile

  4. Daniel says:

    Graham, Hows things mate, hows the Mickel Therapy going???

  5. Eelco says:

    Hi Graham, it seems to me that you are learning wrongly. You have been studying the right subjects, but nothing seems to stick. 2 tips which might be of help : 1. don't try to solve your anxiety. Treat it as something completely out of your control/physical. Only thing to do is to not to link it to anything ! 2. See yourself as a loser and without a companion for ever. Just give up !! Try to be happy not because of achievements or a relationship, but just because. By not accepting your situation and not seeing its not so bad, your not going to ever improve NATURALLY. Don't try to force or learn anything. Progress is a natural consequence of living.. Hope this helps..

  6. David says:

    hi graham,

    i remember your posts about gupta from the phoenixrising forum. i hope you get good results from the mickel therapy , i think its the same as reverse therapy right? too bad gupta couldnt cure you yet, i am thinking about buying the programme myself because of so many people being completely cured by it. do you still practise it?

    best,

    david

    • Graham says:

      Hi David. I still do some of the stress reduction stuff, like meditation and looking after my needs first, and only occasionally the stop-stop-stop. My research shows that negative thoughts are driven by negative subconscious emotions, and it's more powerful to deal with the emotion directly. That's essentially what Mickel therapy does too which is one reason I was attracted to it. I sometimes wonder if I didn't persist hard enough with the Gupta program, but I did it consistently for 4 months and really didn't see a great improvement. If others have recovered on it, frankly I'm jealous! Cheers, Graham

  7. Daniel says:

    Graham, I have also had constant anxiety since CFS started but in reality have had it my whole life, Im just much more aware of it now, things that still help me are acupuncture and meditation, hopefully the Mickel Therapy starts to improve your situation soon, keep us updated man..

    All the best

    Daniel

  8. Jack Yianitsas says:

    For five years, I experienced the debilitating symptoms of fear, anxiety, and depression. Often these symptoms are diagnosed by physicians as panic attack disorder or anxiety disorder. In a constant state of anxiety and panic, I searched desperately for a way out of my forest of despair. Following what seemed to be an almost insurmountable degree of frustration and disappointment, I found the way to permanent recovery from my severe anxiety symptoms. For more information please visit frompanictopeace.com

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