Higher Anxiety

A Buddhist Struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Smokes and Heart Rate

Posted by higheranxiety on August 12, 2007

I bought a heart rate monitor about two months ago when I decided to start exercising with one. It’s been incredibly useful to train at low intensity and improve my resting heart rate and my aerobic fitness without a whole lot of pain. It just takes time to train this way, hours at low intensity, but there is no lactic acid buildup so not a whole lot of fatigue the next day.

However, as I related a couple of posts ago, I started smoking again due to my anxiety. I’ve smoked off and on since I was 18 or 19. Everyone in my family smoked when I was growing up, it was just part of the culture in my part of the South.

There is an interesting experiment I conducted this morning though that has convinced me that cigarettes are probably one of the worst things for anxiety. Read the rest of this entry »


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High Finance

Posted by higheranxiety on August 9, 2007

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of the issues that I had to face was financial difficulties. Like a lot of Americans, I have gotten myself into a pretty deep hole with credit card debt and because I had missed some payments, I was slapped with exorbitant interest rates of 30% or so. Paying the minimum payment with that high of an interest rate would take me 32 years to pay the damn things off.

I was agonizing over this, and I decided to go through credit counseling with Consumer Credit Counseling Services. I just finished my counseling session, and the counselor informed me that he’d be able to reduce the rate to a manageable amount. I have to close out my credit cards though, and I elected to keep one with the highest credit limit. I’ll have to pay that one off as soon as I can.

It’s a huge relief. The counselor was extremely nice, and we ribbed each other about our respective baseball teams that we support. If you find yourself in a similar situation, look up Consumer Credit Counseling Services and get some help. Financial difficulties are one of the hugest stressors out there, and I feel much better now.

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Pick up the pieces

Posted by higheranxiety on August 9, 2007

Well, I’ve gotten my apartment situation sorted out for the move, although apparently I’m moving into a tiny room. The apartment itself is rented out room by room, usually to post-docs and graduate students. Anything but the dorm, and it looks quiet.

I guess confronting all those issues last week have helped some, although I’m still waking up usually after sleeping about 4 hours or so because I have to go to the bathroom. I wonder if I drink too much water too late, or I’ve got something medical going on. Last night I woke up at 4 am and by 5 am I was so frustrated I took an Ambien. I was interacting with a social website at the time, and apparently I wrote something I have no memory of. I suppose the flesh and mind is weak at that early hour under the influence.

Last session with my therapist we decided that I’d go over three chapters in Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life. I suppose I should get started on that, although I’ve skimmed most of the book already. Makes sense, and at least I keep catching myself when I’m winding my mind about something. I get really annoyed and angry with the person I’m living with during the day when I’m out and about, and it has to stop. I wonder if I’ve been exhausted so much for so long is just this rage.

Not much¬† progress has been made on my dissertation, although I bit the bullet and emailed my advisor to check in about every 10 days or so. That was a first and a positive development. I did make one significant discovery, but unfortunately I don’t have enough proficiency one language to exploit it. I’ll file it away though.

I know my social network is in tatters, and I dread having to move again in a year or so, but S., my old roommate and best friend, did me a huge favor the other day. We’ve been through a lot together, and I suppose hiking for 2 weeks solidified our brotherhood. If we didn’t kill each other then, it’s probably friendship for life.

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Taking the Bull by Horns

Posted by higheranxiety on August 3, 2007

God, yesterday was exhausting. I confronted two of my biggest fears, and now it looks like I’ll be definitely moving back to school. The financial situation isn’t terribly great, but it’ll do, and I think I need the resources at the counseling and mental health center at school. My insurance won’t cover more than 12 visits if I go to leave with relatives, and I think I need more support than that.

I also bought a pack of cigarettes yesterday. I haven’t smoked in over two years. Ok, almost 2 years ago when I took my qualifying exams in September 2005. Well, they seemed to help, but they did make me jittery. I took a propranolol yesterday evening once I had done what I thought was enough yesterday. I forgot, and it’s strange how soon we forget, how that puts a wet blanket on the adrenal surges from anxiety. Although the cigarettes won’t helping much, I’m sure. P. would kill me if she knew I was smoking, but she puts down at least one glass a wine a night, as I so reminded her when she was scolding me for taking Ambien to sleep. She was trying to convince me that I wasn’t really an anxious person, and that I didn’t need medication. She stopped once I pointed out her alcohol consumption. Immediately. I found that very satisfying.

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Embrace Despair

Posted by higheranxiety on August 2, 2007

One of the more interesting things about Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) is not fighting your thoughts and emotions but acknowledging and feeling them as a way of defusing them. This is pretty Buddhist tactic in that it is turning your opponent’s, if I may be forgiven using such a value-laden term, strength against itself. It’s like the old Buddhist conundrum of desiring not to have desire. These sort of paradoxes used to thrill me back in my philosophy days, but now I just realize that such conflicting emotions are simply part of the human condition and trying to rationalize them does not work.

Part of the appeal of ACT to me, and today I discussed with my therapist the efficacy of ACT techniques versus Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, is that ACT techniques seem to work for me with a little effort.

For example, yesterday I was riding my bike to the gym, and I was mulling over an annoying personality trait of someone that is close to me. I kept running over in my head an incident that happened years ago that really annoyed me. This was ruining my bike ride and generally my day as I got angrier and angrier.

What did I do? Read the rest of this entry »

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The King of Pain

Posted by higheranxiety on August 2, 2007

Riding my bike home tonight from the gym in the cold and the fog, I remembered that my first serious girlfriend, B., once called me the King of Pain. Obviously, since my salad days were in the 80s, this was a current expression, but a curious yet apt one, I suppose.

It was apt in that one night I basically had a crying jag that lasted most of a night, triggered by some sexual role-playing that B. and I did. I was 19 at the time. The role-playing itself was relatively harmless, but we were in a location that was apparently highly charged for me emotionally. I was house-sitting for my stepsister, and naturally B. and I had gone over there to have sex, and she started trying to dominate me a bit verbally. I had no idea what to call that kind of sexual activity at that time, for I only found out much later after experimenting with it with other sexual partners. In fact, I’m much more of a natural top than anything, at least that’s what’s been successful at times with some of my other sexual partners, although I have suspected and suspect even more strongly now that I’m writing this is that I would go to pieces if I allowed myself to be truly dominated. Or perhaps find some peace. I’m not sure because I’d be afraid to try.

The location itself was relatively neutral, but my stepsister had some wooden posters on her walls that she had gotten from my stepmother that apparently triggered this crying jag. How I gained a stepmother is a long story, but basically it came be summed up like this: Read the rest of this entry »

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Posted by higheranxiety on July 31, 2007

I suppose sobbing so hard that drool falls out of your mouth and your tears splash on the floor should be cathartic, but I’m not finding it so right now. It seems my grief is feeding on itself since tomorrow is M.’s birthday and I won’t be sharing it with her. It doesn’t matter that our relationship was in shambles when we finally broke up, nor does it matter that it is likely that we were fundamentally not suited for each other, but it was so sudden, and it’s been so hard being alone at 37. I turn 38 next month, and I don’t feel any closer to completing anything in my life.¬† I have now had six major long-term relationships as an adult, and I’m tired. So tired. And I’ve realized that most of these relationships have ended due to my problems with anxiety, grief, and whatever else that is haunting me. With acceptance and commitment therapy I’m supposed to accept these feelings in order to fully experience them. Not fighting them is to rob them of their power… eventually, I suppose, but early mornings are treacherous with my feeling exposed like raw earth broken by a sharp shovel.

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Comfort Dreams

Posted by higheranxiety on July 30, 2007

I’ve actually had a couple of productive days by staring down the dragon of one of the tasks for my dissertation that I was dreading. I also had an interesting session with my therapist that I’ll write about later today. I still haven’t decided to go back to school this fall or move in with relatives to pay off some debt and perhaps purchase a car. I’m leaning towards the later, since I haven’t heard from financial aid about getting more student loans, and I think removing the financial stressor (stresser?) would be the wise course at this point.

I’ve been having dreams about situations that I find secure. I dream that I’m back at my old job, which was not very stressful, except at Christmas because it was a retail job. And, I dream that there are more bonuses so I can earn more money than the pittance that I was usually paid. Read the rest of this entry »

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What is Buddhist about my battle with anxiety? Part II

Posted by higheranxiety on July 27, 2007

Again, what is particularly Buddhist about my struggle with anxiety? It’s singular how similar Buddhism is to one of the therapies that I’m exploring.

So I’m seeing a therapist now for cognitive-behavioral therapy, as I mentioned in the last post, and he recommended two books. The first, The Worry Cure, I discussed my results of taking the questionnaires in the previous post.

The second book is a bit odder. Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Steven C. Hayes. This is where the Buddhism comes in. Hayes is the doyen of what is called ‘the third wave’ of therapy, acceptance & commitment therapy (ACT for sort, pronounced like ACT II of Othello).

And it’s a dead-ringer for Buddhism, despite Hayes’ protests that ACT is based on Relational Frame Theory.

Let’s look at some of the evidence. Read the rest of this entry »

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What is Buddhist about my battle with anxiety?

Posted by higheranxiety on July 25, 2007

Good question. The cognitive-behavioral therapist that I saw recommended during our first session two books.

The first was The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You by Robert L. Leahy.

The second was Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Steven C. Hayes.

I devoured the first one rather quickly, at least the first chapters that pertained to me.

So let’s look at some of my results of the various questionnaires: Read the rest of this entry »

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