Monday, October 6, 2008


Over the past week, my anxiety has hit levels it has not reached for the last 14 years or so. Although I have dealt with anxiety my entire life to an extent, it was about 15 years ago that it started going out of control. At first, I kept thinking I was having heart attacks (at age 19, no less), but eventually learned that my heart was fine and my symptoms were actually panic attacks. A few months later, I began having days when I was nervous constantly: you know the butterfly-in-the stomach feeling when you have to give a talk or something? Like that, only with no apparent reason for it and for hours and hours with only momentary reprieves. I found out it had a name: generalized anxiety disorder.

I went to doctor after doctor trying to find a solution: counseling, psychiatrist, allergist, alternative medicine. I'm not sure what finally helped me, but eventually my life seemed under control again, with a bit more anxiety than I had prior to age 19, but not anything that I couldn't handle or deal with from day to day. I did have a few leftover anxieties relating to panic attacks I had during that time period, like driving on the freeway or eating pot luck meals where there could be nuts as an ingredient unbeknown to me (since I am deathly allergic).

I do find it interesting, though, that my anxiety started shortly after Scott left on his mission, and then started to subside shortly after he came home from his mission. Coincidence? I really don't know.

So, as my anxiety has now resurfaced suddenly (and I am back to the butterfly-in-the-stomach feeling pretty constantly), it occurred to me to wonder if on some subconscious level, I am afraid of losing Scott (like I did when he left on a mission, only this time forever) and that has pushed my anxiety back into full swing. I expressed that concern to him a few days ago.

Tonight, he and I were talking about it some more. He helped me realize that I have known he is gay since July, and yet my anxiety is surfacing now. I seemed to be going along just fine, and then wham, it started with depression and lots of crying, and then turned into this nervous feeling. He thinks it started spiraling downward at the point we met with our bishop.

I do think there is some link to the stress I am facing at school, but school has always been stressful, and I've always handled it before, so why is it out of control now? I guess it is probably a combination of things.

So, if Scott is right, and it is mostly the bishop thing and conflicts that I am feeling as a result of embracing gayness vs. following the prophet, then what do I do about it? I had already determined not to go inactive, but if my anxiety now seems to be out of control and getting worse, what should we do? What is best for me, for my health and sanity, and for our family?

Any ideas?


Beck said...

I think this is a delay reaction of grief. Like when my father died, my mother was totally fine at first, but a couple of months later she stopped thinking, started panic attacks and became very distraught. She wasn't openly grieving the loss, but I can't help but think that that anxiety she was feeling was delayed grief.

You may be going through a "loss" of some kind in coping with these changes in your life.

In which case, then you need to let it happen, to get through it, so that you can move on and heal.

But, what do I know???

Dichotomy said...

Beck: There may be some element of a delayed grief reaction in Serendipity's anxiety, but I think that if there is, it's only a small part of it.

Historically, her anxiety and panic attacks have been very associative. For example: she had a panic attack while driving on the freeway one day, and she now has minor problems driving at all, somewhat more severe problems driving on the freeway, and particular anxiety about driving on the particular stretch of freeway where she experienced the panic attack.

She gets anxious on the last stretch up Parley's Canyon on I-80, just before the summit, where we overheated several years ago and had to call a tow truck, even though we have a new van that is in no danger of overheating.

I found it interesting on Sunday that her anxiety eased noticeably when the second session of conference ended. I think it's possible that she has associated church-related situations with the anxiety-inducing experience we had with our bishop a few weeks ago.
(She's got anxiety associated with our bishop due to previous interactions with him as well).

Assuming that her bishop-anxiety might be a part of this, we've talked about various options, but haven't been able to come up with a satisfactory solution:

Option 1: Stop going to church. Obviously this wouldn't be good for the kids. It would be contrary to our goal to encourage tolerance and acceptance among the members. Plus, going counter to what she believes to be right brings its own anxiety, so we would just be replacing one anxiety-inducing situation with another.

Option 2: Go to a different ward. This would get us away from the bishop, but crowds of strangers are another anxiety trigger. Plus we would technically be breaking the rules here, and the Church's meticulous record-keeping would present challenges.

Option 3: Stay where we are. But they say that the definition of a fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing and expects to get different results... (She has just started a new medication, which, if it works, may make this option feasible).

I suppose we could go to a different church, but that combines the problems of options 1 and 2.

We could move, which would negate some of the problems of Option 2, but not all of them, and with house values sinking we may very well be upside-down on our mortgage right now, which makes moving impractical, if not impossible.

Any other possibilities we've overlooked?

Damon In CO said...

Serendipity and Dichotomy-

I know I might be pointing out the obvious and I know it might seem overly simplistic.

I don't know about anxiety and I don't know that I know Serendipity well enough make a call as to whether or not she's experiencing delayed grief.

I would tend to agree with Dichotomy's thoughts that Serendipity might be developing an associative anxiety with Church related meetings. Dichotomy listed out options and really they aren't ideal.

I believe firmly that our challenges are presented to us for reasons to help us grow. Even if a particular challenge wasn't designed by the hand of God, if we trust in Him He will turn it to our good. (reference D&C 119, I think)

That being said, perhaps the best approach is the most simple. And ]it is very likely Serendipity and Dichotomy, you've both been doing this because I've been a little detached lately.

Perhaps you should look for solutions through prayer and fasting, praying about specific approaches and trying them. Although it's not a something you relish, perhaps you can increase your Temple attendance in your search for inspiration and solutions.

Moreover perhaps you can ask some friends and family to join you in a group fast in efforts toward a resolution. (I would join if you'd like) Certainly Heavenly Father doesn't want your little family to stop going to Church. So, He must have a solution/reason to this in some way. It's you're divine right to search out that answer from Him...

So then, that is the only thing I can really suggest...especially given it's the only thing I have any experience with.

My best to you, Serendipity. As always my thoughts and prayers will include you.