Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

Hi, Anxiety

I heard someone with an anxiety disorder tell someone else, “You don’t know how it feels!”  And I got to thinking… everyone knows how it feels.  Everyone has been in a situation, at some point in their lives, that made them feel anxious.

It’s that feeling when the boss, towards the end of the workday, says she needs to see you in her office.  It’s the feeling when the teacher asks you to stay after class for a moment.  Or when you’re walking alone at night and you hear footsteps behind you.  And sometimes, it’s just a feeling that passes.

We’ve all felt it.  You tense up, your mind starts racing, your heart beats faster.  Your body is entering a “fight-or-flight” response to whatever threat it’s perceiving.  And, while you can control how much of it you show, while you can take deep breaths to calm the physical symptoms, the fear is still there until the situation ends.

The person mentioned above could have done more to explain the problem by explaining that those with a generalized anxiety disorder don’t need a catalyst to feel that way, and there isn’t a situation to just try to get through.  Some days, we wake up with a general feeling of unease.  Sometimes, we hear a certain word that just triggers something in our minds that starts our hearts racing.  And sometimes, we’re just sitting there, minding our own business, when an overwhelming fear drops onto us like a heavy, wet blanket, and it feels like the walls are closing in.  Sometimes it’s just for a few seconds, a fleeting terror that passes.  More often, it lingers.

As you can imagine, this can cause problems.  The fight-or-flight response is called that for a reason, and most of the time in our daily lives, flight isn’t an option.  People with severe anxiety issues tend to be angry a lot, because we can’t escape whatever our mind has decided is a threat.  Some of us are very lucky and we find a doctor who recognizes the problem right away, and helps us solve it.  Others aren’t so lucky; they go through most of their lives wondering the same thing everyone keeps asking them: “What is WRONG with me?”

No one’s really sure exactly what causes generalized anxiety, and, like many other conditions, it’s likely to vary from one person to the next.  Studies show that there are biological and psychological factors, which means there are a lot of treatment options available.  I personally opt for medication, currently with a mild sedative when I feel like I’m heading toward a panic attack, and just living with it the rest of the time for now.  There are daily medications as well, and many people also benefit from cognitive behavior therapy to help them see the world as less threatening.

Sadly, it’s also sometimes over-diagnosed (or worse, self-diagnosed), much like Asperger’s and ADHD, and becomes an excuse for bad behavior.  It makes treatment and understanding more difficult.  The best way to know a diagnoses is accurate is to talk to more than one medical professional.  And don’t use it as an excuse. If you really have it, then you’ll know it can be treated; if you choose not to, that’s on you.

The point of this blog post is twofold.  First, to increase awareness of the situation, for those of you who do wonder “What the hell is wrong with her?”  And second, to increase awareness of the options, so that people can take responsibility for their lives and stop blaming it on a treatable condition.

I hope it helps all two of you who read it.

January 19, 2011

Sooner or Later, You Sleep In Your Own Space

There are a few things I would blog about, but I find that I censor myself to keep the peace with certain friends and family.  It makes me question who I am sometimes.  On one hand, I want to strive for harmony in my life, cheesy as that may sound.  But on the other, I want to be able to express my opinions without worrying about who I offend.  And we’re not talking about radical opinions here, either.

I guess, in a roundabout way, what I’m trying to say is that it’s perfectly okay for people to identify as Christian, Jewish, Muslim (though, I guess that depends how many ignorant folks are around).  Yet I have to be afraid to say, “I am an atheist.”  On Facebook, I say this regularly– to other atheist friends, or to people I don’t know at all.  I said it at work one day, just in a casual conversation when someone asked me what I believed, and the room went silent.  Why?  Why is it that I’m asked to be tolerant of others’ beliefs (and I am, as long as they don’t harm others), yet I get stares for my lack thereof, or “tsk tsk” noises, or told outright that it’s only because I “have the Devil in me.”

I am an atheist.  This is my choice.  It is my life, not yours, and my afterlife or lack of one.  I am not a “wicked, sinful” person, nor am I in league with your Devil.  I am not more likely to kill someone because I’m “godless”, nor am I more likely to steal, harm, commit adultery, nor anything else on your list of commandments.  I am an ordinary, everyday person, going about my life, trying to live it as well as I can.  I give to charities, and when I have time, I volunteer to help others.  I know how to be kind, generous, loving, and I know the difference between right and wrong.  Just because I don’t get my moral code from a book doesn’t mean I don’t have one.

Do I have a problem with religion?  You bet I do.  This is it, right here.  It’s a divider, like politics.  It makes it easier to depersonalize others, to write off their opinions because, “Who cares what they think?  They’re an atheist/Muslim/Catholic.”  It makes us put people into little categories instead of the one big category of “human being.”    This is not okay

Just stop it.

Love your neighbor, regardless of whether they worship Jesus, Allah, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  Love them because they’re your neighbor, and recognize them as a fellow human above all else.  Judge them on their actions, not on their beliefs.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been wanting to say for awhile now.  I’m tired of censoring it, and I’m tired of not being true to myself.  Just, seriously: let people be who they are.  The world would be dull if we were all the same.

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