I should be writing. In a sort of twisted game of procrastination I’ve ended up writing in my blog, which is, in fact, writing. Shh… don’t tell me; I think I’m procrastinating and distracting myself from painting, which was part of the long list of procrastination techniques used to keep me from writing. A few minutes ago I was working on a mandala that I plan to use in a small exhibit that I’m supposed to be a part of this May. So, here I am at my keyboard in spite of myself.

If I’m going to be using my laptop, it would make more sense for me to be at my desk, where I have a docking station along with a larger monitor. However, there’s a spider on the computer and I don’t want to disturb him. He might be my father visiting me. The spider was here earlier; he dropped onto my mandala and wanted to play with my pen. He’s so tiny and delicate you can barely see him, and only if you try hard. I didn’t want to let him hang around a piece of paper I was working on, so I grabbed him by his thread of web and carried him outside. The light out there was not great. I could see him on my finger, but I had to kind of go on faith that I had successfully released him into the wild. When I got back to where I am working—a meeting table in the middle of a larger space that also contains my office—the spider was right there on the table. I resigned myself to the fact that it was my father visiting from the other side and no amount of taking him outside was going to change anything. So, here I sit with a tiny spider building a web on my Surface computer like he’s supposed to be here and we’re just hanging out.

Life, overall, is better than it was earlier this month. While work is still a handful, I seem to have more emotional wherewithal to deal with it. I’m not hiding in the revolting bathroom of that very old building, or calling in sick, pulling the sheets over my head in bed and contemplating what excuse I could find to go on disability so that I could spend my days taking care of the cats and writing. Now I go to work, and most days I look forward to it. I don’t for a minute want to give the impression that my employer is abusive. They’re wonderful; I’m simply falling apart.

I visited a psychologist a few weeks ago. Come to think of it; he’s supposed to call me back with what my insurance company said about his plan to go forward with a psychological assessment. (He pitched this as a wonderful thing for me. He said that I could use it with his clinic or take to any clinic of my choosing, that it would be treated as a golden egg.) I went so that I could learn better coping mechanisms and techniques. I’ve kind of given up on the idea that it will all just go away. It’s probably a part of my genetic make-up and I just need to learn how to deal with the depression/anxiety or what-have-you. When I visited him for the intake interview I was so distraught that I forgot to ask him what I should do if I have another episode. I’m not certain I want to know what his answer would be. I have a feeling it would involve an emergency facility, and I’m not looking forward to being in an emergency facility. Not while I still have sick days left.

I’m not even sure why I’m feeling better. My medical doctor, when I described that horrible Tuesday in which I was hiding under the sheets, told me that it sounded like an anxiety attack, so I’ll stick to that term until I learn otherwise. Anxiety attack: a nice little package I can present to people when they wonder why I’m nauseous every morning of my life, or why I’m in a fetal position in a bathroom stall that is so small you can’t open the door without straddling the toilet, and so old that opening one stall door throws both doors open and you have to avert your eyes when you walk by in order to not see the startled expression of some other unsuspecting dude sitting with his head in his hands, unaware that the stall door just hit him on the knee, exposing his nude bottom half to the person who is now walking out the door. There aren’t a lot of good reasons to do this, and ‘anxiety attack’ says a lot in just two words. And most people can relate.

My friend, the spider, has moved to the lamp. It seems like it would be too hot for him, but he’s swinging up and down, building his little web to catch microscopic dust mites that float through the air. It’s getting late and probably no more work is going to be done on my novel tonight. I believe that there is pie in the refrigerator in the house. I have milk, so I think I have a plan for the next 45 minutes until I go to bed and let the CPAP take me into the lovely world of dreams and sleep until the alarm goes off and another work day begins. It’s nice that this Sunday doesn’t find me anxious and distressed. I wish I knew what I did to make this happen. Maybe I’ll review my journal to see if any behavior patterns appear. But, probably I’m going to read while I eat pie and then go lay down with the cats.

Life is good.

* Update: Three days later and I found myself, yet again, hiding under the sheets this morning. But, that’s okay because I now have an appointment with the psychologist tomorrow morning to have the assessment done. They tell me that I’ll be sitting alone in one of their offices answering questionnaires. That’s not the one-on-one experience that I longed for, but something about this guy makes me trust him. He did tell me that the actual therapy would begin after the assessment was done. While I’m there tomorrow they will set up an appointment for me to come discuss the results, once the doctor has analyzed my answers. Fair enough. And that will be the golden assessment that I will be able to take with me and be received with open arms at any office I might want to visit. (He did say that I could choose to stay with his office, but he didn’t seem exactly excited about that. I have a feeling that his main bread and butter comes from other sources, like people visiting him at the behest of a judge.)

I’m sitting at my desk with the Surface plugged into the docking station and my friend, the spider, is spinning his web on the larger monitor. He has a buddy with him; two spiders spinning in concert on my monitor while I work on my novel and my blog. I guess my dad is looking out for me after all; he seems to be in it for the long haul. Usually, the spider/Dad is gone in less than an hour, but this little dude has a roommate (Dad’s brother, Ken?) and they’re building a web, making themselves at home. Like they’re gonna see this thing through with me.

And, Life is still good.

My friend, the spider

The Struggle Is Real

Sometimes it may not seem like it, but the struggle is real. I (finally) saw my doctor again today… after he cut off my prescription. That’s kind of clingy, don’t you think? I’ve tried to tell him that I need space and then he goes and does that. When I called his nurse to make the appointment she let me know that they had called and left me four voicemails, and that they had put a note on the most recent (and final) refill with my pharmacy stating that I had to make (and keep – they know my tricks) an appointment with my doctor before they would refill it again. So what? So, there’s a law that specifies that he can’t continue to refill my prescriptions without a check up every once in a while. Big deal. I was just there 14 months ago, but whatever.

I can’t say that I was altogether pleased with the blood work numbers. For the most part they were excellent. I’m not diabetic, I’m far from anemic and almost everything looked just like it was supposed to look. I had some valid questions. Why do I tend to black out when I’m laughing very, very hard? Based on those numbers, should I be having a nervous breakdown? I had thought that these things were related to being overly tired, and further thought that being overly tired had to do with my blood not being right (like anemia or something), and his presentation showing most of my numbers right where they should be – defying all logic, considering my weight and the amount of exercise I get – blew a gaping hole in my theory.

He explained a possible reason for the laughing thing and said that if it becomes a pattern then we’ll look at it again. Problem is, I don’t laugh THAT hard all that often. You know, the kind of laugh that builds and builds until you get to the point where you can’t breathe? We’ve all been there. I’ve been there more times than I can remember in my 48 years on this earth, but only recently did I actually feel that I was going to lose consciousness. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a cause for alarm, because I find it a little alarming. But then, I’ve never been 48 years old before last year.

He also confirmed, with a finger pointing to the charts, that based on those numbers I was not allowed to have a nervous breakdown from blood problems. Then, I had to tell him about last Tuesday. Tuesday was also a little alarming for me, and for my dear brother and sister who I chatted/texted with all afternoon. It was kind of a dark day in general. It began with my inability to get out of bed, and literally pulling the covers over my head. I’m as dramatic as the next guy, but I’ve never actually done that before, not in real life. I described for him a few more of the thoughts and feelings I had that morning. He labeled it an anxiety attack, which sounds just about right.

It could have to do with the prolonged stress at my job. We've launched a new software that didn’t have quite all of the bugs worked out and I’ve gotten a few phone calls. My voice mail box fills up with 50-60 voicemails by around 2 PM. That doesn’t count the emails, or the people who walk over to my desk because they have somebody on the phone. I’ll be talking to one of these people from other departments, or to one of my staff, and the phone is ringing. I glance at it and see that two numbers are calling at the same time. When the ringing goes on for what seems too long, I glance again to see that, without missing a beat, another call has come in so that three phone calls have come in in the span of about 10 seconds. While I’m talking to the person at my desk there might be four seconds in which the phone does not ring. And this goes on… All. Day. Long. Every day. I visualize myself with tears welling up in my eyes while trying to focus on what the person I’m talking to is asking. This is the end of the first month since the new software launched and it has been a little stressful. If I take anxiety medicine I get very sleepy as soon as I get home from work and am not worth much, though it does help me get through the day without completely losing my head. I’m reminded of the phrase that was used in the 80’s and 90’s for people who randomly walked into places and began shooting people. We’d say that the person had ‘Gone Postal’. And we said that because for a while, they tended to be people who worked for the United States Postal Service. I can relate to those poor souls a little more than I would like. I’m nowhere near arming myself, but I came close to raising my voice at a coworker the other day. That seems almost ludicrous when I write it, but I do EVERYTHING I can at work to maintain a positive attitude to keep morale up so that we can get through this. And we will. It’s just a little difficult at the moment.

So my doctor said that with the effects of the one tiny problem in my blood work that we are addressing with this prescription that ran out, added to the subtle stress that I’ve been enduring at a job that I otherwise love, he thinks the combined effects, along with some other possible contributing factors, could easily cause an anxiety attack, especially if the person were prone to that sort of thing anyway. (I do have a history of depression, so there’s that.) After some very serious questions asked in as light a tone as he legally could (specifically “Are you thinking of hurting yourself right now”), he said I was allowed to leave after setting down the new rules of how often we are to meet going forward. (The answer, in case you were wondering, was ‘No. I am not thinking of hurting myself, nor was I on Tuesday.’)

I was at the nurse’s desk and the doctor was giving her instructions for future blood orders for me when Barry texted me, “Did your doctor get after you?” I showed the text to my doctor and the nurse and we all laughed. He said that he wasn’t very good at that, but I assured him that he was quite stern with me. The nurse agreed that he could be when needed.

After last Tuesday I truly thought that I needed to find a way to make an appointment with a psychiatrist. Today’s visit has put my mind to rest a little. So, back to work tomorrow with my new prescription, my body getting back to where it needs to be and a closer eye on the anxiety. The doctor (who is a specialist) also told me I have to go see my General Practitioner. (These people!) If the anxiety doesn’t calm down by then I’ll discuss it with him as well. I love my GP more than life itself and I trust he’ll have a good suggestion. At work I’m beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, so hopefully this will all soon be something that we laugh about, that we laugh so hard about that we all pass out.