Friday, 4 March 2011

Chapter 2: Learning to Live with a Phobia

As I mentioned in the previous blog, I wrote the first anxiety attack off as just a one-off phenomenon; but it wasn’t. Subsequent meals I attended with the usual relish resulted in the same crippling feelings and a devastated retreat. I had no idea what was going on. The whole thing was so strange and bizarre I didn’t even begin to contemplate talking to anyone about it. Who would want to know anyway? Everyone else appeared normal; it was just me having this problem.

For some reason I presumed that the problem would fix itself and I would grow out of it. I remembered being frightened of thunder storms when I was a child and I grew out of that so this would be similar. So I busied myself with life and pushed the problem to the back of my mind. But it wasn’t that easy.

Having left my home town to attend university I was repeatedly invited to attend meals at friend’s houses, whether family homes or in other rented accommodation. The same anxiety attacks occurred with the same intensity as regular as clockwork.

With my confidence waning and my self esteem plummeting I reluctantly withdrew and shied away from any form of this social activity. I began making up excuses as to why I had to refuse invitations. I began to predict events or occurrences which might lead to a dinner invitation and deliberately place myself in a situation which would divert the offer. I intentionally alienated myself from friends, relatives and aspects of the social world so that I wouldn’t find myself in the position of having to reject an invitation to someone’s home for a meal.

Sometimes though whilst trying to engage in social activity and be in the company of friends and relatives I would find myself in a situation where avoidance of a meal at a home was impossible and these events were disastrous for me. I would be continuously consumed in trying to fight my anxiety and all its repercussions and what was supposed to be a delightful event would turn into a nightmare.
So the alienation process intensified and I slowly cut myself off from the world around me. It felt like everyone else in the world was over there and I was over here by myself. I became indecisive, vulnerable and of course depression, which is at the end of the sequence, was closing in fast. I began living in a grey fog.

By now the anxiety attacks, and fear of the anxiety attacks controlled me. They controlled what I did, what I said, who I was with and all decisions I made. My life ground to a halt. I couldn’t see a future. The prospect of marriage seemed impossible. The prospect of having children dimmed. Suicide began to cross my mind more and more. What always stopped me was that, fortunately, it is part of my character to never give up and I always held a theory in my mind about suicide which was this: if things seem like they can never get any worse then they can only get better and if they do get worse then things weren’t so bad before and so the iteration continues and hence there is no theoretical justification for proceeding with the final act.

But there was one shining light on the horizon that gave me hope. After completing university and working for a few years I promised myself a year long global circumnavigation. With a round-the-world ticket in my hand I knew I would be able to set myself free and become new again. I convinced myself that I could once again enjoy the freedom of boundless social interaction and companionship.

But I could’ve been more wrong. Of course my body travelled around the world as free as a bird but my mind with all its idiosyncrasies came with me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To Rio (AKA Peter Richmond)
I had thought I knew U pretty well from our time together on the yacht Alabaster. However, what U shared with me and other readers on your blogger gives us a true insight into a very special person. A man who doesn’t shy away from facing some of the most difficult issues in a determined way, one who ultimately succeeds in facing and overcoming his demons. It takes an incredible amount of guts and determination and perseverance to work one’s way through such issues.
But most of all, I admire U for your courage U showed in sharing some of your deep fears (and triumphs) with the world. We can look at U as a great inspiration.
I am looking forward to following your life’s footsteps, and I wish U well with your writing. I am sure U know by now that we can only be truly alive if we manage to free ourselves of our old demons.