High Functioning Anxiety 11

It’s Wednesday again, huh? Not really sure what to write. I’ve been keeping up with school work, just doing the minimum, which is what I can manage right now. And I’m kind of ok with that. My current circumstances have allowed me to take better care of myself and I’m grateful for that.

I did, however, have an insane gluten-related flare up over the past couple days that has been extremely painful, but entirely my fault. I think it’s waning now. Thank God. Any other people struggling with panic/anxiety/trauma also have gluten sensitivity? Seems like a lot of us do. Anyhow, my dad is diagnosed with Celiacs, I am not, but I’m certain I have a gluten-sensitivity at the very least. Over the weekend I had the bright idea to eat pizza (a lot of it) 2 days in a row. It was mighty tasty, don’t get me wrong, but by Monday I had numerous un-fun bathroom experiences and it felt as though I was being stabbed/gutted and my joints hurt and I was bloaty and it was all sorts of awful. I did take Advil, which seemed to help with the inflammation/pain, but… yeah… it’s the universe telling me to take better care of myself, I suppose.  When I don’t have much gluten for a while, and my body feels good, I trick myself into thinking I can throw caution to the wind. My bad. But oh how I love pizza and pasta.

I think too this is nature’s way of making sure I don’t become morbidly obese, honestly. I have had issues with my weight/eating for a long time due to being in dance when I younger  (your body is always scrutinized), being anxious, and simply using food as a comfort. I also think I unconsciously sometimes think that getting fat will make me unattractive so then I’ll no longer have to worry about relationships/being attractive? If that makes sense. Like I’ll just preemptively stop any pain or heartache by making sure no one will like me. Or something. Binge eating hasn’t been as big of an issue for me lately, though it does occur a few times a month when I am stressed or over-thinking/obsessing about something. Usually it’s sweets orrr greasy ass food. I feel awful after, plan to work out, feel guilty etc… but in the moment I sometimes feel better. Even if on the outside I don’t look like someone who struggles with overeating, it doesn’t mean that I don’t. Just because I’m not on 600 pound life, doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with my eating habits, and I find it frustrating when people act as if I’m “too thin” to have issues like this. Whatever. Anyone can have a problematic/love-hate relationship with food regardless of their size and I think especially people prone to anxiety are especially susceptible. Mindful eating sometimes helps, but honestly the best thing for me is just being physically active. When  regularly work out, it usually doesn’t even occur to me to over eat. And with how painful this recent flare up has been… I really have apologized to myself and want to do better.


Night Terror Last Night


Feeling upside down today.

My anxiety has been relatively calm since I returned from Belize, so I am not sure what, if anything, spurred this. I spoke with my therapist about my dream this morning. I had the sensation that it was a long and involved dream, but here are the bits I remember:

I was sitting on a bed with my grandma next to me and she all of a sudden was ripped away (trying to hold on to the bed) by some evil presence I couldn’t see, but knew was there. It physically was dragging her. It occurred to me to physically try to fight it, so I did, but it didn’t help. It was very vivid. I could feel my nails catching on something sort of like skin, but the thing taking my grandma was invisible. The other clip I remember was that my boxing gloves were slashed/ruined and I felt responsible for it, though I don’t know how it happened. I woke up terrified and feeling like something was in the room with me… and having some type of spirit connection I thought there might be so I prayed, which usually helps, but it didn’t last night. I’ve had dreams with much worse/more sinister content and was able to calm down and go back to sleep just fine. I don’t know what was so bad about this one.

My therapist asked me what sort of characteristics my grandma had (she has passed) that come to mind. I said she is smart, caring, brave, resourceful, self-reliant, and strong. My therapist suggested that maybe there is some internal battle going on inside me, that she thinks is a good thing, because it means that I’m changing, in that I’m trying to be true to myself, more like the qualities I saw in my grandma, but that something within me is pulling me back and doesn’t think that her and I should “sit on the same level” or bed, just yet. I sort of subscribe to that. I’ve started to try not to beat myself up for my current circumstances or things that I don’t like about my current situation and just try to accept conflicting ideas or feelings that I have as they come, while trying to act in the best way possible that mirrors what I really value… but maybe the dream represented how I still feel unable to do those things, and even though I was proud of myself for starting to learn Muay Thai, I still unconsciously feel like I can’t do it and that I ruin everything (hence the slashed gloves). Idk. This was interesting to me because I haven’t felt so unsafe at night in a long long time so I’m not sure what spurred it.

High Functioning Anxiety 10


I spent all of last week in Belize and took this photo at sea. Swimming is one of the few activities that usually calms and grounds me back into my body. Being completely present and not dissociated can be uncomfortable for me, I have a heightened startle response, I find people and things overwhelming. It’s often easier to lose myself and let myself slip away. Those closest to me can see it, I look more glazed over, my eyes are not as keen or sharp looking. I had some experiences in Belize with sea creatures that were actually looking at me. It’s sometimes easier for me to interact with non-human spirits … I’ll hopefully write a different entry on my Belize experience, but swimming and travel are so related to anxiety for me, that I thought it relevant to put in my weekly anxiety update.

There is something about being seen. Truly seen. Acknowledged. Looked at. You’re vulnerable, exposed, even if not naked. When someone is truly paying attention to you, wanting to know what you think, your emotions, touching you, seeing your reactions, just watching your physicality/you move through space, it can be very validating, empowering, comforting, terrifying… or a mixture of different experiences. Oftentimes with my anxiety I have two competing desires: I want to be heard/acknowledged/seen, but at the same time struggle to express myself, become embarrassed, and want to hide. I think I enjoy the sea so much because it forces me to be fully present: you can’t really talk to anyone when you’re snorkeling/swimming in strong currents, you can just “be” there… with other people, or other creatures, or just the sea, which sometimes feels welcoming or indifferent or annoyed by your presence, very much like a human.  Here is a link to a video of an eagle ray that took some interest in me while I was out at sea by myself.

Though I am used to feeling overlooked, talked over, ignored… I don’t always want that, but it’s hard to get used to people wanting to know what you have to say in classes, at work, for example, and feeling pressured to always be “on” and sound intelligent. I did have an interesting experience on the long trek back to Pennsylvania. I often dissociate in airports and become overwhelmed, though I haven’t had a panic attack at an airport in a long long time. But while waiting 3 hours in an extremely large, loud, crowded waiting area by the gate … I found myself being fully present and comfortable in my body. I found myself fully awake, alert, comfortable, even feel good about being myself in that space with other people and when people passed near me my stomach didn’t drop when they brushed against me or came too close. I wasn’t even always reading or listening to music… I could just sit without distraction, with my thoughts and feelings, and I was ok. I don’t know if it was a mixture of the intoxicating combination of sun exposure and exhaustion… but I’d like to think it also had something to do with my beginning to read Radical Acceptance and really starting to think about/work on being accepting, ok, and loving toward myself as well as some of my trauma-related responses and how they lead me to make poor decisions. Like, feeling that it is unbearable that I disappoint/hurt someone by doing something that may be best for myself. Or immediately feeling used, worried, violated, after feeling close/intimate with someone as a sort of protective factor against them hurting me or abandoning me. Sort of like, push them away before they can push you away, or something. Or don’t let yourself get too attached. Anyway, I’m not even halfway through the book, but it has had more helpful practical advice regarding being present and non-judgmental with myself than any other book I have ever read… so that has been refreshing and helpful with my anxiety.

One recent instance that caused me great anxiety was having to report to a supervisor of a student’s absence in one of the classes I’m involved in. The student will have to repeat the experience. Now, I don’t know why that’s hard for me, to think about seeing this student next week. It is not my fault for their absence… and even if they are angry with me for relaying the information, I know I will survive and be able to handle it. But I also know that my body reacts in such a way that I become scared in the moment, can’t think straight, may tear up, and not be able to articulate myself. That’s what my anxiety does. I think it makes me look stupid, so I worry about handling situations badly because of my anxiety/trauma response, even if I go in with good intentions and a plan.

High Functioning Anxiety 9

The last week or so has been pretty miserable for me. I find one of my trauma/anxiety/whatever is wrong with me triggers is feeling like I can’t say no to something or being so stressed and confused to the max to where I can’t make good decisions or feeling forced into something. That has been coming up in a variety of ways recently and I haven’t been dealing with any of the situations particularly well. I was so upset on Sunday I actually made myself sick and have been taking Sudafed and NyQuil for the past few days … all congested. That was a first for me, panicking/crying to the point of making myself ill for days after. Anyway, after having a lot of situations in my life where I felt helpless, like I had no control, that there was nothing I can do … I now find myself unable to make decisions. I second guess everything, will change my mind multiple times a day, become frustrated when just trying to decide what to wear (as an aside, I don’t like how I look), but anyway, just basic living sometimes becomes a chore when you feel like every decision you make backfires, hurts someone else, or eventually comes back to hurt you. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately, like I can’t do anything and I just become so overwhelmed that I want to sleep all day. I’ve allowed myself to succumb to that a few times lately… just doing the bare minimum to scrape by. But I have been trying to take better care of myself by exercising, attending therapy more, etc. I’m trying not to blame myself for things I had no control over, but everything becomes hard for me to deal with when I’m so terrified of doing something that is irreparable or something. I don’t know. I try my very best to be honest about everything, but sometimes that doesn’t even help and I realize that I sometimes dig myself a hole I can’t get out of, even when I’m currently trying to make things better. I don’t know.

One recent thing that has been weighing on me is described below.

I received  an email from my boss saying that we were accepted to present a poster at a conference across the state in Phili (I’m in Pittsburgh), something I should be excited about, happy about, but the anxiety I feel isn’t the excited-happy-anticipatory type. Thinking about making the drive alone, spending money that I’m anxious about spending when I have to pay for classes, applying for funding, presenting the poster by myself when I didn’t conduct the research myself… all of that consumed me and paralyzed me so I couldn’t respond to the email right away and just thought that I would talk to her about it in person. But eventually I sent the email explaining my financial situation and not having a car at my disposal to make the trip. Sigh. I feel bad, it should be a fun and exciting career building thing, but so many factors make “normal” things scary for me, even if on the outside I look like I’m holding things together well.  I don’t want to go, but it has nothing to do with not being interested or being a hard worker. My chest hurts… and even  if I end up going to this conference at the end of June, I’m already feeling anxiety about it NOW. In February. I don’t know if it was the wording of the email: “you will be presenting” sounding final, as if I do not have a choice. I don’t know, and the feeling of being trapped and not having choices has been coming up for me a lot lately. Also, the thought of me presenting something I am not familiar with created immense fear, as it usually does. Mostly, though, it is driving in an unfamiliar city alone and worrying about getting stranded if my car doesn’t make it or in a car accident if I panic.

No entry for next week, but I’ll try to resume after my spring break trip … hopefully after doing some much needed self-acceptance readings that I’m taking along and will try to get through in between searching for sea critters.

High Functioning Anxiety 8

I have been trying to take better care of myself, sleeping well, exercising, saying no to things immediately if they don’t feel good to me, just doing things for myself, by myself… like taking walks and taking pictures …


I’d rather just drown in a field than anything else. My chest hurts right now… I wish it weren’t raining so I could go on a walk.

And as much as I’ve been trying, my world has continued to seem rather gray. I still lack energy and motivation most days, and feel as though I’m scraping by doing the bare minimum in my PhD program, even though there is evidence to the contrary. I still meet a cohort member to learn Muay Thai, even though I hate gyms and feel anxious/stupid/like he’s humoring me most of the time. I got my hair cut today, it looks nice, but I felt awkward the entire time. This had nothing to do with the woman cutting my hair, she did a great job. I just didn’t want to sit there staring at myself in the mirror. And because I often feel anxious/repulsive, I don’t want to be around other people/offend anyone/bother anyone/repulse anyone, so I don’t like being physically close with people. So that was hard.

I also think I’ve realized how my home life growing up has contributed to my anxiety, and making that connection is something that I hadn’t done before. I might be genetically predisposed to anxiety, or whatever, but recognizing how I grew up and how it wasn’t normal has been sort of informative. I never really felt comfortable at home because I was never sure how my father was going to act. Sometimes he was nice and expected me to give him attention, other times he would get angry for no reason and yell, other times he would be distant and want me to keep away. I never knew which one I would get, so I tended to try to stay away.  I’ve grown up always feeling tension in the house and that I had to cater to his mood, which I sort of learned from my mom. Now, as an adult, I recognize that, but my nervous system has been hardwired to feel like I don’t have a way out and just have to accept how people treat me aka people can say they love me and not act like it, and I have to be ok with that. I know that’s not true anymore, but that’s how it feels and I think that has manifested in my relationships with men and how they’ve failed… or rather, how I lost myself in them … and failed myself.

The one good thing that happened recently was going to visit a friend I haven’t seen in a while and her two young boys (3 months and 2 years). Babies make me anxious, so I didn’t hold them, but I did get to visit with my friend who has been through trauma similar to mine. It’s nice to be able to talk to someone who understands what it’s like to intellectually know that you shouldn’t be anxious, but your body still responds as if there is a threat and your mind dissociates and you’re just gone. She asked me to come back some time soon because she’d like to spend some time talking to me while her boys are sleeping. That sort of made me happy, but I just hope she doesn’t think that I have everything under control with my anxiety/trauma response… because I really don’t. I don’t know. I enjoy spending time with her and talking, so maybe that’s all she meant. She talked about how when her kids are loud it triggers/activates her, and I can definitely relate to that. When people yell I just go away… and sometimes I can’t bring myself down/back until the next day. I still haven’t mastered that. Oh well. I’m exhausted and just gave myself the day off because Wednesdays and Sundays are pretty much the only days I don’t HAVE to be physically at school or work. I don’t know. And then I always feel guilty or judged by my father for not doing work when I’m at home   (I live with my parents). But whatever … I know I could support myself if/when I choose to move out. I just often feel guilty about everything, again, likely going back to my situation growing up. I think I’m rambling and done for today.


Anxiety Dream Analysis

Soooo my anxiety inevitably affects my dreams. Thursday night into Friday I stayed up until 3 am working on converting the references in a book chapter I helped write from APA to Chicago Style. Not the most fun task, but it had to be done. That night I had a very vivid dream, which hasn’t happened to me in a while, likely because my anxiety prevents me from sleeping well.

Anyway, I dreamt that my boss (of my graduate assistantship whom I was converting references for) and I were in class. She was teaching the class, and some of the regular people in my cohort were attending as well as some other people I didn’t recognize. I was walking in and had these huge clumsy boots on. I kept tripping over myself, knocking over chairs. During class I somehow fell out of my chair because of the awkardness of these boots and she snapped “one more time and you’re out,” and continued teaching. I had a vivid panic attack in the classroom, feeling like everyone was looking at me. My hands were shaking, I had bright red nail polish on, my head hurt, my vision narrowed and focused only on my fingers/forearms in front of me as I straddled the chair, as it was facing away from where she was speaking ( I turned myself toward her, not the chair, because my boots made me knock it over when I tried to turn the chair toward the front of the classroom because I was situated at a table facing away from the whiteboard). It never occurred to me to take off the boots.

The next scene was a huge museum full of various interactive displays. At first it was just her and I perusing the displays with no one else around, but then she decided to try this teleportation machine. She got into it without fear, it looked like a roller coaster seat with a lap bar except you were sort of laying back and reclined. A crowd gathered in the museum around the exhibit. Then you had to lift your arms and legs up, sort of like a dead bug pose. She was able to teleport on her first try, vanished, then returned… and I couldn’t do it and gave up.

I think it fits that I had these dreams after I spent 4 hours scrambling to get something done before a deadline and worrying about failing. I always feel like I’m stumbling around without much grace, but I don’t see any simple solution like taking the boots off. I also think the dream represents me not feeling like an equal yet when it comes to people who already have their PhDs and I’m so worried about doing something stupid, irreparable, or screwing up royally. That’s the main points I derived. I’ll try to remember my dreams and jot them down if I wake up at night.


High Functioning Anxiety 7

I haven’t been doing very well. I think that having to be “on” most days, doing groups, teaching, being in class, etc, is all just taking a toll on me. I knew this semester would be trying, but I didn’t realize how assaulted I would feel. It has been hard for me to get out of bed most days with school, work, and what is going on in my personal life on top of everything.

I feel like I live a sort of double life for a variety of reasons. I am somehow able to continue being productive with school work, sometimes doing just the bar minimum to get by, but what I do end up doing, I feel I do well… so that’s good. But, people don’t really see the struggle. They don’t see me wishing I could just stay in bed, not out of laziness, but out of simply the faceless fear that anxiety gifts you. Sometimes it could be the simple fear of having a panic attack around people, fear of not having energy to make it through the day, fear of making a fool of myself, fear of failing, fear of forgetting something important, fear of doing something irreparable, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of looking/appearing disgusting to others, fear of appearing pathetic to others, fear of not ever doing anything I want to do-like writing creatively, fear of not knowing what to do or say, fear of not living up to people’s expectations, fear of running out of time, fear of people finding out I’m not as good as they think I am, and on and on and on.


I feel that the reputation I have built for myself is undeserved. And though I often have a stoic/calm outward disposition, there’s often a tornado in my head, which I think is why it is so hard for people to understand that I have anxiety. I have heard people comment on how successful, pretty, smart, X Y Z that I am … but none of that matters. Most days I don’t think that about myself, so what everyone else thinks is irrelevant. I’ve been trying to work on that, sometimes I have good days, lately there have been more bad ones, where I’m just exhausted and want to stay in bed. It’s hard knowing that there is a very stark mismatch between the outside and the inside of myself… but I do know that if I were to unload on people, it would just be too much. It has proven so in the past, and now it seems to be unproductive for me. They seem to not understand, or not believe it, so I now normally reserve such discussions for a therapist, which is sometimes beneficial. I don’t know. I do feel like if people knew the truth/ what I really think and feel about myself and the world, they would be worried. Maybe rightfully so, but for now I’m just doing the best that I can. Sometimes the face of anxiety doesn’t look anxious at all, sometimes the face just looks blank, normal, unanimated. Sometimes the face of anxiety is not in the face at all, its your dry mouth, chest hurting, hands feeling numb or thrumming with static electricity and dread, or it could be not going out to meet people because you’re too exhausted, not because you don’t care about them or their lives, but because you know that in order to function at all on the other days of the week, you need time for yourself–otherwise there may be days where you actually CAN’T get out of bed. I’ve been there. So people may not understand, and they don’t have to. It would be nice if they did, but if you know you’re doing the best you can, then I suppose that’s all that matters. Because that’s all you can do anyway.