I think too much. Therefore I have too many thoughts. A perpetual frenzy of mostly nonsense sprinkled with smart bits, ping-ponging around in my cranium 100% of my waking time.
So I have decided to lose my mind for awhile, with intent.
This occurred to me recently as I spent a solid hour in one of the most brutal full blown panic episodes I’ve had, while driving home from an enjoyable dinner with former work buddies. Although I knew it was “just” panic and nothing else, as I always know, I couldn’t rationalize it away, as I never can. And none the tools in my emergency panic toolbox were working. I couldn’t take the usual Rx since I’d had a small bit of alcohol.
I did deep slow breathing and cowboyed my way through hell on the freeway.
On the fast downside of the roller coaster, my head chants “It’s bad, it’s bad, it’s bad, it is really getting very bad …” Adrenalin rushes in to fight the bully. I begin to imagine I cannot feel my legs anymore, I will not be able to accelerate or brake when I need to. I don’t know for sure if my hands are still on the steering wheel, even when I can see them there, since I know my mind can play tricks of the wickedest order. I wonder if I am actually still conscious. I become more terrified, more terrorized. More adrenalin. More and stronger physiological symptoms. The bully is growing, bigger and meaner. More panic. More adrenalin. More, more.
,On the slower upside of the roller coaster, I have periods where I can think more clearly, probably just from exhaustion, a mental time-out. Tears come. I’m still in panic but the bully has backed off momentarily, no doubt gathering strength for the next round.
During these sort of “quiet terror” periods, I search the day’s events for potential triggers. Still driving, not quite sure I’m still driving.
The workday preceding dinner that evening had been normal, non-stressful, even fun. I am working in a great job in a great company. Nothing there to rev up the anxiety motor to a 50,000 RPM attack, probably. Unless it had something to do with the foos-ball games that happen twice daily, at noon and 5:00 pm, right next to my cube. (I kid you not. Foos-ball, vintage machine even. I like listening to the flipping of the plastic men, the banging of the metal poles that bayonet through the plastic men and make them flip and spin, and the slamming of the ball that has to get wherever it is supposed to go to earn whoever a point, and the good-natured, competitive but mostly curse-less banter of my co-worker players. I have even brought in my portable sound system to give them a soundtrack for the game from time to time. If they get to make noise in the office, I get to play Tower of Power. What Is Hip. Live Version).
Aside: I have asked the company owners to add a ping-pong table and a vintage Pac-Man machine to round out the Arcade Department of our open-floor-plan office. Next I will volunteer to be Arcade Department Head.
Another aside: At our company, there is beer on tap and wine in the break room, and a liquor bar in one owner’s office. This is a small company in California on the 2nd floor of an inconspicuous office building in mid-town Sacramento. The first floor of the building is occupied by a real estate agency, no doubt perturbed by the foos ball banging around while they are trying to do escrows or whatever they do down there. Which may explain why the real estate agency people keep stealing our parking spaces out back. Out of spite. Out back, incidentally, is an alley, and on the other side of that, directly behind our building, someone is building a Beer Garden restaurant. A Beer Garden that we can overlook, while holding beers we got from our break room. So we can be drinking beer at work for free while watching the Beer Garden customers pay for their beer and look up at our building in annoyance, wondering what the f is all of that banging around on the 2nd floor in the building across the alley and why do the people up there get to have Beer in their cubes. Maybe they will want to come and contribute to our profit sharing by buying beer from us. Maybe even play us in a foos ball tournament. And Pac Man and ping-pong as well , if I get the promotion to Arcade Department Head.
Back to the panic — dinner after work had been in a well-known, around-for-ages downtown Sacramento icon of a beautiful old Chinese restaurant, featuring fabulous food, half of an adult beverage, and energetic and interesting conversation with known-quantity, non-scary people in a non-scary quantity of four including me.
…. fabulous food was Chinese chicken salad, walnut something shrimp, kung pao chicken, sweet and sour something, soup maybe? , and brown rice. Remember the rice part even if you don’t remember the rest of the menu.
… the half of an adult beverage was half of a mai tai. Against my personal company medication policy, yes, but i let it get very watered down and i nursed the half drink for the entire evening.
… conversation was with women i had worked with and admired and enjoyed for various reasons.
So later, in my car, an interminable one hour drive home, on the upside of the roller coaster, full terror subsiding just enough so I can reflect. Fabulous food included some sweet stuff and rice. The Mai Tai was, although watered down, sweet, and alcoholic. The conversation was animated and stimulating. About 30 minutes before we left the restaurant, I began to feel the jitterbugging in my toes, the start of the weirdness — soon after, on the freeway on-ramp, heart racing, limbs tingling, shallow breathing, minor vertigo.
So here is where the panic started I’m pretty sure: the rice. Overload of carbs against insulin resistance. Heart races in response to my little tiny insulin supply trying to beat up the big grizzly bear rice. Tiny bit of alcohol, but enough to light a flambe on the panic sauce. Sensory overload – my neurotransmitters encountering about 30 minutes more of stimulating conversation than they can normally handle.
All of this == physiology. My psyche was the responder, not the instigator. This realization has set me on a new course — absolutely minimal sugar, no starches of any kind whatsoever — limiting refined sugar to my first oh so good and necessary cup of coffee in the morning. lotsa lotsa water. salad/veggies and protein for lunch, same for dinner if I have any. protein smoothes with unsweetened almond milk. all that stuff they have told me to do to lose weight on a low carb plan, coincidentally.
Followed this for a few days and felt pretty good for me. Then test drove the concept and deliberately relapsed — had a half Subway sandwich a few days ago. Did not have a very strong reaction but I definitely felt uncomfortable, with a twinkling of anxiety following soon after I ate. I went directly to Clonazepam.
Flicker of an Ah-hah, maybe. So I’m continuing the experiment. — not focused at all on the weight loss aspect, just on the keeping the motor running, well hydrated and without spikes in blood glucose.
But also keeping Clonazepam close by..
btw, I am off all SSRIs completely — no Paxil for over a year. Tried Pristiq, no. Tried Celexa, no. So I know my serotonin levels are going haywire but the water and diet thing seems to be enough stabilization to pursue.
The moral to this story — eat rice, go crazy.