Daily Archives: July 13, 2012

A Fear Filter

I didn’t really begin feeling too overwhelmed (or overwhelmed enough to freak out) until last night. The possibilities of a starkly different future were playing out in my head on repeat, and that conflicted feeling when my diagnosis came up last week reappeared.

Feelings surging on all fronts, yes feelings, no feelings, what ifsmaybes, sometimeses, all fighting for attention.

When I look into the crystal ball of the future, this is what happens. Too many variables, can not compute, my brain about explodes trying to see an outcome, to make an accurate prediction of what lies ahead.

Obviously, I can’t see the future. I know that. I am a regular human being (though, I have had a dream or two that seemed to contain elements that occurred shortly after upon waking) who has grown out of the notion that I can predict what is coming.

My therapist says that me trying to see what is coming is pretty much just me trying to prepare myself for potential disaster. Catastrophizing, they call it. Looking into a possible future to imagine the outcome, and then preparing for it in real life.

Doesn’t sound that harmful, right? I mean, couldn’t I just keep on doing that and feeling prepared (although, doomed)?

Maybe not.

For me, anxiety thrusts me into those crystal balls sometimes whether I want to or not, and when I see that future I have an emotional response. Suddenly, my mind racing so quickly that I am sucked back into reality in an instant, I am thrust into another future possibility, and then another, and then another. It is pretty much like the worst type of time travel there ever was.

The feelings from these linger, sometimes completely oppositional emotions or thoughts, and the overwhelming part comes from not being able to shake them off and no longer being able to process which of those feelings is valid and which are a product of a completely made up future.

Yeah, I know. Effing weird, right? For me, if “going crazy” were a tangible feeling, this is one of the ones that I have that I would say it must feel like. Feeling a handful of conflicting things at once and being unable to discern which one to follow can be a nightmare. To me, it isn’t quite unlike losing my sense of self entirely -sitting in a crowded room of people talking and being at a loss for what to do next.

I have been listening a lot to the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast (which I would highly recommend, even though I already have a couple times) and a lot of people spend time talking about fear. Some people make decisions based on fear, or admit to not having lived a full life because of fear, and one of the things that scares me is the prospect of being old and looking back at my life, thinking, “WOW, I sure spent a lot of time afraid for no good reason! Too bad I didn’t get to do any of the things I wanted to because I was mortified.”

Unfortunately, there is no “off switch” for fear (as I learned the hard way when I had that panic attack at the top of the space needle), but we can chip at it, and I am hoping that after long enough, I can be all… you know, zen or something.

After all,

“Fear leads to anger
Anger leads to hate
And hate leads to suffering.”

Or so the good Master Yoda teaches us.

Last night as I lay in bed for several hours without sleep, distraught, with a million things going through my mind at the speed of light and those conflicting emotions pouring down on me I wondered what things inside my head would look like if I put a filter on them, filtering out all of the emotional responses and thoughts that were coming from a place of fear. 

I pulled out my mental microscope:

Added a (filter) – No Fear

And after the lens focused, there I was at a strawberry farm buying a couple flats of rather delicious strawberries. It was sunny, and I laughed.

And palm trees swayed in the breeze, with ukuleles playing in the distance, and unicorns jumping over rainbows.

(Maybe I made that last line up, but that’s how good it felt).

Oh, I thought to myself, it feels awfully nice without all of those other assholes bossing me around and making me feel confused. 

Then I promptly fell asleep.

That whole world of fear and anxiety is a weird one, and it has a way of creeping into my life when I’m seriously distracted by stress or big events or responsibility. Before I know it I am in that crowded room with no recollection of how I got there and seemingly no recallable knowledge of how to go about leaving.

How long will it be before I turn into Leonard Shelby from Memento? Because tattooing myself with exit strategies seems like a normal solution here. Who would mind a thigh covered in words of encouragement though, I mean really? Is there a better way to remind myself to use that filter?

That’s the notion I am working on exploring next.