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Anxiety is so….BORING

The physical symptoms of anxiety are like the beginning of a thriller.  Your heart rate goes up. Pupils dilate.  Breaths are short. Your mind spins at maximum revs, pinging one thought into another as you search for some calming fact, some sense of direction, anything to keep going.  Were your vital stats being measured, they’d be perfectly at home pulsing up and down on a slick flatscreen , being assessed by an NSA wonk calmly plotting your demise as you hunker down in a disused Moscow bus station.

So far, so terrifying.  Except that when it’s happening for the hundredth time, early on a perfectly ordinary weekday morning, with nothing more threatening on the horizon than a slightly tricky work meeting, it’s dull. Even at the height of my anxiety, when the urge to flee any and all responsibility gripped me almost totally, some tiny voice in my head would be complaining. ‘For fuck’s sake, this again? Really??’

I’m an anxious man. Over the last three years, medically so. Meaning my anxiety – mainly about work – reached such a pitch that I could barely function. After days on end of pacing around outside the office, desperately sucking down fag smoke, pinging awake at 5 am with adrenaline sprinting through my nervous system and being constantly plagued by visions of personal rack and ruin, I would collapse into exhausted sobbing. I’ve never asked for the medical definition of anxiety, but I would imagine this comes pretty close.

In yet another example of how idiotically the brain behaves when you’re suffering from low self-esteem, or anxiety, or depression, or any of the things my particular malaise has been labelled over the last few years, I actually resented how boring it was. Before you start, I know – I wouldn’t want to swap it for the more interesting kind in a second. But the fact that anxiety made me feel the same way, all the time, was incredibly boring. The fact that it’s one of the common forms of mental illness – boring. Taking the most prescribed SSRI, at a low dose – boring. I actually started beating myself up not just for the anxiety and my inability to control it, but for the fact that it was all so half-hearted, so mundane, so everyday.  Even my mental illness is ordinary? That’s great.

I’m a bit better than I was. My boring, everyday pills have given me room to think more clearly. My boring, everybody-gets-it Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has given me a different perspective on my problems. And I no longer wake up every morning gripped by a physical anxiety that makes me feel I’m about to fight a war.  I’ve gone back to my ordinary, everyday life with its boring, fixable little ups and downs. And I’m pretty happy about it.

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7 Responses to this article

  1. Hi,

    I had this exact issue. I’ve no idea how it started but I think it was a combination of over doing it at the gym, coupled with smoking, drinking, too many late nights and taking drugs at the weekends…either way, my thyroid decided to pack in after being borderline for most of my life, and that was the moment things got messy. I couldn’t get myself to sleep at night and when I did, I’d wake up gasping for air, sleep apnoea? Probably, scary? Definitely.

    Anyway, I suffered on with it, having no idea what was going on and constantly fighting the feeling of impending doom, ectopic heart beats left right and centre, double bad with the palpatations and the nasty snow ball effect of all this just made it worse and worse. Finally the doctor let me know my thyroid was about as useful as a cheese spanner and got me on levothyroxine, but then the anxiety attacks get to the point of crippling me. I keel over in two, feel like I’m going to die for two hours and it passes, leaving me with uncontrollable hunger and a deep need to cry my eyes out for about 45 minutes. So finally reaching breaking point (not actively looking to kill myself, but questioning why I’m even bothering to carry on when my life is on hold due to spazzy attacks) I go to the G.P and demand to know what’s going on. Shall we fix the cause? Nah…let’s put you on Citalopram at a low dose. Weeeee it works, but 3 years on, I’m hopelessly dependent on them, I’ve tried weening myself off them but the side effects of electrical type brain jolts and complete inability to remember anything new are far too big for my liking, couple that with the almost immediate return of my anxiety symptoms and I’m wondering if this isn’t just a psychological impairment but an actual real life imbalance of something important in my brain box.

    Anyway, I live life about as normally as anyone could ask for now. A slightly weird sense of humour and twisted look on the world has helped me with this. I want off the SSRI’s but at the same time I’m quite content in plonking along necking them every morning to keep me normal.

    So here’s hoping things improve for you and everyone else who suffers with this nonsense.


    John 24th October 2012 at 2:01 pm
  2. It’s odd coming off Cytalopram isn’t it? I forgot to re-up and missed about 3 days worth, and it’s very peculiar indeed. Like your brain’s been suspended in heavy syrup, and lags behind the movement of your head.

    Jerome 24th October 2012 at 2:51 pm
  3. Haha, thanks, for writing that, your article completely echoed my feeling! Ive always despised drama and making of scenes, so its got very tiresome with the routine of wake up, burst into tears,panic more the later I get for work or the more people notice Im a wreck, thinking all the while ‘come on now, are we doing this again?’ I know whats set this all off, and guess I expected time and going easy on myself and rationality would mean it would stop; but am coming to accept that rational be damned, emotions will do what the fuck they like, and often in most inconvenient ways. Best I could do is think of it as annoying thing my body does that I dont always get to be in control of, and stop beating myself up about that … and lo, with happy pills as a temporary crutch and some very supportive friends and housemates, frequency and intensity are decreasing. Still bloody dull though. humph!

    Hazelthecrow 25th October 2012 at 5:08 pm
  4. Hi John – your comments above I can totally relate to. Can I ask u about your citrolapan – I’ve gone on to this and have moved off fluoxetine and think it’s working which seems good news. But my sleeping has decorated and I’m waking up a few times in the night and I’m wide awake! I’m pleased to say that I’m not worrying about anything except the fact that I’m wide awake! Why do we anxious people worry that the sun is shining?

    Does anyone else have this side affect from their SSRI and in particular citrolapan?


    Clive 28th October 2012 at 9:57 am
  5. Hey- when I started on citrlopram i stayed awake all night just staring at the walls. Which was fun. Obviously the next day was a lot harder- queue a lot of tears. However I have been on it for 18 months now and it does calm down and I am back to a beautiful 8 hrs sleep a day! Stick with it

    katie 6th March 2013 at 11:11 am
  6. I have been taking Citalopram for about 3 years now, I have my ups and I have my downs, I’m having a real down at the moment and do wonder if I’ll ever get off them.

    I take mine at night rather than in the morning as I found they made me sleepy, my Dr didn’t seem too impressed to begin with but is happy with it now as it works for me

    Sam 7th March 2013 at 9:12 am

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