Saturday, June 25, 2016

High Anxiety

We split the trip to Canada into 3, stopping at the Walmart in State College again, then the Elks Lodge in Lockport NY. The Lodge was great and has 4 concrete pads with water and electric next to a big soccer field and across a nice country road from the Erie Canal.

One task my anxiety disorder has had me avoiding is the braking system that goes in the car to help slow the rig down, control fish-tailing on slippery roads and provide an emergency braking system should the car break away from the tow bar.

Various RV forums have chewed over the need/requirements for "Toad" braking systems but Canada insists that we have one so I have been slowly putting mine together over the past year!

At this point I have to diverge from the travel story I've been relating over the past year.

It's confession time I suppose and I have to get something off my chest.

A year or so before I retired, I worked myself up into a frenzy. I became really anxious about work. I was convinced that I was going to be left out in the cold, and if I was I would not be able to find another job.

Being the kind of person who keeps my worries to myself, I let it build and build until I broke down one evening at home. 

I was a wreck. I saw my doctor and she put me on drugs to calm my anxiety, then had me put on extended sick leave.

She recommended I seek psychiatric treatment, but I just couldn't force myself to do it. Eventually I got so bad that I had to admit to myself that I had to do it. I found a psychologist near home and nervously went for my first visit. (The difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is basically a psychiatrist can write prescriptions and a psychologist can't.)

The psychologist turned out to be a very pleasant young lady who I immediately felt comfortable with. Having only seen TV and movie psychiatrists  in action, I imagined a couch to lie on and a bald guy with a notepad taking notes and asking me about my mother. This lady was not that guy on TV!

The reality was quite different. The questions she asked were about my life, my hobbies and interests, my work. It was like meeting a new friend, somebody who was interested in my life.
Gently she asked questions that touched on my anxiety and I began to explore the fears I had built up inside. I have to admit I was in tears on several occasions and felt like a wet rag afterwards.

I'm not a fan of any kind of drugs, prescription or not. The one I was already on was very mild but I really didn't want to be on it. I had some other things to take if I got really anxious again, but only resorted to them once thankfully.

My new friend the "Shrink" began to teach me ways to control my anxiety thru breathing and relaxation. She was a superb therapist, although sometimes I dreaded my weekly visits. She soon knew what my anxieties where and ever so gently had me facing them. Before I realized it she would tip me over the edge then show me how to recover.

Next she described how I could use meditation to control the anxiety attacks and I began twice daily sessions at home. In a quiet, darkened bedroom I would spend 15 minutes at a time calmly relaxing and trying to drive random thoughts from my mind. My little mantra became "I can control my anxiety, anxiety is part of me. Anxiety is natural. I can control my anxiety".

I was on sick leave for 3 months.

The meditation and counselling was so effective that I was able to stop the medication.
I still get anxious moments, and one of the symptoms of anxiety is an inability to finish projects I start.

Barbara has been just marvelous about the whole thing. She sees me getting wound up about something and recognizes what it is. She forgives me when I growl about some little thing that isn't really that big of a deal, and she watches me as I start prowling around the RV when it's getting close to leaving time. She knows I'm getting anxious, and she's so patient. She lets me do my thing and goes off and does hers knowing I'll be just fine once we hit the road.

Which brings me back to the braking system in the car.
I finally did some thinking about it and some meditation. Then faced with the possibility that we might not be allowed into Canada unless I finished the darned thing, I did it! I finished it and it worked.

That was a pretty big moment for me. Success is a great reward after a year of avoiding the issue.

Please understand that I'm not looking for sympathy here. I recognize now that I got myself into the whole mess by bottling up my feelings and not talking about things. I didn't get help for the same reason. Occasionally I've had the courage to tell a few close friends what happened.

I've never told our kids about it. (Maybe Barbara has? I don't ask). Please forgive me Sally and Fred.

This post then is my big step. By announcing that I've been ill and describing the steps I took to recover I feel that I'm getting another source of anxiety off my chest.

So that's it. I'm not nuts, I just don't speak out when I should sometimes. Seeking psychiatric help doesn't mean you are insane or out of control. The Councillor just understands the way a mind works and can help you to understand what it is that your particular mind is struggling with.

I'd like to say that I suddenly feel a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. It has, but this particular post has anxiety to it too. My heart says send it and my mind is resisting. If you get to read this my heart won!


  1. You are brave and strong in so many ways! I hope that taking off this yoke brings you more freedom to keep doing things you enjoy with the people you love, something we surely admire about you! ♡ ps Thank you for the painting of the white rose, so lovely.

    1. Thanks Jen, the painting is part of the healing process, so glad you like it.

  2. You are brave and strong in so many ways! I hope that taking off this yoke brings you more freedom to keep doing things you enjoy with the people you love, something we surely admire about you! ♡ ps Thank you for the painting of the white rose, so lovely.

  3. We all face issues. Yours was hidden, now its not. We wont think anything different about you. You are still a loveable teddy bear !
    Safe travels ♡

    1. Thanks Lyn, you know we love you guys too.

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  5. Right behind you brother! We all face challenges of some kind. Good for you for not taking them lightly and facing them head on. We are all in this life together.

  6. Replies
    1. Thanks Dave, I know how much you family is hurting over Zach right now, I pray daily for a full recovery for him. Give Don a hug from me if you see him.

  7. God bless you, Brian, for sharing your story. That you pushed on and got help is so amazing. This helps me deal with my own "demons" and maybe I can help someone else with your story. Thank you.
    -Sharan (from Shanty Shakers)