Anxiety Disorders/Extreme anxiety increasing as my life gets better
I have been feeling shortness of breath for 5 days now. I am a little allergic but have no asthma, bronchitis or anything like that. I have just had my yearly check-up and everything is fine with my health. But I have been going through some intensely stressful times and am very anxious. I have been trying to keep myself calm and last month started taking Clonazepam (only 0.5 mg) at night to help me with severe insomnia (and it has, wonderfully). I have had regular therapy and counseling before (which have both helped me and made things worse) and have never been diagnosed with any disorder, and there's no reason to think I might have a disorder, as I'm generally clear-headed and go on about my life normally - I believe the stress and anxiety I'm going through is circumstantial.
On Wednesday, when the shortness of breath started, I received troubling news which involved a big physical and psychological trauma I suffered 6 years ago. On Saturday I still felt like I couldn't take a deep breath and I guess the extreme anxiety from having to hand in important work and not being able to focus and finish it made things more severe. I started hyperventilating and grabbed a paper bag to breathe into it - the only thing I could think of doing because I've seen it in movies, as silly as it might seem. The breathing started to get better, although I was still short for air, but I started feeling lightheaded and like I was about to faint. I couldn't stop crying. I sat outside and tried to calm myself down, but my fingers, hands and eventually forearms started to tingle to the point of becoming numb. I felt like I was going to throw up, but couldn't, and then started feeling cramps in my legs. I was crying and shaking like mad, but completely aware of the situation and thinking rationally about how to solve it. I made decisions about the work I was supposed to hand in and about other commitments in my head that would allow for me to end the anxiety and relax, and I decided not to take a Clonazepam pill because I felt like I had been holding things in for a long time, unable to let out the stress I was feeling, so I thought crying would be a good release. But as things started to get worse (like my hands feeling numb) I started considering getting myself to a hospital. So I went into the bathroom and took a cold shower, which made me feel better and calmer. The whole thing probably lasted around 40-50 minutes. So I gave up all my activities for the rest of the day and just stayed in bed and made it a point to rest and watch fun movies for the rest of the weekend to take my mind off of things. On Sunday, the next day, still feeling very anxious and short for breath, I decided to take 1mg of Clonazepam during the day, but that only made me a little sleepy. I still felt very anxious, although I stayed in bed and avoided all stressful matters, and it didn't help my breathing at all.
In other words, I believe I had an anxiety attack due to already being very stressed out and receiving unsettling news on top of it. I have been a mildly anxious person all my life - I believe the way I was raised, with extremely high expectations and rude displays of disappointment from parents, school and friends, made me an insecure and nervous person. I feel like I dedicated my life to making others happy and now am treated like everyone's problem-solver, most notably in my family. Recently I started learning to say "no", but that has only made people show me more aggressively how little they think of me (I believe my family tries to use that as a form of control). Rationally I think I can handle it, but it is obviously taking a toll on me emotionally.
Additionally, I feel incredibly frustrated for not having become the person I wanted to be. I feel old at 28, have a constant feeling of running out of time. I have not pursued the career of my dreams, have no income and live with my parents because I can't deal with the expectations of a boss on a real job (although I have always been very hard-working when I managed to cope with that), have always stopped relationships just when they started getting serious because I can't deal with promising to like someone. I have only fallen in love once, although today I can see that it was 15% love, 85% dependence and trying to be perfect so he would love me back.
I have only recently become aware of these things - I was miserable for most of my life without understanding why - and have been trying to change. I can say that I am at the best point of my life right now: I am not happy, but I feel, for the first time, like I'm my own person and am in the process of finding out who that might be. For the first time in my life, I feel sadness, but not angst. I don't feel the despair that I have felt through my entire life, and I can even sometimes feel genuinely good about myself for seeing that the person I'm becoming is someone I'm proud of. I can, for the first time, see light at the end of the tunnel. I can see that I CAN be happy once I find my identity and change my life accordingly.
Which is why I don't understand why I am so anxious. The anxiety attach passed and I have made up a new schedule to help me cope with the stress on short term at least, cancelling commitments and focusing on personal matters that I believe will help me once dealt with. But I am still having trouble breathing, I feel like I can't take a deep breath and feel incredibly upset. I have been scared of doing the work I need to do for school, although I'm pretty confident that I can do a great job and am incredibly interested in the subject. I haven't even been feeling excited about personal projects which are what's keeping me going in this process of becoming my own person. I feel more and more stressed out and can't really rest no matter how much I try, because I have things bothering me in the back of my head that I can't forget or not feel guilty about.
I feel like the stress has escalated to the point where if I hear keys on the door, a sign that someone arrived at home, it will ruin my entire day, especially if someone arrives earlier than expected, and even though I keep my door closed at all times and my relatives have been advised not to speak to me (although it's very hard to get them to respect this even for one day).
How can I heal when this is my situation? I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and unfortunately won't be able to move out for a long time still (here people only move out to get married). I have good friends, but feel lonely anyway, and I miss something that I think I never even had: loving someone and being loved back, being in a healthy relationship where you can count on the other person and be who you really are. I am trying to be strong, but don't know how to become my own person in these circumstances.
It appears that your present anxiety was triggered by your recent bad news experience.
<quote> I received troubling news which involved a big physical and psychological trauma I suffered 6 years ago. <end quote>
You never said what that traumatic experience was, but by what you were describing, you and your body were beginning to re-live it. The shortness of breath and the trembling and numb hands is symbolic of a fear of life and having no control over your experiences; which leads me to your next statement…………………………………………………..
<quote> I have been a mildly anxious person all my life - I believe the way I was raised, with extremely high expectations and rude displays of disappointment from parents, school and friends, made me an insecure and nervous person. I feel like I dedicated my life to making others happy and now am treated like everyone's problem-solver, most notably in my family <end quote>
You have been living your life for others, trying to make them happy so that they would not be angry an attack you, and at best, maybe even show some love towards you. You need to realize that you will never.. .repeat… NEVER meet the expectations that others place on you, or that you have placed on yourself, as there is no end to what is expected of you.
That takes me to the last part of your email where you said………………………………………….
<quote> I feel old at 28, have a constant feeling of running out of time. <end quote>
<quote> I was miserable for most of my life without understanding why - and have been trying to change. I can say that I am at the best point of my life right now: I am not happy, but I feel, for the first time, like I'm my own person and am in the process of finding out who that might be. <end quote>
Yes you are running out of time, but not in the way you think. You have been trying to fix your problems using denial and prescription drugs, and as you can see and feel, both only offer temporary solutions. Now you need to consider doing the opposite of what you have been doing. As an example…. if pushing a door doesn’t open it, then try pulling it. If denial and drugs don’t work, then ending your denials and not taking drugs will work. Now while that is a simple statement, there is far more to it, too much to post in even a 100 emails. But that doesn’t mean that you are on your own to find a solution.
While there is no quick fix to healing what has been experienced in the past, it can be healed, and healed permanently. Now healing and empowering yourself is also related to you have the feeling that you are running out of time, as well as being in the process of finding out who you really are, and your purpose in life.
If you are interested in learning how to heal and empower yourself, you can download my three free eBooks from my website at http://shenreed.com/index.html
where I share (1) the Meditation tools I use, as well as (2) the insights and three healings that I’ve experienced. I also share (3) my personal healing journey and the trials and tribulations I went through to heal the parts of me that I was denying and hating. I suggest that you begin with Book 2 and read chapters 19 – 22, as that will give you a background of what is involved.. I’ll be updating book 2 and publishing it in a couple of weeks and there will be a lot more information in it than what is there now. If you need more information, you know where you can reach me.