With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
When I was in grad school, my teacher from my Psychopathology course, the awesome Jackie Phillips from Rutgers, told us that everybody has a got a little somethin’ in them, but that don’t make it a problem until it starts messin’ with your life.
I suffer from specific anxiety. At times, crippling specific anxiety. Not panic attacks, in DSM-IV terms, though there are some relevant symptoms present. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder many years ago, and from time to time, have depressive episodes, but recently, my specific anxiety has become more forceful.
In my first book, in the chapter I Need to Know That Stupid Dog’s Okay, I shared an anxious episode. Now, in the last two months I have experienced moments of anxiety messin’ with my life.
The apartment I share with my wife is cozy but absorbs sounds quite well. On one particular night, so particular it happened to be the day Robin Williams died; we were in the front area reading separately when we heard the TV from our neighbor across the hall. It was quite loud and after 11pm. I looked over quickly at my wife and before she could respond, or stop me, I was out the door and knocking on his. My heart pounded. I knocked louder. The door opened a crack and the face of our neighbor, whom I had met only once, appeared. The exchange was short and contentious. As I turned back, his half-hearted promise still ringing in my ears, my racing heart picked up a companion. Rapid breathing. After less than five minutes, the sound from his apartment appeared to me to have increased. My hands tingled as I looked over at her, saying; I have to, and was out the door. Louder knocking probably because I couldn’t hear it over the thundering of my heart. Then again. Finally, the door opened a crack. I stood, thinking I was shaking while electricity rushed up and down my body. I delivered my most forceful plea, my voice quavering. He met my plea with annoyance and disgust, shutting the door abruptly. As I walked the few steps back inside, my whole body felt numb. I knew from experience that immobility and muteness were fast approaching. My wife, though experiencing this side of me for the first time, wordlessly wrapped tight around me. Even as she held me, I felt even worse. The soul choking moment was over but I remained susceptible to powerlessness. At age 40 I was still the 12 year old, begging my tormentor not to hit me.
It is a tough thing to accept as reality. How this specific anxiety slices through me, devastates me. Even tougher is the unexpectedness. I tell my clients/patients we don’t have control over events or the actions of other people. All we have is how we respond and our ownership in that response.
So much easier to speak for other people than ourselves.