It’s A Control Thing

I recently had another moment of clarity it my long journey with anxiety. The truth of the matter is I am beginning to miss the klonopin. I am hesitant to say that out loud because saying it is the first step towards using it, and I know that would be a bad choice, but for ten years it squelched the anxiety so effectively that I have come to understand that much of the psychiatric treatment I sought out in that time was to counter the depressed mood the benzo was causing. What I thought was depression was mostly a side effect of the Klonopin which had completely masked the true enemy anxiety.

I have always been the type to want to be in control of a situation. It has often been something of a running joke with my friends, but it is a symptom of something that is not at all funny. I cannot let go. I need to be the in control of things. I need to know that I can make something stop if I want it to, or that there is a way out of a situation. I always find a way to at least feel as if I have control over things.

In examining the things that cause be the greatest anxiety they all have control as a common thread. I don’t like cramped spaces if there isn’t a clear exit. I need to know that I can leave. Control.  I am terrified of amusement park rides. If I get start to get sick I cannot stop the movement. Control. Speaking of being sick I have a lifelong phobia of vomiting. Vomiting is mostly an automatic bodily response. I don’t know when it’s going happen or for how long. I can’t control it. As anxiety attacks have become a regular part of my life they have the same thread. There was the incident back at Christmas when I my wife and I were separated in the Mall without the ability to communicate. I couldn’t find her and without her I couldn’t get into the car. I was trapped. I was no longer in control. The most interesting part of this has become my reaction to the anxiety attacks themselves. The attacks have reached the point that they are fueling themselves. When I am having an anxiety attack I don’t feel like I am in control of my body and I don’t know what I will do. I have urges to flee, but of course you cant run from danger that doesn’t exist. I simply don’t know what is going to happen and I fear that I will lose control of myself. Losing control of myself in the public is a scary scenario. In my experiences with depression I have never been truly suicidal, but what I have experienced is the fear that I will lose control of myself and do something impulsive without thinking.

When thinking clearly about things I know that none of us are really in control of anything. Control is mostly just an illusion, but the perception is important. In many cases the perception of control is what allows people or groups of people to function. Taken too far it can be destructive in both group and individual scenarios. When keeping everything in order is how you control your anxiety how do you find the will to let go?


5 thoughts on “It’s A Control Thing

  1. I don’t want to leave an epic comment; I’m fearful that I will. I shall try to be succinct. An obsession with control is a form of anxiety (OCD), but that’s not really what I wanted to say. Have you ever took a more dialectical approach to your anxiety? Usually when people speak to anxious people about their anxieties, the response is: “Well, I have an anxious brain.” This is true, but there is something larger (and smaller at the same time) at work in anxiety. There is a matrix of many beliefs coming together and ruling over your brain. It’s like a toxic white noise always playing in the background, growing louder during the triggering moments, and sometimes causing paralysis (i.e. the panic attack). You wrote that you are not in control of anything. That’s not true. You are in control of far more that you think. If you are toilet trained, then you are in control of your bladder and bowels. If you do not have Tourette’s Syndrome, then you are in control of your speech and language. You are in control of your will if you are able to restrain yourself from striking your wife and child during moments of frustration. You are able to operate heavy machinery if you can drive a car, therefore, you have control over your limbs and gross motor skills. If you can pick up a grain of rice, then you have control over your fine motor skills. If you can breathe without being intubated, then you can control your own respiration. Stepping back and taking stock over what you do, in fact, have control over in your own body is very important because you are not telling yourself the truth if you believe you have no control. This is the dialectical approach. It involves challenging what you tell yourself. Taking it further, you don’t like feeling trapped. Well, there is not one person on the planet who enjoys feeling trapped aside from perhaps the odd magician or person with Munchausen’s Syndrome. You must start there. Who seeks out that feeling? It’s a bad feeling. You are in no way odd for disliking it. It involves feeling that one has no options. When you’re trapped and have no options, what’s next? To the brain? Death. I could write an entire chapter on feeling trapped, out of options, and my panic response to that. My family went through a time of poverty when I was a child, and, as you know, I was trafficked and in captivity when I was 18–quite literally trapped with no options. So, when I feel trapped (even financially tight), feeling that I have no options, I am overcome with an extraordinary panic. Something akin to a fear of death. It’s paralyzing. It took me a long time to make the connection, but once I dealt with the root of it–my family’s poverty, my fear of not having enough (scarcity complex), and my issues with captivity–the panic attacks subsided. Did you know that children who were exposed to poverty have a higher incidence of anxiety? ( Your need for control isn’t just about “not feeling anxious”. You are trying to prevent something and quite possibly deal with something from the past in the present. The anxiety is probably a symptom of a false belief just as mine was. Find the belief, challenge it, and form new neural connections around the new beliefs. It does take time and very hard work because you’ll spend a lot of your time feeling anxious in order to challenge it BUT healing does come. I am in no way minimizing your journey and your present circumstances. There are so many people, however, who become passive victims to their anxiety disorders believing that they are powerless to it when that is not the case. I live with four people who struggle with anxiety, and I’m another person who struggles–at times horribly. I know from personal experience that approaching the anxiety from a dialectical approach, sometimes moment by moment, combined with a good medication (I use Topamax and Elavil) promotes empowerment and progress.

    Also, your issues with the SSRI? Who says that you have to stay on it? Many people take an effective drug for a measured period of time in order to accomplish a certain purpose, and then they stop. It’s not all or nothing. That’s another cognitive distortion–all or nothing thinking as is the catastrophizing.

    I left another epic comment….this would easier in person…if it were conversational rather than something that feels so much like a lecture. I’m not lecturing. I hope it doesn’t feel like that. My sincere apologies if it does.

    • I hear what you saying I really do. I certainly see the connection between anxiety, control, and ocd. OCD is not a issue for me, but it is so easy to see how ritual and obsessive behaviors could be used as a coping mechanism to manage anxiety. I also agree completely with your “white noise” comparison. I wrote a post here a while back along those lines and I see how that all works in my own life. You commented about how nobody likes to feel trapped and that is true, but some of us perceive being trapped much quicker and I think part of that can stem from already being too close to that panic level of white noise. I saw a post you wrote about our own narratives and this conversation is similar to that in that the way I perceive truth my not be the real truth and it is harmful to me. Perception is reality and if I could find a way to alter those perceptions I could change my reality. That is where all the hard work comes in. Challenging that perception is not something I can do alone, and i am not sure my current therapy arrangement is going to work for that either

      • I have been thinking about this question for 24 hours now and I simply don’t know. I had planned to call the doc today to get the Zoloft, but I just couldn’t do it. God I hate SSRI’s. It is inevitable I just don’t want to. I was thinking of seeing the talking doc and trying to reset our relationship to see if he can help me with some of this generalized anxiety as opposed to the for specific reason I sought him out in the first place. It is really making life hard right now.

      • I completely understand. FYI–my husband does NOT have secondary anorgasmia due to his SSRI. He’s on 50 mg, and that dose has helped him immensely. The only sexual side effect he has is decreased libido, but he’s not bothered by it. I am, but not him. He has trouble when he’s tired, but he’s always been a little like that. So, I thought I would pass that on. Anxiety is horrible. I still struggle with it, too, although not nearly as much as I used to.

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