I’ve been diagnosed with two anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. If you’ve read my previous post about my anxiety disorders, you’ll already be familiar with a lot about them. But, I didn’t cover all their triggers and weirdness of my anxiety disorders, which I thought I’d do now.
As I pointed out in my previous post, my body developed a number of issues with the consumption of anything that would affect my homeostasis. I couldn’t use drugs anymore because weed would trigger a psychotic episode if I tried to smoke it. Even my drug of choice, ecstasy, would cause a psychotic episode if I used it twice in a night.
But the most annoying part was how substances you wouldn’t even consider as having any real effect on your body would also trigger psychotic episodes. I couldn’t drink Red Bull or take anything with caffeine in it. Even taking pain killers two days in a row would cause me to have a psychotic episode all day on the third day.
Not even the medications I was being described to stop me having my psychotic episodes would work. Every medication I was prescribed would actually cause me to have a psychotic episode instead (more detail about that here).
I went through a hell of a lot of trial and error trying to find out what I could and could not take, and how much I could take before it would trigger a psychotic episode. For example, I could drink Jägerbomb’s if I remained drunk enough that the amount of stimulant in my system doesn’t mean I felt sober. Thus, the amount of Jägerbomb’s I could have was very dependant on how drunk I was before, during, and after drinking them.
I found this out the hard way when I drank myself sober (so to speak, I’d still be legally drunk if breathalysed) and slammed into a psychotic episode. I was so alert and weird from the amount of Red Bull I drank while knocking back one Jägerbomb another, there was no chance of me being able to get drunk again. The alcohol had lost the battle to the amount of stimulant in my system. Thus, full-blown psychotic episode.
It was this kind of unintentionally trial and error that also lead to me figuring out I couldn’t have pain killers two days in a row. Although I’m lucky this doesn’t seem to happen anymore. But it did last about a decade before it stopped affecting me when I took painkillers for more than two days in a row.
This was lucky because when I had my tonsils removed, I developed a massive infection. The infection was around the area of where my tonsils use to be but had also spread to my gums and the rest of the inside of my mouth. It was so bad that I couldn’t even drink water without taking a tonne of pain killers. I couldn’t even open my mouth wide enough to fit anything bigger than half a centimetre between my front teeth. It was a month before I could eat without taking painkillers.
However, when I did get my tonsils taken out, the drugs they used to knock me out for the operation did trigger a psychotic episode. Once the drugs started to wear off in the post-op ward I felt a psychotic episode creeping up, getting stronger and stronger with each passing minute. There was nothing I could do to stop it happening. It was an extremely unpleasant experience made worse by the ward nurses who didn’t care one bit about me having a psychotic episode (Doctor Mocks Patient: Article).
Over the many many years, my anxiety disorders have changed and grown. They’ve expanded to include some temporary fears as well as a number of permanent ones.
One of my lesser triggers is my breathing. This is largely a problem because I always wear headphones to listen to music while I’m out. I use my headphones to block external sounds relating to my other triggers. This is why these thoughts about my breathing pop up. Anyway, I can get fixated on if I’m breathing weirdly or not. I’ll also start to control my breathing through fear that my nose might be whistling while I breathe.
I wear headphones while I’m out so I can use music to block out the sounds of other peoples. This is because the sound of people whispering or laughing can trigger my hallucinations, which can escalate into a psychotic episode.
I can’t overstate enough how much I hate people laughing around me unless I’m part of the conversation, or how much I hate whispering. It is a huge trigger for me and drives me nuts, as it kicks off a truck full of intrusive thoughts and hallucinations.
I also can’t stand it when a stranger looks at me for too long, especially if they start smiling. This triggers a wave of self-doubt about my reality and is another big trigger for me.
If you thought my breathing was a pretty weird trigger, then I present to you a new contender, walking. I have anxieties about how I’m walking and can become paranoid that I’m walking weirdly, such as bobbing up and down too much with each step. Which, ironically, normally make you walk weirder than you were because walking is generally an automatic behaviour which you no longer have to think about to do. So when you think about walking it can affect this automatic behaviour.
Smelling bad smells is one of my bigger triggers. If I smell a rubbish bin or some bad smell like that, then I’ll experience hallucinations. They’re normally pretty mild and go quickly if I know where the smell is coming from, if I don’t know, then that’s a different story.
One of the weirdest anxieties I developed was a temporary phobia of water when I was walking past a canal. Never been an issue before, although I do dislike swimming even though I can swim. I was walking along a canal to get to a friends house and I had a panic attack the whole time I was walking by this canal. I couldn’t focus on anything other than being next to the canal and was suffering from tunnel vision. It was the strangest thing. This anxiety didn’t last long, and I never had that happen again. Although, it did leave me with a mild discomfort whenever I cross bridges since that happened.
The most annoying thing about my triggers is that when they are activated and I experience hallucinations, they then become triggers for my other triggers. Basically, they function as secondary triggers for my other none activated triggers. This is down to the fact that I can’t trust my own sense of reality once I start to hallucinate. It triggers my original fear from the first time I had a psychotic break, whereby my fear is that my perception of me and my surroundings is no longer the same as everybody else’s.
My Appearance Anxiety
I’ve always had a certain level of anxiety about spots appearing since I was a teenager. Since my teenage years, I’ve had problems with getting disgusting whitehead spots randomly appearing without warning. But this hadn’t quite become a part of my anxiety disorders, not fully.
However, a couple of years ago, without warning, this suddenly became my dominant fear for my anxiety disorders. I was at an event being held at my university to welcome our post-graduate class at their fresher’s event. During the middle to talking to some girl, I suddenly started to panic about if my face was covered in spots.
Now, I’ve always had thoughts like that pop into my head, but they’ve never triggered a panic response before. If I hadn’t been drinking at this event, it would have lead to a full psychotic episode. Luckily, it wasn’t able to escalate to a psychotic episode due to the alcohol in my system: thank god for free drinks at the event.
The reason this had become my dominant fear my anxiety disorders were now based on, was due to all the work I’d done on myself. I’d been using a lot of psychology techniques on myself over the years to overcome the original foundation of my anxiety disorders. This effort had been paying off. however, it was like my anxiety disorders knew they had a vacant space to fill, and at that very second when I was talking to that girl, it had found something to fill that void.
My anxiety disorders have since shifted back to a toilet-related anxiety again, recently. This is due to the problems caused by my physical health problems. The issues around my fears I’ve got disgusting whitehead spots on my face is still there, but it’s no longer the dominant factor. It’s not gone back to pre-dominant fear levels either, unfortunately. So yeah, now my anxiety disorders have new King which is now all-consuming and debilitating.
Warning, Graphic Toilet Troubles Discussed Ahead
The main fear that underpins my anxiety disorder is that my perception of reality is different from everyone else’s. Thus they would be aware of something about me that I wasn’t, such as a loss of bowel and/or bladder control. Although I’ve never experienced this happening, this is the fear at the core of my anxieties.
Thus, whenever I would leave the house I’d be plagued by thoughts of, “have I wet myself?” and these thoughts would trigger hallucinations. These thoughts and hallucinations, if I couldn’t cope with them, would then trigger a proper psychotic episode. All my hallucinations would then try to trick me into believing I’ve wet myself when I hadn’t. As each of my senses starts to experience hallucinations, they would trigger a hallucinogenic response in another sense, and so on.
Although I’ve never once wet myself, not yet at least, my psychotic mind would make my reality feel like it had. This would happen every single time I left the house, and it took me about 15 years to reduce this to a manageable level.
The intrusive thoughts that came with this was a nightmare, it was a straight up constant barrage of paranoia aimed at everything and everyone around me. No amount of rationalising would make it stop. In fact, my efforts to battle my irrational thoughts with logic just made it worse. I couldn’t beat my intrusive thoughts.
Eventually, I realised there was no point fighting a battle I couldn’t win, and instead adopted a new strategy. Instead of fighting my intrusive thoughts head on, I’d instead leave the thoughts unchallenged. This one, albeit unpleasant, strategy single handly made the biggest improvement in my mental health, ever.
Everyone who has taken illegal drugs would have heard stories about someone getting so wasted that they wet themselves. For example, because they believed they were in the toilet but in reality, they weren’t. When I had my first complete psychotic break from reality, where I began to doubt if what I thought was real was actually real, these stories combined with the bodily sensations I was having at the time of the event (Drug-Induced Psychosis And My Anxiety Disorders): all of which became the core of my anxieties.
I use to fear wetting myself, and to a lesser extent at this stage, that I might lose bowel control as well. But now the core fear is losing bowel control, due to what my physical health problems, and experiences of trying to exercise, and constant upset stomach.
The New Anxiety King
Now that I have a constant upset stomach and often needing to go to the bathroom several times when I leave the house, the fear of losing bowel control is my biggest fear. This is now the reigning King of my anxiety disorders, meaning instead of fearing having a face of disgusting whitehead spots or wetting myself, I now fear losing bowel control instead (I really hope the doctors can figure out what’s causing this digestive and bowel problems).
This change was triggered by the problems I’d been having with my physical health. I have a range of symptoms that are linked to my autonomic disorders and digestive problems. Whenever I try to exercise, within the first few minutes, I’ll feel incredibly dizzy, hot, my muscles will start to go weak, my eyes will start to feel strange, my balance starts to go, I’ll feel nauseous, and I have a few minutes to get to a toilet before my bladder and bowels open up. I’m then stuck on the toilet unable to move for about 40 minutes: it takes all my effort not to black out.
A night of heavy drinking use to be the only cause of such problems with my bowels the following day in my past: that was my hangover.
Anyway, this would happen every time I would try to work out. The unusual part of all this is that I’d be able to carry on working out after this 40-minute experience. I mean, I’d feel like absolute shit while I did, but I was still able to. I was determined not to let this stop me trying to get back into shape, and was going to the gym four times a week. Eventually, I gave up because I could no longer handle how shit this made me feel, how ashamed I felt, or how stupid I felt for being in the toilet for 40 minutes every time I went to the gym.
It seems this negative reinforcement of my experience of trying to get into shape was latched on to by my anxiety, becoming the new King fear of my anxiety disorders. Yay me.
The most annoying thing about this is that I basically find it difficult to evacuate my bowels unless I want to leave the house. Going from being constipated to having diarrhoea. I can spend about half an hour on the toilet, and that’s just when I’m getting ready to leave. I’ll often need to go halfway to where I’m going, and/or when I get there. Such a nightmare.
So yeah, that pretty much covers the weirdness of my anxiety disorders and brings you up to date on where my anxiety disorders now stand. I hope I didn’t disgust you too much with the talk about my bathroom habits.
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Unwanted Life readers.