May. 31st, 2010

scottahill: (Default)
I had my first panic attacks one summer in Williamstown, when Jen went out of town for a couple of weeks and I felt very isolated and alone. My second bout of panic attacks was as a post-doc, when I took a trip to North Carolina to meet with my advisor's collaborator: again I was on my own, and I had the added pressure of needing to get something done that week, as up to that point I was having a hard time understanding what my job was all about. I wrestled with them, saw a therapist in Boston, and learned how to deal with panic. I thought I could say I was panic-free.

But I've started to see a reoccurrence in the past month: first, a month ago when Jen and Miriam went away for the weekend, and then tonight when I am again on my own. It's not quite the same: my original panic attacks tended to be accompanied by a mortal fear, that I would pass out or die or something. My therapy taught me that this wasn't possible, and so while I feel the tightness, I know that it's "just" a panic attack. Still, the anxiety is distracting and disabling, making it hard to enjoy my time off or to do things I want to do. The fact that I haven't had panic attacks up to this point can be attributed to the fact that my freedom has been curtailed by a) Miriam, and b) a full-time teaching job. I can't deal with total freedom. I had wondered why I was so non-productive in the period before Miriam was born, when I was unemployed or only employed part-time: why wasn't I able to write multiple research papers? Now I remember: no structure. I remember something from my music theory classes: limiting oneself to a certain mode or scale or lyric can make it a lot easier to be creative.

The solution would be to impose my own structure: set a daily schedule and stick to it. But that has to come from within me, and I have great difficulty creating my own structure. I have an "external locus of control", depending on others to provide structure and affirmation. Any self-created structure seems fake and hollow, and I can't "lean" on it; I know how easy it would be for me to change.

Another aspect of the panic is just that I get lonely easily. That's probably why I like working in restaurants: there are all these people around, but with the added bonus that I can be free to ignore them. :) I like to think I'm an introvert, but in reality I'm somewhere in between: I like having people around, but I'm not so good at socializing, or setting up situations where people are around. Jen is a pure introvert so she has it easier, I think (in some ways): she's home by herself this week and I think she's probably enjoying the freedom: the ability to stay late at work, or to do stuff around the house, or whatever. She isn't so good at seeking out company, but she doesn't really need it either, so she can be a happy hermit. (That's an exaggeration of course; I know she misses the two of us.)

OK, well just wanted to get that down. I'm in a nice loud restaurant with no one within arm's length, and so I'm feeling better: time to do a little work in preparation for tomorrow.

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scottahill

September 2010

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