I Couldn’t Have Known, but I Sure as Heck Do Now: My Journey

How to Deal with Anxiety

It’s been 59 years on the planet for this hombre. Dang, the questions over the years! How to deal with anxiety? Am I depressed? OMG, could I really be suicidal? What’s happening to me, and why? No way could I have known what was gonna’ go down in my life. But I sure as heck do now. And that’s comforting.

I wonder. Does any of that hit home? If so, it’s gotta’ feel good knowing you’re not alone in your misery, your tears.

For me, memories, reflection, and perspective come a-floodin’-in during the holiday season. And this year the waters are especially high.

So, I’ve been thinkin’, it’s time to bring my journey to you. I mean, if knowing you’re not alone in your misery and tears provides a measure of comfort; knowing the person sharing with you has his past in its place – and his present managed – has to add a yummy hope-frosting on the cake.

Now, there’s no way I could include every turn of my journey, but I can sure hit the highlights. And you know what? I’m gonna’ share with you in a series of two – maybe even three – posts. Yeah, I’m just very comfortable with letting it flow forth as it will.

What say we get started?

I wholeheartedly believe I came into this world in every way wired for mood and anxiety leanings. Crucial here is temperament – one’s characteristic mode of emotional response. It’s my opinion it’s up and running at birth – and shaped by early life experience.

Twentieth century psychotheorist Hans Eysenck believed neuroticism is one of three temperament dimensions. “Neuroticistics” are typically fairly calm to very nervous sorts. According to Eysenck, they’re prone to “neurotic” problems – issues of an emotional or mental nature that result in stress. Here’s more on Eysenck and his take.

Fits me to a t. So, then, I was presented with my custom-made canvas, and life experience would paint the portrait.

The following will get us through my high school years…

At age five, I had a tonsillectomy. I was terrified, and in an effort to escape I left the children’s ward the night before the procedure – only to run into my doctor as I turned a corner. The anesthetic was ether, and the “smell-memory” haunts me to this day. A year later it was off to first grade. I vividly remember a morning when daylight turned to darkness, as an intimidating thunderstorm approached. I freaked-out and began crying. None of the other children had the same reaction.

I was nine-years-old and we were having a home built. We went to the builder’s home one evening to go over the plans. Sitting at the kitchen table, I noticed the builder had a finger missing. Something snapped inside of me and I experienced what I now know to be an episode of derealization. My first panic attack had hit. Needing to run somewhere – anywhere – I took off for the bathroom.

Over the next few years I experienced all sorts of odd sensations. I’d feel a fullness in my throat, as if there was some sort of mass. After being examined by a doc it was determined nothing was there. I’d experience major feelings of fear and panic when confronted with threatening phenomena like severe weather watches and warnings. And going to bed at night became a real problem. I was so restless, and anxiety so impacted my breathing, that I would keep a pad and pencil under my bed to doodle – in the dark. It was soothing and helped me nod-off.

At age 16 I was selected to attend “Wolverine Boys State,” a week-long exercise in running a democratic government held on a college campus some 70 miles from home. I suffered intense homesickness. Man, there were tears and the whole nine yards. I even had to be talked out of leaving by one of the counselors.

Now I’m 17, and friends started noticing tics at my head, shoulders, and celiac (solar) plexus area. Yes, it’s at this time the intense somatic manifestations of my anxiety began to become outwardly obvious.

Hmmm, go figure. The last two bits of detail occurred during a high school experience that included earning five athletic letters, being elected sophomore class vice-president and junior class president. I was also elected to the homecoming court my senior year. In spite of these achievements, what an internal mess I must have been. I just had no idea as to what had been going on in my mind for so many years, and what was about to befall me.

Man, I could go on and on. But let’s leave it at that for now. I’ll pick things up college-forward in the next piece.

You knew I’d ask. Anything hit you between the eyes? Did you identify, even in spirit, with what I shared? If so, I want you to feel a strong sense of hope, ’cause though I couldn’t have known what was gonna’ go down in my life, I do now – and why.

I’m okay, and you can be too.

How to deal with anxiety? Am I depressed? Could I really be suicidal? What’s happening to me, and why? You’re not alone, and never really were.

More to come in short order…

Would you like to eyeball some Chipur titles? Here’s about 600 of ’em.

  • Leslie Ferris December 18, 2013, 12:08 am

    Bill, thank so much for the bravery it takes to tell your story. I am quite looking forward to the rest, and I know this series will help a lot of folks who may feel like they are the ‘only’ one. And I can relate to the ‘missing finger’ story. When I was growing up I used to know this guy who had a hook for a hand (no kidding – just like Captain Hook) and it always scared the living you know what out of me. Arg… :) Looking forward next week Bill! Thank you so much for all you do.

    • chipur December 18, 2013, 7:27 am

      I appreciate your visit and comment, Leslie. When I was so lost in the woods, I made a promise to myself that if I found my way out I’d help others do the same. There’s comfort and hope in sharing healing stories. Please keep coming back, k?

  • Patricia Miller December 18, 2013, 3:38 pm

    I love your “hope frosting” on this slice of life cake. It warms my heart and comforts me at deep levels to know the genuineness of your heart as you share with such clarity and purity of purpose. As an educator, I find myself wishing desperately I’d been a caring and insightful adult in your child life, able to help you get some hope early on that you were going to be OK and that you were not bizarre to feel and be the way you were. I am so thankful you found your way safely out of the woods and that you’ve dedicated your adult life to sharing that wisdom gained. Chipur is a testimonial to that drive and pursuit.

    • chipur December 18, 2013, 5:30 pm

      You like the “hope frosting” thing, huh? Man, I don’t know where that stuff comes from – just seems to pop on out. LOL. Hey, Patricia, thanks so much for the kind words. Don’t know how else to let it rip, but from the heart. And when it comes to matters of an emotional/mental nature, there’s just no other way to approach. No doubt, tough times as a kid/teen. And just wait ’til you read the follow up piece. Ouch! But it was what it was, and oddly enough I’d not change a thing. I mean, I sure wouldn’t be a therapist/writer had my early years been smooth sailing. Glad I found my way out of the woods, as well. Always thankful for your visits and contributions, Patricia.

  • Cathy | Treatment Talk December 18, 2013, 11:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story and how your anxiety has affected your life, Bill. How frightening for someone so young to not know what is going on inside and how to fix it. There are so many who are sharing your same issues and you are a ray of hope for them. This is wonderful work that you are doing and so needed!

    • chipur December 19, 2013, 6:17 am

      Thank you, Cathy. That means a lot, coming from someone who does wonderful work herself. Yes, frightening times. And, of course, not a whole lot of resources in those days – and you just didn’t talk about matters such as that. Nonetheless, it’s determined forward motion for us – and hope. Glad you visit and comment…

  • Lisa Frederiksen | BreakingThe December 20, 2013, 1:10 pm

    Wow, Bill – I cannot even imagine what that was like. How wonderful of you to share your personal experiences as they are sure to help someone else – especially a young person or parent of a young person – to understand what is “really” going on. You are such a gifted writer, which makes your shares especially engaging. Thank you for everything you do to help others with depression, anxiety, bipolar and other mental health related issues. You’re awesome!!

    • chipur December 20, 2013, 4:56 pm

      Hiya, Lisa! Well, it sure wasn’t a walk in the park – but I’m all the better and stronger for having endured it all. And I consider it an honor and responsibility to openly share my journey in the spirit of hope and healing for others. Never hid a thing. Aw, thanks for the props on my writing skills – feels nice. And you’re all more than welcome! I’m glad you continue to visit and participate…

  • Dr. Herby Bell December 22, 2013, 9:28 am

    Fellow bornded class of ’54…WOW..The tonsillectomy nightmare (ether, right?…Yuck) to nocturnal biofeedback in the form of doodling. DO I relate. This healing retrospective so generous to us as I think how many millions of kids and adult kids are written off as “odd”…”different”…”hopefully s/he’ll grow out of it”…and most recently, “Hey, let’s slam ’em with Ritalin and Seroquel!”

    Jesus, Bill (seasonal reference) HOW TO DEAL with the cards we were dealt (because maybe that’s why we came) IS the answer! and you’re helping untold numbers of kids and adult kids with this great, heartfelt gift of the season.

    Thanks for keeping it real, again. Much admiration and respect.

    • chipur December 22, 2013, 8:29 pm

      Hey Herby! Thank you so much for your visit and participation – and your support and encouragement. It’s means a lot to me to share pieces of my past. I mean, if just one person identifies with even a portion of it – and comes to know they aren’t a hopeless “psycho-freak” – I’m even more at peace with what went on. Your admiration and respect comfort me…

  • Kyczy December 28, 2013, 5:07 pm

    This is so honest and written with kindness and understanding. It underscores the yogi’s line that “the issues live in our tissues”. And manifest in many ways. I am reading a lot about trauma and this writing fits rights in to how we inCORPORate our experiences.

    • chipur December 28, 2013, 10:29 pm

      Hey, Kyczy! Glad you stopped-on-by and commented. I love it – “the issues live in our tissues.” Dang if that isn’t true. From personal experience, I tell my clients nothing would surprise me in terms of physical manifestations of a mood or anxiety situation. It’s all so somatic, isn’t it?! And if you ask me, the best angle for approaching relief and healing is through those physical manifestations – identifying and coming to understand them. And then it’s on to directly addressing them for intervention purposes. “inCORPORate” One of these days I’ll understand the way you use fonts casing. Fascinating, actually. Thanks again, Kyczy for your contribution…

  • I've Had Enough January 6, 2014, 9:46 pm

    At 21 I’m still coming to terms with my neurotic leanings; the OCD, the anxiety, the occasional terrible depression. In addition I am finally coming to terms with being gay which for some reason is really difficult for me. Anyway, I’m just glad to know that it may get better and maybe someday I’ll be happy and content.

    As I enter another episode of depression I just don’t know what to do, I have tried many medications yet nothing has helped. These episodes last me many months and it’s just constant high anxiety, no sleep, high stress, low appetite, and inability to relax or enjoy anything, it is unbearable.

    Thank you for sharing your story

    • chipur January 6, 2014, 10:36 pm

      You’re welcome, IHE. Sure am glad you stopped-by and shared with us. It’s been tough-sleddin’ for you and my heart goes out to you. And that’s because I know what it’s like to struggle so early-on in life. I deeply believe you have happiness and contentment awaiting you. And I’m just hoping you can hang-on to that until it begins to become reality. Please stop-by and share at will. That’s what Chipur’s about…