Posted by: cg00n | August 13, 2008

Feeling Wretched

Although the general anxiety has subsided to a fairly low-level background level I still spend most of my time feeling slightly nauseous, a bit weak and shaky.  This often lifts later in the day and seems to fit the pattern of a depression rather than an anxiety attack.  This is going to be another posting that is a bit all over the place, but I think I there are a few insights that may be worth sharing with you for your consideration.

S.H. of B.C. sent me a link to an interesting article in The Independent the other day.  It seems that people who inherit the met158 variation of the COMT gene from both parents may be at greater risk of anxiety than the general population.  Apparently this happens in about 25% of Europeans.  The way the article describes it:

The theory is that people with both copies of the met158 gene variant have a stronger dopamine signal in their brain, which results in an “inflexible attentional focus” – they cannot tear themselves away from an unpleasant stimulus…

This sounds a bit like obsession to me which further suggests that this may underly both depression and anxiety.  Depression is kind of like obsessing about there being “no way out” of some undesirable situation; everything is hopeless, all directions are blocked.  Anxiety is obsessing about an unavoidable negative future.  I know that is very over-simplified, but that certainly “feels” right.  The key, in most of these cases, seems to be  to break the obsession, or to obsess about something positive, which may be why meditating, drowning oneself in work, exercising until you drop and so on help so much.

I made myself go out for a walk early this afternoon.   I took along a plastic bag so I could pick garbage as I went.  It is a very pleasant day here:  not too hot, a little cloud, a slight breeze.  I enjoyed the walk and came back with a fair amount of assorted garbage (mainly thanks to Tim Hortons and their customers) all of which was quite fulfilling.  Still, when I came into the house I was still feeling a bit nauseous, my pulse rate was a bit high, and P said I looked very pale.  I certainly felt cruddy.

One of the things that occurred to me as I was walking was that back in late April when this whole melanoma thing blew up I did a lot of crying.  Each time I cried I felt relieved and calmer afterwards.  It was as though I was emptying something out of myself, like throwing up in a gentle sort of way.  So I told P and A that I was going to go to my room and cry for a while, just so they wouldn’t try to come and comfort me and spoil the “mood”, if you like.  Like the other day I got myself an old diaper so I wouldn’t drool on the bedsheets and lay on my tummy.  It felt good just to lie there like that.  Some time went by while I searched for a trigger.  There was certainly an urge to cry, but (like many people, I suspect) I find it hard to let it out.  Eventually it came, though.  Initially there seemed to be no particular focus except that I felt awful and just wanted it to stop – a sort of “mummy, make it better!” kind of thing.  After a while I found two major sources of distress.

The first came out as “it is OK for me to feel miserable; it is OK for me to cry”.  I interpret this as a confirmation that I tend to bottle up my (negative) feelings and don’t give myself permission to unload them.  I spent some time just repeating to myself that “it’s OK” and each time I did, for quite a while, there was a fresh wave of misery that swept over me.  This last couple of months have been quite stressful for all sorts of reasons and I thought I was handling it all very well, even when P was feeling overwhelmed by her own feelings.  Now I am thinking that I was doing an excellent job of coping while the pressure built up inside me until, after last Friday’s meeting with the surgeon, I just could not contain it any longer.  If I work at my state of mind for long enough I can probably let the pressure out slowly by staying really calm, meditating a lot and feeling cruddy for quite a while.  If I can tap the pressure reservoir more directly and cry it out perhaps I’ll get over this more quickly.  Is there such a thing as “crying therapy”, I wonder?

The second thing that set off a whole new batch of gulping and howling was “I love you and I don’t want to hurt you.”  This was clearly directed towards P and A.  I have always been very responsive to the moods and feelings of the people around me taking a lot more on board that I let myself realise.  It took me years to figure out that I am actually quite introverted:  being around people takes energy out of me.  Don’t get me wrong:  I enjoy being with my friends, going to parties, participating in social gatherings and so on.  But I don’t get energised by it.  P and A are, of course, very dear to me and I expend an awful lot of energy contributing to their happiness in whatever way I can.  The flip side of that is that I must be putting tremendous pressure on myself not to bring them any unhappiness.  So when I am feeling down I try not to let it affect the family any more than I can help.

Now it is late afternoon on P‘s birthday – another source of pressure for me 😦   I hope I am making some progress through this mess.  Several people have communicated words of support and sympathy for which, as always, I am most grateful.  I am feeling somewhat better now than I was a couple of hours ago so I guess I’ll just have to keep going in that direction.



  1. […] through all the Prozac and even through the Clonazepam which I tried when this happened last August.  Even more interesting is that at the time I wrote: This often lifts later in the day and seems […]

  2. This met158 variation of the COMT gene–I think Arthur has it. You cannot reason with him so many times when he’s sure the world will end soon (or at lest his): rationality is not involved in this.

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