Sunday, February 10, 2008

Audacity of Hope?

First, apologies for the absence and cause for concern. Bottom line is that we’re still here, we’re OK, and we’re still planning on landing this month and moving in July. (Insert heart in throat here.)

Well, there’s a lot I want to share … and I get all caught up in what I want to say and find myself unable to say anything … So, this post is a start at least. It's not complete and not in very good order.

In 2007, I deliberately took some risks in my life because I decided that I wanted to get away from a usual pattern of avoidance and then depression because I’m not really doing what I want or being who I am because my focus is on avoiding anxiety. By the end of the year, it had built up, the Big Move was looming, the weird energy and pressure of the holidays were in the air, and the darkest season (least daylight) was just beginning. Boom.

In late November through January I found myself with near-debilitating anxiety. I’ve come to realize that I have an anxiety disorder. (Of course, I’ve known that I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my life.) I say “near-debilitating” because I still went to work and I wasn’t hospitalized. I was in a great deal of pain and found that it took nearly all the will I had to do what I must. What it felt like was surging electricity through my veins with occasional jolts of lightening. And symptoms that I have had before (trouble concentrating, obsessive thoughts, insomnia, tears, shaking) were all at the same time and more extreme.

Also, in mid-January, Alan’s grandmother died. Although she was very old, she was not ill and the news caught us by surprise. She was the last survivor of our 10 grandparents. There was a special bond with Alan, as she helped raise him for a few years after his first mother died. It was a loss for me, too, as we have visited her annually since Alan and I have been together. Although a very conservative Christian, she accepted me over the years as Alan’s spouse, always addressing letters to both of us and including me in other ways. (The inclusion did not extend to the funeral. Mourning a loss and being a gay man in one of the most conservative churches in Texas: I guess even someone without an anxiety disorder would find that challenging.)

Alan is still accepting the loss, having difficult moments when reality hits. To make things worse, we've just learned that his father has suffered two heart attacks in the past couple days and has serious arterial blockage. Amazingly, his dad is already back at home and doing well, although he has to go back for more stents later this month.

It’s not easy to write about the anxiety issue and I’ve thought about whether I should. First, yes, I did disclose anxiety and depression as issues for the immigration medical exams. So I want people to know that it’s not a barrier to being accepted.

At this point, it’s just categorized as “generalized anxiety disorder”, although I have some classic symptoms of PTSD and I’m almost embarrassed to say so because people associate that with huge horrible experiences like war and rape. For me, it was run-of-the-mill prolonged fear/terror at home and at school – mixed with DNA and learned thought patterns and behaviors from a truly unhealthy family. When I’m thinking of what to write about this, it’s hard to know what the line is between minimizing (denial) and exaggerating (drama).

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me and I don’t want to feel sorry for myself; I can’t change the past. What I want is to heal and be more fulfilled in my life and that can’t happen unless I acknowledge some things and know what’s going on.

Whether I like it or not, whether it’s fair or not, it does take active treatment to deal with this. I am in psychotherapy and trying a medication that is so far helpful, but has lots of unpleasant side-effects that are a challenge. I’m still not great with focus and have only in the past week really been able to pick up a book and read (for example). Anyway, though, in general, things are looking up.

I don’t expect to be “cured” by the time we start living in Vancouver, but I do hope to have made significant progress that the move will not just be to a new environment, but a fresh start.