Posted on 15 August 2016 by Michael Dahl

Fear of Tomorrows

Earlier today I went to see my mental health med doctor. She began the visit with the filled-with-meaning question, “Michael, how are you doing?”

My answer was equivocal, “Can I be hopeful and disappointed at the same time?”

She tilted her head indicating I should say more.

I told her that with each increased dosage of one of my meds, I’ve seen incremental changes for better: more calm and confident in some situations; more normal, more often.

But still, enough of each of my days includes my demon, Anxiety. Knowing It is there keeps me off-kilter most of the time. And when It pounces, I feel terrible. My stomach turns multiple knots, my mouth dries out so I can barely speak, and my chest clenches making breathing painful, but not restricted (unless I go further into a full panic attack). Usually these feelings happen in private — the early morning or just before going to sleep.

Thought-wise, I just have this terrible sense that I am less than the person I once used to be. I fear future activities.

“You will fail,” Anxiety chides me. “You will never be more than the sum of your parts, and many of your parts are weak … you are always vulnerable to me.”

And so, today I hoped and expected that we might increase the dosage of one of my meds again: even more calm and confident in even more situations; even more normal, even more often.

But my doctor looked at me and said something like (paraphrasing), “Incremental changes are fine. But it sounds to me as if you are having a crisis of confidence. YOUR PERSPECTIVE needs to change, Michael, because perspective is really all there is. You really should return to talk therapy to benefit from what it can teach you about perspective change and anxiety-management. Talk therapy is likely where you will receive the most benefit now.”

“But Michael, you need to prepare yourself. At your core, you may just be an anxious person. And you are different than the person you were before your significant bout with Depression and Anxiety last year. Anxiety may have become even more core to who you are. You may just have to learn how to manage it.”

(Not paraphrasing) She asked pointedly, “How does this make you feel?”

“Very sad.” I responded. “Very sad.

“I want to stop fearing tomorrows,” I said. “I want to stop Anxiety from lurking right next to me so often.”

She nodded sympathetically. “Perhaps talk therapy can help you get closer to that reality. But I think that Anxiety is even more core to your new identity,” she repeated.

“Life is incremental change. Hopefully for the better.”

She said much more. We talked more about my meds and how to cushion this transition through more incremental changes with the help of talk therapy.

As I was about to leave she again asked how I was doing.

“Sad. I hope this will lead to a better me. I hope. But I don’t know if I can do it. I have my doubts.  I don’t know if I can be the best Michael I want to be.”