Monday, April 2, 2012

Anxiety vs. fear (part 1)

I used to be really reckless, like trying to pass big lorries at night in a blizzard, getting run off the road, rescued by the police, dropped off at an out of the way petrol station, immediately flagging down another lorry driver, and hitching rides the rest of the way, picking up my auto on the way back.  Things always worked out for me because I had nothing to lose.  I was willing to ditch my auto on the side of the road because I didn't care much if it got ruined or stolen.  I didn't have any sense of a comfortable life that I was trying to protect.  I was willing to go lower and lower to get out of scrapes.

My friends often ask me now what happened to that person they used to know.  Now, for whatever reason, I can get very anxious in crowds.  The last time I was in New York, I insisted on riding in taxis, much to my friends' chagrin.  I couldn't stand the thought of going into the underground filled with swarming people.  You could say that I felt anxious about taking the subway, particularly with holiday crowds and the possibility of mob mentality taking over.

The change happened very quickly, about 3-5 years ago.  At around that time I had gotten the H1N1 virus and was sick for many months with secondary infections.  My immune system got so worn down that I could hardly be around anyone without picking up whatever germs they had and getting sick again.  I think it was then that I started to see everyone as a potential threat.  And for the first time I realized how vulnerable I was.  My health turned out to be something that I couldn't beat or cheat.  I wasn't myself at all.  It was disturbing.  Ever since then, I can get anxious.

More than the flu, though, I believe that I just happened to have gone into the elbow of my exponential shaped learning curve.  For the past decade I had been forcing awareness, probabilities and the assessment of risk into my conscious mind so much, I think eventually I just got so good at detecting and accounting for risk that I am just overly aware of things that most people choose to ignore.

I will give an example of what I mean.  When I drive long distances, to fight my ADD tendencies, I make myself hyper-aware.  If I closed my eyes, I would be able to recreate the exact scene in front of me, where every automobile is, a projection/guess of where they'll be a second from now or 5 seconds from now at their current speed, taking into account people entering or leaving the roadway, constantly aware of even the slightest possible outcome and constantly refreshing that information with Bayesian updating.  It makes me a safer driver, but it also puts me on edge.  I get a little Funes the Memorious about it.

Now that I've forced myself to be so hyper-aware of risk and probabilities of future occurrences, I feel like I cannot un-see them.  If there are a lot of things going on, it almost overloads my system.  Although I can predict rational human behavior, humans are not consistent and when they deviate from normal behavior it's usually when the stakes are highest, making the potential collateral damage to me high.  And now I have more to lose -- more money, a more stable life, a career, a relatively stable set of close associates.  All these figures get crunched in my head and make me aware of a million different risks, which added together are not negligible.  And that awareness gives me the symptoms of what is probably best described "anxiety," even though I used to be completely oblivious to all of it (or didn't care).

I may still seem reckless, particularly in circumstances in which people are irrationally afraid and I am relatively unfazed.  I still like excitement in my life; I tend to seek out new and potentially dangerous experiences.  But as I have aged, I have admittedly retreated into more a life of the mind in which my excitement and thrills come more from mind games or intellectual pursuits where the reward/risk ratio is high.


  1. Everything I have just read in this post seems like he is falsely rationalizing his Anxiety. To sum my post up, his anxiety/paranoia(causing him to see all potentials) is not caused by a conscious shift in his perspective due to being sick and avoidance of people with germs.... but the fact that being sick, especially with a dangerous Virus such as H1N1 for MONTHS will cause severe damage to your immune system, aka your nervous system. Your immune system is ultimately what keeps you calm, it's what keeps you focused - the immune system is the mind. The H1N1 damage his immune system, and his mind - nothing that can not be recovered from though with persistent effort. It's like having a broken leg, after you get your cast off you have to learn to rewalk again. His mind was damaged, and weakened from the virus, he needs to take an effort to reheal it - much harder than learning to walk again.

    I get the vibe that he is rationalizing anxiety. Anxiety is often a symptom of a hyperactive mind, that is unable to stay calmly focused on what it is doing. Anxiety is common in intelligent people. You can't be anxious unless you are able to predict what could possibly come. The fact that he gets worried about things that could happen, and sees "Everything", meaning he is paranoid, this also means his mind is not calm.

    From everything I've read, it does not seem like his perspective on people has changed since his fear of germs when he was sick and his immune system was weak. I believe his perspective on people changed, along with his "mindset" due to the H1N1 Virus.

    Most people do not realize that a weak immune system means a weak mind. When you are sick for months at a time, your mind gets weaker. You are unable to stay focused, calm, and you become paranoid and fearful of many things that could happen. You begin to see "everything".

    Children can recover from this easily, adults it's much harder, but not impossible. It is very possible for an adult to heal their mind with an active effort and intent on doing so, with cardio exercise, meditation, etc.

    1. This comment made me stop and think.

      I am assuming today's post was ME's own thoughts as opposed to a reader's, saying that because it was surprising to me and I am not sure exactly why.

      I actually bought ME's rationalization first and then one I read this comment I felt there is indeed a chicken-egg thing going on between anxiety and the rational mind.

      I also am a several-step thinker, meaning I naturally think of potentialities of what I observe. I never played chess but I'd think chess-players must live life like this naturally as well, out of habit if nothing else.

      If you physically suffered from a disease that you knew was because of a contact with a source, it is only natural to be alert from that point on. I'd call it paranoia only if you're locking yourself at home and avoiding all contact.

      Subway has a lot of potential problems, no matter where it is. I don't consider avoiding the subway paranoia but a choice. I am more afraid of the drivers up there and I use the subway if there is the option. We all make assessments all the time, to exaggerate and overanalyze and label them with extreme titles such as anxiety and paranoia is not good for our well-being.

    2. Yes the circumstance would make them more aware, causing them to be aware of all the thing that could go "wrong". The different between Paranoia and Being aware of things that could go wrong is one thing, the overestimation of risk.

      A damaged mind, that is unable to think in a focused calm manner, will have feelings of all the things that can go wrong and go to unnessisary lengths to prevent it. This would be the case of the writer. The writer clearly seems to be overly worried and concerned with all these things that could go wrong, leading me to believe that he is not simply 'aware' of what could happen, but he is unable to think calmly and think in reasonable terms - making me believe it's not just being caused by his shifting in perspective on germs, but by damage to the emotional centers in his mind that allow him to be calm and relaxed knowing what could go wrong.

      On the other hand, A mind that is simply, made more aware of what could go wrong, would not suffer any degradation in calmness, and rational decision making, as this would not have much effect on emotional centers.

      There are millions of things that could go wrong in any scenario, the only thing an emotionally healthy person would do is go about life, prepare for what is most likely to happen, and live in a normal manner - not develop habbits of avoidance that stem from paranoia caused by an injured immune system.

  2. That sounds fascinating, to be honest. I too, used to be incredibly reckless and.. just laid-back with my life, I guess. For a long time I had the notion that I was destined to be some person of great importance in the world, just because the events of my life were so fucking weird that they didn't seem to lead to any other conclusion. I *couldn't* be normal, I believed, even if I wanted to. (Many people would still agree with me, as far as eccentricities go.) So I tried to live like a rockstar on unemployment benefits, more or less. Now I'm absurd financial failure digging myself out of the pit I dug myself into. One difference, though: I don't get anxious around crowds of people, just possibly uncomfortable when all of the attention is on me. People, for the most part, are just bumps in the road to help or hinder my progress.

  3. Two people posting long replies, only a few minutes apart.

  4. Too stupid to see the point ? Or you are the poster. Which is equally retarded.

    1. The only obvious point I saw was that you were trying to imply that the same person had written both replies. I wrote the second. Nfi who wrote the first.

  5. Who gives a fuck? Where do you live? Not in a free country? Musing with onesself is allowed and if people want to live talking to themself cuz no one else is around you're going to point that out as if the person didn't know they were doing it? You telling them something they don't already know serves what purpose? You're the forum manager? It's your job to let the others know? What are you afraid will happen if they are unaware?

    1. Take what you said to Anon, and apply it to yourself aswell.

    2. I do and I have. Haha. I thought about the very same thing after I pushed send.

      Thank you!

      Usually when I get pissed off at someone else's stuff it is all really about me.. i have had friends tell me I make a big deal about their stuff all the time, but I know it is about me lol. That is narcissism? I've always thought that was weird. It isn't enough I want to give my friend advice, I also want to protect them like a momma bear when the baby bear is really me not them.

    3. --
      Or did you mean that it is ok to be alone ?

    4. I think it's s form of narcissism, anon. Even though you say you're protecting them, if it's about you, you say, they're an extension of yourself, really.

    5. Uggh. I have anger issues. I think i like to be angry more than other things because it's the easiest thing to grab and I feel alive. I will let some of it go tho. :)

  6. ME You are a totally fascinating Out of the box person! Pooh to Eden.

  7. I used to think only things that drive me were fear and rage dunno what hapened to fear perhaps the sociopath's excitment(grandiosidy) is a way of interpreting fear

  8. M.E. maybe the anti-virals you got for H1N1 got rid of the toxo gondii in your amygdala. seriously.

  9. Being sick for months can do almost anyone's head in. When you used to be young, handsome and manipulative, you were 'invincible' and able to control practically anyone and anything in your life. However, lying in hospital at the mercy of nurses, doctors, physios, etc.. who tell you exactly what to do and when, whilst poking and prodding you when they feel like it.. well, it makes a lot of people I've seen face their mortality head on. No matter how rich or powerful or how perfect your smile might be, you can't stop those little pathogens getting you. You can't stop your body betraying you. It's one of the reasons practically every health care worker I've worked with becomes paranoid on some level. I've seen staff specialists in oncology freaking out every time they get a serious headache because they're convinced it's a Glioblastoma multiforme (nasty brain tumour). Every back ache is a metastasis.. Physios working in neuro were always convinced they had a micro stroke on the weekend, since they kept falling down, slurring and vomiting (whilst drunk of course).
    The same happens to a lot of patients too. I've looked after a pro boxer. Strongest, most independent, assertive man reduced to a fearful, snivelling wreck, completely reliant on his girlfriend, by a little virus. And this was even after he was completely 'healed' by us.
    Unfortunately for you in this case, ME, you seem to be far smarter and more intuitive than the average person, so it will take you longer to really process and deal. Try some meditation or yoga. I've been told it helps.

  10. I'm curious; do sociopaths enjoy spending time with other
    sp? Do they prefer sociopaths company over others? Not
    a trick question -

  11. ME wrote..

    More than the flu, though, I believe that I just happened to have gone into the elbow of my exponential shaped learning curve. For the past decade I had been forcing awareness, probabilities and the assessment of risk into my conscious mind so much, I think eventually I just got so good at detecting and accounting for risk that I am just overly aware of things that most people choose to ignore.

    apparently, i can't bear public transportation any more either. i am back to driving - it takes longer and costs more but an hour of perfumy musical peace is better than 30 minutes of nervous human flesh pressing hell.

    i just assumed it was the by-product of getting older. people crowded together into small spaces, odorous, shuffling, breathing and sweating, are gross! i think i just didn't see it all so clearly when i was younger. also, i felt invincible somehow to all the bacteria and viruses sliding around the walls, surfing the saliva waves in the air. like you could just peel it away with a good shower.

  12. i would say meditation makes it worse for me.

    maybe there is something to being hyper aware that doesn't work with mind numbingly crowded places? instead of a kind of dumb comfort that you would expect from being with your herd, there is mental asphyxiation from all the twitching limbs, body sounds and anxious glances.

    i used to like using public transportation because it was a way to people watch. :(

    i think i would still enjoy going to a carnival maybe...

  13. I've seen staff specialists in oncology freaking out every time they get a serious headache because they're convinced it's a Glioblastoma multiforme (nasty brain tumour). Every back ache is a metastasis.. Physios working in neuro were always convinced they had a micro stroke on the weekend, since they kept falling down, slurring and vomiting (whilst drunk of course).


  14. I was once air lifted out of the city of New York's water supply made the papers and everything in 2001-2ish beat that M.E.

    1. Awesome, so everyone knew just how much of an idiot you are. There is something to be proud of

  15. how would you get in the water supply? you must mean sewer system.

  16. Replies
    1. Exactly. Reservoirs are easy access for the most part. Most are open in some states. Canada has most if not all of theres covered, and protected.

      So he jumped into a reservoir, woop D doo

  17. so how does that work? is reservoir water still to be treated or ready for delivery and consumption? you'd get bird poop, lots of bugs, and little dead feathered bodies in an open reservoir, wouldn't you?

  18. Sounds like Complex or Chronic PTSD
    Driving reckless for thrills
    Avoidance/isolation from others
    Anxious in crowds

    OCD as well possibly... get looked at in case of PTSD incident causing your symptoms.

  19. You know, much of what you said resonated perfectly with me. The difference is that my anxiety didnt just come out of nowhere all of a sudden, it has been a steady increase over time. And that incredibly reckless behavior just dissapated a few years ago as well, reason unknown.


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