Imagine, for a moment, the following scene:

You are a young professional at the top of your game, getting your ticket punched in the trenches of the business world, but having aspirations much larger and more grandiose.  But you have to start somewhere, and having not a single well-placed relation, that start is at the bottom. 

For now, you are the work-a-day drone.  Day to day work is mundane, but bearable.  You are part of a team, visiting various clients, serving their purposes and your firm's bottom line.  You watch enviously as your firm charges triple your daily wage for your work.  But it is no matter – you work for two things – time, and letters three: C.P.A.  In a few years, you will manage a business team and from that moment you can wait for some headhunter or entrepreneur to steal you away for a hefty bonus so you can float from this Hell's Kitchen in a golden parachute to a company for more pay and fewer hours.

But life has a way of interfering with even the best laid plans. 

It is a Friday in late May and the weather is unseasonably warm, even as close to summer as it is.  The sky is a sea of blue, the birds chirp their approval in the park.  A fine day for a walk – but your manager has different plans.

"Let's drive to a restaurant for lunch today." He says.

The intrepid good soul in you offers: "I'll drive," and then immediately realizes the inherent error.  Your car is "dirty."  Not at least in a visible sense, but you know it is so.  You try and find a moment during the day to sneak out to the car to clean it, but such a moment doesn't present itself.  You resort to making a break for your car, running in your suit coat outside of the client's building when the group is leaving, to gain 45 seconds of cleaning time.  Which, as it turns out, is just enough to move some paper towels from one seat well to the other.

"Q, it's fine!  Let's go!" says the manager.

You start the car with trepidation.  And then just when you thought things could not be worse, the low fuel light comes on, reminding you of your dire shortage of it.  There is no way that you could make it to and from lunch, from how long the light was on during the trip in.

The fear begins to take hold.  "Um, I'm sorry, I don't have any fuel – maybe let's walk to lunch today?"

No luck – your colleagues don't fall for the ruse.  "Q, just pull in to a gas station, there's one on the way, no problem!"

Seconds turn into minutes, it feels more like hours now.  You and your colleagues sitting in a "dirty" car.  What if my colleagues get dirty from this car?  What if they smell bad because of the "dirty" car?  It would all be my fault!  How could I explain it to them?  I'm just trying to help!

The gas station attendant finishes filling your car up – the first time you pulled into a full service pump in years – so you could stay in the car and make sure your colleagues wouldn't talk about how bad your car smells.

There is no smell, of course.  It only exists in your mind.  But how can you prove that there isn't a smell?  Since you can't prove there isn't a smell, you can't prove there is either!

Lunch is as hellish as the gas station, you are simply biding your time, when your colleagues aren't paying attention you take a whiff of the ambient air to see if there is a smell.  You hardly touch your food.  After what seems like several agonizing hours, it is time to go.  Seating arrangements are the same as the trip to the restaurant, thankfully, no stops are needed on the way back.

You are now in a frenzy, scared to death that you will be confronted by your coworkers about making them dirty, making them smell.  Your work suffers.  The work day takes forever to end, and when it does, you rush to your car, taking 50 test whiffs to see if there is any smell.  You identify none, but there is no way to know for sure.

It should have ended there, but your mind is more devious than that.  For the next three months you agonize day in and day out that you tracked a smell into the client – that you could lose the client, or, just as bad, you could lose your job.  You worry on the weekends about Monday, you worry at the end of each workday about the next.  You are in full panic mode for the better part of four months.  You move on to other jobs at other clients with other coworkers, and the fear does not subside – indeed, it increases – you worry now that your former coworkers are gossiping about your foul-smelling car and the problems it cost them.

It is at another client when rock bottom hits – your anxiety reaches the point where you are an hour late to work on several days.  You recently changed your medication (you have not seen a therapist at all at this point), so you call your doctor about the sleeping problem, and completely break down over the telephone.  Your doctor suggests you don't go to work that day and that you come in to see her the next day.  You run, not walk, to your car in the hotel parking lot and race home, scared to death.


That is how my story begins.  My doctor told me that for about 4 months straight I endured the highest degree of anxiety, what a normal person can only endure 15 minutes of at a time.  I used to be doggoned determined – not anymore.  Now, I am a much more broken person than I once was.  I have washed out of two jobs because I can't handle the stress, or, more appropriately, that small things have crept inside my head and scared me away from a normal life.

I am not even breaching the things that bring me down now – it took a lot of time to process what brought me down then.  But here is the basic formula – I care, deeply, about the happiness of others.  But I can never be sure that they are happy, or if I have unintentionally wronged them.  That prospect haunts me daily, in every moment.  That I could have caused harm to someone in actions now, or actions years ago – my mind is constantly searching for ways I could have hurt people, gone wrong with morals or even by the law, despite no wrong being done.

Now, I worry that I can never stand back up normally again.  I used to be the smart kid who knew all the answers – now I have been humbled – I don't even know myself, and I hate what I do know.  I have for a while thought that suicide is the projected end of this vicious cycle but I don't have a plan – I just see my future as one in total despair, having cashed in my friendships, my relationships, left with nothing save my crazy mind, imagining wrongs that I have done which would drive me, ultimately, off a cliff, or a bridge, or some other platform.

I accuse myself of having committed heinous acts towards others – unspeakable acts of evil.  Of course, I am not capable of these things – but I cannot talk myself out of these thoughts – and I hate myself for that.

I have fallen away from God, mainly because many of my obsessions began at Church.  I stopped going because the shrine of peace became a shrine of worry and fear.

So, in summary, I am broken, Godless, fearful, alone, despising myself, what I have become, what I have left behind.  Though I have left some key details out, things I am afraid of even thinking voluntarily for the so many times I think them involuntarily, you know more than many of my closest friends, the benefit of pseudo-anonymity of the internet.

  1. ancientgeekcrone 13 years ago

    I am sorry you have suffered all these things.  Rebuilding your life will ne difficult, but not impossible.  It depends on how much you want it and in the faith that it can happen to you.  Good luck, my friend.

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  2. Dent838 13 years ago

    A promising accounting career derailed by runaway anxiety?  Damn, we should grab a beer together sometime…

    Please don’t see your future as completely hopeless though.  It can get better.  My rock bottom (unless there’s a rockier bottom out there… but I don’t want to consider that) was about 7 years ago.  Those little things do creep into your head, don’t they?  They sure did for me.

    But I’ve been back to work for about a year and a half now.  I’ve got an amazing girlfriend.  It’s not like I’m some astounding success story or anything… I did just spend almost 3 hours showering and cleaning the restroom to the point of exhaustion after all… but at least there’s some level of normalcy to my life again. 

    I think you could have that too, APK.  Just have to keep fighting.

    Take care.

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