When Anxiety Overrides Anticipation or Surviving Springsteen


It’s becoming more difficult lately to put a smile on my face, I’ll grant you that. 
I look at most of the blogs in Pittsburgh Bloggers which I write alongside and other blogs of this type and I see most of them tend toward more uplifting subject matter or practical advice. Outside of them, to be popular among mental health community blogs, as I have written before, it helps to write stories of triumph and happiness (however illusory) if one wants to be popular and published in the mainstream.
It also helps to be young and photogenic, as I have also written before, although I’m sure people will use that tired old defense of jealousy to defend against that charge. A short perusal of these blogs is all one needs to back up my assertions. I also write at levels far above the sixth grade comprehension that has been so in vogue since America decided dumb was more profitable. My work would be difficult to edit down to ‘see Spot run’ level.
I have decided to be who I am and write what I believe is true for myself.
So today, a bit of introspection and perhaps a clue for those who ask the question: how do you know when you are in bad shape mentally?
One of the aspects of mental illness of any sort that fascinates people is how self-aware we are in measuring whether we’re in a better or worse state, depressed, manic or mixed episode of bipolar, and in need of greater self-care. It’s a good question because many people with mental illness either live alone or with people that aren’t really trained to help the afflicted person in their various stages of funk.
For that reason, among others, many afflicted people land up quickly going to their doctors or a mental health ward. The unlucky ones get arrested or worse.
Tomorrow night, my wife and I have tickets to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. This will mark, with my bad memory as a caveat, about the seventh time I will have seen the band live. It is an experience, as a longtime fan, that I have always eagerly anticipated. There’s nothing like seeing Springsteen live. Ask anyone.
Except now. 
I had tickets for the show last winter here in Pittsburgh. While serving my banishment from work and not knowing whether I would lose my job, I decided the responsible thing was to sell the tickets to a friend. 
I swore that no matter what, that wouldn’t happen this time, as opportunities to see the band live are getting fewer and farther between.
But rather than being excited, I’m worried. 
I know – how in God’s name can you NOT be looking forward to this?
Try this:
I hate going downtown. The traffic bothers me and I feel unsafe. So my wife is driving.
I got the closest parking to the venue I could but still am worried about getting mugged walking to and from the parking lot. 
I no longer feel comfortable in crowds. I also have less of a tolerance for certain noises at certain times. I doubt that either of these will be that great an issue once I get inside. Unless, of course, the people around me are obnoxiously drunk. Thankfully, the Springsteen audience has grown older as I have and this possibility is a lot less than going to a typical Steelers game.
And finally, with my sleep problems, I’m worried we’ll get two hours into the show and I’ll start having trouble staying awake. I trust the normal energy of these shows will outweigh that problem. And I have an appointment with the shrink the next day at 2 p.m. which should allow enough recovery time. I’m already fretting about having to compact a weekend’s worth of yardwork around the concert and recovery and I think it’s just not going to happen so the grass will get long and I will feel guilty. 
You would think a normal fan would be overjoyed that the Boss is still doing four hour shows. I just hope I can make it without viewing the encore without stifling yawns and rubbing my eyes.
If all of the above disgusts you as a fan or concert-goer, it disgusts me too. I didn’t use to be like this and, no, really, it’s not age. Well, maybe a little, but that never affected the anxiety levels. 
I hope to enjoy this like it was old times. I hate that I’m preparing more to endure the experience. I hate this and I hate myself for being this way. The guilt and shame become a vicious circle. 
I don’t go out much anymore for all of the above reasons. After the mental toll work exacts, I usually come home, feed the fish, eat way too much and go to bed by 8:30. And then I get up and repeat the process until my three-day weekend where I justify my existence by doing endless hours of house and yardwork, so come Tuesday morning, I’m exhausted and strung out which is a great way to start the work week in a job that’s killing my will to live anyway.
This is why I can’t wait for winter – a break from the endless cycle of yardwork. But we bought a house and with it comes the responsibility of upkeep. I need to hold up my end of the bargain for my neighbors and my own sense of duty.
I have digressed a little from the topic, but just enough to give the reader an idea of the various stressors that I deal with on a weekly basis: stressors that normal people can deal with but for me, turn into a weekly battle to the death.
So I need fun and relaxation which is where activities like this concert are supposed to come into play. But instead they provide more anxiety and exhaustion. Fun and relaxation for me comes from self-medication, sleep and occasional forays into ‘safe’ activities.  
I hate being this way more than you can imagine. If I could flip a switch and go back to the more energetic, optimistic me of 15 years ago, I’d do it in a heartbeat. 
But I have written all this to give the reader an idea of how some of us think, feel and experience life, warts and all. I hope instead of disgust, people will understand. 
THIS is how I know I’m not in good shape – fear and dread instead of normal excitement and anticipation. And I can tell you there is no pill or mental tricks I can play to make it better. I’ll only know that I’ve enjoyed the experience when I get home safe and sound.
Remember that September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you know of any depressed people, cheer them up with some ice cream. It’s happiness (however brief) in a bowl. 
PS: I forgot to work into this post about the upcoming Springsteen autobio and his recounting about how he dealt with his depression. You can read about some of it here. I guess he put Patti (his wife) through a lot. I feel dumb not having guessed at how bad it was for a long time. If one tracks the song lyrics over time, you can see his depression and stress reflected in his music. Tunnel of Love (one of my favorite albums) has for years been regarded as dealing with his doomed marriage to Julianne Phillips (which I wonder if he did because he thought this is what he had to do at this stage of fame). But there is so much more there through the years that provide clues. 
I haven’t always been strong, but never felt so weak
All of my prayers, gone for nothing
I’ve been without love, but never forsaken
Now the morning sun, the morning sun is breaking
— Bruce Springsteen ‘My Depression’
This entry was posted in anxiety, depression, getting old, Springsteen, Steelers, suicide prevention awareness month. Bookmark the permalink.

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