• Alurayne
    9
    There's the old story about Nietzsche collapsing alongside a horse he saw being beaten, driven to grief from the sight of casual violence. It seems like such an impossible occurrence, to be brought to your knees by something so mundane. I continued to believe this, until an occurrence during work.

    I was on my shift at the library, doing my normal duties, when I heard a child crying. Where I work, it isn't unusual. It's something I've heard daily for the past three years. I've learned to tune it out, quite well. But the sound that followed the crying--the sound of a purse striking the child, then a muffled cry, and a louder one to follow--came across as something bewildering, something absurd.

    All of a sudden, everything seemed louder. Voices I knew were in their own little corners seemed unbearably loud. Suddenly, all the little actions of people passing seemed mechanical, unconnected, movements without causation, that we tried to connect with meaning and purpose and reason. I sent a message to my fiancée then, as I leaned against a shelf, feeling cold and hot and shaken all at once,

    "the world feels wrong today"

    And within the hour, after a flurry of other messages I don't quite remember sending, she came to pick me up, taking my keys and saying we'd get my car later. I sat in the passenger seat, feeling as if the clock was moving much too slowly, but the road much too fast. She said I had had some sort of anxiety attack, and she felt my fingers, which were cold.

    I told myself it was an isolated event, that it had never happened before, but I knew I was simply kidding myself. There were times I had laid curled on the bed, mind stuck on the idea of Death or endings, finiteness, the idea of the Absurd. There were times I found it hard to breathe as I considered the mundane elements around me. It was, of course, all balanced with beautiful things, too, but things I knew were inconsequential to others, things that held beauty to just me.

    I had gone through several bouts of these anxiety attacks, these breakdowns, of shaking and losing my breath, of overthinking and panic. I never knew what to compare my experiences to, if it was depression, or a panic disorder, or simply the eventuality of a mind that, like Nietzsche, had focused on the abyss so much that it finally begins to give out. I still don't know.

    I've scoured forums, looking for others who have experienced the same mix of anxiety, wonder, and loss. I've found posts that have been abandoned for years, seemingly left unanswered. I feel that maybe it's all just the consequence of trying to solve the world and the reason for our Being. I'd like to know if there are others like me.
  • mcdoodle
    995
    a panic disorderAlurayne

    Well, it sounds like a panic disorder. If I were you I'd see a doctor.

    Personally I think Beckett is a good read too in such circumstances. But maybe this is just me, in extremis the darkest fictions feel funny to me, and that helps me. :)
  • Andrew4Handel
    771
    Can you think of things that happened before this event that might have led you here?

    What worldview did you have beforehand?
    What beliefs and values did you have?
    What did you read about or see in the news or history books?
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    I wonder if it might be PTSD.

    the sound of a purse striking the childAlurayne

    That is so specific. Perhaps you saw it, and so describe it that way, but otherwise, It would be a hyper-sensitive distinction. As if we are all familiar with the particular sound of a purse striking a child and how it differs from -say- a handbag striking a dog. I might be reading too much into this, but a sound that reawakens/reactivates a repressed traumatic incident can have this disorienting effect, and 'leak' into consciousness in just this way of an identification that just seems too precise. Try some talking therapy, would be my advice, and see if there is anything behind it.
  • Alurayne
    9
    I think the main thing I'm afraid of is if I saw a doctor, I'd get medicated, and it would kill my creativity.
  • Alurayne
    9
    About three years ago, I was in a car accident on my way to work. A drunk driver hit me, totaled my car, and caused me to lose my job because of my inability to work without dwelling on it. I'd say before that, I was fairly carefree, a bit less direction. I see the accident as a guiding force though. I'm an atheist now, and took up Existentialism to cope with the accident.
  • Andrew4Handel
    771
    I experienced a breakdown of meaning when life stopped making sense to me.

    It was like the more problems you have the less sense life makes. It is like problems make you become aware of the fragility of life or its arbitrariness or unfairness.

    It could result from a failure of defence mechanisms as well.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    I don't know what is troubling you, but your experiences would indicate that you should see a psychiatrist to get checked out. You might have a panic disorder, you might have ptsd, you might be bi-polar, or... maybe none of those things. Don't know, can't tell, not a doctor anyway... But you should definitely see a doctor.

    Worried about drugs? A reasonable worry, but the things that are happening to you aren't good for your creativity either. Like I said, I don't know what is troubling you, but I've had enough experience with my own and other people's mental illnesses to know that medicine can feel better than feeling crazy.

    Besides, you aren't going to be forced to take medicine, and you don't need to be hospitalized.

    You might be able to control panic attacks with talk therapy, but you might also want to have a medicine you can take to head off attacks, something like Ativan or Xanax (both benzodiazepines, both good occasional drugs for intense anxiety).

    Good luck with this, welcome to The Philosophy Forum, and stick around. You might find us better than a sleeping pill or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
  • Erik
    579
    I had my first panic attack--assuming that's what it was although it was never officially diagnosed as such--while in the shower getting ready for work about 20 years ago. The mundane setting made it all the more disturbing and it was so intense and out of the blue that I literally felt I was going to die. The traumatic event led to many, many years of anxiety and depression mixed in with the periodic panic attacks and even a few strange and completely irrational phobias that I'm too embarrassed to talk about even today, here on an anonymous message forum.

    After a while it became clear I wasn't going to die, at least not right away, so then my thoughts shifted to the idea that I was going insane. Maybe an even more disturbing feeling than impending death. I contemplated suicide rather frequently as a means of escaping the nightmare I was living, and in hindsight I'm thankful for (what was at that time) my new wife and child for giving me something to try to fix my attention on besides those intrusive and debilitating thoughts. I never went to a doctor or psychologist but I read everything I could about anxiety and other forms of mental illness.

    Not sure what the cause was but it was likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. I've always been introverted and somewhat detached from others, and there were some familial things that probably contributed, too, like going from never having had a girlfriend to being married and having a new child all within a year.

    Anyhow, it screwed me up big time and there are still some lingering effects, but oddly enough I'm a bit thankful for the experience for a number of reasons, including the fact that it served as a sort of existentialist wake up call and led to me being extremely appreciative of the small but meaningful things in life. That's where I think the wonder you mentioned comes in, and for me it's related to being shaken out of your everyday routine and the complacency which comes with that. I wouldn't be the person I am today--not that I'm great by any standard but I am myself--without going through that trauma. Wish I had more than platitudes to convey the experience and its results but that's all I got.

    Not sure if any of that is relevant other than to say that there may be some overlap between our situations. Yours sounds even more intense than mine, though, so it would probably be best to follow the advice of other forum members and seek out some professional help. I'm actually shocked that I was able to go through the motions for so long without suffering a complete breakdown, without resorting to self-medicating, without anyone really noticing a difference in my behavior, etc. I slowly got more comfortable with the discomfort I felt and was able to process what happened. Actually, I'm still not sure what happened or why it happened, but I've managed to put my own positive spin on it.

    Oh, I would also add that my attacks were not precipitated in the least by grappling with those "deep" philosophical issues that someone like Nietzsche was obsessed with. In fact, it was only after I had them that I became remotely interested in the subject. I do think Heidegger's Being and Time contains some interesting and insightful things concerning this (and other related) phenomena, but if you haven't read it yet it's an extremely difficult work. That's probably an understatement.
  • Alurayne
    9
    Thank you so much for your candid writing. I think between your account, and everyone else, I lie somewhere between just having an existential crisis, and dealing with something serious. I guess the action depends on whether or not I see it as something detrimental.
  • ArguingWAristotleTiff
    3.2k
    @Alurayne@Bitter Crank
    Welcome to The Philosophy Forum~ BitterCrank's response rings true for me in so many ways that I might use it as a map to get myself off the ledge of anxiety, which still occasionally happens. You don't have to take any medication you don't want to and "You might find us better than a sleeping pill or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."
    Excellent advice (Y)
  • mcdoodle
    995
    I think the main thing I'm afraid of is if I saw a doctor, I'd get medicated, and it would kill my creativity.Alurayne

    Sorry to hear about the accident - and quite appreciate this point above. I hope it doesn't sound trivialising to cite the example of John Cleese, who to my mind ceased to be funny once he'd had 'treatment'. It's a balancing act: maybe the one-time Minister of Funny Walks doesn't regret a thing because he loves being an unfunny curmudgeon who's lived to a ripe old age. All the best.
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1.5k


    If a child was being beaten in the library, shouldn't you have gone to the scene and interceded, maybe asking the checkout and reference desks to record that person's name and address if possible? ...or to look it up if they know that customer? ...so that the child-abuse could be reported?

    I don't know medicine, and I don't know about panic attacks, and so I don't know if a doctor is needed. Probably not though. ...but I emphasize that I'm not qualified to give medical advice.

    It sounds to me like a symptom of reading too much philosophy, especially the angst-ridden philosophers known as "Existentialists".

    Michael Ossipoff
  • Alurayne
    9
    Unfortunately, I didn't "see" it. It was brief. And no one would have bought the idea I "heard" such a specific thing. Complaints aren't taken very seriously among the level of staff I'm at.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    Nonetheless, Michael makes a really good point about the effects of internalising these reactions. There's every reason to believe it was that very helplessness that caused your problems in the first place.
  • Alurayne
    9
    It just seemed like such a trivial thing. Not that the violence is trivial, but that you see worse, everywhere. It just seems absurd that such a small, unseen thing would have caused me to spiral that way, you know?
  • Alurayne
    9
    I think it's the best advice I've gotten in a while
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