Monday, January 26, 2009

Anxiety Attacks

I don't know why I should be so anxious. My outward mien is bluff and hardy in an outdoorsy, tough-guy way. Anxious is for milquetoasts, mamma's boys, and mealy-mouthed Melanie. And yet, I find myself thinking and not acting. I'm nervous about failing and I worry about displeasing people.

For example, I'm always behind in my work; never quite able to catch up to the backlog of emails awaiting answers. Katharine says it is the nature of my job that one can never really be caught up. There's always something else to do, which is true. It's also true that the harder I work, the further behind I become. This is either a truism or a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more I work, the more email I generate, and the more email I need to answer. What's wrong with this picture?

Last week we had our quarterly company call to learn about the end-of-the-year results from the publisher and senior management. These tend to be pleasant conference calls, and relaxing for me since I listen, lounge on the couch, and don't have to say much. Oddly, I started to get something like palpitations during the call. Everyone mentioned the success of my Mac OS X books. I should feel pleased, but instead I feel the inevitable let down when I'm unable to deliver similar successes in the future.

It's perverse. The more my success is mentioned, the worse I feel, so that by the end of the meeting, I feel as if I'm suffocating. I think that this must be what an anxiety attack feels like. However, my doctor tells me that anxiety, or panic, attacks often have no trigger. My episodes, and there are others, are always triggered by something, often the anticipation of a conversation or the disapproval of something I've done; that "bad boy" feeling.

In fact, Dimitri suggests that I have an "unhealthy" relationship with my boss, which comes as something of a surprise. This is the first boss I've had who I actually respect and admire and who treats my with kindness and understanding; more confusion. But he's right. There's some unhealthy, Freudian-like thing going on of trying to please so hard that you can never please enough. I need to work on this somehow. Perhaps I'm trying to hard.

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