Dealing with Severe Anxiety

I’ve suffered with anxiety all of my life — perhaps the result of an overly-anxious mother and a very angry father — but never have I had such physical reactions to this anxiety. Usually I can go about my day fine and only feel anxiety when I’m dealing with a specific situation. But at the moment I have this deep rooted anxiety that I’m pretty sure is trying to murder me from the inside out. It’s intense, and I don’t know what to do about it.

So many stressful situations are colliding right now. My company is struggling. My colleagues are quitting. I have potential opportunities but all of them require negotiating and trying to pick the right one. I may lose $20,000 in early exercised stock options. I have to move out by April 1. Every apartment that I can find requires at least a $200 per month increase in rent, and for 1 bedrooms comparable in quality to my existing 3 bedroom it would be more like a $400 a month increase in rent. My boyfriend’s limit on his part of the rent is $850 and most 1 bedrooms that are nice around here go for $2000-$2200. So then I’d be paying $1150-$1350 a month. I pay $650 today! — Meanwhile the stock market isn’t doing well. I poured $4000 of pre-tax money into my 401k on Jan 15, when my total networth was at $257k, and now it’s down to $248k. So — on paper — I lost almost $10k in half a month. It could go back up, but it can also keep going down. And I’m freaking out.

On top of that, I’m facing the reality that I’m the appropriate age to have a kid. It doesn’t have to be today, but in the next five years (which isn’t a lot of time) I should probably have my first child if I want to have children. Sooner than later is better if I want to have more than one. The whole marriage thing seems less important. I mean, I’d get married before I have kids, but I don’t have time for the whole pomp and circumstance. I need to start procreating stat. But life is so expensive, how can I afford to have kids? And i’m worried that if I go to a young startup I won’t have any pregnancy leave beyond the basic legal requirements — I’ll be the breadwinner of my family, I don’t really understand how I could go back to work right away after having a kid. I’m sure people do it, but it just scares me to think that I’d have to. I’m applying to companies where there are 15 men for every 1 woman. These companies are not likely to worry about pregnancy leave as an HR policy until the company is much larger and more stable.

Oh, America sucks. Family values my ass. American women are offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which exempts companies with fewer than 50 paid employees, but in 2011, only 11 percent of private sector workers and 17 percent of public workers reported that they had access to paid maternity leave through their employer. And for first-time mothers, only about half can take paid leave when they give birth.

But I don’t want to let that deter me from any great professional opportunities. It’s not exactly something that I want to bring up in my interview while negotiating — so about those benefits — do you offer pregnancy leave? Because I’m planning on getting pregnant sometime in the next five years, but I am going to have a lot of trouble getting pregnant so trust me, it isn’t a sure thing. Will it be possible to take time off? How much? Will any of it be paid? It’s a bigger challenge given that when my boyfriend and I have our first child he’ll likely be a school teacher making $55k per year, and in three years my salary should be $130k at least. I have no idea how I would work startup hours and have a child… but now that I’m 30 my biological clock is ticking. I need to be realistic about this too, if having a kid is important to me (which I think it is) maybe my career has to suffer. I don’t know.

The anxiety I have is extremely strange. It hits me like a heavy wave, like a blanket filled with beans that they use at the dentist’s office for xrays, pinning me down to the earth with a force heavier than gravity. I get this metallic taste in my mouth and smell burning. It happens in particular locations. At particular times of the day. It’s something about the light and spacial relation of things. I won’t even be thinking about the anxiety happening in that location and suddenly it will overwhelm me. For instance, a spot on my way home from work, driving up a hill. It’s like a fierce deja vu. A deep depressive punch to the stomach. I can’t breath. I feel lightheaded. I want to just explode.

I have to push through these waves of anxiety. I don’t know what to do. I feel like no matter what I’ll never be successful and have a stable life. There’s too much up in the air right now. I don’t even want to stop working or have a vacation, I just want to feel like I have control over something. But this is leading me into another dark depression, I think. Or maybe I’m already there. I had a few good years but now it’s time to sink again. Fucking bipolar.

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3 comments

  1. Kelly Whalen says:

    I know that any advice I have isn’t what you need here. There’s a lot I could say to ‘fix’ the problems you’ve laid out, but I know anxiety isn’t about that.

    Do you have someone you see regularly? Or someone you can call (doctor or therapist) you can call on? It’s times like these that you need to talk it out to someone who can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel and maybe offer up some strategies to help you get through this tough time.

    I promise all the other stuff will work itself out.

  2. unemployed, not freaking out says:

    Too much thinking!
    Just try not to think for a while, it is really calming. Not a joke. Just not think for a few minutes.

    Stock options. $20K. You’re not the first person to take gamble on stock options. You know it was not guaranteed, right? So, it might go bust. So what. You’re a smart cookie and it is another experience. You will never know how to make it big if you don’t take a risk.

    Rent. Split it equally with the BF. Dont pay more than him. You will end up resenting the arrangement if you pay more than 50%. He sponges off of you enough as it is. You can find an affordable place if you are willing to commute a bit, like to the east bay.

    401K is down. Uhh, haven’t you heard, the market goes up and down. You’re complaining and its movement was less than 4% (of your portfolio). Stop obsessing about money.

    You need to find a meditation class. Seriously. And stop thinking for a while.

    1. GPS says:

      Don’t forget,
      You’re buying stocks on the cheap remember! Why would you want to buy stocks when they’re expensive?

      You’re going for the long haul.

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