I Got Up to Go to Work and Wound Up 752 Miles Away

Reader’s Question

I think it’s time to ask the question, what exactly is going on with me? I have a lot of stress at my family owned business, due to my father’s dumping of over a million dollars into a restaurant for the son he never provided for (and now the son and our father have severed their relationship with a very bad ending). This expenditure, the current economy, and both of my parents’ erratic behavior have all left me with a lot of pressure with no help in sight. While this is all going on and I am trying with all the powers God has provided me with, I am experiencing many physical and physiological effects that I can no longer manage on my own.

This is why I am writing. I realized I had reached my threshold when I got up Friday morning to go to work…grabbed a toothbrush, put on a pair of sweat pants and took off driving. I ended up 752 miles from home when I realized I was probably hurting those in my life that love and support me the most, so I turned around. What I was feeling in my head when I awoke that morning was sheer terror, a screaming voice in my head but nothing coming out of my mouth — words in my head being repeated over and over again, and I couldn’t control it. I was breathing erratically, and I felt as if I couldn’t breathe, that I was gasping for air and as if I was going to drown.

I went to my GP last week for a physical and asked her to help calm me down even if only for a short period of time so I can keep the corporation together during this trying time. She suggested Bach flower. I welcome an herbal remedy versus dependency on prescriptions drugs and the side effects that may accompany them. But if I don’t find an answer quickly, my personal relationship, my multi million dollar corporation, my connection with my parents, and all the creature comforts that help to maintain life I am afraid may soon be behind me.

I left everything when I drove away. I only came back because I can’t allow my personal and physical shortcomings right now to devastate others. Please give me the tools, the education and immediate answers that I can apply to my life so I no longer hurt myself and those I love.

Psychologist’s Reply

I’m glad you asked the question. From your description, you are experiencing emotional exhaustion and severe stress. The emotional exhaustion creates symptoms of clinical depression including fatigue, poor concentration, poor appetite/sleep, obsessive thoughts, crying spells, severe guilt, loss of motivation and sexual interest, social withdrawal, and physical symptoms (cramps, hot flushes, bowel problems, etc.).

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The severe stress creates symptoms by changing neurochemicals and hormones known to be linked to stress, producing symptoms such as panic attacks, an urge to run away from home (as in your case), fearfulness, accelerated heart rate, amplified hearing, hyperventilation, etc.

Both conditions are commonly found in individual who have been experiencing a high level of stress for a prolonged period of time. This is the educational part of the answer you requested.

Now for the tools:

  • I would recommend reading two articles I’ve written entitled Chemical Imbalance and Understanding Depression. They are available on my website at www.drjoecarver.com. I’d also read articles and take screening tests for anxiety and depression on this website.
  • Bach Flower will have no positive influence on your symptoms, with the exception of the calming ritual of taking it. You will need a prescription antidepressant — one designed to work with both depression and anxiety. These new antidepressants are not addictive, although several have withdrawal syndromes if you decide to discontinue without physician supervision. While you have concerns about taking prescription medications, your first priority must be stabilizing your condition. You run the risk of using herbal remedies over a prolonged period of time while your condition deteriorates — all the time feeling you are treating the symptoms. You need aggressive intervention. You have suddenly and dangerously left home and traveled 1,504 miles (round trip), so this is very serious. You are moving into the “danger to self” behaviors, so professional mental health intervention is necessary. I would recommend consulting with a psychiatrist as he/she is best qualified to select the appropriate medication for you.
  • These symptoms are not related to any physical or personal shortcomings on your part. Any healthy person placed in your position of high family/business stress would eventually emotionally collapse. You’ll notice that everyone in the position before you has already fallen apart and become erratic in their behavior and interaction with others. If we walk around with a load of bricks on our back each day, we don’t get stronger — we get weaker and eventually collapse.
  • Part of stabilization is creating a schedule. You must maintain your physical health with appropriate sleep and meals. If you don’t eat, for whatever reason, your body doesn’t receive the materials needed for repair and replenishing its chemistry.
  • From your description, the rest of the family is also overwhelmed. Discuss separating responsibilities, giving each member specific assignments rather than assuming everyone must do everything.
  • While you ran away from home, other family members may be experiencing their reactions to the stress including anger, resentment, blaming, refusal to help, etc. Be prepared for their reactions as well and rather than fight with them, provide some understanding such as “We’re all in a very stressful situation. I would ask that everyone do what they can to help.”
  • Prepare a “press release” for commonly-asked questions about the business. Each press release should be short, vague, and encouraging. Using a press release avoids the emotional distress of lengthy discussions that don’t solve anything.

These are some tools.

During these difficult economic times, most businesses are struggling. Keeping yourself healthy and stable is the best way to insure that your business will have a good chance to weather this storm.

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