Today was the first time in almost a year I’ve had a full blown waking panic attack.
It was a benign Facebook message. “Are you going to the Young Professionals Group mixer event next week?”
I received this message from a woman whom I had hoped to meet up with at the first mixer a few months ago and who I am genuinely excited to meet.
“I hadn’t really decided. I hear the venue is awesome though.”
If there wasn’t a written record of the rest of the conversation, I probably wouldn’t remember the discussion.
I was at work and had to hold my shit together.
It felt like my lungs were filled with dry ice. I could breathe with conscious effort, but I didn’t feel like I was actually getting any oxygen. My fingers were going numb. My vision was starting to blur around the edges. I could feel the pulse of every single heart beat pushing blood further through my body. Time was simultaneously flying and standing still. Everything was in both fast forward and slow motion. I tried to focus on ever tiny fiber of my being, but I just wanted to run screaming into the afternoon.
After dinner and a few glasses of wine, I was talking to a friend about our personal demons (we decided to name them–her’s is Orville, mine is Beauregard), she asked me what caused the attack.
“The pressure of being on the spot in front of someone who adored the site and secretly not having any current motivation or love for the site. Thinking of the fall back profession of my day job, which if anyone took a cursory look at the website would see my company doesn’t understand the 21st century, which makes me look like an idiot. I’m terrified of looking foolish. I’ve struggled my whole life to be more than white trash from the trailer parks and I feel like I’m barely a step out of them and everyone knows it and is laughing at me behind my back and if they don’t know it yet, they will soon.”
I was almost in tears. I’m not ashamed of where I come from, because it made me who I am. But honestly, I’m afraid of judgment. I’m afraid of being seen as an impostor or above my station in life. (Classism is real, y’all.)
“You’re an amazing writer and editor and built a strong community of women online. No one’s laughing at you love. And anyone who does, I have a can of kerosene and a lighter for.” she said. (That is a real, true friend, right there)
“I mostly know all of that. I have zero business acumen though, I don’t know how to monetize my passions and every time I look around me I feel like the only way to make money is to be a smarmy fuck that is all ‘blah blah marketing synergy buzzwords blah blah.’ And that just isn’t me. Ever. If someone could just come and say ‘hey this is a cool thing, let me pay you to do it.’ I would maybe feel successful. But I dunno. I felt a mess today. Reminding myself constantly that success isn’t dependent upon dollars.”
That’s (one of the many reasons) why I panic.
I don’t know what success is. I don’t know what it looks like. Every time I’ve ever achieved anything slightly resembling it, Beauregard is in my head screaming “YOU ARE A FAILURE. YOU DIDN’T DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. YOU FAIL. JUST GIVE UP. ”
Then I fall into a deep depression because I’m not living up to my potential or I am not where I should be at this point in my life.
“When the demons come text me what they’re saying and I will fuck them up. It’s easier to fight yours than mine.” Her text is received with a photo of a shot glass of liquor.
“Samesies. I will cut those mofos.” I text back.
Battling demons is a little less daunting when you know you have bad-ass awesome women you adore ready to take up arms.