Fighting the Panic

Maybe it’s because it’s Monday. Maybe it’s because work is slow. Maybe it’s the events of last week finally catching up with me. Maybe it’s paranoia that I drank too much on Friday night and made an ass of myself and everyone is so polite and wouldn’t tell me if I did. Maybe it’s guilt from binge watching two whole series of television shows over the weekend. Maybe it’s the anticipation of plans and the infinite possibilities that might happen. Maybe it’s the feeling that people are lying to me and since my intuition has been so off for the last few months, I’m worried I’m being paranoid.

Maybe I should have taken the whole pill instead of just a half.

But then I’m worried I would be fighting drowsiness. I don’t know which is worse, trying to ride the wave of anxiety that feels like it’s about to white cap into a full blown panic attack, or worrying that I might feel a little drowsy for an hour or two.

Maybe I just want to see if I can write this out as it happens.

Fighting the expanding pressure in my chest that rolls down through my arms scattering into rain droplets of needles on my skin, falling slowly at first and faster as the storm rolls closer to my fingertips.

My stomach is floating. I’m certain it’s trying to float to the top of my throat. I can feel the pressure on my vocal chords, like someone is holding my throat just enough to keep me from speaking, but still able to breathe.

The pins and needles are on the roof of my mouth.

I want comfort and consolation, but my brain reminds me that the pins and needles will swarm to any part of my skin touched by other skin.

The air I can breathe in feels like freezing oxygen, forming ice crystals in my lungs that are instantly melted by my body heat. It feels like drowning in the desert.

Swallowing reminds me of the pressure around my neck. My mouth is dry and I can’t seem to drink enough water. I yawn trying to fill my lungs with enough air to catch my breath. My stomach grumbles, I can’t tell if it’s hunger or too much water or it’s just grumbling because it can’t float away.

The words come because I can focus on simple feelings and they keep me in front of the curtain of full blown panic. I know that if I peek behind me, if I take a moment to think about what could be causing this, I will be faced with a tidal wave of possibilities that any attempt to sort through will exponentially increase the madness.

I have to take the medicine, otherwise the tidal wave will blow through the curtain and I’ll feel mostly catatonic and unable to put my brain back in my body.

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Battling Demons

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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.

 

 

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Having Anxiety is Like Being Allergic to Feelings

After last weeks post describing what it is like to live inside my head with all of the anxiety, panic, and depression, I’ve of course been at high anxiety. Not because I’m afraid of the reaction of others or because there has been negative feedback (it’s mostly all been positive and supportive and “Wow, I’m glad I’m not alone!”), but because some people take it upon themselves to try and share what they think could be causing these things and how I should deal with them. This ranges from shamanistic perspectives to new-age-old-gospel advice to pray (Seriously, if someone pushes A Course in Miracles on me one more time, I will set that book on fire).

This is infuriating in the same way you are trying to tell someone something, but they aren’t listening–just waiting for their turn to speak.

I have to keep reminding myself that those attempting to engage in these discussions are usually coming from a place of compassion and a desire to understand. They want to toss out all sorts of possibilities and see what sticks enough to create a solid idea of causation, because if there is a cause for what is happening, then there must be a cure, and if they can point in the direction of that cure, they have done a humanitarian service by helping you.

Here’s the thing though, no one really knows exactly what causes your body to react with anxiety, panic, and/or depression. We know that the physiological responses exist and what they are and we know there are many external factors that can trigger or exacerbate these disorders, but there’s nothing to say “This is exactly why your brain chemicals go all haywire and your mind and body react the way they do!”

Kind of like we don’t exactly understand allergies. An allergy starts when your immune system mistakes a normally harmless substance for a dangerous invader. Imagine you have allergies, and what you are allergic to you can’t avoid coming in contact with 99% of the time. Your immune system will create a reaction that varies from possibly a constant and annoying mild itch to full on anaphylaxis.

Allergies can develop at any age. You may have eaten the same meal once a week for your entire life, then one day you have a mild reaction. It doesn’t occur to you that it could be the food you’ve always eaten. The next week the reaction is a little worse. You think “Huh, maybe this is what’s causing this reaction” and avoid it the next week. No reaction! So you stop eating it completely, but then it’s served at a family dinner; you don’t even have to eat and your face begins to swell and your throat closes.

When you say to someone “I have allergies” they understand why you have puffy eyes, sneeze, itch from hives, and take benadryl every day or carry an epi-pen.

Of course it’s easier to accept that someone has allergies since you have probably physically observed or experienced an allergic reaction, or you at least know someone with an allergy of some sort and trust their experience with their own body.


 

Anxiety, panic, and depression are similar in that sometimes it can be a single event, or a series of repeated events, often seemingly innocuous, that trigger an emotional response. The body and brain’s response is, “NOPE! NOPE! GET THAT OUT OF HERE!”

Unfortunately, you can’t avoid emotions that trigger panic, anxiety, or depression like you can avoid foods that give you hives. And even though you may never experience the same scenario or series of events that triggered the emotion that caused your panic, you will experience that emotional response again. It might be once a month, it might be every day.

It’s not the event that triggers the disorder, it’s the emotion that you experience.

You wouldn’t tell someone covered in hives to avoid taking benadryl because “it makes them a zombie” or to toss their epi-pen because “it’s better to just breathe through the experience.” So, why would you tell people suffering with general anxiety, constant panic attacks, or chronic depression to avoid helpful medications?

 

*Disclaimerthis article is in no way based in any type of science. It is a creative comparison of severe and/or chronic allergies and chronic mood disorders based on personal experience to hopefully help those who haven’t experienced mood disorders, but want to understand more about them.

 

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