Sunday, December 3, 2017

So you wanna know what it's like to have a panic attack?

Last month, I experienced my first major panic attack in over half a year. I mean, sure, I'd had small ones in between, like when I couldn't find a place to live or when I saw my rapist on the sidewalk, both of which are completely justifiable, but because I'd had such success at handling my triggered anxiety, I complimented myself on a job well done.
Via MonsterGif
When you go from having at least one to two major panic attacks in a week to one or two minuscule (by comparison) events over a period of several months, I guess it's not inappropriate to pat yourself on the back, but in my case, it turned into complacency. I didn't see or feel the warning signs and found myself back in the clutches of my emotionally and mentally damaged psyche. 

Even in the midst of some of the most hectic moments of my recent life, I decided to do something. I grabbed a notebook and just started writing what I felt, what I thought, how I felt about what I thought, and I'm just going to type it out here, unedited*. I've also annotated in brackets for further clarification as best I could; it's kind of hard to remember exactly what was going on at the time. Just ... be prepared?

Also, panic attacks are different for everyone, and not everyone experiences - or even expresses - them like I do, so what I went through may not match how someone you know goes through. That is the fun part about the human body: every single person has a unique way of dealing with every single thing.

Alrighty, onto the panic attack ... 
Via Inspirobot**
[Just to set the scene, I arrived home from work and parked out front of the house, like I normally do. Nothing exceptionally trying happened in the eight hours I was at the pharmacy - just regular bullshit, as always - but I'd been dealing with a lot of extra stress, none of which I want to go into at all, that just compounded into one giant event which began seemingly innocuously: my face started twitching.]

No. Nonononono. now? why now? Stop it. Just stop it. STOP. Breathe.

This is not gonna happen again. NO. 

I can't breathe. Why? Bubble in my stomach about to pop. Is it in my stomach? Or my chest? Or maybe just crush my lungs. CANNOT BREATHE. Is anxiety a solid?? Or just pure energy?

What is anxiety exactly. Like ... what is it?? Chemicals? Electricity? Acid? My soul? Who knows because science sure doesn't.

[At this point, my body kind of took over like, "You know what brain, stop trying to make this not happen. It's gonna. Just ride this shit out."]

Did I turn off the lights in the bathroom? It's dark outside and Ramses might be scared. Mushroom is small but ferocious. I need to get back to making the Cat of the Month contest again. Also I need a polaroid camera. One of those instant ones so I can post an awk photo of one of Da Boys on my wall.

[There were a bunch of squiggly lines after this one, and I'm pretty sure that I was just rocking back and forth right here.

Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck I can't focus. 

I used to think blue was my fav color probably. I wish I had something teal to look at. Maybe my legs would stop bouncing if I could look at some nice pics. Everything looks very blue right now. 

Goddamn I'm mad at Three.

What's that song by ... dammit whatshername ... Demi Love? Lovato?

There's nothing. My brain is empty. I can't see any pictures in my head.

Do I have an ambient sounds app?

Everything seems brighter and louder. Why is it so loud? It's nighttime?

[I've noticed during my panic attacks that, after the initial onset and everything is muted and focused on not being able to breathe, I suddenly switch over to super powers. I have excellent hearing, touch, and smell. I know it's a survival response, but it never ceases to amaze me. And also terrify me.]

No cars on the road driving by thank god

When did I turn on the radio. Has it always been on?

Seriously, though, fuck Three. No bad karma, though. Don't wish bad things to happen.

God I'm fucking stupid. Why? Like I can't even focus for one second.

It's probably bad that the song "Blue" is stuck in my head.

I keep slapping the stick shift in my car why do I do this? It's not helping. At all. At alllllll If I had brain teaser books or sudoku maybe? I like Brick by Bricks.

I think I'm calming down now maybe but can't be too sure. These usually come in waves. I just checked the clock and it's 11:17PM. I've been tugging at my hair and crying and feeling like I'm made of very angry bees but no thoughts which is weird. I have been sitting in my car for two hours and I think this is probably the longest I've written? My phone is about to die.

Six months. SIX MONTHS.

My new roommate is going to think I'm crazy if I go in right now. I'm such a fucking basketcase. I bet Sax Player wasn't betting on that when he started dating me.

Anxiety is fighting for top place in my brain. Angry is giving it a run for its money. The real loser here is me.

I'm so goddamn tired. I could fall asleep in the car. But what about the kitties? They would worry.

[Part of me thinks it's a bit sad that I think about my cats as much as I do, but then again, those little furballs have been anchors for me when I'd had panic attacks or depressive episodes that it just seems tit for tat for me to dote on them.]

They would probably not worry. They would just be hungry.

Sax Player is calling. I shouldn't answer. He'll think I'm crazy. I am crazy. Am I crazy? I'm probably crazy.


I ended up answering the phone and driving over to his place***, where I calmed down further. Ultimately, this was a little over a three-hour affair that left me emotionally and physically spent for nearly a week later, with residual anxiety living in my chest and stomach. I still had to go to work and provide customer service and get yelled at for various reasons - mainly because people are impatient assholes without a shred of human decency - without revealing that I was still dealing with the aftermath of a panic attack and keeping myself from starting a whole new one. What a battle that was.

Panic disorders are still treated with a lot of disdain, with people just telling me to calm down, which obviously helps and immediately solves whatever is going on with my brain chemistry (that's sarcasm, by the way?), but having a panic attack at work is the worst. Your boss might want to send you home - I need the money, thanks - or your coworkers might get angry at you because you're in the back, incapable of helping them. But then there's the customers, who honestly are kind of a crapshoot. Occasionally, you'll get an understanding one, but most of the time, they just make it worse. Regardless of who I was interacting with, I had to pretend, to swallow the anxiety and hope that none leaked out. And yeah, that's a good way to cope.
Via Tumblr
Unless I told you, you would have never known that I'd suffered a panic attack the night before coming to work, and I managed to hold it together somehow, either through luck or sheer will. So many people live trying, with varied success, to hide their mental illness, and they deserve medals for doing so. They should not have to, you guys; they shouldn't have to fear for their own financial survival because their brain chemistry is off or they've suffered a great trauma. So please be kind to everyone you come across; be that person that eases the tension a bit. It would mean the world to me if you would. 

* It's mostly unedited, but I'm not going to include names in here.
** I love Inspirobot. A lot of times, it's just disjointed hilarity, but occasionally it's kinda weirdly poignant.
*** Don't worry, I made sure I could do so without crashing.
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