I hate my bully, Anxiety. Surprise panic attack hits.


Yesterday I sat in my car, idling in park for 15 minutes. Some of the time I was crying; some of the time I was just staring blankly into space trying to calm my mind.

About an hour earlier I had experienced a full-blown panic attack in the company of others. I’m pretty sure I tempered my outward presentation, so people just knew “I wasn’t in a good place.” I don’t think anybody had an understanding of how incredibly bad off I was.

Funny — not funny — thing is, for the past several days I’ve been toying with writing a post about how incredibly better I am … and I am incredibly better:

— than I was 8 months ago (i.e. full blown Anxiety-ridden nearly all the time).
— than I was 7 months ago (i.e. add to the Anxiety, full-blown, bed-ridden Depression).
— than I was 5 months ago (i.e. on the mend, but still experiencing regular panic attacks and coming out of Depression, but still sapped of much of my physical energy).
— than I was 3 months ago (i.e. my doctor and therapists tinkering my meds and coping mechanisms to get ready for the much healthier life ahead).

As I said, I am so much better. But so much better does not mean the absence of Anxiety or the sometimes depressive thoughts that go with panic attacks. It’s just that THE FREQUENCY OF YUCK has been so much lower of late. I almost lulled myself into expressing that to the world … posting, “I’m all better!”

Um. Nope. Just much better.

Back to yesterday and today’s residual impacts.

A conversation I thought I was having turned into something completely different. Nobody’s fault. Just some people felt comfortable running full-speed ahead into a different iteration of the conversation. My “pleasantly-engaged (yet overwhelmed)” — I am often “pleasantly-engaged (yet overwhelmed)” — turned into a “WHAT THE ____!”

My head started spinning. I blurted out some unhelpful sentences. I then cocooned myself into a protective shell as I felt the world spinning around me. I saw the conversation I had been a part of continuing without me. I imagined — perhaps accurately — that the others knew not to say anything to me.

Sometimes I heard the words of the conversation outside my cocoon. If those words overwhelmed me, I just continued looking straight forward or at my feet, trying to maintain a stasis of inward — not outward — panic. Sometimes I would hear the words of the conversation outside my cocoon and agree with them. I tried to appear “still a part of things.” So I’d nod my head.

Conversation done. Walk to car. Turn on car. Stay warm. Cry.

I had a bit of time before I had to engage with the rest of the world again. I got to calm my mind and leave the panic behind. I texted with my wife. That helped incredibly.

Later on I simply engaged with the world minimally.

Once I got home I collapsed and silently cried myself to sleep.

I woke up this morning. My lips immediately started to quiver.  A couple of tears fell.  So I did what I was supposed to. I asked “Why? Why am I feeling this way?” But also “Why did the conversation yesterday surprise me so much?’

I started to understand. I also started to figure out ways to navigate life as it would continue from the day before and the day before that.

I’m going to be exhausted today. There is no way around that.

Today is going to be a long day. Important work during the day and an important evening neighborhood meeting I can’t escape.

But I am pretty sure I can be a contributing member of society. Even a contributing member of the conversation that did not end yesterday.



  1. Brenna Pappert 2 December 2015 at 6:34 pm

    You are contributing every day, even in an anxiety ridden mood. You are keeping mental health issues on the forefront which is vital because it doesn’t happen as much as it should. You are sharing coping mechanisms that work for you that others may find helpful. You are actively trying to support people with housing issues and nutritional needs at work and with your garden ideas. All better? maybe not. But you are making a strong effort and because of that, you come across as a beautiful human being. Keep trying, you will get to where you are more comfortable with yourself.

    • DissidentPotato 2 December 2015 at 8:17 pm


      Thanks for your kindness.

      As you know, silence is not an option for me nor an option I’d even want. I figure it’s best to use this as an opportunity to help others and help even more simply understand. I just wish there wasn’t so much to understand — for me, for other suffers, or for those who care about us. But … that is life and we must decide to live it … because we are all that important. No giving up.


  2. Dorothy H. 4 December 2015 at 8:12 am

    I agree with Brenna. You are doing a great job at informing others about these very important topics and educating those of us that really do care about you and others fighting these battles.

  3. Tom Sampson 25 December 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Michael, speaking of anxiety, I thought of you when I read this. http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/121315.html

    Here is my phone no. if you need to talk to someone – 612———-. Merry Christmas, and stay in the present. Reminds me of the book “Feeling Good” – I highly recommend it.

    • DissidentPotato 26 December 2015 at 6:36 am

      Thank you, Tom. And, yes, expressions of gratitude to others is a great way to deal with anxiety. I try to start each day out thinking about what I am grateful for. It helps release good chemicals into the brain before the bad ones seep in.

  4. Tom Sampson 26 December 2015 at 9:35 am

    From my personal experience, finding a Doctor who can treat Atypical Depression and Anxiety is huge. I believe some people have a chemical imbalance that needs to be treated with the right drugs. This needs to be accompanied by talk therapy, hopefully from the same Doctor. Also, learning to recognize and correct the self-talk that accompanies the anxiety attacks helps a lot. That is why I recommended the book “Feeling Good”.

    This is what I know about this disorder. You may always be on anti-depressants – we found that Paxil works well. Also, the gardening has done wonders for us!

    This may or may not be anything new to you. I want to read some more on your blog in case you’ve “been there, done that.” Most of all I want to listen and learn from you. You are doing God’s work – but more importantly, God loves you, not for what you do, but because you’re Her child, brother, and friend. I was 37 when I joined a church. I had a hard time believing in God, and I said so. My teacher suggested I trust Jesus as much as I trust the tires on my car. I don’t have to understand how they’re made, I just try them out and see if they work. I encourage you to try trusting in Jesus and see what happens. (Maybe you already are; If so I apologize). Like I said earlier, I hope to get to know you better.

    Parker Palmer writes in his book, Let Your Life Speak, how he suffered or suffers from severe bouts of depression. He said the friend that was most helpful didn’t give advice, just came over and massaged his feet. I’m willing to do that for you, Michael, crazy as it sounds!!

    • DissidentPotato 26 December 2015 at 10:12 am


      Your words are helpful, and I am glad I am getting to know you better. I’m glad you are getting the help you need as well.

      I will check out the book Feeling Good; I am also looking into workbooks on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and anti-anxiety coloring books (for focusing).

      If you want to check up on my history but your not familiar with the blog format, just click on the “Explore” link in the upper, right corner. You will then have options for tags in the center of the page. The third tag should be mental health. There will be at least four pages of listing of blog posts. You can start from the most recent and work backward, or start at the bottom of page 4 “my hair and politics”. There’s also a page devoted to my upper level overview of my facing Depression and Anxiety about a third of the way along the top brown bar on the page. I appreciate the comments; so I’m eager to read your thoughts.

      As for now, the Depression is gone. The Anxiety is more of a perpetual struggle that sometimes invites depressive thoughts to temporarily stop by. Panic attacks — while not rare — are much less frequent than they had been.

      Now, regarding religion and Jesus, I hope this okay to admit to you, but I am an atheist. I love being involved with the interfaith community working for justice because you are not afraid to talk about values and difficult subject matters. But faith is not something I rely on. (Again, hope that’s okay and we can continue to keep working together.)


  5. Tom Sampson 1 January 2016 at 8:56 pm

    You say “faith is not something I rely on.” Why not? What have you got to lose by believing in a Higher Power? Billions of people do. Are they all wrong? People like Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and my favorite saint, Padre Pio were all followers of Jesus. I’d like to hear why you’re not taking advantage of his healing power. If this isn’t the best place to discuss this let me know and we can meet for coffee.

    Sometimes when I have doubts (and everyone does) , I read the story of doubting Thomas in the Gospel of John. This incident could not have been made up. I encourage you to read it – only a few pages, that could change your life! And don’t just take my word for it, ask your wife or a trusted friend, or family member. No one who knows you wants to see you going through the hell that you’ve been through. Thanks for listening.

  6. Tom Sampson 2 January 2016 at 6:28 am

    One more thing. As the poet John Donne said, “No Man Is an Island”. No matter how talented and industrious you are, you need others to help. As you have experienced in your work, God leverages the work of individuals to achieve great things. I truly believe this. It truly does “take a village” to get anything done. My faith community, Pax Christi (Latin for Peace of Christ) extends a standing invitation to you and your wife and friends to join us on our faith journey. Here is our website. I’d be honored to have you join me some Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. ( I work 4 days a week.) Peace be with you. http://www.paxchristi.com

    • DissidentPotato 2 January 2016 at 6:56 am

      Tom: I’m always happy to grab a cup of coffee with you, even to talk your religion and my atheism. But I hope you’ll respect my beliefs while I respect yours. Perhaps we can teach each other how each of our beliefs are helpful to us.

      I used to be Lutheran (teen years). In my college days, I spent a little less than a year toying with Evangelism. As a very young boy, my Mom brought us to a full gospel church — I loved it. In each place I saw true community and support form. But I later found those same things form elsewhere and through different associations.

      Now, I have a rather scientific view of the world, which many people don’t see also includes a ton of wonder and doubt. I love the values of wonder / reverence (although I imagine that value has a slightly different take for you than it does me) and doubt / humility.

      As for human suffering … that is a part of life. We often need our friends and our community to help us deal. I am not alone. But if I were alone, I think it would be upon me to try and fix that.


      • Tom Sampson 2 January 2016 at 8:04 am

        I’ll meet you halfway, wherever that is. When would you like to get together?

        • DissidentPotato 2 January 2016 at 9:49 am


          Thanks for the comment you asked me to delete. It was helpful.

          There is a lot of recent research on anxiety that says some will always be that way. But most can learn to manage it better. Some are able to completely get rid of it with medication and / or therapy. I am working to learn which camp I belong in. It’s looking like I will be one of those who must learn to manage it as best I can (which I am getting better at).

          I’ll call you next week about that talk about religion / faith over coffee.

          Thanks for being a friend. Michael

          • Tom Sampson 2 January 2016 at 10:32 am

            Sounds good. We can talk about anything you like.


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