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.