Trying to describe how I feel. If you suffer anxiety or panic attacks, this post describes what happens to me. If I’m feeling fragile reading other people’s experiences can set me off so this is your spoiler/potential trigger warning.
There are two problems I face – apart from my depression which is part of me. Depression I accept, I know, I live with. I’m alive, and that’s ok.
My two problems go hand in hand. They are outside of me. They are not part of me. They are anxiety and panic.
Anxiety is a gradual onset of things. It can be physical, it can be mental. On bad days it can be both; on the worst days it invites in panic and says hi, welcome, make yourself comfortable, this is your body too. Anxiety is evil.
Panic is an obnoxious, loud, uninvited guest that takes over and refuses all attempts at rationality and normality, preferring its own twisted ways of running my body and keeping it as close to the edge as it can be without literally fainting. Fainting would be good, when panic is around. Panic is evil.
I woke up this morning anxious. I was fine and in it crept, insidious, whispering tales of dread doom and destruction in my ear, curling it’s vaporous tail around my neck, twiddling it’s finger in the fear receptors in my brain, slowly turning my happiness and pleasant dreams into fear and doom and dread. My body follows, it’s jumpy, on edge. My thoughts flit, ruminating, catastrophizing irrational thoughts and fears. In my head my life is over and I’m left, alone. Compounded by my treacherous body, sweat forms on my brow, I perspire, my heart rate increases, I’m anxious and the butterflies I carry in my tummy turn into a flock of swirling starving big birds. They swirl around and around, my legs shake, my hands shake, my head hurts, my eyes burn, my heart pounds and I’m sinking, drowning, being swallowed. I wish for a reprieve, I hope for an end, I welcome nothingness at this point.
If panic enters, it enters from the side stage, hidden from view. It grows, becomes as big as it can be and yells ‘Johnnys here’ just like Jack in that movie but oh! so much worse. It takes over. It’s noise, loud, rumbling, thunderous. Heart rate, you thought you were pounding? No? Try this instead. My feet move of their own accord, my legs tremble and shake and shiver as I’ve only ever felt one other time in my life, right before I had surgery. My stomach is in knots, no birds there now, even they quieten in fear of this big black rotten cloud, the whole unit that is me is being shaken and shriven, torn and ripped into pieces by this huge, ugly, monstrous thing that screams in the night and brings all the monsters out of the dark with it. Every evil thought, every feeling that you’re being watched, whenever you feel like you’re not alone in the dark. That brush on your neck that makes the hairs stand up – there’s a whole room of that feeling and it wraps around me like a suffocating, invisible, stinking cloak of fear. Nothing to fight because how can you fight yourself? My fight or flight response is madly trying to protect me but there is nothing to run from.
This evil, irrational, imagining – this anxiety – this panic – is sideswiped from time to time, knocked out of place and form by books, social media, my family. Living in your head is no good, I read and I agree, and boy, do I try – but how do I leave? How do I keep this up, day after day? The answer: medication. I have beta blockers. They cause my physical response to lessen, enabling me to keep my thoughts in check – they don’t always work, but they help. They are my rescue right now. They help. I am waiting on referrals but I’m told self referral is quicker. I need to see the doctor for those too.
My anxiety has got worse since I stopped my anti depressants and came off birth control. I now get anxious according to where I am in my cycle and it’s made worse by having little to no chemical protection. I know my mind, you see. It does tend towards the over dramatic, the depressive, the anxious. It has done, for ever. I feel, strongly. I empathise, completely. I can take on every side in a story and feel every emotion. (Disney movies are particularly difficult to watch) so I need something, to protect me from myself. Anxiety leads to panic. As I’ve got older I can understand the physical symptoms but that doesn’t make them any different. In the midst of an attack I’m irrational and nothing makes sense. It’s ALL the worst, from the end of the world to my kids dying.
Panic attacks come on when they want to. Running or physical exercise can help those symptoms some. The mental anxiety attacks are a battle and no mistake. They are debilitating, and tiring, and they take everything I haven’t got. Distraction and redirection, immersion in something else, ignorance and concentration. All these things take one thing – attention – and I have a lack of an attention span. That’s what these things do, they seep in and they affect every single aspect of my personality. All the bits that make me me are slowly attacked and eroded by this illness. Make no mistake, it is an illness. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
I understand the cause of my anxiety and my panic attacks. They are a mental response to an physical presence in my system. I get more anxious when I’m ovulating and I will have an out and out panic attack right when it peaks. I’ll have the same again at the onset of menstruation and I only feel ‘normal’ again after its all over. Briefly, until it starts again. I need this looking into; the Internet tells me it’s a fairly common correlation.
I’m calling the doctors in the morning to attempt to kickstart my recovery. I would have been there last week but the appointment the doctor made for me over the phone when I begged him for help wasn’t on the system. So I have to do it again. But I will do it. I need to.