A panic attack in prose

Last week I had a pretty severe panic attack… One that made me question whether I had a hold on my anxiety or whether it had a hold on me, even though I knew logically and rationally that I’ve been doing awesome with it…

I was at placement… during a staff development/student free day and after pulling on a facade of calm, I sat quietly at the back and wrote…
I intended to share it immediately after, but lacked the courage to be that vulnerable… Now, as I prepare to transcribe it from pen and paper to interwebs, I’m left wondering if it will even seem half as dramatic as it felt at the time…
The point of me sharing it is that while it might not feel like it at the time, panic attacks, anxiety, ocd, depression etc are nothing to be ashamed of. They happen. Sometimes you can calm yourself through symptoms, sometimes you can’t. But they do not define you and they absolutely do not make you a less valuable human.

——

“I’m writing to try to take my mind off a panic attack.

I feel so watched.

This one has been long
3 hours
I’m already exhausted as if I’ve done a 16 hour day… In 3 hours…

Everyone is a familiar stranger.
I know everyone but no-one’s name…

I’m trying to pay attention.
Met with conflicting emotions about a Christian Sermon.

What we think about God shapes everything that we do”

Well that’s not untrue, I guess…

So contrived… A mask… A costume… A gang colour…

I moved my chair to a secluded place but now I’m surrounded.
I can feel everyone’s buzz pushing on me…

I’m just exhausted.

3 hours. “Good work will naturally serve others” 

I’m starting to blank out now.

I spent my drive here not hearing the radio.

I split myself in two but it wasn’t even.
7/8ths silently screaming for help, for peace, for stillness.
1/8th tiredly saying to breathe, to pull over and recite numbers, to recentre heart and mind, to clear chakras.

How far is a 7:1 fight? It’s not.
Never
How am I ever supposed to believe that that is going to end favourably for the calm, rational side? The panic is so powerful. So relentless, so unforgiving. SO convincing.

When you’re in the throes of a panic you start to question whether you’re ever calm, whether you were ever on top of your anxiety or if you were just kidding yourself.
It’s always there.
But it’s always surprising when it hits you again.
And I’m not going to pretend it’s a gentle knock on the door and a polite request to enter your life again…
It’s a tank. Armed. Unstoppable. Unreadable and destructive.
Devastatingly destructive sometimes…

That moment- because it IS a moment, in the scheme of things- it feels like it’s all over, and you’ll never get a grip again…
And it’s tempting to throw hands in the air and give in to the dragon that is my anxiety
But in the calm wreckage that’s left after a panic attack- I realise that I’m ok…
I’m doing good.
They’re fewer and further between. I’m better at acknowledging them
And believe it or not, I’m getting better at managing them…”

——

Elastic-waist pants and too much pizza

My inner critic has always been so quick to berate me for saying the wrong thing in the wrong company at the wrong time with the wrong tone of voice…
Something I’ve been working on a lot in the last 3 years is acknowledging the notification of “that was wrong/dumb/stupid/insensitive/inappropriate” and sending it off for further analysis by the rest of my brain, then to my heart for final approval and response…
Most of the time, my brain can filter out all the rubbish and conclude that what I said or did was fine, nothing to worry about and move on with my life, but sometimes I get stuck on one…

Sometimes I get stuck on something I said that caused an energy shift in the room… The sorts of things where you can’t say “I meant no offence by that comment, by the way”, because saying something like that means that you’ve assumed that they HAVE taken offence by it and that, therefore, you’ve popped them into some box that you’ve created that would see them being offended by the sort of thing you just said and it just gets way too messy and disastrous…
So you sit on it… And because you’re sure you felt a shift in the energy the first time you said it (yeah, that’s right, you said it more than once, goodness knows why), you’re sure you’ve done some damage to someone in the room at some level. And because you’re sure you’ve done some damage, your inner critic rips the reins from your hands and takes the wagon off road and careers through the desert castigating you until you feel so isolated from rational salvation that you begin to believe it. You begin to believe everything your inner critic is raving on about…
Maybe you HAVE ruined that person’s day. Maybe they DID think you were aiming your remarks at them with intent to hurt and manipulate them, maybe you ARE crazy for thinking these things in the first place. Maybe you’re a horrible person for even thinking that that remark would affect the person/people at all in the first place and the fact that you think it would is just as bad as having said it in the first place…

Man, I’m exhausted just WRITING that… Let alone THINKING it ad nauseum!!

Short of overcompensating with compliments and niceties, I never really know what to do with this one; but I’m having a red hot go at understanding and dealing with these situations…
I’m trying to look inward and see what I was projecting into the group, what insecurities I was covering up… Or rather laying naked for all to see…
Sometimes it’s easy; I’m feeling a little uneasy about my appearance today, or I’m not feeling intellectually dexterous today, or I’m trying to justify some self-care action that, in the past, has made me feel guilty…

Sometimes it’s not so easy… The inner-critic-declared ‘faux pas’ is hidden, cryptic, confusing… So what do we do with it then?
I have this cartoon image of my brain sometimes, where a situation like this comes into the office and the power-tripping team leader (inner critic) is going ballistic over something that the rest of the team aren’t really seeing as a big deal… They bounce it around to a few departments, receiving analysis and having meetings until finally they shrug and pop it in a basket labelled “misc”…

The misc basket is where a lot of my “not sure what to do with this one” things go at the moment… And while it might seem irresponsible to some; it’s really a great balance of self care and self reflection. Sometimes I’ll revisit a Misc Basket deposit with new information and resolve whatever issue was left in there; sometimes I’ll revisit and realise it’s really an unimportant issue and can probably be binned now that the team leader is on annual leave, and sometimes I just leave it there…

In this great journey that I’m on, trying to work out who I am, who I want to be and what I’m about; reflection is important… but balance is more important… And if my darned inner critic is going to try to take over the controls; then I’m going to take a good solid step back and out of myself so it has less to grab hold of while it’s on its rampage…

You’re gonna say dumb things. But if you keep dwelling on them and replaying the conversation over and over in your head, then no-one benefits, you achieve nothing and you just wear yourself out!

Stop

Over

Thinking.