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mental health mondays :: ...to be continued

mental health mondays should be up tomorrow. i had started the post and then had to stop, because i had an overwhelming panic attack. then i couldn't do anything but sleep. so basically, one attack- about something that turned out to be fairly easily resolved- robbed me of several hours of my life, stopped my productivity dead in its tracks and, since my sleep schedule is somewhat derailed, threatens to mess me up for tomorrow as well. as a special bonus, even writing this short post about my evening is making me extremely edgy, because i'm desperately afraid of triggering another attack which, in the middle of the night and with very limited resources available to me to calm myself, is a terrifying thought. i'm trying not to panic over the possibility that i could panic.

post-panic, i even look different. my face is puffy and my eyes look swollen, although there's no reason for that. i haven't been crying or yelling or using my facial muscles in any abnormal way. nonetheless, the face i see in the mirror tonight is not the same as the one that greeted me this morning. anyone who tries to tell me that these things are all in my head had better have an airtight explanation for how my head changes my face.

i am sharing this with you because, 1. i think it's sort of hilarious and ironic that i have to postpone mental health mondays because of my mental health; 2. i want people to understand how suddenly a real crisis can throw someone off-kilter and how the after-effects can cascade from what seems like a fairly minor event. for people who suffer from anxiety disorders [which is part, although not all, of my profile], an attack isn't just upsetting, but crippling. and not everyone has the good fortune, as i did tonight, of being at home and able to work through these feelings in relative comfort. anything can set off this chain reaction, not just known "triggers", but virtually any obstacle or any of the causes of stress that people deal with every day. obviously, regular sources of stress are more dangerous when you're already prone to panicking, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you will have an attack when exposed to regular sources of stress. in fact, people with panic or anxiety disorders can often manage what seem like stressful situations just fine, only to crack under the pressure of having to decide what to make for dinner. [no, in case you're wondering, that wasn't what set me off.]

for those of you who don't regularly have full-blown panic attacks, be happy, because it's nothing you would ever want to experience. imagine getting in your car, driving somewhat faster then you feel comfortable doing and turning your car in a direction of a large tree. then imagine closing your eyes and trying to steer away from the tree without touching the brakes. that's an approximation of a panic attack, only it can last for hours, not seconds. that combination of helplessness, mortal fear, and responsibility for the situation.

for those of you who do suffer from anxiety and/ or panic disorders, i'm putting this up here so that you know you're not alone and so that you know that it's ok to say what's happening to you in public, even on the internet, where anyone in the world can see. the world we live in often places unfair and onerous demands on people, including a lot of people who are more fragile because it might be damaging to their interests. it's a hideous thing. i feel it and i know many of you do too. stress is a natural reaction to that.

but anxiety and panic are thieves. they rob you of time, of happiness, and, as is increasingly evident, of life. what's worse, they rob the world of you, because often your inner self, your real self, just can't fight through the fog and be present. that's a loss for everybody.

breathe as slowly and deeply as you can for ten minutes, focusing on nothing else. hug your cat or dog or rhino, whatever you have, i'm not judging. use whatever tricks you can find on the internet to keep the thieves out of your house and if those start to fail you, learn more. protect yourself. don't let them steal more than they already have.

i can't get back the time i lost today, but i can at least try to turn it into something that might help someone else. 

Comments

Ugh, I'm so sorry. I used to suffer from semi-regular panic attacks before I went on my current medication, and I still get them occasionally. I hope you feel better soon. <3
Ben said…
Mine always feel like I've got sand under my skin and that if I go to sleep, I will not wake up. I also feel like if I don't keep moving, I will die.

Yeah. Lots and lots of fun.
Kate MacDonald said…
Thank you both for your support. The medication I'm on does help with all but the worst of the panic attacks, so I don't get nearly as many as I used to (although the ones I do get are pretty epic).

I've had a ferocious headache all day today, which is like the hangover from the worst drug experience anyone has ever had and lived.

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