I’ve always bee the type of person to tackle things head on. My conscious brain has always been like “If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it, check out the hook while my DJ revolves it.” I’m fully aware that procrastinating fixing something usually leads to more trouble and running away from trouble just isn’t in my nature. When it comes to fight or flight, I choose fight. That is when I can consciously choose to do so. Unfortunately it isn’t usually the case for me.
Underneath the surface though, somewhere in my subconscious lies a scared little girl that wants to run away screaming at the slightest flicker of instability because she is being tormented by a evil and malicious demon. I have no control over her visits and worse yet, I usually have no idea when she’s going to show up and wreak havoc on the controlled environment I try to keep up in my skull. Her name is Panic and for the last 17 years she’s been visiting me.
There are times when her visits are short and sweet (except for the sweet part) and I can live life rather normally without worrying about a nagging mental house guest around. Sometimes I feel responsible for these times, that a medication I’m taking is a Panic deterrent, like a citronella candle made exclusively for anxiety or that stress management, diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes/ coping methods are making an impact and keeping that unconscious door dead-bolted so it’s just me, myself and I in there.
Unfortunately there are also times I live in terror. Both because Panic is alive and well and making a mess of my brain but also because when it’s that bad, I live in constant fear that another of her temper tantrums are about to happen and I can’t do anything to stop it. This is when I feel like no matter how controlled my conscious and physical world is, I am helpless, I am terrified and I am a prisoner in my own mind.
Sometimes when she shows up Panic bursts through the door screaming and thrashing, no warning what so ever. A sudden wave of heat washes over my body, accompanied by shivers, a rapid intense heart beat, the urge to get up and run (which sometimes I still can’t control) and an overwhelming fear of dread with “oh my God, I’m going to die” going through my conscious mind. I know that I won’t die NOW even if it feels like it but that inescapable fact is all consuming. I am not sure if thanatophobia is a cause or being caused by my anxiety or panic disorders or a mix of cause and effect, but it is definitely deeply connected. It’s a very heavy load for an 11 year old to handle but I have to say, it doesn’t really get much easier at almost 29.
After her tantrum is over you’d think there would be relief. There is not. The after shock is sometimes worse than the moments of adrenaline pumping terror, because it a horrid lasting reminder. Exhaustion sets in, but I am too nervous and worked up to sleep. While my heart may not feel like it’s going to break free from my chest, my rapid pulse keeps me trembling and dizzy. I feel like I need to DO something to distract my mind but my body is too overwhelmed with the physical side effects I am almost paralized. Left hollow with only the worry that another attack may hit again at any moment. When I’m lucky enough to not experience Panic’s rampage again and again the recovery time can take anywhere from an few minutes, to a couple days before I feel ‘over it’ and I can never really plan around which it may be. This itself gives an un-given welcome to Panics other form of visitation.
Panic sometimes likes a little extra company and she knows that her big sis Anxiety is always somewhere on property. The two in typical sibling style sometimes like to gang up on this poor defenseless brain of mine. Anxiety exists much more consciously and on good days I feel like I have her well controlled, lets say on a leash and in heel position. Unfortunately when Panic comes around, she snaps that leash and they both are able to run wild and free. Anxiety going out of control is a warning sign, that Panic lashing out is an immediate danger.
Like feeling a couple isolated rain drops before the big storm settles in, it always starts small. Feeling overly insecure about myself when walking out the door, being indecisive or forgetful about grocery lists, chores to be done or decisions needing to be made. Then a little worse still, I feel naked and vulnerable if I am out in public or I feel desperate and isolated when I am at home. In these moments, Panic doesn’t come thrashing through the doorway making a big scene, she uses gorilla tactics, little attacks in vulnerable places when I’m not paying attention. Little blips of fear giving momentary terror, like almost missing a step down a staircase and you find your step…. but nothing is ACTUALLY wrong.
This is most notable when doing something that ‘could’ be dangerous. Walking along a steep hill or cliff, cutting ingredients for supper or most often when driving on the highway. Panic doesn’t give one constant hard hit this time, rather inconsistent but repetitive small shoves. Just enough to make an already anxious mind play tricks on itself. I feel like I AM going to fall, I feel like I WILL cut my hand, it looks like that oncoming traffic IS veering into the wrong lane. She and her sister create a world where I’ve lost perception, I can’t trust my mind and I can’t even trust my actions.
Panic is unstoppable. Whether large and in charge, decimating everything in her sight or quiet and malicious, leering in a dark corner, I cannot keep her out. If I have a lock, she automatically has a key, if I have a brick wall she undoubtedly has a wrecking ball. I am trapped with her, or she is trapped with me. Either way there is no real running away.
I live for the moments when she is mysteriously gone and I fear the day that she will be here to stay…