I found this oddly appropriate as I'm desperately trying to hold off an imminent panic attack, and as it turns out, since I only take my atavan when I'm having a panic attack, I didn't know I was out of them. So...no calming drugs for me, and I have to get through this one on my own. It's not the end of the world, I've done it before, many, many times. But expecting to be able to reach for relief only to find it's not there is disconcerting to say the least.
I've talked before about my bipolar disorder, how the highs make me chatty, keep me up, can aggravate me or turn me into someone who snaps over every little thing, and the lows keep me locked into myself, too sad, too miserable to talk about it. It sucks and I hate it...but given a choice, I'd take bipolar over the anxiety disorder any fucking day of the week.
Anxiety disorder makes me...well, it makes me anxious..but it's so much more. I feel like I can't breathe, my clothes, my skin are too tight, and are suffocating me. My heart pounds, my brain (never really all that slow or rational to begin with) races at lightening speeds with every paranoid thought you can imagine. I've seen numerous therapists and a couple of shrinks, and the general consensus seems to be that the anxiety is a holdover from a childhood so awful that I spend everyday in a state of anxiety, and, as it turns out, these responses become habituated in your brain chemistry, so now...even though I haven't had the cause for the anxiety in over 20 years, even though the main perpetrator in my childhood nightmare is dead and buried, I still get these bursts of panic.
I've tried everything...meditation, exercise, biofeedback, medication...nothing works. Nothing has managed to put a stop to the panic attacks. I take a medication that makes me so that I'm not so anxious I can't leave my house most of the time, but for these burst of adrenalin that kick off the panic? Nothing works because there isn't a pattern or a trigger (though sometimes thinking too much a panic attack can induce one). Most of my panic attacks occur in the middle of the night. I'm either suffering from insomnia and find myself freaking out...or, far worse, I wake up from a dead sleep in the grips of a panic attack. In those moments, the only thing that helps is the atavan. Otherwise, I doom myself to an hour or more of panic...and it sucks, my friends.
By far, the worst panic attacks are the ones that happen in front of other people. My brain just plays the same thought over and over..."What will people think of me?" I've avoided large gatherings for years just to avoid the chance that it might happen in front of other people. Because, I'm already the crazy one...how bad would it be to be even crazier? Even though the people I'm usually around are family or beloved friends, the idea that they would see me that way? Terrifying. Worse still? That those I love would know just how screwed up I am. Used to be I only talked about this with the exgirlfriend...and occasionally my beloved Archaeogoddess.
In recent years I've been trying to be more open...talking about it here, making jokes about it, because that's how I handle things. And, frankly, the fear monster doesn't seem so bad if you can laugh at it.
I know how hard it is for me to talk about, and I'm one of those people who has no problems discussing just about anything else. Pelvic exam post, anyone? So, if it's hard for me? How much harder for other people...you know, people who have filters?
It's time we take the stigma off of mental health. Just like with my Fibro, Grave's and various other illnesses, I didn't ask for this. I didn't make my brain betray me in the worst possible ways. It's time that we stop looking the other way when people we love are in trouble because we don't want to embarrass them. And it's time for us to stop being so damn uncomfortable with mental illness that we write off friends and loved ones who self-medicate as attention seeking addicts. Mental illness affects not just the one who's sick...it affects everyone around me. And pretending like it doesn't can lead to tragedy.
I'm blogging for mental health today. How about you?
And for the record...that panic attack I was talking about? Just writing about it helped so much...maybe I'll try to remember that the next time I wake up feeling like I'm going to crawl out of my skin.