Today I had a panic attack.
I felt it coming… there was anxiety building in my chest for most of today but I figured I was just anxious… it happens sometimes. Small spurts of anxiety caused by nothing. I put in my headphones, blasted Anna Nalick’s “Breathe” and concentrated on my own breathing… an anxiety remedy that I discovered when I was a teenager. Despite my best efforts, I had a panic attack.
When I felt the attack coming, I left my desk and went to the park across the street from work to deal with the attack and calm myself down. I made things worse by getting upset over it… I have literally no pressure on me today. There is no logical reason for me to have an attack. I was extremely disappointed in myself. It has been so long since I’ve had an attack and I associate them with a really dark time in my life. I’m a happy person… why am I still dealing with this? I’m finally ‘normal’ and I’m having a panic attack? Is this how life will always be? No matter how much happiness I have in my life, I’ll still be prone to panic attacks? I thought this was something that I was done with.
Anyone who has anxiety knows that worrying only makes it worse. For those who have never had a panic attack… I’ll try my best to explain. Your chest starts tightening – almost as if you’re having an allergic reaction. You have a hard time breathing and your body starts to get numb. It feels like everything is closing in on you, you get dizzy and there’s this feeling of impending and endless doom. When I was younger, I seriously thought that I was dying during an attack. You couldn’t convince me that I was going to be okay. Now I know the symptoms and can recognize it as anxiety… but it still doesn’t make everything go away. If you’re not medicated, then you have to find a way to calm yourself down… which can prove to be hard when you’re freaking out about freaking out.
I was initially disappointed. I can’t find the right words to explain how I felt. I tried so hard for so long to be purely happy with life and now that I’ve achieved that, I feel like any setback jeopardizes my happiness. While I was walking in the park, I thought of Shane Koyczan’s poem, “Instructions for a Bad Day”.
“So be a mirror reflecting yourself back, and remembering the times when you thought all of this was too hard and you’d never make it through. Remember the times you could have pressed quit but you hit continue.”
I told myself I could get through this. I’ve made it through much worse. Instead of being disappointed, I tried to figure out why I felt anxious.
I realized it was because of this weekend. I had such a wonderful weekend. On Saturday night, I spent endless hours with some of the best people I know. Everything felt good… I was peaceful, content and most importantly, completely at ease with myself as a person. I never have to try around them. While I was lying under the stars with a fire keeping me warm and a band keeping me entertained, I was so proud of myself. I was proud of this life I’ve made for myself. I was proud of the decisions I made and my strength through it all. I was proud that I had these people in my life.
Today I wasn’t ready to go back to work. While I never want to go to work, today was different. Today was really hard. It was the contrast that triggered the panic attack. I’m sick of being miserable during the day and I know that I deserve more. I just wanted every day to be like this weekend. I wanted these people to be around me at all times. I wanted to be appreciated and happy and proud of my life. I’m terrified that I’ll never find that balance. I’m ashamed that I preach happiness yet allow myself to be subject to a life I’m not proud of from 9-5.
I listened to Shane’s poem over and over again. I let his words sink in.
“Make us comprehend the urgency of your crisis. Silence left to its own devices breeds silence… Stand in poise and be open. Hope in these situations is not enough and you will need someone to lean on.”
Hope in these situations is not enough. I have a hard time letting other people know that I need help. I’m the one who gives advice… the one who others go to… the one who preaches happiness. I’m not supposed to fall like this. I’m not supposed to be sobbing in a park unable to get my shit together. I knew that it was temporary… I knew that it wasn’t a reflection of my life… I had hope that things would feel better eventually. But sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes you need to admit that you’re falling apart and aren’t sure if you’re going to be okay.
So I texted a close friend of mine who knows me all too well. I would say her name but I’m afraid that she’ll gouge my eyes out and feed them to bears (that should give everyone enough of a hint as to who this is.) What did she say?
“Whenever I’m really dreading work I like to tell myself it’s because my life outside of work is going so well that I’m feeling the contrast more heavily. Which is a good thing.”
Sometimes she can read my mind so well that I’m sincerely concerned she implanted a device in my ear while I was sleeping (something she’s probably capable of). In Shane’s poem, he says this:
“Be forthright. Despite your instinct to say ‘it’s alright, I’m okay’ – be honest. Say how you feel without fear or guilt, without remorse or complexity. Be lucid in your explanation, be sterling in your oppose. If you think for one second no one knows what you’ve been going through; be accepting of the fact that you are wrong.”
Say what you feel without fear or guilt, without remorse or complexity. I want to be known as happy and strong… but to continue that streak, I have to reach out when I’m falling. I have to let people I trust know that I need help. I know all too well that everyone has been there before… I’m not perfect and others won’t expect me to be. No one is going to be disappointed because I’m having a bad day. Anxiety isn’t something to be ashamed about. It’s a disorder that I live with. It’s genetic. My friend literally made me cry by pointing that out in the most beautiful way… “You’ve come so far with your anxiety, let this be a reminder of that.”
About four years ago, I didn’t think I could ever be happy. I thought that was an emotion for someone else. Something that I felt as a child… but now it’s over. Today I am so damn happy… bad days are just a reminder of the pain I no longer feel daily.
One panic attack doesn’t mean that I’m no longer happy. It just means that I’m human.
You can still be happy despite your disorders or conditions. Life can still be good.
Happiness is always an option.