Every week I have approximately three mini panic attacks. They’re so small, really, sometimes they barely occupy more than a few minutes of my time. But they happen, and not infrequently. I don’t think they’ll ever stop.
Anxiety, like so many conditions, is long-term. It doesn’t go away when you swallow a pill — the most devastating part of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant meds is that they don’t kick in for weeks. Tell that to a desperate 16-year-old. No such thing as an easy fix.
I am so lucky in so many ways. In my anxiety, I am lucky that I can afford and have access to the meds I need. I have never had a really bad panic attack — the kind that takes your breath away and only a hospital trip will get it back. I first realized what a panic attack was, and that I’d been having versions of them for years, in college, during a shift at my waitressing job.
I know I’ve written about that before, the realization that came with dizziness, nausea, and my breath, something I never thought about, suddenly gone missing.
I don’t talk about my panic attacks so that someone can pat my head, tell me that it will all be OK. Often the attacks are associated with good things — first dates, exciting interview opportunities, hell, exercise. But they come nonetheless.
I talk about my panic attacks, here, now, to remind myself that they still happen. I forget, every time that I see spots, that I have to close my eyes to re-center myself, that I have to skip an activity because I simply cannot calm down — that they still happen. They still happen here, to me.
And they probably happen to a lot of other people. In fact I know they do. I’m not a doctor and I don’t even know if I’m good at giving advice, but in the past few years I’ve gotten better at listening to my body. If something hurts it may be because you’re making it hurt.
I’ve taken up yoga, again, after almost a year hiatus. I love how aware it makes me of my body. I loathe how aware it makes me of my mind. Not very yogic, eh? It’s a constant struggle (if you would even call it that) to make it to class, to sit, and move, on my mat, to not think.
I am never not thinking. For the most part, I feel every second of every day. Bad days, in that sense, feel really long.
But I tell myself something and it helps a lot. I tell myself this when I am having a moment of panic, when I am feeling unmotivated, when I don’t know if I can handle (fill in the blank). A couple of years ago I was frustrated by a yoga move, seeing that my body couldn’t get into it like other people’s.
My teacher watched me as I showed her my problem. She smiled, shrugged. “That’s just your body. Honor your body.” And that’s it. I can go as deep into that move as I want.
So last night, when the world toppled over and fell onto my plate, too many thoughts, too many feelings, fuckin shin splints … I stopped and patted my own head. I told myself, out loud (because if you can’t tell I am most certainly someone who talks to herself), “Honor yourself. You’re going to be OK.”
And I am. I’m OK.