So yesterday all of the anxiety I’d been fighting off got heavier and heavier and I fell apart into one of those heaving, ugly-cry panic attacks where you’re pretty sure that you’re literally dying but you also suspect that it’s all in your mind. Which makes it worse, in a way.
Victor is used to my normal anxiety attacks but these big, end-of-the-world ones still freak him out. I tried to explain how I was overwhelmed with the world and decisions and how I felt like I was failing at everything and that I was certain there were important things I’d forgotten and that were falling off the edges and that soon I’d remember them all too late. And he didn’t understand (because he’s not insane in the same way I am) and tried to help by encouraging me to set goals and deadlines with the things that I’m forever behind on and that just made it worse because I don’t have the capacity for goals and deadlines at the moment and it feels so terrible to explain that something so simple for most people is absolutely too much to even think about for me at the moment.
Most of my anxiety attacks are normalish. You could watch me have one and sort of empathize. I hyperventilate. Sometimes I’m physically sick. My hands curl into claws. But they pass and other than the rag doll exhaustion that comes afterward it all seems somewhat understandable, if a bit dramatic. But a panic attack is different and the panic is so overwhelming and physically painful that I will do anything to make it stop. I look outside at the squash in the garden and have an uncontrollable urge to rip it all up so that it’s one less thing to think about. I sit on my hands to keep from grabbing the clippers and shaving off my hair so that I don’t have to think about it anymore. I am overwhelmed with impulsive thoughts and I know that it will pass but I have to keep myself safe until it does. I hide in my room. I make Victor watch me when I feel like I can’t trust myself. I feel like a burden but I also know that he knows that this will pass.
And then it does.
After an anxiety attack I feel drained and exhausted. After a panic attack I feel keyed up and paranoid and ragged and brittle. Anxiety attacks are like a good long cry you didn’t know you needed. Panic attacks are like the first cry when you’ve lost a family member. You don’t know when the next one may come and what will set it off.
Today I am better. Still jagged and a bit broken, but less likely to listen to the illogical lies in my head. More likely to forgive myself for my limitations. Trying to give myself the same level of acceptance and love that I’d give anyone else in this situation. Reminding myself that I am not alone. And that this idea that we are failing and drowning is not real. We thrive more than we fail. We just don’t celebrate it as much. We notice the (sometimes imagined) frowns when we let someone down so much more than the (very real) smiles we fail to recognize when we put them on other people’s faces.
This morning I washed the dishes to feel like I was actually doing something. I have real work to do but I needed something mindless to distract me…something that would make me feel some sense of accomplishment…and while I was working I felt Dorothy Barker drop something on my foot.
It was a small, uneaten part of her milk bone and I suspect she dropped it on my foot because they’re stale and she was giving me feedback but I thought that it was entirely possible that she just wanted to share with me. And then I realized that the piece was gnawed into a heart.
Dogs don’t know what hearts are and she definitely didn’t do it on purpose and frankly it looks more like a shark’s tooth than a heart. so technically if I’m being scientific it’s more likely that she’s threatening me but you know what? Fuck that. I’m taking this accidental heart as a sign from the universe that things are going to be okay.
Because they are. We’ll be okay. Me and you. Even when life feels like too much of a struggle, remember that this passes. Remember that fear and reality aren’t always the same. Look for the small signs of love and kindness. Have faith that brighter things are coming. They are. In ways you never expected.