About My Panic Attacks: I've Always Been a Nervous Person
From as far back as I can remember, I have been what you’d call a nervous person. Shivery poodles seem laid back in comparison.
The other kids would stampede to the big hill when it snowed, because for all of them there was nothing better than careening down that ice-covered Vesuvius on a thin piece of plastic that you could control not one iota. I was seven and consumed with the idea of running over my own hand or crashing through the ice, my mid-scream face frozen right below the surface till April. What I’m saying to you is I was the least-fun kid ever invented. I made Charlie Brown look devil-may-care.
Image: Freddie Pena
Things did not improve when I hit puberty, because who’s calm at age 13? Suddenly, I felt all this pressure to be cute (I wasn’t) and popular (fail) and fashionable (insert sound of the Price Is Right loser horns). I was constantly on edge. Did I measure up? Was everyone laughing at me? Was anyone even noticing me?
Then, I’m happy to announce, I eventually started getting real honest-to-God panic attacks, which —lemme tell you — ain’t pretty. I know no one means anything by it, but when I hear someone say, “I had a panic attack when I couldn’t find my shoes,” I want to slug them right in the kisser.
Let me try to explain panic attacks to you. Imagine you're at the grocery store and someone bursts in with a gun and points it right at you. You know how you’d feel, oh, a trifle terrified? Now imagine feeling that same way, only all you’re doing is standing at the checkout counter. You have to get out of there. You’re covered in sweat. And FOR NO REASON other than your brain chemistry has turned on you.
I let those stupid panic attacks get the best of me for longer than I care to admit. I even had one during a one-hour massage at a spa. It got so I didn’t want to go anywhere, for fear another attack would strike, and I’d have to run out in the middle of a dinner or a play or whatever. Finally, I just started telling people. “Look, I’m not crazy, you know, much, but I do have these panic attacks sometimes and if I get one I might have to leave.”
And guess what? Once I didn’t make it such a big deal and such a shameful secret, they lost their power over me. Every once in a while, I’ll be somewhere and feel stupid panic well up, and I just tell it go ahead. Panic, away. I’ll just be over here continuing with my day. And it passes.
But that hasn’t negated my generally anxious state. I worry about choking to death at my house, where I live alone. I worry about tarantulas in the shower. I fret over each health test I get and I stew over what I’m gonna do when the dog dies.
I can’t imagine a day without at least one good worry. I’ve never understood those serene, every-little-thing’s-gonna-be-all-right, all-is-well people. It is my theory that they are constantly, incredibly high.
I wonder if I should worry about them.
Originally published on Purple Clover