Everyone, and anyone who had classes with me in high school, has seen me have anxiety, but there are only eight or nine people in my life that have seen me have a full on panic attack. The person who saw my worst panic attack lives in New York, and surprisingly, it wasn’t Jeremy. Jeremy has helped me develop some of the most helpful coping mechanisms, so he’s never seen me at my worst, my freshmen year–a year where everyone writes off anxiety for hormones so it’s impossible to understand what is happening inside your body, inside your brain, and inside your soul. My anxiety became a punch line for jokes about puberty.
The person who saw this seminal panic attack brought it up recently with a laugh, because it was laughable. Something bad had happened to me at school that day, I had no medication and no breathing techniques, no Jeremy to hug it out, no Maeby wag her tail, and no Hufflepuff to plop in my hands. So I went into the theater, where there were only a few of my closest friends eating lunch, and, screaming at the top of my lungs, I ordered everybody “OUT!” Of course this wasn’t my space to lose it, but, according to my panic button, I needed the whole auditorium to convulse and scream and cry. Everyone did leave, and I was able to shake and scream, but I’ve repressed the rest. I hadn’t thought about that day until someone recently brought it up with a laugh.
I understood this incident with new eyes when my friend reminded me of the experience, and my heart broke for Freshman Me who was experiencing her first real panic attack. How could I tell that girl that there was more where that came from? That she’d experience that rawness at least ten more times in the next 10 years? How could I comfort that girl with the promise of a husband who understands, who loves you with wild hair and mascara streaming, not beneath your eyes but from the sides of your eyes and into your ears because you’re too overwhelmed to even sit up and let the tears fall down your cheeks like they should.
I bet my readers are feeling lucky they didn’t marry me.
This is a thought that I have because I am anxious. I reach for the worst case scenario, which is most often that my anxiety will render me unlovable, which is a pretty hideous feeling.
So anxiety begets anxiety because not only are you stressed about whatever made you stressed the first place (the trigger), you’re also anxious about what happens when you let your panic show.
I am not a stoic; I wear my struggle on my sleeve. So it’s no secret that these last few weeks have been hard on me, mostly because I felt like I had no control over the biggest aspects of my life—my job, my house, my friends, and my health. This “lack of control concoction” brewed for about a week. When I first start experiencing anxiety, I tell Jeremy “I’ve got ants.” It’s a metaphor I came up with because when I first notice anxiety, it feels like literal ants are crawling through my veins. As my anxiety increases, the ants start looking for a way out. I feel like if I can’t let them out, they just get bigger, stronger, more vehement. Most of the time, I’m able to work through the ants stage by having a good cry and a better nap. But this time, new ants, bigger and meaner, kept on coming.
- Someone asked when my baby was due on the street. (I am not pregnant).
- I got on the wrong train to the doctor’s office.
- We found a perfect new apartment in our budget to move into, only to be told by TC housing that our “intent to stay” form was a binding contract.
- The Pharmacy closed early for a time sensitive medicine I was supposed to take.
- The Parks department denied my permit for an event we’d been planning for the Silph Road for no reason other than they felt like saying no that day.
Ok, so all of that is manageable except that GIANT ANTS from last week were already CRAWLING THROUGH MY BLOODSTREAM. And since they had no way out, they formed chains around my lungs, and started constricting.
And the only way to let the ants out is to do what I did Freshmen year, which is to start screaming. So I rush into the bathroom, and I can’t remember exactly how I’ve ended up on the floor, but I need to start screaming to let the ants out but I can’t actually scream because we have neighbors and now I am anxious about the neighbors finding me unlovable which is absurd because no one cares about their neighbors in New York unless they’re anxious.
So I am silent screaming, balled up on the bathmat, while Maeby is pawing at the door, and Jeremy’s patiently waiting for me to ride the wave so he can hold me close when I’m ready. And even though Maeby wants to help, and even though Jeremy’s loved me through more despicable moments, there’s still a giant chasm between me on the bathmat and him on the other side of the door, and I think I’m about ready to pitch myself into that metaphorical chasm if for no other reason than I really, really, REALLY need the ants to stop marching through my bloodstream.
Where’s my happy ending? My tidy conclusion asserting that everything is going to be ok? I mean, eventually, I am able to pull myself up off the bathmat. But that’s the other thing about anxiety. There’s no farewell, there’s only, “see you next time.” A monkey on your back you get to repress for as long as you can. So while I feel much better today, I remember the last ten years, and the girl in the theater screaming for everyone to get out so they can’t see her wrestle with the ants.