It’s been awhile. To say my plate has been full is one of the biggest understatements of this century. We moved, again, this time to another state. Less than twenty-four hours after arriving to our new house, we left on a trip for my sister-in-law’s wedding which was absolutely amazing. We stayed there for a few days before flying back home, getting lost in one of the largest airports I’ve ever been to, and getting home at seven am. It was an adventure, and totally worth all the travels, but damn am I glad to be home for a while.
There’s a reason why I explained all of that. It wasn’t just to give you a run down of my oh-so-interesting life. I’m going to admit something that I’m actually not too pleased to admit.
I had a panic attack.
A few of them, actually. I’m not too pleased to admit that because it sucks. I’ve gone years without full blown panic attacks and yet here I am, sitting here, remembering the ones I had last week. I wasn’t happy about it, which probably didn’t help.
I have this thing. I hate driving. I hate it with a passion. I hate it because I have no control over my surroundings. I only have control over what I’m doing, but not what the asshole swerving into my lane is doing, or the chick doing her makeup not paying attention to anyone or anything around here is doing. I have no control. And…I’ll just admit this now, I have control issues. So, driving from lunch time until after midnight, by myself, in my slow car, as I followed my husband and our kids in our fast truck, was probably the most tense thing I’ve done in awhile. I’m pretty sure my hands were cramped up for the next few days from how hard I gripped the steering wheel. My husband always laughs at me because I really am irrational about driving and I”m so nervous about it. I’m also nervous about breaking laws, which definitely includes speeding, but that’s a story for abnother time.
This long drive came after a week long of preparing for a large move which by itself is stressful enough. I had stuff to do that involved my books, and ended up having to go on a hiatus until I could give my books and all my readers my full attention. I had two tiny humans who must have sensed my stress because they were particularly cranky. And I had a strict schedule that got screwed up by an entire day after a particularly gnarly storm took out our power for about eight hours. By the time we were set to leave our old house and drive to our new one, I was so ready to just be done. I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to sit and relax for two minute, but you know…I had to adult. So, I adulted. I drove those eight or so hours to our new place. I manned up, I did it, but it wasn’t easy. And you want to know why? You guessed it, I had some major anxiety.
Let me just say that this is not like me anymore. Sure, I get the normal butterflies and quick flash of “OH MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING” every now and again, but I rarely get true anxiety. You know the type. The anxiety that will eventually lead to full blown panic if I don’t catch it in time. The anxiety that creeps up your spine and into your mind so quick you’re wondering if you’ve lost your mind and turned into a completely different person. Yeah, that’s the type I was having. It was annoying, frustrating, and really it had me more tense than I’d like to admit. But, I did it. I handled it. Mainly because I was driving, I had no other choice. I couldn’t, okay I could but I wouldn’t, stop off the side of the road because I couldn’t get my brain in check. To me, that’s admitting defeat and I wasn’t about to do that. Plus, I just wanted to be at my new house, and to relax for a few hours before we got onto our next adventure. And when we arrived to our new house after a couple storms and a few heart attacks after witnessing some trucks driving carelessly and losing my husband a number of times because I refuse to go more than 10% over the speed limit (control issues) I felt better. We went to a restaurant, ate some dinner, got lost on the way home, drove over a few curbs when we ended up in a dead end, and realized when we were almost home that we only had four hours before we had to be awake for our next flight. We turned into super parents. We got home, I bathed the twins while my husband speedily put their crib together, I nursed them (yes I’m still doing that), and got them to bed. Then I packed our bags (bad idea when you’re exhausted by the way), took a shower, and laid down to rest for two hours before we hit the road again.
I closed my eyes.
I started to let my body do it’s thing.
My muscles relaxed.
My mind went to rest.
And I fell asleep….for all of twenty minutes before my super awesome husband slapped me in his sleep. It was funny, really it was. He sat up, smacked me in the head, and folded over laughing in my lap saying “I don’t think I’m awake enough.” Then he put himself back to sleep laughing. It was amusing, until I realized that anxiety must have hit warped speed because suddenly I was having one of the full blown panic attacks that I remember fearing.
It was weird. I should have been laughing but I was too tired. My body didn’t feel like mine, I was that tired. Days of packing, moving, stress, and driving does that to a person, not to mention I had only had twenty minutes of sleep.
I should have been able to fight it, but god damn was I tired. And I don’t even think I know exactly how the anxiety crept in, I just know that it did and before I could even stop it, it manifested itself within me.
And I felt violated.
That’s the only way to describe it. Violated. I didn’t want to be panicking. I didn’t want to have anxiety. I didn’t want to let the panic take over causing my entire body to shake compulsively. I didn’t want any of that. What I wanted was sleep. I wanted to relax. I wanted to not feel like a stress ball ready to explode. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I got stuck with this anxiety that exploded, sending panic like shrapnel through my entire body. I could feel it in the top of my head all the way to my toes. I felt it in the way my body shook, regardless of how I willed it to still. And I felt it in the way my stomach turned, my mind ran, and my chest ached. I felt it in the way I desperately wanted it to stop. I felt it in the way I wished there was a solution. I felt it in the desperation I had that I didn’t want this to be me anymore.
I can’t even describe how defeated I felt. After two years of no panic, I was having one, and it was at the worst time. I needed to sleep before our seven hour travel day and before we saw family I hadn’t seen in a while. But, panic didn’t care. It just wanted to take over, and it did. I let it. Until I had finally fallen asleep for about an hour and a half and woke up with the same panic as if it had never stopped. I straightened my hair, I took one look in that mirror, and I saw how pale, so scared, how tired I looked and I freaked out more.
This isn’t me anymore.
I texted my mom because she always makes me feel better. She reassured me that I wasn’t slipping or going back to the old me, that I was in fact over stressed and exhausted. It happens to everyone one time or another.
I felt better. But it wasn’t until I took a second look in the mirror and saw myself still shaking that I started to kick my own ass.
You’re being ridiculous Danielle.
What are you panicking about?
There’s no logical explanation.
And no, there doesn’t always have to be an explanation to panic, but you, you know when you’ve been triggered.
And tiredness will pass.
You’ll get passed this.
You’ve done it before.
You’ve done it for years.
You’ll do it again.
Want to know why?
Because you’re you and you are in control. Not your subconscious mind. You.
Be strong like a woman because if you can go through birth with two failed epidurals for over thirty six motherfuckin hours…you can get through one scrawny, little, infuriating panic attack.
And it was literally within seconds that the shaking stopped.
I felt…better. I wasn’t tense. I wasn’t going through some crazy thought process. It was done. I was over it. And now I had to go. I was shaken still though, because it is and will always feel violating. I don’t think I ever realized that until now. I spent my entire life dealing with it as if it was normal, as if it belonged in my life because, well, that’s what I was told. I was diagnosed with this illness, I had to come to terms with it being my norm, so I did, and it infected every aspect of my life. Until I didn’t let it anymore but then it came back (for good reasoning. Cranky teething babies who decided sleep is for the birds. Moving, money, power outages, deadlines, traveling, long drives, all on less than stellar sleep, it’s bound to happen.) and it was like I had this new perspective on it. I used to let it come into my life. It wasn’t violating then. It didn’t seem that way at least because I was the one inviting it in with my unhealthy way of thinking. But the other night, when I didn’t see it coming, it snuck in, took over, and ran the show. It was not what I wanted. I didn’t invite it in. I didn’t want it near me, but it came anyways. It shook me up. But…guys…I survived. In the midst of it, I didn’t feel like I would, but I did. I did. And you know what? I didn’t relapse into some crazy bipolar episode, or turn into a panic monster, or let any previous diagnosis control me. It was a slip up, a stress induced slip up, and it didn’t end my world. Why is that something I”m even saying? Well because in the middle of this panic attack, I had some paranoid glimpse into what it might be like to live that life again, and it scared me more than anything. Maybe that’s motivation in itself. All I know is this….I took control when I needed to the most, when it mattered the most, and although I let it win for a little bit, I still won in the end.
And you can win too. I promise.
When the panic is creeping in, just remember that you control it all.
You. Control. It.
Not the other way around.
It’s not like being in the car where you are only in control of one tiny thing in the grand scheme of the situation. You have control over each and every thought, each and every moment inside your mind. Take the reigns, take the power back, take yourself back. You can do it. Because you do it once, you prove to yourself it can be done. Then you do it again. And again. And again. Over and over until you realize….
Anxiety does not rule you.
Will anxiety, panic, paranoia, reach you some days? Yes, because that’s how life works. It happens to everyone. Even ask my husband. But does that mean it has to control your life? No. I realize that it doesn’t seem like it’s that simple, and it’s not. It’s hard to fight it, to muddle through the haze anxiety sets in your mind, giving you the inability to realize what rational and irrational, but you can do it. It takes practice. But it’s possible.
Remember you are better than it.
And you are stronger than it.
And you will get better.
Now…I’m off to bed because allergies or a cold has officially taken over the house and I want nothing more than to lay down (hopefully breathe through my nose) and read a book before bed while eating oatmeal cookies because I”m an adult and I can. :]