Today I had a panic attack. It was a real rocker. You know the type. I sweated, felt like I would puke, worried I would kill myself, worried I would hurt someone else, worried about work, worried it would never end — all in the span of 20 minutes. It wasn’t fun. It sucked. I know it sucks. I know it’s hard, but I want you to know you do not understand anything right now. Your thoughts are lies anxiety tells you. Even when there is some truth, it is always a catastrophic version of what might be. Sure, the shit might hit the fan, but you cannot predict the future.
I know you’re hurting right now. You might feel like you’re not good enough. You have a lot of fears. I’m sorry you have to go through that. It makes me sad to think of you going through this anxiety, whether it’s for a few minutes or a few months. I love you, though. We’ve done all of this before. I know all the thoughts you have, and I love you! You should know that.
I want to address the things you might be thinking. I know you overthink shit big time. I’m not sure addressing your fears will help, but we try everything else, why not this?
1. The moment you need your meds to get calm, you are going to start thinking you’re an addict. It’s not true, but it’s what you do. Even if you think “I haven’t had them in forever. I don’t crave them,” you will follow it up with, “Yeah, but this could be the time.” Listen honey, this is the thought you have every time. Remember when you couldn’t sleep with your medication near you? You have anxiety about medicine, kid. So what if this is the time? Are you struggling with anxiety right now? Take care of yourself with the tools you have. Let me take care of what’s left of you when you’re done. I can handle it. I swear. I’m way stronger than you think I am.
2. You’re going to think the anxiety is never going away, or at least stick around long enough to mess up your work. The first is impossible. The second is rare, but it could happen. So what? The reputation you think you need — you’re imagining it. Even if all of your clients cut you off because you were out of work for a month, you would bounce back up, but I’m not here to reassure you. I’m here to tell it like it is. This shit will happen to you. You are sick. You’re also fine.
3. You’re going to worry about taking your life because you have intrusive thoughts about it. I’m not going to bother telling you they are just intrusive thoughts. I know what it feels like. You wouldn’t listen to me anyway. I will say this, though. I really want a chance to come back to my life. I would appreciate it if you would take care of us and just endure this until you get back to me, OK? If you have to cling to a book for a month, drinking Ensure and playing video games, do it please. I need you. No pressure, though, eh?
4. You’re going to worry about puking. I’m baffled we’re so scared of being sick, but it happens. So what if you puke? Which brings me to . . .
5. You’re going to worry your meds will stop working. I know why you worry about this. Sometimes, our meds are not as effective as they can be. It’s because sometimes we have really prominent symptoms. A pill may not knock a panic attack on its ass (though one just did). They will help make your anxiety manageable enough so you can knock back an Ensure, read a book and walk until you find me again. It might take time, Shell, but you will find me. I promise. It’s OK to cry and be sad that I’m gone right now.
6. Do what you would have done anyway. If you sit still and cater to the horrible sensations of your anxiety, it is all you will feel. You might as well feel like shit and do something at the same time. You might enjoy the walk less or zone out during family time, but at least you won’t just be sitting there feeling like shit, right? Live your life. When it’s going rough, it’s going to suck whether you lay around or get up and risk puking in the grocery store, which still has yet to happen. I can just imagine us if it ever does. “OMG, I was right!” Ugh. Whatever.
My point is, get through it. Do what you have to do. I promise you that I, your calm self, will be happily waiting for you on the other side. I always am. Even if it’s just for a minute that slowly grows over time to be hours, I am always waiting for anxious me to get to the other side of anxiety. This is not reassurance. This is just a fact. I can’t wait to see you again. It feels so good to be alive. I can’t wait to tell you that.
Follow this journey on Living With Intrusive Thoughts.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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