My anxiety comes in two forms. It used to be three, but I’ll come back to that.
There is the slow build. The always-there, low-level panic that feels like there are little gnomes living inside of my chest that have chains wrapped around my lungs and are pulling them ever tighter. It can last for hours and never really gets any better or worse. It just pulls me down and makes me want to curl up into a ball and wait for it to go away.
Then there’s the panic attack. And by “attack” I mean it feels like someone has punched me with a metal hand – fist straight through the rib cage, squeezing my heart. Squeezing and pulling out from between my lungs that no longer work. My lungs no longer draw air and my heart no longer pumps blood and I’m getting dizzy and it’s going black and I’m going to pass out and wake up heartless, breathless and inside a hospital.
This is something that has never happened and never will happen. It used to be a serious, serious fear but now I’m very aware it’s not going to happen. But it hasn’t made the panic attacks any easier, let me tell you.
The third type of anxiety I used to struggle with is the complete and utter breakdown of all my brain and body. Violently rocking back and forth and kicking things and being completely unable to think of anything, anything at all except for more kicking, more rocking, more mental screaming until it stops and we’re back to the punch in the chest or the gnomes or some crying.
Sometimes the two — or three — forms connect or blend together, going from one to the other. I feel the gnomes, pulling those heavy metal chains ever tighter inside my chest and I’m anticipating the fist any minute now. There is nothing I can do to stop it. And often the fist in my chest is removed and my heart and lungs return to working again, the gnomes holding it all together too tightly for the rest of the day. The day that has effectively been ruined because a fist in the chest is really hard to get over and the gnomes never, ever give up.
I’m telling you this because this is how I feel right now. Right before bedtime. I take medication but still here I am, waiting for the metal fist to the chest.
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