I stumbled this week (not literally.) I felt my ‘old friend’ stir on Sunday morning, but it took another 48 hours before I acknowledged it’s presence. Tbh, I see ‘it’ as male so I’m going to start referring to ‘him’ as such.
That’s right.. I’m talking about the tiger. He dug his claws in so deep Tuesday night, that it made my body tremble in shock. It was around 12:15am and I jumped out of bed with a start. All the usual suspects were present: pounding heart, stomach cramps and a crushing sensation in my chest. Pure terror coursed through my veins. I was having a panic attack.
As my brain frantically tried to find a solution, the following thoughts shot through my mind:
– Take a day off work
You need to numb the pain. Do all of the above quickly! It screamed. This time is different, it’s really bad. You can’t cope.
Amidst the confusion I managed to steady myself and sit on the couch. My instincts were begging me to block out the sensation by any means necessary. Watch TV, go online and buy something (dangerous,) play on the Xbox! Half an hour passed and no matter what I did, I couldn’t suppress the feeling. A mixture of terror, agitation and extreme discomfort. Should I just take a Valium and be done with it?
Then it dawned on me like a sack of stones. I’d been tricked. I couldn’t believe it. Despite all of my experience and knowledge I’d still fallen for the famous ‘anxiety trick.’ I experienced discomfort and was fooled into treating it like danger http://www.anxietycoach.com/anxietytrick.html
I haven’t had a panic or anxiety attack for many months and I’d not only forgotten how it felt, but how to deal with them. Therefore, the primitive side of my brain simply took over and went into full on defensive mode. PROTECT THE BASE, ARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!
So what’s the problem? Well in approximately two weeks’ time I have to stand on a theatre stage (complete with a microphone) and give a presentation. Let me give you moment to let that sink in. Yep, it’s possibly my own personal nightmare. The only thing that could make it worse would be a singing introduction from Justin Bieber! Watch this space. . . I have a fear of losing control and humiliating myself in front of, so public speaking is naturally difficult.
In terms of exposure therapy it’s my biggest hurdled yet and for the past month every time I’ve thought about it my stomach churned. Fear is a horrible feeling and it does strange things to the body. So what did I do? I decided that I didn’t want to feel that way and fought with all my might to block it out. SCHOOL BOY ERROR. What do I always say? You cannot force your brain to stop feeling anxious. For example, if I said “whatever you do DON’T think about PINK ELEPHANTS!” Did pink elephants just pop into your head? I thought so…
By deliberately not thinking about the presentation and how it made me feel, I broke my own rule.
My first reaction was to berate myself for such foolishness. How could I be so stupid? But then I realised… I’m human and it’s OK to stumble at times. Nobody likes to feel afraid, it’s one of the few emotions that we all struggle to bear. People with anxiety try to suppress it (when we can,) which actually only intensifies the feeling. It is better to accept and ‘feel’ the fear. Let it wash over you and experience it. Easier said than done I know.
So the following morning I read through the techniques that I had learned from David Carbonell. (http://www.anxietycoach.com/) The website isn’t great, but the content is solid. I’d been avoiding looking through his book because this would mean facing my anxious feelings, thereby increasing them in the short term. However, after ten minutes I started to feel better:
People tend to respond to panic based on what helps them feel better right away. They choose immediate comfort rather than long term freedom, thinking that they will deal with the problem tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes. You pay for immediate relief by making yourself more sensitive to fear and creating a worse problem in the long run. You get fooled into thinking that you are far more vulnerable than you are. It’s not a good trade. Panic Attacks, by David Carbonell.
The man is still my God! I do love a scientific explanation. It calms me more than any hopeful phrase such as; Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. – NO I WON’T BE FINE! HOW THE F**K WOULD YOU KNOW ANYWAY? Sorry back to reality…
It’s true. I fooled myself into believing that I can’t face panic attacks any more. But the truth is, I just didn’t want to face the short term fear and discomfort. Because… well, it’s shit.
I don’t expect it to be easy, in fact it’ll be really hard. But over the next few weeks I will make a solid effort to face what comes my way. Rigby will help, although tbh she’s having her own troubles at the moment. Our dog walker Harry has taken on a new and very young puppy. Apparently she doesn’t like him. I received this text yesterday: I have been protecting lady from sharp puppy teeth. She is not keen on the new one. True to form she was feeling rather sorry for herself last night and spent most of the evening on my lap. I’ll keep you all updated on the developments! Will Rigby stand her ground? Will the new puppy take over the group? Will Claire ever stop talking like a game show host?
Find out next week on WE’RE ALL MAD HERE. . .
Categories: Panic Attacks