Today I learned a valuable lesson, or at least I’ve accepted one – everybody stumbles from time to time, EVERYBODY. But the truth is, it’s a lot harder to swallow when that someone is YOU.
I would say that I’m an experienced panic attack student. I recognise the signs and I understand the tactics that help. I haven’t been fooled by the ‘panic trick’ for a long time now.
But today I was knocked on my arse so hard it made my teeth rattle, (metaphorically). There was a strategy meeting at work and like other members of the team I was expected to give a short presentation about my plans for 2016. I’ve spoken in meetings before and while I was a little nervous the night before, I didn’t spot any waves on the horizon.
When I got on the train this morning I knew… when I got my coffee at Starbucks I knew… when I sat down at my desk I knew.. and when I was walking towards the meeting room, I sure as Hell freaking knew. “Winter is coming” whispered my subconscious (For the GOT fans) – in reality it screamed “OH MY GOD YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE A PANIC ATTACK AND YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO DEAL WITH IT!” How did I respond? In the sensible, accepting way, that I have done in the past? NOPE.. I did the worst possible thing and tried to ignore it… and when that didn’t work I tried to fight it. Both tactics failed miserably? Why? Because you can’t force your brain to do anything. Here’s an example “DON’T THINK ABOUT GIANT PURPLE BEES!!” – See.. it doesn’t work.
Despite my years of experience I basically did everything wrong, “you’ll be fine, don’t be stupid!” I told myself. “You just have to hold it together for ten minutes”
The Tiger: “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You won’t be able to string a sentence together. Your voice will tremble and you’ll blush. Everyone is going to stare at you. You need to get out NOW!”
Tbh, it didn’t help that I was the last person to give my presentation. I had a good hour of abuse and torture from the tiger.
A nice list of the physical symptoms:
· Pounding heart (standard)
· Sweating like a pig on a treadmill
· Numb/heavy limbs
· A general ‘spaced out’ feeling
· An overwhelming urge to sh** myself (I didn’t)
By the time it was my turn to speak I was at breaking point, a place I haven’t been in almost a year. I actually thought in all seriousness “I can’t do this.. I just can’t. Make some excuse about feeling faint” – and I won’t lie, I nearly did. I was that distressed. I don’t know what changed my mind, but at the last second I just started talking. It wasn’t great – despite having some good ideas that I initially really wanted to share, I skipped through half the presentation with shaking hands and a pounding chest. I’d managed to keep the panic attack at bay, but only just.. and afterwards I felt genuinely sad and so disappointed in myself. I actually snuck off to the toilets to cry a little. My body was shattered too, like I’d run ten miles or fought a shire horse for the last carrot!
I HATE panic attacks and I can’t pretend otherwise. While crying in the toilets I thought “why can’t they just leave me alone.. haven’t I done enough?” BUT – then I realised that sh** happens and I wouldn’t think the same way if I had a cold.
Me: Why can’t the common cold just leave me alone?!
Doctor: Erm… because you’re human love and we all get them at least once a year. Why don’t you just focus on healing & take things as they go?
So as much as I want to spend the evening hiding and desperately fighting off thoughts such as; “What if they start happening all the time?” “What if you get ill again?” I’m going to let them in… why? Because it’ll help in the long run. It’s OK to be afraid and it’s OK not to be OK. Naturally I’m going to order pizza, drink half a bottle of wine and watch something awful (but so good) on TV like Pretty Little Liars.
Despite his abuse, I’m also going to invite the tiger onto the couch with me… it’s been a while and we need to get more acquainted again.
Maybe I’ll even read some of my own advice?
Categories: Panic Attacks