I don’t always know why I’m anxious. I don’t usually know what causes my panic attacks. I don’t know why my heart pounds or why I have trouble breathing or why I get a metallic taste in my mouth or why words and sounds seem to speed up and slow down at the same time. It all just happens.
If I start to try to figure out why I’m panicking, I panic more. I start to think that I must be forgetting something important and not being able to figure out what that something is makes it all so much worse.
I acknowledge that being around me while I’m having a panic attack (or am just in a general state of heightened anxiety) can be difficult for those who have never experienced overwhelming anxiety. I understand that most people’s first reaction is to try to fix it. And I understand that the easiest way to fix something is to know how it broke in the first place.
But I don’t know always know how I broke. I don’t always know the trigger. I only know that I was okay one minute and bat shit insane the next. I only know that I have to function through it. So I breathe or snap a rubber band or splash cold water on my face or just turn off the lights, lie in my bed, and try to will myself to sleep.
If I’m around other people, I try to hide it. But I can’t always hide it. Sometimes my anxiety manifests as a loss of temper. I snap. I’m not really angry and I don’t mean to yell. It’s a defense mechanism. I’m afraid to let anyone in. I’m afraid because I know that first question is going to be why and I don’t know why.
During my freshman year of high school, my school bus would drop me off several minutes before the doors opened. I would huddle with my friends and sometimes we would laugh and be silly or just talk about stupid freshman stuff. Sometimes something minuscule would set me off. I’d stomp off and stand by myself until the doors opened and I could make my way to my locker and then homeroom.
I explained it away as a not-being-a-morning-person thing. I didn’t know what an anxiety disorder was at the time. At 15 years old, I still had no idea what my panic attacks were. I’d ask family and friends if my words sounded funny to them because they sounded funny to me. I tried to explain what I was hearing. I never could. They all just looked at me weird, so I stopped asking.
Knowing the what is a huge improvement, even if I still don’t always know the why.
Sometimes, I do know why, but I can’t tell anyone why because I know how stupid my why sounds. I know how ridiculous it is that I’m panicking over a conversation I had 3 days ago because I think maybe I might have said something in nervousness that was taken the wrong way and that maybe that person thinks I’m horrible.
I like it better when people think I don’t care what other people think. Until I don’t. Until the comments about how confident I am and how strong I am and how outgoing I am start to weigh on me. One pebble at a time until they’re crushing me and I want to throw them off and scream, “NO! I’m not! I’m a complete fucking mess!”
Sometimes I feel as if I’m a puddle of irrational fears that never stop dripping and can never be contained . . . no matter how large the bucket may be. Most of the time, I remember how large that puddle used to be. Most of the time, I recognize how much of my crazy has already been cleaned up.
I may not be who I want to be, but I am better than I used to be. I don’t need anyone to understand the whys. I don’t need to be fixed. Sometimes I do need someone to hold my hand . . . or my heart . . . or the bucket while I mop up my mess.