Hitting the Panic Button

Friends, it’s time for some real talk.

I’ve been unthinkably tired for some time. True, that was basically my default setting through most of grad school and the years immediately following, but I felt I was getting better at making sure I took time for me. I was getting better at balancing work and the rest of my life, and generally took on jobs that were all-around better situations than those I found myself in when I was in my early-to-mid-to-late-twenties.

Of course, that’s when life tends to slide out of nowhere and go “GOTCHA!” while it grabs painfully onto your love handles and jiggles them about like an asshole, because it’s just so hil-a-rious. Well, maybe I’m over-reaching.

But friends, I was unthinkably tired. We’re talking “working for three weekends straight in addition to long hours at the office and then coming home and working a few more hours in the evening” kind of tired. And stressed. And beginning to go a bit batty. I tried to give myself some non-work, more creative-type things to do for when I got home (hence our recent magnificent hat tea party), but there’s really only so much that crafting can do. Sometimes you just need to sit down in the middle of the street and tell everything to stop.

So that’s what I did.

Well, more to the point, I drove my car around the corner from my house after work one day and pulled over to the side of the street and proceeded to have a full-on panic attack.

It was bad. So bad, in fact, that a complete stranger – who was on their way to…well, somewhere else…saw me, stopped their own car in the middle of the street and came over to help me. They got me a bottle of water and talked to me a moment while I tried to get myself to breathe and stop crying (and figure out how to open the dang bottle, and figure out how to turn on my AC, and figure out how to adjust my seat — all incredibly simple things that I couldn’t get my body and brain to do). I think it lasted an hour, from start to finish, but it might have actually lasted a little longer.

That happened a month ago and I still don’t feel quite back to myself. For a while, I didn’t feel like doing much when I came home from work, beyond sitting on the couch in the back living room and staring out the window at my fig trees. after panic attack

So, what’s the point of this little entry? It’s simple.

Awareness. And Accountability

There is still so much stigma around just discussing mental health. There are so many people struggling with so many different diagnoses out there that you’d think we would be better about talking about this kind of thing. But we aren’t. Talking about it, that is. And that’s an important part of making the world better for people who are dealing with these issues. If we talk about it, people will realize it’s not just them, and maybe we can get past this learned behavior that leads us to internalize all our stress and anxiety until it bursts forth out of us, like some horribly destructive alien larva.

lie to everyone

I know that I, personally, have a tendency to not discuss my feelings with too many people. Sure, Robert has a window into them and I’ll chat with my Mom from time to time when I’m frustrated about something – but there’s actually a lot that I don’t discuss, and it’s hard for me to put a lot of my thoughts into words. Which is ironic, really, considering I’m a storyteller and we’re pretty generally so full of words that it’s coming out our ears. But that’s what I’ve got to work on. Sometimes, you just need to tell people “I can’t do this.” And that doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It means that you’re human.

knope worst day

I’ve started trying to practice this whole new “telling people when you’re having issues” things, at least in regards to work. I’ve shared with our HR department and my supervisor, and two of my closer work proximity associates (in the words of Ron Swanson) that I’m unhappy with my job, and that it’s starting to cause larger issues with my health, both physical and mental. I was honest with them – to the point of actually telling them about my panic attack. It was a big scary step, but it’s done and, hopefully, that means the next ones won’t be as terrifying. We’ll see.

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