Panic? At the Disco.

Preamble:

(The following subject has come up on many of the blogs that I read on a regular basis. I wrote the following with the desire to understand a disorder that I currently just don’t get…but would like to.)

I am generally open-minded when it comes to mental illnesses;
eating disorders, depression and postpartum depression in particular.

I mean,
I have personal history with the first two,
and my mother had the latter;
I know they’re real, in other words.

I must confess, though,
panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and certain types of PTSD are reaaaaally hard for me to take seriously.

They just sound fake,
like the person in question is looking for attention,
or is perpetually in need of drama–
now, a panic attack that stems from something real,
like an assault,
or a bad accident that happened to the person in question?

*That* I totally understand.

Something like what happened to Alice Bradley of Finslippy?

I don’t understand.

I appreciate Alice–
I think she’s a fantastic writer,
and an all-round lovely person.

It just seems…kind of an over-the-top reaction to something that didn’t hurt her or her child.
And maybe I don’t get it because I’m not a mom–
I know that the maternal instinct is very real,
and is not to be messed with,
and I can’t say that I know how I would react if I were in her shoes.

However, my general response in situations of intense fear
(like the time when my friend Terri and I heard our neighbor being beaten by her drug-addict boyfriend just outside our door) is to ACT,
not react.

I will DO SOMETHING.
In that case, we bolted the door,
moved away from the outside walls,
and called the cops.

We also offered that girl our help–
some cash,
a phone to use,
a place to stay if she needed.

I was more careful about locking the door after that,
but it didn’t make me obsessive.

When Ben’s apartment was robbed last autumn,
I camped out in the back room for a day,
armed with a 5-quart saucepan,
kinda hoping that the perp *would* come back,
just so I could have the pleasure of smacking him/her with it.

After both of my terrifically bad car accidents,
I had a hard time being okay with driving for about a month.
But I made myself do it–in the first instance, the day after a teenage punk
made a tin can out of my Camry.

still makes me wince.

I still twitch occasionally when a car comes up suddenly on my driver’s side.
But that trigger stems from two incidents that I was directly involved in,
and physically hurt by.

How can a person have a full-blown panic attack about what “might have” happened?
It’s the “what-if” trigger that I simply draw a blank on because it seems so self-perpetuating.
You’re anxious about being anxious,
in other words.

Now, before I experienced depression myself,
I needed it explained to me by someone who had been there,
so please, please tell me–
how are panic attacks different from just being a general worrywart?
How are they best dealt with?
Help me understand–
I want to be able to sympathize.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. L
    May 26, 2010 @ 01:06:15

    I can only speak for myself, but I found out after my car accident that I’ve actually been experiencing panic attacks all my life. Mild ones, and in no way as traumatic as some people do, but nevertheless, I have them. They just became more bothersome after the accident because my body was going through so many other things.

    They’re not what you think. At least, mine aren’t. My heart races, I breathe faster, I feel nervous…really nervous. But the weird thing is, they happen at unexpected times, not times when I’m thinking about the accident, not when I see a car accident, I’m pretty sure they’re unrelated to the accident altogether, just more noticable after it. The worst part is, I’m worried about nothing in particular… for me, there’s no treal trigger. And for a long time, I wondered if there was something I *should* be worrying about. For me, it’s not a “what if” feeling or concern about anything. It’s just a feeling of uneasiness that comes from nowhere and has to wear off on its own.

    For dealing? I’m not sure. A doctor prescribed an anti-depressant for me. It did’t work.

    For one thing: it has nothing to do with being a worrywart.

    Reply

    • cheekypinky
      May 26, 2010 @ 01:50:05

      Thanks, honey.

      Ick for just having to wait that uneasiness out–
      how do you even deal with that pressure? 😦

      This is incredibly helpful–thank you.

      Reply

  2. Brenda
    Jun 02, 2010 @ 20:29:09

    All I have is my own experience too, but that’s pretty much true of everybody, when it comes right down to it.

    My anxiety is … odd. The cause of it built up slowly over a few years (and I’d rather not post it here but I can email you about it if you want to know), and the anxiety didn’t show up for a long time. It showed up in a way that was apparently unconnected with the cause – I had issues with being in crowds, particularly if I was expected to interact with them. It got to where I had a hard time being at Bible study, even. I was fine going grocery shopping because I only had to talk to the lady at the cash register, but sometimes I ended up skipping church because it was just too many people in one place – and I LIKE people.

    When I got into counseling for some other crap, this eventually came up, and I got figured out what had set it off in the first place. That was good, in that I could start working on it more coherently, but bad in that now I had more specific anxiety issues. When I’m in the situation that is most connected to the initial cause, my first indication that something’s up is that my lower back hurts. Then I’ll realize that it’s because my entire core (all those muscles Evil Jillian Michaels harps about) is so tense you could bounce a quarter off me. At which point I’ll realize that my heart rate is up, my breathing is shallow, my head is aching from tension, and I didn’t even notice it because of spending so many years pretending that I was not, in fact, under any kind of tension at all – who me, anxiety? Surely you jest!

    Acknowledging that I was anxious meant acknowledging there was a cause, and that would have required more self-analysis than I was up for at the time, thankyouverymuch. I think I’m on the right track with this, but for now it is extremely freaking not-fun. My counselor told me that the body responds to anxiety triggers before the mind does, which is why sometimes I’ll have the whole physical set of weirdness going on when NOTHING seems to be triggering it. (Dude, I’m just making a sandwich, OK? Chill, stupid body.) But if I can stop and breathe and get my heart rate back down and untie the nasty knots in my middle, I can take a minute to figure out what set me off. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I can’t. It sucks.

    I want to get over it at some point, and I’m working in that direction. I’ll never be completely free of association with the stuff that sets me off, so I’d rather get it WAY under control as soon as possible.

    Depression, now … ha, don’t get me started. THAT is another animal entirely.

    Reply

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