(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 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,
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–
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.
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.