Friday, October 11, 2013

Anatomy of a Panic Disorder Part 3 Hope

Welcome to part 3 of my crazy. If you haven’t read part 1 and part 2 yet, you may want to do that now, otherwise most of this shit won’t make much sense. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

               You’re back? Okay, let’s do this.

               The first time I laid eyes on my fiancé, he was obnoxiously drunk, standing in the “blow job chair” (not exactly what you think it is guys – I don’t go to those kind of bars, geez) at a bar, and throwing money. Some people would have referred to him as an arrogant dick. I was one of those people. Actually, still am on occasion.

               Uh, panic disorder? Hello? How in the hell is this relevant? Yea, I’m getting there.
               Years later, we met again, and he had come down to Earth a little. Not completely mind you, but some. We started dating, and the obligatory I-have-issues-and-here-are-all-of-the-ways-that’s-going-to-suck-for-you conversation was approaching. I never looked forward to this conversation. At best it was uncomfortable, at worst it put an end to whatever relationship was starting. But with this guy? I absolutely dreaded it. I didn’t know how he would respond, but I was prett positive I wouldn’t like it. And I wasn’t wrong.

               “…so that’s all of it,” I finished “I cant go some places, do some things, I have to leave in the middle of stuff a lot. And it sucks. What do you think?”

               He then proceeded to say every single wrong thing possible.

               “There’s no such thing as all that. Panic attacks? Its all in your head.”

               Cue thunder and lightning, shocked face, middle finger, the entire array of nasty emotions available to a human being. Well, that’s pretty much done, I though, so much for this guy. I still tried; I argued with him, tried to explain it, to make him see that it wasn’t all in my head, it was a very real thing, it wasn’t rational, I wasn’t rational once lost in it, I had no control over it . He didn’t buy it.

               Until he saw a panic attack hit me, saw what it did to me. Then he believed it. And then he got pissed. He became angry that I had to deal with all of this, that I had been dealing with all of this for so long, frustrated that he couldn’t flip a switch and make it go away and kind of sad too I think, for all that I had missed. He understood, but he wasn’t willing to accept it. He was going to cure it. He was going to fix me. He told me this one day.

               “Bahahahaha,” I laughed.”There is no fixing this babe, I’ve been dealing with it for more than 20 years! I do the best I can, but it’s not going to just go away.”

               But the fiancé is stubborn. He’s also smart, has the patience to do extensive research, and has a passion for psychology and human behavior. Shortly after I laughed in his face, he approached me with a solution.
“Just decide you aren’t going to panic anymore.” He beamed. Like he had just solved fucking world peace and poverty all in one shot.

“Just decide, huh?” I asked. “Well, fuck! Why didn’t I think of that years ago?!?”
He tried to explain to me what he meant, how his solution would work. He talked about conditioning, behavior modification, conscious thinking. What in the actual fuck? Just what? He was psycho-babbling me, and really thought it would fix what had hindered my entire life. I quickly lost patience with it and insisted again that it wasn’t fixable, and that I as dealing with it the best that I could, and this was the best I was ever going to be.

He was patient when I lost my shit, stayed calm when I got frustrated (Totally opposite of the norm for us, by the way), and then he decided to take a different approach. “Just trust me.” He said. I knew that it would not work, but I went along with it. Mostly to shut him up.

That was almost 3 years ago. My panic attacks are down about 75% in frequency since then, and I am capable of doing 3 times as much shit as I could then. It’s not gone, fixed or cured, but it’s all so much better.

I’ll try to explain the process, try to minimize the psycho babble, and pray to God that I am able to get this across and that maybe someone else can benefit from it.

Before the fiancé decided to fix me, I started off every outing with “I am going to have a panic attack” running through my head like a mantra. I knew I was. I had been here before, and I had one then, so I would again (There’s that conditioning crap, y’all). Well, that was stupid. Human, but seriously stupid. Of course I am going to have one if I decide before I even leave the fucking house that I am going to have one. If you wake up in the morning and think “today is going to suck,” well then guess what? It probably will. I had to change that thought (There’s conscious thought). Well I immediately resisted that idea. I can’t control my fucking thoughts! What do you think I am? They just happen! But I tried. And it was ridiculously hard. It took a long time.

 I started off thinking “I will probably have a panic attack.” Eventually it became “Maybe I will.” But about then, an amazing thing happened, and this is key; I went somewhere where I had always panicked, and I DIDN’T! I don’t know if it was a coincidence, or if it was that conscious thought shit working, but it was a huge fucking victory. And I grabbed it with both hands and ran with it. I started to be able to think “Maybe I won’t,” and sometimes even “I am not going to.” The whole conditioning thing, like the cycle I referred to in part 1 and part 2, had been working against me my whole life, and I was turning it around. I was making it work for me. I was making it my bitch!

What was previously:
 All the things caused the panic attacks, and the attacks caused me to avoid all the things

Was becoming :
I can do stuff and not have an attack, so I can do stuff again and not have one again!
               I know it all sounds kind of simple, but I promise you, it wasn’t. Its hard to change a thought pattern that is so ingrained. But every successful non-panicking thing fueled me. I gained confidence in myself. More importantly, I gained the desire to be not so damn afraid all the time, the desire to continue to accept this bullshit life with all these restrictions.

               The fiancé helped me, tremendously. At first simply by distracting me while we were out, and it was sometimes enough to keep the panic away. And eventually, he saw the improvement, and the resulting confidence and so he challenged me.

               “Drive out to this place tonight. I’ll meet you inside,” he said one night.

               “Are you out of your mind?” I asked. “I can’t drive there by myself; I don’t know where it is. What if I get lost? And walk in by myself? To a place I’ve never been? What if I can’t find you? NO.”

               “You can do it baby,” he assured me. “Remember last weekend? You made it through a whole afternoon at that crazy busy art fair!”

               And he was right. I could. And I did! He played on my confidence, added to it and used it. More often than not I found out I could do, and it was amazing. I was using that fucking god-awful cycle to my advantage. I was turning it around. Each new accomplishment allowed me the next one. It was like the best high of my life, every time I earned a victory.

               They weren’t all victories, they still aren’t. I sometimes still slip into the old thinking. I just have to catch myself and pull out of it. And if I’m having a particularly crappy, weak day, and I have a panic attack, it still sometimes sets me back a bit. It’s still a battle. It’s still there. It always will be. But I have some of the control now. I just have to ay attention and keep it. It’s still a fight y’all, but now it’s a productive one, and one I can win.

               And so can you. I’m not anybody special. I’m not super brave, or super strong. I was just super tired of it all, and I was handed a little piece of hope for change. And I took it. I built on it, I fought for it, and I refused to let it go. And now I’m handing it to you. If I can get better, even a little bit, you damn sure can.

               Thank you all, for sharing my 3 parts of crazy with me. Feel free to share it, especially if you know someone who could benefit from it. And guys? Please try to keep in mind; no one ever knows what anyone else is going through. Be compassionate whenever you can. The world needs it.

No comments:

Post a Comment