This Isn’t An Ode To Panic Disorder…

I’ve hated you since I started experiencing panic attacks

No

Even before that

I hated you when I saw what you did to my father

How merciless you were

I hated how vulnerable you made him

I hated how scared you made me feel

When I started having my own panic attacks

I wasn’t unsure or surprised by your arrival

I was just upset

I was angry that I couldn’t fend you off

Especially after having seen first hand the damage you caused

I was frustrated

And you grew stronger

I had my very first panic attack waiting to board a plane

That sense of helplessness and feeling of being trapped

Allowed you to flourish

And you grew stronger

I got more frustrated

I became depressed

At what I perceived as my failure

Failure of what?

Outrun you of course

Break the pattern

And you grew stronger

Throughout the years and the numerous times you showed up

You stole bits and pieces from me

From my identity

From the experiences I stopped myself from having

I can’t count how many things I’ve missed out on because I was just too damn scared of you

And you grew stronger

I didn’t know that it was me who fed you

I didn’t know it was me that built you up

I vacillated between fighting you and being so terrified of you that I hid behind medications and isolation

I’m bone tired of fighting

I’m drained of the energy it takes to be afraid

I’ve been living with you my entire life in one form of another

You haven’t killed me

Yet

I was hurt because of you

The people around me were hurt because of you

But it was I, who allowed that to happen

Not you

You were never strong

It was always me that was strong

Always fighting against you

And

Hiding when self preservation took over

I used so much energy trying to not let you win

That I didn’t realize

I could end this epic battle

By waving a white flag

I spent so much time hating you

When I should have been understanding you

Because you were struggling like me

You were the outcome of the bad day, bad week, bad month that I’d had

You were what my body needed to expel to move on

I was too consumed by the symptoms you gave me

The shortness of breath, the stomach cramps, the heart palpitations, the depersonalization

To see that those symptoms came up because I dreaded your arrival

I’m sorry that I didn’t see you for what you really are

You’re me

And we’re in this together

So

If my body and mind feel like they need to have a panic attack…

Well I guess it’s ok

We will get through this

It’ll be uncomfortable

But it will pass

Just like it always has

And I promise to try not to be so hard on you

If you promise to do the same

Who knows?

Maybe one day

I’ll even write a poem about how grateful I am for your existence

I’d tell you not to hold your breath

But we both know I’d be lying

So I’ll just say this

I get it, Panic Disorder

I really do

I’m only sorry that it’s taken me so long

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‘Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional.’ Haruki Murakami

I need to stop resisting my panic attacks

I know this

From years of therapy and educating myself on panic disorder

I am fully aware that I am not in danger

I am aware that my feelings although unpleasant

Are temporary

And will pass

Yet

My natural instinct is to fight against the discomfort I feel when I experience a panic attack

Thus I remain stuck in the cycle of panic

I read something this morning that resonated with meArticle

The key take away from this article

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’

What does that mean?

It means that there is nothing we can do in life

To avoid pain, both physical and mental

What we can do, however, is decide what we are going to do with that pain

Do we accept the pain for what it is (unpleasant feelings)

Or do we fight against it?

Making the situation worse?

Drawing it out?

Allowing it to permeate every part of our lives?

The answer is clear

The real question is how do we accept what feels unnatural and foreign?

We have to go against our instincts

Instead of fleeing

Instead of fighting

Give yourself over to the feeling

Maybe even taunt it

Invite it into your life

This can be done through self talk

Or exposing yourself to anxiety inducing situations

I think both are helpful

I noticed during this last month

How negative my self talk is

When I need it to be the exact opposite

I’ll find myself thinking or saying aloud

‘ I can’t do this’

‘It’s too hard’

‘I’m weak’

How self defeating is that?

So I’m changing the narrative

‘I am able to do this’

‘Just because it feels unpleasant doesn’t mean I am in danger’

‘I accept what is happening right now’

The other part is inviting the uninvited visitor into your life

Come on in

Do your worst

It’s been a hard week, and maybe if a panic attack is hanging around

Let it out

Allow yourself to feel whatever it is

Without punishment

No criticism

Find a place that is comfortable

And let it roll through you like an ocean wave

You know that it will be uncomfortable but it will pass

Makes perfect sense, right?

Now

I just need to practice what I’ve gotten so good at preaching

I will not be a cautionary anecdote that psychotherapists use for future patients

There once was a woman named Angela

Who allowed panic disorder to rule her life

And became isolated and held hostage

Even though she had all the tools she needed

To live

‘See my shadow changing, Stretching up and over me. Soften this old armor. Hoping I can clear the way By stepping through my shadow, Coming out the other side. Step into the shadow. Forty-six & 2 are just ahead of me.’ TOOL

With gradual acceptance comes mounting frustration at the world around you

The world isn’t as comfortable as you aspire to be with your disease (s)

Your spouse won’t stop looking at you with sad eyes

Thinking of a time that will never exist for the both of you again

Your parents always worrying about you

Worrying about how you’ll survive after they’re gone

Your siblings will always simultaneously resent and pity you

All the attention is on you and all the prayers are about you

Your friends have grown so accustomed to your absences

That when you’re ready to be a part of the world again, they’ve forgotten your name

Your workplace doesn’t have a place for you anymore

Posting an ad for your job in hopes of finding someone less ‘sick’

Society doesn’t realize how badass you are

They can’t see past the fact that you need a cane in the first place

The reflection in the mirror looks back at you with weary eyes

It still sees you as broken and in need of saving

Nobody can see the heart that is slowly being stitched together

No one can see the magic that is your brain learning how to accept life as it is

One painstaking tiny miracle at a time

It’s only you

Only you can know how far you’ve come

Only you know about the reparations being made

Only you can know that the old you died in June of 2013

All that’s been left is a shell of a person lingering between two worlds

Not sure where to go

Full of pain and confusion

So with a touch of sadness that will always remain

You finally let that old you go

You don’t watch it get carried away by wind and dust

It’s not your responsibility any longer

You can walk away now

You don’t have to feel the burden of obligatory regret for what you couldn’t give the old you

You can finally fucking breathe

This is your time

Stitched up and with a brain still getting it’s shit together

You’re going to make this world yours

Like it was always meant to be

A typical fight between a couple where one has MS

Person with MS (now referred to as ‘MS’ says to their partner who does not have MS (now referred to as N/A) ‘You seem unhappy. I’ve been noticing it for awhile. It appears to me that when I flare up, you get very stressed become unhappy.’

N/A: ‘What? Me? No. Sure I worry but I’m not unhappy. It’s work and (insert other things like kids, money, etc).

MS: ‘really? It seems to have really started after my diagnosis.’

N/A: (immediately defensive)

MS: ‘I mean, I know I gave you an out after my diagnosis (out a term many MSers are familiar with) and you didn’t take it. But that’s the thing with MS sometimes it gets worse. And I know this hasn’t been easy for you.’

N/A: ‘Exactly. I don’t want to leave. Why are you even bringing this up?!’

MS: (annoyance increasing) ‘Look, can’t we just talk about this? I’m concerned about how this affects you and in turn me.’

N/A: ‘I deal with it okay? You don’t have to worry’

MS: ‘But that’s the thing, you’re not dealing with ‘it’. You’re snappy (insert other words like ‘cranky, pissy, never home, drinking too much and etc)

N/A: ‘Am I supposed to be happy with it?!’

MS: ‘Thats the thing though. You acting so unhappy about my illness makes me feel worse about it. It makes me feel like a burden and I feel like that’s making you miserable. And how can I work on accepting my illness when you’re so miserable about it?’

End scene

Thats the thing

You know

The one at the end of the day

That keeps you up

Worrying over

Going to groups and learning about how to accept a crazy fucked up illness like MS

And not getting sucked under by the sadness and fear that comes along with it

But it is so hard to accept something so life changing

For the MSer

And for the people around said person

There’s such a strong part of me that does not want to accept having MS

I don’t want it to be a part of me, my life or my health for that matter

It seems self defeating to accept it

But it’s not

It’s the opposite

It’s like a coming to terms with MS

A mutual agreement if you will

MS says to you ‘I’m sticking around. I’m moody and temperamental and I like to take over every aspect of your life.’

You respond ‘I know you’re here to stay, and I understand the moodiness…but I can’t let you take over my entire life’

MS says ‘Why not? I have already.’

You answer ‘I’m taking parts of my life back from you. I’ll still have you in my life but you just can’t have it all. So let’s agree that you’ll stick around and I won’t fight you anymore. But you have to understand that you’re only one piece of my life. A big piece, yes. But I just can’t let you take over everything.’

MS ‘What’s the harm in that anyway?’

You say ‘Because if I let you, you’d own me and I would disappear.’

And the curtains start to close

And you and MS walk to different stage exits

The audience knows it’s not goodbye

But rather just a little breathing room

And there’s closure in that

————

The end