Daily Archives: June 12, 2013

The Insanity of panic attacks

I was going along today, no bad mood, no sudden mood shifts, feeling decent…And I happened to read something on line, and BAM! Panic attack from hell set in. Pounding heart, spinning room, twisting stomach, rapid breathing…Logically, of course, I knew I was not going to die. Of course, what the experts fail to mention is that panic disorder is a big bully and won’t occupy the same room with logic. Makes it like shooting fish in a barrel.

Now, you might ask, what did I read that could evoke such a response?

In this particular case, it was about food stamp fraud. I’m not proud of the fact I get food stamps, but considering the situation I was left with and that her father hasn’t been held accountable, sucking up my own pride seems a meager price to pay for my kid’s well being. I have, to the best of my knowledge, disclosed everything to my case worker in charge of the benefit case. I think I even told her when my car got hit and I got another one. I provided her with print outs of my debit card, my car title, and the total of what all my stuff would bring if I sold it.

So why would I panic? I have been completely honest, I have done nothing wrong.

LOGIC.

Panic says, “Screw you, logic, this is something NEW we can freak out about so we don’t get all cocky and start feeling semi happy and relaxed!”

People say if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

They really need to meet panic disorder.

For two years straight, I avoided anything remotely resembling news, on paper or on line, because of certain articles setting off panic attacks. Whether it makes sense or not, there it is. I have just this year gotten to where I can read on line again without needing a stay at the wacko shack. Today, it all started coming undone.

Over what? I’ve disclosed all income.  Stated all assets. No one but us lives here. The donor has not been around in two years. So why would this one article set things off?

But it isn’t just this article or today. This is something that happens many times in the year’s course.

Panic and paranoia reject logic. Totally reject it.

I am driving down the street, a cop is behind me. I have my seatbelt on, all license and registration is current, car is insured, not on drugs, not drinking, not on the phone….But scumbag brain says, “Ohgodohgodohgod he is gonna pull you over!”

Instant panic.

Walk by a group of people laughing. Enter panic. “They’re laughing at you, they are going to try kick your ass, run run run!”

I read an article today about some country that wants to assign every child there a social worker, make sure they have a fit home, et al. That got me nervous. How long before the US decides to do that? And what would these powers that be say about my housekeeping which isn’t horrid but probably isn’t up to snuff for them?

PANIC!!! “They’re gonna take your kid away!”

Article about bipolar person?

“It’s directed at you,personally, freak out, they’re a threat, freak out, ohmigodohmigod!”

So the premise that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear is utter rubbish as far as panic disorder is concerned. There is always something to fear even if nothing is to hide.

People demand logic to understand such things but this is one of those things where logic simply doesn’t apply.

I spent two years convinced I was pregnant and panicking on a daily basis, with no actual proof. No missed periods, no physical symptoms aside from weight gain, but I was just convinced. No amount of doctors appointments put me at ease. I was living in terror and constant panic. After my kid was born and I went on Depo Provera, my sanity went on vacation. There was only the distorted thought processes telling me these like “you’re pregnant” in spite of numerous negative pregnancy tests. My husband had a vasectomy, and we still used condoms, and still, my brain said PREGNANT.

I finally got that one conquered, then paranoid brain moved onto, “You’re belly is too bloated, you have cancer, you’re gonna die in the next six months!”

The natural progression of whatever happened to my brain post pregnancy hasn’t gotten any worse, but it’s not gotten any better, either. Throw panic attacks on top of rampant illogical paranoia and delusional thoughts…You get the trainwreck that is me.

I do not share any of this with those around me. They wouldn’t understand.

Maybe no one who reads this will understand, either. Perhaps I really am just insane in the membrane.

But this is my reality and talking about it makes it seem less like packing a boulder up a hill. I may look nuts or foolish or stupid but it is what it is.

I see the shrink tomorrow. I want to tell her everything is hunky dory. The worst part was the monthly thing, it’s done, I feel fine. I’ve never really confided the worst of the distorted thoughts to her because she insists I am not paranoid and does not find panic disorder to be all that crippling. So I focus on the bipolar, because it seems to be the only thing she focuses on.

Maybe I will go back to Lithium.

Maybe it will help. Maybe it won’t.

My life is a lot of maybes, except when it comes to panic disorder.

That particular facet is constant and it is insane.


Wednesday’s Quote: Jane Pauley

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder the year I turned 50, it was certainly a shock. But as a journalist, knowing a little bit about a lot of things, I didn’t suffer the misconception that depression was all in my head or a mark of poor character. I knew it was a disease, and, like all diseases, was treatable.
-Jane Pauley

One Story, Free to Good Home

It occurred to me yesterday that there might be people who want to read my story, but wish that they could do it on their tablet or e-reader. So I got my husband to convert it to a .pdf; you can download it here:

An End to All Things:
http://www.digitalglitch.org/misc/An%20End%20to%20All%20Things.pdf

He’s also been trying to figure out how to make it into a functioning .epub, but the formatting keeps going a bit janky. We figure most people can do .pdfs on their various technology, so… it covers the basic gamut. *smiles* I’ve not even had the brain space to consider doing the editing on it yet, so there’s every chance there’s errors that will maybe eventually get ironed out. We’ll see. I’m not intending to make any money off of this piece, considering I’m borrowing someone else’s creative setting (The Wheel of Time universe). Plus, the thought of having to deal with the taxman on both sides of the pond over trying to sell my own works makes me break out in hives, so… better to share it freely, I figure!


Beyond that, I’m enjoying working on my knitting, and poking along a game of The Sims (I’m not an addict, maybe, that’s a lie). If I didn’t know better, I would say I was almost managing relaxation. I’m still not quite up to dealing with people, and I still feel that I don’t overly care. The thought of having messengers open and making myself available as such just doesn’t even appeal. I don’t even feel bad about it. I’m not apathetic — I wouldn’t mind chatting with folks, but I’m okay with not doing it and letting my brain and body continue a slow recuperation.

Am I approaching a point of actual stability? Maybe. I’m not taking anything for granted, especially since I am yet to a point I desire to be — a point where I can handle going out once in awhile without it being a big deal. I want to be at a point where I can talk to more people than my best friends on the daily. I’m not wanting to rock and roll all night, or party every day — I just want to be able to have the occasional conversation with friends and not be wiped out at even the thought, or be able to do something social on the fly rather than needing to plan it and book it way out in advance to give my brain time to cope with having to leave the home space (or have people in the home space, though that’s a significantly smaller bother of the two). They’re pretty modest goals, if I do say so myself.

<3

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Triggers

(psst it’s an AirSoft gun, not a real one)

In yesterday’s post, I briefly mentioned triggers. I realized I had a lot more to say than I covered, so I decided today’s post would be dedicated to the topic.
Triggers are people, places, things, and situations that trigger an unhealthy response. Unfortunately for our brains, triggers are often things we can’t avoid or that we don’t want to avoid.
Here is a picture of my number one trigger:
Tyra Fricken’ Banks. 
I probably owe you an explanation. After all, I can’t just paste a picture of one of a world-famous supermodel and label her as a trigger.
***
When I was struggling with my eating disorder, I often turned to pictures of models as thinspiration. I don’t blame the models for my eating disorder; their photoshopped bodies just happen to be triggering for me. Once I started recovery, I swore off fashion magazines. Then I found America’s Next Top Model.
It was like crack. I couldn’t get enough of the models, the photo-shoots, and the drama. I practiced “smizing” and “tooching” in front of the mirror – it’s worse than it sounds, I promise. I downloaded all of the photo shoots so I could pore over them, critiquing their poses and angles. But the most tantalizing aspect of the show was that these young hopefuls were just like me. I could, in theory, be America’s Next Top Model. The only things standing between me and television stardom were my thighs. And my tummy. And my boobs. And my hips. But I had the height, right?
I noticed that the more I watched the show, the worse my eating patterns got. I started obsessing about food again. Fearing full relapse, I made myself quit watching the show cold turkey. I deleted my ANTM tumblr account, and I said goodbye to Tyra.
I was fine until last year, when I saw the season premiere was featured on Hulu. I’m okay now, I thought. I can handle it. I’m only watching it for the photography. My obsession resumed. I watched it religiously; I ran home from the bus stop to watch the newest episode each week. I made Chris, my mom, my brother, anyone watch the show with me. At first, I really was simply enjoying the program. But then I started to wonder, was I Top Model material?
I was Cady-Heron-obsessed-with-Regina-George-obsessed. I was going to be a model. It was THE ultimate goal. I thought about postponing going to college just in case I was chosen for taping the show.  But most importantly, I started feeling funny about my weight again. Old habits resurfaced. After the season finale, I knew that I had to stop. Plus, I was mad that Laura didn’t win.
***
I’m fairly certain that I’ll never be able to watch America’s Next Top Model again. I finally understand what it means for something to be triggering. It can look enticing, but it’s ultimately not good for me. I’ve learned to make compromises with myself. I may not watch ANTM, but I’ve found that Project Runway works for me. There’s less of a focus on the models and more emphasis on the passion and hard work of the designers. Plus, there’s no way in hell that I’d ever be able to compete on that show.
It’s frustrating when we have other triggers that we can’t avoid. For example, another one of my triggers is having people over to my house. I can’t erect a forty-foot wall around the home I share with my family. It’s against code. Also, you just can’t live like that. I’m slowly learning that I can have pleasant interactions with pleasant people where I live. No, I won’t be hosting a massive rave in the near future, but having some friends over for brunch is doable. I’m accepting that when a large gathering is absolutely necessary, there is no shame in taking a Xanax beforehand and a really long nap afterwards.
With triggers, it’s all about personal management. It’s finding out what you can handle and accepting your limitations – maybe even embracing them. For me, the key to doing this was using coping skills and/or finding substitute activities, depending on the trigger. It’s a learning process; what worked yesterday might not work today. It’s important that we forgive ourselves when things don’t go according to plan, and move forward with renewed grace and determination. 
You can still have poise without a supermodel in your life.