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Panic Attacks: A definition walkthrough for the concerned, confused, and/or fucking stupid…

June 28, 2012 6 comments

For the very few of you who may not be aware, I have severe social anxiety disorder with panic disorder thrown in (just to keep things interesting at parties and on lazy weekends with the family), and have had for several years, since the devastating loss of two of my children.  I have run the gamut of experiments in attempts to combat this, from self-imposed isolation (which sometimes wasn’t self-imposed at all and was actually agoraphobia rearing its ugly head) to throwing my face into other people’s — just to be social — until restraining orders were threatened.

The one thing I hear most often, however, is how this debilitating illness (because let’s not kid each other here, “mental illness” is not just a cute turn of phrase to placate the PC-heads, your brain is just as capable of being sick as your liver or your tonsils…) is somehow a fictional construct of my own invention, designed to garner pity and/or gifts from bleeding hearts.  Those who have seen me go through what I’ve gone through first-hand know better, and those who have similar experiences with mental illness, know better.  However, we still all go through the same daily battle, and then have to battle some more against those who are supposed to be our friends, our family, and our comrades-in-arms, in an effort to prove to them that we have what we say we have, and that we are who we say we are, and that nothing they predict/diagnose/assert will change that… unless their success rate includes rising three days after death.

I just had one of my worst panic attacks to date, so bad that I blacked out and my brain has completely redacted anything that happened during the attack (my husband tells me it was quite a bit, and it feels like I hit a bus with my face at Mach 4, so I’m inclined to believe him), in part because I ran out of my medication and cannot currently afford more… but that’s resolved as of tomorrow (at some point, I hope).   What struck me as I was reeling from the aftermath — which is somewhat akin to waking up after a 15-day-bender with your esophagus feeling like you’ve regurgitated nails and your head feeling like the drummer from Iron Maiden lost his kit and you volunteered as a dutiful fan, combined with every nerve on your skin short-circuiting to the point where your senses are overreacting to touch/smell/sound/sight/Daleks, and you can’t stop trembling so hard that people might think you have Lou Gherig’s Disease — is that it’s hardest for me to communicate my symptoms in a rational state of mind at any point, let alone when I’m in the middle of them and sounding like I may just try to eat someone’s baby.

In case you were wondering, this is not the type of thing that appeals to someone’s willingness to listen… Welcome to the inside of my head.

And, as I was laying in the bed that my husband apparently managed to hoist me up into during my unconsciousness, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we all just had a link to send people to so that they could see, from someone who lives it, what panic attacks are and are not?”  Because, seriously, sometimes trying to explain myself, to someone who doesn’t have the right to demand that I do right as I’m losing my shit, is enough to make me lose my shit. And I’ve talked to enough of you anxiety-fighters out there to know that this is true for you as well.  So here it is, your panic page: send people here who you feel may or may not understand.


If you have been sent to this page, here’s what you should know before we get started:  This page is only as offensive as you make it.  This is an honest explanation from someone who lives with this illness every day and fights it at any given opportunity. If your friend/relative/patient/passing acquaintance sent you here, then there’s a very likely chance that you are:

a.) confused
b.) misinformed
c.) have preconceived notions based on Hollywood’s repeated misrepresentation of what it is to deal with mental illness
d.) are a self-important fuckweasel, yet your friend/relative/patient/passing acquaintance still holds out hope for your successful rehabilitation

While any may apply to you, this page is not presuming to state which, in fact, does… that’s up to you to figure out and remedy.  This page is just the simple guide to help you do it.


Panic attacks are…

  • Traumatic; each one leaves us feeling a little less human.
  • Sudden (although, sometimes, a few of us can tell the signs in ourselves and warn people one is coming, but usually not with enough time to prevent it — if it’s even possible; when there is enough self-possession to maintain the status quo until meds/help can arrive, it requires all available focus and energy and the help of some real friends willing to do whatever is indicated might help… I call this phase “treading water”, because at some point I will tire and panic)
  • Overwhelming to the point of incoherence; imagine stepping barefoot in a puddle and then sticking a piece of tinfoil in a light socket whilst giving a recitation of the morning’s headlines. For starters.
  • Often distort reality until we can’t definitively tell between fact and fiction; our anxieties become manifest in all their imagined ugliness and we can’t break free of the terror. We are everything bad in the world that anyone has ever told us, because otherwise we’d be “healthy,” right? You’re really angry with us and could never love us because we’re like this, and no matter what EVERYTHING IS GODDAMNED COMING TO GET US.
  • See above, re: terror… Imagine being trapped inside the body of a flailing, screaming psychopath whose only desire is to rend the flesh from anything that stands between it and escape from the monsters. Now imagine the shame of feeling like everyone’s looking at you with pity (because you’re that sad soul who can’t control him/herself), confusion (what the fuck is wrong with you?), sadness (they don’t know how to help you, and that makes you feel guilty because now you’ve put your pain into someone else unintentionally, so you panic some more), anger (how dare you be so selfish as to think and act like everything’s about you? people go through shit every day, you’re not special…), and/or fear (if this can happen to you, it could happen to them, and the human instinct is to shy away from anything that might transmit — by the way, anxiety’s not actually contagious. just sayin’.)
  • Draining in every sense of the word; physically, emotionally, mentally, socially… seriously, why would we intentionally do this to ourselves? ACTORS at least get paid for pretending to be us…
  • Detrimental to our health; my blood pressure swings up and down like the Devil’s yo-yo during a panic attack. I get “tunnel vision” (the edges of my field of vision darken and blur until I can only see the barest blur of what’s in front of me), my head feels like it’s about to spin off my neck, my face and hands get numb (from the hyperventilation, which causes oxygen deprivation, which can cause blackouts), my heart races, my teeth chatter against each other so hard from my body locking up/trembling that I’ve actually cracked one of the new fillings out of my molars (along with the front of that tooth), and sometimes we lose our voice from the involuntary panting/screaming.

Panic attacks are NOT…

  • A convenient excuse to ditch a fight/argument/party/sex/taking out trash/putting kids to bed/date; try me. I’ve heard every one of these. Personally, when I want to get out of something, I just say no. I know others who fake a headache. But, putting one’s self through the physical and psychological anguish described above, simply to get out of talking about who insulted whose parents the most over dinner, seems a little extreme wouldn’t you say?
  • Something we can “get over” or “deal with on our own”; don’t you think we’ve tried? Obviously, this is the part where you demonstrate your understanding of the word “friend.”
  • A phase that can be magicked out of us with the right drug/therapist/voodoo witch doctor during a thunderstorm; thanks for asking, though.
  • Something to make us feel guilty about; believe it or not, we’re quite capable of handling that part on our own. Ta.
  • Something to ignore until they go away and then come back to hang out with us; you may not like country music, but Tracy Lawrence said it best: “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are” … If you don’t want us at our worst, you don’t deserve us at our best.
  • Something you can high-handedly analyze for us and have us listen to you with a straight face when we’re calm; you’re not inside our heads. You may have opinions, but until LSD baths truly become a telepathic antenna they will forever remain opinions and not authoritative declarations; do yourself the courtesy of not confusing the two. It just makes you look like an idiot. And may get you slapped.

 

If I think of anything else, I’ll edit this page accordingly.  If anyone else battling anxiety disorder has additions/suggestions for this page, I encourage you to leave your comment below or contact me privately via email.  All comments of a rude or derogatory nature will be changed or removed.  This page is for your education and support, from someone who experiences this every day of her life.  Please use this page any time someone asks about or doubts your struggle, because it’s real and no one has the right to make you feel otherwise (intentionally or no).

 

I support you.

 

~Kella

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Disney: Silly Symphonies is code for “Just add marijuana”

August 22, 2011 Leave a comment

I recently began a quest to introduce my daughter to all the Disney movies my brother and I grew up with, as well as watch the newer ones with her. I think she’s enjoying it, although the live-action ones confuse her… when she’s actually paying attention. (Okay, so Babes in Toyland and Pete’s Dragon were for Mommy, dammit. Don’t judge me…)

When I was watching Robin Hood with her the other day, the first time I’d seen it since my brother and I watched the VHS into dust as kids, it occurred to me that Disney pulled a lot of whatthefuckery over on our generation. I mean, serious shit that kids today would say, “Bitch, you fo’ real?” Only, they probably wouldn’t say that, because that’s a phrase that probably wasn’t even cool in my generation, but was said anyway. Insert whatever catchy thing them kids today are saying, then.

Anyway, I started thinking about Robin Hood, an offering from Disney that practically demanded a full suspension of your disbelief before continuing, and all the other movies my brother and I gleefully zombied out to over the years. I present to you a list of the important realizations I have come to after re-watching these gems from my childhood…

  • Anthropomorphised rhinos and elephants in 1150 A.D. England are completely normal, but I draw the line at accents not indigenous to the region. ~ I can buy Alan-a-Dale as a rooster with a lute. I can buy the thumb-sucking lion as Prince John and the snake with his head in a balloon as the prince’s right hand. However, I have trouble believing that there were flights between Sherwood Forest and the Bronx in the 12th century for Little John and Friar Tuck to rough it up with some imported Arkansas-accented, pot-bellied wolf sherrif and a Scottish hen with a passion for rugby.
  • Bad guys before the 1970’s had a union that strictly mandated the wearing of capes and dark colors. ~ The ability to pull off a fabulously choreographed song and dance number netted you choice pickings from the henchmen pool at the monthly meeting/goon restock.
  • It’s okay to be racist if you use animals, because then it’s clever. ~ Dumbo’s trash-talking Jim Crows certainly wouldn’t fly in a post-Brown v. Board of Education society. Also, Oriental
  • Cross-dressing a bear is an important part of any highway robbery. ~ Extra points if you include fruit and make at least one Gloria Steinem-provoking comment about women being incapable of ganking someone blind.
  • Mentally disabled rodents make excellent sidekicks. ~ It’s also important to choose bright colors when dressing them, especially if you have an overweight cat with the personality of a paroled serial killer lurking about.
  • Siamese cats are always evil. ~ They also love to eat babies. Humans are too stupid to realize this, most of the time, and often allow both to reside under the same roof. Luckily, there are cocker spaniels to act as a “Bitch, dem cats ’bout to eat yo’ kid!” alarm.
  • Fat people, prior to the 1980’s, are contractually obligated to adhere to the following stereotypes: Chaotic-good or chaotic-evil. ~ If chaotic-good, they are a bumbling, well-meaning idiot who bounces comically against walls. If chaotic-evil, they’re evil-meaning idiots who move too slowly to catch someone poking them in the butt with a sword. Cinderella’s fairy godmother was a possible exception, but damn did she seem daffy…
  • Robin Williams signed a pact with the devil to prevent him from dying of a cocaine overdose, and Disney signed a pact to get him an unlimited supply. ~ Watching Aladdin and Flubber for the first time since I was 12 and 14, respectively, I now realize just how amped up Williams must have been. Flubber also illustrated the transition Wil Wheaton made from whiny/entitled-teenage-know-it-all-prick to asshole-who’s-so-assholish-it’s-epically-cool, leaving Wesley Crusher (whom I adored, don’t get me wrong) and the doomed-to-die kid in Toy Soldiers behind to perpetually play the rude, calculating braniac who knows he’s so goddamned better than you, you almost feel dirty cheering for him.
  • All small robots have a severe addiction to soap operas and Rogers & Hammerstein musicals. ~ If the AI is female, they’re also 100% likely to fall in love with the hopeless, bumbling sap who created them and will stop at nothing to undermine his romantic plans until eventually found out. After years of this pattern, you’d think said bumbling sap would clue in and at least make their lusty fembots anatomically correct. If, on the other hand, the small robot is male, they are automatically programmed with Woody Allen’s personality. This makes it more difficult for them to procreate with fembots and make scary, Glenn Close-channeling, soap opera-addicted spawnbots.

Anyone else come to some amusing conclusions, after comparing the impressions you had of Disney movies as a kid to the impressions you have now?

I can totally see my daughter conquering nations with that talent…

May 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Earlier tonight, I was making dinner in the kitchen — I know, suspend your disbelief and hold off on calling the fire department — and left Nick Jr. on television for Siobhan to watch. My husband and I have been fans of Sprout (previously PBS Kids) for the last year or so, and only recently changed to Nick Jr. (previously Noggin) because of their lack of commercials and more structured preschool-level programming. Siobhan’s current favorites from that channel include Olivia, Dora, Diego, Kai Lan, and Yo Gabba Gabba!

Yo Gabba Gabba! is both an awesomely retro children's show and a visually-stimulating timesink for potheads.

Now, I often worry about letting my daughter watch so much television, then I weigh my concerns against the feedback I get from other adults in official child-monitoring capacities: “Your daughter is so smart!” “Wow, she’s really articulate for a 25-month-old!” “She already knows her colors and shapes? Bravo, Mom!” So I basically tell myself that as long as it’s Nick Jr. she’s at least getting somewhat of an education…

Going back to me making this dubious dinner in another room from my child, I hear Yo Gabba Gabba! in the background, calling out “Cool Tricks! Cool Tricks!” (which is the show’s segment that teaches children about new musical instruments or styles of acrobatics and/or dance) so I figure it’s probably the rapping violinist twins or something. Instead, I’m treated to the dulcet tones of some fucker hand-farting “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Seriously?

Twenty years ago, my brother got smacked upside the back of his head for hand-farting in public, and we got annoyed looks from adults for making that rude noise. Now it’s a “cool trick” on a preschool-type channel?

Thanks, Yo Gabba Gabba! Next time, why don’t you teach my daughter how to push the tip of her nose up whilst pulling down her lower eyelids, so she can look like an old-style pig mask? Better yet, if you could teach her how to burp the Star Spangled fucking Banner, she’ll have a marketable job skill. They’re sure to need new performers of questionable talent to showcase at sporting events, and I want my daughter to aim for sheer mediocrity.

For this, I give you the Picard Gesture of Incredulity:

Picard finds your lack of common sense disturbing...

Why you should never leave me at home with a cranky toddler, Twitter, and Photoshop…

April 5, 2011 4 comments

…because this tends to happen.

copyrights aren't really applicable, but let's pretend you care that it came from me...

For those of you who are (understandably) confused, if not reaching for the anti-psychotics, this came as a result of following Wil Wheaton’s Twitter feed to this blog. The woman who writes it is certifiably insane, and I am officially addicted to her particular brand of crazy. She managed to alienate William-fucking-Shatner (copyright Wil Wheaton, circa 2003/2004), which isn’t that hard but still deserves props… If you can out-crazy Shatner, you’re on to something. Or just on something. Either works.

Anyway. She offered an arbitrary sum of money to Nathan Fillion for a picture of him holding twine, in response to the numerous offers of random pics of celebs from their PR fuckwits staff. After no response, and severe cajoling from her over-90,000 followers, the conclusion has been drawn that she has officially scared the unholy fuck out of Nathan Fillion.

I really don’t blame him.

She has also been having a crapgasm of a week so far, from what I’ve been reading, and her randomness veered sharply toward asking the public, at large, to post pictures of themselves with twine. Now, I (being such a giving soul) felt the need to comfort her in her hour/day/week/insert time-frame here of need. Cut to the part where I horribly abused Google for appropriately-themed base pictures of Nathan Fillion, until I finally found one of him holding a golden fish of some sort. Shoop-da-woop and posted to Flickr, then tweeted to her the fact that such a thing now existed. Thankfully the response has been positive.

Then I received a request from one of her followers that I insert twine into a screencap from one of Mister Fillion’s famous nude scenes in the episode “Trash” from Firefly.

Oh, well, fine. You totally twisted my arm.

Please don't sue me, Nathan... I mean it as flattery! Honest!

The result has been that my Twitter following has tripled inside a day! Now if only I had something valuable to say… The Bloggess already has the market cornered on Wil Wheaton collating paper and otters headbanging in her attic…

At least I feel at home in the padded cell that is the Internet.

Hope your week improves, ‘Bloggess, and I’m glad your taxidermied alligator made it through TSA without a hitch.

And Nathan? My profound apologies. I hope we can still be friends.

UPDATE: I have been asked to clarify my earlier statements regarding Shatner’s sanity. I don’t have a note from his doctor. I have simply observed insane levels of assholishness from the man in public. After a certain amount of assholishness, one has to assume the person is a.) delusional b.) on/off meds c.) a fucking fruitbasket. Still, I do enjoy watching him in Shit My Dad Says… Yeah yeah, I’m fickle. What of it?

Cardboard signs and a nagging inner voice…

January 14, 2011 4 comments

After driving my husband to his carpool dropoff/pickup spot and seeing the traffic that faced me on the return home, I decided to take an alternate route. By alternate route, I want you to read this as: Kella had no idea where the hell she was going and her GPS couldn’t figure out where she was. Turned out I was in the neighboring county by the time my GPS unfucked itself. (Yes, that’s a word. I swear…) Armed with a newfound sense of computerized direction, I began the trip home, by way of a Target to buy my child (who was being abnormally well behaved for a toddler) diapers and socks.

On the way home, there were homeless people at every single stoplight and overpass.

Now, I’m not unaware of the local homeless problem; there is a crowd of homeless people that congregate at the Del Taco where my husband’s carpool meets us every morning and evening. There are also a handful of homeless people that hold up signs at the freeway off-ramp near where we live. On occasion, I give them whatever food items I have in the car. One night, I had three burritos and an unopened Coca-Cola in the passenger-side cupholders and handed them out the window. I always feel badly that I don’t have the cash to give them. Allow me to elaborate on this statement: I sometimes do have the cash, but not the personal budget. My husband, myself, and our daughter are all on a thin edge, financially, and are trying to find a place of our own to live.

I also have a somewhat unique (for my family and circle of friends) perspective, having been homeless.

Eight years ago, during the falling-apart of my first marriage and the subsequent first battle with my mother’s family for custody of my eldest child, I spent a few months couch-surfing and, finally, residing at the local Salvation Army. Because I was working (an unusual thing for a homeless person, apparently), I often couldn’t get back to the shelter in time before the doors closed and wound up searching for a place to camp out — where the cops would leave me alone — until the doors opened in the morning and I could shower before work. After I got laid off in the summer, I spent the days at the homeless “day center” next to the shelter, trying to find work and a place to live. It smelled horrible, the food sucked, and (although there were case workers and “resources”) it was assumed that if you were there you were a drug addict, alcoholic, or general layabout. I lucked out and found a case worker, Mack, who pulled out all the stops, got me some interview clothes, and found me a place to live in a HUD apartment complex. He even got the funding together to pay for my deposit and first month’s rent.

I swore that I’d die before I wound up in that position again. I’ve come close a few times, due to horrible circumstances that just kept rolling up at me, but never again have I been the shadow on a shelter’s doorstep, knock on wood.

So, it’s not that I don’t feel bad when I see a homeless person. I do, genuinely. Not just in that “oh, what annoying eyesore, can’t they clean up our streets?” sort of way, but that way you feel when you’ve been the one holding up the sign that says “Please, I need a job, hire me!” under a bridge. But I also know, firsthand, that some people who get that low entrench themselves in bad habits and can’t find their way out. Moreover, they refuse to look for the way out, thinking they’re unhelpable. (Another new word?) When I was homeless, I’d see people holding up signs that would take the cash they were given and go straight to the local liquor store. Then I’d see the people next to them go straight to the grocery store for food. Unfortunately, without stopping to observe these people when they don’t know you’re doing it, there’s no way to tell the difference between them. As a result, I always give out non-perishable food items and blankets… sometimes coupons for free meals when I come across them.

When I was living with my first two children in that HUD apartment, as a single mother on food stamps and cash assistance, I’d portion out the food stamps. At the end of every month, whatever my children and I didn’t use I’d spend on canned or dried foods and throw in a cheap can opener and a box of plastic cutlery and plates. I’d go to the park next to the apartment complex, where those who were too proud to go to the shelter camped out, and I’d distribute the goods. On occasion, I’d get bitched out for not bringing money, but those people were quickly shooed off by the people who genuinely needed the help.

Today, the woman I gave the paltry sealed fruit cup and spoon to (since it’s all I had on me today), broke down into tears as she accepted it. She didn’t want to be there, and I could tell that she’d been ignored the entire time she’d been out there, and mine was the first offer of help she’d received. She wasn’t young, and her pride was becoming a memory. If my daughter hadn’t been in the car with me, I would have driven her to the local shelter and marched her in for a meeting with a case worker.

As tight as things are right now for my family, I still wish I could do something more than just a random bag of groceries. I can’t afford to donate to an organization with high overhead costs that keep most of the money from going where it’s needed. I don’t have the time or ability to volunteer at a soup kitchen, either, since I’m the sole caregiver for my toddler.

It’s going to require some thought, which is unavoidable since it won’t leave my mind right now.

I keep gravitating towards Crowdrise, however…

In the meantime, please consider knitting a blanket for the woman by that off-ramp, or putting together a care package for that man who sleeps behind the dumpster in that shopping center. At least until we can figure out something better to do…

Categories: Social Awareness
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