Panic Page

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.


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