I've lost my footing... Panic.
I got my drivers license the day I turned sixteen. I needed that freedom... See, I had several 'spots' stashed around the city, and some adjoining cities, where I could drive my old Ford Bronco to that were like therapy. I had more than my fair share of stresses growing up, and as a sixteen year old, thats for sure, but nothing that couldn't be eased by a drive to my own field of wildflowers and grass, or my hilltop forest, or my hike by the river. When it got really bad, I would hop in my truck without a second thought and drive the hour to the coast. Sometimes it would be raining so hard I would come back to my car soaked through all my layers... Sometimes I would only have time to breathe in that peace giving, mind clearing air for 5 minutes, before I had to turn around and drive back to reality. It was enough. Then. Four years ago, that all changed.
I had only been married a year when my husband got a call saying that his father had been in an accident at work that put him in a coma. We scrounged up all our savings, borrowing the last dollars that we needed to fly from one coast to the other. We slept on the floor of that hospital for 7 nights, all of us crowded in, waiting, believing, praying that he would be okay. The swelling in his brain did not go down, and he was gone... I have never experienced such sadness in all my life... 12 children who had already lost a 23 year old sister, struggling to believe that the man who held them all together, never missed a birthday or a track meet, and always had time for each and every person in his life, was gone.
We packed up and moved across the country to a place so much more foreign to me than any of the countries I had visited. I was isolated, stretched by sadness and difficulty after difficulty. Unsure of how to help... I made the biggest mistakes of my life during that terrible, earth shattering time. Then one night as I lay on the couch, my feet in my husbands lap, I sat up clutching at my chest. I can't breathe, I told him as I ran to the window and threw it open, sucking in the cool air. It didn't help. I ran out onto the porch and gazed up at the stars that usually made me feel so small and connected endlessly to every other place on earth. But instead of space, I saw a glass dome placed directly over me with very little air, that moved with me so no matter if I ran to the end of the earth, there would still not be enough oxygen because I would still be trapped in its walls..It would never ever let me leave. That night I ended up crumpled on the floor, my face pressed to the screened window, tears choking me even more until I was too tired to cry anymore. I didn't know what had happened. What was that? Why couldn't I control my minds racing, wild thoughts, or talk myself down, or drive it off, run it off, drink it away, sleep it away... I start shaking now, or anytime I remember the terror of feeling trapped in this big huge world. My cravings for the wide open deserts and oceans and heights subsided, because I knew that no matter where I went, I would never again be at peace.
I know from my own personal experience that telling anyone about these grips of panic is a paralyzingly difficult thing to do. I feel judged before I speak the words, impaired by others lack of understanding... Only a few people know about my panic attacks, and it made me feel lesser to admit it. I developed them suddenly, brutally, without warning something took over my body just 4 years ago. I'm only 26 years old, and it felt SO scary to have 'something' else have control, and me looking on as if watching myself from a dark, uncomfortable corner. Watching this person who was usually so calm and cool, so put together, so witty, so capable; hyperventilate, throw dishes, cry in frustration, pull her hair out, shake uncontrollably, run outside and down the steps and until I dropped dead from exhaustion just to get away... to find where there was air.
I since then have tried many things to help. Meditation, moving home, surrounding myself with positive people, talking myself down before they start, and the worst, popping pills. I feel like a pale shadow of my former, fun-loving yet sardonic self each time I take that small, round, relief-giving pill. I don't know if or when they will ever leave me in true peace, leave me in control of my own actions again, but I hold on tenaciously to my little tattered shred of hope. If you know what I am talking about, then here's to you and your bravery of facing every day doomed to despair, unsure of how you will react, or if you'll feel claustrophobic in line at the grocery store, or like you can't breathe in the library, or trapped inside your own car... I have to believe that this will pass, and that we will be restored to something strong, or at least, recognizable. Hold on to hope... That is the only thing I can say with any true conviction. It WILL save you.