There are a lot of memes out there that people share out on social media describing anxiety and panic attacks. So many that I often really feel like I have more company in my anxiety than I might realized before. But y’all? I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANOTHER HUMAN CRY FROM A PANIC ATTACK IN MY LIFE. And it has happened to me TWICE in the last week. So either those memes reflect a much more subdued anxiety condition than my own or EVERYONE IS LYING AND I AM A FREAK.
My general “base” level of anxiety is much lower than it has been in years and this might be due to some situational changes but I really think it’s just adaptive behaviors on my part. Unfortunately, my acute reactions have not improved and lately I feel they’ve gotten worse. Those moments where my anxiety is triggered (think: panic attacks) in a specific way manifest in much more severe reactions now than ever before.
And of course it always involves fucking crying.
I’m getting very angry about this. Hence the use of the f-word.
I’ve always been an easy-crier. Radio commercials for OnStar used to make me sob. Sentimental moments and actions bring tears. My kids watch me during movie trailers because so many of them make me cry simply from excitement.
I use that crying emoji all the time…and it’s not an exaggeration.
And while most of these reactions are cute and provide for silly anecdotes for myself and my family, I also often cried when I got angry which always upset me because you get written off as, “Emotional,” when yo do that and then no one takes you seriously. I AM NOT CRYING BECAUSE I AM UPSET, I AM CRYING BECAUSE THE RAGE IS OVERFLOWING OUT OF MY EYEBALLS.
But this new acute anxiety response is something different all together and it’s making my life really difficult and definitely waking up some old agoraphobic leanings because it’s causing me such shame.
So…I have a few acute anxiety triggers. (“A FEW?” everyone who knows me asks…) One of the most common are simply making public mistakes in areas of protocol or procedure. I usually combat this in one of two ways:
- Research: I google everything with “How To” questions. I look at Google Earth to figure out how parking lots work if I’m worried about parking. I call ahead and ask for advice. I turn to Facebook friends. If I can’t find a way to research, I tend to just avoid the situation. I really wanted to attend an event once but the driveway to the location went down a hill and I couldn’t see the parking or the building and so I just passed right on by.
- Default to the experts: I am outwardly grateful for anyone who I’m dealing with to help me. I’ll be honest and say, “Look…I really don’t know how to do this thing and so any guidance you can give me will be appreciated.” This usually keeps the panic attacks at bay because I’m basically bowing at the expertise of whomever I’m interacting with and people LIKE being recognized for their expertise.
But sometimes time and emergency circumstances prevent either one of those from being options and that’s where my extreme reactions have come in lately.
I had to park at my kid’s school at pickup one day because I had to do something inside the school which meant I was “trapped” because they close that parking lot when the school pickup line starts moving. I knew this was going to happen and had asked Wes what protocol was and he was wrong and so I ended up feeling really dumb when they wouldn’t give me my kid and told me a different way to get him and the panic attack IMMEDIATELY hit me and the uncontrollable tears started flowing. IN FRONT OF EVERY PARENT IN LINE TO PICK UP THEIR KID AND ALL OF THE TEACHERS AND ALL OF THE STUDENTS.
But I had NO control over it. My heart just started racing and the tunnel vision kicked in and the tears started flowing. BAM! Meltdown mode commenced in a much more extreme (and embarrassing) manner than ever before.
This was a week or so ago and yesterday I had another issue. I just realized I was doing something wrong in checkout at the school – as I was doing it -and I basically had to beg for an exception which they would not give me and BAM! Spiked blood pressure, uncontrolled breathing, tunnel vision and MOTHER FUCKING TEARS.
There weren’t as many observers this time. BUT STILL.
The tears are the newer addition to my acute anxiety responses lately which is a terrible addition because it’s the hardest to hide. I can hide my spiked blood pressure and my shaking hands and my tunnel vision. I can not hide the tears that start pouring down my face with no warning whatsoever.
OH! And then there was our trip in the mountains where Donnie made a wrong turn and there was no place to turn around and so we just kept getting higher and higher on the mountain on more rural roads and getting lost is a trigger (especially in the mountains without cell service) and the tears started flowing IMMEDIATELY and my poor husband had no idea how to handle me. THANK GOD I WAS NOT DRIVING.
These acute responses linger longer than they used to as well. The blood pressure spike always produces a headache and the tears often send me directly into a shame spiral which means you can’t count on emotional stability from me for at least 3-5 hours.
I’m going to go to my doctor about this because I’m TERRIFIED of what this means about my major triggers like flying and crowds in terms of the surprise trip to NYC that my husband planned in November. If my mid-level triggers are causing this new version of a panic attack, what will my high-level triggers do?
Ugg. I just fucking hate anxiety. I hate how embarrassing it is. I hate how isolating it is. I hate how vulnerable it makes me. And I hate worrying what people who witness these panic attacks carry away regarding my mental health.
Please be kind, universe. Don’t judge me too harshly for my panic-induced tears.