(Don’t) Panic

I had a panic attack yesterday. The third in a month. Starting a job is always stressful, but there’s something drastically different about starting a new job with bipolar depression. Or any depression, for that matter.

Panic attacks aren’t logical. Nothing about them makes sense at all.

Customer service, as a whole, is naturally a very menial and sometimes frustrating job choice. But when you imagine every next call being that one customer that will explode at you with frustration… It’s akin to walking through a minefield. You never know which step is going to be your last. No matter steady my breathing, I couldn’t stop my heart from racing. I had to run or I had to fight, neither of which is polite practice in a call center.

That’s not logical. The customer at the other end of the phone isn’t going to jump out of the headset and strangle you. The worst you’ll get is an earful of complaints, right?

But all that isn’t what caused my panic. Those were just the rocks in the backpack as I climbed the metaphorical hill. What really caused me to drop on my knees and emotionally lash out at the world was the waiting. The incessant waiting. Waiting to go to work, to step through the mental minefield again. Waiting to go to school where I could fail my classes and waste good time and money doing so. Waiting to go to church where, in my own mind, I’m not worthy enough to even pray.

So I break down. I hyperventilate. I pound on my bed, hitting it again and again as if to pound out the broken part of my brain. I shout out loud that I just want all this to stop. I want my mind to stop. I want to burn out the part of my brain responsible for the dark feelings, find a surgeon to laser it off, cut it out of me like a tumor. You know the biblical ‘weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth’? I never knew what that meant until I had a panic attack.

Misery doesn’t attempt to describe it. It’s too static a word. Misery describes circumstances beyond your control. But when a panic attack starts, you feel nothing but guilt. I caused this, somehow. I deserve this. I don’t get to be happy and comfortable, because that’s for other people to enjoy. I belong in the dark, I don’t deserve a job. I shouldn’t be allowed to find self-reliance. How can I, when I drive myself into such madness? I should be institutionalized. Something is fundamentally wrong with me.

The panic attack stops, sure. But it’s like a burning in the back of my mind. A battery that just needs more stress to recharge. A bomb that just needs a fuse. How much of this can I take before I break? How many times can I skip work because of the mental strain before I lose it? Heaven help me if I ever have a nervous breakdown at work, at school, or at church. I can hardly endure them in the comfort of my own home.

It’s so much more than words can describe.

In the midst of all this pain and anguish, I can feel me, the real me, standing somewhere else, watching all this happen. Letting it all happen. Maybe that’s my spirit, knowing it isn’t in control of my body, stepping aside and letting the natural process follow along to its conclusion. I sure wish my spirit would step in and stop all this from happening.

But it’s not to be – I AM my body. My mind is my own. What am I, but my squishy brain and the broken body I live in?

So here I am, writing about the most painful moments in my life, waiting for another one to happen. Waiting to step through another minefield tomorrow. And the next day.

I don’t know what I can do to stop this, besides taking my meds and trying to shut my eyes and calm down. I can’t fight this monster; the only solution I have is to run and hide from it. Deep down, I know it’s not enough. I have to face it, own it. Acknowledge that I have limitations, and try my damnedest to work around them. Like a river trying to cut through a mountain. Like a tree standing despite the tornado forming right beside it.

I feel every minute of my life.

And I’m not yet sure if I’m grateful for them. Maybe someday, when I can feel peace again.

This is the most difficult trial I’ve yet experienced in my life. I’m afraid it will swallow me. That I’ll never have dreams again. That I’ll forever look at the future with horror. That I’ll look back at the past and see nothing but failure.

I had a panic attack yesterday.

But I didn’t have one today. And maybe that’s all I can ask for.


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