I’ve never been officially diagnosed with panic disorder, I don’t have panic attacks often enough to need medication. Maybe one every couple months and I’ve learned to deal with them by controlling my breathing, self soothing, and being in the moment. I know what to do when I feel one coming on, I know how to prevent them, and how to recover after they pass. I’ve had them alone, with my husband (he’s been there for my most scary severe attacks), I’ve had them with friends right in the middle of a disagreement. The last was awkward because I then had to explain that, even though we’re close, I never mentioned that I have panic attacks.
I remember my first attack, I was six and had just had my tonsils out. I woke up in a foreign environment without my mom and found that I couldn’t move or breathe. My fear built until I was gasping for breath and I began to thrash about as I regained movement. I started to scream, my mom came in and tried to comfort me- didn’t help. Nurses came in to check my vials and I later heard from my mom they accused me of being spoiled and throwing a fit for attention. This lasted for what seemed an eternity, my mom says it was only half an hour (that is an eternity to a panicking six year old). For years I assumed this was a reaction to anesthesia until I started to compare those symptoms to what I now know is a panic attack. It all makes sense.
I take an anti-depressant that also helps with anxiety. It can keep the panic attacks at bay when I avoid triggers- although sometimes there’s no trigger to be avoided. It helps with macro anxieties but not micro anxieties, and there are many of both. Macro: pat down and search by TSA (every time- WTF?!); micro: waiting in line for TSA, checking a bag, getting to my gate, boarding and possibly smacking someone with my purse. Macro: posting a selfie; micro: comments, likes, lack of comments and likes, fear of judgement from others, showing insecurity to others. Macro: going to see a band, in public, with a crowd; micro: running into people who remember Joe and not me, finding a place to stand/sit, wearing the wrong thing, being judged for the music I like/lifestyle in general (how can I like pop, metal, rap, elitist sub-genres all at the same time). That last micro anxiety pops up over and over again in my life.
My husband and son would never consider me fake or insincere- they accept me for who I am and sometimes laugh at my weird seemingly conflicting tastes. I always hope my friends see me as eclectic and real, but I’m often not sure. Woefully so with peripheral friends, those I don’t know too well or talk to very often. I love makeup, designer clothes/bags/shoes, reality TV, good food, dance, Stephen King, YOGA PANTS, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret and I’ve now had plastic surgery. All things that those who enjoy items from my next list tend to write off as vain, trivial, roll their eyes at, BASIC. I’m passionate about art, collecting books and toys and whatever originals or prints I can afford. I’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge about Low-brow and pop-surreal artists. When I love something I research it voraciously. I’ve been fascinated by and live for music, underground or popular- doesn’t matter. I love Beyonce and Pinback, Mastodon and Neko Case, NWA and Built to Spill. I often feel like I’m being judged for this dichotomy of what I consider musical genius. “You can’t like both of those bands.”- not something that anyone has said directly, but it’s inferred. I devour movies and television- often horror. Sitcoms and documentaries. British factual shows. All of it. I feel less anxious about this, but there’s certainly times when I love something everyone else considered trite resulting in a feeling of “something is wrong with me.” I love clothes and I don’t have a specific style. Some days I dress like a pinup, other days I’m boho, sometimes I wear pentagrams, I have a collection of 100+ band and geek t-shirts, I also have more lingerie than I’d ever need (me: can’t find my favorite bra, husband: don’t your other bras get jealous?) I just want to look the way I feel at any given moment. Having a lot of options helps. I’m sure that money could be put to good use elsewhere and I worry that others feel the same.
So what can I do with micro anxieties? Seems like they take over my life and are often caused by Facebook (although a significant amount of anxiety is caused by face to face interaction). I can’t avoid all of my anxieties. I’m not going to stop enjoying whatever I want. All I can do is let that shit go and tell myself “this little anxiety is just stopping by to say hello and it’ll be gone soon.” Doesn’t always work, but it offers some comfort.
We all deal with anxiety and worry (can’t even start on the anxiety I feel with my son becoming an adult). Realizing you’re not the only person who feels this way and having a good support system makes a big difference. Understanding that your feelings are totally normal and trying to avoid triggers can make life much easier. If you can’t avoid your triggers then learn to deal with them by caring less about what others think.
Don’t avoid yourself. Love who you are, you don’t really get to be anyone else.