Inside My Panic Attack
I wrote the following 1.5 years ago to combat what I only knew to be “me being me.” I was just at the very beginning of understanding this precious and complex person called “me,” and that my constant anxiety was not the way brains universally function. It’s a beautiful, painful thing reading this stream of consciousness as I try to put words to something that can be summed up succinctly as “panic attack.”
No one talks about isolaphobia. There's about a million articles consoling the introvert, reassuring those who struggle with social anxieties. But there is seldom such published support of those who deal with the opposite problem: the fear of being alone. Social butterflies, they call us. Active types, the ones always out doing things, never a crack in the schedule... but do you know why our calendars are booked to the brim? Because we dread being alone. Shudder.
I’m literally sitting here on a Friday night practicing deep breathing to stave off the panic that I have no foreseeable plans for the night. I mean real panic. I mean literally my chest tightens, my vision blurs a bit, and a deep, dark dread fills my world. It's the materialization of a feeling that the whole world is meaningless and--why do we even bother? A strange thing happens during these moments when you feel so utterly, helplessly alone. First, you recognize you have people you could call. You make your way down the list in your head. And one by one, some voice inside your head negates each person, telling you why those people can't understand, why they can't be bothered by you. No one wants to have some clingy, desperate, needy person contacting them. No one wants to hear that you're lonely. We are all lonely. No one has time. You'll ruin their day. You're a social butterfly, you can't tarnish your carefree reputation by *GASP* needing someone. And your whole support system is crumpled into a ball and discarded.
Then the gloom tentacles beyond the present moment. You start to question what you are doing with your life. If you are really investing in the right people? Or have you been wasting efforts this whole time? Because if they were the right people, you wouldn't be feeling this way, would you? You remind yourself... friends are transitive, they are temporary family.
But unlike family, they have no ties, no obligation. They will move in and out of your life like waves. And if you feel like you can't relate to your family, who do you have? No one. You can't replace relationships with things or concepts. Work, shopping, drinking... none of it gives that sense of human intimacy we crave. Now not only are the people in your life unable to relate to you; somehow now they are dismissing you as well.
Then you realize how much you are idolizing the presence of other people and you become afraid of yourself, knowing that your desperation will drive other people away so fast no one will ever want to be with you. Of course people are ignoring you. Who would want to be around someone reeking of so much desperation.
And then it culminate in apathy, the most deadly of emotional poisons. You think, in the end, aren't we all just alone anyway? No one truly understands us or gets us at our core. There is no other state to be but alone. Doomed. So buck up and deal with it. You will be alone. Deal with it. Stop being such an emotional little drama queen and deal with the fact that you did this to yourself. Hopelessness settles in with the heaviness of a Southern heatwave.
The phone buzzes. Someone responded! "Sorry can't make it... let's hang out soon though!" Your case builds.
At this point I end the coping, presumably given into the panic attack. I am so grateful someone grabbed me at this point in my life and said, hey, not everyone thinks this way. Here’s some help. Help doesn’t make you a failure. I’m so grateful for my journey through therapy that began last year. And while panic attacks remain a part of my life, I have my life rafts in place to reach for when rationality fails me.