bursts, like fireworks

I’ve been having tiny little panic attacks, so tiny they shouldn’t even be called “panic,” because that sounds like a lot of wind and storm and arms-a-waving. They’re more like…like bubbles that float up to the top of my head and then burst in a shower of anxiety, pop! pop, pop. I am awash with alarm for no good reason at all–it has happened in the middle of laundry, at the top of an ice cream sundae, on the third sentence of a paragraph of a perfectly ordinary book, mid-shampoo, and I freeze and I am terrified and sick-feeling and filled with the sense that everything is wrong and probably wrong by my hands, that nothing will ever be good again and probably because I have ruined it.

You’re supposed to walk these things off, distract yourself, think about happy things, go call a friend or eat a ham or do something that is anything except wallow inside your head and feed the anxiety, as if you are pushing strips of newspaper into a tiny little fire and then blowing gently. They don’t last long enough for that. It’s like I’m switching the channels quickly in my head: talk show, weather report, movie, movie, commercial, panic!, Spanish soap opera, TV Guide channel, movie, what the hell was that?



I haven’t figured out how to predict it, or where it comes from, and if
I continue forward and shake it off like you’d shake off a bad dream over the course of a busy morning, I forget it happened,
soon enough, and everything seems okay again. I have got a good life,
and good friends, and I am meeting very nice people and work is going
well and that guy I hang around with is pretty spectacular and things
are really good for me right now, you know? I am happy. So where is
this coming from? Because I want to dynamite the place and then brick
up the wall and paint over and maybe hang a picture and then burn the
house down and move out of the country, because I do not like the
feeling. Even though it comes quickly, passes even more quickly,
there’s a lot I would give to not feel like that ever again.

It feels like a glitch, these twitches, like something small but
significant broke or malfunctioned or got knocked out of balance, and
the lights are flickering and maybe the electrician ought to be called
but it is so expensive and it seems so minor and inconsequential, the
issue–you can fix it yourself! If only you do not end up crispy and
deep-fried by your ungrounded enthusiasm for special projects. In this
allegory, crispy and deep-fried means–I’m not sure, exactly. But I
guess I’m afraid of my head jittering right off my shoulders if I don’t
do something. Doing something sounds like overkill. Meds? Therapy? What
if I zombie myself, or discover that I have a deep-seated pathology
that has just been triggered by a probing question about my childhood
dreams? It is dangerous. It sounds tiresome. It sounds not worth it.

But I am always urging E–take care of yourself. You have things to do
and you’re busy and stressed and have so much to accomplish, but for
god’s sake if you don’t take care of yourself you’re not going to
accomplish any of it because you will collapse and then I will kick your ass
so much. That’s the gist of the conversation. You’d think I’d take my own
advice. I don’t want to blow it out of proportion! I whine. The problem
here is that I’ve lost all sense of proportion to begin with, and now’s
the time to turn to someone and ask if my panic attacks make me look
fat. So to speak.

  9 comments for “bursts, like fireworks

  1. lap
    August 4, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Have no fear, for incidental anxiety I like to take Rescue Remedy which is a Bach flower remedy. Whole Foods should have it for sure, and it’s very effective those 4 little drops they advise, and there’s no lingering anything later. Because I have had those little burst of alarm that make you feel perhaps like you are about to slide right off the deck of your ship, and while they are not as prolonged as some anxiety I have known in the past, they are as profound- like a little truffle of anxiety only not at all satisfying. The Rescue Remedy is fabulous.

  2. ela
    August 4, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    i know what you’re dealing with. unfortunately, i think it has a lot to do with the society you live in- in the US. i lived in the US for 17 years, and recently moved back to the eastern block of Europe. it took me a few months to DE-stress myself. when i first got here people thought i was on crack bc i couldn’t RELAX.
    i’m convinced that life in the US is set up so that everyone who lives it in is constantly freaked out. scared even. omg, if i eat this tomato i’m going to get e.coli, omg this bottled water is the same crap that comes out of the faucet. omg angelina jolie is pregnant, omg this….omg that. just STOP. stop thinking, stop listening to all the news stories for just a day. i’m not saying be ignorant, but make your own world up with information filtered YOUR way. in the states people are surrounded by a lot of negative influences, you’re too fat, you’re to ugly, you’re not rich enough, your husband is cheating, you are NOT the father! it’s too much. just unplug yourself for a bit each day…and as corny as it sounds, try meditating- and as you’re doing- working out is a great way to disappear. please do something that makes you relax and empty out that head for just a minute because i can’t stand to hear that you’re having mini panic attacks while even just watching TV…it’s sad and scary! take a vacation!

  3. anon
    August 4, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Ha, I like what Ela said–it never occurred to me that it’s all of us Americans. We are a wacky bunch, that’s for sure, and our society does seem to encourage (or is that exacerbate?) our wackiness.
    I get this too, Anne, and I can’t explain it, or I can try but it would sound weird. Like, how about this for weird: sometimes it’s when my life is happy that I find myself specifically feeling this.
    I mean, I can feel whacked-out and stressed when life is bad, but it’s almost like I don’t notice, or at least I certainly don’t think it’s weird, because, duh, life is bad, what do you expect, to feel happy about it????
    But when I’m in a good place, with good people, making good plans, feeling good….sometimes something inside of me goes Holy Shit and I go through these little freak outs because, you know, how could that last? How could I deserve all that goodness?
    It’s a sickness, I tell ya. But, anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s me telling you that you deserve it. Embrace it, go with it, love your life, stop worrying.
    Or, you know, the alternative is we could all move to Europe. Ela, do you have a spare room????

  4. M.
    August 4, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Maybe you’re going through withdrawal about not having to worry about meth addicts crawling through your windows? :)
    I’m always finding myself waiting for the other shoe to drop when everything’s going fine, like “when is he going to cheat on me?” or “am I forgetting some key part of my project and everything I’m doing is going to crash down around my ears and I’ll be sent off to a labor camp in Siberia for being a bad scientist?”
    …And really, there’s nothing to worry about.
    Instead of freaking out about the panicking, be all “That’s the last bubbles of stress effervescing out of my body… oh yeah. No more meth addicts.” Then go listen to Remy Shand (my favorites are “Rocksteady” and “The Mind’s Eye.” Very chill neo-soul).
    I know what you’re talking about. I’d not worry about the worrying. I’d kind of just look at it happening and sort of … let it go. I have a feeling it’ll stop, especially once you get settled in your new place.

  5. Mira
    August 4, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Why isn’t religion mentioned here?? We can’t go through life believing or expecting that we carry everything on our shoulders, we don’t, let it go.

  6. August 5, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Mine is better with meds.
    I started with therapist (actually an eating disorders therapist) and then added psychiatrist at her urging. It took a year and 5-6 tries before we hit on the right meds.
    Anxiety is now very manage-able and I SLEEP.
    For me – I think it is chemical inbalance. Hormones make it worse – but even without hormone swings of womanhood – it would still be there.
    I am doing better all the time – but live a very, very simple life. Still in the USA – but very much NOT living a USA lifestyle (any more).
    I really loved this posting of yours – you captured IT very well.

  7. penguinlady
    August 5, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I agree with just about everything everyone has said so far, but want to add that you should watch your caffeine intake. When I’m having bouts of anxiety, Diet Coke & frappacinos just make it worse. For a natural remedy to try, decaf. green tea seemed to help me. I read somewhere that green tea promotes a feeling of relaxation and after a few days of drinking it, I felt calmer.

  8. Anonymous
    August 5, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I use to have these attacks, then I would start questioning why am I here, this life is not real, there is no god, only people say there is but maybe he doesn’t exist…then I get scared inside, a panic button is pushed and for a few moments I feel the fear inwardly but outwardly I’m calm….I tried to reason it out, sat with my mother but never let her know I was scared, asked her a few questions about life and then tried to regain myself inwardly.
    It went on for a few years, intermittently. It was only when I truly turned myself to the Creator, began to understand the message He sent through His prophets that I conquered the fear. Now my mind is more matured and alhamdulilaa (praise be to god) the fear has gone.
    I hope you too will experience the great relief and calmness that I felt after the fear subsided and love and nearness to God took its place.

  9. sally
    August 5, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    It’s Suze Orman and that darn money book. None of us will ever be able to save enough for retirement. Especially now, in this economy. Do you know how much money I lost in my 401K since last year? Now that’s scary. I’m having panic attacks, too, Anne. Then, when you look at Suze’s weird eyes on the cover of the book it’s even worse. Why are her eyes so wide open? Because even SHE’S scared!!! (Or it’s another bad face lift out there that we have to look at!)

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