The anxiety voice in my head wins. You know, that dick voice that tells me I have knee herpes? I start to believe it (not about knee herpes, though. Those have cleared up.)
The first thing I do is start to hyperventilate. Then I try breathing exercises to calm myself down, and picture myself lounging on a hammock in Hawaii covered in chocolate and puppies.
Fuck that, says my anxiety, and kicks my breathing into overdrive. Suddenly, I feel like an angry cheetah is chasing me and I have to run for my life, only there’s nowhere to go, I don’t have any limbs, and the cheetah is hurling insults at me. Fucking cheetahs, man. They’re sassy minxes.
Then I begin to cry. Not just tears streaming down my face (though that happens in the first stages of hyperventilating), but full on Whit-is-gasping-for-breath sobs. The kind of crying that is ugly. Snot bubbles form and I shake from head to toe and generally look the opposite of Natalie Portman when she cries (when she cries, it’s the most adorable thing in existence).
You’re not good enough. You deserve to feel like shit. Everything will be terrible. Obviously no one cares about you, otherwise you wouldn’t be in this situation.
And I try to remember that I’m strong, and smart, and I think I’m pretty goddam funny. But all I can hear is the anxious voice in my head, tearing me down. Your pants look like shit. Your makeup is ruined and now everyone can see how ugly you are. You’re ugly. That zit on your cheek keeps getting bigger. Nobody likes you. That guy that came to visit thinks you’re an idiot right now. He’s basically telling you you’re an idiot.
SHUT UP, BRAIN.
Nope, we’re going to ride this one out. You’re a dumb, ugly whore that gets used and dropped and crushed and now you’re going to have that rubbed in your face. Also, you have something in your teeth. Idiot.
And my anxious voice makes me feel like shit until I can talk to someone who can calm me down. So I call my mom, sobbing, and tell her that I’m having a panic attack. She doesn’t know how to help, she says, so I tell her to distract me by not discussing what I’m panicking about. So she fills me in on her life, and soon, I’m laughing.
Before we hang up, she says, “You know, you don’t have to go tonight…” And I feel the lump in my throat build with my heartbeat. Yeah, let’s cry again. She continues, “Never mind. Let’s not talk about that.” And I tell my anxiety to kiss my ass.
And when my panic attacks cease, I am embarrassed. I hate that I let something control me, even if it’s just for five minutes. But try as I might to navigate the emotion and hee-hee-hoo my way through the complete fear that takes over my system, I can’t. So I’m left feeling like shit for panicking in the first place, and I spend the rest of the day trying to not feel like an asshole.
I am SO GRATEFUL that panic attacks only last five minutes. It’s like the worst sex you’ll have in your life, and the fastest. So it’s a win-win lose-lose situation.