Attack of the anxiety

Hong Kong alleyThe human body is a lunatic. Why else would it get up, barely bothering to wake you, install a racing pulse, shaking vision, and burn so many calories that on a not-particularly-warm night you’re standing in your living room dripping sweat?


Or at least, my human body is a lunatic.


I’ve had those anxiety attacks, periodically episodically hellishly, for my entire life. Early on I’d run to my mother’s bedroom, pound on the door and retreat to my own room, waiting for her to come somehow stop the insanity that had wedged itself in my brain. I do not envy her those moments. From the disruption of sleep, which is annoying, to watching your child in terror, which would be much worse.


Then the self-reliance convalescence of adolescence (since babies, being so profoundly helpless, must be fundamentally self-reliant in a world where no comfort zone exists) and I started waiting them out on my own, hands shaking as I moved aside schoolwork to reach whatever might distract me best.


Sleeping in Phnom Penh.JPGThe couple in college were embarrassing. My roommate asked for no explanation at the time, for which I owe him a debt of gratitude and a truckload of amazement. That first one knocked me out of class for a week, then out of town for another, until I could come back medicated.


But I don’t want a chemical crutch, and don’t trust Pharma (even before the current face of punchworthy privilege arrived; in anger the other day I insulted a fellow driver as a Shkreli, and felt immediately bad about it) so after a year I weaned myself off it.


On down through the list of apartments and rented rooms. Hotel rooms here and there, hostel hallways. Those were terrible too. And always the underlying “What If…” that wants to tie me up. What if it happened on a plane? Mustn’t sleep then. What if it happened and I had nowhere to go? And the worst one. What if it didn’t stop?


That one’ll drive you mad. In body and mind.America Forest sideroad


But as I waited for the dregs of adrenaline to filter back out of my bloodstream, somewhere in the numberless hours of the night just past, I found the familiar thought “That wasn’t so bad.” The reality, never as bad as the fear beforehand. It’s a familiar idea. The dentist, the work engagement, the social situation, none as scary as imagination’s previews.


So that’s my reminder to myself this morning. And hopefully to you too. Your fears are worse than your future. Or rather, your future is better than your fears.