Awkward Questions and the Panic Attack Express

“Yeah, but why are you anxious?”

Dude, fuck if I know…

^^ Yes, I’ve been asked that question multiple times. And yes, I’ve even answered that way a few times. It’s frustrating to be asked repeatedly why you are anxious (or sad, or angry, or unsettled, or … you get the picture) and not have an answer. It can make you downright stabby.

wall

I try not to get upset with people who ask. They are genuinely trying to help most of the time. But everyone has a few people in their lives who ask repeatedly. And those same people often get upset when you don’t have a logical response. They think if they keep asking, you’ll dig deeper and you’ll see that if you don’t have a logical answer you must not have a logical reason to be panicked. So you’ll stop.

It doesn’t fucking work that way; you’re just making me more anxious because I can’t please you with a good answer. So stop.

I don’t care if it is generalized anxiety or depression, they both often cause symptoms without logical cause. They often don’t need a “reason” to make you feel shitty; you just do. And whether you pinpoint a cause or not, you still feel shitty. I’m here to tell you that doesn’t make you a bad person.

ball of anxiety

My Hubby is a chemical engineer. He is super smart and extremely logical. And he really likes solving problems. I think nothing would make him happier than if he could solve my depression and anxiety issues with logic. Unfortunately for both of us, it doesn’t work like that. But it doesn’t stop him from trying. And when he tries? It sometimes makes it worse. Which isn’t logical and it confounds him.

When I say it makes it worse, I don’t mean that he himself makes my anxiety worse. In fact, he’s learned over the years many tricks to help me remember how to breathe and get through the tough patches. He, the person, is one of the things that can make it better. What I mean is that the logical questions he often throws at me can make it worse.

I don’t know about everyone, but my brain functions weird in the middle of a panic attack. It runs on loop through various things, depending on the type of attack I’m having. It could be the mountainous list of things I need to accomplish the next day. Or it could be the mountainous list of things I think I did wrong during that day. It could be a list of scenarios in which people I love leave me. Or get hurt.

You get the idea. My thoughts loop through things that make me uncomfortable. And I very often find it hard to get off of the merry-go-round of anxious thoughts.

Sometimes, someone can throw up a blockade big enough to halt my thoughts in their tracks. If they succeed in that, sometimes the panic attack will end. Sometimes. Other times, my thoughts hit the blockade, see something else to loop around, and it all begins again.

The latter is often what happens when my Hubby begins to question me about why I’m anxious. It’s really not his fault. He is genuinely trying to help me get to the bottom of my panic. The problem arises in that that particular blockade immediately turns my thoughts to two really awful panic triggers: 1) I panic for no reason and that is stupid so I am stupid and 2) I can’t give a good answer to this perfectly reasonable question and I am letting him down and oh my god I’m such a failure.

When I’m out of that anxious state, I can see that my thoughts are unhelpful and I’m causing all of this pain for myself. But to paraphrase Dumbledore, it doesn’t really matter if it is all happening in my head; it’s real to me and it is just as painful as if it was happening to my body instead of my mind.

Anxiety attacks suck. I’ve been on a panic bender the past three days. Sometime on Sunday I boarded the Panic Attack Express (it’s this really shitty roller coaster; I do not recommend it, for the record) and I haven’t been able to get off. I’ve tried everything I know: meditation, music and a brisk walk, power breathing, hitting a punching bag, therapy…. No dice. I’m still on the damn roller coaster.

And it is beginning to wear on me physically. Last night the acute attacks were getting so bad I had begun to feel chest pain when they began. My stomach gets nauseous through the attacks and my heart races painfully.

symptoms of anxiety disorder

The actual attack lasts for about twenty to thirty minutes. But there is the pre-attack revving and the post-attack hangover. I can’t seem to get myself out of the up and down cycle. I’ll get an hour or so of calm and then it all begins again.

Three days of that. I just want to curl up in a ball and cry. Can’t do that, though. I have commitments and people who need me. It’s just that by the end of the day, I feel like I’ve been running a marathon all day and I almost can’t function.

So when someone tries to help me figure out why it is so bad right now, I don’t have the mental defenses to see that they’re trying to help. My mind just immediately hops back on the roller coaster and I go for another ride.

I wish I had the presence of mind to explain myself when asked those questions. To be able to say, thank you so much for wanting to help, but right now I just need you to hold my hand.

Right now, I’m kind of in survival mode. Question asked; must answer…. Can’t answer….. God, I fucking suck.

During one of my “down” times, I spoke with Hubby about how him asking why I’m panicked wasn’t working. Why it was actually making it worse. He didn’t really understand. To his credit, though, he didn’t argue with me. He said that he would try to avoid asking me those questions and instead just try to redirect my mind.

It won’t always work. He’s too logical to not ask again. And I won’t always be able to remind him, hey … you’re trying to help but it’s not working. But for now, he heard me and I spoke up for myself.

Win-win.

I’ll take any win-win I can get right now.

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