Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Irrationality of Panic

All my adult life, I've had a panic or anxiety disorder--one of those conditions that's hidden so you look perfectly normal  and many people think, "Just get over it." I don't have many panic attacks any more and when I do, they're minimal. But today I had a doozy. I suppose there's a lot going on in my life to make me build anxiety--my oldest son in the hospital, my youngest son in China, my youngest daughter heading for Mexico tomorrow. But I think the real cause was my ophthalmology appointment.
Don't get me wrong. The doctor, an old friend, is as kind as can be, but there's something about eye exams that really bothers me. Maybe it's the feeling if I can't read every line that I'm a kid failing a test in school. Maybe it's those old glass prisms they used to use to look into your eye. Maybe it's the dilation, but honest, I'd rather go to the dentist and the gynecologist in the same morning.
Today's appointment was generally a breeze, and I got a sort of clean bill of health--my eyes are holding steady, with one slight development that isn't a problem and may never be. I could stand a new sunglass prescription but I don't really need it. Pleasant people, less than two hours--as I say, a breeze.
So why did I lose my ability to walk on the way back to my car? I had parked at head-in parking at the far end of the building--easier for me than walking across from the far side of the empty parking lot. But when I left I started down the sidewalk and could barely walk, even though I had a cane. I held on the bushes, and when there were none, I stepped into the garden bed to hold on to the wall, my heart pounding and my breath growing short. By the time I was past the point of no return I was cursing myself for not just asking someone to walk me out, and I truly didn't know how I would make it around the corner to my car. Anyone watching must have...well, I don't know what they would have thought.
God looks after those who can't help themselves. A tech came along asking, "Can I help you?" Well, of course I said yes, and once I took her arm, I was fine or almost so. She didn't believe it. "Is someone waiting for you?" I said no, my car was around the corner. She looked really dubious about letting me drive. When we got there, she said, "There's a step down." "Yes, ma'am, I can do it."
"Are you sure you're okay? There's a trash bin back there." I assured her I would not hit the trash bin. Her next question almost sent me into gales of hysterical laughter: "Do you know how to get back to the freeway?" The freeway was the last place I wanted to go--I don't drive on them. I assured her I wanted to go the other way, and I'm pretty sure she watched me drive away. In retrospect I can laugh at it, but at the time there was nothing funny about it, and that lady, bless her, was a guardian angel.
The rest of the day? I walked around just fine, thank you--took garbage carts to the street, crossed the street to get Jacob, went to dinner with Jacob. It was like this morning never happened, but I know it did.
Someday I'm going to write an article or something on panic disorder because so few people understand it or even believe it exists. I know better, and I know the percentage of people who suffer from one form or another is high. Most just don't talk about it.


LD Masterson said...

People who disregard the power of the mind to play havoc with the body are fools. The stupidest comment I've ever heard is "It's all in your mind."

Judy Alter said...

I so agree. Actually, the trouble is that it is all in your mind, but your body obeys that panic in your mind. Thanks for the insight.