Image: Author Rosie Waterland
I have missed work before because of panic attacks.
Those of you who know what that means have probably just tensed up. For those of you who don’t know (and are probably thinking “I wish I could get out of work because, feelings”), let me give you a quick rundown:
For me, a panic attack starts with a feeling of dread. I can’t explain where it comes from but I can’t shake it. Like bricks in my stomach. That feeling escalates until the dread is so palpable that I no longer have any control over internalising it. The symptoms become physical. My heart pounds in my chest. I break into a cold sweat. I get dizzy. I can’t breathe. Then I panic that I can’t breathe. Then that panic snowballs with the rest of the panic and my panicked brain flips a switch. I feel like I’m going to die.
I usually throw up. It’s not pretty. It’s exhausting. And that’s the condensed version.
So where the hell does this horrifying simulated death experience come from?
Well, it’s simple really. I suffer from anxiety.
And even though it’s something I’ve been dealing with for the better part of ten years, it still manages to take me by surprise sometimes. It can be unexpected and mortifying. Not unlike a fanny fart.
Anxiety can be a pretty harsh bitch. But only when you don’t respect her. And if I’m being completely honest, I sometimes don’t.
My anxiety sometimes fanny-farts my life. I imagine the conversation in my brain goes something like this:
Rosie’s brain: “Hey so, I know I’ve burning the candle at both ends but I’m totally fine. I swear! I’ll just sit here for a second and think about rainbows and then get up and go to work.”
Anxiety: “Lol no. You’re going to freak out and then cry in the foetal position. Good luck with that.”
Yeah. Anxiety can be a pretty harsh bitch. But only when you don’t respect her. And if I’m being completely honest, I sometimes don’t.
You see, I’ve been dealing with this illness long enough to understand my body and to be in tune with its signals. I’m kind of a pro. I know that when I don’t get enough sleep, I’m more prone to anxiousness. I know that when I don’t take time to breathe when I’m stressed, I’m more prone to anxiousness. I know that when I feel those familiar bricks in my stomach, I need to take some time to recalibrate.