I want to say that I’m a post-panic attack mess, but the thing about panic attacks is that when you’re over them, you’re out of the zone of panic, you’re fine. Or I am, typically. It feels ludicrous after the fact, except, there’s no way in hell you’d want to go right back and face it again. Today, however, I had multiple incidents of JUST NO GODDAMNIT.
I was fine driving to the parking garage. I parked, and looked around and realized I had driven to the opposite side of the freeway from where my bus would pick up. This meant, if I had any interest in not missing the bus, taking the walkover bridge. This, for most people, is not a thing. But my mind slipped its gear and suddenly, tunnel vision, heart racing, the usual effects. I paced about trying to not appear completely insane as people walked casually, strode earnestly across the bridge. I was feeling light-headed. The solution was right there. Eventually, the necessity of the thing somehow kicked in and I thought, I can see the buses over there. I can’t not get on the bus. The only busses I need are over there. I will do it. I will cross this evil looking unholy bridge.
And running my hand over the railing, my heart feeling as though it were a glob of coal furiously twitching out its last dying beats, walking like some sort of clomping psychopath, I crossed the bridge. And nobody knew that it felt as though I had defeated some sort of boss battle. Nobody knew how incredibly hard it was. Nobody cared as I bought my bus fare and calmly went to the downtown station and then took a lyft to the new job because I didn’t want to have to worry about finding the place on my first day.
Nobody cared as I sat quietly at my desk in our new space which is just a cubicle. There are people around, but we’re so tense, and feel, to my mind a bit like refugees trying to make our own space in this established country that it’s…well, it’s nothing like the shop. It’s sterile and claustrophobic and it’s nothing I want to experience, really, ever again, but I will. Even if I…well, eventually, it became time to go home.
And I laughed internally about what if I have some problem, wouldn’t that be awful. That joyful anxiety-based what if probe that never finds anything but blows up half my brain anyway. I shrugged it off, but then the lyft driver to the bus station was a mess once I finally got there and my initial start time to catch the bus back kept getting pushed back so that it had been nearly an hour since I left the office until I even got on the bus. Then, upon arriving at the station and getting in my car, I have this odd thought about how this place doesn’t look like any place I could ever be. My muscle memory won’t stop recalling how it felt to cross the walkover bridge even if I know I don’t have to do it.
It won’t stop cycling over and over as I leave the parking garage realizing I don’t want to be on this side, that I can’t be on this side, what road is this, it’s dark, I can see things I recognize right over the freeway, but I can’t move to get there…and then, full-blown meltdown.
I think my brain just realized that I was pushing it job change/life change/knuckle-down and bear it reaction right through and whatever calm I had before was gone. I pulled over and shook and cried and did the whole thing. Couldn’t get a hold of my sister, so I called my other sister and she was quite kind about it. Until she suggested I call my father, call uber or lyft and I was able to take a breath and manuever the car over to where I had intended to be.
And then, I sat and breathed through it and thought and twinged and flipped for about an hour in the parking lot. Stared at the cars as though they were weaponized.
Finally, FINALLY, time was time and the prospect of having anyone come and get me felt both deliriously right and tremendously wrong at the same time. Like, sure, it would in the instant relax and get rid of the panic, but then, I’d have to stave off the guilt. And if there’s anything in the world worse than panic (aside from the actual horrors of war, the actual traumas that exist), it is feeling guilty because you panic.
So, I rolled up this little ball of energy, the radio played a Paramore song. I thought I have power, I have an incredible superpower to fight through this now, I can do it, I can do it, I can do it. A mantra that would brook no opposition. And suddenly, I found myself at the taco place getting tacos and gasping because, well, it was easy, of course. So close. So simple.
Hah, oh, fuck.
I can’t express how much I hated that. Or how relieved I am I get a day away from it. I don’t think I can share with you what it felt like to know you can’t go home. Or how suddenly, you could.
But, it was a day. And the fight goes on.