Yesterday I had two panic attacks.
When people hear that the first (and admittedly most obvious) question is, “Over what?” And I get that it’s an immediately uncomfortable conversation, like someone saying, “Sometimes I still wet the bed,” or your new girlfriend of a week saying she loves you. Where do you look? What do you say? You find yourself suddenly discovering how frayed your shoelaces are, and wondering if people ever replace their shoelaces just because they look bad, or if that’s just too much of a First World Problem for you to even deal with.
I’ve been there man! Okay, nobody’s ever told me that they wet the bed, and it was a college boyfriend of like a month not a girlfriend of a week, but I can still relate. I’m good at relating.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t really matter why panic attacks happen. To wildly over-simplify things, that’s like asking someone with the stomach flu why they’re puking in the toilet. I mean, yeah, you should probably figure out whether it was that sushi you both had for lunch, but the primary concern in the moment is more holding back of hair and finding some clean towels. Or dirty towels. When you’re cleaning up vomit I guess towel cleanliness isn’t so important.
I seem to have digressed. I’m pretty sure my point here was two-fold:
- People treat mental illness like it’s a choice. In fact, people treat emotions in general like they’re a choice. And I grant you, to some extent it all is. You can wallow in your bad mood or you can go out for ice cream. You can (hopefully) get some help, be it therapy or drugs or whatever it is that helps your brain right itself, or you can decide to be a suffering artist and melt your brain with absinthe and cut your own ear off. But if someone says they have a headache they get understanding, some asprin, and told to go to bed. If someone says they’re inescapably miserable and don’t know why then there’s something wrong with the choices they’ve made in life. Society is an asshole sometimes.
- Having a panic attack, much like puking, is sometimes liberating. You feel awful, drained, kind of sick, and exhausted, but also free – you don’t have to worry anymore. The worst has already happened. You’ve completely lost control over your own basic functions, and you survived it, and you came out the other side. Congratulations!
I guess what I’m saying here is that the world needs to stop asking “Why” so much and start hugging more?
And that panic attacks can kind of weirdly be good things?
And that I have no clean towels in the entire apartment?
Dude, that last one is totally true. I need to do some laundry…