The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
SPECIAL EDITION: Panic At The Disco… and other places…
For those that know, this is for you…
(Certain situations in this blog post happened February 16th and 17th, 2018)
Before I start, let me tell you what happens to me when a panic attack comes on. If you suffer from them, some of these symptoms and details may differ from yours.
First, there’s a narrowing of sight. It’s as if I’m being pulled back from myself. Like the scene in the movie Get Out. When Missy hypnotizes Chris and ‘falls’ backward inside his own head, the scene from his eyes gets further away.
Then, there’s the tight feeling in my chest. Fear grips me and I want to run or hide or cry. I get scared. Deep breathing begins as if I have been running.
And sometimes, the feeling of passing out starts to happen. Maybe from the excess breathing but it’s more than that. It’s as if my mind wants to shut down for a minute. Like when your computer starts to act up and you try everything to get it to act right but doesn’t. So, you turn it off.
Then after a minute or two, it goes away. Those couple of minutes feel like infinity.
For me, that’s what happens. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes more.
The first one that I can remember was when I had got home late from my first job as a busboy and I started to take a shower. One moment I was washing my hair, the next I was holding onto the wall wondering what the hell was going on. My sight had narrowed and this overwhelming feeling of dread took a hold of me. After a few moments, it was gone. I continued to stand there with soap in my hair not knowing what happened or what to do.
Then it happened a couple of times as I got into my car to go to work. It was cold out and I was sitting in my car as it warmed up. Here came the narrowing of my eyesight and the feeling of tremendous dread. It felt like death was approaching and I had not made any peace with it. Again, after a moment, it was gone.
There was one time when I was dating my future first wife and we lived in an apartment. I was looking over the balcony we had and like a ton of bricks, the narrowed sight and the dread hit me harder than ever before. It caused me to run back into the apartment, run for the spare bedroom (why? I still don’t know… Maybe to be alone…?) and fall to my knees and bury my face in my hands. I completely believed I was about to die. I started to cry until the feeling faded away.
Between those and more recent ones, there were just a couple. Years had passed.
It was always one and then nothing for a long time.
One day, not too long ago, I had five in less than a forty-eight hour period. I had two, one night laying on the couch and they were horrible. I thought I was passing out (or dying). The next day I felt better until my wife, Mindy, and I was getting ready to go to see a movie. I sat there on the couch and that horrible feeling started to take over and then it faded. I thought it had disappeared. I told Mindy I was good to go but as we started down the road, it came back and hit me full force. I told her to turn around. I HAD to get home. I opened the door to the condo and went to our bedroom and got under the covers and stayed there almost the rest of the day.
Cut to the next day. A Sunday. I was feeling better and thought we should try for the movie again. The morning went by with no problems and the drive to the movies was uneventful.
Until we got into the parking lot and Mindy parked.
BAM!!! It hit me again with a full force of narrowing sight and dread. I had to sit there for almost five minutes. Mindy asked if we should go home but I was starting to come out of it. I told her I would be OK. We go in and watch the movie.
The movie we saw was Black Panther and like most Marvel films, there are scenes at the end. Mindy couldn’t wait because she needed the restroom and I told her I would meet her out in the lobby. She asked if I was OK and I said I was fine. But as soon as she walked out with a few others, here it came again. I thought I was going to pass out right there in the theater. But even though the dread was taking over my thoughts, I knew I would be fine. I was comfortable in my seat and felt nobody would pay attention to me. That thought helped pushed the dread away and my sight started to become normal. I finally walked out on unsteady legs but by the time I hit the lobby and saw Mindy, I was alright.
I have had one or two since then but nothing like that weekend. Since then my panic attacks have been quick and less severe.
Why do I get them?
I used to think they were brought on by quick temperature changes. Cool house to a hot shower. A warm house to the cold outside and sitting in a cold car. Maybe.
But the worst ones the weather was fine. No extreme or even subtle changes in temperature.
But I was no expert.
I know better now. I have read and researched.
It’s my brain.
As much as I love my brain, it does kick me in the nards from time to time. Just like a car, it misfires. It takes things that I worry about daily (work, how I hate work, looking for new work, feeling unimportant, dealing with guilt from long-ago actions, fear of what tomorrow may bring, hope from what tomorrow may bring, and just plain dying all of a sudden and not finishing things I started and tell the people I love how I feel about them one last time, and etc…) and when they come barreling down on me it decides to spit and smoke and seizes up for a few moments. Or in different terms, a computer that was too many programs running at the same time (and maybe a virus) starts to act up and gives you warnings and a reboot. (Computer techs, don’t even start. It’s just to make a point.)
In those moments when it’s happening, I feel like I’m dying. Part of me wants it to happen to make it stop. But it starts to fade away and it leaves me hollow, the dread still lingering from minutes to even a whole afternoon. My brain misfiring and trying to fool me that something is happening when it’s not, all of those worries and fears that I have running through my noggin on repeat 24/7 comes crashing through the door all at once.
I wonder if people who suffer from depression get more panic attacks than people who don’t? Maybe that’s part of the reason. I’m not sure.
I have tried medication without much success. I have tried to pray them away without much success. I’ve prayed harder and with more conviction. Sorry. Same thing.
It is a completely mental thing. It’s my brain and my overuse of worry. The worry is built-in since day one. It’s a part of me. It’s part of the original programming along with blinking and breathing.
The solution is to learn to deal with it, to understand it, to admit it, to control the best way I know-how.
Life is full of worry. Rich or poor. Happy or sad. No matter what color, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, etc., worry will be a part of your life, a part of my life. There is no getting around it. Maybe I can get to a place where there’s less to worry about. It’s possible. (C’mon lottery or writing for a living)
Until then (if ever), I’ll need to focus on the positive. I’ll need to try and push needless worry from my mind as hard as that might be sometimes (most of the time). I’ll need to take deep breathes. I’ll need to meditate. I’ll need to give my misfiring brain a dose of control in those certain times when it starts to go awry.
Of course, that’s all easier said than done.
Regardless, I love you, brain.
-Loyd Elmore Jr.
October, 18th 2019
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.