Anxiety, panic attacks and other brain issues

Some days an anxiety will take hold in my brain and it just won’t let go. Often times it’s not even related to anything that should be causing anxiety (the loss of our pets, the situation with my family, vehicle issues), it’s just something that “switches on” and I can’t turn it back off again. These are the times that the Ativan is made for, but at the same time I hate to fall back to it (I will, but I prefer to see if I can beat it by myself first) (Oh, and the Ativan is my take when needed anxiety pill, but I worry about becoming dependent on it so I take it sparingly), and that can sometimes increase the anxiety. These kinds of days now come much less often, but they’re still bad when they come.

Think of the most stressful day at work or personal situation you’ve ever had. Think of how your mind runs at a thousand miles an hour and you can’t think straight. Think of the knot you get in your stomach or the lump in your throat because of what’s going on. That’s what this feels like. Now, make it about nothing at all, or something as simple as “The light bulb burned out when I flipped the light switch!” and you might understand why people don’t often talk about it when it happens to them. When I feel like this, I hesitate to say anything about it because there’s no “concrete” cause for it and often people don’t understand it.

But the brain is a very complex thing and we don’t understand it even an eighth as much as a dog understand how an engine works. The brain can help us or it can hinder us (and sometimes, both at the same time). We can affect it in some ways with medications, but we’re not even always sure why it gets affected the way it does (or why it will work one way for one person and not the same for another person).

Remember this when you’re tempted to tell someone to “Just shake it off” or “It’s all in your head”. Yes, it IS all in my head, and that’s the problem. No one in their right mind would want this kind of thing to be a regular occurrence… but then I suppose you could say I’m not necessarily in my right mind. Regardless, I’d love to never have to deal with this again.

Unfortunately, this is the brain I was born with and I have to make do with it as best I can. I can’t change it anymore than I can change where my heart is, who my parents are, and the hospital I was born in. I can dye my hair, but it’s still going to grow out my original color. I can wear colored contacts, but my eyes underneath will still always be blue. I could pretend to not have mental illness, but it’s not going to change the fact that I do. It’s the way it is, and I manage with the help of a fantastically supportive husband, wonderful family and friends who don’t judge me, and sometimes a little white pill with “RX 7” embossed on it.

3 Replies to “Anxiety, panic attacks and other brain issues”

  1. Kat, the more we talk about this in public, the more people will be educated, and perhaps understanding will result. I too know the way an anxiety attack can just come on for no reason, and how debilitating it can be. Fortunately, my illness is well controlled through meds and positive thinking. Affirmations have helped me tremendously. Hang in there, Katlee K Shank, you are fighting the good fight!

  2. I’ve gotten much better control after about a 2 year “medication dance”, finally standing up for myself and saying “I don’t deserve to be treated this way” and learning to talk through my issues. It’s been a tough go, but I know it’s worth it, and appreciate those who’ve helped me through it. And yes, being public is helpful and I know it’s not an easy thing for most people to do. I’m blessed that my work environment is such that I can be open and honest about my struggles and I have support there, and that I have a husband who’s by my side and not just humoring me till I “get over it”. I pray that everyone else who deals with this kind of thing gets the same in their lives, at least a little bit, and I hope that by being open about it, more people think a little bit before just spewing old cliches.

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