Today, I had an awesome day. Today, I worked at the Career Carnival at one of the universities I teach at, representing the creative writing side of our English program and as an author. I loved every minute of talking to students about something we both love. What surprised me were how many non-English majors came to me and said that they love to write and are interested in taking a creative writing class. Writing helps them decompress, especially since most of the majors were STEM related. I completely understood, coming from a biology background initially.
Today, I had an anxiety attack that had nothing to do with my old fear of public speaking and crowds. The Career Carnival went great and I even got to chat with one of my favorite professors afterwards, but everything went to hell at home over something really stupid.
My dog had loose poop.
Yup, that’s it. That’s the thing that sent me careening over the edge into a 8.5 out of 10 panic attack.
From the moment I realized I would have to hose him down and that his could happen again, my body has been on high alert. My heartbeat is so obvious that I’m trying hard not to fixate on it which only causes more palpitations and more panic because it feels like it could stop at any moment. I’ve been still the whole evening, but no one seems to notice. I have my laptop open next to me with Scrivener open to the story I’m working on and Facebook, but I can’t bear to put it in my lap.
What if he has to go outside and in the time it takes to set it aside, he has an accident?
So I sit there playing on my phone when I could be reading The House of Many Ways, which I want to finish by tomorrow night. I text my boyfriend about my anxiety level. Somehow seeing it in numbers and words makes it easier to set aside for a moment.
An hour and a half later, it’s a 7.5. At least it’s an improvement.
It’s finally settling in at a solid 6 where it now sits like a lump in my throat. Even as I write, I can feel it ebbing and flowing like breath, a heavy helter skelter shroud engulfing me until I fear I will suffocate. As I sit staring at my phone, I picture myself hiccup sobbing. That’s where I’d be if it hit a 10/10, and I’m scared of sliding past the point of reason.
Mostly, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that dog shit is what has sent me over the edge after a really good day. I’m frustrated that I will be on the edge of sleep all night for fear that he will need to go out. I’m frustrated that people in my house tell me not to obsess or fixate as if I can shut it off or that I voluntarily surrender myself to sudden panic.
More than anything, I want to feel like this evening wasn’t a total waste, so I’m writing this post in hopes that someone might read it and understand that all-consuming visceral panic. Or maybe someone who has been in the grips of it will feel a little less alone.
Writing about panic and anxiety can be cathartic in my fiction, but not today, not in this. Today it just feels like I’m trying to swim to the surface on a dwindling breath.
4 thoughts on “An 8.5”
I don’t feel the anxiety to the same extent, but everything you describe sounds very familiar to me on a smaller scale…the inability to focus on something that I actually, three minutes earlier, had wanted to work on, for example. And I can definitely identify with getting some small something out of the experience, even if it’s not hunky dory, by writing it down, in a blog, and sending it off.
On another note, how wonderful that your work of bringing others over to the dark side of literature continues!
Thank you. I’m glad that you were able to relate even if it was on a smaller scale. It makes the anxiety feel more worth it if I can do something productive with it. I keep telling myself now I have more fodder for writing about Immanuel in the future.
It’s intriguing that you make that point about using your experience as fodder for your fiction. Because I’m currently in a Shakespeare workshop and that’s what the two directors keep insisting upon — that the actors use their experiences to bring, say, Malvolio in Twelfth Night. I’ve always understood this abstractly but I have to say it’s really hard to implement (in my case anyway)!
Girl, thank you for writing this. Yet again, you are an example about talking about the #realstuff.