It’s a pretty good Saturday. The sun is out; you watch the dog leap through the backyard sprinkler chasing a squirrel. The bills are paid, the dishes and laundry are done. You’re going to the movies with your wife and teenage daughter tonight and hitting Sonic for burgers and shakes after.
You didn’t do any writing or clean the garage, the jobs you put in your planner for Thursday and Friday, but, considering everything, you’re doing well. You’re a month behind on vehicle maintenance, but you’ll remember to get both cars into the shop in the next week or so. Or you’ll keep forgetting and on the next family trip, the minivan’s engine will explode and the tires will blow. But you will, without fail, go to the vet next week and pick up the heartworm prevention meds for Casey. Monday, the day after tomorrow, that’s when you’ll do it, for sure. I mean you don’t want him to get sick and die. You were going to go to the vet yesterday, but you remembered today, when the vet’s closed.
What’s wrong with you? You shake your head, take a breath, and lean back. Nothing’s wrong with you. Your wife says you’re fine. Your therapist says you’re fine, as long as you keep your biweekly appointments. Stop obsessing. You’ll trigger another panic attack.
No More Meds Already
You’re an ADHD adult taking ADHD meds, but you don’t want to rely on a tranquilizer for your comorbid anxiety disorder. The stuff can make you feel dopey, and as a recovering alcoholic, you like things that make you feel dopey way too much. So you grit your teeth and wrestle with anxiety and panic attacks barehanded. But the harder you work to get a grip, the quicker anxiety manages to slip free and make a mess of things. Since those things are your home, work, friendships, and your relationship with reality, you know you have to keep fighting it.
So you decide to pull on your big boy boots and do something about it. If a tree fell down on the fence out back, you would grab a chainsaw, cut it up, and fix the fence. No different with anxiety. Watchfulness, logic, and willpower fuel your mental chainsaw, and you can spot panic trees, before they come crashing down, and cut them out of there. If one gets by, ignore it. It’s all in your head; take control.
Last Wednesday, you called a friend in New York to commiserate over the death of a guy you were both close to. You shared sorrow and a couple of memories. About 10 minutes in, you felt a twinge in your chest that felt like a warning whistle. Was it just a muscle tic from the first push-ups you did this morning, or was it triggered by something your friend said? You don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. Damn it, you were not going to start hyperventilating and raving long-distance like the lunatic he and you and everybody knows you are. Self-scanning for more signs of an oncoming panic attack, you stopped listening to the friend on the phone. But wait, did you hear him say that? Did he call you crazy? “No,” you said. “No, I’m not. I’m not that nut-job guy I was back then, and I won’t have you talking that way to me anymore.” In full panic attack, heart racing, panting like a rabid gerbil, you hung up and stared at your shaking hands.
After the adrenaline cloud cleared out of your brain, you realized that your friend hadn’t insulted you. Now that you can think about it with a clear head, you remember he’d said that the sudden death of your mutual friend is crazy. Not you. You can’t ignore this one. You replay the phone conversation in your head and you think, “That wasn’t me, that was a clip from The Real Housewives of New York.” You called and apologized.