Panic

Jan 2 – Panic. Weighing me down. Tugging at my feet. Pulling me beneath the surface. I’ve been swimming on the edge of a panic attack for twelve hours, so I’ve carved out some time to write about it. Typically, I call these anxiety attacks, but right now what I’m feeling is panicky. My medications aren’t doing their job. I feel out of control.

Last night, going to bed, I couldn’t breathe. I’m worried about my children, about my job, about my marriage, about my friendships, about my health, and of course about my mental health. Too much to think about to think clearly; my only course of action is panic.

It’s an interesting word. It rhymes with manic (meaning deraigned excitement), but that’s just a coincidence. Panic is when you’re terrified for your life. Coined in the 17th century, it’s how villagers felt when confronted by the god Pan.

On New Year’s Eve, I saw a band on TV called Panic at the Disco. When I heard this name, the first thing I thought of was the Pulse shooting in Orlando. I don’t know which came first, the band or the shooting. Regardless, the band should change their name.

The performance was absurd. The lightshow was high-energy—manic, even—but the music was boring and unmelodic. The singing was boring and atonal. At first I thought the whole thing was a joke. A group of actors put on stage—a pastiche of a rock band. But they kept playing past the funny part. Plus, the people in the crowd were singing along, even though the lyrics seemed to be made up on the spot.

Yes, this sentiment exactly echoes the response to the first public performances of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, and their music went on to influence rock and roll ever after. Will Panic at the Disco be a rock music game changer? I hope not.

While writing this, I’ve tried to mentally put myself into the Pulse nightclub. To envision what panic in a disco might be like. The only visual I have to work with is the scene when Arnold Schwarzenegger first engages Linda Hamilton in the Terminator. He walks into a dance bar and starts shooting. This is probably a good approximation. People injure each other trying to get away. This isn’t a stretch when describing a panic attack. I feel like I might die, or more likely let my family down, which would be worse than dying.

New Year’s Eve was dry in my house. This was a first. I quit drinking last January, so I’m bumping up against a year. Many of my experiences without alcohol this year have gone poorly: restaurant meals, holiday celebrations, vacations. But New Year’s wasn’t one of them. The only significance New Year’s holds with me is that my kids get excited about it and want it to make it a big deal. They want to stay up past midnight, see the fireworks downtown, be the first to run outside barefoot (a story for another post).

We watched a family movie over our dinner of homemade pizza—a Ferris Bueller rip-off called Expelled. It was fine, not too good, but not too bad. We were done with the movie by 7:30. Just four and a half hours until midnight. This is when some wine would have come in handy.

There’s a hole in my life where alcohol used to be. With a drink in hand, the my other activities don’t really matter; the drink makes everything OK… made everything OK. Reading a book while drinking wine was my favorite activity. Without alcohol, I’m having a hard time getting into a book. And I have a brutal time killing four hours with Rocking New Year’s Eve.

mcWithout alcohol, my hobby is going to bed early. But not on this night. New Year’s eve was dedicated to Panic at the Disco and a litany of other acts I never heard of. Mariah Carey was the only musician with any name recognition for me, and…W.T.F? She was weird before she even got on her malfunctioning stage.

I took the week off between Christmas and New Year’s to travel to my brother-in-law’s house. It might have been my mental health pinnacle of the year. Social situations that should have left me struggling ended up almost comfortable. I felt so good, it crossed my mind to cancel my upcoming therapy appointment. I’m just starting up again after a fourteen-month break. I’ve been feeling depressed for part of every week for months. I’ve taken several days off work through the fall because of anxiety. But not the week I was off work. My vacation week was confidence, and happiness, and peace. It occurs to me that maybe I need a new job more than I need therapy.

But I’m too depressed to start a new job. It’s a frustrating loop. Joseph Heller called this Catch 22.

Jan 4 – Each day, I wait for something to happen. I wait for my blog to be discovered by a magazine editor. I wait for my book to start selling. I wait for an employer to offer me a job solely because of my reputation. I wait for a climate catastrophe, or a terrorist catastrophe. I wait for an interesting news story, good or bad. I’m looking for a distraction from my life; from my depression; from my anxiety attacks and mental health days.

I’m waiting for the moment when I magically feel like my old self. The one from twenty years ago, Cocky, confident, funny, fun. A hard drinker, but stable in every other way.

I used to ride my bike to work every day. This was twenty-three years ago. I rode in pouring rain, in ice storms, in blazing heat—literally, hell or high water. Until I crashed with a minivan.

I used to ride my bike to work every day. This was until November. I rode in the dark, in the snow, in wind storms and floods. Then I became depressed. Cocky isn’t a descriptor for me anymore.

Next week, I have my first psychiatric medication management appointment in more than two years. I hate tinkering with new medications. Too many times it goes wrong. The physical side effects are overwhelming. Last time it was vertigo. Another time, my heartbeat slowed into the thirties.

The saying is between a rock and a hard place. Today, I’m in the hard place.

Jan 5 – I woke up this morning, and it was gone. Just like that. Four days of depression, and now I’m back.

7 thoughts on “Panic

  1. Jeff, hopefully you already know this, but you have a hell of a knack for writing.

    Meds are tough, especially due to the side effects. I went off my Prozac in November and occasionally have days where I wonder if I need to go back on it.

    Sending good thoughts your way for the panic attacks.

    Liked by 1 person

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