For those of you who've never struggled with anxiety and panic, here's how you know when you've crossed the line from "this sucks, but life goes on" to "if I had better mental health benefits, I'd totally be lying in a heap on some random therapist's doorstep this morning, just waiting."
You've crossed the line when the things that you can NOT get out of your head, the things that are making your heart pound and your chest tighten, the things that are stopping you from being able to think anything other than DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, have almost nothing whatsoever to do with you.
That's right. I am currently having panic attacks about OTHER PEOPLE'S PROBLEMS.
I have plenty to worry about on my own, mind you. All of it stressful; none of it truly worthy of panic. But once your body's primed for panic attacks, this is what sometimes comes. Your body doesn't care if the stressors are big things or little things; pile on enough of them and, once you pass a certain stress load, here comes the panic.
And, for me, there's been a bunch of little things: Big deadlines at work, people I need information from not calling me back, items I've ordered arriving broken (and requiring me to make phone calls to return them). Em had to have a couple of canine baby teeth removed yesterday, and she started crying and freaking out about it a full 24 hours in advance. N is worried about the start of school, and letting that turn him into a little contrary monster. I put a single scratch in the rear bumper of someone's car a week and a half, and the nightmare that has resulted from it is still ongoing and has pretty much convinced me to NEVER AGAIN 'fess up when I do something like that. That sort of thing.
And so, yeah. Heart pounding, hands shaking, chest tight. I know the drill. If I don't have to drive for a while, I take half a Xanax and it goes away. If I do have to drive, I wait and take it later.
Except this has been going on for over a week now, pretty much without a break. And the last couple of days, I've woken up with it; usually, panic comes on as the day wears on. But worst of all is the fact that the thing I can't get out of my head--not the thing I'm REALLY worrying about, I know that--is an issue someone else is having with their kid. And it's something so more-or-less entirely removed from me, and someone with whom I am not even especially close, that it's not like I've been drawn into the drama. At all. It's so much not my business that I wouldn't even feel comfortable writing about it here, because the characters involved don't read or necessarily even know about my blog, and it feels like it would be an invasion of privacy somehow.
And yet...my mind, clearly kicked out of control by other circumstances, can't stop thinking about it. It's like the whole stairs thing, where I'm thinking of letters I should write and people I should confront and entire institutions I should take on. Except with the stairs...that was nominally about me, because it was about my kids' safety. This time, it's not even more than tangentially about one of my kids, and not at ALL about me.
Seeing it from the outside...KNOWING that what you're doing and thinking is crazy...doesn't stop it, unfortunately. And so it's 8:30 in the morning, I'm feeling like my head is about to pop off my body in about 30 second, and I'm dreaming about therapists and psychiatrists and Magic Pills.
I know there's an end in sight--after the deadlines are finished and the calls made or returned and the children dealt with, the panic should start to subside again. It's just that, right now, that end is pretty far away...and my eyesight sucks.