Myself in a Mirror

Many things are a part of our every day lives. Sometimes we are not aware of the significance of an object. Other times we place too much significance on an object. A mirror is an object. What each of us sees in this object is different. For me, mirrors have always played a minimal part in my life. Now as my life has changed so dramatically, I need to reflect on myself and my life. A mirror would be a good object to reflect upon the past yet also look towards the future. If I am able to help myself though these writings I need to be brutally honest with and about myself. I also hope that if someone is in need of reflection, that my writings might show them they are not alone, maybe they can even help.

I have talked of illness, grief, looks and other things while I have reflected in the mirror of my past. I have told little about myself. So I am going to try to describe myself to some extent. I am focusing on what I consider to be the main issues that have ruled my life for as long as I can remember. This is not easy for me to write about.

I suffer from panic attacks. The doctor calls it an anxiety disorder. In the past I was told I was agoraphobic. At that time I was. Or at least very close to becoming completely overwhelmed with panic. I did not leave the house much. My husband did all the shopping. I rearranged my life to stay out of scenarios that might cause anxiety that would lead to panic. I drove, but rarely, just as much as I had to and even then I would be in a state of panic. Driving is one of the worst parts of the attacks. You never know when they will hit, for me it is common to get them while I am driving. My way of handling that was to smoke. It would keep my hands occupied and my mind, that way there was no time to think of panic or if I started to my focus would be drawn away from panic to the ability to be able to smoke. I have not smoked for 8 years, meaning now when I need help driving, I do not have any. Another thing that is extremely hard with panic, is to walk out the front door with panic awaiting you. Many times I stay home as the thought of panic that might await me is too much for me. I will never win this war with panic, rather I have learned to arrange my life around it. I have learned to manage it. To stop attacks before they become full-blown. Only one or two people know of this and that is because I have told them. I have managed to hide them well. That is a common trait for those with panic attacks, our need to hide them from those around us. We can fool others but we do not fool ourselves.

I am controlling. This is another common trait among people who have panic attacks. The thought of control gives a false sense of security regarding the attacks. Most times, I can control them. In fact I have done very well controlling them in the past few years. But I am not deceived, I know around every corner is something that can send me into panic. In fact panic can come upon for no reason, with no warning, so I know I am not panic free just because I have managed to control how I react to the attacks and my management of what I do to avoid attacks. No one notices if I am in the midst of a severe attack. The controlling part of me has learned to hide the attacks. The only person that has ever been able to tell when I was having one, was my husband. I did not need to tell him. To him, they were obvious. He knew that sometimes he could be of help or at the least be there for me. It was comforting to know he knew of them and also he knew when to try to talk to me to bring me out of an attack or to be quiet and let me figure out how to get out myself.

I want to be a perfectionist. Many would say I am or am close to it. This would be wrong. Once again perfectionists and people who suffer panic disorders go together. Some say the need for perfection causes the attacks. I disagree with that notion. Panic attacks have a life of their own. Trying to be perfect does not cause or lead to attacks in my opinion. The panic causes the need for perfection I think.  It can lead to a sense of failure in some, but I am not negative so I do not feel as if I have failed when I fail to be perfect. Rather, I work harder at trying to be as perfect as I can, hoping it helps with the panic.

I am not an optimist. I am not a pessimist. I am a realist. I do not see the glass half full, I do not see the glass half empty, rather I see a glass that is filled halfway. What I do not see with my own eyes is hard to believe. Faith is hard for me. While many going through hard times turn to religion or prayer, I rarely, if ever do. When my husband was near death I was asked what church we belonged to. I was at a loss. While my husband had faith and was religious he did not go to church often. I spent a lot of time in church in the past, but it was not because I was religious, rather there were things that needed to be done, they just happened to be in a church. I went to services, but did not pay attention. I prayed, but it was mostly because I was feeling panic and it got my mind off the panic. I am not saying I have no faith or religion. Rather being a realist, not being able to see faith or religion, it is hard to believe they exist. I want to believe they exist, but it is hard for me.

As you can see, I am far from perfect. My control is limited. My life is about living around the panic attacks. Many experience panic attacks. Most will only have a few in their lifetime if at all. If you have ever had a real panic attack, you will know it. I am not talking of the passing panic some experience. Though that passing panic is worse in those who have attacks, as we tend to focus on the panic, not the passing of panic. For me, when I have a bad attack, I stop everything I am doing. If I happen to be driving I find a place to pull over. I will pick something up to try to read it. I will not see the words nor will they register in my mind. Rather in doing this, I have to focus on something other than my panic, with time the panic lessens and a feeling of relief sets in. It does not last as I know I could be one breath away from my next attack. But I have found a way to deal with them. What I need to find now, is a way to get out the front door, despite the fear of panic, to start to live my life. Even if only for short periods. Any day I am able to walk out the front door, get in my car and drive somewhere, anywhere, is an achievement for me. Those who do not suffer panic attacks will not understand this. Those who do, may understand in their own way. Some that do not experience panic think it is all in our minds. That is true in two ways, first it is our mind that experiences it and sends signals to our bodies to panic, second, our minds do not function the same with panic, there is some type of chemical disorder most times, though for that the cures are hard to find. My cure is only to work through them. Though it seems impossible to live with, it can be done. If anyone reading this wants to discuss their panic attacks with me, I am always here to listen, possibly offer advice, maybe learn something from you too. Just know if you have had or are having panic attacks you are not alone.