Having a panic attack at Disney World is the lamest thing a brain could possibly do. And I’m speaking as a person with a disturbingly overactive, relentlessly arrogant brain. It’s helped me accomplish a lot of work faster than others expected me to– I have a quick brain, that absorbs and sorts well. With the extra time, I’ve mostly surfed the internet. Or read books. But full disclosure: I’ve also watched television. We’ve had a lot of good times together, but today was not our best day.
I had my first panic experience a couple of months ago in the emergency room. I was hooked up to an IV for my migraine, which would normally have made me real, real happy, but for some reason, instead of falling into the soft embrace of medical science (as I have in the past), I started shaking and freaking the fuck out. I told my poor companion on this errand that I was worried about when she would die. She asked the nurse to give me more drugs.
Since then, I’ve freaked out watching television, teaching my class, traveling on an airplane, and sitting in a restaurant. Having this logical brain, I was eager to pull this apart, just as I would a novel or a movie or (sadly, but honestly) a commercial. I focus, analyze, and fix, all by my amazing self. I pull it apart, consider the construction and relationships between its component parts, and fix the faulty part. I have a passion for fixing myself. Just another class to get an “A” in!
I might as well try to dissect a jellyfish. The thing can’t stand up to my knives. I freak out in familiar places and strange ones. Small places and wide open ones. In the morning and at night. When I feel worried, and when I feel fine.
At my conference sessions today, in between repeating “thoughts always pass” and assuring myself the walls were not actually closing in, I discussed internet privacy with some colleagues. How could you put things out there, knowing that people might judge you, or you might feel bad about what you had said, 10 years down the road? I could hardly discuss this without getting spiritual. To me, the real question was, why are you so intent on projecting yourself as particular, consistent personality, and why are you so intent on making the right impression on people who, if they judge you harshly, are assholes?
My lessons come from spiritual truths, not analysis: you are not your mind or emotions. Learn sympathy for people with problems that cause them shame. Emotional problems are not a moral issue. I know this, but I prefer to think people who are anxious are weak and need to buck up. The subtle distinction between “fixing” and “learning” is the trickiest… and there are probably others, better learned from what naturally echoes with truth than what falls out when I try to cut.