Something started to cut at the back of my heart last night, somewhere around 3 AM. I'd gone to sleep after playing a bunch of Civ 5 and thinking about where my life is compared to a year and a half ago, and where my life will be in five years if everything goes as planned. It was a whole bunch of serious shit tumbling through my head, and so when I rolled over and cuddled up to Aleister so I could watch Sin City from between the brackets of his fuzzy ears, I had a lot of mentally unwinding to do. I remember drifting off as I watched Miho block Iron Jack's barrel and my psyche wandered off towards ZoogTown. I guess somewhere along the route to Celephais I took a mis-step. Things didn't go well.
|At least it has a nice travel brochure.|
Came to not much longer. Aleister had wandered off to get some food or do cat things. I laid there again watching the shadows of the room and trying to untwist my brain from around the treads of the monster tank that seemed determined to crush out any remaining sanity. I got up to put in Boondock Saints. I figured maybe the jokes and the sound of gunfire would calm me. Aleister eventually returned, but the shadows still lurked, and I drifted off about the time that Funnyman delivered the sandwich. My dreams were as soft and comforting as Ron Jeremy's mustache being shoved into tender places.
|Pipes. I'll just say pipes. Your mind will do the rest.'|
Pulled in to the parking garage, and the climb up the four levels seemed to take a lifetime. Everything was somehow moving in slow motion and yet blinking by in pulse-quick flashes of other cars. The rows were too tight, I gripped the wheel and kept pushing, my foot steady on Galactica's throttle. I had to keep trying. I had to get to work. It was my sane place. My rational place. Things made sense there. If I could only just get to my cubicle this would all go away. I hear my scorpion ring click-shift against the silver of my grandfather's ring on my right hand and I realize how tight I'm gripping the wheel that it caused them to scrape like that. I finally get out of the pilot's seat and go. I'm breathing too fast. I can hear my pulse. My mouth tastes of copper, but I have to keep going. I get half way down the stairs. Some lady comes out of the second floor door and almost runs in to me, I crack a joke, she laughs. I don't even remember what I said.
I sprint at a steady walk down towards the building, every fiber of my being screaming at me to Run GODDAMNIT RUN but I hold it in. I can't look like I'm late. I have to act like this shit was planned. No one knows but me and my boss. So I walk to the door. I wave it open, and head to my desk. I say good morning to those I pass. I settle in to my cube. I start to breathe.
Except nothing is fixed. Nothing is better. I fire up my computer. I log in to the phone. Any moment now, any fucking moment now things will make sense and the world will make sense and this murder of crows in my chest will fly the fuck off and leave me be. Any moment now. I get up, nothing changes, I get my coffee. I crack a couple jokes to a co-worker. Keep up appearances. Don't let them know that you have a rabid wolverine fighting a junked out honey badger inside your rib cage. Keep up appearances. I get back to my desk and realize I already emptied my water cup. My coffee sits neglected by my keyboard.
I breathe out, and its like... well you know that sucking soft feeling that an ocean wave gives your shins when there's this monster killer swell of a wave coming up right behind you? It feels like that.
|Except with less warning. And buildings. And less fun.|
I finally text someone, my friend Trish, because I don't know what to do. I ask for help.
Sometimes that's all it takes. Asking. Trish comes down like a fucking avenging angel. This whole crazed storm is still kicking my ass but through these texts she is fucking there, she's holding my goddamn hand and I have SOMETHING. I try to block everything out. I try to count things that are real. At some point I must have gotten up and gotten ice from the machine, but I can't remember it. I clutch a cube in my hand and feel the cold and the burn and I count, and keep counting. Finally break time. I go out in to the sun.
Outside I run in to Kira. Bum a smoke. She instantly figures out some shit is way wrong, and I tell her because I can't keep it inside anymore. I can't fight this. Its still having its away with me but I am getting back to my knees. She gives me some more tactics. A shield that actually holds against the storm, coupled with the sword Trish had given. I finish smoking. Kira shakes my hand, holds it for a while, and I know she can't stay past her login time but she gives me just enough strength to get back to my desk. It starts to kick my ass again. I use my shield, I count, I use my sword, I hold my ice cube, and these insidious twisted facts and lies and emotions are just too much to take. They're ripping my heart apart. I wish it was a heart attack, but it wasn't. A heart attack... people there would have known what to do. There's a defib. They are trained. But I couldn't let them know I was having a panic attack. I couldn't look weak.
I get up. I have to find the wisest man I know. His office is closed. Boss's Boss is in it, so I pass by, I count my steps to the ice machine. Get more ice. Count my steps back to my desk. Sit down. Count my breaths. Count ceiling tiles. Something concrete. I focus on colors. I focus on numbers. I keep trying to fight. I get back up. I find AJ's door open. I go inside.
He tells me more than what I wanted to hear. He tells me, as he always does, what I NEEDED to hear. He lets me sit, and he lets me vent, and he puts everything aside and he helps. When I'm done explaining and making excuses and trying to find some sort of solid anything in my mind I finally stumble upon the word foundation. And he takes that concept, and he builds it up. He turns a mirror on me, and he makes me look. His simple explanation of these concepts that I already knew but could not actualize cuts through the haze of pain and filth that surround me, the parcel up the negative, they separate the worthless and show me how much I am worth. They show me how positive I am, and more so, they show me how I have remained positive and a good person through all these horrible times. And then he explains to me that focusing on myself, on building myself, instead of building and helping others, is in no way selfish. It's the only way that I can survive right now, and keep on helping others.
Tonight I wrote about three pages in my journal before I wrote this. That's not too impressive, I write big, but it's there. I focused on my plan for the future. I focused on the good things. I focused on things that build me up. I finally feel, almost 24 hours later, as if I'm finally getting over this. I can still feel it scratching, but I'm armed, and I'm armored, and I know where I stand.
I've helped people through panic attacks before. People who meant a lot to me. And I remember how frustrated I sometimes got because nothing I said seemed to work. Nothing -fixed- them. But today, with the help of a few friends, and the wisdom of a man who defines description, I put myself back together.
And that's all it takes. Someone being there. Someone being close and listening and reaching out and saying You Are Not Alone At This Horrible Moment until things start to make sense again.
I have this dreadful feeling that this won't be my last panic attack. I think because of how my life is these days that this may happen again, but now I know. Now I know what to focus on. And how to reach out. And I know that, in time, I will be whole again.