No Strings Attached
Not too long ago, I wrote a piece entitled “Thank You, Dr. Jill," detailing my seven-visit therapeutic journey, to rid myself of a lifetime affliction, panic attack syndrome. I gave a few anecdotal details, and sketched out my recovery process. I also described how I suffered for so long, because I just did not know what was up with me, and had no idea others suffered the same malady. Stop me if you have heard this before.
What kinds of things used to rock my world? I told students every year, that I found it difficult to be in the midst of crowds; ironically, going to San Francisco Giants games is extremely taxing, though I can now do it. I always had to sit in the back-left of the theatre, sit on the aisle, and have an escape route outlined, if I should have to exit, stage anywhere, outside. I was always fearful of the unexpected, either sudden loud noises, or startling events. Then my heart would be going into overdrive, and the blood would be draining from my head. If I were unable to escape, I would end up blacking out.
There are millions of people in this country, who suffer from anxiety issues. I was so petrified that I was going to have an attack, while in public venues, that it skewed my ability to enjoy any type of social event, that placed me amidst others, in any setting. That makes for some limiting vistas.
Being required to meet as a staff in small locations was very challenging. After the new high school was built, the entire district met in a room that was so small, I think it was normally used as a storage closet. I was petrified to do anything except hover on the fringes. Paul was so very patient with me. Meeting in the multi-purpose room was good, because I could always be assured of getting a chair in the back of the room, or join those standing in the back.
Teaching was never an issue, because the parameters which limited social interaction did not, for the most part, exist. Even when everyone was jammed in the MPR, I could still sit where I wanted, or more likely, stroll around pretending to act like a teacher. You know, go harass some poor student, who was obviously minding his own business, when I have to go rousting him out. That was my job, you know, giving kids a hard time.
The hardest thing about the MPR was having to sit through the educational films, which were graphic in their directness. As educators, it made sense that we be knowledgeable in these matters, but rational thought does not enter into the equation when it comes to the blood draining from your head, your breath coming in fits and starts, the sweat suddenly dripping down your face, and your feet suddenly feeling as though they are weighed down by four of those eighth grade US History books. Those doggoned dental images and all those needles, not to mention blood, just left my knees all wobbly.
On the other hand, I have had to deal with approximately twelveteen hundred instances of students having those sorts of difficulties, with no ill effects. It is all in the circumstances involved.
Being inside a bus did not bother me, because there were too many responsibilities, and my mind was focused on the task at hand.
OK, in a nutshell, what’s the answer? How does one get rid of panic attacks? Mind over matter. The power of the mind is awesome. Everyone can do it. A therapist will guide the process, but I had to get the paper and pencil out. I had to record my specific anxieties, as trivial as they seemed. I had to keep the mood chart, and figure out what it meant. I had to do it, or remain a victim.
I did do it. I escaped. I spent a winter building and thinking. I sat down in March, not even a year ago, and I wrote out an account called “Six Days A Week.” It is not warm and fuzzy, but you do not have to read the whole thing to find out what I was going through. You do not have to read the step-by-step process I went through, but it helps.
And it may help someone in need. A friend in need, is a friend indeed. I have a lot of reawakened friendships, and someone out there may know someone who could still use a reading assignment from me. If so, please pass on the word. No strings attached.