Panic: The One Thing I Can’t Control

Photo by Hailey Kean on Unsplash

I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety for years, with a side dish of panic disorder which I attribute to getting struck by lightning when I was nineteen.

Ever since then, I have been unnaturally afraid of things that normal people probably don’t even consider.

For instance, every time I hear a plane flying over the house, I am convinced it’s going to crash right into me.

Whenever I am driving down a crowded road, I have visions that a huge truck will collide into me head-on and kill me.

It’s a pretty terrible way to live.

Thankfully, I’ve been feeling a lot better lately.

I think that through a combination of medication and therapy, I am somehow, miraculously, in depression remission.

But nothing seems to be able to take the panic away, and there’s no way to predict when it will come on.

Yesterday, I had my first panic attack in months when I was driving my daughter to the local trampoline park and the car in front of me slammed on it’s brakes, causing me to have to do the same to avoid hitting them.

I think my bumper got within inches of the car in front of me, and I instinctively slammed my hand against the horn in a rage because immediately I began to feel my heart start pounding out of my chest.

We got moving, but part of me was stuck.

My heart throbbed, I started breathing hard and fast, my body flushed with heat, and tears came to my eyes as I tried to hold back sobs so I wouldn’t scare my daughter over what just happened.

But what just happened?

Nothing much.

I didn’t get in an accident.

It was a close, but annoying call that would have resulted in a minor fender bender, but my for some reason my brain couldn’t keep up with my body and keep me from panicking over a near miss.

I hate having panic attacks.

I hate feeling so out of control.

Especially now, when it seems like the only thing I don’t have under control.

I should be grateful that my mental health is so good right now.

I haven’t had one of those dark, depressed, stay in bed crying days since the fall, and that makes me feel like a mental health superhero after spending so much of my life weeping.

But why can’t I get control of the anxiety and panic?

Despite every pill I take and therapy appointment I go to, I am still filled with fear.

Fear of failing.

Fear of dying.

Fear of my future.

Fear consumes me, and until it doesn’t, I think I will be stuck here in this place where panic can grip me suddenly and without warning, and be a total ruiner of my life.

Can I will myself not to be so afraid?

I’m trying, I’ll tell you that much.

I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself that there is nothing to be afraid of, and part of that is reminding myself to live in the now and not ruminate on the uncertain future.

We never know what’s going to happen — we can’t predict the future — so I have to stop catastrophizing it all the time and get into a better, more positive head space every day.

A plane probably won’t land on my house.

A truck probably won’t drive head-on into me.

I tell myself these things and try to convince myself that a mentally ill brain is a lying brain, and it’s up to me to fight against the lies and win myself a better life, a life without so much anxiety and panic.

I know you can’t will away mental illness.

If that were the case, we wouldn’t have mental illness, would we?

But I think I can do more to convince myself that not everything is going to be a catastrophe, and start telling myself other stories.

Like, that things are going to be okay.

If I keep telling myself positive things instead of dwelling on the negative, I might get to okay one day.

I might get to the day when I can slam on brakes and then just keep rolling on.

I hope so, and there’s a lot to be said for hope.