Saturday, January 30, 2010

What It's Like... (anxiety and panic)

My roommate stared at me blankly tonight as I tried to explain.

We were talking about the fact that I haven't been behind the wheel of a car yet and I mentioned that the very idea of it is enough to start panic and adrenaline racing through my system.

"Oh, just go to a quiet neighborhood, and I'm sure in five minutes you'll be fine."

I've been through this before.  Twice before.  Each time it took at least a month before I didn't feel instantly panicky on getting behind the wheel.  Manageable panic, but still panic.  Lots of clenched teeth prayers for help - for me, and for safety, and lots of gritted teeth refusal to let the fear win that round.  This was the worst accident yet.  I'm telling myself it doesn't have to be the same, that I am stronger, and getting better at facing and dealing with the panic all the time, but the very idea of being the person in control of a car makes me want to sob on the spot.

"You just need to get back up on the horse."

She can't know how words like that sting.  That a "normal" person would simply hear that as sage advice.  She doesn't know that all week people have been telling me about how God allows the bad stuff as well as the good, and how those words, even though I believe them, are grating on my already raw nerves.  She's smiling, and I see that, teasing me, wanting to cheer me up.  She cares about me, and for all of those reasons I don't say anything in response.  Just a simple "I will."  (And I will, likely tomorrow.  Maybe the next day.  Probably with my mom or someone with me, to help calm my nerves.)

But it leaves me feeling isolated again.  Alone with the pink elephant in the corner of the room.  The one I'd so like to ignore -  that panic and fear that only I can see.

I don't quite know how to describe this reality that is sometimes mine.

I've found a natural supplement that works well to manage it, and it's rarely a daily occurence anymore - it takes something big to tip the balance.  I'm working on controlling it, and facing it.  I'm winning more and more of the battles with that silent pink elephant these days.

But today, today I'm losing a bit.

Ironic, isn't it, that I spent a chunk of the afternoon looking at car ads with my dad?

The triggers are hard to predict.  It was a conversation with my roommate about plans for tomorrow, and for the coming week.  I happened to mention that I hadn't driven yet, and the panic rose up like a monster, and there it was.  The elephant in the room.

So, tonight I'm praying again for peace.  I'm using all of the coping strategies that I know work.

I'm acknowledging that I'm afraid.  And also that I am strong.  That this week I have walked the balance of some difficult circumstances and emotions and needed to care for myself.  That I have coped with the aftermath of this accident (my third, not counting a few serious near misses - got to love icy roads) so much better than previous ones (and this has been the worst.)  I'll get behind the wheel of the car, and I'll choose to find ironic humor in the fact that my prayer life will be consistent, perhaps slightly panicked and very regular for a while.  And I'll choose to remember that it does get better.  I'll drive even more carefully.  And eventually the panic will fade again.