I started writing this as a form stress release and distraction, yesterday I went to bed all afternoon with chest pains. Today I woke up with them, and numb fingers, both signifiers that my heart problems could be coming back. They could have meant other things, the most likely being the panic attacks that have plagued me for as long as I can remember. It actually came as some relief a couple of hours later when I started getter a high temperature as in all likelihood I have just picked up a bug somewhere. Over the last year or so it has dawned on me that living life without a romantic relationship or family in close proximity is a scary thing, I have wonderful supportive friends but I am also concious of not taking advantage of them, I’ve seen what happens when friends turn your life into an extension of theirs and the results aren’t pretty. My independence means a lot to me and it is hard to ask anything of anyone at the worst of times and the thought of being as vulnerable as I was earlier this year is terrifying.
Terrifying… And in that one word we have the source of the problem. It’s hard trying to work out what your body is feeling when it is flooded by the responses designed for our cave dwelling ancestors to escape wild animals on a daily basis. That is why, last year, on the second most miserable Christmas that I have ever had, I managed to get fifty yards down the road before the crushing pain in my chest and the numbing pins and needles sensation in my left arm made me turn back and go to bed for the day, comfort and joy my arse, I actually still thought that there was still a fair possibility that I was still having a panic attack.
It’s amazing how a human being’s mind can do itself so much damage that it can be almost identical to a heart attack, how all those bodily systems that should quietly be ticking away, minding their own business, suddenly start acting up and demanding attention, chest thumping, heart racing, shallow breaths and the shakes. I’ve got so used to managing the symptoms over the years that it was almost my undoing, constantly trying to divert my mind and risk asses situations so as to minimise their occurrences, avoiding common triggers, enclosed and overcrowded places, loud noise, drunk / potentially aggressive people, in other words having much of a social life and in the boozy, druggy, attention seeking town I live in, pretty much none. It manifests with people in different ways, I’ve had to stand back and watch as someone I care about flushed their life away trying to avoid any confrontation with their friends and family that would set off a panic attack, witnessing their time, energy and money being chiselled away into nothing for fear of upsetting anyone and causing friction, watching as the demands got more and more unreasonable and the lengths they had to go to to stay in everyone’s good books got more ridiculous. If you aren’t careful that need to avoid panic and unfortable situations can leave you at a point where you have missed all your chances in life for no more reason than lacking the courage to take them. You are a long time dead, it’s important to bear than in mind always.
It gets to a point though where one has no life at all and I have been there. I now manage my panic attacks in various ways, the first being learning to let oneself of the hook when things go wrong and you have a bad day. What’s done is done and if I lose a day to a panic attack, so be it, if I lose a friend, well, they weren’t really a freind in the first place. Secondly, know yourself, know your limitation, challenge them occasionally if you can but never be affraid to speak up if you feel you are being forced into something harmful to you, it’s ok to say no. Thirdly learn techniques that help you, be that distraction, cognitive behavioural therapy, neurolinguestic programing, tapping, aromatherapy, whatever works, we are all different. Finally, go and get a check up at the doctors from time to time, while the last thing I want to do is give anyone cause to panic further but stress and panic can cause heart disease, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
P.S it probably was my heart. Bugger!