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On days like this it’s a battle to get anything done, make decisions, focus and not lose your temper. Your body is taking you on a ride that you didn’t ask to go on, all because your faulty alarm system has been triggered; and you never have the code to turn it off.
It grips your body.
You notice that it’s harder to breathe, you take a few deep breaths but it doesn’t seem to help. You try stretching to loosen up your chest and back but your muscles are like bungee elastic and spring straight back.
As you breathe the tightness spreads across your chest, a dull ache that climbs up into your teeth; you drag air in and out of your body.
Your heart hammers at your breastplate painfully, you can feel it all the way through to your back. Realising that your heartbeat is too fast for someone who is sitting down sends it racing even faster, adding just a little more panic.
You try to relax but you find your legs, arms, fingers, shoulders hunching, twisting, curling with the tension contorting your body. Muscles spasm and twitch at random.
It grips your mind.
Every decision you think about making starts to seem like the wrong one, fraught with possible disastrous consequences.
Your internal voice becomes a mantra of self-deprecation; you tell yourself you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not anything enough, over and over again. Your mind is screaming at you that you can’t do task after task and it all begins to spiral.
So you sit there paralysed, doing nothing. Feeling your whole body vibrating, twitching; simultaneously imploding and exploding with excess energy. You’re ready to run or dive at the slightest noise.
You cycle thoughts over in your mind, never finishing one, chaotically spring-boarding from one to the next and back again. Soon, that lurking feeling of confusion, that feeling that you’ve forgotten something, lies behind all your spinning thoughts.
Sometimes there’s an obvious trigger, but just as often it comes from nowhere and leaves you wondering what on earth it’s doing here right now.
You can get caught up in the "why?" letting anger take over as once again your day is hijacked and spun out of your control. But it does nothing to reduce the hammering in your chest.
Ride it out.
In the end there’s no choice but to ride it out. Medication might take off the edge, herbal tea might soothe a little but the anxiety is there for as long as it has decided to stay.
I like to take a walk so that my pumping heart feels like it has a purpose, to feed those moving muscles instead of feeding the rising panic in my chest. But even this takes a colossal effort, because my mind is convinced that nothing will help, nothing will work once I reach this peak state of high alert.
As the panic seeps away, a deep lethargy replaces it. Fog clouds my mind, lead invades my muscles. How did I ever spin my head at each sound? Now I can hardly lift it. I gauge how little of a response I can give to answer questions faithfully, but without expending more precious energy.
If I push myself, I become a victim of multiple clumsy mishaps. My tired body miscalculating the doorways, stairs, cupboards that I navigate every day. Bashing, spilling, bumping until I decide it’s just easier to stop.
Something still pushes at my breastbone, aching, and my eyes feel as though they’re sunk deep into my head and puffy. It’s a similar feeling to after a long run, but there’s no sense of achievement or fulfilment. Instead, feelings of lost time, wasted worrying and embarrassment await when my brain has recovered enough energy to start running over the latest bout.
The consolation is that it passes every time. I might not know when it will end, but it will end.