Existing in the midst of an active panic disorder is exhausting. It may not look exhausting from the outside, but there is an invisible internal struggle to survive unfolding within you. Whether you are in the middle of a full-blown panic attack or existing through the minutes between attacks, panic is with you.
Walking around with panic is a lot like having a bad burn on your arm. It is almost impossible to put out of your mind because it hurts – constantly. You feel it every second. It doesn’t go away or let up so that you can take a break from the discomfort.
It is a part of every truncated breath you draw. It is there in your blurred vision. You feel it in every flutter or thump of your heart. It is there, blocking your flow of thoughts, keeping you locked onto the myriad of unpleasant sensations. The feeling of impending doom is at your back every second, waiting, it seems, for you to look the other way for a moment, to forget for a moment, so that it can pull you in.
Panic requires constant vigilance, and you are on your guard every second of the day and night.
And in this state, time slows down. You are in survival mode. In survival mode, there is no losing yourself in thoughts, or conversation, or books, or movies. You don’t glance down at your watch and think – “Gee, where does the time go? Those last three hours just flew by.” No.
You are just trying to survive this second, and then the next second, and then the next second, and then… (well, you get it).
There are no breaks from panic. Life becomes a series of seconds that you are trying to survive.
And that, my friends, is exhausting! It is beyond exhausting. It is unfathomable weariness at times (think Frodo and Sam in Mordor).
And for you, who are in this, there are no nights off, or weekends, or vacations from panic. You live with it, every second of every day. Every day you embark upon the Herculean task of surviving that day. And every night you struggle to survive that night – each individual second of it.
Is it any wonder that you are utterly exhausted? A shadow of your former self? Just pause for a moment to acknowledge the size of the load you are carrying – this load that you did not ask for and now cannot put down.
The thing is… it’s going to get better. Really, it is. Though it may not feel like it, I promise you, you CAN recover from this. And although it sounds absurdly Hallmark-ish, it starts with simply believing that you can. Panic tries to convince us that there is nothing you can do – it is all beyond your control.
But this is a lie.
You will get better, and there is a simple first step you can take. Show panic that it doesn’t own you, and say to yourself: “I will get better.”
Yes, you will! And hey – you just took the first step!