“Some days, I feel everything at once. Other days, I feel nothing at all. I don’t know what’s worse, drowning beneath the waves, or dying from the thirst.”– Unknown
Someone close to me recently had their first panic attack and described it as the most frightening experience of their life. Equating it to what a mental/emotional/physical heart attack might hypothetically feel like, it was evident that this person had been truly affected by this incident. And not in any positive way. This person, being aware of my “situation”, came to me to ask if I could remember my first panic attack and what it was like. I paused, struggled, and slowly accepted the realization that no, I could not remember my first panic attack.
I’ve grown accustomed to the panic attacks and the anxiety, just as I have the depression. It all runs together. Not to belabor the point, but this state of mind has become my normal. In fact, I probably wouldn’t know what to do without the highs and the lows and everything else under the sun. Isn’t it funny that the one thing in the world I would do anything to change is the one thing I would miss the most and be lost without? It’s a trap, one of God’s little jokes. And he’s the only one laughing.
I guess that’s kind of my point. For someone with bipolar disorder, learning to live with all of its manifestations and idiosyncrasies becomes an art form, and in the purest sense. I have weathered the storm long enough to not be “used to it” but be accustomed to the qualities you may see as a “hindrance” or a “disability”. It’s quite the opposite at times; bipolar disorder strips away all that you are until you are in your rawest form or mindset. From there, you simply learn to ride the wave because the waves don’t stop. They are forever, and all we can do is attempt to reach a moment of clarity and relief.
I’ve grown so used to being like this that I remain in a constant state of disillusionment. My naturally adopted cynicism never fails to make an appearance. I’m on a constant loop; I’m up, I’m down, I’m level. Up, down, level. By the time I actually do level out and can adopt some perspective, it’s time to get back on that rollercoaster and do it all over again. Never “sane” long enough to enact any real change.
So, anxiety and panic attacks are just par for the course for me. I remain suspended in a mess of pure hopelessness. The difference between us, though, is that I can manage. I can hang. I can hang and you can’t. It may sound like I’m bragging, but I assure you I am not. As it turns out I am not proud. If I didn’t approach this topic with a kind of conceited, bare bones attitude I would be a total mess, and no one needs that.
So, no. I do not remember my first panic attack. I am anxious to a debilitating point at least once a day anyway so you can’t hold it against me. It’s certainly not something I can apologize for. I live in a constant state of panic and anxiety. It’s not that it’s easy or that I’ve gotten used to it. It simply is what it is.