I felt good. Like, pre-panic disorder good. Calm as a Hindu cow, as Fight Club’s Tyler Durden would say.
How unusual for me. Extremely and weirdly and anachronistically unusual.
A song I don’t particularly like — “Closing Time” by Semisonic, circa 1998 or so — came on the radio as I drove (calmly) home from a shopping trip to the “far” CVS store. No small feat for a part-time agoraphobic, I promise you.
Anyway, I turned the volume down on this over-played tune (because have you ever BEEN in a bar at 1:50 am?), opting instead to listen to the air buzzing and whooshing its way into my open driver’s side window. A soothing dose of white noise.
But then, my brain got to wandering adolescence-ward. I was a shrimpy little 8th grader back in ’98. Ha, 8th grade. Oh sweet stars was I a special brand of awkward, I recalled.
I think I actually liked Semisonic back then, too. Did I have their album? What was the name of their album?
No, really — what was it called? I feel like it’s relevant.
I furrowed my eyebrows. Something about the word “strange”. Strange feelings? Strange…findings?
Ah, wait — I got it — Feeling Strangely Fine.
FEELING STRANGELY FINE
The album’s name popped into my head at the perfect time.
There I was, returning from a shopping trip that, while commonplace for others, would typically be impossible for me. And, if not impossible, an arduous task requiring Xanax, my white-knuckled hands clutching my cell phone, and perhaps an “oops-I-forgot-my-wallet” escape from the store to the relative safety of my car.
But this time, I was fine. I was fine!
Bizarrely and strangely fine.
No adrenaline. No negative thoughts. No tight chest. No rapid heartbeat. No palpitations in the store or on the highway.
I was fearless, and I had no goddamn clue why.
Now, days later, I STILL feel fine. And I have no rational explanation for it.
WHY THE HELL?
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining. I feel fantastic — for the past three days, I’ve been able to survive sans Xanax, attend professional development classes, drive to the “far” stores, drive randomly around town “for fun” (what a notion!), and — get this — exercise.
Yep. I own a (little used) treadmill, and I ran a mile today.
For someone who, on most days, can’t muster up the courage to run for more than one minute for fear of her heart exploding in her chest, this is big news.
And I am flummoxed. What caused this? Is it something I ate? Something I drank? Did? Touched?
I have no idea, and I’m trying to content myself with not knowing. (How eerily equal-yet-opposite to the CBT-derived directive to accept weird-o bodily sensations without trying to dig deep into their cause.)
FAMILY AND FRIENDS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND
When we, us anxious-types, have “good” days, it’s a beautiful change of pace from normalcy.
Of course, no matter how intently we study those good days, we can’t just snap our fingers and will them back into existence when we’re feeling anxious. We can’t bottle everything up, tuck it into the glove compartment, and waft the glorious scent of quietude under our noses while our heartbeats are racing.
We can remember it, but that’s all.
I think it’s hard for those who don’t have anxiety disorders to fully understand the ping-ponging nature of our illness. One day, we may not be able to enter a shopping mall. Another day, we might easily enter the shopping mall, but have trouble with standing in line.
One day, a certain highway might feel off-limits. Another day, we might drive on the highway easily, but struggle like hell while stuck at a red light at the end of the offramp.
When I was working full time, I’d occasionally get the “oh, but you were fine yesterday” line from my boss when I’d ask to go home early for overwhelming anxiety (that would otherwise have made me guilty of presenteeism).
Yeah, I was fine yesterday, Mr. Boss Man. I was. And for some reason, today, I’m not fine. I don’t know why. And tomorrow, I might feel peachy.
We have our ups and we have our downs. Our good days and our bad.
And so, to anyone reading who has a loved one with panic disorder or GAD or something similar: we’re not trying to be difficult. We’re not “faking it”. We’re not trying to be dramatic.
Anxiety is unpredictable sometimes, and like you, we don’t necessarily understand it either.
But we do hope you’ll celebrate with us — instead of questioning us — on those coveted good days.
Photo: Fedor Stroganov (Flickr)