Today I want to talk about my last wave of panic attacks.
It “officially” started last year in June. I say “officially” because that’s when something happened that triggered the actual panic attacks. The anxiety had probably been latent inside of me since my first panic attack, years before.
The thing is, panic attacks don’t just come out of nothing because one thing happened. They are usually the result of a deeper and well-enstablished issue inside of you that hasn’t been solved. It probably hasn’t been solved because you weren’t in the place to elaborate it from an emotional point of view.
The fact that you didn’t manage to elaborate something doesn’t mean you were sitting idly without doing anything. It’s not your fault and nothing is wrong with you. Sometimes we are just not ready to face some things, sometimes we just don’t know how to handle it, other times we are not even aware of the existance of the problem.
So, I had been feeling slightly anxious already for some months, and when this thing happened, it provided my mind with a new image to scare me, a new representation of my fears to paralyze me and prevent me from taking any further step with my life. A natural instinct was trying to keep me still in my “comfort” zone. It wasn’t a real comfort zone, I actually hate that zone, but at least I knew what it was, and this part of my mind thought it wiser to stay there instead of risking to find an even worse situation.
More concretely speaking, the situation was the following. I still lived with my parents, but didn’t want to, while they didn’t want to let go of the control they’d always had on me. I hated it, I wanted to be independent, but I was afraid of having control of my life. I felt the responsibility of it and it scared me. It paralyzed me, literally.
I spent entire days in bed, because I was afraid that if I moved I would lose control of my body and mind and stab myself, or jump from a window, or hang myself (this last one came up after the horrible news of Robin Williams hanging himself with a belt). On the one hand, I felt I might kill myself if I stayed in that suffocating situation any longer; on the other hand, I was afraid I might kill myself once in control of my life (I was afraid I would take bad decisions for myself and hurt myself, now that nobody was going to tell me “yes” or “no”). This means, I was in total panic at home in Italy, and I was in total panic in Brazil with my boyfriend. Sure, being with my boyfriend helped, but it was not enough: I didn’t need other people’s support anymore; I needed my own. I needed to find myself.
In the meanwhile, it felt like even my body was trying to reject the situation and the awful thoughts about death I was having. Every time I saw myself putting a knife in my own stomach, or jumping from the window, or hanging from a belt, I felt a strong panic pervading my whole body, all my muscles started contracting compulsively, and a strong impulse to vomit got hold of me. My whole body was reacting.
I would spend hours on the bathroom’s floor, hugging the toilet seat, throwing up, crying. That felt like my safest place: I was scared, but seeing that my own body was reacting for me was kind of consoling. I wondered how much longer it could hold on, defending me from myself. I cried my heart out on that floor, with no courage to leave it. If I would get out of that bathroom, there would be windows and knives and I wouldn’t be safe anymore. Once I calmed down a little, I would just drag myself to the bed, cover myself, and spend the day there, waiting for my boyfriend to come home from work and keep an eye on me.
I felt like a psycho. I couldn’t be alone. I was losing weight drastically. Strong shadows circled my dead eyes. I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror. There was no light in me anymore. I couldn’t see a way out of that dark tunnel, I felt lost. I couldn’t eat, but I kept on throwing up bile. I was disgusted by myself. What had I become?