This happened last night, during the wonderful Bardic Finals. I did not include it in my earlier account: The post was meant to be supportive and celebratory, and I did not feel that my momentary lapse into anxiety merited a mention.
As many of you will be aware, I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. The latter can be extremely frightening and debilitating.
Panic is not the same as slight worry, or fretting. It is very physical, extremely scary and, because the symptoms often ape those of more serious ailments, not always easy to diagnose.
I am very easily panicked by threats of violence, and loud shouted anger, particularly when such ‘explosions’ come from men. Male fury I find extremely intimidating – and have a long history of palpable physical responses, usually centred on my tummy or gullet, to its expression.
There was some barracking amongst the audience last night. I am not convinced it was in any way harmful or intrinsically scary – but, without my consciously realising this, my muscles tightened in classic Fight or Flight mode.
Then, a guy got up, and hurling imprecations at the performance then happening, staggered out. The response in my body was immediate and severe. I did not have time to think, ‘Oh, this is a threat…’ (whether it actually was or not, my system responded as if it were); I went straight into a panic attack: Intense pain, terror that it would get worse, fear of being trapped, over-breathing – the whole nine yards.
I will confess now that what I wanted most was to run away and hide. But I made myself calm the breathing down, tried to calm the reaction of pain (always severe in me), pressed my left hand to my ribs (which were hurting the most) and blinked back tears.
From past experience, I am pretty confident that NONE of this showed on the surface; I rarely cry out at such times – and most people are unaware that I am mid panic-attack unless I tell them.
My shoulders, I realised afterwards, had instinctively hunched up around my ears, to protect me from harm I guess – and this, of course, is why I very often get nasty muscle spasms in chest and ribs and back.
I am vulnerable to attack, be it verbal or physical. There is no denying this truth. The fact that this ‘attack’ was not in any way directed at me made no difference; it was the threat of extreme male rage that set me off.
But I decided when I moved here that I was not willing to abstain from all social interactions (the way I had for so long in my previous abode) just in case I might come across scary men. My feeling is that I need to face such things, such people, and learn that I can survive panic, that I am capable of coming out the other side.
It is bloody hard at times, though, and my Flight setting still comes to the fore all too easily.