Thursday, August 25, 2005

Stayin' Alive

When I was at the peak of my Anxious Phase, I would have panic attacks anytime I did any physical activity. I would immediately assume that I had finally induced IT. The Heart-Attack-I-Always-Knew-Would-Happen-But-Nobody-Believed-Me.

Then I'd finish whatever activity I was doing and realize: "Huh. I'm not dead yet. Wow. That's weird."

Every day, I forced myself to go for a walk at lunch. Despite my fears about exercise, I really wanted to get in better shape. Exercise, though terrifying and, well, NO FUN AT ALL, would help keep me alive. I had to do it.

In our old building, I worked on the fourth floor. I started my walk on the first floor. I took the seven minute round trip view of each level then up the stairs to the next. Each floor was actually two flights of stairs from the next, so this was a decent workout for a semi-out-of-shape girl like myself.

By the time I finished floor 3, I was pretty tired. I'd look in dismay at the stairway door. Every day, I would think of reasons I shouldn't take that last trip up. I could never come up with a reason good enough.

My mind is mean to me. To make life interesting, I Always, Always, Always had a panic attack right on the landing between floor 3 and floor 4. I could count on it like clockwork. I'd climb that first flight of stairs and immediately, it would start.

Am I breathing okay? I don't know. I feel winded. Am I short of breath? Am I dizzy? I'm sweating quite a bit. What if I fall right down on these stairs? What if I die right here? I shouldn't have done this. I have to stop and rest. I'll die if I go up that last flight.

You'd think after 2 or 3 dozen times, I'd sense a pattern. That I'd realize - DUH - I never did have that heart attack I was expecting. And - HELLO? - the odds of me "starting to die" at the exact same spot every single day? Were astronomical, to say the least.

My anxiety-driven days consisted of frantic Googling about signs of a heart attack or stroke. In doing so, I learned that your exercise level was just right if you had enough breath to talk but not quite enough to sing. This was useful information.

As most people with panic disorder do, I have all kinds of wacky techniques to get me through my attacks. I created one to get through my daily Exercise Panic. When I would start freaking out, I would talk to myself. Out loud. Quietly, but out loud. If I could speak whole sentences, then that would force me to admit that I was okay.

My mantra became a regular part of my walk. As I opened the door to the stairs from the third floor I'd start talking. I'd just repeat the same thing over and over again, under my breath. Just loud enough to silence the voices in my head:

"I'm still alive. I'm still alive. I'm still alive."

I'd reach the fourth floor and walk back to my desk. I'd keep repeating it the whole way.

"I'm still alive. I'm still alive. I'm still alive."

And I was. I felt better just saying it.


The past few weeks have been crazy. Work is insane. My home life is hectic. Every moment I'm running from one place to another. I'm always rushing. To finish a report, make dinner, take the kids for a walk. There is stress at work, tension between Jete and I, worry over sick family members, guilt over the kids. I've got a To Do list longer than I can keep track of, and time is racing away from me.

I don't seem to have time for anyone. Jete, the kids, my friends. Myself.

But I have to keep going. Things will slow down eventually. I'll be able to spend time with my friends, talk to people, play with the kids. Go to dinner with Jete and not have to rush back to relieve the sitter. Soon. But not soon enough.

In the meantime, I'll just go with the flow. Keep my head up and do my best. That's all anyone can do. I'll just keep reminding myself:

I'm still alive. I'm still alive. I'm still alive.

1 comment:

KGrams said...

Yes, you are still alive! I have 2 things that I constantly repeat to myself.

1) God never gives us more than we can handle. (Somedays I wish he didn't trust me quite to much)

2) The things that do not kill us make us stronger. (Somedays I feel like I must be Superwoman without the great body and magic lasso)

Hang in there, it will get better!