I’m going to start this post with a soundtrack. You may have heard of a man named Harry Chapin. If not, you've probably heard of some of his songs: Cats in the Cradle, Taxi, W*O*L*D, etc. He was known for writing REALLY long songs, and his defiance against radios for not editing those songs' length down, because his songs were all stories, and he didn't want to cut out an important part of the story just to fit the three minute mark.
Harry died a few years before I was born, but because my parents are awesome, I grew up listening to him on car trips. Specifically (and I chuckle as I write this, because I know both of them would read this and go "she's gonna talk about the banana song," and they're RIGHT.) I was addicted to a song called "30,000 Pounds of Bananas." That will be today's soundtrack. There's a link for the sound cloud here below; if you hit that play button, it'll play the song while you read. It's relevant.
This is a song that I LOVED as a kid, because it really is about 30,000 pounds of bananas, and as it progresses, the speed picks up and it gets exciting. In my youth, I would insist on hearing this song on repeat about a thousand times in a row. I made The Mister listen to it three times, and his response when I said I made my parents listen to it over and over was "it's amazing your parents still love you." (Note: THIS WAS A JOKE, and I laughed really hard. But he was pretty over the song.) And actually, I listened to it on repeat the entire time I typed this out.
It's more than just bananas, though. It's about a truck driver, who is delivering those bananas to Scranton, Pennsylvania. And because he is tired or just not paying attention, focused on something else, he misses a sign that tells him to switch his truck to low-gear because he's about to go down a very steep hill. The song speeds up as his truck does, and thankfully I was too young at the time to realize, but the song ends with the truck driver careening to his very tragic death among his shipment of fruit. (Also thankfully too young to realize? Harry wrote this about a thing that ACTUALLY HAPPENED.)
Okay, so you have the context now. Adding relevance to the soundtrack, here we go: This past week I saw a doctor, and I used this song to explain to that doctor what it feels like when I have a panic attack. I focus on something outside of what is actually going on. Obsessively. And somewhere in that moment of focus, I pass a point of no return, my "switch to low-gear" sign. The focus morphs from just staring off into space and being only half-heartedly connected to whatever else is going on, into a racing heart, a feeling of disorientation, and absolute, overwhelmed panic. It seems like nothing is going to save me. Save me from what? I have no idea, because I can logically say that whatever I've focused on is not a reasonable thing to make me feel that way. (i.e., the dishes will in fact, not irreparably ruin anything/ anyone's lives if they are still dirty in the sink tomorrow)
I was scared to type that. You'd think having a counseling degree that I wouldn't be so ashamed to share a mental health concern with the world, considering all the other crap I willingly admit here. But I am. Which in and of itself is almost more shameful. Mental health is just as legitimate as physical health, our society just doesn't frame it that way enough.
A while back, when I first drafted the Frequently Asked Questions on my homepage, I put in a little blip about how I thought it reasonable to say that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and talked about how I came to that conclusion and why I mention it every once in a while on the blog. Here's what I originally wrote:
You mention being OCD a lot. Are you just joking, or are you legitimately diagnosed? Neither and both. I am not diagnosed as suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, or Anxiety Disorders. I don't want, at this point in my life, to seek outside help or a concrete label. But I can tell you (see above about that MEd), that I have spent enough time with a DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to know that I fit the criteria for a diagnosis. There are simply times when anxieties fill me to a point where the only way I can stave off the feeling of my heart exploding through my chest (panic attack) is to clean, tidy, and organize. These anxieties typically don't have a darn thing to do with dirt or disorganization.Now all that being said, when I manage to climb back out of one of those moments, the best way for me to recoup is to joke about it. I'll even go so far as to throw out that cheesy "laughter is the best medicine" line. But it's true. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. And until I reach an unreasonable point, I'm fairly certain both the Mister and I are happy to enjoy a sparkly clean home.
You are more than welcome to look into what OCD is, and how it's characterized. I will not be doing that today. What I will be doing, once I finish writing all this, is updating that FAQ. Because you'll note the last bit says "...until I reach anunreasonable point..."
Unreasonable point. Has been reached. Had been reached, in fact. After explaining the feeling to the doctor, it occurred to me that I have been having panic attacks for almost ten years now. But because I had always lived on my own, it was "manageable" in that I would just lock myself behind my apartment or dorm-room door, have my "freak out," calm down, and move on with my life like nothing had happened.
I also need to correct that it's not OCD, it's a more general anxiety disorder, because I haven't got specific rituals that need to happen. Really anything can set off an attack- from dishes to laundry to whether or not I wrote my work schedule down correctly, and none of those things is a trigger every time. It's more connected to whatever large, stressful life events are looming than the dishes being clean.
Now I live with The Mister. I don't have a way to escape to solitude when I have an attack. I have to panic right in front of him, and it is so painfully embarrassing I daresay the experience is all the worse for it. He just wants to help me calm down, and all that I can get to come out of my mouth as he asks to help are horribly mean wails for him to just leave me in peace already. He understands at this point that it does help me a bit to just be alone, but I think it worries him to see me so upset and then have me out of his eyesight. I can't say that's unreasonable on his part.
Typically, typically, I experience an attack once every six months or so. Then we moved to Mexico and I couldn't take my dog with me [right away]. In that two months without Mac I had four attacks. We started planning our wedding, and I can conservatively attribute six incidents to that timeframe. The Mister would leave me alone for these times, and Mac and I would do whatever I needed to do to feel better; clean everything, take a walk, go to a vacant parking lot and cry for a little while (yeah, that happened).
The bigger point here is that we (aka myself and the Mister) had noticed that MAC was present for these moments. And we had noted that I either calmed down faster, or just had fewer incidents when I had my pup with me.
Which is all I have for you today. I wrote all of this out and realized that it is far too much for one blog post, and far too dreary for a regularly happy blog. But I need to get this all out of my system so I don’t feel like it’s some deep dark secret that I’m supposed to shield the world from. So I’ll be spacing this out over the next few posts (there will be a Thursday AND Friday post this week folks!). Why did I start on a Wednesday you ask? What happened to the Mac Does Something Awesome videos?