The Weight of the World

Since the incident last summer, I have suffered from acute bouts of panic, which come, unannounced, at the strangest of times.  Last week, for example, I was watching the annual Christmas parade make its way down Cook Street when suddenly, I was filled with an incredible sense of dread and horror.  I knew I had to remove myself from the situation.  I walked home quickly and hid under my blankets for half an hour.  After that, I was fine.  I even caught the tail end of the parade!

Such attacks have become part of my everyday life.  I have told most of my good friends about them in order to decrease their own sense of worry when such attacks occur.  When I leave a party suddenly, I want people to know why, lest they be offended or think I am unhappy.  That is the worst part of the attacks: they have limited my social mobility considerably.

I have seen a number of doctors and naturopaths about the problem.  I have been prescribed medication, but it always made me drowsy, especially when drinking.  I went off it completely in November and the attacks worsened.

I have given up on trying to eliminate the attacks.  They are like a guest that shows up in the middle of the night and belligerently refuses to leave.  The best thing I can do is learn how to deal with them, to manage them rather than fight them.  Luckily, I have received some invaluable advice on how I might do this.

I met “Rusty” at Big Bad John’s this June.  He shared my appreciation for Bob Dylan, so we hit it off immediately.  After singing a few songs from the Times They Are A’Changin’ album, we began a completely candid conversation that lasted well into the night: such conversations often happen at BBJ’s

Rusty told me that he briefly served in Vietnam.  He was honorably discharged in 1970, after being shot in the leg (I saw the miserable scar on his lower calf).  Since the war, Rusty has suffered from the same kind of attacks that have plagued me.  When I asked him how he dealt with the attacks, he pulled a notebook from his breast pocket and showed me the pages, which were drenched with blue ink:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…. pages and pages of it.

He said that, by writing the numbers over and over, he was able to calm himself.  It took him out of his mind, away from his thoughts and centered him in the present.  It made sense to me, so I have since taken it up.  I have already filled six spiral ring note books.  Rusty’s little exercise has been a god-send.

Last week, I suffered an attack at work.  I didn’t have any paper around my desk and was too panicked to look for any around the office, so I simply went into Microsoft Word and began typing.  I decreased the margins almost to nil, and still managed to fill over 10 digi-pages with 1-10 repetitions before the attack had subsided and my breath was back to normal.

I tried to save the document, as I like to have a permanent record of the attack, so that I can record its duration and intensity in a separate journal.  Instead of hitting the save button, however, I hit Print.  This was problematic.

See, in our office, we all share a common printer, which is located down the hallway from my office.  A twinge of fear overcame me as I hastily made my way down the hallway, hoping that the printing room was unoccupied.  It wasn’t.  Three co-workers, in fact, filled the small room.  “Printin’ out some emails, Nick?”  One of them asked.  “Uh, yeah…”  I was blushing.

The sheets started to roll out of the mouth of the lazer printer: twelve of them.  My coworkers were very nice about it.  Anne didn’t say anything as she handed them to me.  She even asked if I wanted her to staple them together for me.  I wonder if I should explain the reason for my actions at the staff meeting this afternoon?

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