I had a fight with my partner last night.
Not just a stupid little argument. And not a no-holds-barred yelling match, either. We don’t do that, knowing how harmful and useless it is (through past experience growing up, and our own love experiences).
I like to think we’ve learned that much at least, over this much time. I was acting unreasonably—stressed out over other life issues—and I made a human mistake. I took out my pain on him. He walked away.
Panic set in.
Did he just break up with me? Does he hate me now? Did I just ruin my life? As a lifetime sufferer of diagnosed depression and anxiety, I’m sure all you others out there can relate—extreme situations trigger extreme thoughts. Actually, non-extreme situations can trigger extreme thoughts. Not reasonable, “Move on, give him space” thoughts. More like “Oh-my-god-what-have-I-done-I-need-to-fix-it-now-now-now” thoughts.
Anyone with severe anxiety knows this feeling—that you are surely going to die from the amount of (unreasonable) emotion consuming you. Not just cry, have a hard day—but die.
Note to fellow sufferers: this isn’t helpful.
Also, when you are dating someone of a different ilk, who isn’t in fight or flight mode all the time, their needs might be totally different than yours. My partner needs space, whereas my immediate want is to make things better—hug, smooth things out, make love. He would rather be alone, tending to life’s little affairs, like laundry or work, than caught up in my melodrama of fixing.
His way makes a lot more sense. On paper. But for those of us who have severe anxiety issues, we struggle with seeing that. At least I do.
Here are my suggestions for what to do when you are in panic mode and you have only yourself to contend with:
1. Distract, distract, distract. Easier said than done. When I panic, my thoughts swirl around and I find it impossible to focus on a book, or relax in a bath. But sometimes if I do multiple things at once, I force my brain to work on the multitasking and it doesn’t have time to ruminate. I knit while watching Netflix and making a grocery list (seriously).
2. Move your body. Nothing helps as much as this. If possible, move it hard. During a difficult time in my life, I ran every morning. Around every second mile or so I’d double up for a minute and sob, then continue. I always ended the run feeling like I had left a chunk of that pain and worry out there on the pavement.
3. Take in some nourishment. Drink some water, have a snack. Panic gets worse when we aren’t taking care of ourselves appropriately. This is actually a huge one. When I am dehydrated, I find my anxiety and panic gets much, much worse and debilitating.
4. Let it be. I am always surprised how a little time alone can fix a situation. Time keeps moving, people get over things, you start feeling better, and a new day begins.
5. Put on some music. Loud. Whether you need something upbeat to cheer you up, or something melodramatic to match your mood, turn it on, turn it up, and lose yourself in it.
Know this: tomorrow will come. Whatever happens, you will survive and be stronger. I have the utmost faith in you. I have faith in us.
Music for your soul, whether you need to dance it out, or lay on the floor:
Author: Keeley Milne
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo Credit: Anze Osterman