A Talk With My Panic Attacks, a Chat With My Fear
by Simon Morrell.
As I drew out of the grips of agoraphobia, I realised my fears were internal. Certainly external matters helped those fears along but when I got down to it I realised most of the problem lay within. Most of my fear was in fact my inner opponent and usually started chatting as I felt a panic attack coming on. He tried desperately to beat me and strange as it seems, also helped me recover as I replayed a conversation with my friend fear when he asked how he affected me so much. Here, I try to explain to him the damage he could have caused. He is quite smart in his reply.
I told him; “I remember one of the worst attacks you ever launched was in fact also one of the earlier ones. I was driving alone to my parents for Sunday lunch, my wife having set off an hour earlier to help set up. Summer meant it was hot…”
“Mmm,””interrupted Inner Opponent, stroking his (imaginary) beard. “Summer? Hot? Unusual.”
I ignored his sarcasm and continued. “It was the first time you threatened to engulf me. To take me beyond.”
He stifles a yawn. “Me, engulf you? Do tell.”
“I was travelling a long straight road and suddenly hit a traffic jam. I could see it stretch into the distance and immediately I felt trapped. Feeling the first purge of adrenalin I caught my breath…I always did hate queuing.”
Inner Opponent sits up interested. “And this is my fault how?”
I give it some thought. “I am not saying it was it is just that…”
“Stopped traffic is my fault and it will kill you?”
“No,” I protest. “It wasn’t even the traffic it was the heat.”
“So now I am responsible for the weather. It was my weather that engulfed you.”
“No,” I counter. “Let me continue. I opened the window for fresh air but you were still there, your fuel of adrenalin pumping quicker, your voice growing stronger, baiting and distressing me. I thought I was going to suffocate.”
“Oh so this is the part I engulfed you? What happened once you were engulfed?” My Inner Opponent seems to snigger at me.
“ Well that wasn’t the part that engulfed me. I turned on music to try and blot you out but that distressed me…”
Again he interrupts me. “Your lullaby of choice?”
Sheepishly I concede; “Rainmaker by Spear of Destiny.”
“Screaming vocals and banging drums. Good choice. That will calm you down for sure.”
“Well I changed it. I switched music to something soft.”
Inner Opponent reaches for his beard again. “That is very impressive thing to do whilst engulfing is happening to you. Is ‘engulfing’ even a word?” he asks me.
With a shrug of my shoulders I continue. “The traffic starts to move very slowly but my adrenalin demands it speed up and my agitation grows.” I feel Inner Opponent mocking me. “Not your fault I concede. I am now sweating and gulping air but at least I am moving, still slightly terrified. My heart is coming out of my chest and I am almost screaming at you to let me be, leave me alone.”
A smile from Inner Opponent. “Then what happened? What was all this engulf business? What did you do next? After you had put your heart back in.”
“I made my way to my mum’’s house. Slowly of course. Being so out of control I couldn’t risk going fast.”
“So you were that out of control you managed to stick to the speed limit.” He says this with raised eyebrows.
“It wasn’t like that, how would you know you weren’t even there.”
He coughs ever so slightly and looks at me like a strange thing…me, not him.
“So anyway I get to my mum’s”
“Engulfed,” he quips.
I continue; “ I tell them in short bursts through lack of breath, what had happened. They listen sympathetically then my dad pours me a cold beer. We sit outside in the sun and I calm down.”
“OMG it must have been like prison!” Can you sense his sarcasm? “Then what?”
“Well then lunch is put out but I feel I can’t eat a thing. My stomach is still churning. I struggle to eat mine but do manage it.”
“But you manage to eat it despite it all. You poor thing. All this time being engulfed by me.”
“Yes, yes still engulfed. To the point of feeling sick, but I manage it. All this time I am willing you to go away, forcing you to stop the adrenalin. You don’t. Your aren’t as powerful anymore but you where still there, ticking away, annoying. At one time you made one last attempt to take me, a mass of secondary adrenalin pushing through my veins. I stifled a scream. No one noticed, they just carried on eating and laughing.”
“I had to excuse myself, to get some air.”
Inner Opponent doesn’t hide his amusement this time “You outcast, that is just rude. A son feeling a little unwell seeking some fresh air! I am surprised you weren’t banished from the family at once and forever!”
I ignore his glib. “I sat in the garden and eventually everyone came out. I was so angry at you and fought you every step of the way but I was growing tired. My wife and I said our goodbyes and headed home for a quiet Sunday in front of the television. As we sat snuggling your friend ‘what if,’ emerged.
“What if?” he asks. “Not sure I have met him.”
“Yes you have. You bought him along. You see ‘what if?’ was followed by ‘it happens again’. What if it happens again now, whilst we are here on our own? More adrenalin sped through me causing great alarm. I forced myself to breath easy and for the most it helped but you were still present, still ever threatening. I fought you again but by now I was so tired.”
“You poor thing,” Inner Opponent says trying to smother yet another laugh. “Go on, what did you next? How did you banish me?”
I think and quickly remember, “I gave in. I was so tired I just gave in and let you do what you wanted.”
“Nothing. You got bored and went away. After a few more minutes I didn’t even remember you being there or what you felt like. I remember feeling distressed but I don’t actually remember anything tangible happening.”
“Tangible.. We do know some good words don’t we? You do realise that if you had ignored me at the very outset, you know when the clown in the Escort piled into the van in front of him many hours earlier? If you had just accepted a ten minute delay and a bit of sunshine, maybe a better choice of music, if you had done all this then the Sunday Roast would have been much nicer. Acceptance might be a word you want to try.”
Now I am sheepish to the point of grinning. “Yes, I suppose I do.”
“Quite a waste of energy aren’t I? I don’t have to be though. As your inner voice, not opponent by the way, as one of your energies if I was used correctly and you listened to me with an open mind then we can work together. We can create, train, work, win. Anything really. You tell me what to say, I’ll say it, you listen properly and act accordingly and there is nothing we can’t do. I’m fed up fighting you.”
“Me too,” I laughed. “Fresh start?”
“Fresh start,” he laughs. “Now let’s write that book we always promised ourselves we would.”
Simon is the author of From Bullied to Black Belt, a true story. Visit him at here