When Anxiety Attacks

The stress and fear seemed insurmountable, until the Registered Runaway was reminded of Mark Twain’s dictum: against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.

Packing up our things, we waited for the final word from my therapist. My folks and I were exhausted from the past several weeks. They were taxing, to say the least.

I was graduating from college.

When graduation comes and you realize there’s no return in the fall, the absence of a routine can cause a bit of distress in your mind. I had successfully throughout the year focused solely on my status as a student. Overall, I had achieved straight As and glowing references from several of my professors. The success of it all kept me moving forward. To the next project. The next test. The next final. Pretty soon, I was looking at grad schools.

Then I realized I missed the deadline for admission to my target programs.

Seeing the space of time before me, space with no offering of achievement but only… space… It drove me a little crazy. Pretty soon that space began to fill with questions, questions I had largely avoided. Questions about my future as a gay man.

It first struck me when one of my closest friends told me he was going to propose to his girlfriend. He spilled to me how excited he was, not for the proposal or even the wedding, but for a life with her. To be able to finally share his life with someone else.

And like an avalanche, I felt every little thing in this life being taken away from me. I was dragged to weddings, driven to engagement parties, greeted by pregnant friends, and seated with so many couples as they day-dreamed about their not-so distant futures as families.

I was like the man washing his hands only to see his wedding ring drop down the drain. With wrench in hand I ruptured pipes and disassembled the sink. I was feverish and desperate. Despite the sting of the water hitting my eyes and the flooded kitchen floor, I kept digging, I kept hoping I could find it somewhere in the sewage.

It just couldn’t be gone.

In the middle of it all I collapsed. I told my folks I couldn’t stop thinking about these questions. I couldn’t stop criss-crossing my five-year plans. I couldn’t stop thinking about Christmas 20 years from now.

I just couldn’t stop.

This, my friends, is an echo of an anxiety attack.

Hitting rock bottom on several occasions eventually landed me in a group therapy session with my parents. All of us were coming at this from different directions, unsure of how to move forward. They were unsure of how to put a stop to this broken record and I felt consigned to let it finish its song.

Glancing at my mom and dad, my therapist recommended a regimen of reading, attending support groups and ordering films. Each of these pertaining to the parental role of an LGBT child. Both nodded and quickly jotted his directions down.

Turning to me, my doctor, who I had been seeing for several months, started to smirk:

“For you… for you I am going to prescribe a healthy dose of humor. Seriously. Go out, have fun with your friends, stop straining your heart and mind, it’s too much all at once. It’s exhausting. It’s unhealthy. A little bit of laughter could do you some good.”

I didn’t like this. In my head, it made sense that if I sat with my worries for long enough, solutions would come and crop up in my heart.

Yet, I knew it’d be best if I took a break.

Interestingly enough, what started as a stopgap measure weaved its way into my lifestyle. I needed to be reminded that the future was nothing more than a phantom, and a bullish one at that. I had taken my own perception of what was possible for my life and pummeled myself daily for it. Essentially, I was being a bully, to ME!

But real and imaginary bullies don’t leave us alone when we scream.

They leave when we laugh.

So I kicked back and watched the Office. Texted funny memories to friends. Smiled when I didn’t feel like it (try it, it works). Pranked my pals. Flipped through old year books. Drove my dog nuts by shining the flashlight on the wall. And sometimes, just laughed, for no apparent reason.

It was like I was Bill Murray in What About Bob? just “taking a vacation from my problems”.

Call it charm and disarm.
Call it denial.
Maybe even call it lunacy.

But what I came to realize on the other side of this recovery was that humor was not just a painkiller, it was part of the cure. Anxiety and fear have way of tricking us into believing that our best vantage point is from rock bottom.

But the truth of it is, when we are stuck in feelings of loneliness, shame, panic and so on, we can’t see a damn thing beyond a funhouse mirror.

In adjusting my eyes to the light, I was able to calmly look at my worries and wonder why I needed them. Beyond being gay there was nothing that said I couldn’t be a dad. There was nothing that said I couldn’t have a family. There was nothing that said I couldn’t experience the joy that everyone else seemed to be promised. I just didn’t know what those would look like for me. I still don’t know.

I feel like I have been beating this drum throughout past posts but its worth repeating again. The last thing any of us need is a crystal ball mentality. We need to live in the joy and fullness of now.

And right now- the words of Ecclesiastes 3:4- that there is “a to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” have never felt more true.

 

Originally posted at The Registered Runaway.

 Photo—ssoosay/Flickr

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About Registered Runaway

The anonymous blogger behind Registered Runaways: his battle cry is for community. For keepers. For safe people to show up. He calls on his readers to roll up their sleeves, trade tales of their bruises, and deny the lie that we’re alone. You can follow him on Twitter at @registeredruna1.

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