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[personal profile] miss_invisible
This month's theme for the blog carnival comes at an apt time for me. For whatever reason, late at night (or technically early in the morning, really) tends to be the most difficult time for me, the time when anxiety or depression or both reach a critical mass. I'm also a terrible insomniac, and lately my schedule has been skewed to the point of my being essentially nocturnal. Night is when I am awake– but no one else is. The isolation doesn't help matters, I'm sure.

I want to talk about a particular long night. I had been feeling a mounting sense of anxious unease since I had gotten up, the sort of anxiety that, if I can't calm it, will roll the physical symptoms dice and get out of my control. In this instance, I didn't manage to calm myself down. I went to my bedroom around 4:15 AM to try and get some sleep. Predictably enough, that wasn't happening. Shortly thereafter, feeling sick to my stomach, I went to sit in the bathroom– my typical "just in case" measure should the nausea worsen.

It was around this point that the nightmare began. I had a panic attack, to put it plainly, but calling it a nightmare isn't inaccurate. It felt that way, irrational and terrifying and completely beyond my control. My recollections are in many ways hazy, piecemeal; my rational self, the part of me that can think and record and analyze, was gone. I was curled in a ball on the tile floor, wedged into the corner, my breaths coming fast and raspy. I shook, my heart raced. These things happened, but it wasn't a physical experience. To say I was terrified doesn't capture the raw, abject, all-consuming fear that gripped me, something primal and wild. It had no focus, no cause, no reason. Every sound I heard was something coming, every place I could not see was full of hidden dangers. Something terrible was going to happen, like the rising music in a horror film. I couldn't go for help, paralyzed by the desperate certainty that there was something awful in the few feet of hallway between me and my mother's door. I was scared beyond the power of speech; I could not cry out. It was simply not physically possible.

Time doesn't flow normally during a panic attack, even a mild one. Seconds are like minutes, minutes like hours. The night, the fear, they stretched out, dilated. At some point I began to cry, unable to react in any other way to the crush of terror. It seemed endless. I'm not sure if it would have stopped, even, had my mother not woken up on her own and found me there, wrecked. It didn't feel like it would ever end. I was only half-aware of her wrapping her arms around me, murmuring soothing nothings at me. She asked me questions, some, that I could reply to only with shakes of my head or forced-out single words. She was patient, patient and present and there, and slowly my rational, reasoning self returned. I could recognize again that there was nothing real to fear.

By the time the attack was essentially through and I took an Ativan to do the rest of the work, it must have been around 6:00 AM. Mother sat with me when I went back to bed, waiting for the medicine to kick in. The meds, to be sure, were necessary, but I don't know how I would have made it through that particular attack– far and above my worst to date– without my mother there to comfort and calm me, to be my rock and my protector and a steady, soothing presence at my side. I'm profoundly lucky that she is so understanding and supportive of me as I deal with mental illness– I couldn't get through nights like that without her.

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