It's the nausea that starts first.
It has always been one of my worst triggers, and to this day, no one knows if the nausea or the panic arrives first, which is causal and which simply an aftershock. All I know is that when this pattern begins, the only possible relief is to weep until it passes. Crying doesn't make it go away; it just ameliorates it a bit. I feel slightly better if I sit, sobbing, than I do if I sit, dry-eyed and sure that any second I will simply come crashing out of my own skin. I'm issuing forth loud, bitter sobs as I type this. God, it feels better.
That's another major trigger.
I think the dizziness may actually have been the precursor I tried to ignore, yesterday afternoon, when this bout was in its infancy.
By today, the stark, naked terror had begun full-force. Nothing had dramatically changed in my life in the past two days. Whatever damnable alchemy ignites anxiety, depression, panic, PTSD and all its fellow demons, is simply marching triumphantly back through my body and brain. They have set up a squatter's camp in which to dwell while wreaking as much havoc as possible before finally being banished by drugs, therapy, and my own slow but sure techniques of battling my way back to daylight. For anyone who thinks that people like me "don't work" because we're unemployed, I defy you to do this for the 48-72 hours that loom ahead of me right now, and scrabble your way out, still alive and sane, on the other side. This will be by far the most hellishly difficult work I have ever done, as it is every time I have to do it.
If science and medicine knew why it happens, they would certainly stop it--I am by no means the only person in this country who is laid low by these attacks on a regular basis. There are millions of us in the US alone, all at the mercy of the kind of mental wellness issues that routinely take a massive bite out of the national workforce every year. After a lifetime of fears and trauma, any brain will eventually announce that it has had enough, that it demands some rest, and those of us who merely cry and feel genuine terror without any genuine threat are among the lucky ones. Some go to a place from which no one can ever help them return.
More of the secondary symptoms come into play now--hot flashes and sweats, waves of shame and guilt, fear at the stigma attached to these issues. There are reasons that I have never before written my way through one of these attacks. But how else can I ever share with you what this truly feels like, as nearly as you can grasp it without experiencing it for yourselves? And believe me, there is no one in all of human history on whom I would wish these sensations. Last week, on this very blog, I advised myself to write through anything, through everything, as a way to defuse self-defeat, as a way back to sanity no matter the hurdle, so I have written it out, and bared it before you all. The factors of my situation feel as if they form a bewildering, impenetrable web around me, and I often wonder how I will ever break free, but fundamentally, this is the reason I am homeless. Very generous employers these days still give smoking breaks to those trapped by nicotine, but I have never met one who felt comfortable giving breaks as needed to someone who has to sit in a corner, rocking back and forth with her arms wrapped around herself, crying.
I am not crazy. Depression. Anxiety. Panic. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Look them up. I am not insane. But something broke, and we live in a time when therapists still tell clients on a regular basis not to reveal any of these maladies to prospective employers, because they will be turned away, no matter how many laws supposedly protect them. Too much pain, too many years of waiting for someone to die, too many memories of a flood that saw boats drifting down Main Street, too many fears that I was doomed to hell because I wasn't good enough for "an angry God". Something broke, and until a merciful God and medical professionals and I can fix it, even finding a job is not my biggest problem.