Sometimes I panic. The panic is triggered and it immediately begins to spiral. The spiral can be stopped cold with the right external feedback, but I have no control over that feedback, so sometimes the panic spirals until I literally can't breathe.
"Taking a breath using my gut feels like a five mile run..."
I'm somewhat overstating things up there. I am lucky that I don't have that many full-blown panic attacks. Instead I operate with a general, nebulous, often-present sense of dread and doom. However, my anxiety levels have dropped dramatically in the last two years, I think mostly due to just gained wisdom. I've simply been alive longer and know better what causes the fear cloud and, if it arises, better how to stop it.
One of the most effective ways for me to beat a panic attack to the punch is to write it out. Just fling the words, fingers flying, though still not fast enough to keep up with my speeding bullet train of a brain. But because my hands can't keep up I'm forced to slow my mind down.
By making me slow down, writing during an anxiety attack eases the suffering almost instantly, at least for me. The simple act of writing--even if I am too far into the tunnel of panic to be coherent, it doesn't matter--just getting words onto paper is the goal.
"What are you scared of? Talk yourself off this ledge."
Writing when under the siege of anxiety also forces me to be present. If I'm writing about now then I have to be here now. By its very nature it calms me. Writing about the now forces me to be present, which doesn't allow my brain to do that whirliwind business wherein if someone doesn't do something I've created for him or her to do only in my mind that it means very bad things. And that I'll die. Yes, it sounds irrational, because it is. But panic brain is very convincing; panic brain holds your breath hostage.
"I feel ill right now. Nauseated. Like I'm going to puke. Breathing is shallow and my lungs hurt. They ache, but feel secured by nothing but tissue and so if I breathe too deeply they'll burst. So I'm just sipping air."
It takes no time before I'm writing about how I feel because I'm writing about the present. And then it happens in a gush. As I'm stringing together sentences, I see my fears made out of letters and spaces and periods and all those question marks and none of it makes sense. I can see with my eyes that it doesn't make sense. What I'm really scared of, once I write long enough, comes percolating to the surface and I see it for the first time in its true form. And it's old stuff, nothing new, nothing dangerous, not now.
"Do not let old wounds make your precious few hours on this Earth be filled with tension and worry and misery. Do not let that shit win."
My diary is for me, and I can be as mean and petty and spiteful (or as or insecure or boring or batshit crazy) as I want to be. My diary is a secret glass cabinet where I can store some of the bizarre and unsavory and otherwise unfit-for-human-consumption garbage that accumulates inside my person. The clear drawers allow me to look at what I've unpacked from my brain and see it for what it is.
I own what is in there.
(image credit: “Q Train” Nigel Van Wieck)