Most of this is from my personal point of view, although the panic affects everyone. I can’t speak for my headmates in that deep sense, although I’ll try and generalise.
We have a formal diagnosis of Panic Disorder (received sometime in 2010; only found out about it recently, as it’s in our DSPS records for college), which has been honestly pretty fucking awful to deal with. In the past, it made us more unstable, and made it difficult for us to trust, engage and talk to people.
For me, it’s this constant tingling feeling in your body. Chills, the occasional shake, the feeling of a knife in your back, a metallic sensation in your mouth. Before the hormones, crying was part of it, too. A pervasive fear that everything is going to fuck up, and that you’re fucking up, and that everyone thinks that you’re a fuckup. That you’re the most disgusting, horrible being on the planet, and absolutely repellent. A fear that you’ll end up in a situation that will bring on more panic attacks, and scrambling to avoid those situations. For Hess, it’s similar, but I know that he tended to lean more towards the teary and angry side as opposed to the chills, tingling and shaking.
Because we were so consumed by the panic and its effects on our brain, and because we struggled with social judgement in the first place, a lot of…stuff that people honestly regret happened. Add being involved with people who were either emotionally volatile or extremely sensitive, and it was a recipe for social disaster. There was a lot of unfiltered anxiety that came out in conversation, and it was hard for people to separate rational self-talk from irrational, panic-induced talk. ‘You must REALLY think that I suck’, etc. ‘I muck up everything.’ ‘I don’t deserve to be alive.’ Being around us back then was…honestly more difficult than it probably is now. We felt bad about the way things were coming out, and about the miscommunications and the panic-fuelled conversations and frantically searching for reassurance, but we didn’t know what to do about it, back then, and I know that it contributed to rifts in some relationships.
I hope that some of those people that I clashed with in the past are willing to forgive and give me/us another chance, but I’m really not holding my breath; I know these things can be…incredibly fucking difficult. Some people have, and I’m thankful for that.
In October 2009, after a series of painful events, and major shifts in our lifestyle—we’d gone from existing in a ‘shutdown’ state to becoming full-time students and doing an internship in the course of a few months—we could no longer pretend that we could handle the effect that the unchecked panic and anxiety had on us. We felt ourselves falling off the deep end, and it had to stop. M. went to our psychiatrist and he prescribed us Celexa to handle the anxiety/panic issues. He was one of the few Plures-members without residual bad feelings towards psych meds, SSRIs in particular.
We’ve now been on Celexa for about a year and a half.
Celexa has some side-effects that aren’t great, but the tradeoff is that it reduces the severity of the panic attacks, and it also helps us to separate out rational interpretations of events from the irrational ones. When an irrational thought like the ones I described earlier floats into someone’s mind, they’re able to go ‘hey, no, this is irrational; let’s rewrite the thought so that it’s logical and not ridiculous’. There’s less need for external reassurance that an irrational thought is, in fact, irrational. This doesn’t mean that bouts of depression don’t still happen, but they’re less likely to be expressed in a way that comes across as unstable or hurtful to others. It’s more of an internal phenomenon, and depressions resolve themselves more easily. The looping thoughts might happen, but they can be compartmentalised and dealt with—people don’t give voice to those thoughts in the same way. I’d say that we have a lot more internal resources to handle stressful situations.
Biochemically, emotionally, physically—we’re not the same people years we were two, or four, years ago. These shifts, along with some philosophical realignments over the course of 2010, led us to change our system name to ‘Plures’, which we announced last month. It wasn’t an act of hiding from our past as much as it was symbolic of growing from it, and changing to become better, healthier people.
Why the hell am I posting this publicly instead in one of our private, friendslocked journals? Well, I don’t know if I’m quite ready—paradoxically—for this to be posted there to show up on people’s friends lists. There’s something a bit cathartic about writing about this sort of thing publicly.