Sunday, March 25, 2007
You have Problems?
You may not know this, but I have problems.
About 7 years ago I was diagnosed with panic disorder. In the simplest of terms, your nervous system has a gas pedal and a brake. The gas pedal kicks in when there is danger (i.e. you have to fight and/or run away from a tiger) and the brake kicks in when the danger has passed. My gas pedal is broken, and tends to floor itself even when there isn’t a “tiger” in the room, like when I am watching a movie or simply sitting at a restaurant with my friends.
The past few years have been very hard, learning how to deal with this strange and terrifying disorder. There were times when I couldn’t leave my house, when the idea of going to the grocery store was too much for me. I needed to be near hospitals, near main roads and cars, just in case I got an attack and needed to be saved. Because you really do feel as though you’re dying – like your body is caving in on itself and your heart and mind can’t take it. There were times when I simply up and left a social engagement, jumping in a cab to flee to my bed. I’ve worked and worked and worked to not let this thing take over my life, as it does take over so many peoples’ lives completely. For many people, Panic Disorder is the master that controls their every move.
I was never one to listen to authority.
I will never defeat panic disorder. That’s like saying I’m going to defeat the freckles on my shoulders. There is no winning against it, but you can definitely lose to it. I chose not to lose, and to live with my lot, accept it, and when it comes over uninvited I can simply acknowledge it but not let it ruin my dinner.
I think the greatest thing about this cruise is that I am doing it. I am living in a tiny cabin that is often in the middle of the ocean or docked at a very remote island with no hospitals or cabs or warm beds to hide in. I’ve even been able to do it alone, as Steve has been leaving the ship here and there.
And I’m not saying I don’t feel it creeping up on me sometimes. But I never feel helpless. I never thought I would ever be able to do something like this. I am so grateful that my reward for my good fight against my body’s inability to know when it is time to fight is this beautiful adventure, with old friends and new. You might even say it was all worth it. You might.