It all came in After the filter broke. Overload.
– Marco, Null Morpheme
My Mind Playing Tricks on Me
by The Geto Boys
by Christian Marc, Complaining is an Art Form
I remember my first panic attack vividly. It was 2001 and I was living in Seattle when I started feeling a little anxious after taking a bong rip. My hearing became acutely sensitive, and my balance and composure were thrown off. I started feeling as if I was going to die, while my heart was racing fast. I called my friend and had her drive me to the hospital because I didn’t know what this feeling was, but I felt as if I couldn’t stop the rapid fall of negative energy. My mind had vertigo. It was one of the worst car rides I’ve ever barely lived through, but nothing could have prepared me for what was going to happen next.
I get out of the car, make my way to the Emergency room with the help of my friend and I looked the nurse directly in her eyes and told her to help me because I think I was having a heart attack.
She took one look at me, told me to calm down and said there was no way I was having a heart attack, because 1., I wasn’t on the ground writhing in pain, and 2., I walked in there under my own strength.
“You’re just having a panic attack, sweetheart.” She said
I was having a panic attack? Ok, so make it stop! She then asked me if I had health insurance, which I did not. She explained this meant just the cost of admitting me to the hospital would be somewhere between five hundred and a thousand dollars. Immediately after hearing that, I thought to myself “I can’t afford a thousand bucks” and instantly, I was knocked back down to earth, my panic attack subsided, and I started feeling a little bit better.
Bottom line? I was stressed the fuck out.
I didn’t have another panic attack until years later when I was living in L.A. Los Angeles would be the backdrop to some of the worst panic attacks my body has ever gone through. They have happened whether I’ve been alone, driving, sitting on the couch, watching TV, or taking a walk. They have happened when I was with someone else, or in large crowds, and every single time they happened, I had just smoked some pot right before it came on.
Now, I know the easiest way to solve these panic attacks would probably be to just not smoke pot, right? But I’m not addressing the real underlying issue. Plus, I like to smoke pot. I don’t ALWAYS have a panic attack each time I do, but at this point in my life I had to understand all the stress I was under living in Hollywood, dealing with the struggles artists go through of trying to make a living writing a script, or acting and producing or just getting stability in the industry. Sure, you could say that marijuana was having a negative affect on my body, but it wasn’t the marijuana that was “causing” the panic attacks. Pot was just the catalyst.
The real problem here was my lifestyle and the stress that I was under for so many years, and how that stress was taking it’s toll on my body. In addition to panic attacks I started going grey on the sides of my head, but thanks to the people at Just for Men, you don’t see them. However if I grow out my beard, I think you would see one white chin hair for every panic attack I have had over the years. I have since lost count of both my grey beard and my panic attacks since 2005.
I have never gone to the doctor for it, because still to this day, I can not afford medical insurance, and even though I knew I should probably have stopped smoking pot which brought on these attacks, something in my brain wouldn’t let me. I think ultimately I wanted to figure out why I was having them, plus I believed that there was a way to make them stop once they came on.
The last few times I started getting that uneasy feeling, I was able to kick it to the curb it from going any further by saying positive affirmations to myself, deep breaths and basically talking myself out of allowing that feeling to take over my body. It became a challenge for me that I accepted and I almost feel now like I wanted to have them happen so I could get stronger. Then one day recently, they just stopped happening.
Sometime around October of last year I had finally decided I was going to leave Los Angeles and move back to Seattle. October was also the last time I had a panic attack. That world of worrying about projects and people and Hollywood shit and making enough money to pay the bills definitely made me kind of crazy. Since I left, I haven’t had one in almost six months, however I’d be lying if I said the idea of them doesn’t still linger around in my head.
Twenty One Pilots said it best:
When our momma sang us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out.”
Those lyrics are true. I can attest to the fact that stress is a real thing and it is caused by the choices we make in life and the style of living that we choose for ourselves. It can change the color of your hair, wrinkle your skin, cause you to suddenly not know where you are, or in my case, it could make you to feel like you are in the Matrix living out the events shortly before your inevitable death while you are on you way to the Walgreens to get some toilet paper one random afternoon in September.
Stress sucks and no one likes it, but I think I was economically forced to trigger the panic attacks to teach myself to make them stop without taking anti-anxiety medication like xanax which I feel only suppresses those feelings and doesn’t deal with the root cause. Although xanax is great for falling asleep and I wouldn’t mind having some around if I needed it.
Until we have free universal health care I guess my treatment for getting my stress level down and stopping the panic attacks meant not putting myself though a world of mental and spiritual torture anymore. I just stopped caring about Hollywood shit and I chose to focus on being a writer and tending bar to make money to live. And all I had to do was move 1100 miles away to accomplish that. Come to think of it, I probably could have gotten a health care plan for two years for what it cost to move to Seattle, but I’m in a much better and less stressful place right now, and that’s what matters most.