One day last week another worker in my department declared a “hot dog day” and brought lunch for all of us—hot dogs and buns and condiments, and two of us provided potato chips. We sat together and visited while we ate, which was the reason for the gift of hot dogs. Generally, we are all introverts, focused on our tasks, more inclined to strive to complete a task than to stop and visit with each other. I know there have been days that I walked in the door, headed straight for my desk, and got to work, speaking to no one for most of the day… and I’m not the only person in the department who behaves that way.
The food was good, and I was able to take part in the conversation in spite of the fact that I started experiencing a panic attack as we were lining up at the food table. I would rate this attack at S2.5 on the SAPS. My shaking hands made it hard to serve myself, and when I sat, I had to rest the hand holding my plate in my lap to keep from dropping it. I don’t think my voice sounded strange when I spoke—nobody looked at me as if it did—but I definitely felt all my muscles grow tenser through the course of the meal, as my insides churned. (And, no, nothing was wrong with the food.)
If I was writing a story about Carl, I suppose I would have to find some explanation for the attack. Maybe the morning traffic was bad because of a construction project which had just started. Maybe he snuck a look at some pictures of Rosa, his old flame, which he has hidden in a file on his work computer. Maybe he sat through a meeting about improving customer relations with the firm’s clients and wondered how much of the advice was being targeted personally at him. Or perhaps I could work in a problem with Number Seven—is she snubbing him now, avoiding conversations with him?
I am not writing a story about Carl, though. I am writing about myself, and I know enough about myself and my panic attacks to know that they do not always have an obvious trigger. Loud noises can make me nervous, but that was not a problem this noon. Anyhow, they would not be attacks if their origins were obvious.
All afternoon I wanted to talk to someone, to tell them what I was feeling. The truth is, I have never told anyone at work about my struggles with anxiety and depression. No one knows that a saw a counselor every other week for more than a year or that I have been taking medication for almost two years. If someone had asked me, “how are you feeling, J?” I would have answered, “I feel as though I drank six expressos about an hour ago.” After lunch, we all went back to our desks and focused on our own tasks as usual. No one had any reason to ask me how I was feeling.
I don’t even have a fitting conclusion to this post. Just another day in the life of Salvageable. J.