Every once in a while I get an anxiety attack. In fact, I just got one this afternoon.
I first started getting them in college. The symptoms were very specific: A general sense of panic, and a feeling of disorientation and alarm.
There is also a temporary inability to remember even the simplest of facts and figures, names, dates, telephone numbers. The phenomenon generally fades away after about ten to twenty minutes.
As you can imagine, when I first started getting them I found the situation to be quite distressing. But eventually I saw the silver lining.
I realized, you see, that these anxiety attacks were nature’s way of raising an alarm about something of importance. Perhaps there was something I wasn’t dealing with in my personal life, or in my professional obligations, or in my emotional reckoning with self. Whatever the details, an anxiety attack was a sure-fire indication that there was something fundamental I was just plain ignoring.
Apparently, I can go for a while blithely pretending that all is well, but not forever. At some point my inner sense of self-preservation raises an exception.
“Hello!,” these anxiety attacks seem to be saying, “I’m showing up here on your front doorstep because you kind of ignore me when I try to get your attention back there in the kitchen or bedroom. You SERIOUSLY need to get your shit together.”
Now I realize that such anxiety attacks are a good thing. They force me to refocus, to pay attention, to stop hiding from whatever it is I have been hiding from.
I have come to think of this anxiety attack syndrome as a friend — one of those annoying but invaluable friends who always tells you the truth, whether or not you want to hear it. In some ways, the best kind of friend to have.