It doesn’t always start the same way, but I can be sure it’s going to be a whopper when I start to feel like I am standing on the surface of the sun. Most people, when being cooked, have the luxury of screaming and flailing about. Unfortunately, that is not a wise response when it is happening in a shopping mall or at a PTO meeting. So one must pretend all is well, taking off only as much clothing as is legally permitted for the given situation.
Just when I start to get used to the internal combustion, my mind starts thumbing through the rolodex I keep of every mistake I’ve ever made, searching for just the right one on which to fixate. It can be anything: yelling at my kids in an exorcist voice, an off-hand comment to a friend that might have been taken the wrong way, forgetting to water my boss’s plants when he was on his honeymoon, not returning a phone call… whatever the crime, it is all I can think about.
I didn’t just forget to water those plants. I killed a living thing. A living thing that provides oxygen for every human being on this planet. I have single-handedly accelerated global warming. The world is going to end and it is, without question, all my fault.
Now I am usually a rational human being. When I fixate on something stupid, I can, even in the midst of my anxiety attack, recognize my insanity. I try to remind myself that forgetting to water plants is not actually a criminal offense. But then my thoughts take on a whole new angle. Why did I forget? Am I coming down with Alzheimer’s? How long do I have before I’m institutionalized? Who will look after my kids when I’m gone? Who will change my diapers? Where will they bury me? They’d better cremate me. I won’t be embalmed.
Apparently, these types of attacks are not uncommon among women from 35 to menopaused. If they get to the point that they disrupt a person’s life, there are many medications doctors can prescribe. I tried yoga breathing, because breathing can never be a bad thing (unless you’re under water), and herbal remedies, but the best non-prescription cure I found was calling friends and relatives who are kind enough to talk me down without calling the funny farm. Thank you for that, by the way, people. In the end I did get a prescription, because when you fixate on something that’s truly stressful (like when your son has cancer), the fear is not easily shaken.
The most irritating part of it all is that I was coming to enjoy the one great thing about getting older. I had shed my neurotic tendencies and realized most problems weren’t terminal. I was secure in who I was. And then, the revenge of the endocrine system. Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.