Subdued Euphoria

Learning to live with Panic and Anxiety Disorder.

I’ll Fix You

 

FullSizeRender

If there was one thing I wish I had been told from the beginning is that there would be no fixing me.

I wish that I had been told that there isn’t an end to the journey.

There would be no passing GO or collecting $200.

This would be me forever.

I’ve spent exhaustive amounts of time wondering when I would be “better” and when I would be “me” again. And, in the end, those were just not valid questions. There would be no “better”. There would be no past “me”. There is only who I am in the present. RIGHT. NOW.

I kind of felt as though others around me were also waiting for the big FIX to happen. That one day, some time in the future, I would suddenly become the person I SHOULD have been had I not had that first panic attack over 27 years ago. I would suddenly become the happy, fearless child I once was – that would be the teenager I should have been – I would wake up as the successful adult I was destined to be.

In elementary school I spent many hours of the day in the secretary office fighting panic attacks and wondering if this would be the last time that I had to suffer so badly. Some days I would be in the little dark room with the cot where the sick kids would rest (this room also had all the office supplies and the xerox machine so it was a little strange).  Other days I’d sit next to the secretary as I made drawings and tried to distract myself from whatever it was that was “wrong” with me. At this time I didn’t even know what was wrong with me, no one knew. I was lectured by the Principal and Vice-Principal – I’m not sure what they hoped would happen. I was always told that eventually I would stop feeling however I was feeling, return to my regularly scheduled childhood, lifehood, and that was that.

That has yet to be true.

I couldn’t find that cure, I couldn’t regain what I was supposed to be, I couldn’t “beat” my illness. So not only did I let myself down because I couldn’t get better, I also felt like I let everyone else down because I didn’t live up to their expectations in my attempts to recover. And to those who didn’t know, I desperately tried to hide my problems so they wouldn’t know how “weird” or “crazy” I was. 

Have you ever sat down to dinner with a group of people, started into a panic attack and then made it all worse because you were convinced you couldn’t excuse yourself or use coping techniques without being judged?

Depression sneaks into the lives of those living with anxiety and panic attacks because they are told that must get better.  They aren’t normal if they feel this way. They are told they WILL get better. They are led to believe that if they put in an exhausting amount of work, therapy and changes, they will beat the demon and be this whole new person.

What I wish I was taught is that even though this will be with you for a very long time, that there is a way to deal. That I would find a way to be happy. That I would still be Candace and nothing would ever change that. I wish I was told that there are going to be hard days… and that there will be many. However, I will learn how to handle those hard moments, those hard hours, those hard days.

I should have been told that that I am Candace. Nothing I could do, be, try, would ever change that. There isn’t a better me out there. The me I am now the best me I can ever be because I am real.

There is no fixing me.

I have never needed to be fixed.

Despite spending decades in search of the non-existent cure, I have survived. I am not cured but I have survived. I am alive, I am successful and I can make it through the darkest of days.

That is the truth.

 

Advertisements

When The Rat Race Becomes An Infestation – You Burn It Down And Run

14100434_10154483873928762_2079331404934953046_n

It was time to leave.

I’ve spent my entire life living in big cities.

I spent the first 24 years my life in Toronto and the last 9 years keepin’ it real in New York City. I don’t know how many times people have asked me why I decided to move to an even bigger city than Toronto, especially with my level of anxiety and panic. Why would I, someone who has had hundreds of panic attacks on subways, want to live in a city that pretty much relies on subways?  Why would I, as introverted as I am, want to live somewhere where there is no such thing as personal space?  I know where I should live, NYC!

Well, I somehow managed. At least for a little while. I kept busy with school and relationships. For the record, school is a good way to experience NYC and not be trapped in the rat race of trying to make enough green to survive. After school ended, that was the official start of my race. And it was tiring.

This past year my husband and I were given an opportunity to leave NYC. It was the most exciting thing to hear. Our original plan was to head west immediately, but we decided to make a stop in Connecticut for a year. The place is located in a lovely beach town off of the Long Island Sound. The house is surrounded by trees and trails. I saw a deer scamper off yesterday and just now, as I walked the dog, I could hear the owls hooting away. For a few moments, I turned off the flashlight and stared up at the stars. There are so many. They are so dull in the city. It was great to know they still shine bright.

Everything is beautiful.

It’s quiet. It’s empty. It’s a breath of fresh air.

In one day I cycled 15km along the beach and hiked two trails – once on my own and once with my 9 month old puppy. I didn’t have to think about how I was going to manage taking the subway. I didn’t have to worry about what kind of horrible thing some guy would say to me while I was out minding my own business. I didn’t have to think about what I would do “this time” if I ran into someones ex, or my own. Instead, I found a quaint bookstore that was ridiculously amazing. Nothing overwhelming or stressful about that. Today was me, the ocean, my bicycle, the dogs and a store full of books.

I’ve only been here for 5 days and I should have done this years ago.

I know my panic attacks and anxiety aren’t solely caused by my choice of city to live. But I can’t help but think that by changing the pace of my immediate surroundings that it may just help influence how I’ve been pacing myself.

It’s time to stop spending all my energy on what’s happening outside and it’s time to take care of what’s inside.

 

 

Help? What’s a Help?

unnamed-1

Learning to ask for help is one of the hardest things I’ve ever learned (and still learning) to do. Kids seem to be asking for help all the time and here I am, a grown adult, refusing to ask. I can tell you that it hasn’t made my life any easier. It has resulted in me taking on absolutely everyone’s responsibilities on top of my own without saying a word to anyone. Except myself. Very unkind words to myself. Needless to say, I had been in a pretty negative headspace for a few months.

It needed a change.

Over the past month or so I’ve been extremely lucky and have had the opportunity to take a little time off from working. I haven’t stopped working but I’m logging in less work hours and dedicating those saved hours to not stressing out. For the record, as I write this out, I am realizing how ridiculous that sounds and I could have avoided the whole thing had I written it out first. I digress.

I decided, after about a year of trying to justify it to myself, that I was spending so much time outside of work worrying about work that I wasn’t allowing myself any time to… not stress. I decided that if I was working less, I wouldn’t have to worry about work outside of work as much thus giving me some sort of mental break.

Those who know me well know that getting me to ask for any sort of help is pretty much like herding cats. Ferrel cats. Deaf and blind ferrel cats. Deaf, blind and legless ferrel cats (Now I just feel sad…) This is also different than asking for the kind of help where you tell your husband you want pizza, but not any pizza. Pizza from Grimaldi’s, pizza. But since they don’t deliver you need to rent a Zip Car and drive there to pick it up and since I don’t have a license I need a chauffeur…

Anyway, after mustering up the courage to tell my husband, “I NEED A BREAK CAN WE FINANCIALLY DO THIS” and “WILL YOU HATE ME IF YOU CARRY US FOR A LITTLE WHILE?” we crunched numbers and decided that I could totally take this break.

It took another several weeks after that day for me to actually stop working as much. I immediately cut my schedule in half but I kept taking on extra work because I couldn’t say “no”. It turns out that on top of learning how to ask for help, I also needed to learn how to say no.

Apparently this break idea was starting to turn into something more than just a break. It has become more of a learning period. Learning to listen to my body and listen to my mind. Learning to not always think I’m over-exaggerating and learning to believe myself when I’m feeling run-down and worn out. Learning to say no and learning to not think twice about it.

At first I second guessed myself when I decided I wanted a break.

Now I’m learning that it was way overdue.

6 Things Anxiety Made Unbearable For Me

unnamed-1

I’ve written about how difficult it is to go day-to-day with an anxiety and panic disorder. I mean, I couldn’t even get a hair cut without feeling as though I was ready to eject from my own skin while sitting in the salon chair. I’d love to say that the hair salon is the only thing that has really been affected since I was diagnosed, but that is simply not true. Panic attacks have thrown my life curve ball after curve ball.

Here are some of the things in life that anxiety decided to annoyingly make unbearable for me.

Silence
There is probably nothing that is much worse for a person with anxiety than silence. It’s not because things are boring. It’s because our brains become so loud it can be unbearable. The last thing I need as an anxious person is to hear my brain yelling at me and reminding me so clearly about all the things I should be worried about. When I am at home I always have the television on. I’m usually not watching it, but I need the talk stimulation. It helps keep my anxiety quieter and allows me to be focused on the task at hand. Right now as I write to you Survivor is on in the background.  I had no idea what is going on… but I’m sure it’s something like the last 15 years of Survivor. Get off the island. Is there a metaphor somewhere in there for anxiety?

Sleep
Sleep is slightly similar to silence for me. I sleep with the television or radio on sleep-mode so at least it will turn off by the time I am (hopefully) down for the count. As a child, when my panic attacks began to manifest, they used to really hit hard a night time when I was in bed. It took many years to be able to be able to go to bed without fearing another panic attack. They used to hit me as soon as I reached that state between being asleep and being awake. It hit me like a train and I’d be suddenly awake trying to fight off a terrifying panic attack. I saw 3:00 AM far more than any child should. Some nights I was just too frightened to sleep at all. Childhood sleepovers were out of the question. I’ve come a long way in 25 years and I have a fairly decent sleep pattern going now. Occasionally I may wake up with a minor attack but that is leaps and bounds better than eight-year-old me reading books under her blanket at all hours of the night.

Exercise
I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. I’ve always been a naturally slim person. I really do enjoy trying to keep in moderate shape. I’ve tried many different types of fitness and have had panic attacks during all of them. I attribute the issue to a few things. The main issue is that my heart rate is raised and I feel over heated as I exercise. Not only does that trigger fight or flight, I also start to feel trapped where ever I am. In the end I end up giving up and trying to find a new kind of exercise that may or may not work for me. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to start having a panic attack while in a quiet hot yoga class? If you’re like me, then you also get to experience what I call “stomach death”.  I’ll let you imagine that one.

Throwing Up
I’ll give you all this one. Throwing up sucks. No one likes it. It doesn’t feel good. But for some reason, slight nausea would send me on a one-way trip to Anxious Town before making a stop at Panic Attack City. The kicker to all of this: Nausea gives me panic attacks and panic attacks make me feel nauseous. See how much fun that is? I went 23 years refusing to be sick. I even beat the historical record set by Seinfeld. It wasn’t a black and white cookie that ended my streak but a good case of the stomach flu. Since then I’ve been doing much better with dealing with nausea. In fact, my fear has lessened and I worry about it less and less every day. If you are dealing with this same issue, I don’t actually recommend getting the stomach flu but there may be some faint silver (more of a shiny-grey) lining if you do.

Restaurants
I love food. It took me awhile to get there seeing as being scared of throwing up can make eating an issue, but I really love food. The only issue is that I have been known to have panic attacks in restaurants while with groups of people. I know that the issue isn’t SOLELY the restaurant but a combination of eating too much, a group of people and feeling trapped, but the idea of going out to eat at a restaurant sets my nerves up several notches. I’ve had to get up and leave meals with friends and I’m sure that it will happen again. I’m not going to stop going out to eat because I REALLY LOVE FOOD. However, I will spend the hour before hand wondering whether I should go or not. I’ll be thinking about canceling and rescheduling. I try to find a way to get take-out instead. In the future if we are out to eat together, be not offended if I suddenly get up and say, “I’m sorry I have to go immediately”. I have lost friends when this has happened. It doesn’t feel good but I am who I am! Great, now I’m hungry. Anyone for take-out?

Taxis
I don’t like the idea of being in a car with a person I don’t know. I don’t like feeling like I don’t have control of where the driver is going. Which sounds odd because a taxi is there to pick you up and take you to your destination – you know, the one YOU CHOSE. For some reason, on many occasions, I’ve had cabs turn back and take me home. I’ve also had cabs just drop me off in the middle of the trip. Being dropped off in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge can be a little difficult, no matter how much I demand (I had to wait until we got to the other side). I always tell the cab drivers the same thing, “Oh, my meeting has been canceled. Let’s turn around and go back.” I’m not sure why I decided saying I have a meeting needed to be said (most likely so I didn’t look crazy), nor do I know why I decided that I needed to give the driver a REASON for turning around. If I could walk everywhere I would. Don’t get me started on airplanes…

Am I alone? Well, if I’ve learned anything over the past many years is that I’m not. I’m sure that many of you will totally connect with me and know exactly what I’m talking about. That makes me feel comforted because there was a time when I felt like I was the only one and no one would ever understand. Now I know there is at least ONE person out there who does.

The Physicality Of It All

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 9.52.12 AM

Over the years I seemed to have put the physical side effects of anxiety aside, as well as the side effects of medication.  I think that I’ve been solely concentration on the emotional and mental aspects of panic and anxiety that I forgot it can cause some serious effects on my physical self.

I’ve always been aware of what I feel when I’m in the midst of a panic attack – the nausea, the sweating, the palpitations – but I’ve neglected what happens to my body outside of an actual attack, between attacks, the toll it can take on yourself.  I’m currently dealing with a good example of this issue.

Last week when I took my newest dosage I had a plethora of physical and emotional side effects within a few hours of taking it.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on and why I was so sick within a small amount of time. I thought my body was used to the chemicals in my body and I could just up the dose and continue about my business.

I was wrong.

The next day, after my last entry, I was advised to take them on a full stomach.  Of course! How could I have forgotten such a basic rule? But, uh oh… I am never hungry in the mornings. Now that I switched to taking my medication in the morning instead of at night (um, hello insomnia?) I am currently experiencing heightened anxiety in the morning.  And now you want me to eat? Oh boy.

That eased some of the bad effects but now I’m really dreading having to force feed myself enough food every morning in order to take these pills.  If I could get away with just a piece of toast I think I’d be alright, but that is definitely not enough to pad my stomach.

As I write, I’m taking in a spoonful of oatmeal per paragraph.

Since the change I’ve become hypersensitive to every change in how I feel. Is it from the medication?  Did I eat something bad? Am I just tired? Should I have eaten more? Did I feel this way before and just didn’t notice? Am I getting better yet?

I suppose my next step is to accept that I’m going to feel different, and it too shall pass.

Maybe I’ll have to work hard at… not working hard. But what does that look like? What does that feel like? How will I know?

The cycle continues.

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/13889081/?claim=fq27ekcbcds”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

It Has Been 25 Years

unnamed

This month marks 25 years since I experienced my first panic attack.  It has been 25 years since life as I knew it was going to be – seeing as I was only a seven year old and only had dreams of what life as a teenager and adult would be – would turn out completely different.

This marks a little over one year since my most recent relapse. One year that I’ve gone back to basics and had found myself struggling with the daily tasks that most of us take for granted.

What have I actively worked on in the past year? Well, I’ve worked very hard to get myself from a place of crying constantly and randomly in odd places to being mostly calm and collected at all appropriate times.  I’ve managed to be able to work, although difficult at times, and be fairly consistent all my tasks.  I’ve managed to be able to get hair cuts again.  I’ve managed to be able to take the subway with much less anxiety.  I have had a little help along the way to be able to execute these tasks and I also fully committed myself to talk therapy.

So, where does that leave me now?

Well, I’m now at a new bump in the road.

After taking some time to figure out how far I have come and where I am now, I realized that it was time to make changes about where I want to go from here.

You see, although I’ve managed to regain some sense of my life, it wasn’t enough.  Just being able to do all these “normal” tasks was great and all but I’ve been missing something.  And what I’ve been missing was enjoyment.

You see, I’ve been trying very hard to do all the things that I actually enjoy doing however I was just doing them in order to get through them.  No enjoyment. That realization indicated that I needed to make some more serious changes.  Who wants to do things they used to love doing only because they were just trying to get through them? I miss those happy, cuddly feelings after going to an amazing restaurant or buying that cute shirt.  I miss wanting to slow down time while I play with dogs in the dog park or having a night out with friends.  Instead I find myself looking at the time to see how long is long enough before I can go home.

Therefore I took a new step. And the new step involved my medications.  After years of being determined to get off of them.  I have moved to a higher dose.  Because it’s what I need.

After two weeks and two dosage movements I’m finding myself many steps backward.  I feel strong physically illness all the time, my anxiety is heightened and I found myself in tears this morning.  I can’t help but feel that this isn’t going to work. But I’m still going to keep going.  I’m still going to wake up tomorrow and keep trying. Even if that means I need to take some time off.  Right now I’m sad and feeling defeated – again – but there is no going backward.

I want that life my seven year old self dreamed about.

I think it’s about time.

Happy 25th Anniversary Panic Disorder, there is no way that you’d let me forget.

Baby Steps

IMG_6643.JPG

It’s been one month since my latest setback and life has been quite eventful. Now, with experience, I have been lucky enough to “recognize” and “accept” that a setback has occurred. I am now able to “recognize” and “accept” that there will be other setbacks in my future and that I will most likely see this place in life again.

To some that seems like a very tragic thought – and normally I would see it as such. But not this time. The fact that I know I will be in this place again sometime in the future means that NOW is the time I learn about how to work through it and how to move forward as quickly as possible in order to be able to return to being awesome Candace. What changes do I need to make NOW that will better prepare myself for future hurdles? What changes need to be made that are different from the past?

In the past my setbacks have taken years of work (and maybe a lot of ignoring of the problem) in order to come to a place that I call “safe”. But since this past episode I have managed to come forward leaps and bounds in just 4 weeks. Mind you, that’s not to say that every day is filled with glory, sparkles and cupcakes. And that’s okay… That’s not how this whole thing works.

When I’m struggling through a setback I so very easily forget when good moments happen and when baby steps are taken. So, I’ve been carrying around a little notebook where I jot down in point form what things I’ve done that day. Whether it be “Got out go bed,” or “Walked my dog to the coffee shop,” and even “Went to work today.” I need to be reminded that I am doing things and that I am able to move forward and see that I am doing just fine.

This can only come from myself. I can’t hire an assistant to follow me around reminding me how awesome I’m doing and how far I’ve come (never doubt that I wouldn’t hire such a person given I’d have the funds – if you know of anyone for cheap let me know).

So what have I accomplished? Well, first and foremost I got my hair cut. MY HAIR IS CUT. I went in for a quick trim and was as happy as a clam. I’ve also gotten back into taking the subway. There were a couple of weeks where I couldn’t easily. Luckily I’ve been able to nip that in the bud. My mornings are filled with a little less dread.

Will this last forever? Probably not – but that’s okay. I couldn’t ask for anything more of myself.

The Setback

 

unnamed

Every handful of years it happens.  The setback.  I’ve been due for one.

That’s what happened last Friday.

It seems like I always have very bad days considering what I’ve been writing here. But this is a blog about panic attacks. So I suppose most of the entries aren’t going to seem the most positive. I do write so other people can understand and see what I go through as well as give support to those who do go through the exact same experiences that I do.

It was time to leave the city for a wedding. The drive was going to be about 3 1/2 hours. That made me a little nervous but I usually can make it through car rides. I have my medication and I have talk radio and I also have crosswords as well as phone games. And 3 1/2 hours really isn’t a long period time considering some of the other car rides I’ve been on.

About an hour in we decided to stop at a rest stop to grab some food since it was already 9:30 at night. That was when I realized I forgot something important back at the apartment. We had no choice but to turn around to go back to get it. I really wanted to just stay at the apartment and leave very early in the morning but that wasn’t an option.

After we got back to our start point I stalled a bit before returning to the car. I really just wanted to stay home. I knew that I was in a position to have a really bad attack. It was clear that the medication I had already taken had not worked. Sadly within 10 minutes we are back in the car. I understood why we need to continue our trip that night. It would’ve been better in the long run to just finished at ride at 3 AM rather than getting up and trying to drive again.

20 minutes after leaving the city again I found myself in a massive panic attack. It just would not stop. It made me shake so horribly that I kept dropping my phone when I was trying to play Tetris. I just couldn’t hold it. I was trying to drink water out of a bottle and I couldn’t hold the bottle.  I couldn’t get comfortable.  I couldn’t sit still.  I just couldn’t find any control in it. I was beyond upset because I knew we couldn’t turn around. My body was in a full fight or flight situation. And fighting was failing and flight wasn’t an option. So for the first time in many many years I cried during a panic attack.

– Normally I’m too busy panicking to even think about crying. I’m too busy with feeling nauseous and scared. I honestly don’t remember the last time I cried during a panic attack –

The waves of the panic attack came harder and harder like those from the wake of the heavy boat on the lake. I do feel a moment of relief and then a giant wave of panic would return. Over and over again. Relief and then panic. Relief / panic.

I was imagining how turning around to go home wouldn’t help and I was imagining that moving forward wouldn’t help and nothing would stop it and it would never stop and that was it for me. I felt trapped.  I couldn’t see the end.  I couldn’t decipher what was best for me.  I just didn’t know anything anymore.

I don’t know how long it lasted – it must’ve been at least two hours. Around that time I think all the medication I taken, and the pure exhaustion of the event, made me pass out. That was probably the best possible thing that could happen to me during that episode. It was probably the only thing that could help and bring relief.

I think most people feel relieved when the panic subsides. I do feel calm and relieved when the panic attack ends, however I feel very sad. I’m sad because another attack has happened and I couldn’t make it go away on my own.  I also feel sad because I knew from past experiences that I would be soon experiencing a large setback in my recovery.  And that’s how this week has gone.  I’ve been experiencing daily struggles – suffering, if you will.  Difficulties finishing usual tasks.  Expecting the worst and bringing anxiety onto myself.

So what’s next for me then? I have to do what I always do. Keep researching, keep looking, keep trying to find my way out. I have to continue looking within my panic attacks themselves to find my answers.

I just wish that I could beat this disease that haven’t ever having to feel it again.

I am sick, I am suffering but I will keep fighting.

The “Take a Break” Debate

solitude

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Most likely not Albert Einstein… but it doesn’t matter.

As I’ve posted earlier, I have several rituals that I have acquired over the years in order to cope with my attacks.  I generally add and subtract a few here and there as time goes on.  One will stop working and I’ll replace it with a new comfortable coping technique.

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of discussing with friends about “giving oneself a break”.  This all started a few months back when life was extremely overwhelming and even the idea of grocery shopping sent me into an anxious state. Laundry?  Holy hell – there’s no way I could handle it all. I had decided that I needed a 2 or 3 week stay-cation.  And as we recently found out, getting my hair cut proved to be too much. i needed the sort of break when one wouldn’t have to go to work, entertain guests, cope with the idea of going out to a restaurant, or lock themselves into ANY plans.  Essentially I needed a couple of weeks of just being.  If I wanted to go for a walk – I’d go.  If not, then I wouldn’t.  If I wanted to go to a restaurant then I would, if not then I wouldn’t.  I didn’t want to put myself into any situations here I’d be letting anyone down – most importantly MYSELF.

So now how does this relate to my panic attacks now?  Well, lately haven’t been able to give myself that time that I feel would be greatly beneficial. Therefore as I go about my days, taking of my responsibilities and being present at appointments and plans I have been struggling with panic attacks. As a child I was forced to keep going.  Panicking at school?  You’re not allowed to go home.  Panicking at piano lessons?  You’re not allowed to leave, you have to stay and finish. Birthday party and a panic attack?  Too bad! You’re still going.  So as an adult I continue to push myself in these ways.  Oh, I’m supposed to be at XX restaurant in 45 minutes.  I know I’m brewing a panic attack over it.  You want me to go on the subway?  You have to be kidding me. But I’m still going to torture myself and go.  I won’t like it, it will feel badly and I may have to leave suddenly – that is, if I even get there. After 24 years I’ve begun to question my actions.

I continue to force myself to do these things a) Out of fear that if I don’t I’ll become a horrible, reclusive chihuahua lady with severe agoraphobia who yells at the riffraff neighbors and their rap music or b) That not forcing myself to do everything will show that I am weak, that I will move backward in my quest to conquer panic attacks. I feel there is a thin line between relaxing and causing further damage to recovery. Is knowing your limits and enforcing them healthy for moving forward or is it enforcing bad habits and moving backward? When is it giving it?  When is it healthy? Is there a healthy balance and when should someone know they have found it? At this point I’m slowly allowing myself to say, “No I cannot do this today and that is okay,” or “I know I made it all the way here but I’m not feeling well and think I have to go.”  I never feel happy about it, however I’m slowly learning that it isn’t about “giving up” or “failing”.  I’m not fully convinced yet but as a living, breathing, working human being I deserve to give myself the time I need in order to FEEL good inside – if not, at least calm and comfortable with the present moment.

Although I do have to work tomorrow, early, I am here on my couch with my singular chihuahua.  I have random movies on Netflix blaring away in the background.  And the only thing I have to do is be here, sitting here, writing to you. Nowhere else. Because I want to. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I Can’t Go to the Hair Salon

image

 

I can’t go to the hair salon.

I am fully admitting this.

This isn’t something that I’m proud of nor am I happy about.

If there was one thing in life that I could say that I liked to do in my spare time it would be going to the salon and getting my hair done.  Nothing beats someone else washing, drying and styling your hair.  I have a LOT of hair on my head and it’s a huge break when someone else deals with it. I had short pixie-style hair for 15 years and spent a pretty penny on changing my hair colour and cut all the time.  I had several people I’d trust with my head of hair and I’ve rarely been let down.

About 3 months ago I realized that it had been almost 6 months since I had my hair done.  My roots were border lining ridiculous and my ends were destroyed.  So, I booked an appointment.  No big deal – or so I thought.

When I arrived to the salon in Tribeca I was already talking myself into a panic attack because I hadn’t taken my medicine before heading into the city. Not because I thought I needed it but I didn’t think that I would have any problems going somewhere I enjoyed.

I sat down in the chair with a new colourist. He was a sweet and patient man. I pretended to be happy and requested a lemon ginger tea.  We discussed what I wanted (well, I said very quickly “I want to stay blonde” and then he went on a long explanation about what he was going to do and I didn’t really care because I was too concerned with myself).

We got about 4 foils into my hair when I said, “Please, I can’t do this right now.  I have to be honest, I’m having a panic attack and I don’t think I can do this,” meanwhile I have bleach in my hair processing. The look in his face was priceless. He didn’t know what to tell me. I HAD to wait. Deeply apologetic I paced the cafe area for 20 more agonizing minutes until the poor colourist could rinse my hair. I’m surprised I didn’t run out of the salon – foils and all.  Instead I moved from seat to seat furiously playing Tetris on my phone and ignoring responses to texts I had sent out begging for some help.

I managed to sit down long enough to rinse out my hair. Apparently while I was pacing the floor, most likely making people uncomfortable, he had rescheduled me to a few days later and set it up so I could leave as soon as possible.  As soon as I stepped out of the salon – with dripping wet hair – I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief and shed about 50% of the panic away immediately.  I was so disappointed.

A few days later I bashfully returned to the salon and finished my hair – and it looked great by the way.

Last week I booked an appointment to get a simple wash, trim and over all clean up at a different salon.  I found a neat Groupon that was perfect.  The reviews were great. I did, however, clearly remember my experience from before and set myself up for disaster.

I arrived a little early to my appointment so I decided to browse a few shops in Soho.  I made it about 20 feet into a shop and I could feel the tingling in my fingers and the nausea.  I was moving quickly into a panic.  Again.  Because of my hair.

I went into the salon thinking, “Candace you can’t give up now.  Keep going. It’s not the right time to turn around,” as the other part of me was thinking, “You better get out now because you are really stuck in a full blown attack and are trapped in the city with no escape, no privacy, no where to calm down,”  I filled out the paper work and sat there with a glass of water wondering when was the right time to just run out and forfeit what I had already paid.

It was my turn.

We discussed what I wanted, very quickly.

I sat down to get my hair washed. After it was wet I knew it was the point of no return so I blurted, “I can’t do this I’m actually not feeling well and I need to leave.”

So here I am wondering if I’ll ever be able to enjoy the pampering I used to love for years. I am also wondering if I’ll have to learn to be my own hairstylist.

I can tell you that I won’t give up.  I have rescheduled – again – for Friday. Will I make it?  I don’t know. Will I reschedule another 5 times?  It’s very possible. I can’t help but feel completely defeated. I can’t help but feel utterly disappointed in myself. But I won’t stop believing that I’ll make it through to the other side of all the things that make me feel anxious, panic and uncomfortable.