He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.
– Michel de Montaigne
Well, it changed again at 16.
I learned to recognize fear.
It was the first time I really began to fear about what was REALLY happening to me. Up until then I was just living and being and unhappy. Perhaps I was a little bit older, a little bit wiser… maybe too wise for my own brain and age.
It may have been the first time I ever recognized what fear felt like. It was as though I had an epiphany – but a completely negative one . Like the time I had my first panic attack I remember the exact moment the switch was flipped in my head. I was in the shower and I was trying to distract myself from a panic attack. The thought was so clear, “Why is this still happening? I must be going insane and I’ll never recover from this moment. This is it. This is all there will be from now on.” Pretty heavy thoughts for a 16 year old. For the first time, and perhaps the first time I was 110% honest with myself, I was afraid I was going crazy. I couldn’t tell my friends. I canceled all my plans. Warped Tour? Nope. Cottage weekends? Nope. Going to the movies? No way.
I felt completely lost and hopeless.
I had been going through extreme teenage rebellion. and I had been doing fairly well on the panic attack front. Most likely because I was up to no good and ditching classes. I was staying out late and hanging out with bad influences at the local plaza. It was summer and I was headed to summer school (I suppose math has never been my forte). I had a very bad panic attack late one night and it kept me up until 4am. I don’t know what started it. I think it was one of my “random” attacks. These usually happen when I’m feeling a little tired or a little off and I am unable to catch the thoughts before they cause an attack. I don’t recall having attacks that lasted that long before that time and if I had they must not have been as traumatic.
The next night the same thing happened. By the third evening, around 6pm, I began to feel anxious. Up until this point, 9pm was my panic attack witching hour. In the summer of 1999, 6pm would replace it.
I knew that it was coming. I mean, it happened the past 2 night so why wouldn’t it happen again? And of course.. it did. For the next couple of weeks I fell into a dark place of fear. 6pm came everyday and with it an attack. I’d usually manage to get through half of my supper and then I’d feel too nauseous to eat.
Later at night I would try to get someone in my family to stay awake with me. Once they grew to tired I would return to a heavy state of panic. I’d do laundry at 1am. I’d clean my room – To be honest, that was probably the cleanest my room has ever been. I remember one project I gave to myself was cutting out a hundred paper stars to put on my walls. If I was going to be away I would at least try to be productive, even if it was just for the fleeting moments of distraction. I always managed to make it to class (which I did very well in, if you must ask). But that dreaded 6pm would came around and I awaited my torturous fate for the night.
Everything was frightening at that time. I didn’t understand what was happening, why it was happening or how it was happening.
I feel like most teenagers don’t know what fear is at 16.
I sure did.