About fifteen years ago I had a disastrous LSD experience. I won't bore you with the details - suffice to say that I was left with agoraphobia, panic attacks and a strong conviction that I had actually, properly ruined my life and could look forward to a future filled with very-small rooms and prescription medication.
I got through it though. I eventually plucked up the courage to visit my GP and explain that I'd been spiked at a party (this was a complete lie but I was by this stage so paranoid that I was convinced that telling the truth would result in an immediate citizen's arrest and/or a nice cosy section). He was marvellous, and prescribed a course of beta-blockers and some counselling. The meds worked fabulously, the counselling not so much.
If I cast my mind back, I can't properly recall how I came out of that period. I have, since then, been extremely wary of drugs - the most I do know is the occasional hash pipe and even that is a rarity*. I have been pretty much on an even keel for quite some while now.
Except, all of a sudden, the panic is back. I have no idea why. It started on the way home from our semi-disastrous "holiday" back in August. We'd spent a week variously bickering in a soaking tent, slumping in a shitty hotel and wandering around a festival in approximately fifteen feet of sucky, greedy mud. We were tired, and a little bit emotional. On the Monday, we left the festival site at 8am. By one o'clock we were almost home. The Other Half was driving and I was half-dozing in the passenger seat. Suddenly, everything felt wrong. The radio was too quiet. My fingers were numb, and everything I touched felt...detached, somehow. I began to sweat, and to feel those old, horrid-familiar waves of panic wash over me. I'll keep my eyes shut, I thought. If I can cut the sensory input, I'll be fine.
But I wasn't fine. I sat, and I panicked, and I sweated and I tried really, really hard not to think about why I was suddenly thinking about how just the very act of sitting in a moving car felt somehow wrong and how scared I was that I might suddenly do something irrational like, I don't know, get out of the car in the middle of the A12, or something. It was like an old, well-thumbed nightmare.
So we made it home and the Other Half unpacked the car and sorted out a week's-worth of sodden, muddy detritus while I slept on the sofa. It seemed the only logical way to feel better - I was exhausted and the thing to do was sleep and then I might feel "real" again when I woke up. And, do you know what? It worked. Until a fortnight later, when I was in the car one Sunday afternoon with Small Person, on a mission to acquire new school shoes before term started.
It was all fine, until, suddenly...everything felt wrong. The radio was too quiet. My fingers were numb, and everything I touched felt...detached, somehow. I began to sweat, and to feel those old, horrid-familiar waves of panic wash over me. Keeping my eyes shut wasn't really an option, what with the driving and the Small Person and all. So I had to keep going. I deep-breathed my way round a giant, spinout-inducing Tesco store. I autopiloted through the shoe shop. I drove home, manoeuvring the car through an ever-decreasing comfort zone, and legged it straight to bed on arriving back at the house.
And that's pretty much where we're up to. I am suspended in a faintly horrible half-life, in which I am constantly panicking about panicking. Every car journey is an exercise in self-distraction since I am now irrationally convinced that being in/on any/all methods of transport is the root of my problems. I spend my mornings worrying about where I am going at lunchtime - all those years ago I lost my job as I simply couldn't cope with the journey to work any more and I am terrified that I will flip out one lunchtime and find myself on the same spiral.
So. To sum up.
Panic attacks suck. Irrationality rules, apparently. The inevitable fallout from possibly the most stressful year of my post-divorce life (meltdown? Check! Life-altering reality check? Check! Ditching a mother and dealing with the consequences? Check!) has been far greater than I'd imagined. The Other Half is simply the most fabulous person I have ever met, owing to his ability to witter on about inconsequential, distracting things once he realises I am in the grip of irrational, paralysing panic (plus, you know, all the other reasons why he's fabulous. Yes, including that). Drugs are bad, m'kay. Our new kitten is insane.
But, most importantly of all.
I am going mental. Wheee!
* Yes. Alcohol is my drug of choice. Sweet, sweet beer. So much more damaging than cannabis, yet curiously unregulated. Marvellous.