I learned as a kid that the witching hour starts when the clock hits 12. I wanted to get to sleep before then because that’s when the ghouls, ghosts, and goblins come out. That’s when strange things happen that you can’t explain. Fall asleep before then, and you’re golden. Stay up past the stroke midnight, and you’re tempting fate.
As I got older, I realized that this is just something kids believe, that 12 is just a number on a clock, that there’s no real significance. It doesn’t feel any different from when the clock strikes eleven or one. Either way, it’s dark out, and it won’t be light again for some time. I got older, but it seems as if I developed my own witching hour. It happens between 3 and 5 pm.
I can’t explain what happened to me today, as I’m still trying to make sense of it. My first day of not working should have been a glorious one, replete with activities like sipping coffee, listening to good music, maybe a drink or two, and little to no other activity. The reality was a little different. I spent my day doing things like laundry, the dishes, and some light cleaning. I couldn’t seem to stop moving, couldn’t get comfortable. After a while, the heat and humidity start to chip away at me, and although it seemed so innocuous in the morning, it all got to me in the afternoon. I just don’t have the energy I usually have when the temperature climbs, and my brain shuts down. Maybe that’s what started the ball in motion for the panic attack I had today.
I was hot, and knew that I needed to be in a cool environment, so I opted for a haircut. It was around 3:15, and traffic was heavy. I could feel the anxiety start to build, and it manifested itself in a way that it hasn’t before, at least it’s relatively new. It feels like a vice grip is closing around my brain. The thoughts begin to slow and ultimately stop. If this does happen to me, it’s when I’m talking to someone that I’m not 100% comfortable with, and I’m worried that we’ll run out of things to say to one another. I start to get very nervous about it, very much inside my own head, afraid that the conversation is going to stall or stop. I’m afraid that I’ll grope for something to talk about, and that I’ll come up empty. The grip only tightened as traffic increased.
I finally got to the hairdresser’s and although I was still somewhere else mentally, it was nice to be around people, even if I didn’t personally know any of them. I think that was a factor, that when I go too long without seeing or interacting with another living person, it’s like I lose touch with reality. I need that person or persons to keep me grounded, to confirm that I’m real, that I’m not totally losing it. It bothers me that I need people the way that I do, that sometimes I really just need to be around others. I’d rather be an introvert; it just seems easier. It seems like a hell of a lot less effort.
I kibitzed with the hairdresser, and I realized that until that point in the day, I hadn’t spoken a word out loud. I sat in the chair, but my mind was somewhere else. I could feel my anxiety beginning to lessen, though; the simple conversation was putting my mind at ease. After my haircut, I took a walk around a nearby store. Walking helps me with my anxiety. If I just try to sit still and wait it out, it’ll just continue to eat at me. If I start moving, it’s almost as if I’m able to walk away from it. I’m up and moving and maybe even putting some distance between it and myself.
I had dinner with my stepmother that night, and around her I was able to unburden myself. I was able to unpack and even discuss a few of the things that were bothering me. I’m turning thirty soon, but I’ve written about that enough. I told her about a situation with a girl I was sort of seeing, and I told my stepmother that I was frustrated because I’ve realized after all this time that I do need or rather want a partner in this life. I hate that I’m not self-sufficient.
I admitted to her that even though I have the body I always wanted, that even though I’m in great shape, it hasn’t changed my life the way that I wanted it to. I thought that being in this kind of shape was all I ever wanted, would be the be-all-end-all, a panacea, but now I’m just a more muscular person with the same or even worse levels of anxiety. The problem was always in my head, never anywhere else. I felt stupid.
The last admission I made was that I’m worried that this is how I’ll be for the rest of my life, that I’ll always have this anxiety, that my moods will change on a whim. She told me that she didn’t think so, and that she’d talk to a friend about possibly prescribing something. I might finally be ready for this step even though I’ve been violently opposed to it in the past. I don’t want to live this way forever, going through good times, thinking everything is swell, only to be caught off guard and decimated by a panic attack that leaves me reeling.
The sense of relief that washed over me when the attack had run its course was heavenly. I took several deep breaths, and just let the tension out of my body, let my shoulders lower to a normal level when they were so tight before. This is my life with anxiety. This is who I am, and I need to take more action, or this is whom I’ll always be. I’ve been comfortable with it for a while, but now I know that this isn’t who I want to always be. It might be time to mix it up.
The clock struck five, and I guess that’s when I think the day is over, and I’m able to relax. When the clock strikes five, nothing more that’s productive is going to happen, at least for most people. You can relax, take a deep breath, and just enjoy the remainder of the sunshine. I don’t know what to do with the late afternoon portion of my day, but hopefully I’ll figure it out soon. My roommate posits that this will all change when I have a steadier job. I reckon he’s right. Thanks for reading.