It’s my mess . . . I’ll clean it up

I don’t always know why I’m anxious. I don’t usually know what causes my panic attacks. I don’t know why my heart pounds or why I have trouble breathing or why I get a metallic taste in my mouth or why words and sounds seem to speed up and slow down at the same time. It all just happens.

If I start to try to figure out why I’m panicking, I panic more. I start to think that I must be forgetting something important and not being able to figure out what that something is makes it all so much worse.

I acknowledge that being around me while I’m having a panic attack (or am just in a general state of heightened anxiety) can be difficult for those who have never experienced overwhelming anxiety. I understand that most people’s first reaction is to try to fix it. And I understand that the easiest way to fix something is to know how it broke in the first place. 

But I don’t know always know how I broke. I don’t always know the trigger. I only know that I was okay one minute and bat shit insane the next. I only know that I have to function through it. So I breathe or snap a rubber band or splash cold water on my face or just turn off the lights, lie in my bed, and try to will myself to sleep.

If I’m around other people, I try to hide it. But I can’t always hide it. Sometimes my anxiety manifests as a loss of temper. I snap. I’m not really angry and I don’t mean to yell. It’s a defense mechanism. I’m afraid to let anyone in. I’m afraid because I know that first question is going to be why and I don’t know why.

During my freshman year of high school, my school bus would drop me off several minutes before the doors opened. I would huddle with my friends and sometimes we would laugh and be silly or just talk about stupid freshman stuff. Sometimes something minuscule would set me off. I’d stomp off and stand by myself until the doors opened and I could make my way to my locker and then homeroom.

I explained it away as a not-being-a-morning-person thing. I didn’t know what an anxiety disorder was at the time. At 15 years old, I still had no idea what my panic attacks were. I’d ask family and friends if my words sounded funny to them because they sounded funny to me. I tried to explain what I was hearing. I never could. They all just looked at me weird, so I stopped asking.

Knowing the what is a huge improvement, even if I still don’t always know the why.

Sometimes, I do know why, but I can’t tell anyone why because I know how stupid my why sounds. I know how ridiculous it is that I’m panicking over a conversation I had 3 days ago because I think maybe I might have said something in nervousness that was taken the wrong way and that maybe that person thinks I’m horrible.

I like it better when people think I don’t care what other people think. Until I don’t. Until the comments about how confident I am and how strong I am and how outgoing I am start to weigh on me. One pebble at a time until they’re crushing me and I want to throw them off and scream, “NO! I’m not! I’m a complete fucking mess!”

It's my messSometimes I feel as if I’m a puddle of irrational fears that never stop dripping and can never be contained . . . no matter how large the bucket may be. Most of the time, I remember how large that puddle used to be. Most of the time, I recognize how much of my crazy has already been cleaned up.

I may not be who I want to be, but I am better than I used to be. I don’t need anyone to understand the whys. I don’t need to be fixed. Sometimes I do need someone to hold my hand . . . or my heart . . . or the bucket while I mop up my mess.

Photo Credit


11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ginny on January 26, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Fantastic last line, Dayle. I can so relate. Sometimes when I talk, it sounds like my words are coming from a well or a bad cell connection. And then I feel like my head is expanding and my hands are like giant hands with the fingers as thick as 2x4s. And just as quickly they shrink like a dark-haired Alice. I always thought that’s just what happened when I attempted public speaking or was self-conscious about speaking out in a group of people. Somehow it never happened when I taught college–I guess because I did not feel inadequate in that setting and loved the subject so much–but it always happened when I was a student in the classroom. My heart would pound so hard that I knew the ones next to me heard and would will myself to speak and usually the time passed because they had moved on or someone else had voiced something similar to what I had planned to say. , , whew, makes it tired thinking about it. I’ll take a turn with the mop now. 🙂


    • Thank you, Ginny . . . and thank you for sharing what you experience. One of the things I’ve noticed the more I talk about my anxiety is how similar and yet how different our experiences can be . . . some symptoms seem to be a common thread while others are unique to each person.


      Have you listened to the poem “Anxiety Group” by Catalina Ferro? If not and if you won’t mind the swearing, you should check it out!


  2. It’s very insightful for me to read about your Panic Attacks because I’ve never dealt with that but I can relate to people wanting to know “why?” about my depression. I hate when I’m depressed and people want to know WHY I’m depressed because I don’t know….and you can’t FIX depression by trying to find out a why. So I relate to that part of your problem and I empathize with you on that. ~Hugs~
    I also wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the “Family of Bloggers Award” because I love your blog so much! 🙂
    I hope you will accept!


    • I’ve noticed that while depression and anxiety are two completely different things, there are a lot of similarities in the ways they affect us and in how we deal.

      {Hugs} back!!!

      And thank you so much for the blog award!!! It may take me awhile, but I’ll accept and pass it on 🙂


  3. What a moving post. As a fellow sufferer of panic attacks, I found your post to be very calming. Panic attacks are absolutely terrifying: the symptoms can be so extreme and varied. I seem to have them mostly under control now, and I wish you all the best in overcoming yours. I find that recalling passages from a favourite book or poem very helpful – distracting yourself is the trick!


    • Thank you, Georgina . . . . I’m happy to hear yours are mostly under control! I know how difficult that can be! . . . Mine are not nearly as frequent as they used to be, but they still definitely affect me. I’m starting to accept the fact that I need medication. (I’ve been on and off for years because every time I’m feeling better, I stop taking meds hoping I can function without . . . it never lasts!)

      And yes, distraction is definitely helpful!


  4. Love the raw honesty here, Dayle. I loved this line: “Sometimes I feel as if I’m a puddle of irrational fears that never stop dripping and can never be contained.”

    For what it’s worth, I always view you as a confident, capable person. I don’t mind stepping your puddle every now and then. . . as long as you’ll step in mine. . . 🙂


  5. […] can’t tell you that I don’t need you to fix me. I don’t need you to clean up my mess. I can’t tell you that because you always try, I’m no longer comfortable opening […]


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