"I can't do this."
Those four words seem to be my Kryptonite. All it takes is the tiniest trace of that thought to drift through my brain, and I break.
Today (literally an hour ago at the time of writing this) I rushed out of PAX Aus, bailing on a panel I was excited to be a guest on, and hid from the world in my hotel room, due to a colossal panic attack. Not even ten minutes before that, I was fine. Laughing and joking with a few friends as I walked towards the Dropbear theatre to meet my fellow panellists... and then The Thought popped in. "I can't do this."
Within seconds, I was a wreck. My eyes had glazed over, my stomach was churning, and I could feel the chemical reaction taking place, with every fibre of my being screaming at me to get out. Even now, my hands won't stop shaking.
Apparently some time ago, I decided that the best thing to do in this situation was make myself throw up. Maybe it worked once, and I clung to that tiny victory too hard, the logical side of my brain jumping to the conclusion that this was the Cure. So I did what I would do any other time this situation happened; headed for the nearest bathroom.
I still had that thought on repeat through my brain, like War Drums, beating a rythym of failure, reverberating through my very core, and I went into full blown panic mode, running back to 'safety.'
I want to take this moment to apologise. To the panellists that I feel like I bailed on, to the people that came to watch, and to everyone that reached out to see if I was okay.
The truth is, I'm not.
I've been pretty open about my anxiety, and for a little while it worked to help me manage it. Hearing that I wasn't alone, and conversely showing others that they weren't, was powerful, especially when you feel helpless and alone.
Recently my panic attacks have been coming harder and faster. I don't know what the cause is, or even what situations can trigger it (beyond the obvious public speaking and flying, ironically two things I vehemently adore doing). I do know that it's a feedback loop. I get anxious about having an anxiety attack, which leads to me getting anxious, and occasionally explodes into a full-blown panic attack. Like today.
It's not good enough.
I've let it control my life too long, under a thin veil of 'managing it'.
I tell people the reason I haven't got a passport is because there's nowhere I really want to go. That's a lie. I have panic attacks before an hour long flight. The thought of anything longer than that absolutely terrifies me. Not because I'm scared of flying, but because I believe the scale of the panic attack I'd have would be exponentially bigger.
I don't have a licence for a similar reason. I'm scared I'll crash. I've only ever been in one car accident that involved another vehicle, I wasn't even driving, and the only physical damage sustained was to the car.
I'm sick of feeling helpless and vulnerable. I'm over the incredibly unhealthy act of throwing up to feel better. I'm done with feeling like I'm letting people down.
I'm seeking professional help, because I don't feel strong enough to do this by myself anymore.
And that's okay.
I'm writing this because I have been open about everything to do with my mental health before, and now that I know it's okay to seek help when you don't have the tools to do it yourself, I hope anyone that reads this knows it too. I feel horrible about how things went down today. Embarrassed. Furious at myself. And no matter what anyone says, I feel like I let people down.
And I won't let it happen anymore.