Thursday, October 4, 2007

If it's Your Birthday, You Can Be More Prone to Panic

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So today it’s my 25th birthday. I love my birthdays, I love the gifts and the doting comments you get. The attention is nice and I love positive attention. However there is another side of my birthday that I really hate. Every birthday that I can remember I have had a panic attack. Usually because in our society you usually celebrate someone’s birthday with a big meal. That much attention focused on me always made me sick. I can’t count how many birthdays I have been sick on. This makes sense because people that have social anxiety often don't like to be put in the spotlight. I hate the feeling of having to preform for people. And when its your birthday you are definitely in the spotlight all day long.

A year ago I was out to eat for my birthday lunch with my coworkers and in the middle of the meal I went to the bathroom and threw it all up. I remember very clearly looking in the mirror and thinking “This is not normal. There is something very wrong with me.” That’s when I decided that I needed to do something. I didn’t want to have another birthday like that ever again. That’s when the research began and the diagnosis was made and I started on my journey. So it’s a year of reflection for me, to think of everything that I have learned.

However today I am struggling. There has been anticipatory anxiety for a few days about today because I know it’s a big day potentially for my anxiety. Part of me feels like I should not have a panic attack because then I can prove to myself that I have accomplished something. Part of me is worried what it will mean if I do have a panic attack. All this pressure is making me very anxious. I woke up with it. I am feeling it right now, even after taking a Clonozapam. I thought it would be fun to go take pictures of the fall scenery today so I mentioned it to my coworkers and now we will go and do it but last time we went I panicked so that has me worried.

It’s no fun. Birthdays are supposed to be a happy day celebrating you. So on the way to work this morning I started listening to my recordings I have made of some positive affirmations. I have already decided not to do a big meal because I don’t want to push myself and I don’t want to deal with it today. However because I am still so nervous and anxious, I feel that I need to talk myself through it now.

Q: What am I telling myself to make me feel this way?

A: Today is a panic day and I usually throw up on a day like today. I should be cautious so that I don’t panic. If I do panic than that means I am back where I was a year ago and I haven’t learned anything. Then the worrier comes in: What if I start out ok but then they go to get food or the panic comes on very quickly like it did last time? What if I get sick?

Now I will address these worries:

If the worse case scenario came true and I had a panic attack today, I would be just fine. I don’t have to be all better today just because I want to be. I can take as small a step forward as I choose. I can’t force the growth. If I did panic, no one would think badly of me, not even myself. If I decided that I wouldn’t go shooting with my coworkers after all, then that’s ok because it’s my birthday and I should do what I want on my birthday.

If I get sick today than so what! If they pass judgment on me what’s the worst that could happen? People are going to not like me or think ill of me no matter how “perfect” I might try to be. So I should stop trying to please them and do what I want, because I’m the one that has to be happy or miserable. If they want to go shooting and I decide not to go, I could tell them, “You know, I changed my mind, I am not feeling well and I have a lot of work to do. I better stay back, but you can go.” Or I could say “Do you mind if we go after you guys eat lunch? I am not feeling well and I would rather go when I don’t have the smells in the way.” And it might sound awkward but what’s the worst that could happen? They could again pass judgment on me but I have to learn that it’s their problem if they think ill of me, not mine and that I am being me which is the most important thing! If I feel sick and I don’t want to eat, than don’t eat. My body will tell me when it is hungry and there is no need to push myself. If I am feeling anxious and I don’t want to go than don’t go.

Positive Affirmation: There is no need to push myself. I don’t have to be all better today.

A lightbulb just went off for me as I wrote this post. Today isn’t about pushing myself to prove that I can face my fears and not panic, proving to myself that I am somehow “cured”. It’s about creating a birthday that is happy and anxious free so that next year I can reflect back on how it’s possible to have a good birthday. Then maybe I won’t be so scared of them.

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Mike said...

Happy Birthday, Aimee!

Anonymous said...

Make everyday win win. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks happen when you avoid things that are really scary to you. To reduce anxiety attacks become more aware of your real fears and conditioned anxieties as you go though your day. Win win means you love yourself with or without anxiety attacks! Happy day of birth.

Anonymous said...

Oh, man, do I relate to what you're saying! I hate being in the "spotlight," too.

I love how you worked through your what-ifs. Way to go! I have been trying to do this as well. But every time I get to the "if they pass judgment on me what's the worse that can happen" part, I feel like I am lying to myself.

I am so terrified of panicking and, as a result, not being liked, not being accepted, not being supportive... all things like this.

So, I am concentrating on reassuring myself I really don't need the "approval" of everyone else. It sounds like Therapy 101, but sill I honestly struggle with being "rejected" or "abandoned."

But, you've done great in this exercise! Way to go.

And, really, it's such a special day. YOU DESERVE TO CELEBRATE YOUR EXISTENCE!

So, Happy Birthday!

Just do whatever feels comfortable, whatever feels right!

ShamWOW! said...

Hey, I know what you mean. I hate all kinds of occasions. Since I'm the so-called "successful" one in the family I get all kinds of shit on any kind of family gathering. Birthdays are no exception, whether it's mine or someone else's. And when you have only a very few people in your family like I do, you're pretty much obligated to show.

But happy birthday anyway! It probably won't be as bad as you think (it seldom is).

Aimée said...

Thanks everyone!

Sherril said...

I can relate, too. I guess I don't have it as bad as you do now, but I used to. My shrink told me it's pretty normal for women to have panic attacks at the age I was, which is the age you are now. I used to be unable to speak in any kind of group. Now I'm leading a couple of support groups. No speeches, but I've come a long way. You will too. Happy Birthday.

Anonymous said...

There might be a deeper meaning to your feelings tied with something you can't even imagine. I had the same thing happen to me every year until a spiritual healer suggested it had to do with my mother's anxiety while you were in her womb...

Aimée said...

Oh great then my baby girl is going to have it rough! :)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on being well enough to be able to talk yourself through the day. I have had a panic attack on my birthday and on christmas day for years and years. The feeling starts about a week in advance and the day of I feel like I am going to implode! I think this year I am going to seek some kind of meds to help me not feel so incredibly stressed. To everyone with this problem: You are not alone!!

Brittany said...

Wow. I just read this searching for birthday complexes. I'm turning 24 and I feel like I'm reading myself in the future. For as long as I' can remember, I've had panic attacks. I hate it because unlike you, I can't hide it from ANYone. Everyone eventually gets involved and feels bad for me etc. This just seems so strange for me, that I freak out on my birthday. This totally made me feel better. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing to have found this blog entry..Thank you!My birthday is tomorrow and I've been feeling anxious all week..I have also just moved back home to Greece after 10 years of living in London, so anxiety is on a high anyway with all the adjusting..
Your blog has made me feel so comforted..Its all part of 'social anxiety' as i've developed this anxiety over the last couple of years..But I know, that despite the initial anxiety and feelings of dread I have at my birthday gathering, eventually after some rescue remedy or glass of wine(whichever you prefer) and all the love from my friends, I remember to just let go and enjoy the love...We all need love even if we don't like the attention..I even cried one birthday, from all the love..felt overwhelmed..but its just an emotion..Emotions can scare the shit out of us, but you just have to accept that its ok to feel whatever you feel in any given moment..You have to remember that all that matters is that you are happy, and not think about everyone else..Its your day..It can be as comfortable as you want to make it..:)

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