I’ve written before about how panic attacks suck. Your fight-or-flight instinct goes into overdrive, resulting in major not-fun-ness. Like, seriously.
The fiancé’s mom, who is an absolutely wonderful lady, invited us out to an Elton John concert. I like Elton John. Elton John is awesome, and his music is awesome, and he’s awesome. So yeah, of course I wanted to go.
I just didn’t quite realize what I was in for.
I’ll take a moment here to note that, along with not being correctly balanced for long periods of time, my panic attacks are also set off by a combination of strobe lights and really, really loud noise (think packed-arena noise) that has nowhere to go and thus reverberates through an entire structure and the people in it. It’s super-disorienting to me, and I do not like that feeling. If I’m in an open-air sports arena, I’m usually okay because that has steadier light, and the noise… has a place to go. Fireworks are about the most strobe-y thing I can handle.
So, when my brain gets strobe and overwhelming noise signals, I think this is roughly how it goes:
Lizard brain: Oh God, we’re being attacked!
Human brain: No, this is an Elton John concert; calm down.
Lizard brain: I don’t know who Elton John is.
Human brain: Seriously the strobe lights-
Lizard brain: No!
Human brain: -and the sound-
Lizard brain: Eeeeeeeeeek!
Human brain: -are totally okay! There’s nothing to worry about!
Lizard brain: Flashing lights and really loud noise! We’re being attacked!
Human brain: Did you listen to anything I said?
Lizard brain: Yes! Strobe lights and really loud noise! You need to get out of here!
Human brain: I’m staying put–I’m FINE.
Lizard brain: Tell that to me the next time you put your hand on a hot stove*. Engage fight or flight mode!
It’s less funny when your heart feels like it’s beating out of your chest and you can’t breathe well. I’ll usually try to sit it out for a few more minutes, but at that concert, every strobe and every prolonged volume increase kept my brain pumping out the panic signals. And it really sucked, because this is Elton freaking John! You don’t get a chance to see him every day!
However, having a panic attack and/or passing out in the arena itself was about the worst option I had.
Long story short, it took about 15 minutes to calm down to the point where I could walk without wanting to throw up with every step. An arena employee offered to get paramedics. Thankfully, the fiancé and I talked her out of it. The last thing I needed after that was an ambulance ride. I understood and appreciated her concern, but I knew I was going to be fine eventually.
It’s upsetting that I can’t enjoy things like this. I’d really love to go see Trans Siberian Orchestra someday… but that won’t work as long as I get panic attacks. Even sports games in closed arenas are a bit dicey. Depending on the effects used, I sometimes find it hard to even get through plays. So, if I decline your offer to go see a concert or a movie, it’s not because I don’t want to see it; it’s because I don’t want to put you through the crappy situation of dealing with my panic attack.
*I have put my hand on a hot woodstove by accident before. Twice, and within like two weeks of each other. I was maybe six, and I didn’t remember that there was anything burning in it–we used it all of three weeks a year. The difference here is that I didn’t leave my hand on it for very long.