If you ever have panic attacks, you know that they can sorta build up. It’s like a snowball rolling down a hill. At first, it’s a wee little ball and then it gets bigger and bigger and so mammoth that it runs over unsuspecting trees, skiers, and picnic tables. You can’t unroll a snowball going downhill; you just wait for it to go over a cliff and be done already. A panic attack feels sorta like that, only when it’s building, the snowball is rolling UPHILL. It takes a force of energy and circumstances, but something pushes that f’ing snowball up the hill until…well, I’m sure the metaphor goes somewhere, but I’m too stressed to figure it out.
I’ve been waiting for about a week for this panic attack to hit, and it finally did. Actually, it didn’t HIT. It CRACKED. Right in the parking lot of the studio where I was due to narrate.
I actually heard the crack because it resonated from inside my mouth while I was chewing a piece of gum. One chew of the gum and I heard it: crrrrak. And then there was a bite of pain. And I knew. Panic Attack was mammoth and ready to fly off the cliff, with thanks to Cracked Molar.
A cracked molar. Big deal, right? I mean, it HAPPENS. But here’s what happened in my brain:
1. I have a cracked molar. I’m terrified of dentists. They’re going to do a root canal. It’s going to cost thousands of dollars.
2. Kealoha hasn’t been able to find a job for 8 months, and I support the family via narrating. If there’s something wrong with my mouth and I can’t narrate, we don’t get income, and it’s all my fault. This is all my fault.
3. I have to get my shit together and go in and narrate and finish this book. If I cancel this book or leave, they won’t hire me again. And they’ve got to hire me again. Don’t think about my tooth, or the pain. Don’t let anyone know. This is all my fault.
4. I’m terrified of dentists.
And then I just started crying. All the pressure and stress I’ve been carrying around for weeks released in a gush of tears. How scared I am of being the soul income for the house, how in freelance you can never say no to a project even if you want to take a little vacation up north to relax, how my job doesn’t offer insurance so I joined SAG/AFTRA to get insurance but the companies I work for don’t pay SAG/AFTRA wages so still no insurance, how any time I get sick or need a break, it means I don’t make income. How we need a new roof, and I want to take the kids to Disney, and I’d love to have a pretty kitchen that’s big and sparkly, but everything comes out of my paycheck. Everything. How I’d like to stay home with the kids more but I have to work and I can never say no.
And now a cracked tooth.
See? It’s not just a cracked tooth. It’s a panic attack.
My director sent me home. I’m going to the dentist. I have money in the bank to cover this, and the company assured me we could reschedule today’s narration. And Kealoha will eventually find a job that he loves and eventually I won’t have to carry the household and be terrified of getting a cough or losing my voice.
I just need to breathe.
I also need a gin&tonic, but I’ll wait until after the dentist. Or maybe just before. Yeah. Just before I go to the dentist, I’ll drink that gin&tonic. I’ve earned it.