“Do you want to die?”
That is what the man told me as we sat in group. “Do you want to die?” I had simply asked if the group would help me quit smoking. No one else but me still smoked. Of course, they’d all been at this therapy thing a lot longer than me. “Take care of ourselves” is the number one rule in therapy and everyone in group is very big on it. They are all exercise like fiends and eat right - blah, blah, blah. Do you think they really do all of that? I somehow think they’re not being altogether honest with me.
Anyway, I actually laughed at the man. Sad, but true. He is a very nice guy, about 60 or so and has overcome, so he says, his panic. He stood in front of me, eyes all afire, serious as corn starch. “Do you want to die?” he asked for the third time.
I couldn’t help but laugh. What a think to ask a person who alternates between depression and panic on a daily basis! Depending on the day I either yearn desperately for oblivion, with its dark spaces creeping like snakes around the edges of my consciousness or I hid from it with the ardor of a fanatic, desperately seeking retreat form the needles of dark, sweet oblivion.
“Do you want to die?” Ha! I almost said “Depends on the day, depends on the hour, the minute.” He meant to shock me - to make me realize all in an instant that cigarette smoking would eventually kill me. It was actually very sweet of him to try such a bold tactic.
Oh course, then everyone else felt compelled to remind me that I was using cigarettes as self medication for my panic attacks. Well, duh! This coming from people who dose themselves every morning with Xanax or Buspar or whatever. What is the difference?
I can’t take the meds - have such a lovely little (big) phobia of meds. Phobias go merrily along with panic disorder and fear of meds (along with a few other things) is mine - to have and to hold. So, I puff away - and eat - that’s another thing that will kill you - but it is a wonderful way to self medicate.
Do I want to die? I don’t know. Will it stop the panic attacks?
K. Y. Hamilton, BA, MA - Copyright 2006