Thursday Things

1. One cool perk my company offers is that all employees get to take the day off for their birthday without using PTO to do so. If your birthday falls on a weekend, like mine did this year, you can take the day close to your birthday off instead. This worked out wonderfully for me, since it meant I could sleep in and take it easy the day after the Fox Valley Marathon. I got over nine hours of sleep for the first time since I started wearing a Fitbit, which in and of itself was glorious. Even better, however, was that I had time to go the Shedd Aquarium!

 

I went to the Shedd for Jazzin’ at the Shedd once last summer, but other than that haven’t been since I was in sixth grade, I believe. That was quite some time ago, and I’ve really wanted to go again. The line to get in is always so long, though, and that’s kept me away for the four years I’ve lived here (as has the fact that I work during the week, leaving me with only the weekends to visit the Shedd, and that’s hardly a time to get in with no line). Last Monday was a free day at the Shedd, so I worried that the line would be horrendous, but hoped that maybe since it’s early in the school year and it was a Monday, I’d be okay.

sheddaquarium

Hooray!

There was no line to get in whatsoever when I showed up around 10:30. It didn’t end up being a *totally* free experience for me, because, according to the lady who sold me my tickets, I’d have to pay to see the penguins, and I was not about to go to the Shedd and not see the penguins. It only cost $10, though, which I happily handed over for penguin-seeing purposes.

Getting to the penguin area wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, as it’s down multiple flights of stairs, which isn’t a particularly friendly activity for 24 hours after a marathon, but it was worth it. Look at these adorable little birdies!

sheddpenguins1

While I was there, two people went into the exhibit to hang out with the penguins (two people I presume to be on Shedd’s staff), and I have officially found my dream job: professional penguin petter.

sheddpenguins2

YES PLEASE.

I also visited the otters, as it was sea otter awareness week last week, and I felt it was important to pay my respects. Okay, fine: I think sea otters are about as cute as they come, and I would’ve visited them whether or not I was supposed to be aware of them that week.

sheddotter

To my surprise, my favorite creatures to see at the Shedd were actually the belugas. I thought they were so cool and fun to watch. The highlight of my time at the aquarium was when this baby popped its head above water and stared at me for a good 15 seconds before casually swimming away. We’re besties now, don’t worry about it.

sheddbeluga

2. Lest my post about not hating the Fox River valley misled you to believe I now have affection for the Chicago suburbs, I recently discovered my new favorite corner of the internet: the Chicago Suburb Name Generator. This website randomly creates a name for a suburb based on common words (or parts of words: think -ville, -burg, etc.). Hilarity ensues. This was my personal favorite:

chicagosuburbnamegenerator

Lulz.

The funniest part about this is that it doesn’t even seem like an unrealistic name for a suburb. Behold:

Forest Park
Forest Lake
Lake Forest
Oak Forest
Park Forest
River Forest

Looking at a map of the Chicago metro area, I think you’d assume that Illinois law must state that municipalities within 50 miles of Chicago are required to include at least one of the words “Lake,” “Forest,” “Park,” “Oak,” “River” or “Heights,” or, at the very least, similar derivatives of those words (“Stream,” “Grove,” “Hills,” etc.) to officially count as part of the region. I also have a working theory that these same communities are also required by law to host a Thanksgiving Day race, but that’s irrelevant to this particular discussion.

3. On Sunday evening, I got together with a group of people for a Game of Thrones-themed potluck (less due to my infatuation with Game of Thrones, which is nonexistent, given that I’ve barely watched any of the show, and more due to wanting to hang out and eat food). We had a really delicious, indulgent spread, and all was going well, and then suddenly we were in the dark. The power had gone out. Mostly.

The host’s apartment appeared to have lost all electricity, but the clock on the stove still worked, as did the light in the bathroom. The street lights outside clearly still had power, as did other buildings in the neighborhood. We hadn’t been using any electricity beyond what you’d normally expect for 7:30 or so on a September evening–overhead lights, a ceiling fan–so it didn’t seem to be a fuse issue, and even if it had been, how could nearly all of the fuses in the house blown at once? Beyond that, while it was a bit breezy outside, it wasn’t anything all that out of the ordinary for Chicago, and it wasn’t even raining outside, never mind storming. The outage was completely inexplicable.

Guess who had a panic attack?

I was absolutley petrified, not by the dark, but by the total lack of explanation for the outage. My mind jumped to the worst possible scenarios–there was a fire somewhere in the building that had somehow cut most of (but not all of) the power; there was a gas leak in the area and power had been cut in the mean time–all of which basically ended in, “I’m going to die.” And even though I had the wherewithal to recognize exactly why I was scared in the moment, knowing why I’m scared, while I suppose marginally less terrifying than being scared and NOT knowing why I’m scared, has never done anything to actually soothe me.

I’ve had a fair number of panic attacks when I’m on my own, and I hate it. When that happens, I have no one to help calm me down, and, in my experience, a panic attack is like a snowball you roll down a mountain: it’s going to build and build and build on itself until it runs out of room to keep rolling. Being alone, stuck in my own head with thoughts that seemingly have a mind of their own, is miserable. The benefit, however, is that since I’m alone, no one but me knows it’s happening, and there is little, if any, fallout as a result. I eventually settle down, curse my brain, and carry on with my life. When other people are around, it can, admittedly, be a toss up as to whether or not I’ll get support or not, depending on their understanding of anxiety and/or me (Sunday, for the record, was a support-filled situation, which definitely made a huge difference), but regardless of how other people react, it always packs a one-two punch of 1) the attack itself and 2) the equally awful, if not worse, shame, embarassment, and humilition for totally and completely blowing a situation out of proportion and overreacting in a way that defies all logic, followed by the crushing and inescapable fear that everyone present will forever silently judge me for my overreaction, and, even more so, that with each panic attack I have in the presence of the same person/people, the less chances I have to have another panic attack in front of them–that I have three strikes with people, if you will, or maybe four or five if they’re generous, before they give up on me or lose their patience with me and decide it’s not worth the effort anymore.

I don’t know if that’s a realistic concern or not, but reality and anxiety, at least for me, are not even on speaking terms, so whether or not that’s a realistic concern is perhaps irrelevant. Regardless, it just makes situations like Sunday night that much more upsetting. The things that make me anxious, especially fire and thunderstorms, already make me feel immautre–like, shouldn’t I have outgrown this by now? Why are other adults able to walk outside in a storm, or turn on a gas stove, enjoy the light and scent of a burning candle, when all of these things reduce me to a trembling, blubbering mess? Why are other people able to laugh and make jokes when the power goes out, or during a fire drill, or when food burns on the stovetop, while I’m barely able to hold myself together? Why do other people get to be normal, when even though I try to pretend to be, eventually, if you spend enough time with me, I won’t be able to hide it anymore?

It’s frustrating, to put it mildly. No one on Sunday reacted remotely cruelly to me–a couple people even followed up after everyone had cleared out to make sure I was okay–but it’s like, come on, brain. Isn’t the panic attack enough torture for one person? Can’t I have just a little bit of normalacy in my life? I don’t know–maybe it IS normal to have that shame after a panic attack. But man. I wish I could just…not worry about so much, you know? That I could be baseline normal rather than anxiety normal (and I suppose we could argue all day about what “normal” really means, but that’s not the point). Or that, at the very least, I could have my anxiety attacks with support and without the emotional hangover.

Have you ever been to the Shedd Aquarium?
Make me less anxious. Plz.

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4 thoughts on “Thursday Things

  1. As someone who has also had panic attacks in the past about seemingly ridiculous things (karaoke, for example. And not doing it myself. Just being in the same room with people who are going to be doing it.) I totally get it. Thankfully medication, age, and experience have helped me out a lot but I still get them, especially the week before my period. I almost had one at the gym on Monday when my workout felt really tough. Have I recommended the blog Epbot to you before? She posts about a lot of different things, but she has anxiety and panic attacks and occasionally blogs about how they affect her life. Sometimes it’s nice just to read other people’s experiences and know you’re not alone.

    • You have not, but I appreciate you doing so now! You’re totally right about how knowing you’re not alone is nice – sometimes when I have panic attacks at night, I pull up r/anxiety on Reddit and just read through it, because it reminds me that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

  2. I love otters! They are adorable!
    When I first moved to the suburbs (5 years ago, gasp!) I thought all the names sounded so pretentious. The “must include” names that you listed are spot on! I especially found names like Mount Prospect, Arlington Heights, Prospect Heights to be funny because the Chicago area is flat as a pancake really and there are no heights or mounts anywhere.
    So sorry to hear that you had a panic attack. But it sounds like the people around you were supportive! I’m glad to hear a few reached out afterwards!

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