What High-Functioning, Low-Level Panic feels Like

Well, first off, it's chronic, unless it's not.

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is frantically taking notes while having a heart-to-heart with a friend because you don't want to lose their loving words. You don't want to forget the part when they said you are amazing. You are strong. You're fighting the good fight. You're healthier than you think. You are not sick.

It's finding an activity, any activity- having a solo dance party until midnight at your empty yoga studio because you just can't go home yet. And you like dancing, but really it’s a carefully choreographed distress signal, trying to tire out the thoughts stuck in your head, like they were a toddler.

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is being so hungry but you don't want to eat. Nothing sounds good. Nothing tastes good. It won't go down well and it won't come out well, so you might as well just be hungry.

It's having orgasms that sound like you're terrified. Because you are. 

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is rolling your eyes when a dear friend texts you multiple times a day. You just want to be left alone and for Christ's sake, WHAT do they want this time? And why do they want YOU? 

It's when you really want to talk to your Mother, but you just can't pick up the phone. You wish you could. But you can't. 

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is your heart racing while sitting perfectly still. And nausea. And imagining yourself vomiting so much and so violently that it's cathartic. Like, the devil would be expelled from you. And God that would feel so good. You just want to get it out.

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is very similar to depression. But you're not depressed. You can't be. You're NOT depressed. And you don't need medication. Okay?? Got it??

It's trying to speed up conversations with people so you can go right back into your head to sort through things and figure out what you need to do to feel better. To feel whole again. ...it's also not being able to figure out why in holy hell someone is so interested in taking to you. I mean, fuck. 

You're irritable. So very irritable.

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is like holding a baby that won't stop crying. And you've tried everything. Almost everything. You haven't tried the thing that might work, because, well, it might actually work. And then what?

It's wanting so badly to be touched. By another human. But every time you are, you're only focused on when they're gonna get tired of touching you. When it will end. Because it will always end before you're ready for it to. 

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is keeping mental score of how many times you've reached out to a friend for help, so you don't use up all your turns. Oh, and your "turns" are based on your warped definition of friendship and how little you feel you deserve it.

It's imagining how you'd one day unload, emotionally. Really fall to pieces. Come undone. Lose your mind. Where you'd be. What you'd be wearing. Who would see it. What they would think. How they'd respond. Where the camera would be. What the Director would want.  

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is TV shows on DVD. Always playing. Season after season after episode after episode after episode. Background noise. There MUST always be background noise. 

It's confusing replying to a text with being chased by a lion. It's also when answering a text impulsively and thoughtlessly is an act of bravery.

It’s sobbing because the worst-case-scenario that just went through your head at high speed seems so real, so vivid, that even when it’s proven to be untrue, it takes hours for you to feel calm again. Hours.

It's knowing that no one really knows you. Because if they did...

High-Functioning, Low-Level Panic is also...

a quiet knowing; a knowing that nothing is permanent. It's a very subtle yet recognizable suspicion that this will pass, and only its gifts will remain; a desire for a higher standard of thriving and a lower tolerance for suffering. It is the knowing that a good first step is staring at it in the eye and calling it by its name. 

High-Functioning, Low-Level Panic knows that just because its high-functioning doesn't mean it's healthy. High-functioning is not a noble way to suffer and it doesn't pretend to be.

It asks us to pause for just a moment and breathe. And phone a friend without the urge to take notes. To just listen. To just be listened to. And personally, my High-Functioning, Low-Level Panic reminds me to use my oils consistently. And do Yoga (only some days. Other days it's the worst idea ever.)

Hang out here, my friends. Make friends with whatever you've named your feelings. They are here to transform you, move you, test you, love you...and it may not seem like it today, but in the end, it won't let you down. And neither will I.




Dear Business Coach...


A few posts back, I mentioned that I've thrown away all of my old journals. Not only were they totally irrelevant and unnecessary to hold onto, I could never get through one page of one journal without turning to my imaginary friend, opening my mouth and my eyes wide wide, as if t say "Oh.... MyGod. What a loser!" But that's not to say there is no value in revisiting words, videos or photos that represent who and where we were at a point in time; I just didn't need twelve books all written in the penmanship of a retired Pharmacist, explaining how shitty my upper-middle class teen-aged life was. I mean...right?!

But as I sifted through some old emails today, I came across one that I wrote to a Business Coach I hired almost exactly one year ago. My relationship with her came to an end shortly after I wrote this, but maybe the point of hiring her was to have a reason to get all this out. And that's what I did.

I'm sharing this email with you for a few reasons:

 1) I share everything else with you, so why not this?
2) Even "Coaches" and creative entrepreneurs (like me) don't know what the hell they're doing with their life, sometimes.
3) I'm not the only relatively neurotic human being who's had these thoughts and feelings.
4) I'm no longer in the same place I was when I wrote this email and I thought I always would be.

This Coach's name is irrelevant so for the purposes of this post, I'll call her

"Business Coach."

Without further ado...Happy Spinning!


January 4th, 2015

Subject: "Spinning"

"Happy New Year, *Business Coach! I hope 2015 is finding you well.

I'm emailing because I'm spinning today. I feel so anxious and scared about my future and I don't know how to navigate any tools to put things into perspective.

I've always been able to see a big picture that I deem to be my destiny or an ultimate dream of mine, but I am impatient when it comes to taking the necessary steps to get there.

Blah blah blah. I could go on typing, trying to over think things and express myself in  practical, self-loving, compassionate, forward thinking words. But I feel more compelled to list the cycle of thoughts that occupy my mind and my body 24 hours a day, leaving no room for anyone or any thing. So, here goes..

I'm 28 years-old and have not been able to financially support myself, despite all my education, experience, talents, willingness and ability to work hard.

I love working with children and I'm good at it. I love my title as Director at My Gym, and I'm frustrated I am accepting only $18,000/year.

I feel guilty about believing I am worth more, since there's so much hype about wanting money as an American is a bad thing. And how greedy we are as a culture. I feel like I need to prove to the world I'm not trying to earn millions, I'm just trying to pay rent.

I'm an excellent writer and public speaker. I have always articulated my thoughts with sincerity and clarity. Not everyone can do this and I wonder how I can put this skill to good use and/or profit from it.

I may be sensitive as a person, but I am also tough. I'm fearless in many ways and terrified in others.

I'm terrified I won't ever be in a loving relationship.

I'm terrified I won't ever have children.

I'm terrified we've done so much damage to the human psyche that Coaches, Counselors, Therapists and Social Workers who want to help, will always be spinning their wheels.

I will fearlessly check behind every door, in every closet and under the bed for someone hiding, waiting to kill me. But I am too fearful of getting my heart broken or being a failure in business or relationships, so I avoid them.

By default, I am always on Craigslist, looking for jobs, to feel safe. But I don't want to just work for a paycheck for the rest of my life. At least at My Gym, I'm making a difference and get to be active. No, I'm not getting paid what I'm worth, or enough to live, but at least I don't feel like a drone. The next tab I open, right after Craiglist, is PadMapper.com or any other apartment website, looking for a place with cheaper rent. I pay $1450, which some days seems like a lot and other days seem reasonable, considering any other apartment or studio in the South Bay will only save me, at most, $200, to which I think I could just become a prostitute for an extra $200/month and BOOM, there's me making up the rest of my "outrageous" rent.

*Business Coach, I'm so scared. During our first conversation you mentioned that our country comes from a state of scarcity, thus that's why our country is poor. So, like, all I have to do is keep 'coming from a place of abundance'? What the hell does that even mean? And as a side note, I don't want to do only ONE job. I have lots of things I'm good at and want to work toward. I wouldn't even want to be a writer full-time. Full time equals "fast burnout" to me. But that makes me sound like a spoiled little child, because I don't want to saturate all my time in just ONE thing. Who the hell am I to think I have a choice?

I think I've covered just about everything that has me curled up on my couch in fetal position today. I don't know what I need from you as far as a response. If I were brutally honest and had my wish, I would want to hear

 "You're going to be more than okay, Erica. I understand everything you're saying and most people who are about to go through a huge breakthrough feel this way. I've seen it. I've given you a boost with my hand to get you to the very top of the fence, where you now have 1 leg on each side. This is the hardest part and I promise you're doing the right thing by going over to the other side. You don't need to move out of your apartment. That is your home and you have every right to stay."

Part of me wants to hear this from you, just because I'm investing a lot of money into working with you. But I know I need to be saying these things to myself.

I feel so alone in the world and I feel like I'm spinning, failing AND flailing, left and right...which always causes me to binge eat. And that opens a WHOLE other can of worms.

Thank you for taking the time to read my sincerest feelings. If you don't mind, I'd love to hear any thoughts you have.



So, friends...please know that the way we feel about our jobs, our family, our relationships and the direction of our life is never permanent. Sometimes we're certain, sometimes we're not. Sometimes we're lost, sometimes we're found. Sometimes it takes a cup of tea and essential oils to bring us back down to earth. And sometimes dinners with friends and a very dirty martini, or three, helps smooth out the rough edges and harsh thoughts. It's okay. You're okay.

So much love to you, wherever you are on your path to wherever the heck you wanna go!

And as always, feel free to tall me where you are on your journey. Have you ever had these thoughts? Am I alone, here?