Chapter 2: Something Must Be Wrong


I was sure that my experience was a side effect of my antibiotics, so I finished the course, continuing to experience the anxiety attacks. When finished, I gave myself two weeks, thinking that I had to allow time for my body to completely rid itself of all traces of the medication. I had searched the internet and found people describing this happening to them. The attacks kept coming.

“Attack” is an interesting word for what happens in these moments. The theory, as I understand it, relates back to us as primitive cavemen and cavewomen (cavepersons?). As we wander from our caves in search of food, a saber-toothed tiger (random?) jumps out in front of us, resolute that we are going to be its next meal. Our brains instantly go into survival mode. We have two choices: stay and fight this ferocious beasty, or attempt to run from it (fight vs. flight… right?)

It’s clever really. It’s a back-up plan that has been carefully thought out ahead of time. “O.K. boys. In the case that we are flung into a life-threatening situation, what systems and chemicals will we need at the ready?” Everything is planned out down to the very last detail and the entire plan, with everything that we need, is just sitting there ready to go… just in case we need it.

So, as the aforementioned saber-toothed kitty appears, the plan is thrown into action. Without any conscious thought, our nervous system releases a whole bunch of hormones and neurotransmitters. Names like adrenaline and norepinephrine may mean nothing to us, but our bodies know exactly what to do with them. Our adrenal gland, pituitary gland, and everyone else involved, all know exactly what they have to do in this situation… and they do it fast! Our liver produces extra glucose and turns fatty acids into the available energy that our muscles will need. Our heart and lungs speed up. Digestion stops. Blood vessels constrict to draw blood away from parts of the body that are not involved in the plan. Blood vessels around our muscles actually dilate (get bigger) to allow more blood to enter the area (thereby making more sugars and oxygen available). The bladder relaxes (no point carrying around any extra weight if we need to run). Peripheral vision is cut to allow us to focus purely on the issue at hand. Our body shakes from the sheer magnitude of what is going on inside.

There’s no doubt about it. The plan is outstanding. The team that put it together were geniuses. Everything has been carefully considered and thought through. Even our ability to clot our own blood speeds up, just in case we sustain an injury.

Oh, and one last thing. During this life-threatening situation there is no point thinking about what a glorious sunny day it is, or what a fine specimen this tiger actually is. Nope, this information is of no use. Instead, our brain focuses all of its attention on the negative stimuli… the wild and scary animal that might kill us, the slippery mud we find ourselves standing on, our own weaknesses as runners or fighters. The negative is all that matters.

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