I went to bed around 1 and dozed fitfully. I had a number of nightmares, that various worst-case scenarios had come to pass. I rolled over and looked at the wall. I rolled back over and dreamed other vivid and complex dreams. I kicked the cat who vanished. I pulled the blankets tighter around me, then tried to shed them. I went back to sleep and watched within my skull the face of despair.
The sun began to shine in my window, reflected off the white house next door, around 7:30. I groaned and tucked my head under my arm, and told Rusti the dog to lie down and told Rocky the dog that indeed he is allowed in the bed on Saturday mornings. He whined and pranced by the bed and I patted the vast expanse of mattress beside me and whined back, "Come the fuck on, stupid dog, just get up here and lie down." Rusti snuggled hard against my leg until Rocky began to move around and then she wriggled out from under the covers to investigate. Rocky jumped down and began the process all over again.
I whimpered with exhaustion and then I dozed back off into dreams of hopelessness and despair.
And then I felt a weight on the side of the bed. Ana sat beside me, back resting against the wall, legs stretched in front, ankles crossed. It was 9, time for me to get up. I looked at Ana, a little confused. I tried to say something, and the words simply didn't come out. I picked out a few words that seemed to exist, and said them.
Ana laughed a little. I laughed a little.
"Remember," I said. "Silas." I moved my hands through the air, trying to demonstrate a cat chasing a mouse. "You know? Last night." I stuttered. Each word was a struggle. "Worry," I said. "Because. Things. The." I trailed off in intense frustration.
"The wossname in the wossname?" ana asked.
I laughed again and nodded. "You know. The growing things. Mice. Cats. Eat. Bad stuff?"
Ana eventually worked out that I was trying to talk about parasites and toxoplasmosis. Silas had brought in a mouse the night before and instead of catching the mouse and releasing it outdoors, I was tired enough that I just let him keep it. And then he ate it. And I was worried that he'd get parasites from the vermin he was eating, and that -- perhaps -- it would affect us, too. The words for that just weren't there.
I pulled myself out of the bed, and went downstairs for juice and vitamins and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. There was an email from Vermont, one of my employees, wanting help on a particular part of the proposal she was working on, and I tried to answer it. I looked at the screen on my little iPod and I felt the words I needed to say. "I'm going to need to drink some coffee first," I wanted to write, "and then I'll get right on this. Sorry I'm just now getting up and getting moving, but I'll get this to you ASAP."
What I wrote was this:
I couldn't figure out what letter came after "W" in the word "I'm." It was too hard. I couldn't do it. I eventually gave up and reloaded husi, which had lost its cookie. I had to re-log in. It literally took me 10 minutes to type in "toxicfur." I didn't know what a 'u' looked like or what it was called. I just knew that another letter came after the 'f' and I needed to find it.
It was one of the most horrifying experiences I've ever been through.
Later, I wondered if I'd had a stroke, if I was bleeding out. In the moment, I was intensely frustrated and tired and sad, but it never occurred to me that there might be some sort of organic problem. I believed I was just beyond exhausted because I've been under so much stress between work and home and Mother's Day weekend and extended family and so on and so on.
Today, I talked to my therapist about this. I described the utter despair I felt when I could picture in my head the pictorial representations of what I wanted -- the mental version of an ASCII cat and mouse, for instance -- and when I simply could not find words. Or letters. Or language in general.
"It sounds to me," she told me, "like you were in the midst of a rather extreme panic attack. Everything just sort of shut down."
Oh. That makes sense. I've gotten panic attacks off and on my entire life. They were much less intense and much, much less often when I was smoking, but since I quit, I deal with them. My heart begins to pound and I begin to sweat? No worries. Calm boss still looks calm. I get the jittery flight-or-fight feelings? Not a problem! I just sit very still and focus on the point of my pen and what it looks like as it creates a doodle on the side of a page. I rarely actually lose control enough that it shows. I have never lost control of something so vital as my language.
And yet I did.
"If it happens again," said my therapist, "we should think about finding you a doctor to examine you. So just keep it in mind."
My anxiety killed my ability to use language. I wonder if that means I should just stop talking?
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