Panic: The Impossible Language of Fear

May 6, 2011 Kate White

Anxiety manifests itself in the everyday, supposedly humdrum of it all, and fear has a way of telling me things which are otherwise impossible to speak; The things I cannot acknowledge must still be expressed, for so long as they are part of me, they will find ways to be.

And so it is that the common cliches that clutter up the mind become the stuff of our most intense anxieties, and preoccupations:

  • "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

Murphy, dude, you're catastrophizing again.

  • "If you want a job done well, then do it yourself."

Perfectionist, much?

  • "Expect the unexpected."

Ahh, hypervigilance, my old friend.

  • "Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean everybody isn’t out to get you."

Oh yeah, that one's totally helping.

  • "Getting your hands dirty."

Which for someone with OCD, can be a potentially life-threatening thought. Yet for others there is great pleasure in the dream.

And yet, this is the language we speak.


A fairly major communication problem, don't you think?

Panic is an impossible language that must be spoken

In my nightmares (a common symptom of PTSD, and other mental health disorders), metaphor takes precedence over all that I see, sense, feel, and say.

Sometimes the most terrifying moments are not the moments spent dreaming but those in which I'm waking up. The terror in me, made only too apparent by its tangible invisibility. That moments before I could see, sense, feel and speak of panic in ways that I cannot when I am awake, and doing this living thing; Attempting to be someone, function, survive, stay strong, seek, heal, then do it all over again since I seem to keep ending up where I thought I already was.

I open my eyes and confront a world apparently devoid of all that I fear, alone, with only the remnants of understanding and panic, somewhere underneath -somewhere much shakier, and more certain of its finite existence.

Attempting to extinguish panic & fear often results in increased anxiety

Anxiety resists - actively, passively, aggressively, passive-aggressively, abusively, violently, and finally, quite peacefully. It's that clever. It can be as simple as shadows on the wall, or the words we utter without thinking because they're the truth that doesn't even need to be true. It is accepted, and ingrained.

I want anxiety to be simply one shade of my existence, and it's becoming so. Or I am becoming more. Hard to tell. Possibly both.

Treating anxiety: Why don't I feel calm yet?

I do not feel calm. But I do feel understood, sometimes. Somehow, doing all these things to combat anxiety, learning, using, relearning, jumping up and down, panicking - somewhere in all the sleepless nights and zombie days - I have internalized enough about awareness, meaning, reassurance, hope so that I can feel them, even when I'm not OK.

That's what treating anxiety is, isn't it?

Psychiatrists and psychologists use terms like "optimal functioning" -I doubt that's what this is but I still think they mean well by such things, even if they're far removed from the language panic speaks:-

It is the language of black and white, the linguistics of shame, and the syntax of misdirection.

It is a language learnt as children, we then learn not to speak. Because we're told there's no such thing as monsters; That they aren't in the cupboards, only in our heads:

It's just your imagination, Darling. Now go back to bed.

APA Reference
White, K. (2011, May 6). Panic: The Impossible Language of Fear, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Kate White

May, 9 2011 at 4:19 pm

I have super anxiety about storms and traveling anywhere. I don't want to ask for help anymore, because--I'm not understood, medication doesn't work-I've tried--and that is all they can offer. No one can remove my anxiety without causing me more problems. I can't go very far due to the combo of issues. I am afraid to be reliable to anyone--for fear my issues will cause me to let them down.

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