The Trouble with Tribbles (Or How Little Things Multiply and Take Over)

I still have panic attacks.  Little ones, mostly.  Like the kind when all of a sudden your heart starts to race, and your hands start to tingle.  It happened this morning, when the bills came in, along with my unemployment benefits letter. 

To fill you in, after working for myself for several years as a programmer and audio/video producer, my husband lost his job due to the economy, and I had to find a job to re-coup a steady income.  I let my business basically go and went to work for the Census in a local office.  It was full-time, TEMPORARY work, as the Census would shut down in September/October 2010.

So I worked sporadically, some in every quarter in 2009, and then for almost a year straight from 9/21/2009 to 9/17/2010.  I thought SURELY I would qualify for the full benefits after working in all four quarters of each year.  But my calculations weren’t correct.  I WORKED during each quarter, but I was PAID in other quarters, and they go by pay checks.  That stupid 2 week behind paycheck business ruined my unemployment benefits! 

My first reaction was panic.  You know, the initial SHOCKWAVE of panic that you think is going to bring you to your knees in one blow.  But then I remembered to THINK IT THROUGH.

  • Ronnie was now working a job, low paying as it was (and unfortunately aggravating his chronic pain to the point of reducing him every workday to tears – but that’s for another post).  So we now had SOME income. 
  • This was not going to be the full $330 plus the extra, but it WAS something.  It will probably be $200 or so after taxes per week.
  • I had been reducing payments on my old business debts in order to build up my bank account to pay bills while I was unemployed.  I have about three thousand in there at the moment, enough for a few months of emergency funds.

So the TRUTH of the matter? We are fine financially RIGHT NOW (which is all I am EVER to be concerned with, and trust God for tomorrow).  No bill on my desk was unpayable.  Getting $200/week while I’m looking for a job and learning new programming skills is a great deal – much better than NOTHING!

So the panic attack passed.  Why?  Because I stopped and took time to analyze AND CORRECT the thoughts that were causing the panic attack

Yesterday, I had a panic attack simply looking at my self-appointed schedule on my white board.  It was ridiculous, really, but I had told myself that I would buy new sheets, deposit checks, do the grocery shopping and work out – before my husband came home.  As it inched closer to 3:30 pm, I started panicking that I wouldn’t get it all done, and SOMEHOW, I would get in trouble for not doing it all. (With my personality, getting in trouble for any reason is my achilles heel.)

Again, I had to go through it step-by-step. 

  • Did I promise anyone else to get sheets today? NO.  Even if I did, would we have died and chaos reigned if I didn’t?  NO.
  • If I didn’t get the shopping done today, would we have food to eat? YES.  Would my husband have the white bread I promised to buy? NO.  (So I HAD to get the white bread so he could have sandwiches for lunch – that could be a quick stop.)
  • If I didn’t deposit the checks, what would happen?  NOTHING.  I was not overdrawn.  No checks would bounce.  There was no repercussion if I did it the next day.

Once I thought it through, the panic attack went away.  Luckily, I bribed my 19 year old daughter to buy the sheets for me (I had to pay her $2 in gas money), so one thing down.  I got everything else done in the end, plus made what I thought was a great (though very kitchen-messing) meal, and still watched House with my husband.  The panic attack was FOR NOTHING. 

Do you know, I even panic about not going out to see all of the dogs in the kennel and giving each of them individualized attention?  I think of them as kids, so I feel like I’ve locked them in a closet and am a bad mother. It can actually trigger condemning and horrible thoughts about myself.  Stupid, but true.  So this morning, as I was trying to have my devotion and prayer time, I dealt with the thoughts OUT LOUD.

  • Penny, they are DOGS.  They are a PACK of dogs.  They play with each other all day long (well, the 5 girls and the male puppy do – the sires are in their own pens). 
  • They are better taken care of than most dogs, with the highest quality food, their own homes with fans in the summer and heaters in the winter. 
  • Ronnie sees them every morning, and plays with them every night.  They are getting personalized attention, just not from me.
  • The dogs may WANT to play with me, but they ALWAYS want to play with me.  The moment I leave the kennel, they will want more.  They are FINE.

And the panic attack passed.  And the guilt I’m used to feeling after thinking about the dogs WAS GONE, so there was no fodder for depression.  I’m telling you, forcing yourself to calmly walk through the reasoning behind the attack can nullify and extinguish it.  You just have to take the time to do it.  And the PEACE afterward was WONDERFUL!  Oh, I just sat and reveled in it – this deep, heavy, all-surrounding peace. 

So start working through your panic attacks.  By thinking and talking them through, you can stop them dead in their tracks.  The trouble with tribbles is that individually, they are small, so you don’t pay much attention to them – until they start multiplying and take everything over, including the control panel of the starship (your brain).

Head on over to the forum’s panic topic and share what you’ve been panicking about.   By working through it, you are helping yourself and anyone else who reads the post and uses it as an example!

Penny Haynes