When can terror be used instead of panic?

Published on 8 June 2022 at 22:08

The meanings of terror and panic largely overlap; however, terror implies the most extreme degree of fear. That makes me think I should start describing my panic attacks as actual terror attacks, not to be confused with terrorist attacks of course.

I can see this would confuse some people. There are several other ways to describe the onset of panic: alarm, anxiety, dread, fear, fearfulness, fright, horror, scare and trepidation. But I still think Panic covers most of it. Usually preceded by any of the feelings listed above.

It's exhausting, sudden and often unexpected. That's what makes it one of the worst symptoms of PTSD

The ups and Downs on vacation

As mentioned in last weeks story I had my ups and downs while on vacation. While having the kids enjoy and entertaining themselves is usually an excellent way to relax yourself. For me with the struggles I'm having, it's very hard. When I hear a kid crying I'm triggered. I need to know everything is alright. Even though I could hear it wasn't one of mine. But a complete strangers. Being hyper vigilant also comes at a price. I see and hear everything. I see another kid going near the water and anxiety sets in. I never had any problems with water, but my heart starts beating faster and I start thinking, what if. What would I do, if? To the point of figuring out which neighbours to involve while trying to help the child. I know it's a bit extreme, but my mind keeps playing these weird tricks on me. I used to check escape routes in a crowded room. Check where the nearest defibrillator (AED) was. Call it an occupational hazard. But I did this sporadically. Now everything is in overdrive. I seat myself differently, and I see everything! 


When the kids are screaming and shouting (like every kid does while enjoying themselves), I focus on them, I get triggered. The constant chaos around me also triggers my anxiety. Now that I'm writing about it, there is actually a lot that triggers me. Which makes it very hard for myself as well as others to anticipate what I need. I can be fine one moment and then anxiety kicks in and I'll be completely lost right after.   

Are there upsides to being away?

Well yes, of course there were upsides. I could enjoy the kids playing on their own. I could enjoy reading a book and just not thinking about anything else. I even enjoyed playing around with the kids as often as I could. We played with the frisbee, kites and the soccer ball. I could see they enjoyed it. I just felt so bad that they couldn't have this daddy the entire time.

Even in the middle of playing with them, the flashbacks did their thing. I could be playing with them one moment and be zoned out the next. Instead of standing in the field playing soccer, I could see myself standing in the middle of the train tracks. Then I had to excuse myself and find a quiet and secluded spot and try to calm myself down. The panic, terror, dread, whatever you want to call it, did not happen as often. Usually I'd be in front of the tent, not getting a lot of stimulants from my surroundings. Being able to relax. Having the kids enjoy themselves. Having less panic attacks. Those were some of the upsides of being on vacation. 

Are there Downsides to being away?

Most definitely, the downsides are everywhere. They don't just focus on the vacation. But the downsides to being away are the uncontrolled environments. I know what to expect when I go somewhere in my hometown. When I am somewhere else, the anxiety and panic are literally just around the corner. We could be at the kids disco. The kids having a blast. Then a couple more kids and their parents show up and it's just too much for me. The anxiety sets in, I feel threatened, I need to get away from there. Also the animation. They do a wonderful job of entertaining the kids, but chaotic is an understatement. These kinds of things trigger me tremendously. In order to avoid them, my wife took our kids to the animation and the kids disco. Feeling ashamed and wanting to be a part of their enjoyment, I tried a couple of times. Watching them dance and jump around filled me with love. And shame. Shame that I couldn't be what they need right now. Sad that my wife had to carry my weight as well as her own. These feeling probably contributed to me trying to go swimming with the kids as well. Note the "Trying", that was no succes.


When you compress 50 little beings full of energy with their parents and some teenagers with raging hormones in a glorified bathtub, chaos ensues! I changed into swimming gear and as soon as I got out of the dressing room, the noise, the chaos, the laughter, all of it hit me like a brick. I tried for my kids, I tried for my wife. I suffered from so much terror, my wife saw me and thankfully sent me away. As soon as I got back in the dressing room, the terror subsided a bit. It took me several hours to get back to some resemblance of my self. That's when the self loathing and shame kicked in. Rationally I know I can't help it. But the feelings kept coming. Feelings of inadequacy, of not being there for my children. Of not being there for my wife. I don't know if you've ever experienced self loathing before. But it's one of the worst feelings to have. Sadly it's also one of the symptoms of PTSD. Through no fault of your own, you will feel inadequate, you will feel like you are at fault. You will blame yourself for everything. When thinking about it, you know you can't help it. But the feelings make you go through some of the worst. It took me even longer to get out of those feelings. 


So yes, there are most definitely downsides to going away. Some of which you can avoid. Some you choose to confront and fail miserably at. That still does not mean you should stop trying. Because when we stop fighting and stop trying that's when our mental health really tumbles.


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