In the end, though, a friend did join me for lunch. I left the house so I'd be able to meet them on time, still struggling with my problem. The tools to solve it were not all available to me, compounding my frustration. At the same time, I felt like I was not making progress on several other things I needed to get done. We talked a bit about it at lunch: I'm at least improving at realizing when I am feeling overwhelmed even if I can't always deal immediately. No panic attacks ensued.
As the afternoon hit, I moved on to the coffeeshop down the street. I no longer felt like I was being crushed, but without a doubt the situation I needed to continue working on felt like an uphill battle for the moment. As she rung me up for the tea I got, she asked what was wrong, though, and so I was still startled. It certainly wasn't a bad day, even if I'd had moments of struggle. My mind was blown when she shared her cause for concern: I wasn't smiling, and she couldn't remember the last time she saw me without a smile on my face.
With reinforcement of the point from others, (and in spite of the goofy look I often manage instead of a smiling) I realized the truth. Every day, I get to be myself. There is nothing to hide, no disguises, no faking. And I like the person I am. I can only wish, hope, and work for everyone else to similarly enjoy such a luxury.