I remember my very first anxiety attack. It came out of nowhere. I was lying on the couch watching a movie with my now ex-husband. I felt fine, and then I suddenly lost my breath and began to cry hard, with body shaking, choking sobs. I felt panicked and afraid. I cried so hard that I could barely breathe, let alone talk to explain to my panic stricken husband who was staring at me with shock in his eyes what was suddenly wrong. And the truth is, I didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t know why I was suddenly terrified and sobbing uncontrollably. I didn’t know where it came from. I didn’t even know yet what it was and that there was a name for it. Now, 14 years later, out of the blue, they’re back.
I’m dealing with some incredible stress right now. I’m not talking I got a flat tire on my way to work kind of stress. I’m talking I don’t know how my entire life is going to work right now kind of stress. The other day, as I was trying to get ready to go run some errands, I was having a difficult time getting dressed. I have recently lost a lot of weight and while that’s great in many ways, it makes getting dressed frustrating. As I searched through my closet seeking something casual, yet put together, I began to get upset. I put on the first pair of jeans and a tight tee and then decided I didn’t like how the jeans looked. I put on a second pair of jeans that somehow was baggy in the stomach and still was tight in the waist. As I looked in the mirror, I knew I needed to change the shirt now as I clearly had a “muffin top” going on and the shirt was too tight. In the middle of all of this, I was getting upset at the idea of feeling frumpy and looking unkempt. I worried that if I went to the store in my small town and was seen looking less than put together in combination with my dramatic weight loss and the skin condition I’ve been battling from working almost 60 hours a week in the sun, that people would make assumptions that I was on drugs. I was overthinking and worrying over nothing, but in that moment, it felt like a big deal, and I was upset.
As I sat on the foot of my bed thinking about the clothing problem, feeling uncomfortable in my clothing (a big deal for those with sensory issues) and starting to tear up, I began to feel a familiar feeling of panic rising in my chest. And just like that, seconds after recognizing the feeling, the tears began to pour and choking sobs began. Panic took over and the world felt like it was ending. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t control it. I knew I just had to ride it out. After a few minutes of intense crying and shaking, I could feel that I was over the worst part of it. I was upset and hot. I stood up and stripped off the clothes that I knew contributed to how uncomfortable I felt. Kicking them onto the floor and climbing back on the bed, I laid there and let the rest of it out knowing intellectually that it would feel better soon, but not truly feeling it yet.
When it was over and I had more control again, I thought about how it had been more than 10 years since I’d had an anxiety attack. Calm tears rolled down my hot cheeks now over the feeling of grief over the fact that I was staring my past problem in its ugly face. I thought that I would never have to face a panic attack again. Yet, here I am, stressed to the max, crying every day, wondering how I’m going to get through, and battling demons I never wanted to be familiar with in the first place. My old friend, panic, I have not missed you.