I was hot and sweating. It was August in Atlanta so this wasn't shocking. But we were in an air conditioned restaurant, yet I couldn't stop sweating. And my heart started racing. My girlfriends were chatting away and I couldn't focus on the conversation. We were seated next to the door leading to the outdoor patio. With each open of the door a gust of hot air hit me. And my heart would race a little more. A full glass of red wine sat untouched in front of me. A very unusually occurrence for me.
I excused myself to take a break in the ladies room. I felt like breathing was getting difficult. So I sat in the bathroom stall, put my head between my knees and tried to breathe deeply. My heart continued to pound. In. Out. In. Out.
The internal dialogue started. Calm down. Nothing is wrong. You are fine. This is just anxiety, nothing is actually wrong with you. Chill out. Keep breathing. Seriously, calm the fuck down. It didn't work. My heart continued to beat out of my chest. I tried running cold water on my hands and finally convinced myself to go back to dinner. But the rising anxiety wouldn't go away.
I didn't touch my food, it just wouldn't go down. I somehow willed myself to sit through dinner and tried to drink cold water and calm down. I made a few more escapes to the bathroom. The check eventually came and I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
I never knew dinner with four great friends who I've known for over 10 years could be so miserable. But it didn't stop once we were outside. Or in the car ride home. Or once we we're back at my friend's house. I could calm down for a few minutes, but the fear, racing heart and shaking continued coming back. It just kept rolling in and out like a wave. I couldn't make it stop.
I tried to sleep, to no avail. Laying in a dark, quiet room just made me freak out even more. My hands are tremoring now, 5 months later, just remembering the feeling of that night.
The tears started because I was now convinced that there was something wrong. Surely a panic attack doesn't last for hours? Apparently, they can. 4 hours later, I was still spiraling out of control. My heart continued fluttering too fast. I felt scared but of nothing in particular. I just wanted it to stop.
In an effort to do something, I eventually got in the car at 1am and drove 40 minutes home. To my husband and our bed. To my boys sleeping in a room next door. With a tear streaked face I climbed into bed and the comfort of my husband's arms and the warmth of our bed lulled me to sleep. Finally, the panic attack was over.
Only it would come back a handful of times over the next few months. Once in Chicago the weekend of my brother in law's wedding, ruining a day with my husband's best friend from childhood and an evening with my husband's fraternity brothers and their wives. Then in my own home the evening of my son's 4th birthday party while spending time with some of my best girlfriends. And very inconveniently, at dinner on our first double date with new friends in Macon. Plus a few times here and there.
The attacks have lasted varying times and have not all been the same degrees as the first one. A few times I've felt it coming on and have been able to breathe it away. But in social settings it feels like it's always lurking under the surface, ready to rear its head at any moment.
I met with one therapist here about the anxiety but she didn't help in the least. I've been given another name and may reach out to her at some point. I'm a believer that therapy is good for everyone, but you have to find someone you mesh with. I'm also trying some natural supplements to keep the anxiety in check and since I've started taken them I've noticed that I can reduce the duration and intensity greatly, so for now they seem to be working.
But it is scary not knowing if a panic attack will suddenly strike. I find myself wanting to cancel plans and worrying before going to social events. I realize that's not the best way to live, but I'm doing the best I can to handle this. It's just difficult when it is your own head creating the anxiety. It's one thing knowing that nothing is physically wrong, but it's another to convince yourself of this truth when the cloud descends upon you.