Last night I was pretty sure I was about to have a panic attack. I’ve had one before, but sometimes I feel them coming on… sometimes I don’t. I really haven’t pinpointed down exactly what causes them, but there are some general things that have to be happening to facilitate my mind going that far into the pit. They seem to be coming a bit more frequently.
The last time I remember having one was only about a week and a half ago. I was all alone, and I was feeling really ignored and unsafe. Thoughts of unworthiness were plaguing me, and I could feel everything getting bigger and bigger in my head. I felt like a toddler who was about to have the biggest tantrum of her life. I didn’t feel like I would be able to control anything if I continued to let everything grow in my mind.
I get this, because I was a nanny for years. I’ve handled more tantrums than anyone could imagine. My favourite tantrums came from a little girl, R*; she just got lost in her emotions, and I remember sending her to her room to chill and her just sobbing with jumpy breaths and saying to me: “I c-c-c-c-an’t calm myself d-d-d-ooooown. I n-n-n-need h-h-help to calm d-d-d-oooooown!”
The things you can learn from toddlers. She was right because she wasn’t trying to get out of going to her room (she went as soon as she had gotten control of herself), she just legitimately was too far into the tantrum to control it and I feel like that sometimes too. This is why I seek help.
That night a week ago, I thought about reaching out to other friends to try to get my mind off things, but it was getting late and I was staying at a house a bit far away from them. I got in my car, turned up my music, and drove to Wal-Mart while walking around for about twenty-minutes almost crying… then I calmed the worst of it and went back to the house I was staying at. The thoughts were still there, but they weren’t causing panic. I went to sleep still plagued by them.
Last night I drove into my driveway around 11pm having just gotten off work, but upon pulling in I realized there was a car missing, meaning no one else was home. I’d forgotten that my family was off to a party in another city. This was a problem. Problem #1.
When I know that no one is going to be home at my house when I’m getting there late at night, I don’t stop at the store and I never take the same route I normally do. This might seem crazy, but it helps me sleep at night.
As my headlights flickered up the driveway, a large shadow began moving near the front entrance of my house. It ended up being a raccoon, but that was problem #2.
Once I see something like that, I can’t unsee it. The shadows will continue to play tricks on me until I reset my mind (i.e. wake up the next morning).
I had stopped for groceries on the way home from work. I had at least two trips to make into the house and I couldn’t leave anything in the car because the sub-zero temperatures would spoil and ruin all the fresh produce I’d just purchased. Ergo, problem #3.
My house sits atop a large hill in the middle of no where. I have a few neighbours, but none of them are close by. Our entrance is at the side of our house about two feet from the corner leading to the backyard and other wall of the house. I am always cognizant of the fact that behind that wall would be a perfect hiding spot for someone wishing to break in; therefore, this is means when I am returning to an empty house, I would unlock the door then close and lock it again behind me once I’m inside before I disarm the alarm.
Everything began growing as I carried the first batch of stuff inside, unlocked my door, and disarmed our alarm system. I now had to leave the door unlocked and the alarm off to go back outside to my car to get the rest of my groceries and return to the house. I accidentally let the trunk close when I was really trying to open it, likely out of panic, which also meant going back into the house to get my keys to come back and open the trunk again.
By the time I got everything in the house, locked the door, and put the alarm back on, I was already pretty panicked. As I glanced at the clock to check the time before I began putting groceries away, I heard a creak in the ceiling, and the fight against full-fledged panic began.
Our house is old. I’ve lived in it my entire life. I know all the sounds.
The creak I heard is generally caused by someone stepping up the single stair from the master bedroom into the hallway.
I fought the panic. I tried to shake it off. I decided it was the raccoon climbing up on to the roof that made that sound. I put my groceries away and then headed up to my room, hoping to get myself to feel safe and knowing that was one of the best places to make this happen. As I walked past the master bedroom I saw that the closet light was on. Again, I shook it off. I closed myself up in my introvert cave and tried to focus on my breathing.
Nothing seemed to work at that point. My chest was tight, my breaths were short and my mind was running amok. I could feel my cheeks growing red with emotion. I could feel tears brimming.
I texted a friend desperately, knowing she wouldn’t be home, but praying she somehow was. I knew she could talk me out of the panic if I could just call her. When the text wouldn’t even deliver, I knew I’d missed her for the night and I felt a little more hopeless.
That’s kind of when it hit me that my mind keeps me very isolated. It is almost like it knows that other people will make it shut up, so it makes me believe I shouldn’t be around other people. I am an introvert – I need time alone to figure things out or refuel: but ultimately, I don’t seem to be able to get myself out of these funks. Only people seem to be able to do that (and at best, only a few people).
It’s kind of a catch 22 because only people can get me out of the panic, but I don’t feel safe with most people which causes more panic. This is a conundrum I’ve yet to solve.
Finally, about a half hour after I got home, my breaths still jumpy and my eyes still tear-filled, I reached out one more time and got an answer:
“The way to not have a panic attack is to have one.”
And I resisted this advice at first. It was so late, but I figured I could try to just force myself to sleep and that the thoughts I was thinking would eventually quiet down. I chatted back a few more times. I was pretty adamant about not having a panic attack or not letting go of whatever I was holding on to, but then I did. I let go. I let the tears fall, I let the panic happen, I let my breathing get completely out of control.
It sucked. But then it was over.
Should I have listened to the three-year-old? Should I have asked for help more adamantly, more persistently? Yes. Would someone have been able to help calm me down sooner, probably instantly, if I had swallowed my pride and picked up the phone? Yes. But irregardless of this, will the panic pass anyways? Yes.
But what a long effin’ process.