Let me just start by saying I’m not the kind of guy who would have an anxiety attack. You know those quotes about how if you keep calm when the rest of the civilization is losing its minds, you’ll rule the world? I plan on ruling that world.
In fact, just last week one of my co-workers said I was like a swan, even if my feet were paddling like crazy below water, I was calm above. Or, maybe she said a duck, but either way, you get the point.
I’m able to leave a stressful day at work behind me as soon as I drive home or hang up from my last call. If that doesn’t take care of it, my regimented routine of dog walks with Lucy after work will get it. If all else fails, my regular yoga sessions will kick it. I punch anxiety in the face… until it punched me.
Two weeks ago my wife was out of town for work so I was managing the homestead. Although I don’t like when she’s gone, it’s not too challenging because I really only have to worry about the dog. She’s usually at home bored, but I try to make up for it by giving her an extra walk in the morning.
Unfortunately, my mornings have started earlier even though the evenings and nights are filled with more work calls. It’s fine though… remember the routine I mentioned above? It still worked, and hey, who doesn’t have a little stress in their life?
Tuesday night was different because my wife wasn’t around to listen to me vent, and I found my mind racing like a speeding bullet when I was trying to fall asleep. It was also pretty warm in the house because I’m too cheap to turn on the air conditioner, so that didn’t help. But usually I can fall asleep after a few minutes of purposeful mediation and breathing. This time was different.
My mind continued to race as the sleepless minutes dragged into sleepless hours. Work was still at the top of my mind as I was thinking through some pretty heavy things. Dang, I just couldn’t fall asleep. And then it even got more strange as I felt a little light headed.
The clock ticked away to 3:30am, and I sat up to take a drink. So weird – why do I feel like I’m hardly even breathing? Wait, never mind, I have work stuff to think about… but how can I think about work when I may not be around tomorrow! Holy crap, am I dying? I’m light headed, and I feel like I’m not even breathing right. What the heck is going on, I must be sick.
I got up and walked around a bit but the feeling didn’t go away and it seemed like it was getting worse. It was like I was here but I wasn’t… who had taken control of my mind? Maybe I should call 911? No one is here with me but my dog Lucy, and if I die no one would get here for a couple of days, and by that time she’d start gnawing on my arm because she’d be so hungry. Poor Lucy. Who’s going to take care of her when I’m not around and what about my wife? Oh man, let me pick up my phone just in case… maybe I should even dial 911 so it’s already on the screen and I can hit dial as I fall to the floor, dying of this.. uhh.. shortness of breath and light headedness? Or, maybe I’m having a heart attack – that seems much more plausible!
This actually happened. To me. The guy who wouldn’t think of letting anxiety attack him. I went and laid with my dog on her bed and hugged her a bit, letting her breathing and heart beat retrain mine. I finally calmed down a bit, knowing that I’m still alive and it’s my mind steering this ship directly into an iceberg. But Lucy took the wheel and steered it away. This actually happened. To me. You know… the guy who blah blah blah.
I briefly mentioned it to Jocelyn the next day but wanted mostly to not think of it again. She was too stressed and this wouldn’t help her. Also, it was just too weird and made me seem like a pretty big pansy. It couldn’t have been an anxiety attack anyway… until I read the description of an anxiety attack.
A panic (anxiety) attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
- Chills or heat sensations
- Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
- Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
- Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- Fear of dying
I checked the boxes on the test and realized that’s what happened. It was a pretty sobering moment.
Anxiety attacked me and I was doing everything I could to prevent it by following my de-stressing rituals. I thought I could manage through any situation, but now some tough times at work proved me wrong. I can’t imagine if I had other issues with family or money on top of it. We aren’t as tough in this life as we like to think. Well, at least I’m not.