When My Panic Attack Unexpectedly Sparked a Beautiful Friendship

I have panic attacks.

They started happening on a regular basis nine and a half years ago. Some attacks are worse than others. Regardless of the severity, it is often a difficult, painful experience. It helps when the people around me during an attack are nonjudgmental, kind and understanding.

I want to share one such experience:

It was the winter of 2012. I had just moved out of state from my family and started a new job. I hadn’t shared my panic disorder with my boss or any coworkers yet. Early one morning, a severe panic attack began right at the beginning of our work day. Despite the snowy weather, I dashed outside. In my own experience, I find it very difficult to breathe during a panic attack and being outside is helpful for me.

It was only a minute or two before my boss found me slouched behind a wall, sobbing and trying to steady my breathing. Rather than being upset that I hadn’t shared my condition with her, my boss kindly wrapped the jacket off her back around my shoulders. Then, this wonderful woman sat on the snowy ground with me and encouraged me to talk with her about my panic attack. My boss wasn’t asking me about it out of personal curiosity or judgment — human to human, she sincerely wanted to hear what I had to say.

After I shared a few things with her, my body started to relax. My heart beat slowed down, the tremors in my hands ended and my breathing became more even. Once the attack subsided, my supervisor shared with me about the time in her life when she really struggled with her own mental health. What started out as an awful morning, quickly turned into a beautiful experience. Not only did my boss listen attentively to my story without any agenda, she also shared a personal anecdote from her life to reassure me that mental health struggles are nothing to be ashamed of.

Even though this experience was nearly six years ago, I have absolutely never forgotten it. My supervisor and I became very good friends after that cold, snowy morning; although I no longer work with her and live in another region, we have stayed in contact. Each time I have asked her to provide a letter of reference for me, she includes that she would rehire me at her company. Ultimately, what started out as a very painful, stressful morning gave way to a beautiful friendship.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Andrew Robles

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Panic Disorder

woman afraid of something, covering face and head with light behind in white tone

What I Think and Feel Before, During and After My Panic Attack

Panic attacks can be terrifying to say the least. They seem to tug every ounce of strength right out of you. They’re ruthless. Scary. Confusing. Exhausting. But most of all, they take the “you” out of you. They attack you from the inside out. Panic attacks are something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. [...]
stressed woman

The Stressful Situation That Made Me Realize Panicking Isn't the Same as a Panic Attack

Within the last few weeks, my 8-month-old cat, Finn, has developed a newfound fascination with what’s on the other side of my apartment door. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, but it did leave the cat in the hallway of my apartment complex, alone, for about seven hours. Last night when I got home, I opened [...]
woman stands in front of pink wall

10 Unique Tricks in My Self-Help Toolbox to Stop Panic Attacks

Racing heart. Shaking hands. Shallow breath. Have you been there lately? Earlier this week, I felt the anxiety seeded in my belly grow up into my chest and lungs. I knew I had nearly 10 sacred minutes to de-escalate my anxiety before it manifested into a panic attack. You know: the ugly, sobbing kind? I [...]

What Being Single Means to Me as Someone With Anxiety

Most of us have been asked pesky life questions by someone in our lives. When are you getting married? When are you going to have kids? Who will take care of you when you’re old? I wish I had a brief, effective way of shutting down these inappropriate questions and expressing what a triumph my [...]