When Your Panic Attacks Come Back

I thought I was over this. My work uniform is scrubs, I’m working my way into a middle class life. I have a beautiful son and a car that doesn’t cause me concern every time I drive.

I thought I was over this. I’ve spent over three years talking to my therapist, working through everything that debilitated me from my childhood on.

I thought I was over this. I spent three weeks a year ago coming off prescription antidepressants that made me feel far worse than any bought of depression did. I beat the withdrawal, I saw through the haze. Two months without sleep and dosing myself with Seroquel to start a medication that my body begged me a year and a half later to be rid of.

I thought I was over this.

But then driving to my secure and steady job, in my fairly new car, in my purple scrub pants after leaving my little boy and husband at home — I felt that horrible sensation. That sinking feeling. The tingling that starts in my teeth and resonates through my head, down my chest and stomach. Out to my hands shaking with disbelief.

In my head — breathe. It’s a panic attack. You’re not dying. You need to breath. You’re not going to throw up.

A minute from the off ramp, only 10 minutes to work. Dizzy and cramping, I had to pull over. I just held off enough so I would be off the 401, my hands started to cramp shut even further. I was so thankful only for the Bluetooth in my car just so I wouldn’t have to hold up the phone to my ear after dialing 911.

I thought I was over this. Laying my head on the steering wheel trying to think of exactly where I was to tell the dispatcher. The exact same feeling of years ago when the exact same thing happened on the exact same commute to a different job.

The ambulance drivers were really good to me and had me pull my car into a nearby parking lot so it wouldn’t get towed to the highway. We talked while I laid on the stretcher about the growing opiate crisis. I told them I used to be an addict, they found that pretty surprising — I didn’t. So many people have the same struggle you wouldn’t be able to identify at a first glance.

I stayed at the hospital as long as I would have been at work. Three hours in the waiting room. When I was admitted the resident doctor asked me a thousand questions, and meanwhile I just kept thinking: I had a panic attack. That’s all this was. Yet of course she wanted to rule out everything else in the book — I just wanted to go home and sleep.

I felt like I failed, I felt so defeated. I felt like I just wanted to crawl back into the hole I scratched myself out of.

The sad reality of anxiety attacks is I don’t think there will ever a point in my life where I will be rid of them. It’s just my natural predisposition that every few years the earth will shatter beneath my feet and I will end up completely diminished by things I can’t control. It’s also hard for me to believe that out of all the coping mechanisms I’ve been taught in countless hours of therapy, I couldn’t bring myself out of it.

I used to experience these intense attacks multiple times a day while I was in college for journalism. I assume it’s some evidence of progress that I hadn’t had one in three years to this point, but it doesn’t feel like it. After every single time I’ve felt defeated and diminished, and back to ground zero.

I thought I was over this, but I doubt I ever will be.

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