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How My Boss Responded When I Had a Panic Attack at Work

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It’s been a good while since I had a panic attack. I’ve been doing so well in my life with anxiety that I’ve been learning how to manage myself when it comes to me being in panic mode. But just like a light switch, the one dark evening at work is when everything changed.

I work in a coffee shop. It’s the busiest coffee shop in the city. There’s always a line down the street in the drive through and people lining up down the door. It’s a really stressful job, and it’s stressful enough dealing with customers left and right. I was in drive through one evening and handed a customer their coffee. In the blink of an eye, I saw a car pulling around to get in line in the drive through. I immediately panicked. I lost it. I knew these people and knew the history we had. I was unwanted in their eyes. These people always made me feel so small and I knew they really disliked me. My head started to hurt because the panic was too intense. I took my headset off and ran to the back. I was shaking. I was almost in tears. I was so scared of seeing these people who despised me that it led me to a full out panic attack.

I went up to my shift supervisor and told her what was going on. I told her I couldn’t go back to the drive through window. I told her I couldn’t go back out there to be seen. I wanted to stay hidden. I felt myself feeling weak, and she couldn’t believe I was panicking like this. She knew I had anxiety, but she’d never seen me like this. She had to switch me with another girl’s position until I was OK again to work again in the drive through window.

I went home that night not only exhausted, but sick to my stomach. The panic attack I had at work made me feel sick for the rest of the night. I was disappointed in myself for not being able to do any breathing exercises during the episode, but then I realized I can’t be so hard on myself. Days later, I found out the shift supervisor told the rest of the shift supervisors what had happened to let them know what happened was real. She said I wasn’t faking it. At first I was upset, but then I thought more about it and knew she was just looking out for me. And so, I thank her for that.

If it wasn’t for my shift supervisor and my co-workers on the floor, I probably would have lost my mind at work that evening. Thankfully, they tried their best to understand and help me.

Getty Images photo via Inner_Vision

Originally published: April 7, 2018
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