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In a Panic

I had a panic attack last night. What an ordeal. This was the second time I’ve had one. The first time was in 1995, when I had a lot of emotional issues to deal with. This one from last night was comparatively mild, but I still wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What frightened me the most is that, as of recently, I haven’t been going through that much stress. It was just the thought of having a million little things that were left undone or unfinished that made me temporarily unglued.

It started early in the evening. I was going through a vague feeling of tension as the night went on. Christopher decided to put on a National Geographic special on Africa that he recorded. The show was hosted by Lisa Ling. I know it sounds funny, but I started thinking to myself, “Lisa Ling shouldn’t be hosting this piddly little show about Africa, she needs to try and free her sister in North Korea.” Then I was thinking about what Lisa Ling must be thinking about, what Christopher must be thinking about, then about the millions of little things in my life that were going on. I was quickly becoming overstimulated, and that sent me into a spiral of fright. I told Christopher that I needed to take a break, and that I might be having a panic episode (luckily I had enough sense and experience to at least somewhat know what was happening).

Christopher suggested taking a walk. Not knowing what to do, I agreed. It was actually a good thing. C. kept pointing out little things along our street, which kept me distracted. I was still feeling weird, however. When C. wanted to know if we should continue, I thought “If I can make it to the next corner and back, everything will be all right.” When we did make it to the corner, I felt some relief.

After returning home, I was still feeling anxious, so I went into my bedroom and lied down in the dark. The worst of the panic attack came on. I was sweating, my heart was pounding, and my limbs felt numb and heavy. Suicidal thoughts, thoughts of “am I going crazy?” came to me. Anybody who has gone through this can tell you that it’s the worst possible experience anyone can imagine. It was an oppressive feeling of hopelessness, but in the back of my mind I knew that if I stayed still and waited it out, those feelings would subside. After an hour or so, they did subside. I was still feeling groggy and disoriented, but at least we could enjoy Kathy Griffin together later that evening.

I’m feeling a lot better today, and even accomplished a few of those little things that previously worried me. One just has to take it one day at a time. Having a supportive sweetie helps. Also, I have to lay off having cereal for dinner!

6 Thoughts on “In a Panic

  1. Brad In Worcester on July 15, 2009 at 7:17 am said:

    Ohhhh man; I can relate.
    My dad told me how he would stay in bed for days as a college freshman, afraid to make one wrong move in his new situation. He would “freeze”, then sink into despair.
    Thus, I’ve got the genetic disposition as well, AND I make my living as an actor, so if I “screw up” I screw up in front of judgemental strangers who will forever know what a fraud I am.
    Of course the real trick is to realize “It is only a play; you’re not ‘screwing up’, and if you WERE screwing up, these people will not hate anyway. THEY WANT YOU TO SUCCEED.”
    Took me Years Of Therapy to digest that one.
    And to top it all off, my wife is going through intermittent stress attacks about once a week.
    And I’m the one who has to make it all good.

  2. Matt, I’m so sorry you had to go through the panic attack, but glad you are OK! I think life these days has everyone stressed out to various degrees, but it’s good to know Christopher was there for you and that you were able to get through it. Take good care of yourself, my friend!

  3. Matt – sorry to hear about your episode – I just read “Born Standing Up” by Steve Martin and he describes an anxiety attack he had – bad stuff. Hang in there…

  4. Thanks for your comforting words, gentlemen. It truly means a lot to me.

  5. In my experience, going for a lie-down in the dark isn’t a good idea. That just leaves you alone with the panic. It can be better to do something dull but that stimulates your brain. Like, go to a mall and people watch, or do a jigsaw puzzle. Trivial Pursuit could be good, something where you keep having to answer little questions that don’t matter at all. Occupy your brain, and don’t leave the panic room to grow in your mind. It’ll get bored and go away.

  6. Good advice, Greg.

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