Panic with a side of panic, please.

I had a horrible week last week. Really, these last few weeks have been fucking atrocious. But last week was a monster all its own.

I ended up spending St. Patrick’s Day night in the local emergency room with a bunch of people who got a little too carried away drinking. There’s nothing like being surrounded by deluded drunks, angry nurses, and the permeating smell of vomit.That’s exactly the opposite of how I wanted to spend my night.

I wanted to be at home sleeping. I was at home, lying in bed, preparing to go to sleep for the night when shitstorm 2.0 began.

I go to bed early. Hell, sometimes I’m in bed while it’s still light out. I have a horrible sleep cycle even when my sleeping is relatively stable; I sleep an hour or two, then wake, then sleep an hour or two, then wake. I have to wake up at 4:30 AM because I work early. When most people are eating dinner, I’m in bed reading a book and getting ready to sleep.

So anyway, I did not want to have any interactions or conversations. It was already past my bedtime. This really should have been respected. I was available during the day, but no, it had to be when I was tucked in bed. I politely declined a conversation. More than once. Initiate shitstorm. Screaming, yelling, cursing, name-calling, kicking, punching, whatevering my door. Well, I guess I’m not getting any sleep. And now I’m irritated, and upset, and frustrated, and scared. Violated boundaries. Flying off the handle.

It’s hard to have a conversation with someone who is in an emotionally volatile state. I tried, but it wasn’t working very well. The entire time my heart was pounding and my internal world was imploding, until I finally broke and had a full-blown panic attack. I don’t even really remember everything that happened during the attack. I guess there were police there. I remember the paramedic and the ambulance ride. I remember being absolutely fucking exhausted and in fear that they were going to hospitalize me.

But they didn’t. Just an ER observation, thankfully. Got home eventually, laid in bed with my mind racing despite my exhaustion. Finally fell asleep only to wake up an hour later to shower and walk to the bus stop for work. Let’s just pretend like nothing ever happened. I’ve been so good at that all of my life. Nothing’s wrong here. Move along now.

I realized while I was waiting outside of work that I still had my hospital bracelet on. I was so exhausted, I didn’t even care. I just wanted to get through work. Somehow I needed to get through work. I’m surprised I managed to walk the mile without passing out. I was fortunate in that.

Work started out fine. I was visibly exhausted, but I still got my work done like a boss. I even finished my work early and started helping my supervisor out with another task. As my work day got closer to ending, I felt my anxiety getting worse. I was more on edge. I had less than an hour left of work and it just hit me. I started hyperventilating and walked to the back where no one would see me. I sat on a stool and tried to catch my breath, but after a minute, I knew this wasn’t asthma and that it wasn’t going to get better.

I started to panic even more, struggling to catch my breath and crying. My coworker heard me and went to get help, and before I knew it I was surrounded by my very concerned coworkers. I think I scared some of them. They weren’t sure what to do, if they should call 911. I told them no. I quite literally had just gotten out of the hospital hours before, I did not want to go back; that would have surely resulted in an inpatient hospitalization.

Someone brought me a bottle of water. My manager came and tried to calm me down. I was such a mess. I cried all over the desk, had snot all over my face, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t calm down. I don’t even know how long the attack went on for. But I know my manager stayed with me the whole time, rubbing my back and telling me I was safe and that it was going to be okay.

I eventually calmed down enough so that we could walk to the lounge. I still felt like I couldn’t breathe, but I wasn’t hyperventilating. I must have apologized to my manager at least 100 times, and I’m not even exaggerating. She continued to try to calm me down, asked me what happened to trigger it, and told me I didn’t need to apologize. I still kept crying. I felt so bad for taking up her time (it was at least an hour by this time). She stayed with me through the whole thing, until I eventually passed out sitting at the table from exhaustion.

I woke up a couple of hours later, still exhausted, though my mind was kind of blank. I stayed sitting there for a while, not really wanting to leave. I was in a safe place. My manager checked in on me, asked me if there was anything I needed or wanted, but I told her it was okay. She had already done enough. And she had a shitload of her own work to do.

I knew I had a panic attack, but didn’t really remember everything that happened during it. Coworkers had actually filled me in on some things that I didn’t quite remember. I got through it. And I realized that I had a really amazing group of coworkers who went above and beyond in their responsibilities, because anyone else I’ve dealt with would have just called 911 and been done with it.

I ended up staying at work for a while. I sipped on water and tried to keep myself awake. But I knew I couldn’t stay at work forever. I worked up the energy to gather my things. I found my manager on my way out and thanked her. She asked if I was going to be okay – and I gave my standard “I’m okay” response. She gave me her number and said if I ever needed to just hang out somewhere, I could call her. She must not know I don’t ever call people.

I wish I was okay. But as I walked through the parking lot in front of my workplace, I felt myself panicking again. Fast, shallow breathing. Shaking. This was not happening again. Part of me wanted to turn around and go right back to work. I talked to myself, focused on my breathing, tried to remain calm as I walked across the highway to the shopping center. I convinced myself this place was safe. And I stayed there for a few hours, until the last bus of the day came. Then I knew I had to go home.

You would have thought I was practicing labor breathing exercises the whole way home. I sat on the bus consciously breathing out loud, telling myself I was going to be okay. I walked the rest of the way home, unlocked the door, went straight to my room and right to bed. I just couldn’t deal with anything else that day.

I’m still planning my days waiting for another panic attack to hit. I stay places where I feel safe. I try to distract myself whenever I can. I’m living on edge once again.

2 thoughts on “Panic with a side of panic, please.

  1. I did have one panic attack in my life. I do not want another, but too often one felt only a moment away. I am so sorry for how hard this. Slow and deeper breathing, which is what you already know, is all I would have to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

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