Don’t Panic. Or, Panic, But Then Remember to Breathe and That Everything Will Be OK.

Like a lot of people, the last few weeks have been stressful and mentally exhausting. So when my alarm rang this morning to get me up for a dog walking gig in the still dark hours of the AM, I reluctantly got up. I spent my whole ride there crying about things I have zero control over, wishing I could just go home and curl up in bed. But as I walked in, I was greeted by three delightful dogs. And one was this beautiful, affectionate puppy. I loved him so much, and as we started out the door, he was so sweet and wanted to be pet and give kisses almost as much as he wanted to walk. It reminded me that while a lot in the world seems overwhelming and chaotic now, everything is going to be OK. And I really needed this, because last weekend I had my first panic attack.

Before I continue, I am sharing this not to be dramatic or to gain sympathy, but just in the hope that other people who are feeling the same way, will know that they aren’t alone.

Saturday evening, I was sitting on my couch feeling a headache coming on and when I stood up to go get my Excederin, I had chest pain, followed by a sharp pain in my stomach. I immediately sat on the floor, laid down and I asked Alexa what the symptoms of a heart attack were. I had a moment of fear, thinking that the ER was the last place I wanted to be right now, and was worried about overwhelming the already busy staff. But as Alexa rattled off her very thorough explanation from the Mayo Clinic, a little thing in the back of my brain said, “if you have the ability to ask Alexa, you probably aren’t sick enough for this to be a heart attack.” So instead I asked her “what are the symptoms of a panic attack.” Turns out they are remarkably similar, with a few key differences, enough to reassure me that what I was experiencing was the latter. I told myself I was going to lie on the ground and try and breathe and it would be OK. I meditate almost daily and do yoga when I can, so this deep breathing technique seemed like a good solution. After a few minutes I was able to turn my short breathes into long ones and ride it out. Panic attack over. Then I just cried for a long time, and the only lingering side effect was that my nervous stomach was a mess for days.

I didn’t tell many people. I didn’t want to sound overdramatic, or cause people to worry about me. Over a situation that had passed and was out of my control. And I didn’t want to seem like I was panicking unnecessarily about the current Coronavirus situation. I am well aware that a LOT of people are feeling nervous like I am. Doesn’t make me special. I’m not personally worried about getting ill, just worried about the larger world situation and the trickle down effect of all the cancellations. I know everyone is stressed about finances (it has definitely hindered my uber/lyft driving) and given me a lot of general uncertainty. And uncertainty always makes me nervous. On a typical non-stressful day I run best and worst case scenarios in my head all of the time. I recently did some reading about a personality test called the Enneagram, which clocked me as an E6, which means that my personality is caring, happy-go-lucky worrywart. 

While I’ve still had a lot of stress and anxiety all week, I’ve been extra meditating, going for walks and drinking, my three favorite coping mechanisms. But the affection of a sweet pet, mine or otherwise, is always a bonus.

Anyway, if you are also feeling stressed and need someone to talk to in this time of social distancing, feel free to reach out to me to chat, we can do some deep breathing together, or I will attempt to tell distracting stories about dumb things I’ve done or said or thought, or we can discuss the ridiculousness of Love is Blind or Grey’s Anatomy. Because I think that while many of us are being forced to be apart at this time, the best way to get through this is together.

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