I hadn’t had one in a really long time. Maybe a year or years, until she went to Florida with a friend six months ago and I started imagining her getting hurt and not being able to get to her for a several hour plane ride. It was bad. The racing heart, the shaking, the crying, the choking feeling, the hyperventilating, feeling like I couldn’t breathe, losing control of myself. Mostly the breathing – suffocating really.
Then last month, I show up in church, expecting it to be nearly empty. It was not. Standing room only. I stayed with my head down almost the entire time because the sea of bodies in front of me was too much to bear.
Claustrophobia set in, heart racing, rapid breathing, overwhelming urge to cry, depersonalization (I felt like I was out of my body watching everything from above the crowd,) shaking, twitching. I tried to stayed grounded by holding the book and following along with the readings and prayers. I made it through with friends on either side of me and behind me.
And now another one last week, after arriving in a crowded neighborhood filled with mom and pop restaurants, delis, and bakeries, expecting it to not be crowded. We had to park blocks away from our destination. The sun was in my eyes the entire walk and I forgot my sunglasses, and the temperature was cold. I felt the first twinges of agitation.
The people we met decided they wanted lunch before we went to the bakery. This was not the original plan. We walked several blocks looking for a place to have lunch that wasn’t overbooked and couldn’t find any place, so we gave up and went back to the bakery.
The bakery was small and packed, and we had to wait for our number to be called. I stood in a corner by the door and tried to stay out of everyone’s way, silently begging people to stop talking to me. Responding required too much concentration and my irritability level was now through the roof.
I was began to have shortness of breath, dizziness, feelings like things weren’t real, like I was in a dream. By the time we got in the car and drove away, I was fighting the urge to break out in tears. I felt like I was going crazy and going to lose control of myself, flail myself out of the car while it was moving or start speaking in jibberish language or something. I took an Ativan and my panic attack subsided about ten minutes later.
I usually take an Ativan in anticipation of crowded or stress producing/irritation producing events and then do ok. I didn’t in these cases because I wasn’t expecting them to be that way, which made them even more stressful because of the surprise factor to it, I suppose. Something to tell my doctor next time.