I was at a conference for the last three days. We tacked on a day at the beginning. So, that’s four days of airplanes rides, sleeping in hotels, being in crowds of people, and having to stand and talk to people. Each of these things on their own can cause me to have panic attacks and I’m going for the trifecta plus for multiple days. I have some Ativan left over from when Shayna passed two years ago. I have taken them with me on trips before, just in case I needed them to help me sleep or to deal with the stressors, but I haven’t actually taken one while away. I looked to see if taking expired Ativan would hurt me, but I decided to leave them at home.
It’s day two of the conference, my third day there, and I’m doing really well. I’m not getting a lot of sleep (we were up for 21 hours straight the day we arrived) and I’m still adjusting to Pacific time, but I’m not feeling any ill effects. I have breakfast by myself. Yummy. I had a made to order omelet, fried potatoes, bacon, danishes, yogurt with granola, and decaf coffee.
As I’m sitting in the session that morning, I notice my fingertips are cold and my hands are sweaty. This was the normal for me in crowds in the past and still happens sometimes. But, usually lately my hands are pretty warm, even in crowds. It didn’t happen yesterday in the session. And, it hasn’t happened for a while. No big deal. But, I noticed it. As I leave the session, I’m stopped on the way to the elevator by a friend I’ve known for several months now. As we’re talking, suddenly my heart starts to race, my head gets very light and my hands are sweating like crazy. I’m feeling dizzy. I’m in the middle of a full blown panic attack. I’ve never passed out; so, I can’t say know what that feels like, but it feels like I’m going to to lose consciousness or leave my body or just die right here. I still have mild panic attacks every once in a while. This is a really bad one. I start eyeing the elevator, my escape, which is only a few feet away. “How to smoothly end this conversation and get over there and up to my room?”
The women I’ve been with this weekend are going shopping. We’re in the lobby of the hotel and some of them are gathered there. i just need to say goodbye and make it a few feet to the elevator and no one will ever know. I’ve never told anyone that I am having a panic attack while I’m having the panic attack. The attention would just make it all the worse.
As all of this is going through my head I hear myself say to my friend “I’m sorry. I’ve got to sit down. I’m having a panic attack.” My internal voice goes “What did you just say? Why did you tell her?” But, there is it is. I said it. Time to go sit down. I make my way over to a chair in the lobby and sit down. She goes over and tells Tywana who brings me a cup of water. We continue our conversation. There are a couple of strangers sitting there talking with us. I have the water. Slowly, as I engage in the conversation, my heart rate returns to normal, my breathing deepens, and I feel better. They go off on their shopping trip. I head up to my room, still feeling some lingering effects but feeling much better. I step out on the patio and feel the heat of the Phoenix air which helps bring me back into my body (the hotel air conditioning is cranked way too high for my liking). I meditate for twenty minutes and I’m back.
Then, i think about this. What caused me to have the panic attack? I haven’t had one in a while, at least nothing like that. And, why now? I’m feeling really comfortable with the people I’m with, many of whom are like old friends. The energy in the conference is amazing loving and welcoming. I was talking to someone I’ve only known for a few months, but it seems like it’s been years. Then, it dawns on me. I drink decaffeinated coffee because I’m practically allergic to caffeine. I’m very careful about how much caffeine I ingest and I usually avoid it all together. A fear I have is i’m going to order decaf and someone is going to give me regular. And I know how careless people can be when making decaf and regular at the same time. “Who cares if the caffeine people get decaf or vice versa?” I’m pretty sure that coffee I had this morning was not decaf. That would explain the sweaty palms in the session. As long as I was sitting down, I could handle it. But, the combination of standing and talking and the air conditioning in the hotel with the rich amount of caffeine I’m pretty sure is what started the cycle. Once a panic attack is in motion, it has a mind of its own.
Then, the deeper reason hit me. The person I was talking with reads my blog. A lot of people read my blog and think I’m so strong, I’m doing so well (I’m not sure how that happens, but it does. They tell me). I think maybe the panic attack happened at that moment so she would know I’m just as vulnerable as she is. I could have escaped. I’m really good at hiding when these things happen and finding a way of slipping away. I’ve been dealing with them 40 years on and off and I’ve never told anyone before while I was having one. Why did I do it then? This is the conclusion I have come to. It was for her benefit and for mine. For me, it was a step forward in being more real and vulnerable. I haven’t told anyone before because it would make me look weak and that’s not the image I want to portray. So, to make matters worse, now Spirit tells me I’m suppose to write about the panic attack. Not only does one other person know, two counting Ty, I’m supposed to tell the entire world (well the subset that reads my blog). C’mon.
So, yeah. There’s that. Panic attack. Weird.