Saturday night, driving home from Time Out For Women in Spokane, I had a panic attack. I haven’t had a panic attack in almost 11 years!
I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was in high school. After talking with my therapist at the time, it had appeared that I had been battling anxiety since I was a child. Some how I had managed it and thankfully it wasn’t any worse than it was.
My anxiety revolves mostly around three things. Testing, weather, and fireworks. I get anxious about other things too, but those three are the worst.
We had checked the weather over pass at the Montana/Idaho boarded and it was going to be snowy. There isn’t much you can do other than pray and drive slow. As soon as Time Out For Women was over, we jumped in the car, got our dinner to go and texted our husbands (I went with my mom) and hit the road. I was a good kind of tired from the weekend but was otherwise feeling great and refreshed!
We’re talking and driving and we come to the bottom of the pass. The roads at this point are wet but not bad, little flurries are starting to fall. We round a corner are inundated with tale lights of what looked like 8-10 semi’s all crowded at the side of the road putting their chains on. All of a sudden, my heart start started racing and my body started to feel weak, like right before you pass out. I close my eyes and do the same thing I’ve done since I was little. I close my eyes, started breathing deep, and talked to myself. I said over and over again, “you are just fine. There is nothing wrong. Everything is ok. Just breathe and relax. You go this. You are okay. Calm down.” all the the phrases that I have worked for me for the last decade whenever I feel like I might loose it. The harder I tried to control it, the worse it seemed to get. I could no longer breathe. Right before I started hyperventilating I was able to squeak out that I couldn’t breathe. Then I lost it. I could no longer fight it. I could no longer control it. I felt frozen. I felt like I was starting to drown. I wanted to curl into a little ball, but I couldn’t even squeeze my mom’s hand as she held mine.
It passed after a few minutes and we got back on the road. I felt ashamed. Embarrassed. Alone. Broken. How did this happen? Why did this happen? I haven’t had a real panic attack in 11 years?! Why now? It was hardly snowing, the roads weren’t bad…. Why? They only think we could come up with the semi’s. That’s the last thing we saw before I panicked.
I was completely wiped out after that. I couldn’t even talk. It took everything I had to say sorry to my mom for not talking to her to keep her awake. For the rest of the drive and the last few days I have been trying to tune in and figure out what happened. To process the whole situation and try and learn from it.
I think I might have figured out what happened, but it still doesn’t make sense because it had been 11 years. What I learned out of this experience though, is that I am not broken. I am not alone. Prayers can be answered quickly. You can’t control everything. Sometimes you just have to let go.
I am grateful that I have been able to self-manage my anxiety disorder my whole life. Not everyone is able to do that. I am also grateful for a husband who has been able to help me self-manage. There have been moments where I have wondered if he had been in the car with me if it would have all happened differently. Regardless, as weird as this sounds, I am grateful it happened because I learned a lot in processing the situation.
Don’t forget to take time to tune into yourself often! When we are in tune with ourselves, we can be more in tune with the spirit!