Three years ago, I suffered my first panic attack. Back when I was married.
I remember the morning well. I woke up very tired. My “husband” had been away for work, and that night I did not sleep. I felt like I had been awake the whole night. I probably dozed on and off, but no REM sleep. At all. I got the kids off to school and proceeded to my spin class. I am a fitness instructor.
I taught my class. I do not remember how it went. Probably fine. Knowing how tired I was, I probably did an endurance class which is geared to keep the heart rate steady, and create energy. Just what I needed that day.
I arrived home and it began. My left arm felt a bit sore. My heart felt like it was pounding in my chest. Was my breathing laboured? I knew I was not well. Was I having a heart attack? A stroke? What was wrong with me?
I contemplated calling 911. But I didn’t. I think subconsciously I knew I was ok. I just needed to get through whatever it was that was going on.
But I felt like I was going to die. Right then and there. Alone. In my apartment.
I contemplated calling my “husband”. I hesitated. He had just come off a red-eye flight and was at work for an important meeting. Of course now, I question everything.
I ended up calling him. He nonchalantly told me to go and lie down and that he would call me back in 20 minutes to see how I was doing.
Instead I called my doctor. His receptionist/wife answered the phone. I asked her to ask Dr. A to call me. She tried to get me to go into the office. She really wanted me to. I lived close. 3 blocks away. I could have. At that moment in time, I could not imagine getting myself out of the apartment, let alone the three blocks to the office. I was debilitated by fear and pain. She told me she would get Dr. A to call me as soon as he could.
I began to cry uncontrollably. I went and laid down in my bed. Cried and was praying for the doctor to call me back.
In the meantime, my cleaning lady arrived. My cleaning lady was not just any old, run of the mill cleaning lady. She was Rosa. Rosa had been cleaning for my inlaws for decades. She came to our rescue back when I was pregnant with #2 and became a high risk pregnancy due to bleeding. After a brief period of us being away from the country, she started back with us when we returned. She was my surrogate mother. Supportive and loving. When she walked in and found me in bed, crying, she came and wrapped her arms around me.
She knew what was going on. At the same time this was happening to me, my father inlaw was ill and in the hospital. To make a long story short, my often absent “husband” was even more distracted than normal and understandable at the time, the kids and I fell to the bottom of the pecking order. Even lower than his work. On a side note, we never climb out of that bottom spot on the list of importance.
Dr. A called me back. Through our conversation he deduced that I had a panic attack. Common considering I was also suffering a middle ear infection.
He prescribed Xanax. I never took them. I was too afraid of what they would do.
Over the next two years I would have another 3 panic attacks. Always after a night of not sleeping well. Always when my “husband” was away. Always feeling like I was going to die. I quickly learned how to talk myself down. To realize that I was ok. That I just needed to breathe.
The past 9 months of my life have been the most stressful of my life. The first three months after he left, I was barely functioning. Barely sleeping. Barely eating.
Just hazard a guess at the number of panic attacks I have had since he left.
The person I loved more than anything in the world walked out on me. With very little warning. And even on that fateful day, I would have gone to the end of the earth for him. The days following, I would defend him. It was just a mid-life crisis. He was just lost.
Even when I realized that he was never coming back, I did not have one panic attack.
Oh, and that day when I had my first panic attack? He said he would call me back in 20 minutes. He never called. Not even to check on me.