The Camel is Back

It's inexplicable.  The onset is both sudden and dramatic.  My palms start sweating and then tingling.  I was suddenly so hot that even blasting the air conditioning directly in my face from all angles could not cool me down.  I felt both dizzy and so nauseous that I worried I might vomit right there.  The worst part is that I was driving North on the 405.  The saving grace was that my friend/colleague, Carly, was in the passenger seat.  I needed to pull off the freeway immediately but the next exit was closed, due to construction.  Then, when we finally got off, there was no side of the road - no place to turn into.  Carly offered to take over but I didn't see how I would even be able to get out of my seat, walk around the car and get into hers.  Eventually, I did get out of the car and Carly drove us home.  Thank god it was her in the car with me.  I haven't had a panic attack like this in over two years - and while this one was nowhere near as bad as the last one - it was still scary.

And, what is so weird, is that there was seemingly no reason for it at all.  Yes, I have been feeling really low these last few days.  And, yes, I had two cups of coffee at our breakfast meeting even though I gave up caffeine (for the most part) a few months ago.  But, there was nothing so dramatic that would have set this off.  We had a really exciting meeting in the morning with a donor of hers.  I was feeling both incredibly jazzed about it and also a little overwhelmed as I have not had a super productive and inspired meeting in like this in a long time and to really make our plan happen will take a lot of work and convincing. But, frankly, I don't think the panic had anything to do with the meeting (more likely the coffee).  I am just trying to piece it all together.

I finally calmed down by breathing very slow and deep.  The relief doesn't come as immediately as I am hoping it will in the moment and it sort of creates more panic because you worry that the breathing won't work and maybe you will be stuck like this for a while.  Then, even after you sort of pull it all back together, the physical trauma of the whole thing lasts for the rest of the day.  It feels like being REALLY hungover or what I imagine it would feel like after getting knocked out.  It's awful.

You try to figure out what went wrong so that you can make sure it doesn't happen again but the truth is that it is likely something so small that you will never be able to pin point it.  It is the straw that breaks the camels back.  It is what comes from carrying around a nightmare in your heart and head all day every day and trying to exist as normally as possible in a completely foreign and frightening world.  It can be nothing more than your body's way of saying - "Enough already!  You need to start breathing deeply and then spend the rest of the day on the couch or you will be punished!"  Panic attacks are completely new to me since losing Max.  I never knew or understood what people were talking about when they said they'd had them.  I wish I still didn't know.


Stephanie said...

I'm probably just being an armchair psychologist here, but perhaps the joy of the successful meeting reminded you of the past and it felt like a betrayal of Maxie. Just speculating here. I'm so glad that you weren't alone.

Abby Leviss said...

I was thinking that too Steph!

robyn said...

Abby, I am so sorry to hear about your panic attack. I am glad you had someone there with you and I hope that you don't experience another one of these. love you.