(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.)
The worst part about panic is that it’s not always predictable.
Sure, there are triggers sometimes. I’ve got plenty of them identified. Perhaps you do, too.
But every once in awhile, panic emerges from nowhere. Like last night.
I was at a wedding reception with my fiance. Perhaps strangely, I was actually enjoying myself! What a rare treat.
Without relying on Xanax, I socialized without fear, I ate dinner without what I like to call “panic belly,” and I even danced (just a little bit!) to a few songs without that super-rapid heartbeat that tends to sneak up and trip the panic wire.
I was ready to call the night a huge win when I walked up to the DJ to request a song. He handed me the bride’s “PLAY THESE SONGS!” list and said I could pick one to play next. I scanned the list (of mostly country songs; not my thing) and got excited when I saw the first non-country, feel-good song: Come On Eileen.
“Play that one next!” I exclaimed.
He queued up the song and I joined my fiance’s family on the dance floor when the first new notes of Come On Eileen started playing.
THE FIFTH RULE
I started to rock out. Why not, right? I was doing just fine.
“Poor old Jonny Ray,” the lyrics began. Immediately, I felt a little lightheaded. Was it the dancing? Was it the song? I tried to brush off the uncomfortable feeling.
“Sounded sad upon the radio; he moved a million hearts in mono…”
A million hearts…hearts. My heart. Oh shit. My heart was beating pretty quickly. Rapid heartbeat + lightheadedness. Where was this coming from? I hadn’t even been feeling scared or anxious! I was dancing, enjoying myself, and spending time with my family-to-be.
Where was this coming from? And because it seemed to come out of nowhere, was that an indicator that this might be a legitimate medical problem and not just the first tremblings of a panic attack?
That’s the thought that put me over the edge.
I excused myself mid-song from the dance floor, grabbed a cup of water, and walked outside of the reception hall. I stood against the warm exterior wall and tried to soak up the last traces of evening sunlight. Still feeling light in the head, I tried to ground myself by focusing on tangible things: grass, mulch, bushes. The sweat dripping from my cup of ice water. The texture of my cocktail dress. The building’s grainy concrete wall.
But no matter what I tried, I felt myself growing more distant from the concrete world. When the tunnel vision set in, I rushed off to the (relative) safety of my fiance’s car. I needed to calm down, and I needed to try out Rule #5:
Wait for fear to pass. Wait and give the fear time to pass. Do not fight it or run away from it. Just accept it.
I sat, I waited, and I tweeted:
Check back soon for the second part of this story.
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Last reviewed: 24 May 2012