There is so much to fear in this world, if you choose to pay attention. I try not to pay attention. I focus on all the happy things in the world, like cupcakes and puppies and long baths with lavender salts.
There are days when it doesn’t work. I’m cruising through a day, bright and shiny when anxiety stops me in my happy little tracks.
Suddenly, something terrifying happens. Freak accidents. Terrorist attacks. A glaucoma test at the eye doctor.
Okay, the first two don’t cause me to tremble often, but yesterday when my eye doctor put the funky eye numbing drops in my eyes to do a glaucoma test (which really, why do I need it?) I passed out. Cold.
I’ve successfully managed three pregnancies, natural childbirth, a c-section, Chronic Lyme Disease, CAT Scans, MRI’s and root canal. I’ve cantered horses through open fields without fear and I didn’t flinch when I said I do. But those eye drops, they threw me for a loop. I was out in seconds.
Last year, while having blood drawn I had a similar panic attack that drew a crowd. And by crowd, I mean a team of EMT’s who finally revived me with oxygen. On first check, they couldn’t find my pulse. When I told them that it was just a panic attack and that I would be fine in a few minutes, they insisted I look at my hands.
Ever been to a wake with an open casket? I looked like a corpse. I refused to go to the ER. They thought I was crazy. They were right, in a way, but I know this kind of crazy very, very well.
I was born this way. I have a very early memory of panic while standing at the top of the stairs in my parent’s house, getting dizzy, and waking up at the bottom of the stairs.
My first public display of panic happened in an 8th grade science class. Then a year later I fainted in church. Marble floors hurt. Then it happened in college, at a bar on Fordham Road in the Bronx. It seems that when I hit the ground in the crowded bar, the bouncers simply carried me out to the curb, dropped me there and walked away in the middle of a winter night in a not so desirable area of the city. New York City curbs hurt almost as much as church floors.
It never happened when I was climbing the side of a cliff. It never happened when I was on stage in front of hundreds of people or competing for a sparkly tiara on national TV. It never happened when I felt the weight of responsibility that came with holding a new born baby in my arms.
I feel compelled to share this now, because at the eye doctor’s office something strange happened. My doctor understood. She explained what goes on in my body when I have a panic attack so intense that I pass out. She was sympathetic, as only someone who has been there can be. While a therapist can be helpful, talking to someone like me yet still totally normal sets my mind at ease. She’s a successful doctor, mom of three girls and suffers from anxiety. She’s hit the floor unexpectedly in absurd places too.
Waking up on the floor in strange places has taught me something important. This has forced me to count on – and be grateful for – the kindness of strangers who pick me up and send me on your way. It’s clear that I cannot do this on my own. And I try to do everything on my own.
And now I can accept this all, finally. I have a problem. I know. I’ve tried treating it and I will continue to work at overcoming it. Until then, I’m going back to focusing on all the good things in life and the people that wake me up when I check out, dust me off and tell me everything is going to be just fine.