I haven’t had one in ages. The last time I had a full blown panic attack was over 12 years ago, when I was lost in Seattle, and I couldn’t remember where we parked after the Seafair parade. It was absolutely debilitating, and I just couldn’t function. I had my daughter with me, and I must have scared her half to death.
I’ve since learned how to recognize what a panic attack ‘looks like’ for me, and to know how to combat the feeling before it gets out of hand. But this one, I didn’t see coming. I wasn’t looking for it, and it didn’t come on suddenly. It was one of those slow-to-boil panic attacks, very much like how one would put a lobster into a cool pot of water, and then turn up the heat.
Yesterday, I just couldn’t seem to get motivated to leave the house. I made all the tasks that I had to do be inside, and near my desk. I had calls to make, but yet, didn’t make them. I had family commitments to attend to, but didn’t go to them. I have several events the rest of this month I have to attend/run/work at, so it wasn’t an opportune time to ‘take a break’ from life. I got what I had to do in the house done, but not much else.
As the day progressed, I started to understand what was going on. I get on Facebook, and I start to see the 9/11 pictures go up on statuses and pages. I didn’t realize the date until last night that 12 years ago, we were in NY, visiting friends and family, quite by surprise (for them – we lived on the West coast, and moved back East a few days before), and we were on our way back home to Massachusetts. I was home by the time the second plane hit the tower after sending my then boyfriend to work, and daughter off to school. I remember being in the Towers 10 years before, on a date, pressing my head against the glass to look down, recalling how, even that far up, that ice crystals change over to rain, before they hit the ground. The hyperventilating began, and my heart began to race. Tears rolled down my face as I sat on the couch, just frozen to the spot, hands firmly stuck under my legs.
I had to tell myself that these events are two separate incidents, and it’s OK to be upset, but it’s not OK to stay upset. I shook myself, to bring me to the present. All I could do is sit and just be aware that it’s 2013, not 2011. I’m not in Massachusetts, by myself, glued to the TV. I closed my eyes, pried my hands away from my legs, and placed my right hand over my rapidly beating heart, and the left one over my stomach. Take a deep breath, I repeated to myself. As I got more and more calm, and aware of my surroundings, I got up and shook that mess (for the lack of a better word) off. I realize that it isn’t as easy for those who actually lost friends, family and colleagues, but sitting in that space of fear and despair wasn’t going to serve me today. What I need to do today is serve others.
As I sit here, finishing this post. I feel much better. I have clients to serve, and will shift my focus on how to help, as opposed to feeling helpless. Now that I know what was going on, and how I can do better, I think this 9/11 will be better for me than the last 12.