Anxiety and panic attacks carry with them an enormous variety of side affects that can vary from person to person. One that is extremely common is the feeling of embarrassment. When suffering from a disease that you can’t really see from the outside, and people often say is “all in your head,” who can blame us for feeling a little silly about it from time to time.
I have had panic attacks in more places than I care to remember, and have done my fare share of ridiculous things in the midst of them. I share not because I’m proud of these things, but to encourage others that while we may do some odd things, this disease is nothing to be embarrassed about, and not something that you should ever fear talking about simply to avoid being laughed at.
1. I got a police escort
I was living in a new city and I had no idea where the closest emergency room was. I frantically searched in my phone and saw that it was about 15 miles away, the pain in my chest surged as I skidded out of the parking lot terrified that I wouldn’t make it. I was already embarrassed enough that I had just ran out of work in the middle of helping a customer, and it was about to get much worse.
I made it within about two miles of the emergency room when I pulled up along side of a police officer. I couldn’t take it anymore. I slammed on my horn, he looked over at what I’m sure was a bizarre sight to see me flailing my arms screaming “hospital, chest pain.” He casually pointed forward, and with no regard to his presence I was quickly going 20 miles an hour over the limit. Noticing my obvious distress he sped up in front of me, turn ed his lights on, and I followed him to the hospital. It was like some weird anxious motorcade.
Upon arrival I pulled up on the curb and ran in again screaming “chest pain.” It was a panic attack. A few hours later I sheepishly walked out to my still curb-parked car and drove away and discretely as I could.
2. I’ve called an ambulance
While it’s happened three times, one was more dramatic than the others. I was driving a u-haul, which in itself will make any person a little nervous, when I began to hyperventilate. As a result my hands started to seize up, and then my arms and my chest. I nearly hit the gas pumps of the station I pulled in to.
With my hands completely seized shut I couldn’t operate my phone. I barely managed to get the door opened as I fell to the ground and yelled for an ambulance. Just a few minutes later I was greeted by a parade of emergency vehicles. They ran a few tests in the ambulance and determined I was panicking and set me free.
By now the few people that were there upon my dramatic arrival had spawned into a fairly decent sized group of gawkers. With my head down, I got back in the truck and drove away, feeling very very stupid.
3. I’ve cried like a blubbering baby
Anxiety is an exhausting disease. For those of you don’t know how it feels, imagine the worst situation you’ve ever been in and being stuck there, all the time, with no escape. Just as with any other horrible scenario, anxiety takes a massive emotional toll on its victims, myself included.
I am a 31 year-old, 230lbs former SCUBA instructor who has been brought to his knees with tears hundreds of times. There is no shame in this, the worst thing you can do is bottle it up and let yourself implode. If crying helps, get a tissue and let it rip.
4 I listen to Justin Bieber
This is probably one of my more embarrassing admissions, but when I can feel the panic coming on there’s just something about the Biebs song, ‘Eenie Meenie’, that makes me feel better. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, I find myself a little bit creepy for this, but it helps so I’m okay with it. If it makes you feel better, do it.
This illness is not something we can just tuck away, and we shouldn’t have to worry about saving face or being embarrassed because of something that is out of our control. So I encourage you to stop worrying about the things that make you blush and focus your attention on beating this thing, who cares if you look a little funny along the way. I personally will never put my pride ahead of my fight with anxiety. So if you see a big guy driving around D.C. bumping old-school Bieber, throw me a wave.
Always remember, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Live it!