To support NaNoWriMo this month, I’m finishing the 30+ odd drafts laying about and posting them through the month of November.
I felt fine in LA and in Phoenix (no minute or heavy stress attacks) as I drove but somewhere around Las Cruces, NM I began to have a major panic attack. It was late at night, I was stuck between two semis and the 10 had turned into single, each way lanes coupled with high cement shoulders due to construction. To top this wondrous night off, it was raining and raining hard.
I began to panic.
I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t breathe and I was freaked out of my wits.
This stepped up the racing thoughts that any second I was going to careen into the cement shoulder, hit a semi or get run over by the semi behind me. After what seemed like hours but was probably only mere minutes, I pulled off the road when I found the first mom and pop motel where I grabbed a room for the night. Even by taking myself out of what I thought was a dangerous situation, my heart wouldn’t stop racing. I made deals, bets, begged, cajoled, pleaded and bargained with whatever deity was above me to make this end. Nothing happened. I paced my room, smoked a million cigarettes and did everything I thought of in my power but I could not calm down.
The situation was made more intense that while I was no longer freaking out about my impending death on the 10, new thoughts would appear about my situation. I was in the wilds of New Mexico! Alone! With hardly any money! No one I know for hundreds of miles! With a crap cell phone!1 I was literally thousands of miles from my destination, alone, nearly broke, and frightened and scared.
Common sense roused its stately head and forced me to go to the mom and pop of the mom and pop hotel, to explain in very poor pidgin Spanish, that I felt like I was unable to breathe because that was the first thing I could think of to tell them. I could hear the crackling of Spanish on the radio in the make-shift lobby as I spoke. I remember how warm the night felt against my skin and how the air hung with wetness from the recent downpour. I must have looked like a crazy person, standing there, begging for help in a reasonable voice while my heart raged on and clearly, able to breathe.
EMTs shortly arrived thereafter and gave me oxygen, which upon my first inhale I immediately calmed down. They found, just as the ER docs found a few weeks before, nothing wrong with me. Healthy as a horse. It is like once the attack has been fully addressed in some manner, it decides to leave as quickly as it sprang up. Instead of being thankful to the EMTs for the reassurance, I remember feeling chastened. Slightly ridiculous that I called them out in the middle of the night for a panic attack. Also a little stupid, a little insane and a whole lot of embarrassed.
Moments of lucidness during my attacks, when I knew I was fine and I knew I was not in harms way were always felt to be made like disappearing bread crumbs along a well worn road by the panic. It is a struggle, still in the now and sometimes almost daily, to differentiate between the world colored by anxiety and the world in which is real. It is an exhausting struggle within my brain to fight for what could be potentially destructive behavior as compared as to what is termed normal behavior.
I do not know.
1. Back in ye olde times when cell phones were bricks, on analog service and you paid by the minute.