Panic at the Subway? 

That is a really lame, play on words title, but it’s kinda funny and it made me chuckle

Bella and her many “capes”

Any who. Real talk time: Panic Disorder

This started out as a Facebook post and it got way too long for that. I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post but things happen. Lately I haven’t been doing the best so I haven’t posted anything new but I want to get real for a moment and talk about “panic disorder”.  I am using quotes because I know some people read that in a whinny skeptical voice. which is understandable because, I mean, panic and anxiety disorder is just stressing over things you shouldn’t worry about, right? All it is, is over thinking and over reacting to little things.  It’s like a grown adult throwing a temper tantrum because they are a-special-little-snow-flake that didn’t get their way. I mean it’s probably just made up. It’s all in their head, Right? um no. wrong

**Clarification: that was sarcasm but it unfortunately stems from what real people have told me or others like me.
***Clarification 2: I mean technically it is all in my head… but I may be the only one that finds that ironic funny.

Bella is a goof

Back to the point at hand.

Let me start by saying this: panic disorder sucks. It is almost impossible to know what will trigger you and when. It’s like when you’re walking down the stairs in the dark and you think you’re on the last step so you step forward but then you fall because you had one more step and the ground is suddenly not under you. Basically it’s totally unexpected and can cause you to panic that brief moment until you stumble forward. But the ground catches you with hopefully minimal damage. Another way to imagine that sudden jump of fear would be if you’re standing on a solid surface, say a deck, and suddenly the boards break underneath you and you’re falling. I can’t believe people enjoy that adrenaline rush…

keeping me grounded

Anyway, back to the no step/ no floor thing, think of that. Only with panic attacks, the most mundane triggers can cause it and I mean ridiculous things can cause it like someone getting to close, something unexpected. Or once in my case, a picture frame not looking right, or another time,  a spider in a movie that doesn’t have a home (you can ask Andrew about those.) What ever it is happens and suddenly you can’t breathe, you can’t stand or talk. There is this sudden weight on your chest and it’s suffocating. Random Fact: many people confuse their first and usually only major panic attack, with heart attacks because the symptoms are so similar. Which is sad because heart attacks are one of the worst pains people will ever feel, but panic disorder patients sometimes feel that multiple times over a week. One time I had 7 in a day.

It’s like your proverbial floor falls right out from under you and now you are falling and you can’t stop the fall because you are paralyzed from fear. That is part of panic. There is another part of panic that needs to be pointed out too and that is the (sometimes) irrational (but not irrational to us) fears or little triggers that cause them. Which brings me to the reason I am writing this is A) to talk about it and B) sometimes writing it down helps me cope and man did I need it today.

Honestly, I feel really bad talking about it because it shows my weakness and I probably will seem down right rude. But it needs to be talked about because otherwise how can we expect to normalize talking about mental illness when no one wants to have “the real talks”.

Here is what happened today: quick back story, I am going through a med change and am slightly anxious which does not help.

Important note that this is the vest she was wearing. the sides say working and the back says no petting.

Anyway, I went to subway to get lunch for a meeting at work, I wasn’t being very talkative and Bella was “watching my back” when a gentlemen got in line behind us. While waiting for our sandwiches he tried to talk to me but I was keeping my answers short because I was antsy. I get to checkout and there are two counters in an L-shape, so I am effectively in a corner with Bella blocking my open side. I go to swipe my card when out of nowhere, it happens.

The guy next to us leans down and starts petting and talking to Bella. Just chatting away and petting her because “she’s so pretty” this is nothing new, but then, right there, in line at a subway I go to a lot frequently. I lost it. Straight up lost it.

I looked at him, horrified, as Bella immediately goes into alert mode and she starts pushing me back (to safety) and I practically yell at this guy. “Don’t pet her! She’s working!”

Bella now starts trying to guide me away or get me to sit down I don’t know which but she’s moving and trying to get me to move and I am paralyzed. Not by my reaction but this sudden grip of fear that is taking the breath out of me.

My sudden outburst obviously took him by surprise as well and he starts stammering “I didn’t know, how was I suppose to know”.

I, while still completely losing it, loudly state, “can’t you read! Her vest says it all over!”

By now I am red and blotchy and struggling to breathe And I quickly walk away. I can hear him quietly say “wow” and mumble but I couldn’t hear because of the rushing noise in my head and all I could think was “get the drinks and go to the car. Just get the drinks and go to the car”

Some how, I got our drinks, got to the car and immediately I started bawling. Which is and was ridiculous. I have “safe” uneventful encounters like this multiple times a week. People always talk to me about Bella and usually I’m okay with that. But panic disorder doesn’t care about that. It doesn’t care that I had to go to work after. Or that I offended someone for “not being nice”. Or that really I was fine and everything should have been fine.

Bella was not happy with my mental state when we went back to work.

No, panic disorder doesn’t care about any of that. It never considers what I am doing, or how people will respond or what they might think of me after. It most certainly doesn’t care that I get incredibly exhausted afterwards and can’t do anything. It just doesn’t give a crap about any of that. Which is extremely hard to deal with. It makes you feel helpless and vulnerable.

I’m so happy to have her.

That feeling of helplessness is why I felt the need to share this; because even though my panic disorder doesn’t care, I care. I hope others can care too. Not necessarily that others need to care more about me (because really, everyone reading this is most likely already a huge support) but I want you to read this and care about others. I am sure, at some point in your life, even if you weren’t aware at the time, I am sure you have or will be around someone who has a panic attack. And I want you to show them compassion because we can’t help it. And hopefully, if it’s you having a panic attack some kind soul (in this case for me it was my husband) will piece you back together in time to go back to work.

I am also lucky to have him too.

Be kind and understanding to one another and remember you are not alone.

PS. Please note that I am so sorry to the poor man I freaked out on in the Dell Rapids Subway.

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2 thoughts on “Panic at the Subway? 

  1. My first panic attack came while I was raking leaves at my home. I was all alone, would have been so scared but had read an article on panic attacks prior to this episode. My Dad used to have them and at that time didn’t have a clue as to what they were all about. Thank you for being so very honest about something so out of your control. You are very lucky to have Bella. What could someone do to help you through one or is it best to let Bella handle it?

    • Hey Gail!
      Thanks for the response and that’s a great question. For the most part Bella is good about getting me to a safe space or blocking so strangers don’t get to close. She usually then alerts those I’m with. Andrew has her alerts down pat and she can get me safe and go get him. One time I had a panic attack in our kitchen and he was in the garage, she sat barking at the door until he came in to check things out.
      For the most part she makes it so people only have to help during the exhaustion afterwards but it’s nice when people guide me if needed or make sure I have space to breathe.
      Hope that makes sense!

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