Into the Storm

Into the Storm
Let me take you on a journey into the storm!! The storm I will take you into is an anxiety attack. These can happen without warning and can be very scary. They can range from little gales to the Perfect Storm in strength and feeling. They are real and not to be taken lightly if you are on the outside looking in. Do you have your life preserver on?

I wish I could say that I know when it is coming and exactly what is going to set it off. I don’t and I think that adds to the fear or anxiety. I don’t know when it is coming or when it is going to end. I just know I am on the ride and have no choice but to take it. I can’t just hope off or ask someone to stop it. I hope someday to be able to lessen the affects of the larger attacks and maybe even avoid the lesser ones all together.

Let us go on a small ride now. I am at the gym and working out on the treadmill. I am halfway through my sixty minutes on the machine. All of the sudden I start to feel anxious for some reason and my pulse quickens. I am not sure why but I do and then I start to self conscious and I feel hot all over. My heart and mind are racing. I feel alert and tense; on edge. Fight or flight, fight or flight, or pass out? There is no reason why as I do the same workout each day and at the same time and usually the same people are there. I do not know the people and they have no affect on my life. They do though for some reason play a part in the storm. Self conscious leads to worried. Are they looking at me? Am I sweating too much? Am I making too much noise on the machine? So now my mind is off from my workout or whatever I was watching or doing to thinking about what is going on. This only makes the situation worse. If I just get off the machine will they notice? I don’t know, I know that I will know and that I will be hard on myself later. I am stuck and now don’t really feel like I know what to do. I keep working out and it passes. I am left to wonder where did that come from and what can I do about it? I may have wanted to run and hide but I was able to avoid that and keep going. Eventually it was gone and I was able to enjoy my workout as a normal person would without so much anxiety or concern. I listen to head phones or watch TV or read while I am on the machine so it is not as if I am looking around and trying to find someone who may be looking at me or something. I pretty much am in my own World and oblivious to the others working out around the gym. I have certainly seen other people who are in worse shape and who sweat as much so there is no base there for this to come from but yet it still comes. It comes when it wants and leaves when it wants. I have no control over it. In the small storms the form of control I guess at this point would be rather to stick it out or take myself away form the situation. I always try to stick it out and adapt the best I can as I believe it makes me stronger and will lessen then next event in a similar situation as I know I can make it through it and in the end it will all be fine. You will have people tell you this and think that it helps you. It doesn’t help and it only frustrates me more. How do you know it will be alright? Do you have some powers that I don’t? Really how do you KNOW it will be alright? Are you feeling what I am feeling? No, so don’t say it!! If you want to help just tell me you are there if I need something and we can do whatever it is I need to do. Be supportive but do not tell me it will be okay unless I ask you if it will be. Help me feel comforted and safe. That is what I am looking for and it doesn’t mean a bunch of questions or talking from you. My brain is already quite busy and you are just going to experience me snapping towards you as you make yourself the target.

So what is the Perfect Storm like? Well for me this was my worst anxiety attack and I have been fortunate to not have any quite so bad since. I have had some bad ones but none that equal this one which shook me to my core and changed some things in my life as I became a little more afraid after this storm passed. Obviously I made it out alive but it didn’t feel like I made it out the same as I did before it came. I was separated from my wife and was with a friend. We were going to Hastings on the Hudson to a wedding. I had not traveled much in my life and had dealt with IBS as well. So I always wanted to know where the restrooms where to help ease my mind. If I traveled I preferred a vehicle with a bathroom or to travel at night. Roads are less busy and if I had to go then atleast it would be dark out. Well I knew all that and all that was agreed to and I also was going to drive as it would supposedly make me feel more in control. So time comes to go and I am apprehensive and make a few trips to the bathroom to make sure I am all set with that part of things. I know the nerves are there but I was okay and off we went. I was pretty comfortable going down the Maine Turnpike but things changed as we entered New Hampshire. Something in my head turned on or something in my body kicked in. It was slow at first. I kind of just felt more nervous and asked that we talk about something fun. So we did but as the miles came and went there was a part of me that was going as well. I started getting more nervous and asked pretty often how much further despite the fact I knew I was only about an hour into a 4-5 hr trip. I started to feel my palms get sweaty and my pulse picked up. I stopped at a rest stop and tried to go to the bathroom but nothing happened and I told myself it was just nerves. I was right it was just nerves but I was probably foolish to push on. So on we went and we reached Massachusetts and another stop to the bathroom with the same results. I started to see names on the signs of towns that I didn’t know and then I started to feel things ramping up. I voiced my concerns and was told I would be okay and to just keep driving. We would sing to get my mind off of it. I thought okay, let’s try it. It did not last for long. I thought my heart was going to fly out of my chest. I was covered with sweat. Doubt didn’t creep in now; it poured in and flooded my mind. I was feeling out of control. I had to stop. I pulled off the highway to a small town. I tried to use the bathroom and nothing. I was shaking but I tried to push on. I drove but simple got off the very next exit a mile down the road. I needed out of this, I couldn’t do it. I wanted to go home. I was shaking, my heart was pounding, and all my senses were heightened. I did not feel in control. I was convinced I could make it and that it wasn’t that much farther. I didn’t believe this but I said I would try. I made it to the car and started to try to drive but backed into a can and then drove off the curve scraping the muffler. My traveling companion smacked me across the face and told me to snap out of it. I am not sure that helped as it just sent more emotions flowing through me. That freaked me out more; did I break the car, would I be stranded? I stopped and got out. I could not go forward. What was happening to me? I was not in control at all now. It was a place I didn’t know and I didn’t know how to get out of the situation. I saw a payphone and despite know the wife I was separated form wasn’t home I called where I thought she was even though it was 3am. I had no luck reaching her. I even tried calling my brother and no answer there. I was real desperate (I am shaking as I type this now!!) and had no answers. I fell to my knees and sobbed. What to do now? Could I walk home? Nope. Could I maybe just stay where I was until I reached someone? Didn’t seem like a great idea as I didn’t know anything about where I was or anything. What should I do? I felt so sick and was just so not in control of myself. I was totally lost. After about an hour I was mentally drained….. I couldn’t think or reason anymore more with myself. I was ready to pass out and just felt like I was slipping into another World. I got in the passenger seat and fell asleep. I woke up in Hastings the next morning and don’t even know how I got there or to the bed to sleep. When I did realize where I was I just wanted to find a way out of there and back home. Everyone was nice and understanding which was great but inside my mind was focused on one thing and that was finding a safe comfortable place. They asked and asked me to stay and eventually I did as I had no way to escape and for now it could be worse right? I was atleast somewhere with food and a bathroom. I drank a lot at the reception and it seemed to help me have a good time and ease my mind. When it became time to go home I was more than ready. I was extremely nervous about the drive as I did not want what had happened to happen again. It didn’t and with each mile I got closer to home and safety. It became easier and easier to make it home.

That experience is one I am very afraid of having again. I had no control over myself and just plain and simply was out of control. I was a complete wreck. I should not have been trying to drive or anything. I basically had a mental breakdown right then and right there. The only reason I ended up in NY was because I exhausted myself. I feel changed since that though. I want to travel but it is certainly hard and I need to have it meticulously planned out before I try it and even then it is not guaranteed. I do not ever want to feel that again in my life. Again what I need there was a safe place or something to let me feel at ease. Now I would probably look for a hotel and call it a night. See if I could calm down and then proceed from there to either continue forward or go home to my safe place. I have since made one other trip to Hastings on a bus down and a car back. I have also gone to Boston twice. Once via the train and once I drove done there to the Fleet Center. Everything was scouted out on these trips and there were bumps but I did make it. I plan to add a GPS to my arsenal to give me more information and hopefully help ease my mind. I am not sure if these are solutions or not but they do help. I can’t guarantee myself that another attack won’t happen but I can try to arm myself with as much comfort as I can to ease the severity of it. I think it also helps to be with someone who understands you and is okay with what you may need to do to be comfortable. Then I think repeating the event will eventually make it comfortable so I can stress about something else.
If you know someone who is having an anxiety attack just try to be there for them. Provide them with that place of comfort and safety they are looking for at the moment. As I said before it doesn’t mean asking a lot of questions or even talking. A simple I am here for you and we can do whatever you need to do to help this pass will go a long, long way to helping everyone have a good time. If you try to pick the situation apart or try to ask too many questions or try to fix things then I can assure you that it will only make matters worse. It would feel like what little control I have left you are either doubting or trying to take away and that won’t lead to positive results today or in the future for me. Just remember anxiety attacks are scary and are powerful. I do believe they could lead to incidents of mental breakdown, exhaustion, and maybe in some rare cases a heart attack. Even the little ones are not fun and for some they last longer than others. Knowing they pass is something that I know now and knowing that I will be okay in the end is something I am confident of now. However, when the attacks strike that confidence is shaken and it needs to be understood that you cannot tell me otherwise. I won’t believe you as you are not feeling what I am right now. Man, I think I need to go get some exercise just to ramp down from the memories of that particular attack.

Into the Storm


Joined February 2008

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  • Dawn B Davies-McIninch
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