I had a panic attack this weekend. Full-blown, couldn’t breathe, heart pounding, couldn’t stand, on the floor, fetal position PANIC. If you have never experienced that, I hope you never have to. The first time I ever had one, I thought I was dying. Literally.
Fortunately, I was alone. No one saw it, especially my kids. I don’t want them to see me like that. They’ve already got my genes and a predisposition to anxiety; no reason to cause more worry.
Unfortunately, I was alone. No one to talk me up, no one to soothe me. My working-from-home husband was working, as he should be. And in the throes of a panic attack, shouting or texting for help is not really an option.
When I finally broke through to the other side, I stood up, finished making dinner, called the kids to wash up and set the table. Then we had dinner as usual. Calm, collected… no fuss (at least not beyond the typical “please use your napkin, not your shirt”), just there and together.
I’m not writing about this incident because I want you to feel sorry for me or anything like that. I write because I know that I am not the only person out there who feels like the walls are closing in on me. Even people who don’t suffer from an anxiety or depressive disorder are feeling this. It’s amplified for those of us that experience these ailments.
We need to exercise our kindness muscles. We need to be kind to other people – even those we may not agree with – and we need to be kind to ourselves. Grace is a beautiful thing.
As we go through this collective experience – one of trauma, one of heartbreak, one of stress and strain – we need to give ourselves a bit of grace. Allow yourself to feel the emotions. When you bottle the feelings up, they come out in ways you don’t want. They ball you up and put you on the floor.
Feel the feelings, but don’t let them run you. Go for a walk. Paint. Color. Sit in the sunshine. Talk to your kids. Call an old friend. We don’t have to write the next Great American Novel or learn Italian or French. We can open ourselves to some things we’ve been numb to for too long: grace, hope, and love.