Email This Post HomeHumorAttack of the Panic Attack! Amy Vansant September 12, 2012 Humor, Women's Humor 32 Comments Free stock photography suggested Godzilla with a pen knife for a story about a panic attack. Um, DUH. Or How a Panic Attack Stole my Superpowers My husband Mike and I were winding down from an uneventful Saturday, catching up on some televised drivel that made me appreciate how DVR’s have stolen the last bit of my functioning gray matter, when I suddenly felt flushed. I’d been struggling with heartburn all day, but this was a new sensation, more akin to nausea. I stoically sat through an episode of House Hunters, waiting for it to pass. By the time they said “man cave” for the third time, I knew that things were not all right. I was breathing, but it didn’t feel like breathing. “I think I have to go to the hospital.” Mike jumped from his chair, terrified and fussing as we grabbed insurance cards and headed for the emergency room. Arguing over the most direct way to the hospital, a terrified Mike interrupted to tell me how much he loved me. I wanted to comfort him and say all was well, but found myself unable. Worse than the shortness of breath, worse than the nausea; I was scared. That was something horrible and new. By the time we reached the hospital, (translation for my British readers: “By the time we reached hospital”) I’d begun shaking. My shoulders jerked. I felt cold. Waves of nausea continued; my scalp tingling, my breathing ineffective. I walked through the emergency room’s automatic door expecting people in white to sprint towards me, screaming for crash carts and jerry-rigging tracheotomy tubes out of ink pens. No one seemed to notice me. “What’s wrong, dear?” asked the reception desk nurse, as if I wasn’t obviously dying. “I’m having trouble breathing,” I said. I felt my eyes tear. In my head, I told myself to shake it off and stop being a little girl. It had the opposite effect. The nurse handed me a form and motioned to the waiting room. Mike tried to take the pen from me, but focusing on the paperwork helped distract me from my distress. I was angry. Television taught me that “I’m having trouble breathing” was the passphrase to instant hospital admittance, and yet there I was, trying to recall my social security number. Could it be television hospital dramas weren’t entirely accurate? Across from us sat a man with stained gauze wrapped around his arm, his pant leg soaked with blood. Scattered across the waiting room, other pale-faced people sat flanked by loved ones. How funny that the one moment when you really think you should be the center of attention, is the same moment a dozen other people in the room feel the same way. I realized the nurses must be numb to almost every horror. I could bowl a human head through the front door and they would just place a pen and a proof of insurance form in its mouth. Five minutes later, I lay in a curtained cubical attached to an ECG machine searching for signs of a heart attack. In my younger days, the idea of a heart attack would have been ludicrous. Now, a little over 40, I realized the nurses thought a heart attack was a very real possibility. I felt humbled. “Hm…” said the nurse, reading the ECG results. “Hm…” She tapped the machine and knitted her brow. Great. I thought. I’m dead and they just don’t know how to break it to me. “I don’t think this machine is working,” she mumbled. Two more people stopped by until someone realized the blankets meant to keep me from shuddering were skewing the readings. They repeated the procedure, and, satisfied with the new results, unclipped the sticky pads from my body. I continued to fight nausea and take slow deep breaths to stop the shaking. Things were starting to feel a little better. “You don’t seem tacky,” said the nurse. I looked down at my cheap “Dunder Mifflin” novelty tee and traffic-cone-orange sweat shorts. “Have you seen this outfit?” I asked her. She had already disappeared, having mentally filed me under “not dying.” Michael held my hand and rubbed my shoulders to keep me warm. By the time they took blood samples, I felt much better. The nurse fingered the crook of my elbow, looking for a vein. “Do you care where I put the needle?” she asked. “No. Either way my career as an elbow model is probably over.” She laughed. “You have really tough skin.” “I know. That’s why I don’t do heroin. I kept bending all the needles. It was frustrating.” She laughed again. Mike gave me the stink-eye. You just scared the life out of me and now you’re a comedian, said his stare. Not funny. Not yet. I nodded and fell silent. Never again could I tease my husband with his blood pressure medicine and cholesterol concerns about my superior genes. I used to tease him by saying, “I am strong like bull!” in a thick Russian accent. Now, I had lost the right. They gave me a saline drip and sat me in a room, Mike and I staring at each other, catching our breath. “Aren’t you glad we didn’t go to dinner tonight?” I asked, remembering deliberations from earlier in the evening. “Oh yeah,” he said, his eyes tired. “This is much better.” Eventually, the doctor stopped by to discuss my test results. “Thyroid is fine. You’re not dehydrated, your electrolytes are good, and blood is perfect…” she told me. “Your symptoms resemble a panic attack.” A panic attack? Me? “A panic attack!” I scoffed. “We were watching television! I’m not stressed at all.” The doctor shrugged. “Sometimes you can’t know why panic attacks happen.” I sighed. The only thing worse that falling ill for a reason was falling ill for no reason. “Get a check-up,” she said. “But I’m 99% sure you had a panic attack.” I sighed, disgusted with my treasonous body. Exhausted and up way past our bedtime, Mike and I signed a few more papers and headed home. The next day I told my mother about my panic attack and she seemed baffled. Two months later, she let it slip that my father had a panic attack… or 12. Oh, and once SHE had a panic attack. “You didn’t think to tell me this when I HAD a panic attack?” I asked. She shrugged. I think she wanted me to think my distress was caused by too much drinking. Moms are sneaky like that. So, I had a panic attack. I’m not dying, yet. That’s good. But, apparently, I’m not indestructible anymore either. If I can have a panic attack, who knows what other perfectly human things can happen to me. *sigh* Discovering you are not a super hero is not something I recommend. Avoid it as long as possible. Author Recent Posts Amy VansantAmy Vansant is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal Best-Selling author specializing in fun, funny fiction --- even the murder mysteries. Latest posts by Amy Vansant (see all) Cover Reveal (again), Reading Poll + 4 ways to win a kindle - June 25, 2020 Why I shouldn’t be allowed to decorate cakes, book giveaways and deals! - June 16, 2020 New Series Cover and Synopsis Reveal, Big Beach Reads Giveaway & More Reads - June 10, 2020 32 Responses Nicole September 12, 2012 Yeah, been there. They suck. Fortunately, they are not fatal. It may have been a fluke. I know what triggers mine. I don’t have them often, but I can feel it coming on, so I can stop it before it gets that far. This might’ve been a one-time thing if you’ve never had them before. 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 12, 2012 Yep, now I can tell when it is coming (not how bad it might try and get) but I can tell. And now I can breathe deep and just try and calm myself or dr. gave me Valium which is a huge help (just knowing it is there). 0 likes Reply Kari September 12, 2012 I could totally see this happening to me. In fact, I may have had an anxiety attack or two in the past. And thought it was just heartburn. I am riddled with different neuroses every waking minute. I am glad you are fine now….are you fine now??….and could share it on here. 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 12, 2012 I’m fine now – though I suddenly realized I’d had anxiety symptoms for years and never realized it until the one that made me feel like I was dying! 0 likes Reply Raymond September 12, 2012 Glad to hear you are alive a well. I, ummm…panicked there for a sec. 🙂 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 12, 2012 Ahhh, if something really happened to me my post about it would have a lot less words…:) 0 likes Reply Brandi September 12, 2012 But seriously, you should try some yoga…it will help with your anxiety through deepening your breath… or at the very least it could give you more comedic material to write about 😉 try a gentle class… or hit up a senior center 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 12, 2012 I probably should – I’ve thought about it but the old “how do I squeeze another hour into my day thing” remains a problem. We take long walks with the dog, so that’s sort of my quiet time. 0 likes Reply Carrie - Cannibalistic Nerd September 12, 2012 Maybe it was because the house hunters didn’t choose the house you wanted them to? I’m glad you’re better now. 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 12, 2012 That doesn’t usually do it… but MAYBE they didn’t pick the person I THOUGHT would win Hell’s Kitchen. That could be it. 0 likes Reply Lance September 12, 2012 as you know I have an anxiety disorder so I average about three to five of these a year. More if I don;t take the meds. when I was younger anxiety/panic attacks weren’t as common or maybe just not as diagnosed. They’d treat me in hospitals as if I were a drug addict or heart patient…it was kinda cool. Now, it’s, “change your meds pay up front, and get out”. glad you’re okay. If you ever need to talk about this, you know, not all smart assy ob the web, let me know. 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 12, 2012 I really appreciate that. I had just started following you when this happened to me and remember thinking – “How does he deal with this all the time!!” Rockstar! 0 likes Reply Tim Sayles September 13, 2012 I’m glad you’re okay, Amy . . . and thanks for the belly laughs! “Have you *seen* this outfit?* … Heeeeee! 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 13, 2012 Between you and me, I induced the panic attack looking for blog material. 🙂 0 likes Reply Tim Sayles September 13, 2012 And what *else* would you use for art than a miniature Godzilla with a pen knife? Kind of a no-brainer if you ask me… 0 likes Reply Natalie the Singingfool September 13, 2012 Oh my, and I thought I had a bad weekend! 🙁 Hospital stay + panic attack = not fun (I’m going to stop bitching about my broken toe now). 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 13, 2012 The attack was actually months ago – just got around to writing about it. So I win! 🙂 Hope your toe is feeling better. I hate helpless/hopeless, annoying injuries like that. 0 likes Reply kirstie September 13, 2012 Oh shit! Now that you’ve had your first panic attack, you’re going to start having panic attacks about having panic attacks. Sorry. That sucks. 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 14, 2012 That’s totally true. Now just heartburn and I think HERE IT COMES! 0 likes Reply SarcasticNinja September 14, 2012 I once fainted mid-sentence in conversation with a friend. I woke up feeling quite ill with my face flat on a power strip and the friend on the phone with 999. By the time the ambulance turned up I was fine, and he was all, “Oh. Well, sometimes people faint for no reason.” Comforting! I’m glad to hear you came out ok. Stay well! 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 14, 2012 I always wanted to faint to see what it felt like, but I have to say you make it seem less glamorous than I imagined… 0 likes Reply Pearl September 14, 2012 Very funny!! I had a panic attack at work a few years ago. I was suddenly convinced that something horrible was about to happen and that I had to GET OUT of the building immediately. The only thing that happened was that I cried in the car on the commute home and lost half a day’s pay. Pearl 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 14, 2012 See, that sounds like panic and totally makes sense. Mine felt like my air was going to cut off… and now I’m petrified I’ll die by suffocating, which I now know SUCKS! 0 likes Reply Pamela September 14, 2012 Panic attacks are awful! I have lived with them for 34 years now. I am so proud of you for sharing, and making me laugh along the way. The panic passes but in the moment you feel like your world will end. Unfortunately none of us are super heroes and wearing tights and a cape doesn’t make it so…I’ve tried 😉 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 14, 2012 Thank you – 34 years! You’re a super star! I hope you have some meds for when you feel them coming on. I couldn’t deal actually having to go THROUGH it every time! 0 likes Reply Nina Potts September 22, 2012 Welcome to the panic attack club! The only real sign of membership is Xanax. Be careful with it… I almost accidentally killed myself with it once… Oh, and you can’t drive if you take it, you’ll get a dui. Others may have already said welcome to the club, so I’m just repeating them, because I didn’t read the comments, its 2 am and I’m also busy watching Buffy and deciding if now is the time for sleep. 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant September 22, 2012 Thanks for the warning! I think I’ll stick with the Valium. All it does is literally slow me down… calm… peace… 0 likes Reply Shea April 30, 2013 Thank you for sharing this!! I have a panic attack at least three times a week. Sometimes I know what triggers it, but most of the time, the attack occurs when, like you, I’m winding down for the evening or about to go to sleep. The nausea is the worst. Or maybe the doctors just saying “you need to calm down and not stress so much” is the worst. It’s sucky all the way around. I feel like I should hide it when it happens (especially if if happens in front of my students or my son) and it helps so much to see someone being open and honest about anxiety issues. Thank you. 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant April 30, 2013 Glad I could help! Get some valium. Soooo helpful! 0 likes Reply Pam January 8, 2015 Scary, must have been so horrible. Hope you’re ok from now on. Right, now the sympathy bit (genuine!) is out of the way, I liked your translation for British readers but you know what? You’d already bamboozled them by saying “I suddenly felt flush”. That’s a GOOD thing! It means you have money! What you meant was ‘flushed’, in British English. Which is how you feel when you have a hot flush – or have a flash, in American English. Which is something that’s even less desirable in British English than a flush… It’s all very difficult. But I do hope you don’t have a recurrence. 0 likes Reply Amy Vansant January 8, 2015 Good point – my bad. I’ll correct! 0 likes Reply Leave a Reply to Amy Vansant Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Add me to Amy Vansant's Humor Newsletter!