My First Real Panic Attack at Age 61

panic stress (2)

I needed to read Jana Greene’s post about grace and weakness.

I don’t like to feel weak. I’ve spent all these years trying to be strong and building my skills. So, why, at age 61, with all my training and experience, did i have my first real live panic attack?

I’ve heard plenty of people talk about panic attacks and how bad they can be. I’ve secretly wondered, Do people really need to go to the emergency room? Does it really feel like a heart attack? Are you really being attacked? Can’t we call it something else, something less invasive? Can’t you just take some deep breaths and calm down?

Now I know. Now, I’m humbled.

If it hadn’t been for my years of meditation and breathing practice and my supportive, former EMT husband watching me closely, I might have gone to the emergency room. My chest hurt worse than ever before, and it was hard to breathe. Years ago, I’d gone to the urgent care place with chest pain shortly after my first husband left. It turned out to be stress and acid reflux, but I don’t remember that being as intense as the pain I felt during my first real panic attack couple months ago.

Chest pain is nothing to guess about. When in doubt, get medical attention.

The first good news is, that I know what triggered it. I felt challenged, then I felt cornered and I was hungry.  Since I’m hypoglycemic, I can get shaky and irritable when I’m hungry. It’s best not to challenge me when I’m hungry. Fortunately, I can take steps to minimize exposure to these triggers. I can maintain my boundaries and use the “broken record technique” by simply repeating, “this is not a good time to talk about this.” If I’m able, I’ll offer an alternative time, but simply repeating my boundary is enough.

I’ve been trying not to feel embarrassed about feeling weak, and leaning more toward feeling humbled and gifted – the other good news – explained in Jana’s post . I’m reminded that I’m never going to have it all together, because I’m human. Some weakness will always pop up to humble me and lead me to God’s grace.



4 thoughts on “My First Real Panic Attack at Age 61

  1. Wow. Well let me say, I’m sorry you had one. They are a harrowing, humbling experience, indeed. I hope your broken record technique comes through for you. Most important not to give yourself a panic attack in worrying about a panic attack, cause then it’s a broken record (panic loop) in the WRONG way.
    Since I have anxiety disorder, they’re not uncommon for me. The most interesting aspect of other people in my life finally having one, for me, has been when they tell me, “I’m sorry I thought you were just being dramatic!”
    Yeah, no.
    Feels like death is coming — don’t care who you are or how strong, that’s terrifying.

    • Now, I know that a panic attack is very different from regular old anxiety. Thanks for explaining that loop. I will remind myself that I have a plan and know how to carry it out. When similar conditions arise, I slow my breathing and remember my boundaries. Thank you for your support, Joey! ❤

  2. I can imagine that it must have been a scary moment for me, however, it appears you have handled it with grace. I remember the first time I had a panic attack – I agree, perhaps we can name it something else, and it is something that ought to be taken seriously. I respect how you were able to identify the sources. For me, I was so overwhelmed, it felt like it came out of left field – and the panic in response to the panic just made it worse. I am wiser now and in reflection there were probably reasons behind it, but ultimately the best thing for me to do, was to just breathe and then take it from there. Thanks for sharing this. Hugs, Harlon

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