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.