Posted on 17 July 2016 by Michael Dahl

First Panic Attack in Months

Earlier this week I posted a draft version of the blog entry you are about to read. But within a couple hours I took it down.

I had a Panic Attack … in public. … while making a presentation.

I wrote the post in my ongoing transparency of my struggle with Anxiety. But my emotions were still too raw, and the level of inadequacy I felt on that day was too high. So I took down the post and stewed in my feelings of incompetence.

There’s so much I could / should say. I know I shouldn’t be embarrassed by my illness. But there are times when it’s easier to say that than actually feel it. Minimally, slurred and stilted words while in the company of your professional colleagues are bound to make anyone feel embarrassed.

But I didn’t just botch a sentence here and a paragraph there. No. As I was presenting and trying to keep some semblance of composure, I felt as if every nerve were twisting to a tautness of incredible pain. And once each fiber in my body felt immobilized, I sensed I was slowly turning into a brick, unable to interact with the world, unable to think.

Actually, I saw the Panic Attack coming 15 minutes before I had to make the presentation. So I desperately searched my bag for a chill pill. But I knew that it was too late. It takes 30 – 45 minutes for the pills to kick in.

I should have done something. I should have excused myself. Or at a minimum I should have asked to be placed later on the agenda.

But I wasn’t thinking. So I descended into a hell and waited to make a fool of myself.

Funny — not funny — thing is that I like making public presentations. I usually do very well. And that made the Panic Attack a complete surprise. I had practiced what I was going to say at least a dozen times. I was — before the descent — quite comfortable with the material.

But on this particular day my brain decided to rebel against me.

I have guesses why this happened. The reasons I come up with have nothing to do with the presentation. The presentation — to my demon named Anxiety — was just an excuse, an outlet to let my nerves get the best of me.

After the event the chill pill kicked in and the panic turned into humiliation. The taut nerves “unraveled” and became loose, making me feel as if my whole body was wilting. Muscles, which before could not move because of the twisted sensation, now could barely move because of fatigue. My brain started to function again, but it too was exhausted.

I made my way to someone who probably already knew I suffered from Anxiety, and I apologized for wasting his time. He did his best to assure me that I “just looked nervous” and no one could tell what I was going through.

I suppose there’s solace in that. But there’s also sadness. Suffering alone.

I will talk to my doctor and therapist about this. But I know that sometimes things like this will happen. Being surprised by it is actually a good thing. It means Panic Attacks aren’t a part of my regular existence … and they haven’t been.

No, the fact is that while I do struggle with Anxiety daily, I can usually ride it through to the other side.

My normal has become more normal, if that makes any sense. And there are long stretches of time where I feel a calm and confidence I haven’t felt for well over a year, when my last major bout with Depression and Anxiety began.

Onward? Sure. Humiliated? Unfortunately, I have to say “Yes.”

But I know that time will pass. This Panic Attack will become a blip. And everything will be okay.