Yesterday I had an experience at work where I came very close to having a spontaneous panic attack. I didn’t actually have one- I just sort of lingered in this very highly anxious state which was extremely distressing for me. Today in retrospect I know exactly why this occurred and what I can do if it ever happens again.
Yesterday I worked doing vision and hearing screenings for kids going into our kindergarten in the fall. I was in a large room where there were various stations the children had to go through- cognitive skills, language skills, my area for vision and hearing screening, and another station where parents filled out forms and gave other important information like immunizations and health history.
The cognitive skills and language skills stations were each partitioned off with those privacy walls that separate cubicles in office buildings. I was only filling in for the day doing the vision and hearing screenings, so I didn’t say anything, but I really though my area should have had a privacy wall as well. The seating area for the parents was directly opposite my station and I noticed this was distracting for a lot of the kids. Not to mention the noise- a privacy wall would have made the hearing screenings easier.
At any rate this was the set up and I was happy to be there. Since I have been out of the house working I generally feel much better. Working at home was necessary for a few years for child care reasons, but I found it made my anxiety levels too high for me. I really like keeping busy during the day and it is very good for me. It feels really good that I can be productive as a nurse and a teacher and it helps with my confidence too.
The morning was very busy and fast paced and it passed by without incident. The first time I noticed I felt off was at lunch. I was sitting with the other ladies who were working with me and we were eating our lunches. I noticed myself not really staying with the lunch conversation- my mind was drifting into the parents and children scheduled to come in for the afternoon. I found myself feeling a slight sense of dread which was unsettling. It didn’t make any sense, everything was smooth and easy in the morning… Where the hell was this feeling coming from?
I recognized that I was slightly anxious and I was confused. I haven’t had this feeling in so long- it felt as if it just came out of nowhere. It felt very spontaneous and out of the blue. As I said, it wasn’t too bad, only mildly uncomfortable so I didn’t really give it much thought.
Once the afternoon started and I was screening students again, this mildly uncomfortable feeling remained with me. As the afternoon wore on I noticed I was really sweating profusely under the arms and I was also getting distorted thoughts that the parents who were seated behind me were watching my every move.
I’ve had anxiety long enough to know these feelings were irrational and I was able to continue to perform my job. I didn’t actually have a panic attack, but I felt really crappy and at one point I remember feeling “I have got to get out of here!”
Once the day was done, and i was in my car I was able to give all my attention to this. At first i was flabbergasted- “What the hell was going on back there?? Why was that so hard??” I took some deep breaths and just drove on for a few minutes.
And then it came to me.
The day before, I had a very upsetting experience. My parents and sister stayed over for the weekend for a birthday celebration for one of my daughters. It was a fun few days and everyone went home on Sunday. When my sister was going out to her car to leave, I was standing at my front door. Suddenly, my dog pushed passed me and ran out the front door.
He made a b-line to our next door neighbors’ house where they had visitors with a dog. Well, my stupid dog went and attacked the visiting dog and a dogfight ensued.
If you have ever witnessed a dog fight, you know how horrifying it is. My dog is huge (over 100 pounds) and I thought he would kill this other dog. Everyone just stood there frozen and horrified. My husband and the guy who was visiting my neighbor were able to separate the dogs.
By the grace of God, neither dog was harmed. But the damage was done. It was our dog who started the fight so we were at fault.
To make a very long story short, the visiting dog was fine and we were able to make our sincere apologies for our dog’s aggression. (He is going to the vet today to be evaluated for the aggression and we are going to get an invisible fence so this never happens again.)
From an anxiety perspective, my nerves were fried. My emotions were all over the place. I didn’t know if our dog would have to be put to sleep, I was horrified, I was embarrassed, I was scared that the visitor’s dog was hurt, I was so angry at my dog. And all this happened on my daughter’s birthday- I had to make sure she was ok.
So when I went to work yesterday, I was still carrying all these emotions from the day before with me. When I got busy with work, I wasn’t thinking about any of this. But all that negative energy was still inside me. In retrospect, it’s pretty amazing I didn’t have multiple panic attacks. It’s now 2 days out from the dog incident and I still feel exhausted.
There is a lesson to be learned from this.
When I have to deal with very stressful situations- I am at a very high risk for anxious feelings or panic attacks for awhile. This does make sense to me now. It takes time to heal from a traumatic situation.
I must give my body and mind the time it needs in order to heal. I must be very gentle and nurturing with myself, because it may take awhile for me to feel back to my normal self. This means good nutrition, adequate rest, prayer, exercise, and remembering to face, accept, float, and let time pass should the anxious feelings arise again.
Do you ever feel like your anxiety or panic attacks come out of nowhere? Do you get spontaneous panic attacks? Sometimes it can be traced back to stress. Please know if you have recently gone through a stressful situation in your life, be it a fight with your spouse, an illness, a fender bender, caring for a sick pet, etc, you may feel anxious for awhile. this is the time to take extra good care of yourself. Give yourself time to heal and you will.
This too shall pass. -proverb
I wish you peace,