Anxiety Attack at Work- Why It Happened & What I Did About It

anxiety attack at workI am sitting here having just got home after having a massive anxiety attack at work. I recently shared about my earnest job search and how I was coping with anxiety in unemployment.

Well, I was thrilled to *finally* receive a callback from someone and I accepted a job offer at a hospital (I’m a nurse), which is tentatively set to start tomorrow.

In preparation for my new job, and for being out and about among working people- which is very good for me (but I had a rather sheltered summer) – I decided to substitute at a local middle school this morning. I just wanted to ease myself back into the work-a-day world in some way.

I started off my day feeling fine… I have substituted in this school’s health office several times last school year and generally feel at ease in this work environment. In fact I hadn’t been feeling any severe anxiety as of late, something I attributed to the fact that I started a gluten free diet. I recently discovered I may be gluten intolerant, and having heard about a possible connection between gluten and anxiety, I went gluten- free a few weeks ago.

So imaging my surprise when about 3 hours into my day, I started feeling anxious. It was troubling to me, because I really hoped I had nipped my anxiety in the bud, so to speak.

The health office began to get busy and chaotic and soon my mood changed from tranquil to agitated. All of the sudden things were starting to bother me.

All of a sudden, I felt a little bit unsteady on my feet. I noticed my hands and feet were sweating and in my agitated state, I kept crossing my arms and making stupid repetitive movements. Finally I went to the bathroom to collect myself.

Damn it, I thought, I’m going to have an anxiety attack at work.

And I did. A really huge one.

It really sucked. 🙁

On the drive home from work I turned the radio off and just let my thoughts come to me. First of all I had to let my anger out. I was really pissed off. Why would I have an anxiety attack at work, when this was just me doing a trial run in anticipation of the real job which is to start tomorrow?

My thoughts:

This SUCKS!!!! Why did this happen?? I have been doing so well!! If I can’t even handle the school health office, how in the hell am I going to handle working in the hospital again? That is life and death stuff! Today was band-aids and stomach aches and sports physicals! Damn it!…

And then it came to me: I was bunching a lot of stressful situations together in my head today. I bunched up every bit of negativity from the past few days and apparently the anxiety attack at work was how it all came to a head.

1. Last night our kitchen drain clogged. It ended up being quite an long and messy ordeal complete with a hysterically pissed off husband who was in no mood to deal with it . This was the 9/11 10th anniversary weekend- and he still has ptsd associated with it- which he refuses to get help with, and is not easy to live with by any means.

After fighting with him last night, I went to bed and had a dream that left me feeling sad for years ago- when I was young and single and life seemed easy and exciting.

2. On top of that crap was this troubling thought that I’ve been dealing with and stuffing all weekend: I’m afraid I wont get the job.

It’s supposed to start tomorrow. And it is pending my physical and blood test. I had to take a urine drug test.

I don’t do drugs. I rarely take a drink. But I do take prescription anxiety medication- albeit a very small dose. And I have been scared out of my wits that I am going to somehow fail the drug test because of this. The medication is a benzodiazepine and it will show up on my test. I didn’t lie- I disclosed that I took medication and why.

But I am still scared. What if they don’t hire me because of this? There is still a huge stigma mental illness and panic attacks in our society. One I have been on the receiving end of far too many times in my life.

I am a competent, proficient, experienced, caring nurse – and I know I can do the job. But because of my panic disorder, I take medication. I hope, hope, hope they wont use this against me…

Well I should be getting a phone call soon to tell me one way or the other about the status of my job. If it starts, I will be so happy.

And if there is a problem because of the drug test, well I just don’t even want to think about that today.

So I guess the fact that I had an anxiety attack at work today really isn’t so inconceivable after all. It didn’t just come out of nowhere- although it felt that way at the time.

The truth is, I hadn’t been in a work situation since last June, I was internalizing a lot of negativity, and because I thought I had a pass from anxiety because of my gluten free status, I didn’t prepare myself at all before I went in.

And although I am feeling better since stopped eating gluten, I guess this doesn’t mean I can just sashay into an anxiety triggering situation and not expect to have any anxiety. In hindsight that was pretty naive. I should know better by now.

I suppose I was hoping for a miracle, but the truth is, I have to accept that I have anxiety. I am getting better, but it is still in my life.

Note to self: give Jill a big hug and continue to work on your recovery from anxiety.

I wish you peace,
Jill G.

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