I had a panic attack. Last night, I awoke. My heart was racing. My mind was spinning. I felt my fingers becoming tingly. I knew what was happening because I’ve been there before.
A panic attack.
The first time I ever had a true panic attack, I was driving and I was in such a state that I had to pull into my old office to calm myself down. Adam came to pick me up and drive me home. Because anxiety can be so debilitating sometimes.
That was as I was awaiting all the news of my cancer diagnosis. I wasn’t sleeping. Or eating. I was in a constant state of fear. And worry. And I just couldn’t shake it.
Last night, as my hands started their tingling and my heart raced, I knew one thing: in the dark of the night, things always seem worse. Whether you are trying to quell the cries of a baby, trying to calm a child with a bad dream, or trying to battle your own mind, the dark can feel so endless and heavy.
I thought about waking Adam but I knew that wouldn’t make it go away. I had to deal with it and get some much-needed rest.
What was this panic about? I’ve been experiencing some back pain over the last two weeks. Initially, I thought it was yoga-related. But it just keeps hurting.
As a cancer survivor, I can say I’ve been really fortunate not to experience many aches or pains. I don’t really even find myself thinking that “this might be cancer” or “that might be…” instead, I just have felt really healthy. And really worry-free.
But this back pain. I then started to have a small rash on my back. And I did what I tell myself N E V E R to do. I went to google. UGH. WHY?!
Google is not the place for reassurance.
The very first word that popped up? LYMPHOMA.
And I freaked. I freaked so much that my chest was rising and falling quickly. My head was racing. My hands and nose were tingling.
And in the dark of night, it can feel like it will last forever. The fear. The unknown. The anxiety. It can feel heavy.
I had to control this feeling or, as long as the darkness lasted, it would control me.
So, first, I took a Xanax. Yes. I popped a pill. A pill designed to help my bodies physiological response to the anxiety. I have them on hand since going through chemo and this felt like a time that called for the big guns. Then, I enlisted the tactics given time by one of my closest friends and did a mental FEAR plan. I asked myself why this was scary? What the real reality of this was? What it would mean immediately if I were to have a recurrence or a metastasis. I asked myself what other realities this could be and why I was clinging to the most negative. I breathed. Yoga breaths. I breathed in through my nose. Out through my mouth. I focused on the breathing. I took several sips of water as I worked through it. And then, I prayed. I prayed for the events of the day that had been heavy — the shootings in Florida. I prayed for God to calm my busy mind. And I prayed that just as I feel healthy, I am healthy inside.
I write about this for the same reasons I write about it all. One part keeping track of my journey. One part to show the reality of being a human. None of us are immune to stress or anxiety. And we cannot control when, why, or how, it hits us. BUT I think having strategies to cope has helped me tremendously when things like this pop up.
Again, I just had a six-month check, and all looked well. I am on meds that have more control over my body than it feels like I do currently. And, people get back pain. I should be totally cool as a cuke.
But every once in awhile even this survivor, the one who feels really lucky and blessed to not worry about the cancer coming back, a survivor who just wants to live every day and love it all, a survivor who goes to counseling and focuses on researching well-being — even I have days and moments. And I want to give those moments their time, process them, and then move forward.
I am scheduled to see my doctor tomorrow for a good dose of reassurance. And I woke up this morning no longer feeling controlled by a racing mind.
Sometimes, in the dark of night, it can be hard to find the light. In those moments, I think if we get to the center of ourselves, we can often find that the light is buried deep within us. We just have to look a little harder.