My First Panic Attack


In September of 2019 I had my first panic attack.

I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I was traveling for work, and woke up in my hotel room around 2am Paris time with shallow, rapid breathing and tightness around my upper chest and throat.

I honestly thought I was dying.

I didn’t have a clue what to do, either. My thoughts were racing…

“Do I go to the doctor? Where would I even go? How would I get there? I don’t speak a bit of French… that would definitely be problematic. What about health insurance? Would my garbage U.S. plan somehow cover this? If it even mattered, because I was probably a goner…”

I was terrified.

I called my wife in Denver, and thankfully she was awake (hooray for time zones!) and able to help me understand what was likely happening to me.

I didn’t put all the pieces together until much later — after many more panic attacks, frequent trips to the doctor, some very helpful medication, lots of talk therapy, and an amazing EMDR app — that my panic attacks seemed to be caused by my impending divorce (which finalized the following year) and the fracture that caused in my envisioned future.

These days, I am medication-free but every once in awhile I still pull out the EMDR app — I now know the signals of what anxiety feels like inside my body, and I can preempt it before it becomes an attack.

And while most days my anxiety isn’t present, I know it’s not gone completely.

But it is manageable.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

And you are not alone.

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