I thought I was done with them. I thought it was safe. I thought I had this all under control. Sometimes, we have to be reminded that life just isn't that easy. This past week I was on vacation. A very dear friend of mine bought cruise tickets for himself, my sister, another great friend, and myself. We all had a great time. It felt wonderful relaxing in the sun and have the opportunity to explore places I truly have never been before (as far as we know anyway *wink-wink*.)
Still, being on a ship with 3000+ other people proved to be even harder than I would have thought. The very first day we were all called to our muster station for emergency protocol briefing before we left port. That was my first lesson in how difficult the rest of the week truly would be for me.
When we first arrived at our muster station, we were lined up in one of three rows. I was in the middle row to the left of my friends. Then we sat there for a really long time waiting for them to get everyone where they were supposed to be before they started explaining emergency procedure. Here I was, surrounded by mostly strangers, in a corridor I wasn't allowed to leave, with people I didn't know behind me prodding me in the back occassionally (mostly because it was a fairly cramped space and they just couldn't help it no matter how hard they tried), all that was visible to me besides people was a bulkhead in front of me and a small amount of sky through the corner of a lifeboat "doorway" (basically a big window), and I truly had to keep reminding myself to breath and not throw up on anyone.
I have a coping mechanism for moments like this. I press my middle finger at it's base, close my eyes, imagine I'm in an open space (like a beach or a wide open field), and breath deeply and slowly from the diaphragm. Even that was barely keeping me calm, but I was managing.....until my sister noticed what was going on and asked if I was okay. That put me in tears. I couldn't contain if I had to explain what was going on.
Mostly, it was nerve wracking because it was so unexpected. I haven't experienced a panic attack like that since last year sometime. I've kept myself so under control that I had myself fooled that this would be no problem. I was wrong.
After that first day, I had several panic attacks, but, being more prepared for them, I was able to maintain control until I could get myself out of whatever situation I was in. This usually occurred on the elevators (there were a lot of people trying to use them, and it's a small "room" that you can't get out of easily, so that's not really surprising.) I more often than not used the stairs, unless I really wasn't feeling up to it.
None of this prevented me from relaxing and enjoying my vacation. The only purpose this served was to show me that I am not as under control as I thought. I need to continue my breathing exercises (after all practice makes perfect) and continue meditations that I had started when I was first returned to my family and in therapy.
If you suffer from panic attacks, please don't hesitate to seek therapy. If, like me, you are in a financial bind, controlling yourself in a situation that you cannot control is the only way I have been able to cope. Perhaps that same will help you.