About Last Night

Love+Medicine - Panic

As a doctor, I spend my time giving advice to people. Before I write another blog post, I need to come clean. Let me tell you about last night.

I had a panic attack.

Whether it was an acute stress reaction or panic attack is just semantics.

I was getting ready to leave for Israel for a month. After I packed, I went into my “passport drawer” and my passport was gone. I frantically searched in every suitcase and purse pocket. I felt the panic building until I could not think, stand or breathe. Then, all I could do was cry and cry. Deep, primal crying like I hadn’t experienced in years. My thoughts spiraled; I’ll have to wait 2 weeks for an expedited passport. I’ll lose tons of money on the flight and Air bnb. My daughter will be upset. I’m jeopardizing my health by worrying.

My reaction was irrational and out of proportion to the situation.

That’s when I reached out for kindness; from my friend who scoured my Madison apartment, from my friend who prayed to Saint Anthony (the Patron of lost things), from my daughter in Israel telling me to breathe and from my daughter in Australia giving me sound advice that I couldn’t even hear because I was so freaked out.

The truth is there was nothing really wrong. I’ve been through a health crisis. That is really something wrong. I always said any problem that can be solved with money is not a problem.

This could be solved by traveling with my Israeli passport. I could get a new American passport easily at the Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Here I was, not practicing what I preach.
So I looked inward.

I know now that it wasn’t only a lost passport. It is the emotions attached to this trip – seeing my amazing daughter, going to Israel this time to find work, a place to stay, a home. I was bombarded with the chaos of my life now – living in two places, trying to keep track of my stuff. Being a gypsy has its issues…

I feel different this morning. Although this wasn’t my first panic attack, it was my first in a long time. It is the first in reaction to something really minor.

I was reminded of how awful panic attacks feel. This will help me in my practice. I experienced how your body feels foreign and out of control. When you feel immobilized, confused and scared. I empathize with the many sufferers of panic disorder and will make it my mission to help them. Like all mental disorders, the stigma can stop people from getting help. Seeking the kindness of others is a key part of the treatment, it was for me.

I started writing this on the bus to O’hare and I am finishing it at the airport. I feel the sense of urgency to post this for myself and for others. We are all only circumstances away from irrational reactions.

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