I thought I was cured. I thought my anxiety was gone, locked away in its cage, no key. But just like In the movies, monsters always find a way to escape. People are minding their own business, laughing and talking and posting stories on Instagram, and within seconds the music changes and they are being chased by a T-Rex. That is exactly how I found myself on the floor of the grocery store in Aisle 5, wondering if I would die surrounded by walls of popcorn and potato chips.  

Why am I so tired? I was fine a few minutes ago. I will have to make coffee when I get home. This is really annoying. Should I leave? Don’t be ridiculous, you only need 10 things. Suck it up. Wait. Why do I feel so weird? You’re fine, no one ever died from being tired. Keep going. Get the cheese, get the iced tea. God, it’s hot in here. I’m sweating, when did I start sweating? Am I saying this out loud? My heart. My ears, I can’t hear. Ohmygod why is it so hot in here? Sit down. SIT DOWN. Are you crazy, this is the grocery store you can’t just sit down. People will stare. Or maybe people will help? You need help. My heart, it’s going too fast, it’s going to stop. I have to get home. I have to cool down. Run. Run to the door. Wait. You are on the floor. A woman is peering into your face. Cold. Cold, please. Did you say that out loud? Why can’t you think straight? Remember your mantra, ‘thoughts are just thoughts’… shit. What’s the rest? Am I dying? Vegetables. She is handing you 2 bags of frozen vegetables. Thank you, thank you, I am okay, I need to get home. Put the vegetables down your shirt, shock your body into behaving. Cold. Cold is good. Stand up. Get out of here and into the snow. Into your home. Into your bed. You need your bed. You’re not dead.

I left, blindly. I don’t remember what happened to my cart of groceries or whether people were staring as I made my way to the door with one bag of frozen corn in my bra and one on the back of my neck. I only know that I dropped them both when I hit the delicious wall of winter air and gulped and gasped like someone who had just been on the verge of drowning.   

It took me 2 full days to recover. I stayed in bed, afraid of what might happen if I left the house. And now? I’m still scared. The human body is fascinating, it has a memory. Muscles remember their positions. Teeth remember which direction they grew before braces set them straight. My brain remembers how to attack me. 

Now I obsess: when will it happen again? Where will I be? Will someone help me, will I get myself home quickly? Will the next time finally land me in the hospital with chest pains and heart monitors? 

People ask why, what major event happened recently that would have triggered this episode? That’s the secret: there is rarely a reason. Panic disorder is a monster let out of its cage on an otherwise normal, happy day. Maybe it doesn’t look like a T-Rex, but it is equally terrifying. You can only hope that the door stays shut. 

© Calling All Cool Moms 2019