On rocking chairs and panic attacks on my 33rd birthday

On rocking chairs and panic attacks on my 33rd birthday

I spent the night before my 33rd birthday building a rocking chair.

Gray. Nice fabric. Comfortable. Full of splinters when putting it together. A fairly typical rocking chair. I fit the pieces together, inserted screws so that it couldn't turn into a Transformer on a whim and placed it in the corner of our nursery.

Today is my 33rd birthday. I'm sitting in the rocking chair, looking around at what hopefully in less that a month will be my child's room. A crib in the other corner. Wall hangings on the floor that still need me to help them live up to their name. An open closet full of diapers, clothes, diapers, clothes, diapers and more clothes. And a bouquet of pacifiers.

I feel content – in a much different place than I was this time last year.

On my 32nd birthday, I was in the midst of a stretch of panic attacks that had started early in the year. Every six weeks or so, I would check myself into the hospital convinced I was in the midst of a heart attack. I constantly had my finger on my wrist checking my pulse for the slightest change. I was sure every mole and blemish on my body was skin cancer. It was an awful, awful time.

Yet, I never let it win. I went to work every day even when it was at its worst. I made it to every game in the softball league I was in that summer. I walked around as if nothing was wrong with me. I lived my life through the fear.

But the panic attacks kept coming anyway.

Later in the year, my wife and I would find out she was pregnant. I was joyous. But the anxiety and panic still were there. And it culminated in a bad panic attack in early January that required my pregnant wife to drive me to the hospital in the early morning hours on roads covered with ice.

That was my lowest point with the panic attacks. I knew I couldn't let this continue as it was, especially with a child on the way. After that, I became serious about my treatment. I focused more during my cognitive therapy sessions. I allowed the doctors to put me on anti-anxiety medicine, something I had resisted until then.

I've not had a bad panic attack since. Not that I can let my guard down. I always have to watch out when I feel the panic starting to seep in, to put myself in the right state of mind to combat it.

But for the past few months I've felt good. I've started to regain my confidence. I'm in a good place. I might even start writing on a regular basis again soon. (We'll see.)

Most of all, I simply can't wait to hold our little bundle of joy in my arms in the rocking chair that I put together the night before my 33rd birthday.

• Joe Grace is a longtime journalist and writer who lives in the Chicago suburbs. Please support Going for Gusto by liking the Facebook page atFacebook.com/GoingForGusto. You can write to Joe at joewriter81@gmail.com.

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