This is what it feels like to have a panic attack

I am in Florida with friends right now. They are friends who are “chosen family.” Being here feels safe and warm and nurturing. I’m helping my friend’s daughter learn to sew. I am not an ideal choice for the role, but I’d throw myself in front of a bus for this kid, so I’m doing my best. She keeps saying, “You’re so good at this.”

I hold up the shirt I’m trying to sew by hand and smirk. It looks wacky and uneven and just like the sort of thing someone with my skills would make. But it’s going to be part of our Project Runway show and by god I’m going to press ahead. If “A” believes in me, well, what else do I really need? These are special moments with my favorite 9-year-old in the world. I hug her or feel her snuggle up to me, and I know I can do all things.

Well, except cope with losing my iPhone.

I arrived at the airport around 11:45 or so on Saturday. My last text was in the car at about 11:30. In between texting that message and getting through security and to Starbucks, I realized my phone was missing.

American Airlines couldn’t have cared less. The guy at the gate said, “American is a big place and there’s no way I can help you. Fill out a lost item form on the website.”

Next stop, TSA. My expectations weren’t high after American’s employees aggressively not caring. I had tears in my eyes at this moment. But TSA were all over it. The guy I found sad, “Have you gone through every pocket?” I said I had. And he said, “Let’s put your bag back through radar and I can tell.” No cell phone. He searched the lost and found twice. He cared about my loss. I had the decency and self-control to thank him profusely.

I was phone-less but I needed to call my husband, so I found a pay phone. Let me just say that your life has gotten to a not-great place if you have to use a pay phone. First up—find one. That took 15 minutes. Then slip the credit card into the phone and listen to the talking robot explain that the first minute of the call will be $10. Yep, $10. I called my husband and he tore the car apart. Not under the seat or on the floor on in the trunk. No phone.

At this point I do not feel like a normal human being who has, for the first time in my life, lost a phone. I feel, instead, like the first person EVER who has lost a phone. And that feeling escalates the whole thing. Panic seizes me. I can feel it blooming inside my chest. It blooms so big that it covers my mouth and nose. I can’t breathe. And then I start crying. First slow tears and then destroy-your-makeup tears and then quite literally unable to breathe tears.

I’m in my mid fifties. Healthy women of my age don’t sob over lost telephones. I am not a healthy woman I guess. My husband says, “It’s just the last straw.” and I guess that’s right. Keeping the panic inside is intolerable. So the crying is my safety valve.

That’s one kind panic attack. I feel it begin to rise inside my chest, heat over my whole body, and then my brain gets stuck. I get stuck on “my iPhone is missing and I don’t know what to do” and somehow my body responds by saying, “You either need to kill that mammoth with your bare hands or run like hell.”

But I can’t run away from the damned phone. I just have to board the plane and try to avoid contact with the people around me. One or two folks have noticed the tears, but they leave me alone.

When I get to Florida, my friends give me a spare phone, take me to AT&T, who switch out the SIM card, making the loaner phone my phone. It cost $5.35. I will have to replace the phone itself at some point, but if I think about that I start to cry again.

I know a lot of people suffer with anxiety and suffer in their own ways. But I have to tell you being a middle-aged woman who cries over a f-ing phone does not feel good. Words like “incompetent,” “nutty,” “drama queen,” “idiot,” “stupid,” “ridiculous” come to mind. They actually flood my mind. I feel helplessness and hopelessness.

Tonight I’m doing meditation and I am, at least, realizing that I’m not improving my situation by calling myself names.

I’d like to wake up one morning and feel “chill,” relaxed, at ease. I wonder what it would feel like to be low key and low maintenance. I’d like to wake up and just be enough, at least for this day.

Tomorrow our Project Runway sewing will be on again. We’ll play with fabric and needles and thread. I hope that I’ll get extra snuggles with “A.” I need them. I need to be the person she sees and believes in.

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