No matter how tough you think you are, having a traumatic experience is sure to have varying levels of impact on your life moving forward. In my case, given my history of panic attacks and anxiety, I knew what was in store for me. Except for this time, my previous methods of self-medication, avoidance, and self-destructive behavior needed to be replaced by saner, healthier mechanisms.
Meditation has been one of those methods for me. What once to me was just hogwash or a convenient excuse to continue having unhealthy habits, now became a daily practice I could not miss. The long term heart-healthy benefits of consistent meditation are widely known. Since it all starts and stems from your breathing, and if it has become a practice you have nurtured and developed, meditation can help stop an all-out panic attack.
Late at night, on Friday, June 5th of this year, I had one. I woke up straight out of bed, sweating, and with discomfort in my chest. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom because I felt like diarrhea was forthcoming. Sitting there, I felt a burning in my throat and lungs and severe nausea. Bam! There it began. I was having yet another heart attack. "Damn it," I said out loud, like being mad was going to help or will it away. There was no doubt in my mind. It was happening again. I yelled for Michelle, who woke up and could immediately see the terror in my eyes. "I need to go to the hospital." I then wandered downstairs and sat at the kitchen table. Michelle came down quickly, all dressed and ready to go. I said to her, "If I go, to the hospital, because of COVID, you may never see me again." No response was necessary, as it was moot if it was a heart attack.
It was then I realized I was in full fight or flight mode. I was able to take deep breaths, and my lungs didn't feel like I was outside in freezing weather like it did with my heart attack. I thought to myself, "Maybe it isn't a heart attack." We agreed that I had done a lot of yard work during two hot days of Thursday and Friday. My Fitbit had over 24k steps for both those days, and I didn't do any purposeful exercise except the yard work. Michelle then pointed out that I had eaten chicken wings and ice cream earlier that evening. That, combined with the heat, could be a better explanation for my symptoms. We agreed, even though I didn't think I was out of the woods by a long-shot, to go back upstairs. Michelle said she was going to sleep in her clothes and would be ready to go if needed. She Propped up my side of the bed with pillows as if I was almost sitting up. She held my hand and told me to meditate. I had already started, my breaths calming.
It was morning. It was over. My regular practice of meditation had prepared me to meet the moment. Michelle, holding my hand all night, saw me til the morning. 💯❤💪