Watch your step, there’s danger afoot…

The first time I had a panic attack was in February of 1999. I was traveling for work (a week in Austin, TX) and the morning I left home I was to leave Austin and catch a connecting flight in Memphis, TN to get home to Philly.

Unfortunately, when I got to Memphis, I found my connection was cancelled. Seems there was a roving snowstorm covering much of the Northeast. I happened to have a first class seat, which back then gave me the ability to walk the terminal to any airline and get the first available seat on any plane (I doubt the airlines follow this agreement anymore).

Anyway, I got a seat on a flight to Cincinnati that would connect me again to Philly. I got there after a long delay only to be cancelled again and find a new flight that would finally get me home. Well, you get the idea. I flew from airport to airport only to get more bad news. In that time, I ate little, and had about 5 Venti Lattes. I was hyped up on caffeine. I got on the last flight out of the airport (it was nearly midnight) and we sat on the tarmac waiting to take off.

And we waited.

Soon the pilot’s voice came overhead, “weellllllll…” (you know it’s never good when you get the drawn out ‘well’) “we are #29 for takeoff… hopefully we will take off before they ground all flights again.”

I just about lost it.

In fact, I did.

My face flushed, my hands went clammy, my heart started beating a million miles an hour, and my head started to practically blow off. I couldn’t breathe.

It was a panic attack. And the only reason I did not completely lose it was the nice businessman who talked me down and gave me all of his supply of Tic Tacs and bored me with tales of his sales calls as a consultant for a prosthetic supply company.

After that day, I became completely claustrophobic.

I had “almost” panic attacks many times since then. All being when I was in a confined area. The next most memorable one being the time my family and I were trapped in a hot elevator. Remember that?

So much so that I am fearful of elevators now. If I have the option to hoof it on the stairs, I will. I am still “uncomfortable” in planes. Especially the small commuter planes that only are 3 seats wide. I will myself to stay calm, but inside I feel like I could almost pass out.

Why am I telling you this? Well, recently I had another panic attack.


In the baby aisle.

You see, we still buy tons of baby wipes and bubble bath. So as much as I would like to avoid that section, I can’t.

One Saturday, S., David and I went for our normal trip to stock up. The boys were still in the Toy section. I happened to walk down the aisle to grab a box of wipes and realized I was on the wrong aisle. I was about to course-correct, and a very pregnant woman dropped something on the floor in front of me. It was (I guess) her own registry or maybe someone else’s, and I immediately bent down to help pick up the papers on the floor for her. She looked relieved and thanked me. I can’t remember exactly what she said but something like “I am overdue.” and I smiled. I turned to walk away and ended up on the baby accessories aisle to make my way out and I caught my eye on a teething ring.

David had the same teething ring as a baby. For a moment I thought ‘hey, weird! they carry the exact same teething ring as the one I bought (maybe here- even) 6 years ago.’

And then, I felt my face drain, I was hot, my heart started to pound, and I had the faint ringing in my ears. At that point, I saw S. and David with the cart, threw my items in, and made a bee-line to the bathroom.

S. didn’t notice my mental state as I walked away. To be truthful, I attempted to hide it. I stood in a bathroom stall for a few minutes until I regained composure.

It was horrifying.

Since that day, I had another close call at a store (that sells high-end baby stuff) when I took David to buy a backpack for school. I knew I had a baby gift to buy as well (and heck I was already THERE), so I literally ran though the infant section expecting it might happen again. I didn’t. But the person at the cash register was slow, and I almost just walked out because I was at the verge of overwhelmed (I could have fainted at any moment when I felt my heart pick up speed).

Can I tell you how this is so unlike me? I am a complete wreck.

I am so embarrassed to talk about it. Over this weekend, I just have come to the conclusion that Infertility has pissed on me again in the worst way possible.

I have many years of gifts (birthdays, Christmases, and otherwise) for babies in my future. My friends and family have children, and certainly they will have more.

I will have to walk into these stores many times in my life, for the rest of my life.

And now, I have this completely new, ridiculous phobia.

A blogging friend, Rebeccah, recently wrote about PTSD rearing its ugly head during her latest trip to the GYN. And Cecily wrote about an equally horrifying experience too.

The triggers are like landmines on a minefield. Always one step away from disaster.

You can’t expect to live through so much loss and disappointment and be able to escape unscathed. There is no amount of compartmentalizing… no cure. Even beating the crap out of Infertility and experiencing success doesn’t give you the ticket out of Hell. There is always that unlikely trigger, just around the corner… waiting.

Nothing guarantees your sanity. Not in a doctor’s office, in a Tar.get, or even in the safety of your own home.

Infertility is the gift that keeps on giving.

I am convinced now that this is true.

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10 thoughts on “Watch your step, there’s danger afoot…

  1. Shelli – I'm so sorry that you are suffering.. in so many ways. I hope you will get a professional opinion soon to help figure out the issue and how to start healing. FYI, my best friend thought for years that she had PA's. A doctor eventually figured out that it was actually an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can be hard to distinguish between certain emotional/psychological troubles.Wishing you a little peace and comfort. (hugs.)

  2. I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. I can't imagine living with that constant fear that you're going to be "attacked" like that. I hope you can find some relief while you're working through everything you're dealing with. ((hugs))

  3. Oh, Shelli, I'm so sorry. You're a stronger person than I am, I refused to go to baby stores at all. I shopped online or they got a gift card. I avoided all baby aisles everywhere I possibly could. Don't be hard on yourself, you've been through some heartbreaking stuff. Give yourself time. You won't feel like this forever. And don't be embarrassed. You're not alone, dear – not by a long shot. And you're exactly right, infertility just keeps on giving, and giving, and giving. It's the party guest who won't. go. home. Hang in there, Shelli – thinking of you…

  4. ShelliI found your blog after you visited my own :). And reading your story has been helpful in a sense–knowing someone else "like me" is out there–even if my son is a bit younger than yours. I pray that you find peace in the decisions you need to make as you move forward. And as for statistics–don't you just hate them? One of my current doctors says that they mean nothing–my chance of being pregnant is 100% Or 0. And looking at it that way makes me far less angry that I too seem to sit on the "wrong end" of the statistics.(Also, I have had many panic attacks over the years. Made many trips to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack. I know everyone thought I was a loon. But they are scary. And only people who HAVE them know just how scary.) All my best…

  5. I used to get PAs in my twenties. Started in a metro car in Paris, of all places. Continued after I returned to the US. They scared the crap out of me. I was more scared of getting one, than actually having one. They made me feel completely insane.I got through them because my brother's girlfriend at the time was a therapist and she knew how to deal with PAs. She sent me literature and tapes that got me through some very scary moments. Breathing exercises and physical exercise helped a ton too.I have occasionally felt a slight flutter of an attack rise to the surface. But only when under extreme stress and I am able to manage it.If these continue, I highly encourage you to get help with it. You have suffered enough, you don't need panic attacks on top of it.I'm really sorry you're having to deal with those, but it is understandable after all you've been through.I'm wondering if shopping online, at least temporarily, could help? It might trigger less than an actual store where it's All Baby, All The Time.Take care.

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