Keith and I started watching “Friday Night Lights” on Netflix this summer and quickly became addicted. If you’ve watched the show, you know how intensely it sucks you in. You start to feel like you’re living right there in the small, football-obsessed town of Dillon, TX. You find yourself motivating co-workers by saying, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” You crave Alamo Freeze. You realize you actually know what number and position each of the Panthers plays. Especially Riggins. And if you’re me, you are mentally transported back in time to the trauma that is high school. So it struck me as rather uncanny that Mama Kat’s weekly writing prompts would include “Your first panic attack” – which, in my case, took place at the end of my senior year at Spiffy High.
Nowadays, the classic panic attack is almost de rigeur. (I mean, have you really even lived until you’ve experienced the joy of clammy hands, sudden onset hot flash, racing heart, severe tremors and impending sense of unidentifiable doom?) I think about panic attacks a few times a day in my modern life. But in 1990, anxiety was simpler. We didn’t know from panic attacks, as Grandma Ethel would have said. I just always understood that I was a nervous person who worried a lot and lived under a cloud of melancholy.
With graduation looming on the horizon, I felt totally isolated (which may or may not have actually been the case); I absolutely could not bear the thought of choosing a college and then leaving home to go to it; I was in a bad relationship; and I despised myself more than you can imagine. So really, things were fabulous!
You won’t be surprised to learn that “my first time” took place in gym class, the morning after I lost a huge fight with my high school boyfriend, B. I had barely slept and probably skipped breakfast, but gym stops for no man. I had no choice but to hit the weight room circuit, and made it through two or three of the machines. Then came the leg press. As I situated myself, I felt my stomach drop to my feet. My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it, and sweat began pouring down my face. I tried to push the five-pound weight into the wall, but found that my legs were rubber. I would have stood up and run to the bathroom, but I was pretty sure I’d pass out. I froze in place. Clearly, I had some sort of sudden onset virus and would need to be airlifted out of school. Perhaps they would even quarantine me. It never occurred to me that this was anything other than physical.
I headed to the nurse’s office post-haste, and felt better as soon as I sat down among the derelicts with faux migraines. My pulse seemed to have slowed to no more than 200, but still, I was obviously quite ill. I waited for the nurse and when I went in, she asked me a lot of questions about my health in general. Then she asked what was going on “at home.” As a regular watcher of after-school specials, I was compelled to assure her that no one was beating or molesting me, and that neither of my parents drank heavily or abused drugs. Strangely, I also felt compelled to tell her about my college angst and B – and then, for dessert, started crying.
Hmm. I’d never known that to be a symptom of the flu.
The nurse looked at me with sympathy and said, “I think you had an anxiety attack.”
Wait, I’m not being airlifted?! You don’t have to call my parents? Frick on a palpitating stick and Panic McNervoustein!
She had me lie down for a few minutes and told me to go back to class when I felt up to it. And sure enough, I was fine. Except that now, I had a new bully in my life … one that still follows me everywhere I go.