Yesterday morning I woke up in St. Louis. I rolled out of bed hours before I needed to and showered, checked to make sure everything was packed for my trip home, worked a little, and then met some folx in the hotel lobby for pre-breakfast tea and coffee. I was feeling a lot tired. A little anxious. Ready to head home. I was feeling my typical post-conference emotional hangover. I could feel that all of the energy had been drained from my body from days of constant activity and in person communication.
This is my normal. Not only do I struggle with anxiety and panic disorder but I’m an introvert. I know from experience that the better care I take of myself the more manageable my anxiety is. If I sleep well. Eat the foods my body thrives on. Provide myself with quiet time. Take time to meditate each day. Get some exercise… These things all add up to a calmer more in control Cami.
But oddly I also thrive on stress in short bursts. I can handle several days of intensity. Of ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW AND ALL DAY. I can maintain and remain calm and am actually very effective in this heightened state which makes me pretty good at a conference and also pretty chill during crisis situations. At those times my brain simply shuts off the fight or flight response and I just do.
Perhaps it’s my superpower?
But it takes a toll. This is also normal. I know when I wrap up a long event I will fall apart a little as soon as everything feels calm and safe. I’ll panic after the actual emergency. And usually this happens the day after. When everyone is safe. Or when I’m safely calmly nestled in at home.
This time that’s not what happened.
Yesterday at breakfast with a big group of people I trust and feel happy and calm with, just after I took my last bite of sausage, I lost that tenuous hold I had on calm. My body started to tingle, my head started to spin, I felt like I was on fire. The panic cycle started. It skipped all of the warning signs my family and I have spent years identifying and and I fell straight into the rabbit hole of panic. I frantically dug through my small purse for my medication only to realize I’d packed that in my backpack. Which was in the hotel.
I sat there silent and freaking out next to an old friend, across from people I know and work with all the time. Spinning out of control. Thoughts of every kind flying through my mind slowly enough to upset me but too quickly for me to grasp. My breath wouldn’t come. My heart was ready to explode. It felt like forever. I somehow willed myself to stand up and walk to the next table where I knew two people would understand. Where I knew they would accept what was happening. Where I knew someone would be able to walk me out of the building.
And I don’t particularly recall what I said. But I remember babbling and acknowledging that I didn’t have my medication and that I would very much like to leave. And I remember feeling like the corners of the world were turning black and cold and like it might be best to just close my eyes when a friend pulled a ridiculous face and made me laugh and then just like that I was outside in the cool air walking back to the hotel on the few familiar streets of St. Louis I’d become accustomed to. Safe but still in a spin.
Back at the hotel I took my medication. I returned to my friends and we all piled into a car to the airport. Eventually calm crept back in but every muscle in my body ached from the tension I held inside. It’s still that way today.
Even after I was okay those same friends continued to be there. In the car to the airport, through bag check, through security, and tea, and headphone shopping. The anxious part of me feels like I owe them all an apology. There’s a little voice that says they probably hate you now… so high maintenance.
But I’m getting better at knowing better. I don’t think I owe them an apology, just a thank you. For seeing me. For knowing what to do. For being the extraordinary people they are.
Also seriously I never have any idea how to end a post like this. There’s no snazzy ending. There’s no neat bow to tie it up with. There’s no cute anecdote. There’s just me.
Anxiety and panic continue to be a struggle for me. With a lot of help I don’t struggle every day now, but it’s never far away. Thank you to all of you who provide me a safe space. And to those of you who do so for others. You make the world a better place.