blurred image of woman having a panic attack

The Most Terrifying Day of My Life

A week ago today, I thought I was going to die. 

I had never been so terrified in my life. I was more terrified than when there was a guy in my attic when I was about 7 years old.  That incident didn’t even come close to what I experienced last week. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

How my excitement turned to dread

At 2:44pm, I came up with the most amazing idea that involved my first passion in life – music. I texted my husband about how excited I was about it. I had never been so excited in my LIFE!

At 2:58pm, I texted my husband again. “I’ve got a problem. My phone suddenly doesn’t make sound anymore.”  I restarted it and everything – I just couldn’t figure it out! (I eventually discovered the volume was turned all the way down like it normally is… I wanted to laugh, but it really concerned me that I didn’t try turning it up right away like I always do.)

At 3:01pm, my text to my husband said, “I’m literally shaking from excitement. I know it will only make pennies, but I don’t care. I finally found something I can help people with!!!”

I then noticed my neck and face were turning red and hot… This had happened three other times in the past, but we never figured out what was going on with it. I’m not allergic to anything, but Benadryl and Loratadine helped bring it down in the past.

3:03pm to my husband, “Actually no. I’m having an allergic reaction to something again. My face is all red and so is my neck.”

Then I laid down started thinking how I should probably take Benadryl again, but I didn’t want to get up and find it because it tasted disgusting and I convinced myself I would be fine without it. 

I began searching online to see if excitement could cause a reaction like I was having, and it can! So can stress and other intense emotions.  I was so excited that I had a solid theory about what had been happening to me, even though I didn’t recall what my emotional state was the previous times the reaction had happened. 

I started sending a voice not on Facebook to my mom, “So, I finally figured out what was causing my ne——“

“I’m going to die!” An adrenaline rush of a lifetime.

All of a sudden, my tongue started swelling. “Oh noooo!” I jumped out of bed and ran straight to my neighbor’s house. Normally the backdoor to their garage is open if they are home and it’s not too cold, so I tried there first. It was shut. Fuck.

I ran around to the front, ran into the garage, and busted through their kitchen door. I had never been inside their house before, but I was going to die if I didn’t get help soon, so I screamed to call 911, and that my tongue was swelling. Thankfully, one of my neighbors (P) was home.

While P was on the phone with 911, my throat started closing in on me. “Oh my God! My throat!” 

I had to sit down. 

Then my body started swelling!!! “OH NO! Now my body!!!”

I told P to tell me jokes because I knew by then that I needed to distract myself. He had nothing – I guess it’s hard to be funny in the middle of your neighbor’s crisis. 

I thought of my husband and my kids… would I ever see them again? My worst fear is leaving this life sooner than expected. I don’t want to leave my kids without a mother… not when they are still so little. 

EMS arrived – commence screaming

When the paramedics got there, one of them kept talking to me and tried to get me to slow down my breathing. My body was super tense and I found it hard to move freely. I couldn’t keep my focus, and I was talking a million miles an hour, which is the polar opposite of what I am normally like.

I told them I needed someone to tell me a joke. I’m pretty sure they thought I was crazy. “No, really. I need someone to tell me a joke to distract me. Aren’t any of you guys in here funny?!” 

Throughout the entirety of my ordeal, I was more outspoken and assertive than I probably have been my entire life.

Suddenly, the sensation crawled up my body and my throat began to close in on me again. 

My body’s reaction was to scream the loudest it was capable of screaming – bloody murder, is how I describe it – like my life depended on it.  I had NO CONTROL over it – I couldn’t have prevented the scream if I had tried. I had no idea it was going to happen. 

Deciding to go to the hospital

I decided to take an ambulance ride to the hospital. I thought of my husband and how he would start freaking out if they didn’t have an answer to give him about what was happening to me. I warned the EMS guys that they needed to assure my husband I would be okay. I knew they didn’t understand the significance of reassuring my husband, which worried me.

By then, my other neighbor, M, got home and was shocked to see me in such distress. I emphasized how worried Patrick would be, and that she needed to reassure him. I mentioned something about the kids being at school and needing to be picked up. M promised me she would take care of everything.

Apologizing to my husband

Eventually, I got into the back of the ambulance. Soon after, my husband got home and joined me in the ambulance for a few minutes.

I remember him telling the paramedics, “This isn’t like her at all. She’s the quietest person around other people. I’ve never seen her like this before.”

I think at that point, I apologized to my husband. I apologized to him a lot that afternoon and evening. I couldn’t imagine what he must have been feeling on the inside. He didn’t let me see how worried he was.

Without warning, my body forced me to scream bloody murder again. 

“Yeah, the isn’t her at all”, I heard my husband say. 

My first ambulance ride, baseball, and Comiskey Park

Off to the hospital in the ambulance. I joked with the paramedic taking notes, “At least now I can check this off on the list of things I’ve done.”  I was referring to all of those lists that go around Facebook.

In hindsight, I know I was trying to distract myself from the terrifying things that were happening to my body.  

I asked the guy where he went to school. Then I asked him what his favorite baseball team was. Like, what? Who does that? 

“St. Louis Cardinals” is what I think he said. 

“My dad is the biggest White Sox fan. Do you know the old Comiskey Park? They tore it down about 30 years ago.”

I assumed he didn’t know what I was talking about. I bet he wasn’t even born in 1991!

“My dad has one of those green iconic chairs. Why in the hell am I talking about baseball and Comiskey Park?! I guess I can tell my dad he had a part in all of this!”

I thought the medics were trying to trick me

By then, we were at the hospital. He had me sign his electronic pad. My eyesight was blurry, my arms were still tense, so I was shaking as I tried to make contact with the screen. I could tell my signature looked horrible – not legible at all.

He had me sign again. 

I said, “I know what you’re doing.”

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“You’re having me sign again to see if I can do it better this time. Really, how many people actually fall for this?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” He asks his partner, “How many people fall for it?”

“Oh… quite a few!”  We all laughed.

In that brief moment, I felt completely relaxed, but alas, I tensed back up right away.

Finding my voice

I somehow got myself into a wheelchair. Everyone seemed to be staring at me, and for the first time in my life, it didn’t bother me.

Once I was settled in the wheelchair, some nurse or CMA came up to me and asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

I looked at her like she was fucking stupid. “I DON’T KNOW what’s wrong with me!”

Like, seriously, what kind of question is that? That’s why I was at the hospital. Man, that pissed me off beyond belief.

When I realized they were going to take me to wait out in the lobby, I rose my voice and said, “I randomly scream! Do you really want me to scream out there with all of those people waiting?!”

Because of that, they took me right into triage instead. The triage nurse looked at me like I had three heads. I kept looking around the room, and repeated how I needed to keep distracting myself. It was almost as if I had no control over it – like my brain knew what was best for me at that point. 

Lost: my inhibitions

When another nurse wheeled me into the waiting lobby, she asked me where I wanted to sit. 

“Oh, roll me over by the TV. I’ll talk to those people to try and distract myself.”

Wait – what?! I don’t strike up conversations with strangers! It’s not something I have ever done. I mean, I will talk to someone if they say something first, but I’ve never been one to walk up to a person and start chatting like I’m Chatty Cathy or something.

The most I’ve ever done is ask someone for their business card so I could contact her after a conference. (I’m looking at you, Tracy! <3 )

At any rate, I tried to talk to the couple sitting by the TV, but they were both focused on their phones and didn’t seem to want anything to do with me. I thought at one time I may have been talking gibberish, so I apologized to them a few times before my husband got to the hospital.

Distraction helped

Instead of chatting with them, I ended up looking out in the parking lot, and all over the lobby, like I couldn’t stop by head from moving. I kept repeating that I needed to keep distracting myself.

The thing was – if I didn’t constantly distract myself, it got ten times worse for me. A new distraction would let my body rest for one or two seconds.

When my husband arrived, I told him to quickly pull up one of those videos that have short clips changing every few seconds. He picked a cute one about dogs, but it was ONLY about dogs… so that only distracted me for about five seconds. 

I was still out of my mind

He rolled me to a more remote location because I wouldn’t stop talking. I knew I was acting like a crazy lady. 

Out of the blue, I thought I could have Serotonin Syndrome. Muscle rigidity is a symptom of that, so I pleaded with my husband to tell the front desk, as Serotonin Syndrome is an emergency situation.  He went to the front desk, and I yelled “Serotonin overdose! It’s serious! Tell them! SEROTONIN OVERDOSE!”

Great. Now everyone thought I was a druggie. The idea that people thought I had overdosed on something didn’t bother me then, and I laugh at the memory now.

Coming down…

So after about two ridiculous hours in the waiting area, I got a spot in the ER. Shortly before they called me back, I was beginning to come down off my episode. Probably because I kept talking to my husband and successfully distracted myself that way. 


I was diagnosed with flushing, muscle tightness, and screaming. 

Reason for Visit? Anxiety

Waves of panic attacks

No one ever said I was having a panic attack, but I’m convinced I experienced a rare phenomenon where I had waves of panic attacks until I got into the ambulance. And then, I experienced the after effects with all of my lack of focus, racing mind, etc. 

At home and well

When I got home five hours after it all began, I hugged my kids and tried to spend time with them, but the Valium knocked me out. 

My husband chose to stay home with me the following day (I love him!). I was so afraid it was going to happen again. 

I’ve been fine since that episode, and I’m confident I’ll react better if the same sensations appear again. 

For starters, instead of barging in, maybe I’ll knock on my neighbor’s door… probably not, though.

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