I looked up at my wife, with what I thought might be my last breath and said “I don’t want to die.”
Many of you click on one of my blogs expecting a sarcastic take about a trending topic. My blogs historically (6 months) have been nothing more than a shoddy attempt to make you, my dear reader, laugh. Today I switch it up. Today I open up a little (a lot) about myself and an issue I’ve been dealing with.
May is mental health awareness month. It’s a topic that forever has been taboo to talk about. A weakness of the brain. It’s something that every generation born before 1980 would just “deal with.” But with the 90’s came the internet, chat rooms where people could open up with anonymity and see they weren’t the only one’s with a “weakness.” By the late 90’s Tony Soprano would take panic attacks and his therapy sessions mainstream with the hit show “The Sopranos.” Slowly people began feeling more comfortable expressing themselves with their own mental disorders.
July 18, 2018 my life changed. I had been having a strange feeling in my chest for a couple months. Every now and then my chest would tighten for about 30 seconds. It felt like, what I thought was, a heart attack. I have a lengthy family history of heart problems at a young age. I was scared it was now my turn. I watched a movie that night with my wife, when it was over I noticed a pain in my left arm. My mind immediately thought it was a precursor to a heart attack. My chest felt fine, but I wasn’t ready to sleep yet. My wife went to bed and I stayed out watching TV. Within an hour I could feel my chest tightening, a severe pain in the center of my chest. I couldn’t breathe. My wife heard me call as I hit the deck, standing no longer an option. With sweat pouring off my head and soaking my shirt, I prayed the ambulance would come soon. I kept thinking “I don’t want my kids to see me like this.” The majority of that night is a blur. I don’t remember coach coming over to watch the kids so court could ride to the hospital. But what I do remember is telling my wife “I don’t want to die.”
After 2 days in the hospital with every test and Dr. telling me I was fine, I left a very confused man. I knew it wasn’t a dream and the physical pain I felt wouldn’t let me accept I was fine. The consensus was a major panic attack. Different from an anxiety attack, panic attacks can happen without a trigger. It’s whenever the body decides to dump a ton of adrenaline and leaves the brain to figure it out. It might be a little, or it might be a crippling amount that can leave you unconscious.
It sucks. And it’s scary. Even though I know what is happening to me, when in the middle of an attack, I still think I’m taking my last breathes. The pain is so real that it overtakes anything my mind would like it to think. NBA player Kevin Love shared his story last year about his first experience with panic attacks. It happened during a timeout of a game.
So, there it is. Don’t ever be ashamed to get help if you need it. I don’t wish this mental illness on anyone. It’s a continuing struggle that I will be open about. I have to be.