I was being kissed. I felt fine. All my worries were a thousand miles away.
Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe.
I tried repeatedly to fully inhale but my breath was stuck in the back of my throat. Air wasn’t making it to my lungs.
My heart started pounding. Something was very wrong.
I knew I was having a heart attack. Probably some undiagnosed congenital thing… shit, this was going to devastate my family. Especially so soon after losing my grandma.
On the quick ride to the nearest ER my vision was tunneling. My fingertips felt tingly. I was gulping air, my mouth gaping like the carp I’d thrown bread at as a child.
When the admitting nurse put a pulse oximeter on my finger and it flashed 99% she said, “Honey, you’re getting as much air as I am right now. Look at this number. That’s a good number”. She helped me inhale and exhale until I could catch my breath.
My grandma, my favorite person, was in the ground five states away. Two days after her funeral, I flew away and set about forgetting her, my nagging emptiness, and the family and friends I’d left behind.
My dad told me, years later, that he had nightmares for six months after she died and I left. Cold sweat, wake-up-screaming nightmares. He isn’t good at emotions either.
Grief finds a way out. No matter how hard we try to push it back in.
This was my only experience with an anxiety attack. There was plenty to convince me how terrifyingly physical an experience it was. I was certain I was going to die.
Later that night, I sat in the hospital parking lot and pulled the antenna up on my early model cell phone. He answered in the first ring.
Between sobs, “I miss her so much.”
By | Mariah A Hall