My first debilitating panic attack I encountered was when I was in college. I had a friend who was pregnant but somehow kept it a secret from our close circle of friends, she was in serious denial about her situation and didn’t tell me until she was 7 months in, and was having some issues. She chose to tell me, I was only one she trusted to keep the information quiet. I watched her binge drink at parties, use cocaine and ecstasy as well as prescribed aderall and Xanax. Once I knew about the baby, and knew what she had been doing to her body in that 7 month period, I asked her if she had thought about what was going to happen to the baby. She sat quietly and shook her head as she started to cry, I knew at that moment, I had to take matters into my own hands.
She was incredibly good at keeping it all a secret and remained in a constant state of denial. I made appointments for her to go see a doctor, and she blew them all off, until I had a day off and decided I needed to take her in myself. When I took her to the hospital I found out how far along she was, and took the pamphlets of information on what to expect when your expecting. Since I was the only one who knew, and the only one who was looking out for the unborn baby, not to mention she was clearly not accepting the current situation of her pregnancy, so I took it into my own hands to try to take care of her.
One night during finals she came to my room crying, she told me she was having cramps, but I knew it was too early for her to be in labor, so I tried to calm her down and told her to go back to bed. A few minuted later she came back to my room, and told me she had taken 6 Xanax and that she thought she was going to have the baby. I quickly skimmed and read through the information I had collected at the hospital. She was having contractions. I sat with her at 3 am and waited for them to get closer and closer, then I called the hospital and told them we were on the way and that she was going into labor. I called one of our best friends and told her to come with us, no questions asked, I didn’t want to be the only one involved anymore, I didn’t want to keep this secret anymore.
We packed into my car and drove to the hospital, I was overwhelmed, I had barely slept, and was cramming for finals, as well as managing a girl who was in complete denial about her current pregnancy. I lied to all our our friends for months and watched her destroy her own body as well as the baby who was growing inside of her.
Once she was in the labor room, the ladies in the maternity wing kept asking us questions that I’m sure are usually exciting and happy questions to ask a mother going into labor, “Aww well who do we have here?” “When is the father going to arrive” “do you know the sex yet or are you waiting for the surprise”. All simple questions, but not when the mother couldn’t care less about the baby. They soon picked up on the situation, a new nurse came in and talked to her, she talked to her with a stern voice and said, “it seems you haven’t been taking good care of yourself, what doctors have you seen during this pregnancy, what medication have you been taking?” She was anemic apparently, and should have been taking prenatal vitamins as well as going to monthly appointments I had tried to set up.
Alll of a sudden I was soaking in sweat, the room felt small and closing in, my arms and legs were tingling and I felt faint. I ran into the bathroom of the room we were in and fell to the floor over the toilet, I threw up, I was so hot, I took off every layer of clothing I could and still couldn’t breath. I was hyperventilating, and thoughts were rushing through my head. It was all real now. What if the baby is born dead, what if the baby was destroyed by my friends excessive drinking and drug use, what if she keeps it, what if she doesn’t? Will we ever know how this baby will live, could she have birth defects, was it my fault because I didn’t stop her from her from making these bad decisions. Did I somehow ruin this baby’s life, who hasn’t even entered the word yet?
I pulled myself up off the floor using the cold sink as leverage. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t see myself. I saw a girl who was ghost white. Her eyes were sunken in and had dark bags under them. Was that me? How did it come to this? I splashed some water on my face and pulled myself together before I went back into the room. She was about to go into labor and I decided I didn’t want to be there anymore. I didn’t want my first birthing experience to be this one. There were so many variables that could happen and I didn’t want to be there too see any of it. I didn’t want to support this anymore. I got here here, I made sure she was in good hands, and I left.
I asked my friend to text me when she had the baby. The nurse looked at me, and noticed my state, she asked if I was ok, and I had to say yes and muttered “this isn’t how this was supposed to happen”… and walked out of the room.
My next appointment to my primary care dr I was prescribed Klonopin. Flash forward 6 years…
Flashbacks to that feeling of panic had became regular now. It was a few months before my sentencing hearing and the anxiety was overwhelming. I couldn’t control what was going to happen to me, all I could do was go to my classes and try to make it through one day at a time.
During the last few times I met with my lawyer at the courthouse, it became increasingly clear that the prosecution against me, was going to do all they could to come down hard on me. The judge I was assigned to had a history of siding with the prosecution and rarely ever assigned house arrest instead she usually gave jail time. Even to first time DUI offenses. I was a train wreck. I could barely keep my composure at work, everything little thing that happened sent me into a downward spiral of worst case sceneries running through my head.
It was busy at work, and I wasn’t keeping up with the work I needed to get done, I made a few mistakes and caused one of my clients to get incredibly upset with me. I talked back to the client. This caused me to have a one on one with my boss and her boss, but I will get into that later.
I had a few months to wait until my sentencing date. My lawyer was preparing me for the worst outcome.
– 10 days in jail with possibility of work release or maybe if the Judge was in a good mood, 30 days house arrest
– 52 hours of alcohol therapy and education
– 48 hours of community service (the max)
– MADD panel
– 2 years of monitored probation
– 2 years of ignition interlock in my car (a breathalyzer)
– And Thousands in court fees
It all felt so surreal. Like this couldn’t be happening to me.
The week after my DUI until this point , about 4 months, I had so much time to think and reflect on my decision. As much as I hated getting caught, and hated what I had done, I knew that this situation was a blessing in disguise. I was living carelessly, I was acting like a teenager, rebelling against myself. My anxiety grew and grew in the next two months to sentencing, and I was having at least 3 panic attacks a week.
The room would spin, I would feel nauseous, my limbs would go weak and I would start crying uncontrollably. I’d call my best friend, or my parents in tears, and one of them would talk me down. The smallest trigger would set me off, or they would come out of nowhere with no warning. I missed a lot of work, even though I knew I needed to save my PTO just in case I was sentenced to jail, which just caused even more anxiety.
Time passed by and I knew I had to tell my sister about my situation before I got sentenced… I couldn’t bring myself to tell her, every time I tried to pick up the phone, I would have a panic attack, so I enlisted the help of my parents. I asked them to call her and tell her because I was horrified about what she would say or think of me.
They made the phone call, and a few days later I had my sentencing hearing…
– Vivian Marie