Name: DeNeitra B.
Occupation: Event Producer + Boss lady
Tell us your story:
Prior to January 2017 I never had a problem with flying. As a Southern California native, I traveled to visit my family in Arkansas and Virginia throughout my youth. While attending college at Howard University in Washington, DC I flew back and forth between DC and LA for every holiday, spring break and summers. My husband and I are all about a quick flight to Mexico once or twice a year. Flying was pretty much second nature to me which is why I was so surprised when I experienced my first panic attack while 30,000 feet in the air.
It was a surreal moment. I remember feeling my heart begin to race and with every increased heartbeat, my thoughts began to spiral. Am I having a heart attack? How the hell am I going to get off of this plane? Am I dying? If I die I won’t be able to see my 6-month old son grow up. What about my husband? My parents… .? Y’all, within the span of 10 seconds all of those thoughts crossed my mind. I was sitting in the window seat, my friend sitting in the middle seat beside me. I calmly got my friends attention and told her “I think I’m having a panic attack, call the flight attendant.” The flight attendant was a lovely woman who, from her response had dealt with people in my situation before. She advised me to take deep breaths and brought me a cold towel and a paper bag (thanks, Virgin America, way to be of service). She offered to relocate my seat from the window seat to an aisle seat so that I wouldn’t feel so closed in. I opted to stay in the window seat and figured I could just “deal with it.” I ordered a bottle of wine hoping that it would settle my nerves and 4 hours later I landed at JFK airport.
My in-air panic attack would serve as the first of many that I would have during 2017. Each time one came on I felt the same death grip on my thoughts and emotions. I was scared. I felt completely out of control and I had no clue how I would handle the next one. I chalked it up to life being stressful, don’t all new moms have a little anxiety? I mean, I run a successful event production company with major client projects to manage so anxiety comes with the territory, right?
I managed my anxiety by drinking. I would buy a bottle of wine on Monday and it would be finished by Tuesday evening. I ate chocolate and cupcakes and paid zero attention to my health. I drank coffee and scrolled Instagram stalking competitors and would wonder why I felt like such crap afterward. I wondered why I kept spiraling.
At the end of 2017, I vowed that I had successfully learned how to manage my panic attacks. I had started therapy, I was less stressed with work, I had finally figured out this whole mom thing, so I was good to go. I hadn’t had a panic attack in several months and I resigned to the fact that they were gone from my life forever, boy was I wrong.
At 4:30 am on January 28 I was jolted awake from a sound sleep with a racing heart. I mean, it was beating so fast I could hear and feel it. My husband had fallen asleep on the sofa watching the Australian Open so I rushed out of bed and told him “babe, you need to call the paramedics, I’m having a heart attack.” Now, it’s 4:30 am and he’s in a dead sleep. He wakes up confused and tells me that I probably just had a bad dream and that I should go back to sleep. I put his hand on my heart and he felt how fast it was beating. He called 911 and within 5 minutes the paramedics had arrived. Y’all, those 5-minutes seemed like 5-hours. I was so scared. I just kept looking at pictures of my son hanging on the wall and thinking “God, I’m going to miss everything. . .” Just writing this right now has me feeling all of the emotions that I experienced that night. The paramedics arrived and took my vitals – pulse rate 130 at rest and blood pressure 165/120. I had no clue of the physical manifestation of a panic attack – I seriously believed that I was having a heart attack and was going to die. The paramedics told me I was having a panic attack and gave me resources for how to manage it at the moment and left.
The entire experience was so traumatizing and scary for me. For the past two months, the panic attacks have been sporadic. I’ve been getting better sleep. I do, however, feel like my doctor’s office is my second home. After experiencing these panic attacks I feel as if I’m in a constant state of worry that another one is going to come on. There is, however, a positive to this story. I’m going to share how I am learning to navigate my triggers, cope with my anxiety, and my road to overcoming.
What’s helping me:
- Prayer – building a closer relationship with God and leaning on Him during this time has been so helpful. I’ve meditated on Philippians 4:8 and whenever I feel a panic attack coming on I recite the scripture.
- Reading (well listening) to Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. I had no idea that a book could so transform my thought process and how I approach my anxiety.
- Therapy – I didn’t realize how many issues I have that stem from my childhood. I had a great childhood, but there are certain areas that I’m still learning to work through.
- Journaling – starting a gratitude journal has helped me put things into perspective
- Talking about it with friends – realize that all of your friends won’t support or understand what you are going through. I encourage you to find some that will, the support is invaluable.
- Creating this blog – Genesis 50:20 says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Now, do I think this blog will save lives? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that after reading stories submitted by brave women on this blog, at the very least you will be comforted in knowing that other women have been exactly where you are at this moment.
What advice would you give another woman who is going through a similar experience?
Know and understand that you are not alone. Recognize that anxiety is something that you will have to continually work to manage. Take care of yourself and show yourself grace through the process. None of us has it completely together, and you know what. . .that’s OK. I really believe that we do ourselves more harm than good when we put up the facade that everything is perfect. Sometimes my toddler will have a meltdown in the middle of Target. Sometimes my house will be a mess. Sometimes I won’t have dinner on the table and we’ll have to order in. Sometimes my business will be slow. All of these things use to send me over the edge, but friend, I’m learning that they don’t have to. I encourage you to sift through this blog and read the stories shared by women just like you and me who have been (and may still be) in the center of the storm. We WILL get through this. Sending you so much encouragement and love.