Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

He Doesn't Know That He's My Saviour

A few weeks ago I posted about my genetic counseling appointment. I learned more about the genes I knew increased one’s risk of breast cancer as well as a gene I knew little about that not only related to breast cancer but stomach cancer as well. Stressful times, indeed.

What I didn’t tell you about is that I had a brutal panic attack during that appointment and I am truly amazed I managed to retain any information at all.

There are several things that can make me anxious and prone to having a panic attack and that day a whole bunch of them conspired against me. The main thing is that I stupidly forgot to take an Ativan before I left home. I was running late and fairly frazzled and just plain forgot. Bad move. Right there I thought I might be in trouble but ever the optimist I decided I’d be fine as I was feeling ok driving there. No sweat, I thought.

Then I got to the medical building where my appointment was held and realized I would be forced to ride up in a packed elevator. This is nerve wracking for me as I feel trapped and surrounded by potentially sick and germy people. It is a medical building filled with doctor’s offices, after all. I was saved at the last minute when a lady with a monstrous baby carriage budged in front of me thereby taking up the last bit of available space. Another elevator arrived seconds after and with some very swift and frantic pushing of the ‘close doors’ button I managed to have it all to myself.

Waiting in the waiting room wasn’t too bad and the lady who eventually came to get me was very nice. We walked back through a labyrinth of corridors to the very depths of the office which started my anxiety beacon beeping again. I tend to get anxious if I don’t have a clear and well marked exit. I do not like to feel trapped. We walked into a tiny closet like room where there was a small table and a couple chairs and she closed the door behind her.

Big mistake!

Right then my stress went though the roof and all my panic symptoms came on in a rush

-terrible nausea
-inability to keep still
-total brain function meltdown
-hot flashes
-the shakes
-compulsive swallowing due to the feelings of impeding pukage

Then to add to my agony there was no wastepaper basket to puke in. Sometimes I can calm myself down a little if I know there is a safe place to barf. I know that makes no sense but what can I say? Panic attacks are weird and wonderful things.

So picture me sitting there feeling like I am going to hurl ANY SECOND having to talk about stressful cancer type things stuffed in a little broom closet. I could hardly breathe.

After an hour and a half of this she asked me if I had any questions. I didn’t know what my name was at that point let alone being capable of forming a question. My lips were sealed shut with stress spit. All I wanted to do was GO GO GO!

I practically ran out of the office poking at the elevator button so I could get the hell out, run to my car and get home, my safe place, where there are such things like food, TV and my soft bed to distract me. Not to mention good drugs to chill me out.

The elevator arrived and, of course, it was packed full of people. I nearly waited for the next one but there were no guarantees that one would be any less full and at this point I was just desperate to get out. I took a deep breath and got on.

Anybody who has panic attacks knows that when you are freaking the fuck out there is a running dialogue in your brain that says all sorts of things like making deals with the devil, your god or your own body to just get through it. You promise yourself all sorts of things like new boots or chocolate or that you will never leave your house again if you can just get through it. You will say or do anything to just get through it. Basically you feel like you probably might die.

In my mental spasm I didn’t really pay any attention to the other occupants in the elevator and it was only when I had turned around to face the doors that I realized that somebody was singing at the back right behind me. A man. A full grown man. Singing out loud.

I looked over my shoulder to see a guy who was obviously mentally disabled singing a song AND doing hand actions to go along with it.

It went like this:

My mamma doesn’t wash me
‘Cause I can wash myself

Mamma doesn’t wash me
I can wash myself

My mamma will not wash me
‘Cause I can clean myself

This sweet man had one arm up in the air while he made washing motions in his armpits and chest with the other hand. And he had a big smile on his face because DAMMIT he was proud.

Oh my God.

My panic attack melted away and I calmly descended to the lobby and walked, not ran, to my car and went home. Singing the song out loud in my car the whole way.

Dude, thanks for saving my life.


happy and blue 2 said...

The guy singing would have given me a panic attack..
Anyways, glad you survived it. I used to have them, before I became a hermit, and they really do suck..

east village idiot said...

Kranki - god works in mysterious ways.

alan said...

I am glad it all worked glad I wasn't singing or you'd have been struck deaf (or wish you had)!

I get a bit "antsy" in crowds sometimes; incentive to Christmas shop early and on-line!

Thinking of you...


hemlock said...

I totally don't understand these panic attack things that people have sometimes. They sound so irrational. I feel for you.

As for dude singing in the elevator, it's amazing what can bring you down sometimes.

whfropera said...


Julio Cesar said...

First a disclaimer: I am not a Physician.

Being said that, I know people who suffer panic attacks and one thing that make them relax is that they recognize when they are having one (based on the symptoms) put themselves on ease...

I am glad that you find (or he found you?) that man to make you feel relaxed...

I was once having a very rouh day in an assignment far from home (I was feeling very stressed and homesick) when I went to this Target to buy some groceries and there was this guy arranging packages of Diet Coke singing out loud (he was not mentally ill, just plain happy) and by doing so he brought a smile from everybody around him and shared his happiness with us...

I hope you feel better now... :)

LadyBug said...

That just about made me cry, Kranki.

I'm so glad that man was there to ease your mental pain.

Jeannette said...

You never know where you are going to find bits of joy. Glad he was there.

Thanks to your post on genetic testing, it reopened the discussion with my onc who suggested I get the extend BRCA testing that just became available after Aug 1st last year. I don't know which is worse: knowing your family history (and how bad it is cancer wise) or not knowing and wondering. Glad you are getting the testing done.

Circe said...

My dear, I SO know the feeling. Besides sharing a cancer diagnosis, we share panic attacks and I have been there, done that for more years than I care to count. (have you tried Klonopin?) Those pills have been a lifesaver for me and I haven't suffered through a panic attacks in years...
I don't even have to take a pill a day, I can get away with once a week, but I know to take one before going somewhere I know I will feel trapped in or a situation I know will make me very nervous. And I carry my bottle in my purse at ALL times so I don't get caught. I so feel for you.
Can you call the doctor and have them repeat what was said over the phone or even fax you a copy of things gone over?


Furry Kids said...

(((hugs))) to you, Kranki. I know exactly where you're coming from. I'm glad the dude in the elevator helped bring you out of it.

On a sort of related note, I just wanted to let you know that I can not - I repeat, CAN NOT - listen to "The Look of Love" by ABC without thinking of Yoshi getting crushed by the croc kabob. I was driving back from a doctor's appointment this morning and feeling pretty anxious about it when that song came on the radio. I just started cracking up. It made me feel better, at least for a couple of minutes. Thank you!

Hope you, Yoshi, and the new hoots are doing well. :)

Candace said...

I think you may have just discovered the cure for anxiety attacks: get oneself shockingly distracted by a mentally disabled man singing about washing himself.

Shouldn't be hard, right?

ScottyGee said...

Well, my momma doesn't wash me either, but you don't hear me tooting my own horn about it!

MrsDoF said...

I know just what you are talking about--from the other side.

When I was a church janitor, I would often whistle while I worked. It's weird being in a big building all by oneself, but I did it mostly when other people were having meetings, etc. to let them know who was walking down the hall.

One evening a woman was having a counseling session with a minister and very upset.
I went on with my routine, whistling as I jangled keys, banged trash cans in the next room, etc.
Later, the minister told me that when I whistled past the door to the office, the woman got all quiet and changed her whole attitude.
She said her grandpa always whistled like that. She adored her grandpa.

It was like a breakthrough for something they had been working on for months.

mrtl said...


kalki said...

Wow, what a story. How awful that you have to endure such things, but how wonderful that such a moment can make all the difference.

candy said...

don't you love when that happens? i mean, not the panick attack part but the part where you are TOTALLY freaking out & something unexpected knocks you out of it. i'm glad there was a (relatively) happy end to the story! next time i'm feeling anxious, i'll try to think of that song :)

Closet Metro said...

next time you feel axious, sing the song.

spoonleg said...

such a sweet story. sorry you had a stressful day!

Twisteduterus said...

I think he was in that elevaror at that time just for that reason

Squirl said...

I'm glad that guy was there. There's just something about unselfconcious singing that's uplifting, if not down-right funny.