Last night at 10:48 p.m. I got a flat tire heading northbound on the 125 freeway to pick up my boyfriend. He is only in town for a few days, so we try our best to get our quality time in whenever we can. Once I heard the pop sound coming from the right rear side of the car, I knew this was about to be a long night. Damn it. I slowly began veering to the right to get in that little emergency lane, but I didn’t really want to stop. I was determined to get to a main street with some lights. All I keep hearing in my head was the next late night news story – “Beautiful Mother of 3 Found Slain on Side of Road Due to Flat Tire.” Hell no! I rebuke that in the name of Jesus. So, I said a prayer and kept driving.
I knew that I was running the risk of damaging the tire even further, but my will to NOT become that news clipping kept me trudging along. I made it past the 54 freeway and continued on the 125 N to the first exit around the small turnpike, Jamacha Boulevard. I drove the car slowly off the exit as I looked through my rear view, making sure no one was going to slam into the back of me. Suddenly, a semi-smooth ride turned extremely wobbly. I was hoping that I didn’t ruin the damn rim. I went a little further and pulled to the right side of Jamacha Boulevard and sat there under a bright street light. I was able to call my sister and get some help with the flat tire.
Even though the night wasn’t going completely down the drain, I couldn’t help but to notice the knock of anxiety on my door. I felt it knocking back with the tire originally went flat just a few minutes prior. I mean, the news clippings floating around in my head were a tale tell sign. As I sat under the street light and not in any imminent danger, I found a way to put myself in some danger – in my own mind.
When panic struck
According to Dictionary.com, a panic attack is the sudden onset of intense apprehension, fear, terror, impending doom, depersonalization, and derealization, occurring in phobias, schizophrenia, and major depression. Well, I definitely have a phobia of death considering the fact that I have experienced close death over ten times, beginning at the age of 6 with the death of my parents relationship and my father’s consistent presence in my life. See, I have recently been going through some major transitions. Only a few people have been privy to these changes because I believe it’s important to keep the sensitive issues close to you until you are ready to answer questions about them. Some of those transitions include divorce, closing down businesses, raising three girls alone and finding love. Yup. A lot. So, I knew that the flat tire fiasco would serve as a trigger to the many underlying emotions that were brewing.
When panic struck again
After being spooked by what looked like a homeless man pushing a cart near my car, I made it across the high speed traffic on Jamacha and pulled into the Circle K on the corner in front of a gas stall. I wasn’t getting any gas but I figured someone would be less likely to fool with me under the bright lights and gas pumping witnesses. I texted my boyfriend back and forth as he did his best to console me and reassure me that everything was going to be OK.
At one point, as I waited for the road side assistance arrive, I began thinking about the incense that I left burning in my bathroom. OH MY GOD! What if the incense sets something on fire and my kids burn alive? I started calling my oldest daughter, mother and brother repeatedly for the next 15 minutes in hopes that someone would answer and I could save them all from a fiery death. I panicked. I was having a panic attack. My boyfriend, mother, siblings, children, not anyone was able to help me in that moment but me. I had to became my own therapist.
Dealing with Panic Attacks
After watching a few suspicious folks walk in and out of the convenience store, I decided to simply close my eyes. I decided to dig myself out of this attack. Well, how does one pull themselves out of the slippery slope of anxiety? Pray, Breath, Ask, Release.
- Pray – I know that the spirit of fear doesn’t come from God. God is all-loving. I asked him to help me.
- Breathe – Breathing has proven to lower anxiety and kind of take you from a 10 to a 7 when you are freaking out about something. I took repeated deep breaths until I could feel the load lighten and my thoughts become more clear. Very slow in. Hold it for a few seconds. Very slow back out (of the mouth.)
- Ask for help (and if you can’t get it, hang up) – My sister, God bless her heart, just had a baby. Her life is FULL and she has her own responsibilities to care for. I needed help, but she couldn’t help me, at that time. So, I communicated with her by letting her know that I was having a panic attack and I needed her to talk me down and if she couldn’t then I would hang up. Fortunately, she was willing to take on the challenge, but if she weren’t, I still would have been fine.
- Release – I asked myself what could I control in that very moment. I couldn’t control the potential fire blazing at my home. I couldn’t control whether my mother or daughter answered my call in order to help them help save our home. In that moment, those big things I couldn’t control, but there were some simple things that I could (see 1-3).
Fear doesn’t have to rule you. I know there are variations to the degrees of anxiety, fear and panic. I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be. I am a woman – a black woman, a mother, an entrepreneur, sister, friend and child of God. I am walking through life with a sense of gratitude while shooting for the stars to make the world a better place. I hope that you can see yourself in this story and if you do, I’d love to connect with you on Instagram @loveincorruptible.
Note from the editor: Panic and anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., effecting about 18% of the population, and women are twice as likely to be affected then men. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2005) These disorders are highly treatable, but only if you’re willing to ask for help. If you or someone you know suffers from panic or anxiety attacks, be sure to talk to your doctor or therapist, to see if a long-term treatment is advisable.