Thursday, August 8, 2013

Panic at the (aquarium)

This past weekend, we went up north for a family reunion. We visited Santa Cruz, Aptos, Monterey, and Watsonville. We've been going every year for about five years. We had a great time. It's so nice up there, and every year my family grows more beautiful.

On Sunday, before we came home, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was incredibly crowded. J. loved it. I've been there before but never in August. It was insane. After we’d been there for a while I left J. and Patrick at the bat ray exhibit to find a bathroom, and on the way back to them, I had a panic attack. It took me by surprise. It's never happened before.

(Though, after in retrospect, I have had major coughing fits in crowded situations - Dodger games, movie theaters - or places where I felt I could not easily get out. I don't know if this is related. Nothing to this extreme has ever happened, though.)

The restrooms are outside of the main exhibits, by a little cafe. In order to get back to where Patrick and J. were, I had to go back through the dark, incredibly crowded exhibits, and I couldn't do it. It was different because we’d gotten to the place I left them from another part of the aquarium, so I didn't recognize anything. I kept texting Patrick to come out and get me, but his phone died. It sounds dramatic, but I’m not exaggerating, I was literally scared to go back in. My body was hot, especially my head. It was so weird. I actually walked a few feet into the exhibits, felt the crowd around me in the dark, and had to walk back out again. I sat down on a bench outside of the exhibits. I got teary. I felt so stupid. When Patrick didn't answer my texts or calls, I tried emailing another friend to see if they could talk to me and help calm me down, but they couldn't talk.  

Finally I walked up to someone working there and like a 5 year old who had lost her mommy, asked for help. She was incredibly kind, and drew a line back to the bat rays on a map for me. It took me at least a half hour to get it together. I was pissed that Patrick didn't come out to find me (later he said he didn't want to leave the last place we had been, which makes sense, logically, but didn't really do it for me in the moment), and when I finally got to him, we had a bit of a fight. Then I just shut up and we left. 

J. fell asleep in my arms on the way back to the car. We spent about 3 hours there so it was fine. We need to talk about this more, because we didn't handle it well, either one of us. I should have known something was up with me because Saturday night, we left the party for a little while with my brothers and Dan’s partner Joe to go to the Santa Cruz boardwalk, which was also very crowded. There was a point where there were so many people, I just couldn’t go any further, so Dan, Joe, Patrick and J. kept walking, and me and Andy hung out and looked at the beach. It seemed so obvious to me that there were just too many people, but we were able to get away from that, and I had someone with me. It worked out.

Yesterday I was talking to a co-worker about this. I know that she has some issues with speaking in public and we'd sort of talked about that before, so I felt like she would know what I was saying. She was totally sympathetic and sweet about it. We were talking out in the hallway, by the elevator, and while I was telling her the story, I felt a tingle on the skin on the back of my neck. I guess now I know what it feels like when your "hair stands on end." It was such an odd sensation.

I've talked about it now with a couple of people, and they were all nice about it. One was my boss, and she said that this used to happen to her mother all the time, and then we laughed about all the things our moms did when we were little that used to annoy us that are now happening to us. Is that all this is? Age? I don't know. I need to think about it some more, and figure it out.

I took the day off today to relax and hang out. I'm watching "Grosse Point Blank," the movie with John Cusack (playing an assassin) and Minnie Driver. I've seen it before, but I'm loving it so far. I think I'll make a bowl of popcorn and go watch on my iPad in the bedroom. Maybe take a nap. Maybe think about things; maybe not.


  1. A very difficult situation but I think you really handled both times well. Staying with Andy on the boardwalk, then finding someone to help you at the aquarium. I have a friend who has been experiencing this type of "attack" since she was small so it may not be due to aging. At any rate, you were able to think rationally each time which should give you hope. <3

  2. Thanks, Kate! I think the hardest thing was walking around the lobby, with tears in my eyes and feeling like a fool! Oh well. Planning these things better in the future will hopefully help, and trying not to get stressed out about future outings, too.