Fireworked Panic Attack

So, I had a full blown panic attack tonight. I don’t have them often, but it happens when you have anxiety issues. I’m going to tell you what happened and what else was going on and why things spiraled out of control for me.

First, I’ve had a great Independence Day. We did several things including watching fireworks last night. Today, we were driving home from out of town and my husband wanted to stop by Mustang OK because they are allowed to actually do their own fireworks in the neighborhoods. While driving through the neighborhood, there were tons of fireworks and it was beautiful. My husband decided that he wanted to stop by a friends house, who we haven’t seen in a while. While driving through the neighborhood, the fireworks got closer. Some were going off next to the car and they were in the street. I started to get freaked out. I was paranoid, cringing, and even whimpering. My husband was not seeing the warning signs.

I was scared. I starting asking him to stop or park to watch fireworks, but he was dead set on going to this friends house. I started pointing out fireworks telling him to look out and slow down. I told him multiple times that I was getting really freaked! I was about to go into a panic attack, but then he pulled over. Since we were no longer trying to drive over fireworks, the panic was staved off. Obviously, my husband wasn’t getting my warning flags. Why didn’t I tell him outright that I was going to have a panic attack? Well, when you’re freaking out, you don’t exactly have clarity of thought. The words that come to mind, when I am panicking, is stop and help.

So we get to this friends house and I calm a little bit… but I don’t get out of the car. I told him to go ahead and I’d catch up. A little while later, he texts me to come join them. Then I get out of the car and I’m slowly walking down the street, my hands clasped and a look of fear on my face. There are bombs going off all around me. He eventually comes to meet me half way. He’s finally starting to notice just how freaked out I am.

While hanging out on the front lawn for the BBQ and fireworks, I’m still surrounded by fireworks. They are much much closer than they were at the city fireworks display. They are practically right in my face. I told my husband and our friend “I’ve been doing so well with my fears that I think people are forgetting how scared I am of fireworks.” That should have been a BIG clue! I kept going into the garage when I got scared, rubbing my hands together, swaying a bit, and I’m sure my face was laced with worry. Still, I do actually like fireworks and I wanted to see them. So, I kept going back outside. Then they would set off sparkler bombs which make a very LOUD BOOOOOM! It’s really fucking loud and it scared the shit out of me. Even my husband said they were intense.

I’m trying to play it cool and there are my co-workers at this friend’s party. It’s embarrassing that children are playing and having a great time, and I’m a grown adult who’s freaked out. I don’t want people from work talking about me at work or asking me questions, so I’m feeling pretty insecure. I asked my husband if he’d mind if I wanted to leave. He wanted to stay a little longer. So I try to tough it out. They set off another sparkler bomb without any warning and I felt like my heart exploded.

I don’t trust these people. I don’t know who’s doing what, or where all the fireworks are coming from. They were everywhere and it’s dark outside. It takes one asshole or idiot to ruin my life by blinding, deafening, or burning me with a firework. I’ve had friends in my life who were seriously injure this way. On top of that, when I was a young girl, a mother and her son who were burned in a house fire, stayed with us during their recovery. Her son used to scream when his bandages were changed and I would have nightmares about it. It was a horrifying experience for me even though I wasn’t the one burned. So I have a pretty serious fear of fire. For a long time, I couldn’t bare being around things like fire, gas tanks, fireworks, etc. These days, I’ve come a long way. I can now stand/sit in front of a campfire, use a gas stove, watch fireworks displays, and such. However, this was intense and in a rather uncontrollable environment.

On the last deafening bomb, I told my husband I wanted to go to the car, so he agreed it was time to go. I was breathing heavily at this point. I told him I wanted to go park somewhere safe where we could watch fireworks, but he said he wanted to go home. I started to talk about why I was afraid of the fireworks and then he made a comment about how you can’t always be afraid. He didn’t realize how insensitive that comment was. He starting telling me to calm down. I asked him to stop saying things like that because it only frustrates me. He would then ask if I was okay, and I would say that I’m freaked out, so then he’d say to calm down again. I just stopped saying anything, then he’d keep trying to convince me to calm down and asking me loaded questions.

Here’s the thing. Don’t tell someone who’s having anxiety to calm down. Stop telling me why I shouldn’t be afraid. I know why I shouldn’t be and I know I need to calm down. You’re just putting pressure on me. I finally told him, “I need you to just be supportive and stop trying to convince me to calm down.” He got upset because he thought what he was doing was being supportive.  Him getting upset at me only pushed me further. By this time, I was already in tears and he had pushed so hard trying to “help” that I started to cry uncontrollably. I started yelling “STOP TALKING” because I couldn’t deal with him and myself at the same time.  He asked me to stop yelling, but I was in a full blown panic attack. “PULL OVER!” He didn’t want to pull over. So I just melted down and cried pretty hard which freaked him out. He suddenly didn’t know what to do and said “I don’t know what to do. What do I do? Talk to me!”

I said “Listen to me! Pulled over and stop talking to me. Please!” so he did. This is where things started to calm down. I took some time to collect myself. I told my husband to let me speak and don’t say anything (because I needed him to actually listen to me). I understand that what you think “being supportive” is, is different than what “being supportive” is to me. That’s not your fault. You think that being supportive is trying to get me to stop panicking, but really you’re trying to force me to stop. That’s not supportive, you can’t force, and it makes things worse. When I ask you to be supportive, don’t try to make me stop, just be there for me, let me talk about what’s going on, and then actually listen when I tell you what I need. Don’t try to force what you think will fix the problem, and do what I’m telling will help me.

He was receptive at this point and asked what I needed now. I asked to go watch fireworks somewhere safe, from the car. So we did. We were only there about 10 minutes and then the panic attack was over. On the way home, I helped him better understand. I didn’t have any control. When I panicked, I tried to regain control, but I continued to have no control. I didn’t have control over those people shooting fireworks, or control of our car driving through them. I didn’t have control over the fireworks and very loud startling booming in my face. I didn’t have control to leave the situation. After we did leave, everything I asked for was denied. I was desperately trying to regain control, but I was constantly being told no. I appreciate that you wanted to help and be supportive, but you need to give me what I am telling you that I need instead of acting on what you think you know is best.

He had said that he thought pulling over to watch fireworks, when that was what set off the panic in the first place, was a bad idea. I told him that I understood, but control was played a huge part this what happened. I needed to face the fireworks in a controlled environment before we went home. I didn’t want to end the night with a bad fireworks experience because then there’s a very real possibility that I’ll backtrack on my fears. I’ve been enjoying fireworks on the fourth of July, but it only takes one panic attack to regress. He suddenly understood.

Don’t worry, it wasn’t all me talking. My husband had his opportunity to express his frustration and confusion. We discussed it and I agreed to some things to better help him in those situations too. I acknowledged that I know he meant well and I appreciated that he did eventually give me the support that I needed. We kissed and smiled, and reveled on the highlights of this weekend as we made it home safely.

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4 thoughts on “Fireworked Panic Attack

  1. I can fully understand what you went through. The description was vivid and I could figure out how the anxiety grew stage by stage. I can see your frustration with your husband, but I think its very little his fault. Most people don’t appreciate panic attack as a mental and physical disorder, they think expert advices and orders can work, sadly that’s not how our body works. I usually experience the panic after an anxiety even, like a sudden loud honking near you.. While I know fully well that I am completely safe, I start getting panicky. The fear of a panic attack aggravates things.

    There is no ready made solution to this, each has his/her own way of calming down. Having a loved one around is reassuring. If your husband is not adept with calming a person he could go through some tutorials on YouTube. From what you said I think he wants to help but isn’t well aware of what a panic attack exactly is. Mutual understanding will help alot. And patience.

    • We’ve actually been together going on fifteen years. It’s been a long learning process on how to deal with my anxiety. Now it’s just not very often that I have panic attacks. I agree that it wasn’t his fault and that he wants to help. He’s learning with me 😉

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