I’m normally at my most creative in the early mornings when I first wake up, and I like to write about just about anything to get it down on paper. I’ve got just over 2 hours before I have to head over to work, so I thought I would talk more about the events and the actual day I had my major anxiety attack, in part to possibly help others who may be suffering or have suffered from one. I also wanted to because my friend Mary, whom I regularly play golf with, mentioned it and how much she enjoys reading my blog entries. I repeated to her a long standing joke I’d been saying to others for years, “I think I’d be able to write a pretty good autobiography if I can only get famous enough for people to want to read it.” :)
(What follows is a bit of a lengthy entry about the day I had a major anxiety attack that sent me to the ER, but also some important context about how it finally got to that point and why.)
When I was working for NGL, I was on top of the world. For over 2.5 years I had that job, which was the equivalent of the longest drought of not having one after I moved back from the UK in 2015, and it was finally putting me back where I needed to be. I had freedom, independence, good money and people who respected the job that I did. I also got great perks like the trip we had to take out to the East Coast, where I saw my first Boston Red Sox game, eat some great seafood and see and stay with one of my best friends and his wife while in Vermont, as their house was only miles away from the site we were working. Then I was sent out to Washington state, and got to see another family I knew who had moved out there from Texas, while seeing some amazing scenery on the drive from Spokane and eventually to Portland, Oregon throughout the week. I also got to check off several bucket list items during my time with them including finally seeing Mount Rushmore for the first time, but also getting to see Devil’s Tower National Monument in the same week. I’d seen ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ so many times that, when I was driving up to it, I was in awe of finally being able to see it, still in disbelief that I did. Even as I eventually drove away from it, I could still see it in my rearview mirrors, smiling at the memories I’d made and can still picture in my mind’s eye, even while writing this.
Many of the people I worked with became good friends and, since my family was so far away, they had become my support network. I was on call 24/7 which left little time for having much of a personal life outside of work, which was fine for me because I was happy doing what I was doing and it really didn’t bother me. I’d become pretty much of a homebody, and enjoyed the downtime, whether it was in Midland, Texas or Fort Collins, Colorado. I may have been alone, but I was not lonely out there by myself because, come Monday morning and the rest of the work week, I was back helping the people who relied on me out in the field, and hanging out with my friends in the Denver area do the same when I’d make the trips down there. NGL was my whole world during that time and I had planned on making that job last, at the minimum, longer than my longest job previously, which was 5 and a half years.
I had driven down to Denver that day with the expectation that I would be discussing a project I’d been working on with my manager, who was flying in from Tulsa that day and wanted to meet with me to talk more about it. When I got there, I looked around and talked to my friends while I was waiting there until he finally saw me, and summoned me over to, what I thought, would be one of the conference rooms nearby so we could talk about the project. My heart began to sink into my chest as we passed it up, and we were on our way to the HR office where 2 other HR reps were there waiting for me as well, as I made my way over to a table in the corner where I was told very succinctly but bluntly, “unfortunately today is your last day at NGL.”
I was devastated, and completely stunned as I had not only NOT seen the decision coming, but was totally unprepared for what I was being told. I began to cry - a lot. The news hit me like a Mack truck, and I was suddenly faced with a myriad of consequences and uncertainty that were about to find their way to me now that my only source of income was being stripped away from me. My family was 1000 miles away and all of the memories, trips, but most importantly the coworkers who had become my close friends and extended family were being ripped away from me. All of a sudden, it felt like I had nothing left in the world and no idea how I was going to recover from such a devastating and heartbreaking loss.
A whole week went by and I managed to summon the strength somehow to get a suitcase of things together and flew down to Austin. I was still in a mental mindset of anxiety and already had a tough enough time thinking straight, since I had spent most of the week drinking whiskey and in shock, but I put 2 and 2 together and eventually made it back to my parents house here in Northwest Austin. During this whole time, even though I never told anyone, even during the plane ride back, my chest around my heart had been in pain and had been very tight almost all week, and I thought I was having some issues. I kept that a secret because I didn’t want to panic myself or anyone else even further, and figured it would eventually go away. But it didn’t. It ended up getting much worse.
I woke up early one morning and my chest pain had gotten to the point to where I was getting a little more lucid and by that time, after spending all that time thinking about what had just happened to me, wondering what my life was going to be like, how I would go on from there, I began to feel concerned that this was about to be my time. I was genuinely afraid and feeling certain that, the next time I closed my eyes, I would not wake up again.
I decided that one of my final tasks would be to write a very long letter to everyone who meant anything to me, and also a will to make sure all of my possessions went to the people I wanted to have them. One of my dearest and lifelong friends had passed away before Thanksgiving and did not have one, which made things difficult for them, and I wasn’t going to make my family try and figure out what my final wishes were. So I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I wrote as long long as there was a thought in my head about the people that I thought needed to hear my final words to them as I was certain in my mind that this was it. I also wrote a few words on a hand-written note with my phone, laptop and other important passwords to be able to see the entries and access my personal info. It was, at the time, the closest I thought I’d ever been to my final days here on Earth and to me, making sure that everyone who meant anything to me knew it.
Well, fast forward to today and I’m obviously still here. What had felt like a full on heart attack was a major anxiety attack which, at the time, I was unaware that the symptoms are extremely similar. One of the EMTs that worked on me and was monitoring my EKG even told me I had the heart of a 20 year old. And although my days at NGL are over by almost a year next month, and as excruciatingly painful as it was, I still think it was the universe’s way of helping me get back to where I needed to be and the path I needed to be back on. As hard as the whole process was for moving myself back down here to Austin, I reminded myself and others who cared about me of this:
“I don’t think whatever benevolent force is out there would kick me out of a job and out of Colorado only to send me back home to fail at the one thing I’ve truly loved more than anything else in the world, which is music.”
I still believe that.