Last Night I Had a Panic Attack — My Dead Mother Helped Me Overcome It

Last evening I went to my yoga class — the one I go to every Monday. My day had been as busy as usual, and I was happy to be on my mat.

The instructor entered the warm room and began guiding us into a resting pose. As I flattened my palms to my mat, I suddenly felt as though I couldn’t get enough oxygen and became a bit disconnected from my body.

The next thing I knew I felt very small and alone. I was reminded that all of my safety nets are gone. My father is dead — I recently lost my mother to a battle with cancer — and I have so much to accomplish in the coming days.

As I lay there with my head on my yoga mat, the palms of my hands became sweaty. My mind reeled further into oblivion. I felt so small, and the weight of the world seemed unusually heavy.

I was reminded of the challenges I had faced in my past. After my father died when I was 10, I was plagued with panic attacks.

One night shortly after dad died, my brother, one of his friends, and I drove on a deserted road somewhere between central and southern California. As we inched closer to home, I thought about my dad. I wondered where he was and how he could exist one moment and be gone the next.

Before I knew it, my mind was spinning out of control. I didn’t understand why I was on this massive planet spinning around in a limitless universe. It occurred to me that my world would never be the same. I’d never see my father’s smile again or be able to hear his voice. And so, I experienced the deepest existential crisis I had ever known as a 10-year-old.

“Stop the car, please!” I cried out to my brother. He did. I got out on the side of the road and cried my eyes out. It was a dark summer evening, and I paced back and forth. The moon was overhead, maybe wondering how it could best soothe my panic.

Fast forward 29 years later. On my yoga mat, I felt the same shock to the system.

I thought of my Mom’s soul. Is it drifting around in outer space? Is she with God? Will I ever be able to talk to her again?

I rolled over onto my back and tried to fill my lungs with air. Should I leave the room and go huddle in the bathroom? Should I tell my instructor I need support?

And then somehow it happened…

I was able to gather myself — my soul — my wits — and I began pushing through my fears. I didn’t run or ask for help.

I’ve been reading lately about what it means to return to the core of my being. To submit myself to the understanding that everyone and everything around me may fall away, but I have enough strength to make it through.

Throughout my lifetime, my Mom served as a prime example of a brave hero. Not that she didn’t have her fears — she had plenty. However, she taught me that when your worst fears come to life, the key is to not let it drive you to overreact.

“Jen, if you ever feel yourself getting overwhelmed, just try your hardest to relax your body,” she’d tell me. “The more you panic, the worse it will be.”

Her words echoed through my mind.

I realized on my yoga mat that I didn’t want to be the kid that demanded the car be pulled over. Or to ask for another human being to shoulder my burden. No, I wanted to be like my mother, who when my father died of a massive heart attack, stood strong and said, “What do I need to do next. There is so much life still for my family to experience.”

As my yoga instructor gave the next cue, I made the concrete decision to push through. To allow for my panic to make its way through my body and then be released back into the universe as positive energy.

Movement by movement I began to gain strength, and by the end of class I was fueled with POWER.

I’m learning day by day how to live life without my Mom and the loving support she provided me on a daily basis. Actually, I know that Mom is here with me now. She lives in my mind and within every fiber of my being. I can recall her knowledge any time I want and apply it to my life.

Let’s face it, the world we live in is rife with all sorts of crazy things. Money comes and goes, troubled people are taking the lives of innocent beings, and it’s hard to know what to do or how to live.

Do we panic? Do we run for the hills?

The obvious answer in my mind is a resounding “NO.”  We find time for silence and strategies for rooting ourselves in who we are.

“But I’m just me. I don’t posses anything special. I’m a weakling,” our tiny egos are constantly whispering.

But that’s the biggest lie of the century. No, within your being, you contain the universe and all you need to be okay. So dig in and start doing the work.

Let’s dare ourselves to find silence, meditate, pray, free ourselves from all of the B.S.– the things that keep freaking us out.

On my yoga mat, I realized I decide my fate — whether I panic or move forward with powerful grace.