It’s been 12 years but I can remember everything about that night. 

We were out to dinner with our friends Lily, Carl, Karen and Rob at a busy upscale restaurant. It was three months since my husband’s heart attack and the beginning of my spiral into depression and anxiety brought on by stress, worry and the debilitating pain of arthritis. 

I was nervous the whole day but figured I’d be fine at dinner – after all, these were people I knew and loved and who knew and loved me. Sitting at the table I was uneasy but hoped the feeling would subside. 

It didn’t. It continued to build as I sat surrounded by a room full of seemingly stress-free people laughing and enjoying themselves while I was ready to bolt. I was with friends I’ve known for years and I was freaking out, convinced everyone knew something was wrong.

There I was, not only stressing over life in general but stressing over the fact that I was stressing and everyone knew it and they were just waiting for me to explode. My choices: fake it, breakdown, leave or tell my friends how I was feeling. I chose the latter. Apprehensively I told them I was having a panic attack. No one had a clue. 

What happened next was incredible. By exposing myself, by admitting my fear and vulnerability, everyone embraced me  – not physically, of course; that would have been weird – but they all let me know it was ok. Whatever I wanted to do was ok. 

I exhaled for the first time that night and I chose to stay. That was when Karen reached into her purse, handed me the business card of her psychologist and said “Call her”. Lily told me she also went to the same psychologist and quietly poured out her heart to me, unburdening herself while simultaneously letting me know I wasn’t alone. I didn’t even realize I had eaten my dinner and people were ordering dessert. The evening actually wasn’t a disaster. 

The next day Karen called to check on me. I’ll never forget what she said: “You know, I was sitting right there and I didn’t notice your anxiety. You looked perfectly fine and if you hadn’t said anything we never would have known.”

Wow! Talk about obsessing! No one noticed the ticking time bomb at the table. 

What a huge eye-opener that was. It made me realize that how I perceive myself is not necessarily how others perceive me. It made me realize that being stoic and trying to hide my anxiety isn’t always helpful. In fact, it could make things worse. Opening myself up and showing my vulnerability may not have saved my life that night but it showed me it’s ok to let others know “Hey, I’m freaking out right now and I need help.” 

I grew stronger that night by revealing my weakness. And I learned a valuable life lesson: Let it out and let someone in. 

NAR © 2019


Melt away the fears and anxieties in your mind. Feel them liquify and allow them to slowly trickle down your face. Relax as tiny rivulets flow down your neck, shoulders, back, thighs, legs and finally your feet where they silently fall away into the ‘Well of Anxiety and Panic’. Keeping your eyes closed, cover the well, lock it in place trapping your anxieties inside. Inhale. Exhale. Open your eyes and allow the calmness and peace to envelop you.”  

After six long months of listening to my therapist repeat the same litany in her soft, sing-song voice, one would think I was well on my way to living a life free of worry, what-if scenarios, anxiety, panic attacks and Xanax. 

Oh, I have my times of quiet lucidity … weeks of stress-free bliss when I can enjoy a lovely dinner with my husband or a carefree shopping trip in Manhattan. Nights when I fall asleep quickly and easily and wake up refreshed and at peace.  

Then just as I’m getting used to this ineffable comfort zone … WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA’AM!! … the panic machine is back with a vengeance, coming out of nowhere with all the subtlety of an 18 wheeler, taking over my life for days upon weeks upon months only to suddenly, spontaneously run out of gas and coast away down the road leaving me in a safe haven until it reaches a rest stop where it can take a break and refill its gas tank for the next assault. 

It’s a cesspool of what-the-fuckedness, the grasping, squeezing dragging down quicksand of fuckedupedness! 

Some Einstein once said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift; the rational mind is a faithful servant.” 

Note to self: read that daily: 

MIND – Noun: a beautiful servant; a dangerous master

NAR © 2017

Inspired by Fandango’s #FOWCanxiety