thanksgiving, dove soap, and panic attacks

It was Thanksgiving Day 2010, mid-morning.

Steve had taken the kids outside to play, to work off all the food they were about to consume, and I had gone upstairs to take a shower and get ready for the extended-family festivities. As the weight of the water hit my shoulders, neck and back, I felt the weight of the world crashing down on me. Ten years prior I had spent my last Thanksgiving with my dad and Turkey Days had never been the same since. Also, a few days prior, I had received word from my dear friend, Amy, that the tumor in her liver was not reacting to the chemo and her prognosis was “not good.”

As I began to lather up, I simultaneously began to melt down. Grief from the loss of my dad, combined with fear for my friend’s life became a notion I just could not wrap my head around.

Then, my emotions went from grief and fear down into the vortex of negativity, to the terrifying land of self-deprecation & self-loathing. I looked down to my “baby weight” that was still sticking to me even though my kid was nowhere near being a baby. I remembered how I had yelled at my kids for god-only-knows-what, instead of being the adult in the situation. Then I thought about how my husband and I had been drifting apart and words like separation and divorce had recently crossed our lips.

I pondered my overall mediocrity and wondered how I had gotten to the place I was in.

Then, I tried to take a deep breath, but I couldn’t.

Literally, I could not physically take a deep breath.

Quite naturally, visions of a massive tumor in my lungs engulfed my brainwaves and I could think of nothing else.

I went to my tried-and-true yoga breaths that got me through labor for God’s sake. Nope, nothing. Still couldn’t breathe.

I got out of the shower, fell on the floor in a pile of soapy, wet, dysfunction and called my best friend, Mern, who is a doctor. Through my hysteria I told her my symptoms and that I was sure I had a tumor in my lungs and/or some sort of  degenerative heart disease.

Her response, “Mare, you’re having a panic attack.”

“No, Mern, I’ve had a panic attack. This is different,” I uttered through tears and snot and Dove Cool Cucumber soap suds.

Like any good friend would do, she sat on the phone with me and went through everything I was feeling and thinking. Every irrational thought I articulated, she met with grace and understanding and encouragement. That phone call was the reason we’ve been best friends for twenty-six years.

Though I didn’t believe her at the time, in retrospect I know I was most certainly having a panic attack. But that’s the crazy thing about a panic attack–there is no way you will rationally believe, in that moment, that it’s a panic attack. The impending doom and depression is all too real to just be chalked up to a “frivolous panic attack.”

Somehow, by the end of the conversation, I had pulled myself together and continued on with my Thanksgiving Day with more gratitude than I had felt in a long time. Then, over the course of a few months, I literally pulled myself up by own boot straps, got my proverbial shit together and ended a very difficult period in my life.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts, that last year, 2010, was my mid-life crisis, a crisis that culminated with me in a heaving heap on my bathroom floor, though I haven’t gone into much detail. Which I still probably won’t because even though I tend to bare it all on my this blog, I still hold some things private. However, I will be sharing the ways in which I pulled myself out. Throughout the next month I will be writing about the changes I made, within myself and in my life, because whatever I did, it worked–2011 was one of the best years I’ve had in a long time.

I want to write about it for cathartic reasons, but also because I hope, it will resonate with some of you.

To be continued . . .



  1. 1
    LIndsay says:

    Thanks for sharing, Mary!

  2. 2
    Laurie Houston says:

    I love you sis and thanks for sharing from the heart!
    It does get better and indeed it has!
    Love you, Lala

  3. 3
    Chelsea says:

    Thank you for sharing, Mary. Panic attacks – while everyone tends to refer to them lightly – are truly terrifying.

  4. 4
    Becky says:

    I have been there. They are truly terrifying.

  5. 5
    Ginger says:

    Thanks for sharing, Mary. Your 2010 has been 2011 for me, and it helps to hear that other people go through this type of thing, since many don’t talk about it. Glad to hear 2011 was better for you, and that things turn around.


  6. 6
    April says:

    Can’t wait to read all about it.

  7. 7
    Theresa says:

    I love you Mary!!! You are truly amazing!

  8. 8
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  10. 10
    wendy says:

    i’m always in awe of how full of life and what zeal you have around you. you’re always shining, always “on”, always having a good time. i’ve followed your blog for sometime now and lucky we have met IRL a few times and would have never imagined you have struggled with self-loathing – even when times were tough.
    i’m anxious to read how you pulled yourself out of your funk. i definitely feel like it’s time to pull myself up by the boot straps too. i’ve been dealing a lot with facing my own mortality and i’m just ready to move on an experience life as it was meant to be.
    can’t wait to see what you’ve got to offer! xo

    • Mary says:

      Thanks for the comment, Wendy! I try to always be upbeat, but it’s mostly those times when I’m alone with my thoughts that it’s the worst. I will let you know when I post subsequent posts on this subject. I have by no means “figured it all out” but i definitely did a bunch of things that helped me get back on my feet. Would love to chat with you about it all sometime too! xo

  11. 11

    this is awesome. i can’t wait to read more. i have tears in my eyevballs.

  12. 12
    Chelsea says:

    Awww man, you are so brave. I *know* that many many people will relate to your experience. Thank you for sharing!

  13. 13

    Thanks for sharing this very personal experience. I, too, look forward to reading about the ways in which you turned your life around.

  14. 14
    mariana salerno says:

    I remember this now, wow the way you wrote that brought it all back to me..Always here for you, so proud of you and what you have accomplished in one are so strong and I love you so much Mary, I couldn’t navigate this crazy world without you either. In fact, I think it’s my turn for the mid-life crisis break down, stand by..

  15. 15
    Galit Breen says:

    I love what you’re holding close, and I love what you;re sharing, Basically, I just love you. :)

  16. 16

    I love it when I read a post like this from someone who totally seems to have her shit together (I mean, you do now, but you know…) and learn that she struggled too. We all do. And while I respect the things you keep to yourself, I’m grateful you’re willing to share strategies.

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