I have a CAT scan tomorrow. I know because that bothersome panic-inducing CAT is already disturbing my sleep.

The thing that set off my panic in the wee hours was a struggle to swallow.

I wake. CAT scan in two days! Try to swallow, my mouth dry and awkward and, for a moment, unable to perform this sometimes voluntary, but mostly involuntary, body function.

I can’t swallow!

The anxiety escalates quickly.

I can’t breathe or swallow!

Sit up. Down the stairs. Glass of water.

Now I’m wide awake, and the thought of getting horizontal and losing the ability to swallow is crippling.

Sometimes I get this twitch of panic in a dentist’s chair, but there were no tools in my mouth last night. This was thought-provoked panic.

Backing Out of Panic-Inducing Thoughts

Meditations and mantras.

If I tell myself, “Don’t think about it!” the thoughts will multiply and become obsessive. I can’t swallow, I can’t swallow, and, in this tube, I can’t sit up to swallow!

My empathy lights up, because I have friends who live with anxiety and frequent panic attacks.

Is this what it feels like?

My mantras become empathetic apologies, I had no idea, I had no clue how hard this is.

I look for different thoughts, new thoughts. I look for the space between thoughts with the curious question: I wonder what my next thought will be.  

Eventually I find enough new thoughts and space between thoughts to return to bed, where I fall asleep easily and sleep hard.

I’m fortunate. Panic and anxiety are not regular haunts in my house.

Maybe last night’s panic was good practice for finding other thoughts as I’m backed into a tube with a belly full of dye tomorrow morning. They do have that panic button, but I know I’ll resist using it… unless I get a tickle in my throat then can’t swallow, then need to cough… I need to sit up!


What sets off anxiety and panic attacks for you? What are your tricks and strategies for backing out of them?

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2024