The “Crazy Canucks” – Canadian heroes

I Am Having A Panic Attack As I Dictate This!

»Editors note: I have made very few edits to this work I dictated last night. You may find it a bit rambling and incoherent at times, but I wanted it to be written just like I had spoken it last night.

Tonight my grandson, who is twelve years old, texted me with the question, “I need to talk to you about this World War ΙΙΙ thing. Can we talk…?”. This sentence broke my heart. Here was a child who is innocent, has no control over the world, let alone the invasion of Ukraine, and he was so worried he was unlikely to be able to sleep. I was able to calm him down, telling him that it would not be World War III, although inside I had my own concerns.

I am currently having a panic attack! It feels terrible. I have been experiencing them for past three weeks. This is February 24th at 11 pm.

For those of you who do not know me, I have been living with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease for the past eight years. I lived at home for the first five years after diagnosis, with the amazing support from my wife Kelly and other family members, as well as hired caregivers. Of all the physical and emotional suffering that my wife and I have experienced; losing the ability to walk, to breathe without assistance, to hug, to kiss, to make love − it was a series of cascading losses that we never had time to assimilate -my recent battle with panic attacks is much worse!

I am currently living in the hospital and have been for approximately two and a half years. I live in a four person Ward and have seen much suffering. It is the patients who are dealing with anxiety, confusion and fear that I have the most compassion for.

I feel like I am going to die at any second! And yet I know many sufferers experience these things daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and on and on. It is a mental illness that appears to be growing at a rapid rate. It’s a terrible experience as you cannot rationalize yourself out of a panic attack… effectively. I have done much studying of meditation which does help put your feelings in perspective. But it has been useless these past three weeks.

I have a lot of support; the nurses in the hospital here are excellent and very supportive. But they have their own issues to worry about and work through. They are so short-staffed in this pandemic, having to wear protective gear all the time and working their butts off for twelve hours a day. I feel nothing but compassion and love for them. Furthermore, my wife and family who get up every day and work with the everyday stresses of life plus the COVID pandemic plus the worries of political problems like the invasion of Ukraine. We’re talking about a country that has nuclear weapons attacking another country and we cannot allow it to happen. There are a lot of things to be upset or anxious about. But in reality, these are not new things.
My dad’s father, at a very young age, went to fight in World War I, which was by all accounts a horrific war with millions of deaths. He came home with what they called “shell shock” at that time, which we now know as PTSD. And yet he managed to raise twelve children. He was an alcoholic for most of his life after the war, which was difficult for the family, but he survived for them. Also, two of my uncles fought in World War II. They didn’t have a choice to go to war or not. You were drafted and sent or you were put in jail. In reality, most Canadians volunteered to go to war! Do we have anything comparable to that now? I would say nothing is asked of us would require a sacrifice as big as what our ancestors sacrificed… for freedom! We must remember this! We complain about our losses of freedom because of the pandemic, not being able to go to restaurants, etc. I am not saying that the pandemic has not been a source of real stress for everyone, however, put into perspective we are fortunate Canadian citizens.

This recent grouping of panic attacks that I feel has caused me great embarrassment and shame because I know that there are sicker people in the same room with me and yet I’m acting as if I’m dying. It’s difficult to deal with on that basis because I’ve always been a bit of a rock for my friends and family. They look to me for support when they are upset about the pandemic, war, and politics. And I would gladly help anybody who asked for explanations of what was happening; it’s in my nature.
I am complaining, but not about my panic attacks. I am more concerned about our response to stress and anxiety. I want this to lead to something positive where we can talk freely about how life events and world events are causing us great anxiety or panic. We must find a way to have compassion for ourselves and for others. I wish I had a quick solution for myself and could offer it to everyone who suffers, but I don’t. It’s going to take a change of heart and a change of mind for everybody to feel a sense of community. We live, without question, in the greatest country in the world; Canada, and we must not forget that. Our problems are minuscule compared to the people of Ukraine, who are being bombed, and fear for their families lives, as we speak.

Below, I will leave a list of links to places and resources to help others with high anxiety and panic disorder. I truly feel that this might be my last night on earth (of course it was not). When I was writing this I realized I need to share what I was feeling. We must love each other so that we can live peacefully and happily in our daily lives. We must give up the crazy political and racial divisions. It’s a waste of energy and time and it only hurts, never helps. Just simply refuse to engage in hateful behaviour and talk. I will, I promise.
Love and compassion,
Allan MacPhee

Resources for people with anxiety:

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