I had the first panic attack in late November, 2021, while I was sitting in a full Broadway theater seeing To Kill A Mockingbird. It was 30 minutes of all the panic attack symptoms described in Wikipedia: 

“…intense fear and discomfort that may include palpitations, sweating… chest discomfort, shortness of breath, trembling, dizziness,  numbness, confusion, or a feeling of impending doom or of losing control.”

Wikipedia

I thought I was going to be that guy who literally stopped the show and left the theatre in a stretcher, dead or alive. It lasted about 30 minutes. It was awful.

By intermission, I was feeling mostly back to normal, but quite shaken. After the show, I smoked a cigarette on my way to Joe Allen where I sipped a post-theatre Shirley Temple and ate a delicious vegetarian dinner at the bar. I figured the episode in the theater was an isolated incident.

Nothing else happened for months until I felt it again one February morning on a walk with my dogs in Central Park. Out of the blue, this panicky sensation washed over me and shook me for a good ten or fifteen minutes. I wondered if this was it. Would I collapse right here? What would happen to my dogs? Again… terrifying.

About two weeks later, while I was having lunch with a friend, it happened again. And it was terrifying, again. So terrifying that I threw out my cigarettes and haven’t smoked since. That evening, I went to my local CityMD and got a cursory exam and an EKG. Heart and lungs sounded fine. Nothing looked amiss. The next morning, I saw a doctor and a cardiologist, both of whom suggested an anxiety issue rather than a physical/medical issue. The following week, I had two stress tests. One was the basic treadmill trot that took about 20 minutes. I passed with flying colors. Later that week, I had what’s called a “nuclear stress test,” which involves a radioactive material being injected into my bloodstream so that the scans could produce a three-dimensional picture of what’s going on with the heart. After the material circulated through my system for an hour, my heart was observed in various states of rest and stress, including another treadmill run. The whole affair lasts four hours, and the results ultimately showed healthy heart activity.

But still, something was up. I didn’t feel normal. I still don’t. It’s as if a switch flipped that night at the theater last November. I’ve never had panic or anxiety issues. And though I’d smoked for many years, I never had any cardiovascular issues. Since I quit drinking 20 years ago, I’ve maintained a pretty good diet and a reasonably good fitness regime. 

Sometimes it definitely feels like a physical thing. I will experience tightness in the chest and palpitations, or that sinking feeling in the chest that feels like hitting an air pocket during a flight. Other times, it feels like a nervous system thing, where I get overcome with a nervous, anxious, panicked sensation, starting with a tingling in the nerves. It’s all so new, out of the blue and daunting. Meditation and breath work have been very helpful. Between Dan Harris’s Ten Percent Happier meditation app and James Nestor’s book Breath, I’ve learned and regularly practiced several tools of mindful meditation and nose breathing that have helped me through this one day at a time, but it hasn’t been perfect.

When I was visiting Cleveland a few weeks ago, I was on a walk with my brother and his dog when I was overcome with that nervous panic again. I have no idea what triggered the episode, which had my heart rate going fast for the rest of the day. By late afternoon, I wasn’t feeling much better and asked my sister to take me to the emergency room. After waiting six hours, I was finally seen by a doctor. Bloodwork, a chest x-ray and an EKG showed no physical problems beyond a rapid heartbeat. I was given an Ativan and a prescription for more. The doctor made it clear that the Ativan was a band-aid and that I needed to consult with my doctor for a deeper dive and a long term solution. 

I flew back to NYC the following day and had an appointment with my doctor a few days later. After more bloodwork, there was still no evidence that anything is physically awry. And yet I’m often easily tired, I’m sometimes winded after two flights of stairs, I still get the occasional heart palpitations, I’m newly nervous in some outside situations and I’m frightened about all of it.

What I’m experiencing, though, seems to be very consistent with things I’ve read about post-COVID symptoms. In recent articles in The New York Times on heart health after COVID and treatments for long COVID symptoms, otherwise healthy and fit patients have suddenly developed cardiovascular issues and anxiety that nearly identically map to what I’ve been going through. But when would I have had COVID? 

I almost certainly had it late January / early February 2020, before we knew what was what. At the time, I figured it was bronchitis. I had a really rough and dry cough, and I was sweating through my bed sheets. It lasted about 10 days. (And I NEVER get sick.) By the time I got my first COVID test five months later, antibodies were not detected. I was vaccinated and boosted as soon as the shots were available to me, and I tested negative whenever we had tests at my job at the time.

But, in the fall of 2021, when I had left my job and started working from home, there is a distinct possibility that I had gotten COVID and remained asymptomatic. I had not been tested between late summer and Christmas Eve. This suspected coronavirus infection is the best I can think of because, as I said, my experiences with these heart and nerve issues are perfectly described by these post-COVID reports. 

What I’m hoping is that the symptoms eventually fade away, as doctors in the articles say they should with these post-COVID cases. In the meantime, I have some new medications: one I take daily and others I take as needed. I’m also seeing a therapist and just started getting help with my nervous system from a trauma and creativity coach. Add to that a very heart-healthy (and largely plant-based) diet, daily meditation, breathing exercises, bike rides and good sleep. I’m also making a renewed effort to connect more with the people in my life, since it’s distinctly possible that there’s a little PTSD after being thrown into such isolation for so long with the pandemic. 

I also managed to score an appointment with Mount Sinai’s Center for Post-COVID Care, which is specializing in treatment for people experiencing these symptoms. Essentially, I’m throwing everything at this that I can think of and taking actions.

Some days, I feel good. Other days, I don’t. After a streak of really good days, I met my friend Will for lunch in the East Village this past weekend. On the subway ride to meet him, I started to get that anxious feeling again. The panic… the fear. I did some breathing exercises, which certainly helped a little. But by the time I stepped out of the subway, I started to feel like I did when I went to the emergency room in Cleveland. So I took an Ativan. It felt like a defeat. I had been doing so well.

When I met up with Will, who knows what’s been going on, I told him how I was feeling, that I took an Ativan and that I felt like I’d failed. He put his arms around me and I immediately cried with relief. He assured me that I hadn’t failed. The medication is there to help when needed, and I needed it. For the rest of the day, I felt normal. Even good. Maybe it was the Ativan, or maybe it was the love, the embrace and the reassurance from a friend. Or a combination of all of it. 

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I do know that I’m not alone. Between my family, my network of friends, my doctor, my therapist, the coach helping me with my nervous system and, of course, my dogs, I have a good support team. The first step in assembling this support network was admitting that something was wrong and that I needed help – that I couldn’t do this alone. Thanks to the amazing people in my life, both personal relations and professionals, I don’t have to.

Thanks for reading. I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. If you’re struggling with something, ask for help. 

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56 Comments

  1. Hi George. I thought to send this to you last time you posted about your anxiety attacks on Insta, but I didn’t because I’m sure you get everyone saying “well maybe it’s this…” or “maybe it’s that…”. Everyone becomes a doctor or expert. That said I will share with you my personal experience. My husband was having similar heartbeat issues for YEARS. He ended up having a seizure last year (no prior history). We ended up seeing a neurologist at Mount Sinai Epilepsy Center. She said that those years of random heart palpitations, feelings of anxiety, impending doom, etc could have been mini seizures, and most likely were. My husband saw cardiologists and other doctors and no one ever mentioned they could have been mini seizures, and those doctors never found anything wrong with his heart or lungs. A 3 day EKG of his brain did reveal an abnormality though. If they can’t find anything might be something to bring up. XO

    • Bob Nixon

      Check out Vagus nerve stimulation. You may be doing some of this now, but there are a number of practices you can try to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

  2. Sounds like classic panic attacks – had them for years off & on, so certainly not COVID related. I stopped trying to find an underlying cause- physical or mental and instead focus on techniques (breathing, focusing etc.) when they occur. I read somewhere that when you are having a panic attack look around you and identify 5 things – a book, your dog, a building etc. – and it helps to bring you back to yourself. Hope it helps!

  3. I hate “been there, done that,” but … well, been there, done that, and been there, done that, aaaaand been there, done that. And it’s all terrifying, harrowing, and frustrating as fuck. I have no solutions, no words of wisdom, pearls or otherwise, but just want to let you know you’re not alone, even if you feel you are (as I always do when I’m going through it), and as cliche as it all sounds, I support you from afar (well, just a few blocks away on the UWS).

  4. Joe Crangle

    I’m in professional development and self-care, reslience, mindfulness and navigating the feelings of overwhelm are on many, many people’s minds. Sending you a virtual hug.

  5. David Velarde

    Hi George. Thank you so much for sharing. I have struggled with anxiety since 2002. Before I was diagnosed and started seeing a therapist with a prescription in hand, my journey was scary. I was afraid to sleep, fearful of a panic attack at the most inopportune time, like watching a movie in a theatre. Fearful of being alone. Afraid of dying. Fast forward to the present day, I have the tools to recognize and tell the difference between an anxiety attack and genuine anxiety, like will they or won’t they renew my favorite binge-worthy series. 🙂 Again, thank you for sharing your journey, wherever it takes you. Wishing you all the best. – David

  6. I relate to your experiences George. The panic, the sweating. While I have not had covid, I suffer from social anxiety and am working to overcome it with mindfulness and EMDR Therapy. I wish you a safe journey on the road ahead.

  7. Linda Fisher

    Hi George, I would never normally respond to a blog by someone I don’t know, although I do follow you on Twitter, it’s you that doesn’t know me haha. I just wanted to tell you of my almost identical experiences to yours. They started pre Covid but like you I ended up in the hospital ER. I won’t bore you with all the tests, including a cardiac catheterization, all negative. It happened 4 times in a 12 month period with no answers or treatment. I then talked to a gastroenterologist who suspected esophageal spasms. Some more tests done and he tried a muscle relaxer to take when I felt the pressure and palpitations beginning and it’s made a huge difference. Maybe this information could help you. Good Luck! Linda

  8. Sorry to hear about your anxiety/panic attacks, and yes, what you experienced in Jan/Feb 2020 sounds like COVID. I have not had it to my knowledge, but when COVID first came on the scene, I started to have my old panic attack symptoms begin again. What helped? Citalopram, exercising to exhaustion, meditation, and finding something that made me sob. Could be a movie, a person I feel safe with. That deep sobbing really does it. Wishing you well in coping with this.

  9. Timothy Oliver

    I’m a heart patient (big MI in 2000 at age 48), not a Dr. I occasionally get that feeing in the chest like I’m going down in a fast elevator. I believe, based on what my cardio said, it is occasional atrial fibrillation. I have a pacemaker and it records these “episodes.” Also, it’ll pace me if necessary. My cardio says nothing for me to worry about unless it gets a lot worse. Might be what’s happening to you. From what I know, the stress test won’t reveal AF. There’s a thing called a Holter monitor that tracks your heart for a few days. That might diagnose if you’re having AF. Hope you get it figured out. We need all the George we can get.

  10. They did endocrine stuff—thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals etc? The hormones for cortisol? Be careful with Ativan. It is highly addictive, sometimes called dry alcohol. I would not br surprised if it is a post Covid syndrome. There is also GAD, if they still call it that, generalized anxiety disorder and if you used alcohol in the past to self medicate that, it might be a clue. But Covid also is very cardiovascular and behaving very strangely in long term cases. Wishing you the best and that this resolves soon.

  11. Good for you for getting tested so well. Many do not do that. So that’s really great to rule out anything bad.

    I used to suffer from horrible panic when I was young. The only thing that helped me was Dr. Claire Weekes book Hope and Help for Your Nerves. And an occasional Xanax. I wish you well. It’s horrible to have anxiety attacks.

    The medical community, which I am part of as an RN for 42 years, never takes panic/anxiety too seriously or attributes it to everything which is bad. I always see it on charts. I see a lot of orders for SSRIs but most patients tell me they exacerbated their anxiety.

  12. Paula Regan

    I feel like a parallel universe with your story. Mother, grandfather and older brother died of massive heart attacks between 40-50 years of age, so i understand the panic and anxiety which I have never experienced before either, after having nuclear heart stress testing and brain MRI, and many other tests to rule out things, I am trying “Vestibular Rehab” through a PT, and getting tested for Lyme’s Disease, since symptoms can be similar. Good luck—you seem to be doing everything you can do—and I wish you well!

  13. Antoinette

    Thank you for sharing. I recently witnessed my 27 yr old daughter have a full blown panic attack while attending a concert at an outdoor venue. Her attack caused her to bolt into the crowd in the dark where I lost her. She was losing her mind from panic. These have recently started for her and may be a result of pandemic anxiety/PTSD. We are in an unprecedented time. I wish you well as you navigate this.

  14. Sounds like classic anxiety. I used to get them in movie theatres and shows. Art Galleries. No warning a no reason why. Ativan helps for emergencies like the sudden panic. Sometimes it’s a chemical imbalance that causes symptoms. It took me years to believe what my Dr was telling me and take meds for it. I hope it gets better for you. I find hugs help too with the panic although it sounds corny.

    • I just want to let you know and everyone that has commented in here that I hope everything gets better for all of us. I also suffer from panic and anxiety off and on throughout my life. The pandemic really has made all of us uneasy. Like you, I also got covid 19 around the same time. Ever since I’ve been fighting the same battle that you have been. My heart goes out to you as well as everyone else that has suffered from panic and anxiety. It really does help to get medication and to have a good support system.

  15. Jon (near Cleveland!)

    Very sorry to read of your problems George. Meditation is documented to be valuable in many situations. But that said, I read Ten Percent Happier when it was published eight years ago and thought it was WAY off the deep end!

    I hope your very detailed documentation of these occurrences will be valuable to your doctors.

    Any plans to continue your autobiography?

  16. Gail…from Cleveland.

    I’ve suffered from panic attacks for a long time. Meds have made them almost non-existent. I have my Ativan when I hit a rough patch. Taking the meds is not a failure. I felt like that at first. My husband once told me I was the bravest person he knew because I get up everyday and live my life. I fight through the panic when it comes on me. You aren’t alone. There are many that are right here with you.

  17. George, I’m a fan and I think you’re wonderful.

    I’d like to comment on what you’re currently going through. We must all be aware that we’ve never gone through anything like Covid, the isolation associated with sheltering at home and what I believe is a new kind of trauma from this experience. I’m not a doctor, but I’m keenly aware of what’s happening to the people around me. I feel certain many of us are experiencing a new kind of PTSD. It may take some time for the medical community to acknowledge this, or give it a name, but you aren’t wrong when you attribute some of your symptoms to Covid.

    Take your time recovering from this. Surround yourself with the things you love and much positivity. Be kind to yourself. You’re not alone. You are, after all, the beloved fashion icon we all revere.

  18. Have you considered psychedelic medicine? Find an experienced guide. Life changing and especially effective for the symptoms you describe.

    • Ken, do you have any advice on finding a guide? I’m interested in trying psychedelics for mild depression and anxiety. I’m hoping it will help me “find my way home.” Thanks for any info.

      George, thank you so much for telling your story! The pandemic has been a cruel test for everyone’s resilience. Your honesty and persistence are inspiring.

  19. Hi George,
    I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Panic attacks suck big time. Worrying about having another one is equally scary. I had a spate of them years ago during a particularly stressful period. I didn’t even realize how stressed I was but these panic attacks kept coming. I think I drove myself to the ER minimum 5 times. They’d ask questions, hand me a paper bag for hyperventilation, then the doc would check me out. EKGs, etc etc etc. All normal. Unbeknownst to me, my stress was causing silent reflux (no one talked about reflux back then!) which caused tightness in my throat, which caused shortness of breath and on and on. Once I got that and the intense stress under control, panic attacks went away. You obviously love what you do and you’re good at it. Being on in the public eye may be causing stress to sneak up on you. Wishing you all the very best in solving or at least resolving this all.

  20. PS. Taking an Ativan sparingly for panic attacks is not failing. Once you get this under control you’ll stop using them. My doc told me he had patients post-panic attacks that would carry a sliver of one in their bag just to know it was there if needed.

  21. Benzodiazepines come with their own set of problems. Check out the support groups.

  22. Mellisa Kasdras

    Have they placed a Holter monitor on you for a period of time? This tracks the minute that something is changing with heart rate, etc. I used to have similar episodes as you have described and I ended up wearing a Holter for a month. I’m on beta-blockers now for high blood pressure and never have those attacks anymore. That medication keeps your heart from escalating and is also sometimes used for stage fright and anxiety. Just some thoughts.

  23. Nathaniel

    I’ve had the same exact symptoms on and off for my entire life. Ativan can be a lifesaver, however daily use can definitely exacerbate the underlying issues more than it can help. Deep breathing is huge, Wim Hof technique is unbeatable. I don’t personally believe that Covid after effects have anything to do with permanent nervous system malfunctioning. I do however feel as though Covid in general has produced a significant ability that otherwise would not be there, to cause panic and impending doom at a subconscious level, that finds a way to the surface. It’s literally all in our head. I wish you the absolute best.

  24. Hello…I sent an IG msg if you get a sec, re this subject….

  25. George, first and foremost I wish you good health. I know this might sound odd but have you considered getting an Apple Watch (PS I don’t work for Apple) Having the watching monitoring your heart rate and also having it connected to medical help if needed, may give you the emotional comfort that you are covered if you do have another attack and you are not alone. Wishing you health and happiness and good Karma.

  26. I almost hate to say this.. because I know how much you love it.. but I cannot have more than 2 coffees a day, tops. I have had many attacks after too many coffees! Also I reassure myself when I am having an attack that it is what it is.. and it won’t kill me. And phone a friend and talk through it, All this helps

  27. Francis X McTamney

    Thanks buddy! You’re a good man. I worry about you. I’m following your anxiety and post-Covid comments closely because I may be on a similar road. I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts and experiences openly. It helps me. Thank you for that. Good luck!

  28. I’m so sorry to hear you are struggling with this, but I’m confident you will find your way through. You are smart, thoughtful, resourceful and loved. And I’m amazed that you have been such a consistently generous, thoughtful, hilarious! and prolific contributor to SM during this difficult time. I think your posts and videos have helped countless others to feel a little better. Sending you much love and a big, warm hug from Canada.

  29. Wow I love all of the support you’re receiving. I, too, have suffered exactly like you have described. It’s truly awful. I had my first panic attack on a train when I was commuting to work. I did my first acupuncture therapy today, for what it’s worth. Could be another route to consider. Here’s hoping we all find relief from the terrible prison of anxiety.

  30. Gwen Vance

    Hi George, I so appreciate your sharing your experience. I’m a pulmonary nurse and I didn’t see that you had pulmonary function tests. Anxiety is a symptom of lung disease which may not be apparent on a plain chest X-ray. Please consider an evaluation of a pulmonary specialist-there are many in NYC. Good luck and feel a virtual hug from Philly for you. You were such a blessing to my sister and I during COVID w/ your humor when the days were very dark…thank you

  31. Aww, George—really sorry you’re going through this. I do have Long Covid, and it sounds to me like you’re doing all the right things to unravel this mystery. I second the many recommendations for a weeklong Holter monitor, too. A pulmonary CAT scan also showed scarring for me that couldn’t be seen on xray. Mt. Sinai will definitely help you through all that. If it’s LC, they’ll find out. And if there’s any underlying damage, they’ll find that out too. Hang in there. There are many of us out here in the same boat, and this is a dark time. But we will make it through. Courage!

  32. Hi George. I started having the exact symtoms when I was 18, I’m 52 now. After seeing many doctors and havng every test come back normal, I have been able to figure out what seems to trigger my panic attacks and anxiety. I normally have them for four different reasons: acid reflux, blood sugar dropping, if I’m getting sick or have a virus, or really stressed out. The next time you have one, think about what you have recently eaten or check your blood sugar to see if it is low. I started having really bad anxiety attacks again beginning Januaty 2020. This is after I think I had covid December 2019-January 2020 before we knew the virus existed. I hope this helps and I wish you well.

  33. Michel Boynton

    George… you’re a doll and clearly, from all of the above advice and love, we consider you essential to our wellbeing! I’m struck by how many people have had these myriad symptoms and also extensive medical investigations that lead nowhere (myself included). It’s really frustrating! I started getting these symptoms in early 2017… so of course I blame Trump. Anyhow, it still happens from time to time… when it gets bad.. about 2-3 times a year, I take 1/2 of an Ativan. That stops it. Be well, dear boy.

  34. Hello George,

    Having lived with panic attacks for more than 25 years I sympathize so much with the current fear and unease you must be experiencing. Panic attacks take away our ability to live freely and can easily overtake our lives. Regardless of what doctors might tell you, panic attacks don’t come out of nowhere. Deficiencies in Iron, Vitamin D, and B Vitamins can cause some of the physical symptoms you are experiencing that can then spiral into a panic attack. As others have mentioned acid reflux can also be a cause of symptoms that will trigger panic. PTSD from the pandemic, especially with single people who lived through it isolated in NYC is a real thing, and there is no time limit on when it can strike. One thing I have found that does help when I feel a panic attack coming on is singing a favorite song out loud. It helps stop the panic. I wish you all the best for finding relief soon.

  35. Hi George. I experienced the same symptoms until I gave up being a long-time vegetarian, and stopped going to the gym. All of the symptoms you mentioned disappeared. I’m not a physician, and not in a position to give medical advice–but this isn’t medical advice, it’s just a suggestion that you ask your doctor whether ridding oneself of both of these unnatural activities might help. Wishing you the best of health.

    • Stopped going to the gym? Most experts will tell you that exercise is a HUGE factor in preventing panic/anxiety. I know first hand that running helps diminish anxiety. Exercise is probably the #1 thing a person can do to treat anxiety from everything I have read.

  36. Hi George. You really were so vital to everyone during Covid. Those morning shaves and the dog walks. I had severe panic disorder since I was 19. Back then (1969), they had no clue. It controlled my life and was like living with a wild tiger inside that I had no control over. SSRI drugs like Zoloft have been a lifesaver allowing me to travel again, ride elevators and the subway cars that have the doors between cars locked. Panic attacks are chemical reactions to sometimes nothing at all, just free floating anxiety. I hope this helps and I wish you peace.

  37. Yvonne Lagalo Yacovangelo

    Hi George

    Well…full disclosure..I cried when I read your post. I have had the exact, damn same thing for more than twenty years. I have been through every heart test known to mankind. I was on a first name basis with the parking lot attendants, the security and many of the nurses at Yale New Haven Hospital.

    Finally, after trying to get the right kind of help (good insurance) for the longest time, I was able to get into an intensive program with wonderful therapists and docs. I also through my cigarettes away, after my eighth attack while my husband and I were on vacation, I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and panic. I have been on medicine for a few years and it has worked wonders. I also have a “panic” pill in case of an emergency.

    It was a relief to be in group therapy where we shared our stories and held each other up. One feels so alone and what one doesn’t understand it that there a many of us suffering. I would run out of grocery stores, theaters, restaurants, like some kind of a lunatic. I get it!! There is help. You have taken all of the right steps., and just know that we are all around you, pulling for you. It gets better..it just takes time.. ✌️☮️

  38. Allow me to add that the vitamins mentioned by Iris helped me too. By the way, did you tell your doctors that you’d had botox treatment?

  39. Your courage and candor are to be commended. It is never easy to wrestle with a health problem, whatever type it may be. As someone who has had panic attacks in the past, I do want to say that a trigger for them can sometimes be more subtle or not so “neon-marquee lights” warning sign. So a faint whiff of a scent could trigger one for me, before I was cognizant of even identifying the trigger.

    That said, I do not want to armchair diagnosis because I am not an expert. But I do want to say that trauma comes in many forms, can show up years later, and can trigger panic attacks. That, and it could be a combo of mental AND a physical condition, such as long Covid. (For me, P.O.T.S. and “silent” migraines).

    The 54321 technique helps me when I feel acute anxiety and/or a ratcheting panic attack, to name one tool.

    Please know you aren’t alone and that A LOT has gone down in six years, so please grant yourself some grace and continue to work with your team.

  40. Faint Signals from Vega

    Hi George. I hope this finds you well. Sending love to you. If I may, allow me to describe my past experiences with panic attacks and how I discovered a way of pretty much ending the cycle. I first had a panic attack in my mid 20s. It lingered at that time. It seemed to go away and then reappeared in my 30s. Both these attacks happened at a time where I had some big stressful life changes and the fear of having another, would often times make me feel like I was going to have one. The attacks seemed to go away again in my thirties, then returned in my early mid fifties. I carried a muscle relaxant pill around with me in my bag just in case, which had the effect of psychologically reassuring me which in turn ultimately prevented me from having one. I never took the muscle relaxant, but just having it with me reassured me that if I had a panic attack, I could do something about it. It tended to be prevalent when I was in a situation where I felt I did not have the ability to leave, or have control over leaving e.g being in a lecture theatre where I was sitting in the middle of a row where I would have to disrupt the event to leave; or in a stairwell of a hospital where it would take me a while to get to an exit, in a dentist chair, or if I was with some people and someone had the means of transport and I had to rely on them to take me home. That sort of thing. So in those situations I would make sure I had my purse with me.

    To my surprise, things took a change for the better for me when I came across some online videos during the earlier part of the COVID pandemic by Eckhart Tolle. I was feeling anxious about COVID when it first arrived on the scene and to relax me I would watch various videos by people like Marissa Peer, Thich Nhat Hanh etc, but the one that was MOST helpful was Eckhart Tolle. So I started listening to Eckhart Tolle every day in Audible on my hours long walk. I listened first to the Power of Now, and found it SO helpful (totally unexpected) that I bought almost all his other audio teachings and books on Audible and basically I listened to him every day for 4 months solid, 60 to 90 minutes a day on my daily walks. I continued to do that on a regular basis to help keep me in the present and it’s been totally life-changing for me. Since late 2020s, I haven’t felt like I might have a panic attack, and my anxiety and depression went from a score of 8 out of 10 to a 2 out of 10. I could say at this point, that it’s very rare that any situation makes me anxious particularly, because I am always doing my best to not think about the future or past, and just remain in the present. I was my own worst enemy because I was spending a lot of time concerned about future events or ruminating on the past. On the very rare occasion where I was in a situation where I might have been prone to being anxious or having an attack, the concern for having an attack never really surfaced.

    I’ve put it down by being in the present moment or bringing myself back to being in the present moment, and not catastrophising about the future, living in the future, or ruminating on the past. I guess over time, being present has calmed my nervous system down significantly and also probably retrained my ways of thinking. It also probably calmed my amygdala so I don’t have these strong flight or fight responses. I think some of us have more sensitive fight and flight responses and then when we have a panic attack it almost sensitises us to the situations that are associated with it. So for you being in the theatre and having that attack, you probably now subconsciously fear that happening again which can help bring on another attack. It becomes an strong association. You had a lot of stresses during covid or including solation and loss of income and it did not surprise me when you said you started getting panic attacks. I could see on your live IG vids you were becoming more stressed as time went by during COVID. LGBTIQ folks live in a time when cowardly attempts at hate towards LGBTIQ+ people is increasing and that can also be another subconscious stress one has to deal with. Financial woes, isolation and health concerns due to covid can all play a part in ongoing chronic malignant anxiety.

    I know you are not a fan of people giving you advice on health (haha) and forgive me but I don’t mean to sound evangelical about Eckhart Tolle but it has changed my life so dramatically and unexpectedly that I thought you might wish to look into it. My unexplained anxiety was at a level prior and ongoing which was untenable for me where I was starting to wonder how I could go on that way, and yet here I am today feeling the best I ever have. I wished I had come across his work decades ago. Eckhart Tolle doesn’t see himself as anyone’s guru or whatever. He’s just a down to earth humble person who is pointing the finger at how we all possess the means to release ourselves from our greatest oppressor, our own ongoing thoughts and bring us back to the present where reality is. I know it might sound a little woo woo but the proof is in the pudding 🙂 Much love to you George. xx Trish

  41. Thank you! I believe I had gotten asymptomatic COVID early on and also had racing heart issues. Not panic attack but as an avid runner etc had to see a cardiologist who confirmed that I most likely had had COVID. It has been slowly subsiding but so unsettling.

  42. Cindy Herman

    George you seem to be on the path …I can’t say to wellness but betterness. Long covid mirrors Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome maybe look it up. What feels like anxiety may not be. Dysautonomia International is a fabulous resource. Your autonomic nervous system is affected by all of this and the calming efforts you are making will help tremendously. Good luck and good health.

  43. I am sure you know more than most about side effects of Covid if you do believe you may have had it. Spike protein is no joke, whether through catching Covid, or the Vaccine. Spike protein is known to have an affect on the heart for many. There are treatments for long haul symptoms. I wish you better days ahead. Stay positive and best of luck. I love the walks and talks.

  44. Next time you feel a panic attack arising, try squeezing something with one hand – e.g. keys in your pocket, a railing, the back of a chair, etc. The anxious energy is then channeled out of your body and into the squeezed thing. This works for me. Maybe for you too. All the best George.

  45. Hi George, I’m sorry you’re experiencing these terrible episodes. I became a cardiac patient at age 24. I also did a lot of performing back then and continually white knuckles serious stage fright, and anxiety around airplane takeoffs. While the anxieties had nothing to do with the heart problem, they were accidentally cured together. After open heart surgery, my cardiologist put me on Propranolol—typical medication post surgery to regulate your heart rate and blood pressure. Virtually no side effects except…it really depresses your adrenaline response, too. I had no expectation but it “magically” stopped my anxiety. Just like that. Later I learned lots of performers take it for anxiety. Sorry to be piling on with the unsolicited advice, but it was such an unexpected gift for me; figured I’d share. Best of luck!

  46. Hi George. So sorry you’re having panic attacks. I’ve had them, very infrequently, off & on for years. Less so in recent decades, since I stay away from mind-altering drugs. I’m a bit claustrophobic and acrophobic (though I have pilot’s license :), so heights and tight spaces trigger them. To control my breathing so I don’t make it worse by hyperventilating, I use my Apple Watch “Breath” app.

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