It was an important event. I wanted to look thin in my outfit—well, at least thinner! I’ve put some weight on recently in reaction to stress. (I try to eat stress away and am surprised every time it doesn’t work.) So, I squeezed into my Spanx, put on my fancy clothes and heels, and headed off to the gathering of nice people, where I was going to speak about my organization and convince them all to become members!
The evening started out fine. I nibbled on finger foods and drank a glass of wine. Then, it came time for my talk. Standing in front of people like that always makes my heart beat a little faster, so nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first. I simply started talking and thought, any moment now, I’ll hit my stride and feel comfortable. But the moment didn’t come. And yet I wasn’t really nervous; I simply could not breathe. My breath was coming in little gasp between words. I thought maybe I was having a panic attack. I talked faster, to try to feel more relaxed. Things just got worse. I could feel my face getting hot and flushed.
I looked around the room and could tell from their faces that a few of my friends in the room were a little concerned: this was not my usual presentation mode! Then, all at once, there seemed to be no air at all left in my lungs for breathing. The thought crossed my mind that I might be having a heart attack. I could picture myself collapsing in front of the gathering and being carried out the kitchen door on a stretcher. I wondered if it might be a stroke. I wondered if my husband would ever forgive me for working so hard that I died on the job. I prayed that, if it was a stroke, I would die quickly and not linger for years in a vegetative state while my children came for obligatory visits.