My Very Personal Story

I’m about to get personal here and share something like I never have before. And I’m a little scared. But I write this not for sympathy or pity. I write this because I need to and want to let others who may be feeling this way, it’s ok.

58612_113201948738359_888847_nIt’s August, 2014. And I can not figure out where the time went. In just a few more months we will be ringing in the new year, and that just blows my mind. For me, August arrives with some heavy anxiety, though.

As I write this, my hands are shaking, my chest feels like it is caving in, my breathing gets short, and the panic starts to slowly creep up on me. I have to talk myself out of it pretty quickly, or it will literally knock me on my ass…literally.

I had my first panic attack on September 5, 2010. The night prior, September 4th, my family and I arrived at my parent’s house. It was a long day of travel, we were tired (more like beyond exhausted), and the house was full of people. I just wanted everyone to go away so we could have some alone time.

On the 5th, my mother and I went to the mall. We had a few things we needed to buy for the week ahead, and I needed to get out of the house. Quite honestly, I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew I would need a pair of flats because of all the standing we were about to encounter in the next few days.

We stopped at the shoe department first. My mom was going one direction to look for a pair of shoes for herself, and I would go the other way. And it was right there that it hit me. It was like someone took a steel beam and swung it into my chest so hard, it knocked me down into the seat. I couldn’t breathe! I had no idea what was happening. When I glanced over at my mom, she was busy shopping. I certainly didn’t want her to know something was clearly wrong with me. So I took some deep breaths, got out of the chair, and carried on like nothing happened. But in the back of my head I was so scared. What the hell just happened? A panic attack is what just happened.

This happened quite a bit after that day. Sometimes daily. Sometimes so badly that I would have to sit down, no matter where I was, just to be able to get myself together so I could move on. One time it happened in the grocery store I had to squat down in the middle of the aisle because it was so debilitating, I couldn’t walk.

After some time, it tapered off. I would only have the attacks once a month, and even now they are less frequent and more manageable. I am able to recognize when it is happening, and take immediate action.

As we have entered August, though, the panic attacks are becoming more frequent, and seem a little stronger. You see, for me, August is a memory. This August 26th, my father would have been 75 years old. My father and I always shared the special bond that we had birthdays which landed on the 26th; his in August, mine in May. Five years ago on August 26th, we nearly lost my father to a faulty pacemaker, on the day I was supposed to travel back home to Phoenix. That was a horrible feeling and just a horrible day, having to leave not knowing if it was going to be the last time I’d ever see him again. And in 2010, a week after my father’s 71st birthday, he passed away from heart failure.

August is full of emotions. It also is a month of disbelief at times. As well as all the memories. It is a month that floods my mind and my heart beyond its capacity, I become overloaded.

Sometimes, I find myself just crying. Crying because I miss him, because he suffered, because he isn’t here to see all of his grandchildren, because he loved life and isn’t here to enjoy it anymore. There are times I don’t even know why I am crying, but I just do. I just let it out.

This month will come and go, and I will get through the panic attacks. They are a part of who I am now. So this month will require a lot of work mentally on my part. But I plan on embracing the feelings that are bound to take over this month.

And I plan on celebrating on August 26th with a cosmopolitan in memory of my father. I think he’d think that would be a pretty awesome way to celebrate his life!


  1. martha says

    It must have taken a lot to share that story..lots of thought, lots of deliberation deciding to share something so personal. I am glad you did . Xoxo

  2. Denise says


    It did. I’m still not sure about it, but I guess it’s a little too late. Thank you for always reading our blog and for your continued support.


    • evonne says

      Every since I got to know you better (I am a lot older) I knew you were special girl. First of all you are real (no fake) and that is what makes you special. You could be writing for so many of us that go through same things but not strong enough to admit. You are writing my story and I know it is going to be part of your life and that is OK. It will make you even more stronger person. No one would think that at looking at us———–LOL ,keep being wonderful you (you have lot of love in your heart), keep smiling and keep enjoying your life with your beautiful family and your true friends. Love you!!! XO

  3. Donna Soria Tatum says

    Dee- I’m so sorry you have to endure this pain. Panic attacks run in our family My Uncle Donilo Pujo has had them since his mother passed my cousin Milo Jackovich has them since his dad passed and my Brother has them often and even more so since my Mom passed. I try to be empathetic but I don’t always know what to say or do. I have anxiety sometimes now since my Mom passed and that in its self is hard to deal with without the panic attack. I start thinking about my Son and what would happen to him if something were to happen to me. It didn’t help turning 40 this last year. Time seems to be flying by for sure. It’s a very real and crippling feeling. August 11th would have been my Mom’s 58th birthday. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and I still cry often even though its been 5 years. I hope sharing helps you cope a little better. You are a strong and beautiful Serbian Orthodox woman. You are a great mom and you are family oriented. Lean on your family and take comfort in how proud your dad is of you and your family.

    • Denise says

      Thank you Donna for sharing and for reading. And for the kind words. Knowing we can all support each other is a huge help. Love you and love connecting with you after all these years.

  4. ljubi hayden says

    As I read your blog, I started to cry. I knew how much courage it took to post these feelings for which hit home with me….One obvious, thecother, maybe not. The panic attacks are first, I though it was all in my head…couldn’t be happening. It hit me in a similar way…mine was on the stage in Oakland…another while driving on the Ryan…..on and on.I went to a hypnotist thinking I had nothing to lose….learned a strategy… has helped over the. years. If you ever need to talk, I am here.
    I really feel for you going through this month..your memories of him will live with you and through you forever. Let the emotions flow…
    I love you and have you in my thoughts and prayers…hang in there.
    .Teta Ljub

    • Denise says


      Even with it out here, I wonder if I did the right thing sharing. Kind of late now I guess. Love you too.

  5. Angela Papich says

    Thinking of you and the pain you are feeling now. I lost my Dad when I was 17 and my Mom when I was 25. It was my Mom’s passing that hit me so hard and continued to do so for years. I still break down from time to time when I think of all the moments of sharing that we’re lost. I think when you say that you plan on embracing the feelings that are bound to take over this month, that you are on the path of healing, as painful as it may be. Much love

    • Denise says


      And there is always that tiny bit of guilt with moving on. Doesn’t mean we love them any less, but perhaps the fear of forgetting, knowing full well, I’ll never forget. It’s a mixed bag, but I also believe I’m on the path of healing. Love to you too.


  6. Nancy Nikodijevic says

    Thanks for sharing your story. You know you aren’t alone in your feelings and I am certain that it DOES help others to hear first hand that they aren’t alone as well.

    I love reading about your relationship with your Tata. Reading about experiences such as yours helps me appreciate my time with mine even more. I hope that makes sense!

    Say hi to your hubby!

  7. says

    Denise thank you. Your feelings are shared by all who have lost loved ones who were a huge part of who they are. It confirms the fact that we are not alone in our grief and that it does not end. Although I do not have panic attacks I sometimes find myself perseverating over the beautiful memories. I see old family pictures and then live in my past which I don’t necessarily see as productive. After my Tata died I was27 and living in West Virginia as I was enrolled in grad school at WVU. While waiting in a grocery line a handsome miner in grey work clothes, boots and a hardhat came in carrying a little curly haired girl in his arms. I saw my Tata and me and as I didn’t cry much when he died, I made up for it that day in the supermarket. People came running up to me asking what was wrong and all I could say was, “My Dad died.”
    They kept asking where the body was, probably thought it was stuck in a hollow in the mts.
    They continued to ask as I left the basket and ran out the store. I laugh now in retrospect but still there are days when I can’t look at a grey haired Baba without thinking of my Mom, can’t listen to Cici’s music or hear an oboe without thinking of Cici Mane and the longing for them is all consuming at times. I can never forget my parents as they live within me forever and my extended family is my nourishment always. I awake to look for pictures of your girls and the other beautiful children in our family. Personally, each time I lose a loved one I think I am fortunate to be here and I want to live life even fuller….I want to carry on my Tata’s adventurous spirit and somehow that keeps him with me always. Thank you for being brave enough to expose your feelings and help me deal with mine. Love and admire you!

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