Friday, June 29, 2012

The Anniversary That I Wish I Could Forget

St. Vincent's: gone (since April 2012), but not forgotten
One October 8, I gave my then-boyfriend a not-so-subtle reminder.

"Do you know what day today is?"

"Um, Saturday?"

"Um, no. It's the one-year anniversary of the day we met."

Long, awkward pause...

"How do you even remember that?!"

I didn't know how to break the news to him: He was dating the guy who put the last word into "super freak." In my defense, though, I've always had a thing for dates (specifically, months and days). I'm terrible with names, and hit and miss and hit with years, but give me a month and day on which something semi-significant occurs -- say, May 7, my birthday; August 13, my first day on the job at People magazine; or October 1, the day I moved into my first, second and third Manhattan apartments -- and they'll stay with me forever.

That's why I can't believe I'd never thought of it before, especially yesterday while I was writing about the significance of last July 5, until my friend Dave reminded me in a post on my Facebook Timeline. Five years and two days before that (last July 5), I had the first of three major panic attacks that would send me to the ER of St. Vincent's Hospital in the West Village in the two and a half months before I left New York City for Buenos Aires. (It was also the day I took Klonopin for the first time, but enough about that.)

I can remember that day before Independence Day like it was yesterday (which is strange, because I couldn't tell you what I did that Independence Day, or what I was doing on any day before the Fourth of July in any other given year, though I'm pretty certain I was probably packing for my trip to Bangkok last July 3). It was the day after Dave, his parents and I saw Madonna's "Confessions on the Dance Floor" concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

I swear I wasn't even thinking about Madonna the moment it hit me late that Monday afternoon. I was sitting on my couch watching TV, when I felt a surge of anxiety and dread pass through my body. It was the first time it had ever happened while it was light outside, and when I wasn't trying to fall asleep. I remember walking to the ER, the panic rising, hoping, praying, it would magically disappear.

I remember my entire body vibrating by the time I arrived at the ER, feeling like it might be crushed by the weight of the imaginary giant anvil pressing down hard on my head. I couldn't even stand still long enough to tell the nurse what was happening because I felt like if I stopped for one second I would explode. "Goodbye, cruel world," I recall thinking to myself, as I prepared for my body to drop. Several hours and a my first-ever Klonopin later, I had an official diagnosis: I'd had a full-blown panic attack.

Fortunately, like most of the other anniversaries occupying my mind these days, this one had a happy ending: Although I was ready to die at the beginning of the story, four days short of six years later, I'm still around to tell it.

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