Monday, September 17, 2012

Here by the kindness of a stranger.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in my yoga class, when I suddenly started feeling nauseous. For the record, nausea of any kind is my kryptonite, and it's a key trigger for a panic attack. The class had only been going on ten minutes, and before that, I'd felt fine, so the sudden onset of nausea unnerved me. I tried to downplay it, and the rising anxiety attack, but it soon became clear that I was going to have to leave. As discreetly as I could, I rolled up my mat, packed up my things and indicated to the teacher, who was looking at me curiously, that I wasn't feeling well. Part of the reason that nausea triggers panic attacks for me is the public component of getting sick, or having to "cause a scene" and get out of wherever I am. I've since learned to give myself permission to leave anywhere at anytime, and that has lessened that "trapped" feeling a lot, but then there is the factor of not knowing what's wrong with me, and if it's going to get worse.

I came out of class, and sat on the bench for a few seconds. Things didn't improve, so left and got my car out of parking. I told myself that every obstacle that could possibly get in my way to slow my journey home was absolutely going to happen, so to be ready to cope when it did. It's a steadfast rule of the universe, that whenever one has a desperate need to get home quickly, fate will throw every obstacle possible in your way. And this time was no different. Every red light, slow driver, and the slowest walking homeless man ever recorded in history, shuffling his way across the street as I was trying to turn left.

I'd made it through Hollywood, and was just cresting the hill on Barham when I knew I had to pull over. I drove into an empty parking lot of a real estate company, got out of my car and after a few dry heaves, things settled down. I sat on the cement parking marker for a few minutes, then when I felt confident that I could last the five minutes it would take to get home, I got back in my car and made it without incident. Scared, I'd texted Shannon and told him my plight, and he was kind enough to bring over ginger ale, chicken soup and crackers. In the middle of it all, I figured out that it was my own fault. I'd forgotten to take my medication for a few days, and in the last few weeks before, had not been good about being regular with it. It happens to the best of us. That night just before yoga, I'd taken one and my body just revolted. Let's just say, I got the message loud and clear.

The next morning, the nausea had pretty much subsided. However, I was worn out from purging. I was lying in bed when I heard someone knock on my door. Irritated, I rolled over, looked at the clock and saw that it was 8:48 AM. No way was I coming to the door, figuring that it was probably the landlord's brother who does maintenance for the building. A few minutes later, someone knocked again. This time, I recognized my neighbors' voices, so I peeled myself out of bed and wrapped a towel around me. I trudged to the door and opened it to see three of my neighbors, two sisters who live together and my next door neighbor who arranged the Warner Bros. tour for my mom and me. It was she who was holding my wallet, and all three wore looks of concern on their faces.

She handed me my wallet, and I looked at her speechless. At first, I thought I'd dropped it outside my apartment in the middle of being sick last night. However, that wasn't the case. They told me that a man with a pronounced limp had brought it to them and said that he'd found it in the parking lot where I had pulled over. At first, he was reluctant to give it to them, but I guess Kim's Warner Bros. tour guide uniform convinced him that she could be trusted. He'd left his name, Jose, and phone number with them, which they gave to me. I stood there stunned as the three of my neighbors told me they thought something really bad had happened to me and were glad that I was okay. "Oh my God," I said, and explained to them what had happened, and how blown away I was that a complete stranger had done such a good deed.

Apparently, when I got out of my car, my wallet had fallen out. The next morning, this man, who was the cleaning person at the company, found it. Using the address on my driver's license, he brought it to my building where he gave it to my neighbors. Everything was intact, even the cash.

I called him later, overflowing with thanks and told him how my wallet had come to be in that parking lot. I offered to give him something for his trouble. He refused, telling me that he was a Jehovah's Witness and that he knew he'd want someone to do the same for him. I offered again, but after he refused, I respected his wishes. "Your phone call is enough," he said in thickly-accented English. Well Jose, it was nothing compared to what you did.

It's just a reminder, that there are good, honest and caring people in this world. Yes, even in Los Angeles. I shudder when I think what I'd have had to go through to replace everything in the wallet and then endure the continuing fear of who had my information and what they were doing with it. This man, who apparently hasn't had an easy life, and still doesn't, was my hero that morning. Jose, a complete stranger, had my back. And there's something just so wonderful when you think of it that way.


Adrasteia said...

Wow! What a wonderful, uplifting story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I didn't know you had panic attacks. Do you have breathing issues with yours, or is it limited to nausea and obviously the anxious feelings? I don't get nauseous, but I can't breathe and I sound like I'm having a violent asthma attack with the shrieking sound of trying to suck air in through something that's almost completely closed up. It's sort of alarming sounding. Fortunately it doesn't happen very often. I'm glad you're okay and your wallet was near-miraculously returned! Very sweet of Shannon, as well. Take care!

Anne said...

Adrasteia, I sure do have panic attacks. Thankfully not very often now. I was diagnosed with a panic disorder about 15 years ago (which is what the medication is for, along with mild clinical depression). The nausea can trigger them, but my panic attacks don't cause them. I experience, shortness of breath, a closed throat feeling, dizziness/light headed and claustrophobic. They used to be a lot worse and debilitating until I learned good coping skills through therapy. And it was very sweet of Shannon! He's an awesome friend.