I Had A Panic Attack On A First Date & It Was Mortifying

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know it feels like someone has put a basket of poisonous snakes on your lap. Now imagine that feeling on top of normal first date nerves—that’s what happened to me.

  1. He didn’t make me anxious; in fact, he made me weak in the knees. In case you’re thinking that the guy I was on a date with made me feel anxious, the truth is the complete opposite. He was cool, funny, and smart. He had gorgeous green pools for eyes and an amazing smile that made me feel like I was made of paper. I was excited by the chemistry.
  2. The restaurant was loud and busy and we were sitting in a crowded corner, and I started to get anxious. We’d chosen a corner table in the restaurant, which meant that we were blocked in by other tables. It was a really busy day with lots of loud people. I felt a bit trapped in the corner, so maybe that led to my anxiety. I considered asking my date to move to a different table but that would have been weird so I decided against it.
  3. I started feeling the tell-tale symptoms of a panic attack and knew I was in trouble. Anxiety can occur without warning — I once even had a bout during a relaxing bubble bath. It’s weird and unpredictable and can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. And now, it had suddenly exploded in my body half an hour into an awesome date.
  4. I tried to hide it, but that was easier said than done. I always try to hide my anxiety, even from friends and other loved ones, just because I hate admitting that I’m panicking. On this date, I did the same thing and it took all my energy to try to behave normally.
  5. I excused myself to go to the bathroom. I couldn’t leave the date, but I could escape for a few minutes, so I went to the bathroom. There, alone in front of the mirror, I tried to calm down. My heart was racing and I didn’t know why, which made me feel worse. This was more than just first-date nerves. Dating had always been stressful for me, but never to this degree.
  6. He remained oblivious. When I returned to the table, I felt a little better but I was still shaky and my heart was thumping in my ear. My date had no clue what was happening, which was great. If other people could see my anxiety, that would escalate it big time.
  7. I couldn’t sit still.  I wanted to move around and do something with all the adrenaline in my blood, but I couldn’t. My date was talking loads and was keen on ordering a meal. I didn’t know what to do. Every cell in my body was screaming at me to get up and run!
  8. Everything was a blur. I was in my own little panicked bubble, trying hard to breathe and distract myself from the anxiety, but it felt like trying to wrestle a bear. My date asked me questions but I was pretty tight lipped. I preferred when he talked so I wouldn’t have to. It was just too much effort.
  9. I excused myself again. I told him I had to go back to the bathroom again and he probably thought I had diarrhea or something. But I couldn’t help having to leave the table. I felt everyone’s eyes were on me when I climbed up the stairs to the bathroom. There, I splashed water on my face and realized I couldn’t do this.
  10. Shame is panic’s cousin. While feeling such panic, I also started to feel shame. I was embarrassing myself. I was missing out on an amazing date with such a great guy! What was he going to think of me for having anxiety? I felt crazy and worried he’d see me as crazy. I decided I had to leave the date.
  11. He was waiting for me outside the bathroom. When I left the bathroom, my date was there. He looked concerned and asked if everything was OK. I realized in that moment that I had to tell him the truth. I couldn’t lie and say that I got an emergency call and had to leave—it seemed obvious that something else was going on.
  12. I came clean and he was actually really understanding. I told him that I suffered from anxiety and had been having a big panic attack during our date. I reassured him that it wasn’t because of him and that anxiety was just crazy that way sometimes. He listened and totally understood but said he was upset that the date had to come to an end. I was too. I was sure he wouldn’t want to see me again.
  13. He called me later that day. I was feeling pretty down after my date because my anxiety ruined my day. Plus, it’s exhausting going through a panic attack. Then my date called. He wanted to check how I was feeling and suggested we go out again! We had a fantastic second date, but what was even better was that a really good thing came out of my panic attack. I learned how important it is to be honest and real with people. And, contrary to what I’ve always feared, anxiety doesn’t push people away.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.