Stuck on The Breakwater Almost a Half Mile Out On The Ocean

A brutal panic attack

Photo Credit: Lisa Gallagher

It was a beautiful day, the sky was a bit overcast and the temperature was 58 degrees Fahrenheit, a great day for the outdoor adventures we planned. We were were vacationing in Maine last May and each day I made a list of places to visit. On this particular day we were visiting the The Breakwater Lighthouse in Rockland, Maine. I was excited because I LOVE the ocean, so why not walk out almost a mile over the ocean to see the lighthouse?

Photo Credit: Lisa Gallagher, Penobscot, ME

The night before our trek I was on sitting outside on the deck enjoying the view of the Pier next to our vacation home while talking to my sister on the phone. I told my sister about our plans for the next day and her first comment was, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll have a panic attack?” I laughed and said, “No, I will be too busy taking pictures and enjoying the view to feel panicked. ” My sister didn’t stop there, she went on to say while giggling, “Well, if I tried to walk out on that I can assure you that I would be in my knees crawling because I would have a panic attack.” We both laughed about her comment, I even told her I could picture her on her hands and knees!

Photo Credit: Lisa Gallagher- Male Eider Duck

We arrived at the Breakwater around 1 pm on May 2nd, 2016 and I was pumped! I could feel the adrenaline flowing from excitement. I had my Canon with me because I love taking photos. As soon as we got about one quarter of the way out I saw a male Eider Duck and started shooting photos. My husband kept stopping and I finally told him to just go ahead of me and I would catch up with him. I must have stopped 5–6 times to shoot pictures and then it happened! I decided I was done shooting photos and wanted to catch up with my husband. As soon as I looked up to walk forward I became extremely dizzy. I sat down on a rock to catch my balance. I got back up again and thought the feeling had passed. Much to my dismay, when I stood back up I had vertigo. Everything was spinning around me and panic set in. I had to sit down again. My husband was about 3/4’s of the way out on the breakwater. I motioned but he didn’t see me.

I got up again when it felt like my vertigo was beginning to subside. Oops, big mistake- as soon as I stood up again, I felt like I was going to pass out. I have panic disorder and I was having a full-blown panic attack! I ran across the large rocks towards my husband so he could see me and I literally thought I was going to fall off the edge of the breakwater into the water. I was pouring in sweat, crying and swearing. I made it about a half mile out onto the breakwater and I had to sit again! My husband kept turning around and I was waving towards him frantically. I finally yelled as loud as I could, “Turn your ass around, I can’t get up, help me!” He turned around and it seemed like it took him forever to get to me.

My husband knew what was happening because he knows I suffer from panic disorder. He told me to grab his hand and we’d walk back slowly. I remember crying while uttering, “I can’t get up, I just can’t do it.” He reassured me that I just needed to grab his hand and we’d walk slow. He also told me if you need to stop and sit we can do that too. My heart was beating so fast, my head was spinning and I literally felt like I was going to die on the rocks! I remember picking up my pace as my husband kept telling me to slow down so I didn’t trip or lose my balance. When panic sets in your not rational. I was not rational as we walked back to the shoreline.

A few things that helped me focus a bit, the calmness of my husband and knowing each step was getting me closer to land again. I also knew I had my anti-anxiety medication in the car and it would stop the panic within 15 minutes or so after taking my medicine.

As soon as we got off the breakwater I dodged for the car. I should have taken my medicine with me. If you are prone to panic attacks it’s a good idea to always have your medicine with you. I may have been able to prevent the panic attack from becoming full-blown if I would have taken my medication at the onset of my symptoms. I might have been able to make it all the way to the lighthouse!

I told my sister about my experience when we returned home. She felt bad because she thought possibly her comments caused me to become anxious unknowingly. I told her I really didn’t give her comments any thought until it happened and I said I think I swore at her too while I sat on the breakwater looking like an idiot. I wasn’t mad at her and we both had a good laugh. I also learned a great lesson, never go anywhere without my medication, even knowing you have it with you can act as a placebo affect.

I managed to get a photo of an old boat docked in the water before my panic became full-blown. Aside from my panic attack, I’m still glad we went to the breakwater and I would do it again but not without my medication the next time.

Photo Credit: Lisa Gallagher- Fishing boat docked in Atlantic Ocean, Camden Maine
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