Be a Man

I love being taken care of by my dude. Call it old-fashioned, but when I’m feeling down and out and he’s there to cradle me in his big farm-boy arms (yes, he actually grew up on a farm with cows and everything, thank you very much) and tell me everything is going to be all right, I positively melt into a pile of warm goo. However because the usual pattern in our relationship seems to be that I’m the unstable, rampantly emotional one while he’s the eternal steady force of reason, I’m usually not needed to return the favor. Whenever needed he has been my rock-hard boyfriend – and obviously I’m not just talking in the jean-al area.

So when I had to drive him into the hospital last week because he was having trouble breathing and thus a total panic attack (or perhaps a panic attack and thus trouble breathing), I had no idea how to deal. Sure I was beside him every step of the way telling him everything was going to be fine, but when he actually turned to me in the waiting room and told me he was scared, I had no idea how to make him un-scared.

As the night wore on and my boyfriend’s panic worsened, I became increasingly unsure about how to comfort him. Finally he resorted to calling the other woman (a.k.a. his mother) so she could provide him with the re-assurance he desperately needed. Surprisingly, he only talked with her for a few minutes before handing the phone to me.

"She wants to talk to you." He shrugged.

I took the phone and walked down the hall so he couldn’t hear.

"Lauren, how are you?" she said, concerned.

"Me? Well I’M all right…" I answered, confused.

"Look, I wish I could be there for my little boy, but the fact is I’m not and the truth is I’m alright with that."

"You’re – ok… Good, good. Why are you alright with that?"

"Because you’re with him, and you know him better than absolutely anyone else. You love and trust one another – you’re exactly what he needs."

"ME?!? Well, I mean, I’m trying. I’m trying to comfort him and keep him calm, but I feel like I don’t quite know what I’m doing. Once we see the doctor he can prescribe something –"

"Lauren, it’s all you, you’re the medicine. He needs to know someone else is in control, someone else knows what to you, and that’s you."

"But I don’t know –"

"Yes you do. Trust your instincts, trust yourself, you’ll be just fine. And if you’re fine, he’ll be fine."

And then it clicked. Even if I had no idea what I was doing I needed to be strong and sure for him. I needed to be rock-hard. I needed to be the man he had always been to me.

"Thank you so much." I told the other woman before we hung up the phone. I then marched back to my boyfriend with new resolve. He was pacing the hallway anxiously.

"Sit down honey." I commanded gently. He did. For the next 45 minutes I rubbed his back and talked – talked about New Years, talked about movies, talked about breakfast tomorrow – talked about anything other than his breathing. And it magically seemed to work, minutes after staring his breaths no longer sounded wheezy and labored.

When finally seen by the doctor post chest X-Ray and basic listening-to-your-heart-with-a-stethoscope stuff, we were told there was absolutely nothing wrong. But instead of feeling pacified by this information it only increased my boyfriend’s fear. He felt there was without a doubt something wrong with him, something that no one could help him with.

I drove him home, put him in bed and gave him herbal remedies I have kicking around from my soap-making days. Bach Flower to calm, cedarwood essential oil for stability, a rune protection pendant for security and of course a soft voice for reassurance. He eventually feel asleep during a head-rub around 3AM that morning.

All the while his mother’s words echoed in the head – "You’re the medicine." I may not be a doctor, but I realized that night that the comfort of being able to give up your control to someone you trust is perhaps even more powerful than any prescription.


  1. goldenchild
    January 7, 2009

    I was kind of in the same situation in December. Except me and my boyfriend ahven’t been together for as long as you and yours (not even a year yet), and when he started having trouble breathing, and went into panic mode the first thing I could think of to do is call my mom.

    This apparently didn’t appeal to him, and things got even worse.

    I ended up calling an ambulance because I simply didn’t know what to do. I regret the fact that I couldn’t just be calm for him, but at the same time, I honestly didn’t know what in the hell to do. I wish I had gotten the same phone call you did, I think I would have just calmed down and let the whole thing cool down.

    Ah well, we live and we learn.

  2. ginger79
    January 9, 2009

    A veteran in this department – but sub bf in for myself – these are some methods for coping with middle of the night asthmatic panic attacks

    1. Drink hot black coffee
    2. Eat dark chocolate
    3. Put your hands straight up in the air
    4. Go to a 24 hour Shoppers Drug Mart and get liquid Benadryl

    Unless breathing is really bad, a trip to the emergency room will result in 2 hours of waiting followed by inhaling ventolin a few times through a tube for a couple hours.

    If you have breathing problems, you should always have a ventolin with you in case of emergency, but in a pinch coffee or chocolate will do the trick.

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