this post, i thought i’d share someone else’s experience:
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Aubrey Huff opens up about his anxiety attacks
Stephen Lam / Special to The Chronicle
Aubrey Huff says his first panic attack lasted for eight hours.
Aubrey Huff was standing in his New York hotel room at 5 o’clock in the morning in the early stages of what would be an eight-hour panic attack. The Giants were to play a doubleheader against the Mets that afternoon and evening. Baseball was the last thing on Huff’s mind.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Huff recalled. “I felt I was taking short breaths. Right then and there I thought I was having a heart attack. I told myself, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to be sitting in this hotel room and die of a heart attack. I’ve got to get out of here.’ ”
And so he did, starting the odyssey of a ballplayer who left the Giants two weeks ago to go home to Florida, where he had a second panic attack one day later and, finally, after insisting to the team that he had a “family emergency,” phoned trainers and described what really happened.
Huff told his story for the first time Friday in a 20-minute conversation with The Chronicle at AT&T Park. He returned to San Francisco a week ago to work out with teammates and, for the first time in his life, see a mental health professional. He expects to resume playing in Los Angeles on Monday night, when he is eligible to come off the disabled list.
“Obviously I’ve been seeing somebody here in town to kind of work out some of these issues,” Huff said. “It took everything I could to get up here from Tampa after I freaked out, if you will. But since I got here I’ve been fine.”
Huff, a 35-year-old who has played in the majors for 13 seasons, has had a difficult life. His father was murdered in Texas when he was 6. He acknowledged Friday that he has had marital problems that he caused and other issues in the past 2 1/2 years. His poor play in 2011 has weighed on him, too.
But Huff does not have the answer that he, his loved ones and many fans are seeking: Why a player known for his joie de vivre and goofy demeanor was so panic-stricken on the morning of April 23 that he left his team and flew home without permission. That’s not done, and it was a decision that he said would seem “dumb” to a right-thinking person but logical to him at the time.
“Where this panic attack came from, I don’t know,” he said. “All I know is it was there. I can’t explain it. I almost wish I had broken my leg than had that. I can control that. I know what’s happening. This, I didn’t know what was happening. You can’t control it. It’s scary.”
Moved to second
Two days before, the Giants had lost to the Mets at Citi Field after manager Bruce Bochy asked Huff to play second base, for the first time in his career, in the ninth inning. He made a mistake that contributed to the 5-4 defeat.
The next day’s game was rained out, with a doubleheader scheduled for Monday before the team flew to Cincinnati.
That morning, Huff recalled, he woke at 3 o’clock to go to the bathroom, and that’s when it began.
He tossed and turned, unable to sleep, his mind racing with thoughts of struggles on and off the field. At 5 a.m. he decided to get up.
“I open the window and see the New York skyline,” he said. “The sun is starting to come up. I see all the huge buildings. I just freaked out. I don’t know what happened. I couldn’t figure out what it was. The room felt like it was getting smaller, a claustrophobic feeling. I couldn’t control one thought in my head. There were so many thoughts going through.”
Got to get home
His overriding thought, “If I’m going to die of a heart attack, I’m going to at least try to get home.”
Huff packed, put on a suit and took a cab to the airport, where he bought a ticket for Tampa and lay along a wall at the gate, crouched on his bag, comforted by having other people around who could help him if he lost consciousness.
“I was shaking, sweating,” he said. “I was telling myself, ‘Just get on the plane. Just get on the plane.’
Aboard the regional jet, Huff turned the air vent on full blast and spent the entire flight, still panicked, with his suit coat over his head, wondering if he should write a note to his family in case he died on the plane.
Somehow, the pilot’s voice announcing the landing at Tampa finally calmed him, eight hours after the episode had begun. He went home and surprised his wife, Barbara, who thought Huff was joking when he texted he was coming home.
Huff even thought to himself, “What the heck am I doing in Tampa?”
He slept “like a rock” that day, figured it was a one-time episode and booked a flight to Cincinnati the next day to rejoin the team. He planned to stick with the “family emergency” line and hope nobody would be the wiser.
It happens again
However, when the Town Car driver rang his doorbell the next morning, Huff had another panic attack and stayed home. After lying in bed a short while he felt better and thought to himself, “This is ridiculous. I’ve got to call the trainers back.”
Huff finally told the team what happened and was referred to a doctor in Florida who prescribed medication that he continues to take. In San Francisco, he has seen a therapist twice, 90 minutes each time, and has his phone number in case of an emergency.
He has not had to use it.
“Since I’ve been here I’ve had good days and bad days,” he said. “Today’s a great day. Yesterday was a good day. The day before was crappy. I didn’t panic, but I felt a little overwhelmed, a little not normal. All in all, seeing this guy I’m seeing has really helped me.”
Huff’s wife and children remain his support network and are in San Francisco. Although she filed for divorce in January, he said the proceedings have been “pushed back” and they plan to stay together.
“Having gone through this is weird, because everything in my personal life has gotten better in the last four or five months,” he said. “I did get served, but the last three or four months my family life has been better.
“She’s been there for me since Day One. I’ve put her through so much crap. She’s an amazing woman, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to make her happy.
“For me, the last three years, especially during the World Series, I’ve given my heart and soul to baseball. It seems like sometimes my personal life with my family, I haven’t given as much to them as I have to baseball.”
Huff hopes the help he has gotten and the stress he has released will help him relax more on the field and play better. He also acknowledged a newfound appreciation for people with mental illness.
“To be honest with you, I was always taught that people who had anxiety issues were just weak-minded people,” he said. “Now that it’s happened to me, you see you can’t control it. To people this has happened to, there’s nothing you can say or do on the outside to make somebody feel better because they haven’t experienced it.”
Henry Schulman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.