I count myself as fortunate. I’ve only experienced an anxiety attack 3 or 4 times in my life. They were not fun, though, and I feel for you if they are something you struggle with on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean I haven’t had plenty of almost-attacks. Oh, yes, I know the almost-attack very very well. It usually comes in the form of being-convinced-I’m-about-to-vomit (this is a lingering side effect of having Emetophobia for many years of my adolescence).
While I’ve never had a full-blown anxiety attack while on a date, I can imagine what it would be like. And I definitely had one before a date once.
While the advice I will give is maybe not perfect for you, I hope it will help if even a little bit.
Here’s what I want to tell you: you are never stuck. You have options. Just because you walk into that coffee shop, that party, that movie, that park, doesn’t mean you have to stay there. So much of panic/anxiety attacks come from the buildup of fear — the fear of having an attack when you’re out. Panic attacks are connected strongly to feeling like we aren’t in control of yourself. The unknown. Which is a scary feeling. This is what keeps us in. Don’t allow it to. Try your best to get out, take those first steps, take a deep breath, but if you start panicking, leave. You are in control of your steps. Who cares if the person you’re on a date with feels confused, angry, sad, etc, etc. Your first priority is YOU and your health. If the person you’re on a date with is cool, they’ll still want to see you again.
I’m always pretty up front with people. I tend to just word-vomit that I have anxiety or I’m nervous. You are welcome to be honest with the person, you can tell them you struggle with anxiety. OR you don’t have to. Make up an excuse. Tell them you aren’t feeling well. You have to poop. You forgot to feed your cat. Whatever. Who gives a shit, really?
I once faked a phone call, pretended I got bad news, and drove away when I had anxiety building up on a date. Whatever. It was fine. I hung out with the guy again down the road.
It’s okay to spiral and to feel trapped. I mean, it really really sucks, but allow yourself a few minutes of sheer horror. Then stand up, remove yourself, and be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Above all, you deserve kindness.