Something’s Gotta Give



Everyone who knows me knows to some extent about my anxiety disorder and panic attacks.  My first panic attack happened when I was about ten years old.  I used to call it the “weird to be alive” feeling, because I actually felt like I was watching things in slow motion; like I was underwater, or looking into one of those fun-house mirrors at the carnival.

I didn’t know it was a panic attack.  I just knew it felt dreadful, it made me frightened, and it made me feel alone.

On that day, I was with my family visiting family friends of ours.  I was on the swing, and I was having a good time.  The attack came out of nowhere, without warning, and without rhyme or reason.I cannot remember every panic attack I have had in my life (there have been many), but there are a few that still haunt me when I think back on them.

The one I had in high school, when I was walking down the crowded hallways, trying to get to class.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and everything around me once again became a slow motion movie.  Faces of classmates were distorted, I felt Paniclike I was covered in saran wrap, and I thought I was going to drop dead before I even made it to class.

The one I had at work, when I was waitressing my way through college.  That was a particularly bad one, as my employer called an ambulance for me and I was taken to the hospital for testing.  I was twenty two at the time.

The one when my twin sons were about eight months old and became very sick.  I had to take both of them, along with my seven year old daughter, to the children’s hospital emergency room.  On the way, my heart started to beat wildly and irregularly.  Again, I could not catch my breath, my hands were tingly and I couldn’t catch my breath.  Fortunately, my mother lived close by, so I pulled into her driveway and had my daughter run in to get her.  The attack passed shortly after, and my mother offered to come with me to the hospital.  (FYI, the twins were fine.  They had a bad virus called RSV but after a few days, they recovered completely.)

panic3This year, I have had less panic attacks than usual, but the anxiety has increased.  I have days where I am in a constant state of heightened anxiety and panic.  I know this is due to the stress that my family has been under this summer, but even though I am aware of the source of the problem, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

After a lengthy discussion with my doctor, I agreed to try Ativan to try and calm the anxiety.  But even with the help of a prescription that should make me calmer, I find myself struggling to make it through the day sometimes.

For someone who has not experienced panic and anxiety, it is difficult to understand what someone like me goes through.  There are times when I am afraid to leave my house.  Those are the times when I force myself to do it, just because if I give into the fear, I know I will eventually become agoraphobic.

Those trips to the grocery store are torture, especially when I succumb to the panic before I reach the checkout.

Having to drive any longer than 20 minutes to get somewhere can also set off a major panic attack.  My husband recently had to visit a doctor whose office is in a hospital an hour and a half away.

Halfway to the hospital, I felt the attack coming on.  The sharp intake of breath, the dizziness, the pounding heart, the dry mouth, the trembling hands, and the feeling that my lungs are not working properly.  I tried to ignore it, tried to hide it from my husband, but eventually, it got so bad I thought I might have to pull over.

My husband glanced over at me and asked “Are you ok?”panic3

I shook my head, grabbed his hand and held it to my chest.  The knowledge that he could feel my heart beating so wildly out of control seemed to calm me, and we made it to the appointment on time without having to stop.

The problem with panic attacks and anxiety is this: you never feel like you’re just having a panic attack or anxiety.  Your mind is in hyper-mode, and you actually feel like you are dying.  Sometimes I believe I am having a heart attack (after extensive tests, scans and stress tests, my heart was ruled healthy.)  I was convinced that the migraines with aura that I get was actually a brain tumor (MRI, MRA and scan came back clean – I was diagnosed with Classic Migraine with Aura).

I could go on and on with the various symptoms and fears that come along with panic and anxiety, but at this point I am past that.  Instead, I need to focus on finding a way through.  I have decided that I can no longer live in a world where I am frightened all of the time.  I am always scared.  I never feel safe.  I am always anxious, and I always feel alone.

My first step is to call a therapist who may be able to help me.  This is not the person I am.  This is not who I want to be.  This is the anxiety and panic taking control of my life and I am ready to fight back.

I’m sure I will write a few more times about anxiety and panic, and for those of you who have read The Ghost of You, you can see how these afflictions find their way into my creative, fictional worlds as well.

I am hoping, however, that the next time I post about anxiety or panic, it will be a post to explain how I am recovering from these things, and the progress that I am making.

panic5For those of you who always suffer, I want to give you huge hugs and tell you that I understand.

For those of you who don’t, but know someone who is affected by panic and anxiety, please understand that they do not mean to ignore you, be snappish, be forgetful or be anti-social.  People like me are dealing with a private hell that makes it difficult to focus on anything else.  We have good days, and we have bad days, but in the end, we are just trying to survive, and perhaps escape the binds of this invisible, yet very real, illness.




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About The Author


At my core, I am a writer and author, but I am also a crazy girl, a proud mama, a gourmet cupcake maker, a vixen, a website developer and a lost little girl.

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