Drink an entire pot of full caffeine coffee, place a damp towel that is just thin enough for you to be in the dark but yet see what is going on around you. This is as close as I can get to describing my panic attacks. It is much worse in my head, as when it’s happening, to me, my world is ending. Sometimes it’s a feeling of ending health and other times it’s just a severely strong feeling of doom. There are no triggers as people say “avoid your triggers”. If I knew what they were then I wouldn’t still be having attacks.
Stress can be a factor, but who doesn’t have stress? Even during times of relaxation, I can find myself feeling an attack coming on or not feel the warning sign and it hits. Sometimes I don’t get a warning sign and it comes on so fast that I have to leave wherever I am if I’m not at home. This could be why I don’t tend to go many places like others do. Yes, I have a lot of responsibilities that keep me home but don’t others and they still have that time to take a long weekend or a three-day cruise. What would that be like? To be able to go somewhere and not worry about what you left behind.
The last long trip I can think of that I went on was back in 2006 when we drove to my mothers’ hometown to lay her to rest. We took about a week and this was before my granddaughter came home. My nephew was 16 at the time and we didn’t have the cats yet so we were able to do this. Honestly, it was something I needed to do and didn’t think much of the house when we left although we have truly wonderful neighbors next door and they said they would watch the house for us. I had the chance to show my nephew and my brother, the places that my mother had shown me when we took a trip there about 10 years earlier. Some places she had only told me about when she talked about growing up so the adventure to find these places was extremely memorable. We rented a huge van with plenty of seats but when driving straight through for 16 hours, there’s going to be some squirming and getting on each other’s nerves. It was fun in the long run and sad also. But I was able to do what I knew needed to be done and that was to bring her home and lay her next to her mother.
My panic attacks didn’t actually start until almost 5 years later. I found myself working in my job at the time and just started to feel weird. I don’t know how to describe it but maybe I can say it was like the feeling you when you step into the cold water and a kind of electric chill passes through your body all the way up to your head. I remember sitting at my desk and a fear came over me. I told my boss I needed to walk around for a minute, thinking it would pass but it didn’t. When I realized it wasn’t going away, I told my boss that I needed to go to the hospital because something was wrong. They never offered to help, they just said okay and let me drive myself to the hospital.
I was completely terrified by the time I reached the hospital. When they took me to the room in the back, I broke down into heart-pounding sobs. They took tests as I couldn’t describe much but knew I felt it in my chest area. So they were thinking heart attack, but after all the tests, they had no signs showing of that. This was when I was told I had a panic attack all while doing my ugly cry in the emergency room. They kept me overnight just to make sure but of course that adds to more stress, especially when the other person in the room has to use the bathroom multiple times during the night. But this was just the beginning.
After being in the hospital I followed up with my doctor, as every good patient should do. He suggested therapy, boy was that something. I had never been to anything like that and on the very first day of me trying it, I cried my entire way home. I cried so much during this time, I think I dropped 5 pounds just from tears! Insurance only covered 8 sessions so it was short but it was okay. They said that I never actually grieved the passing of my mother and honestly I don’t know that I ever have, even now.
So I learn to live with my attacks and how to deal with them, sometimes I feel them coming and other times they surprise me. One day I will probably learn how to grieve but I don’t know how someone goes about doing that. What I can say is that it constricts you and changes you into someone that you weren’t before. It’s like being held hostage in your own body and mind. You see others doing things that you want to do but you fear that you can’t do it or your mind tells you that you’re not healthy enough due to the attacks. It’s an evil game it plays on you, one side of your mind is positive while the other is very negative. Sometimes one is more powerful than the other and it’s a struggle to keep positive in control.
One day at a time, some days are hour by hour and minute by minute with ups and downs. But I don’t have the luxury of being allowed to stay in bed during those times and that’s a good thing. I’m not allowed to give into the fear because I know that the bills will not get paid and my family will not survive. I feel like a walking, talking panic fuse just waiting to go off at any moment.
I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this, I guess just trying to see if I write it down and share it with someone that doesn’t know me in person, if that might help a little. There is still hope no matter how bad the day is I can still dream and I do. So with this, I hope it helps and I can work on making those dreams come true without fear.