Thursday, April 18, 2013

Panic at the disco... of my mind

For people who've never had a panic attack, I've got to assume the name of it sounds kind of... lame. I mean, we all have moments of panic. "Did I leave the car running?" "omg, my child just bolted into the road!" "I'm totally going to get fired." But none of those are panic attacks. The Mayo Clinic's website says, 
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.
That's the basic gist. But what does it really feel like? This is what it feels like.

I'm doing something pretty normal, but overall it's probably either a stressful day, like a day where I visit a doctor, have to do a performance evaluation, or pack for a vacation. I start to feel off, I know something's not quite right. I'm getting tingly. The tingling numbness creeps up my neck and all over my face, seeping into my head. I feel dizzy. I think maybe I didn't eat enough today and grab for whatever's at hand. A piece of candy, a handful of crackers. My head is feeling fuzzy so I sit down. 

View from an abating panic attack.
Although sometimes a small part of me thinks of seizures or heart attacks, I know better. I know it's a mounting panic attack when my heart starts beating harder. Not fast really, just... hard. Like the heartbeat in the background of a horror film. The panic is raising in my throat, pressing on my chest. I'm already starting to get scared. No, no, not again, not now, not here. The right medicine right now might cut it off here, bring the crescendo back down. But even the right medicine doesn't always work.

I don't want to move, but it's impossible to sit still. I want to be frozen but somehow my body just won't listen. I pace. I lash out. If I try to hold it all in I twitch. Then the tears come. Broken dry cries. Weak angry shrieks break through, while my brain screams shut up shut up shut up. I can't really cry a real cry, something that may be cathartic. It all gets caught in my throat and in my head.

I get angry. At this feeling, at myself, at anybody. I want it to end. I want to smash my skull in and make it end. Sometimes I can't hold back and I pound my head with my fists, or hit it on the floor. Just enough to hurt. It feels like relief for a moment to have physical pain.

I crave physical pain. Cuts, burns, bruises.  Then that scares me more and I stare at my shelf filled with pill bottles. I could take them all. I could end it forever. But I don't. Real tears come now. Slow, sad tears. Now I can lie still and cry and breath and wait for it all to be over. And eventually it ends. It always does. And I'm tired. But I'm still here, and with my sanity coming back, and my head clearing, I'm grateful. It's always stops eventually.

Until next time.


21 comments:

  1. Wow . . . sounds difficult. There must be something that can help.


    Sonia Lal

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    1. well, the medications help somewhat, but unfortunately most people report that panic attacks just get harder to manage as they get older

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  2. Oh my goodness, this is a brave post.

    I am not prone to panic attacks, but I have experienced it a few times under extreme stress. I don't think I could have put the horrible feeling into words, other than to say it sucks, which is quite the understatement.

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    1. Thanks. The only reason I could write this was because I took some notes during the attack, it's amazing how fast you can forget that feeling after it's over. And yeah, sucks is an understatement.

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  3. This was very enlightening. I have wondered how it feels to have a panic attack. I knew panic attacks were different and more intense than anxiety attacks. But honestly I only knew that from a Sex and the City episode in which Miranda has a panic attack. Thank you for sharing. I am sorry that you have to go through this. Hopefully they subside as you get older.

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    1. Thanks, yeah, I hope so too. And if not, maybe there will be some new medicine produced that can do more for them.

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  4. I have had a couple panic attacks in my life. They are very, very scary. I have never been medicated but more than once have thought that would help. I feel for you. Really good writing! Jennifer a.k.a. Urban Gypsy Girl

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    1. Thank you. It's kind of amazing how many people go through it, but unless they have the people don't seem to know much about what they really are.

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  5. Thanks for sharing. You really captured how it feels. Excellent writing!
    Rebecca
    madscientistcrazymom

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  6. You did an amazing job writing about a difficult topic. It's so well done, it creates a visceral response in the reader--or at least this reader. Sorry to hear you have known it well enough to capture it in such detail.

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    1. Thanks. It's amazing how easy it is to forget how it feels, which can make it scarier next time. So writing this out really was cathartic for me.

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  7. I have been battling anxiety and panic disorder my entire adult life and am in awe of your description. it is so hard to explain to those who don't have them, and your post is dead on! kudos to you for being able to take notes during an attack btw...that must have been nearly impossible! Anyway thanks again for another eloquent, insightful post.

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    1. Thanks, Caitlin. I took the notes after the worst of it was over but was still fresh in my mind. I'm glad it resonates with others who suffer these as well.

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  8. Panic attacks SUCK. I had one on a date once. Never saw that dude again.

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    1. I did too, in a movie theater! The guy was super cool about it though and still wanted to go out with me. (too bad I didn't want to go out with him, but that's unrelated)

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  9. I've only had one once thankfully but your description nailed it. They are awful. The worst is that you can't stop them or know when you're gonna get hit w/ one. Amazing description though.

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    1. Thanks. The not knowing when one might happen is terrible. It's like your brain is playing Russia roulette with itself.

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  10. Wow. I think it's amazing we had almost the same title, writing about the same subject.

    I've been there. Where you want to slam your head into a wall. Or the floor. Because anything is better than nothing, and if you could just knock yourself out. . .it would be over.

    -The Insomniacs Dream

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    1. It's almost a little creepy that we had such similar posts...

      Maybe one day we'll both get to post about the magical cure for panic attacks.

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  11. Did I leave the car running?" "omg, my child just bolted into the road!" "I'm totally going to get fired." But none of those are panic attacks. The Mayo Clinic's website says, http://panicawayhelp.org

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