It’s been years since I have had a major attack. One that made me consider the scary scenario that I may actually be dying. Knowing that I experience these types of attacks, I am usually able to talk myself down. To remind myself of what this really is and that it will pass. Everything will be ok.
But tonight, I was completely taken by surprise. I had just finished up dinner and done the dishes. I was getting my kids finished with their baths and ready for bed. I was getting ready to finally RELAX for the day. And suddenly it hit me. It came out of nowhere. In an instant I felt like my entire world shifted.
My vision changed, just slightly. I felt for a split second like I was floating, but not in a good way. In a way that made me feel like my equilibrium was shifting rapidly. And then fear set in. I was scared. My throat was tight and my body felt weak. I was sure I was going to pass out. My heart started racing and my mind and my body went into flight mode. I wanted to run but I also wanted to go nowhere at all.
These are all common symptoms I have experienced in the past with a severe panic attack. Attacks that I was having on an almost weekly basis. Attacks I had started to attribute to my failing marriage because coincidentally after my divorce was finalized they seemed to vanish. At least at the severity they had be coming in.
My attacks in the past had landed me in the ER a number of times. Convinced that something catastrophic was happening to my body, only to find out, every time that I was having yet another panic episode.
But today, after years of being able calm myself down and talk myself out of these situations before allowing them to escalate to something unbearable, the unthinkable happened. I was scared.
If you’ve ever been scared about anything at all, you know the feeling. You know that rush to run. Get the hell away as fast as you possibly can. But what happens when the source of the fear is inside your own body? In your mind? It’s your heart, your shallow breath, your clammy hands? You can’t run from that as hard as you may try.
You try to count your breaths, you take deep, melodic ones in hopes that your heart will catch up with the rhythm and they will slow down in synchrony. You walk around, you lay down. You close your eyes and pray for this to stop. And the panic becomes overwhelming because you now start running the terrifying options through your head. Could this really be something more serious this time? It doesn’t seem to be going away, does that mean I AM dying? My body feels tingly, my head feels light and empty. Is this what a seizure feels like? Could I be having a stroke? Maybe it’s a heart attack? Should I call 911? What if I wait and it’s too late?
Meanwhile, my boyfriend is trying to help and it’s relative to when you have a significant other with you while you are delivering a baby. EVERYTHING they try to do is annoying and hurts or pisses you off. They want to help but they simply DO. NOT. GET. IT. Tonight, mine looked at me like I had completely lost my mind. I felt like he didn’t believe that in my head, what was going on was very real and VERY frightening. And it hurt. It hurt so bad because I just wanted to feel like someone understood how scared I was feeling.
And it’s not his fault. How would he understand if he has never experienced this in his life? He wouldn’t. Yet it hurt because you just want someone to tell you that you’re not crazy, but you ARE ok and that it will pass. And someone who can’t do that you just want to go away. Leave you be so you can work yourself down off the ledge and feel better.
It took hours tonight. I ended up falling asleep after and that’s really the only thing that put a stop to it. When I woke up, I felt slightly better. It was a relief. But now I’m going to live in fear. Worried about the next attack. Tonight’s attack seemed to have no obvious trigger I can put my finger on and that scares the ever loving crap out of me. Next time this happens will I be at school pickup? At the grocery store? Will I be far away from home and have nowhere to retreat to when what I really need to is hide in the fetal position and convince myself that life WILL go on for me?
And then there is the guilt. I feel bad for not wanting or need to accept help from anyone tonight but really I couldn’t take it. And what little help I did accept was from me ordering people around to do things I thought might make things feel better. And then swiftly to go away because it wasn’t helping. Or their presense alone was exasperating every symptom I was having.
My son came into my room in full doctor garb to give me a check up and I had to turn him away with a promise that he could finish his full exam later that evening. But after I woke up, he was already in bed. And I felt terrible about that.
I feel like now I am going to live my life in fear like I did years ago when these attacks came regularly. Scared to leave the house in worry that this will happen in public, that I will be driving and have to pull over. That next time I won’t be able to calm myself down and I will take a trip to the ER instead. I was close tonight.
Feeling like your mind and body are betraying you is the more terrifying thing. You start to feel like you have to live in a bubble because the one thing you rely on most, your intuition, has betrayed you. You can’t trust your instincts anymore because they are sending mixed, jumbled, and fucked up signals.
I hope the next time I’m able to calm myself down faster. I’m able to remind myself that even though it might FEEL like this is the end, it’s not. And I hope that it will gradually be less and less until I go another few years without another excessive episode like tonight. Until then, if you suffer from panic attack, I see you. I feel you. And I trust you even if you don’t trust yourself.