Thursday, May 13, 2010

on panic attacks


At about 2 o’clock this afternoon I was sitting at my desk working when all of a sudden
my chest felt tight and heavy and my breath came in labored but silent gasps, like i was breathing through a straw.
It was very strange - the closest thing to what I imagine a panic attack to feel like,
except that I wasn’t panicking about anything. it was out of the blue.
I was typing. about hotel renovations.
But in that moment, when my I could hear and feel each breath exhaled and inhaled I thought to myself:

I am having a panic attack? Can you even have a panic attack over nothing? I’m having a heart attack. I’m too young to have a freaking heart attack.

It only lasted about a minute before I got up from my chair and slowly walked to the bathroom. silently panicking. 
I debated grabbing my purse and jumping in my car, but I thought that if I really was having a heart attack or a stroke or something, it would be really, really stupid to get behind the wheel.

So I went to the bathroom - I didn’t know what else to do.
I peed and then sat there on the toilet, my jeans around my knees until my breaths came in steady waves and my heart settled down again. It felt like an hour, but i reality, it was probably less than 5 minutes.
And then I got up, shook off a slightly dizzy feeling and felt fine as I washed my hands and walked back to my desk.
No one noticed. I was relieved no one noticed. 

Then I googled panic attacks and read {this}
and thought to myself, oh sh*!…(shoot that is), I think i just freaking had a panic attack?!
That or too much caffeine.

And all of a sudden I had a wave of sympathy for people who have that feeling all the time.
For those that deal with anxiety disorders and chronic panic attacks. Because even those few minutes were horrible.
It was a feeling that made me think, 
I’m either dying or loosing my mind.
It was not fun...

Who knew you could panic without actually panicking over anything in particular. 
Our minds and bodies sure are peculiar things...

Anyone else ever experience anything similar? Was it a panic attack or something else?


CitricSugar said...

I get that feeling a handful of times a year - and it's always aura for me. I'm glad I don't get it before every migraine because it's really an awful feeling. You know you're okay logically but your adrenal system is completely screwing with you. Amazing the way it'll play with your mind...

You have my empathy. You should also have a piece of chocolate. Chocolate cures a lot of things. :-)

Amy said...

Yes. I get panic attacks. Sometimes I get them a few times a month and other times not for months on end. And they aren't always about anything - sometimes I even wake up in the night with them. They are terrible. Horrible. And as bad as they are, they are made worse by the idea that no one can understand. Even the most rational of people will say to you 'just calm down and breathe'. Once you understand the science behind them (except of course, what causes them, because no one can tell you that) you understand that 'just calm down' is impossible. That your body is having a chemical reaction. Fight or flight. It's been life changing for me. I don't like to travel far from home. I don't like to make plans in advance. I carry medication in my purse. Everywhere. Just in case. It's awful.

And I'm sorry you experienced one. And I hope you never do again. But if you do, please know that you are not crazy, and you are not alone.

Quiet Oasis said...

Starting a few years ago, I get them while driving on the highway. Here's my symptoms (if it helps clarify yours):
my heart starts pounding really fast and my chest hurts, my hands get sweaty and my hands/feet/legs feel numb, I start getting dizzy (very helpful when driving) and feel like I'm going to faint (which is impossible when your heart is racing, so I've heard).

But mine is easier, b/c I know what causes them. But I think they can come on randomly when you are stressed? For me, I just have to breathe deeply and settle myself down, knowing that I'm not going to wreck on the highway.

It took me a long time to be able to tell anyone I had this issue. But now I realize its pretty common and yep, the body is totally a weird thing. Its weird that I used to be able to drive 6 hours on a highway by myself and suddenly I couldn't drive one exit!!!! (but its getting much better)

Aili said...

Sounds like a panic attack. And it's worst when you don't know the trigger so you can't help prevent them.

I started having them in 2004 for about three years after finding my Grandpa dead. The shock took over and I would have a panic attack over nothing at all or hearing the word death or stories about death. Sometimes I'd get three a day and then I'd have a few good weeks with none at all. I had to stay home from work a few times and could not drive. It was hell... and I wasn't sure I'd survive. I figured I'd end up going crazy and probably killing myself.

I really hope that it was just a one time thing for you. I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy.

Amie said...

I got Panic Attacks a lot in high school. At the time I thought I had a heart problem because it would beat so hard and so fast it felt like my whole body was swaying back and forth in rhythm. My breathing would quicken and I would almost feel like I could hyperventilate. After checking my heart (everything was fine of course) I went to a psychologist and found out they were panic attacks. I was dealing with some pretty big stuff back then and I internalized it all- I spoke to no one, so they would come out of the blue because of all the stress I had building up inside.

I had a bit of it in college, another stint when I lived in Boston, and another time period after moving back. Every single time it was when I had a lot of stress and even a little depression mixed in. As I have gotten older I knew how to understand it and deal with it. But it was always a scary thing.

The biggest thing I learned is to try and not internalize my stress, to make sure i talked to Scott, my sister or even my mom. Just someone so I didn't have the burden laying on me. Since getting married life has been wonderful and pretty stress free so I am happy to say I haven't had one in about 5 years. But it doesn't mean they are gone forever. I am sorry you had to deal with this! But like Amy said, you aren't crazy. And also, you aren't alone Jess!

Rona said...

Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I had it for many years. A breakdown and 10 years of intensive therapy, I mean twice a week for 10 years, and I have no more anxiety. It was very bad and made me very sick, but I learned that it was not about nothing,....

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