“But, I don’t want to be ‘that’ girl.”
“Amanda, anxiety is a medical condition – you have nothing to be ashamed of.”
This was a conversation I’ve had over and over with my doctor.
When did it start? Approximately 2008 … I had ‘spells’ I couldn’t explain. Couldn’t lay down – couldn’t breathe – felt out of body, but so very aware of every sensation, as negative as they were. I was scared, I wanted to sleep – I wanted it over! But couldn’t and had to wait it out.
To be fair – I was soon diagnosed with Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia, (Basically, I have an electrical misfire when it comes to my heart – so that makes a very real, and very scary condition hard to distinguish from an anxiety attack) but also with COPD after a random chest X-ray after a rapid heart beat sent me to the ER. They caught my lungs on that shot and shared that with my doctor.
My doctor shared that with me and I cried and cried.
I was that kid that every time I caught a cold, I’d end up with bronchitis. That, or walking pneumonia.
My lungs were enlarged.
OK. So, we deal with that.
I was put on Digoxin and Metoprolol.
That seemed to help for a while – but then I started having what I call ‘spells’.
Not just heart palpitations due to my heart condition – but debilitating full on attacks at random times.
Anxiety/panic attacks don’t come for me when I’m stressing out – they come when I least expect them and yes, I know the difference between ‘them’ and a heart episode.
I tried breathing patterns, I tried cooling my pulse points under running water – usually, just finding someone to sit with who wouldn’t ask me how I was would work. The spells would pass.
My doctor added Alprazalam to my regime.
THAT helped. Until it didn’t.
I would wake up in the middle of the night, certain I was having a heart attack. Chest pain, back pain, rapid heartbeat, out of body sensation, clammy palms, jaw pain, left arm pain – total and complete feeling of helplessness and impending doom.
It got to the point I couldn’t ‘walk it off’ (literally, and that’s something they say you should try.). I was too dizzy. I also couldn’t be horizontal, it made it worse. With blurred vision and terrified, I’d hit my knees and lean over either my couch or bed (if I was at home) and this agnostic prayed. And prayed HARD!
Usually these spells happen when they really shouldn’t. Watching a movie – sleeping – or just working and feeling happy.
No stress I was aware of.
Fast forward again.
For eight years I’ve been taking 2 Metoprolol, 1 Digoxin and two 1/2’s of Alprazalam per day.
I’ve learned to ‘deal’ with the bad times.
Past month, I’ve been getting goosebumps only on one area of my body. My left thigh. That concerned me. (Mostly because my house is in the 80’s and no, I hadn’t been watching a horror movie at the time.)
Also, my anxiety has upped, big time.
Yes, mostly it’s random. But, I do have triggers. Raised voices, my dog barking, a car too close behind me …
Then, a new symptom. I can feel completely fine at work or at home, but trying to run an errand? I suddenly feel complete and utter intestinal distress. An urgency that shouldn’t be there. Because my tummy was fine when I left.
I also can only be in ‘public’ for a short amount of time. I’ve left a cart at a grocery store quite a few times – unable to find my footing and having to abandon it.
Crowds? Oh goodness no. I can’t do crowds.
Add to that driving. Now, this is something note worthy because, NOW, I’m putting OTHERS in danger. I accidentally tried to change lanes one day and someone was in my blind spot – they honked. Since then, I’m terrified to change lanes. I also feel a LOT of pressure when I’m doing the speed limit and someone is behind me wanting to go faster.
Worst experience was trying to take my fiancé at the time to Vegas – the closer we got to ‘big’ traffic, the more symptoms. I literally couldn’t feel my hands, couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see – I had absolutely NO control over my body or what it was doing!! The first exit we found with a phone, we called a taxi for him to finish the trip for an absurd amount of cash.
Today – I shared all of this with my doctor.
Today – I received an additional prescription for buspirone (BuSpar) for generalized anxiety, OCD and panic.
It doesn’t work for everyone. I’m REALLY hoping I’m a good candidate! Mostly because it’s non-narcotic. I want OFF of Alprazalam.
I see my doctor again in a month and if it DOES work for me, I can be weaned off of Alprazalam – and I’m SO grateful!
Bottom line – Anxiety and panic attacks are no joke.
My son has spent hours with me telling me “You’re not in danger” and telling me to focus on things that ground me when I can’t even move.
Anxiety is crafty and unpredictable and terrifying.
But – If you’re going through this for the first time? You WILL be ok!
It feels like you’re going to die. It does. I don’t think people who don’t have it understand that.
I also don’t think people understand how legitimate the experience is.
Things to NOT tell a person going through it (from my experience, not a medical book.)
“You know it’s all in your head, you’re fine!”
“Just breathe.” (Although, there ARE some great breathing techniques that DO help.)
“You’re making this happen.”
If you wake up with a pounding heart and can’t feel your phalanges and can’t believe how helpless you feel – YOU try telling yourself to ‘just breathe’ – lol.
And, if you can’t relate. I’m SO glad. I AM SO GLAD. Because it’s fucking awful.
I’ll give you an example that maybe you CAN relate to.
Ever have to be at work and you have an excruciating toothache or earache that renders you unable to sleep? Yeah.
It’s sort of like that. ALL you want to do is have relief and relax, but your body DOES NOT cooperate!!!!!!!
You have NO control.
So – I’ll try this new medicine and let you know, let’s see how my experience goes. I already made the mistake of ‘googling’ and reading user reviews.
No wonder I’m a bundle of nerves. LOL!
Because, I’m tired. And I’m tired of going through this … I’m willing to try anything. I’ll be a Guinea Pig.