“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.
I think I must be having a growth spurt.
I have not been able to turn off my thoughts of late. My imagination is working so much overtime, its in danger of having it’s hours cut back. I can’t afford to pay it.
Here’s an example – not the most profound, but the most recent. So I’m at the laundromat (surprise!) and on the way, had to stop at the pharmacy. I go in, purchase my items – have a brief interaction with one of those cashiers that make you feel like you’ve just interrupted them, then get back in the car.
Now, I have a very acute sense of smell. I can tell you what you’re having for lunch from the scent of the microwave, I know what perfume you’re wearing and I smell a fire from miles away.
So I’m in the car … and the scent of ‘man’ washes over me. Not a bad smell … but out of place in my car. My mind races to that urban legend. You know the one, the woman stops for gas, thinks the attendant is creepy when it turns out the attendant is just trying to warn her about the real danger. The man who got into the back of her car. Yeah, I’m there in my head.
I turn around truly expecting there’s a possibility some murderer is hiding behind my seat and then … mentally thunk myself on the forehead.
Oh, that’s right. There IS a man in my house now. He calls me mom.
But then that thought segued. As all my thoughts do. I had watched a documentary this morning about Charlie Otero, a surviving family member of some of the BTK’s victims. Super touching. At one point, they interviewed another man, a son of a woman Rader killed.
The camera panned in to a pot belly, scratched up swollen hands, fingers grasping a cigarette in one and a can of beer in the other.
The man spoke about Rader and blamed everything on him – from his past drug abuse to his current alcoholism. He self tattooed to experience the pain that seemed to sooth. At first I felt sorry for him. I know what it is to want to hurt. Sometimes you just want to feel. Just feel. Then you surpass that and don’t want to feel anything at all.
BUT. Then I was a little mad. He was 5 when his mother was murdered. I don’t know if he had support or a healthy environment after that. He sat with the man the documentary was about and they both agreed, yes, they were a product of their environments.
But … no.
I had an internal argument with myself. On one hand, yes, traumatic events manifest in ways that are deep and permanent. On the other hand, you get to decide how the rest of your story goes.
Then I felt guilty – what if he hadn’t been given tools to cope? What if he didn’t read? We can only know what we experience. We can only experience what we explore.
THEN I get to thinking – who am I to judge this man?? Who says I get to sit on my couch and have the thought that he oughta be deciding to be happy.
There are certain sounds I hear that trigger a visceral physical reaction. Smells and textures too. My stomach will literally drop, a WHOOSH of cold spreads from the bottom of my feet up my leg and into my gut. I know that trauma manifests and leaps out at you from out of nowhere sometimes. So what makes me different from that man?
For years and years I chose NOT to be happy. Lost myself in mind numbing. Ended up only giving myself more reasons to want to be numb.
So because I had an epiphany – because I dove into healing – does that entitle me to sit on my purple couch and tut at someone who is still in the numb phase? No.
I think in this case it’s me tutting at behaviors I used to engage in. I was looking into a mirror.
So lately that’s what’s been going on. I need to learn that not everyone is on the same rung. I have far to go myself. I just need to love everyone around me and stop comparing.
Also should probably check my car before I get in it – just in case. My journey does not need a stowaway.