Home > Mental Status Updates, Social Awareness > Panic Attacks: A definition walkthrough for the concerned, confused, and/or fucking stupid…

Panic Attacks: A definition walkthrough for the concerned, confused, and/or fucking stupid…

For the very few of you who may not be aware, I have severe social anxiety disorder with panic disorder thrown in (just to keep things interesting at parties and on lazy weekends with the family), and have had for several years, since the devastating loss of two of my children.  I have run the gamut of experiments in attempts to combat this, from self-imposed isolation (which sometimes wasn’t self-imposed at all and was actually agoraphobia rearing its ugly head) to throwing my face into other people’s — just to be social — until restraining orders were threatened.

The one thing I hear most often, however, is how this debilitating illness (because let’s not kid each other here, “mental illness” is not just a cute turn of phrase to placate the PC-heads, your brain is just as capable of being sick as your liver or your tonsils…) is somehow a fictional construct of my own invention, designed to garner pity and/or gifts from bleeding hearts.  Those who have seen me go through what I’ve gone through first-hand know better, and those who have similar experiences with mental illness, know better.  However, we still all go through the same daily battle, and then have to battle some more against those who are supposed to be our friends, our family, and our comrades-in-arms, in an effort to prove to them that we have what we say we have, and that we are who we say we are, and that nothing they predict/diagnose/assert will change that… unless their success rate includes rising three days after death.

I just had one of my worst panic attacks to date, so bad that I blacked out and my brain has completely redacted anything that happened during the attack (my husband tells me it was quite a bit, and it feels like I hit a bus with my face at Mach 4, so I’m inclined to believe him), in part because I ran out of my medication and cannot currently afford more… but that’s resolved as of tomorrow (at some point, I hope).   What struck me as I was reeling from the aftermath — which is somewhat akin to waking up after a 15-day-bender with your esophagus feeling like you’ve regurgitated nails and your head feeling like the drummer from Iron Maiden lost his kit and you volunteered as a dutiful fan, combined with every nerve on your skin short-circuiting to the point where your senses are overreacting to touch/smell/sound/sight/Daleks, and you can’t stop trembling so hard that people might think you have Lou Gherig’s Disease — is that it’s hardest for me to communicate my symptoms in a rational state of mind at any point, let alone when I’m in the middle of them and sounding like I may just try to eat someone’s baby.

In case you were wondering, this is not the type of thing that appeals to someone’s willingness to listen… Welcome to the inside of my head.

And, as I was laying in the bed that my husband apparently managed to hoist me up into during my unconsciousness, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we all just had a link to send people to so that they could see, from someone who lives it, what panic attacks are and are not?”  Because, seriously, sometimes trying to explain myself, to someone who doesn’t have the right to demand that I do right as I’m losing my shit, is enough to make me lose my shit. And I’ve talked to enough of you anxiety-fighters out there to know that this is true for you as well.  So here it is, your panic page: send people here who you feel may or may not understand.


If you have been sent to this page, here’s what you should know before we get started:  This page is only as offensive as you make it.  This is an honest explanation from someone who lives with this illness every day and fights it at any given opportunity. If your friend/relative/patient/passing acquaintance sent you here, then there’s a very likely chance that you are:

a.) confused
b.) misinformed
c.) have preconceived notions based on Hollywood’s repeated misrepresentation of what it is to deal with mental illness
d.) are a self-important fuckweasel, yet your friend/relative/patient/passing acquaintance still holds out hope for your successful rehabilitation

While any may apply to you, this page is not presuming to state which, in fact, does… that’s up to you to figure out and remedy.  This page is just the simple guide to help you do it.


Panic attacks are…

  • Traumatic; each one leaves us feeling a little less human.
  • Sudden (although, sometimes, a few of us can tell the signs in ourselves and warn people one is coming, but usually not with enough time to prevent it — if it’s even possible; when there is enough self-possession to maintain the status quo until meds/help can arrive, it requires all available focus and energy and the help of some real friends willing to do whatever is indicated might help… I call this phase “treading water”, because at some point I will tire and panic)
  • Overwhelming to the point of incoherence; imagine stepping barefoot in a puddle and then sticking a piece of tinfoil in a light socket whilst giving a recitation of the morning’s headlines. For starters.
  • Often distort reality until we can’t definitively tell between fact and fiction; our anxieties become manifest in all their imagined ugliness and we can’t break free of the terror. We are everything bad in the world that anyone has ever told us, because otherwise we’d be “healthy,” right? You’re really angry with us and could never love us because we’re like this, and no matter what EVERYTHING IS GODDAMNED COMING TO GET US.
  • See above, re: terror… Imagine being trapped inside the body of a flailing, screaming psychopath whose only desire is to rend the flesh from anything that stands between it and escape from the monsters. Now imagine the shame of feeling like everyone’s looking at you with pity (because you’re that sad soul who can’t control him/herself), confusion (what the fuck is wrong with you?), sadness (they don’t know how to help you, and that makes you feel guilty because now you’ve put your pain into someone else unintentionally, so you panic some more), anger (how dare you be so selfish as to think and act like everything’s about you? people go through shit every day, you’re not special…), and/or fear (if this can happen to you, it could happen to them, and the human instinct is to shy away from anything that might transmit — by the way, anxiety’s not actually contagious. just sayin’.)
  • Draining in every sense of the word; physically, emotionally, mentally, socially… seriously, why would we intentionally do this to ourselves? ACTORS at least get paid for pretending to be us…
  • Detrimental to our health; my blood pressure swings up and down like the Devil’s yo-yo during a panic attack. I get “tunnel vision” (the edges of my field of vision darken and blur until I can only see the barest blur of what’s in front of me), my head feels like it’s about to spin off my neck, my face and hands get numb (from the hyperventilation, which causes oxygen deprivation, which can cause blackouts), my heart races, my teeth chatter against each other so hard from my body locking up/trembling that I’ve actually cracked one of the new fillings out of my molars (along with the front of that tooth), and sometimes we lose our voice from the involuntary panting/screaming.

Panic attacks are NOT…

  • A convenient excuse to ditch a fight/argument/party/sex/taking out trash/putting kids to bed/date; try me. I’ve heard every one of these. Personally, when I want to get out of something, I just say no. I know others who fake a headache. But, putting one’s self through the physical and psychological anguish described above, simply to get out of talking about who insulted whose parents the most over dinner, seems a little extreme wouldn’t you say?
  • Something we can “get over” or “deal with on our own”; don’t you think we’ve tried? Obviously, this is the part where you demonstrate your understanding of the word “friend.”
  • A phase that can be magicked out of us with the right drug/therapist/voodoo witch doctor during a thunderstorm; thanks for asking, though.
  • Something to make us feel guilty about; believe it or not, we’re quite capable of handling that part on our own. Ta.
  • Something to ignore until they go away and then come back to hang out with us; you may not like country music, but Tracy Lawrence said it best: “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are” … If you don’t want us at our worst, you don’t deserve us at our best.
  • Something you can high-handedly analyze for us and have us listen to you with a straight face when we’re calm; you’re not inside our heads. You may have opinions, but until LSD baths truly become a telepathic antenna they will forever remain opinions and not authoritative declarations; do yourself the courtesy of not confusing the two. It just makes you look like an idiot. And may get you slapped.

 

If I think of anything else, I’ll edit this page accordingly.  If anyone else battling anxiety disorder has additions/suggestions for this page, I encourage you to leave your comment below or contact me privately via email.  All comments of a rude or derogatory nature will be changed or removed.  This page is for your education and support, from someone who experiences this every day of her life.  Please use this page any time someone asks about or doubts your struggle, because it’s real and no one has the right to make you feel otherwise (intentionally or no).

 

I support you.

 

~Kella

Advertisements
  1. N03113
    June 28, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    I think you did a great job of describing anxiety and panic attacks. I think the most frustrating thing about having anxiety, especially social anxiety is that people think you have to be an introvert or antisocial to have one.

    For me, I can get tripped up on my words, which causes a never ending cycle of frustration and anxiety when I’m addressing others. The higher the anxiety level, the more the paraphrasia. And when I get anxious, I either laugh inappropriately to get release or end up in tears. People see that as being over emotional, but it’s a physical response that I have a hard time keeping contained. The more I try to stop it, the harder it comes and the worse it is. For me, it wrecks my stomach… I’m instantly in knots and body goes into fight or flight, which usually means a run to the bathroom. Without being disgusting, because of the fight or flight response, our bodies are designed to quickly drop any wastes that could potentially hold us back from running.

    But, I do want to bring up a point that there is a difference between someone saying to get over it or deal with it and saying it’s not something that can be worked on. Sure, there is medication, but I personally feel medication is a temporary helper while one seeks active therapy to learn the coping skills that can help you cope with the physical responses.

    I found Cognitive Behavior Therapy to be beneficial for me. And for the PTSD, I’m still working on Exposure Therapy. Which is… not as successful, but mostly because I’m not currently active and working with someone on it. But I’ve gotten better, I’d like to think. I think therapy is crucial, but what I think most people end up doing is getting in with the wrong kind of therapy or the wrong type of therapist and end up feeling like it doesn’t help and that it’s a waste. Or, in some people’s case it’s a matter of not having health insurance or money.

    I’ve done the medication – been on xannax… tried the other things, they just didn’t work for me – sure they calmed me down, allowed me to focus, but I felt like it was a bandaid or avoidance of dealing with the issues I had. I don’t think it’s hopeless to overcome anxiety and panic attacks. I know it’s not an easy road, but I also know it’s not an impossible one.

  2. June 29, 2012 at 12:51 am

    I was dxd w/ PTSD when I was 16 (finally, as it took 6 years for them to pinpoint). In college, I started having panic attacks…sudden, sporadic, very public panic attacks that made it hard for me to go to class despite being a psych major (well, you’d think they’d understand). Oddly I kept showing up to work, where my supervisor was a psych nurse & understood the “safe person” concept.

    I was put on Norvasc samples & that helped; it’s a heart med. I’m not saying you need to be on Norvasc, but that your doc needs to make samples available to you for when you run out. That is some bullshit. Sometimes your pharmacist will give you a couple days’ worth for less $, too. These are a couple of tricks I’ve tried. You may also qualify for Medicaid or even Medicare, depending.

    • N03113
      June 30, 2012 at 12:43 am

      I had a similar type of situation. I struggled in school, some days I couldn’t get out of bed. I think the worst part was if I missed one class, no problem… I could bounce back. But missing more throughout the semester just piled on this feeling of guilt. I think a lot of it was my own undoing. The more class I missed, the worse I felt. Downward spiral.

      When I got my first real full time job, hello stability! I had little to no problems – never late, never missed a day due to depression or anxiety. Even though I really disliked the attendance policy that got laid down on us towards the end of my time there, I was still so much better than I was in school.

      Of course being laid off certainly called my future stability into question. But, I have to say I’ve done very well. I was physically ill that day, the day after.. it was a big shock to my system. I have to attribute my ability to stay afloat to my boyfriend who’s been in my place previously and also has an understanding of crippling depression and anxiety.

  3. Maria
    June 29, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Just…*hugs*. I recognize a lot of the symptoms from my experiences with clinical depression. I can’t imagine having to go through the other things. I support you, and I am here. Whenever.

  1. July 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm
  2. July 27, 2012 at 6:13 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: