Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Notes From My Desk: Panic! at the Library

I went back and forth a bit before finally deciding to do a post addressing my unannounced hiatus.  Real life happened and I wasn’t mentally capable of handling my blog on top of my other responsibilities.  I stuck to the bare minimum while I got my crap together (bare minimum being just going to work).  I haven’t been doing a whole lot of anything, not even reading.  A lot of stressful things had been going on since January, such as having to work super crazy hours since we were short staffed and then getting into nursing school.  You’d think getting accepted to nursing school wouldn’t be stressful, but it was: I had to figure out how to fit it into my life and how to pay for all the required testing (fingerprinting, drug screen, vaccine titers that check that you are still immune to the things you were vaccinated for, and a whole bunch of other stuff).  And I was starting to debate if I really wanted to be a nurse, but that’s a whole other blog post of worms.

All this stress was piling up, and then near the end of June (three days before my last post), Richard died.  Richard was my brother’s best friend since they were in second grade and had been around since I can remember.  He was like another big brother and one of the kindest people I will ever know.  We had found out not even a month before that he had cancer, but then he passed very suddenly of a pulmonary embolism.  He didn’t suffer, and it spared him from having to go through tortuous chemo when it wasn’t likely he would survive.

I also have this … issue.  I have panic disorder, which is an anxiety disorder where you have panic attacks.  Sometimes because of a trigger, sometimes spontaneously, but often repeatedly.  I was officially diagnosed at the age of twelve.  It’s normally completely in check and I have gone years between panic attacks in the past.  The night of my last blog post was the evening when I had one of my worst ever panic attacks.  I felt a pressure in my chest when laying down to sleep, thought it was my asthma, and took a puff of my inhaler.  Then I took another puff.  I was still not feeling right, and panicked.  And panic attacks are not as simple as they sound.  Your vision tunnels, heart starts to race, you feel chest pressure, throat tightens, you want to crawl out of your skin, and you just have this overwhelming sense that you are dying.  Like, right now, going to die.  It is awful.

This is your brain on panic
Summary of that night: panic attack, panic attack, panic attack, hyperventilate, call an ambulance, vitals were normal but they still thought I should go to a hospital, went to ER and was seen, was told I was fine and had to wait for this to pass, went home, panic attack, panic attack, panic attack, slept for five minutes, woke up in a panic attack, finally slept for a couple hours.

The next day was rinse and repeat. (minus the ER part)

And the day after that.

By day three I was like this all the time
By the third day, I went to see my regular doctor.  She confirmed that I was physically fine even though my heart felt like it was about to explode.  We did lab work and everything checked out normal.  I was finally getting a grip again, but it’s very hard to maintain that grip.  Oh, and if you’re wondering “Why doesn’t she just take a Xanax?” I’m one of those magical people where anti-anxiety meds have the opposite intended effect: they make the anxiety worse.  So no meds.  It’s all deep breathing and telling myself that what I’m feeling isn’t real… which is really difficult when you are currently feeling symptoms.  The thing about a panic attack is that you don’t think you’re having a panic attack; your body is telling you quite the opposite.  Real symptoms happen, but they’re just that: symptoms.  Well, actually they are the result of the panic attack.  Swelling of the throat, chest pressure, and hyperventilating (which makes your face go numb), all great feelings associated with panic attacks.  They are also the symptoms of a few life threatening ailments, particularly heart attacks and anaphylactic shock.

Today is the first day in a month that I’ve been able to think about my blog again.  It’s been rough, but I just started therapy and I’m hopeful.  My get-happy routine has basically been to lay around, watch Disney movies, go for short walks, and cuddle with my cats and dog.  I also have an abundance of stuffed animals around my house for emergency cuddles if the cat is not feeling it.  I read a book for the first time since this started and finished it today.  I really just want my life back to normal, because I’m not quite panic-free yet.  I can work myself out of most of them now and hopefully, once I am panic-free, I’ll stay that way for a couple years.  Because seriously, before the June 24th panic attack, it had been seven years since my last full blown panic attack.  And that one had been an isolated incident, not a month long episode like this.  So if posts are sporadic for the next few months, I hope you’ll understand why.

Final Thought: panic attacks get all of the negative toadstools 

P.S.: So how was everyone else's July? Have any thoughts or non-thoughts? Want to share a similar experience? I'd love to hear it!
More panicky gifs! 

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