Friday, March 22, 2013

Panic! at the dinner table

I had a new experience last night: panic attacks.

I'd only had a few panic attacks before in my life and they were all very mild and manageable.  I felt them come on, reminded myself to breathe, and they subsided. These, however, were very different.

I came home from a rough day at work.  I was feeling pretty low already about some friend drama on the homefront. All I wanted to do was snuggle up in a blanket and watch trashy TV, but there was too much to be done. I checked Facebook and read some of the comments that had been left on my most recent ultimatum post (which has still been weighing heavily on my mind) and I just felt so bombarded. I'm sure a large part of that feeling had to do with the fact that I had five tabs open with a zillion unread e-mails and music playing and the TV on and my dad talking on his phone loudly, but all of a sudden, I felt so overwhelmed.

I closed my computer and went upstairs to take a shower. I took off my shirt and the panic started coming.  I started breathing really deep and really fast and my extremities started tingling. I tasted metal on my tongue and things started going black.  I laid down and felt this intense wave of paranoia and turmoil wash over me and all I could do was breathe. I had one hand on my forehead and the other on my stomach and the panic sunk in.  I had no idea what to do next.

I don't remember how long I lay there like that, but I staggered up towards the door, breathing and moaning the whole way.  I wobbled down the hall and started down the stairs, but my dad's voice from the first floor scared me back up. I didn't want him to see me or think I was crazy. Finally, after a few terrifying minutes, I found my way downstairs, got his attention, and told him I was having a panic attack.

He helped me onto the couch and wrapped me in a blanket and coached my breathing till I fell asleep. I woke up when my mom got home and heard him relate the event to her, but he didn't need to.  Right after dinner, it happened again and she got to witness the whole thing.

But here's why I'm not sad it happened.

First off, the second panic attack was accompanied by a lot of rhythmic ab-clenching, which didn't make breathing or talking easy, but damned if my stomach doesn't look about a billion times better today than it did.

Secondly, my parents have been giving me more attention lately. I know that sounds selfish, but today, my dad called me while I was at work to check in on how I was and my mom sent me out the door this morning with a big hug and a kind word. If all this was just a subconscious ploy to get attention, then that might be a little childish, but it felt good and it worked.

And finally, both my mom and my dad now know what kind of effects my emotions have on me. They got a firsthand witness of how involuntary those emotions are. They've always been good to not tell me to "just get over it," but I've sometimes wondered if they secretly thought that I was just making up excuses to take meds and waste money on therapists.  Now they know.

So, while I really don't want to have panic attacks ever again, these first two definitely had some positive ramifications. Plus, they always end eventually, so at least there's that.


  1. Panic attacks suck royal. Regular exercise and cognitive therapy can help tremendously. I'd talk to you more about it but you don't want to talk to me...;-)

  2. So sorry to hear about your recent panic attack. I would not wish those upon anyone. They are awful. :P

    There was a time in my life that I had mentally convinced myself I had AIDS and the mental trauma those thoughts gave me caused me to have frequent panic attacks...almost daily. It was terrible. It's been over 10 years now since I had a panic attack, but I will NEVER forget what they're like.

    Big hug for you.

  3. Sorry that you have to deal with these kind of issues in your life. I never experienced a severe panic attack until my PCP prescribed Zoloft to treat an ulcer that I had developed due to overuse of Ibuprofen (back pain). He was convinced I had the ulcer because of my anxiety problems. Zoloft created more problems for me than any theraputic value that it may have had. I really can empathized with anyone who suffers from acute anxiety. Be aware that some meds can exacerbate the problem.

  4. This sounds absolutely terrifying. I am so sorry!!! I am praying!


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