Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Anxiety and Panic Disorder. My Journey.

When I first started this blog, I initially thought that I would save it for sharing all the "fun" things that go on in my life.  Also, to share pictures of crafts, cards, and complete silliness.


Today, I realized that I have a need to explain a little bit about myself.  I'm hoping that by me talking about my life's struggles, I might be able to help give maybe even one person some HOPE.

Usually this is the point where I would discuss what my childhood was like and how it contributed to the anxiety and panic disorder.  Instead of going into a long discussion on each event that may or may not have helped to contributed to A/P disorder, I will type a short list just to give you some foundation of the things that I have overcome.  Childhood molestation by a family member,  rape by a neighborhood boy, an unplanned pregnancy and loss, diagnosis of a rare bone disease/cancer, which resulted in two left hip replacements, the deaths of some very important people in my life, and 4 major failed relationships with men; the most recent being approximately two years ago.

After typing all that out, I realize that there are more things that could be added to that list, but really, what is the point. You have an idea of what a difficult time I had of things. 

Now that you have some background, I want to talk about how it is pretty much inevitable that I have a psychological disorder.  You would think that I would have gone completely mad and beyond the edge, especially since I was brought up Catholic and had so many unwarranted guilty feelings for the things that happened to me as a young girl.  I pretty much when through the motions by saying my prayers, the rosary, and confession, etc.  Somehow, I have not gone mad, BUT, I have had my fair share of breakdowns. 

I have told only a few people in my life the monumental spiritual experience that changed my life as a young woman and I have decided to share it here also. 

The same night that I was molested, I ran to my bedroom, closed my door, and hid myself under all my blankets and pillows.  I was crying so hard that I could hardly get any breath.  I was curled up in a ball on my side and rocking my body to try to soothe myself.  All of a sudden, I relaxed my body, rolled over onto my back and took the blankets off my head.  My eyes were still closed because I was scared, but I started to feel a little calmer.  I actually felt that I could breathe again and gave into my exhaustion.  Then once I felt a sense of surrender in my body, I opened my eyes and a beautiful warm yellow glow was hovering over my body and enveloping me in warmth and love.  I could feel myself float up off my bed.  I did not want to move. It was so ethereal - peaceful. I knew right then and there that God and His Angels were with me to surround me in his love and healing goodness. 

I had a long road of ahead of me after that night.  Subtle threats were being made so I had many secrets to keep.  Then there was another forceful sexual encounter endured by a neighbor and I realized that no one was going to believe me so I kept all that a secret as well. 

Secrets kill.  My secrets were killing my soul day by day, year by year.  I lost interest in high school. I really only had two or three good friends in school.  But eventually, I enrolled in a vocational secretarial course and that pointed me in a direction. I found out that I was intelligent and can easily figure out problems.  My father bought himself one of the first computers that came out - a Tandy computer from Radio Shack.  It was all DOS language and my Dad knew most of it because his job gave him training.  He taught me some DOS and then before you know it, I was hooked.

I kept my secrets, but tried to move on with life.  I felt like I was always walking around in knee deep of mud. It was constantly difficult to move.  To think.  To care.  I was always laying around and watching television. 

I was dating and on a quest to find the boy/man that would love me unconditionally.  You already know how that has turned out for me. ;-)

The depression just kept getting worse and manifested as physical symptoms.  I had no appetite and weighed only 89 pounds and could not get up off the couch.  I constantly slept and when I did eat, it was sips of chicken soup.  My mind was so disconnected from my world.

My father carried me to the doctor and we I found out that I was pregnant by a young man that I just broke up with for cheating on me.  At that very same doctor appointment, he expressed that there was something else going on with me and that I needed to see a specialist.  Little did I realize it was a psychiatrist.  I had seen a psychologist once to talk about some unrelated family problems, but a psychiatrist?  My father took me to that first appointment with the doctor who I credit with saving my life (that time).  Dr. Helmut Kramer.  The most obnoxious, irritating, intelligent, and caring doctor.  He recognized that I needed immediate mental health attention and that I needed immediate medical attention.  Shit, I was as light as a piece of tissue paper.  He arranged to have a brain scan done and it revealed (his words) "that I was born without a certain chemical in the brain, and that is what was making me sicker, more depressed, and to have these strange episodes of complete panic and fear." I would literally be found curled in a ball in the corner of my bedroom or living room, and be in so much pain - what I now to be massive amounts of adrenaline coursing through my veins due to the fright and flight sensation from adrenaline.  That chemical that I was not producing in my brain..... serotonin.

These are some symptoms associated with a panic attack.

  • Rapid heart beat, pounding heart or palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Shaking visibly or inside
  • Choking sensations or lump in throat
  • Smothering or shortness of breath sensations or hyperventilation
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea, bloating, indigestion or abdominal discomfort
  • Dizziness or unsteadiness
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Feeling unreal or dreamy
  • Disconnected (feeling outside yourself or like you don't exist)
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations) in face, extremities or body
  • Chills or hot flushes
  • Skin losing color
  • Blushing or skin blotches
  • Urgently needing to urinate or defecate (IBS)

I can get ALL of these symptoms - at once - and as an added bonus, It feels like someone is taking a knife and stabbing me from the my neck down to my ankles.

My comforts: rocking back and forth while holding a pillow, hiding my face with my hands, making deals with God to take the pain and misery away. 

I was so sick that I had lost the baby.  Once that happened, Dr. Kramer discussed with me, my mother and father, that I would be much better off in a facility where he could control my medical and psychological treatment; hence, a mental health facility.  It was the best and highly rated facility in the area, and my doctor had a very good reputation so we thought it would be best.

My experience there is too involved to discuss, but I will say that I had to return there two more times after that to get changes done in my medications, and to discuss the "secrets" I had in a safe environment where reactions to those secrets could be contained in one place.

So, the secrets are out.  The medications are working for the most part.  I resigned myself to the fact that I will have anxiety and panic disorder for the rest of the my life.  Oh yah, did I mention that I also have a mild form of agoraphobia.  Hey, if you're going to do something, better do it right! (sorry for the strange sense of humor about it all.)


Present Day:

Almost 15 years ago, I have refined my religious beliefs and am no longer Catholic. Through all my life's lessons, adversities, struggles, and TRIUMPHs, I am finding a balance of spiritualism and prayer.  In my quest for a more peaceful mind and body, I try to remind myself of the night that God and his Angels came to me in my bed to comfort me and lift my pain and suffering.

Guess what?  The praying and the meditating and positive self-talk helps, but it doesn't always work ALL the time.  I am at a point to where my anxiety and panic attacks are happening daily again, and I am having a difficult time functioning.  I went to the ER the other night because I was having such an attack that I thought I'd better get medical help for it.  While the ER docs and nurses were very nice, they really didn't know what more they could do more me.  See, I take Xanax as a rescue medication, but I had already a pretty high dose in my system (administered by me) and it wasn't working.  They suggested I take myself over to a short-term mental health facility ( a term I use very loosely!!!) to see if they could help me.  Guess what? Since I wasn't suicidal, they would not admit me overnight for observation.  How fucked up is that!  I came to find out yesterday that the facility has a poor reputation and that I shouldn't have wasted my time with them. 

I am resolved to get medical help and get back on track again.  I have a doctor appointment with my Internist today and will discuss elevating my medication doses, and I'm going to have to be on daily Xanax until I get through "this."  I'm not happy about that because I feel a bit like a Zombie, BUT I would rather feel like a Zombie then have continuous painful panic attacks.  My previous Holistic Psychologist - wonderful and helpful man Dr. Freedman, is not available anymore, so I need to find another therapist.  I have someone in mind and I hope she can help.


Note to Everyone:

If you struggle with this disorder, whether it is daily or once in a while; please, PLEASE, know that if you commit yourself to feeling better and riding out the pain and feelings of defeat, you CAN and will feel better with time.  There is no magic cure unfortunately, only medications that can mask the symptoms so you can wake up every morning and feel you have purpose and that you can get through the day, regardless.  It's not easy.  Actually, there are going to be days where you will feel like you are suffering silently and no one will ever understand.  The reality is that there are people out here in the world like me who DO understand!  DON'T GIVE UP!  You matter!  Please seek help!! 

If you don't give up hope, I won't give up hope!!


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1 comment:

Fern said...


You are not alone, and I think you're very brave for posting this. I was freaking out pretty regularly until I got on Cymbalta, which seems to be helping me quite a bit right now. I hope your treatments are adjusted quickly and you are soon through this phase.

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