when I was growing up, my dad would sometimes seize up with panic. frozen with fear, he would hyperventilate, become non-communicative and pretty much scare the shit out of my sister, brother and I. eventually he sought medical help for what would be later diagnosed as "generalized panic disorder" and today, while still taking meds for it, he has it mostly under control.
while I witnessed my father's panic attacks, I never truly understood why he couldn't just take a deep breath and relax...until the summer of 2006. I had just moved back to NYC and was under extreme pressure: a new job with a heavy workload, the beginning of grad school and a "new" city where all my old friends had left.
"it" hit on the fourth of july. I went to coney island to witness the infamous hotdog eating contest. it was blazing hot. and crowded. and loud. jammed between a mass of people, I freaked. I sent the friend I was with a text and made my way to the less crowded boardwalk. a million thoughts pummeled me. was I dehydrated? did I have low blood sugar? was I just under the weather? I had no clue, but I knew I wasn't well. my friend came to find me shortly after and tried to get me to eat. I couldn't. shaking, I was certain I was going to throw up. maybe I was just getting sick...
I decided to pull the plug and head home to the UWS to get out of the sun. I didn't have a couch yet for my apartment (and at the time, a pain in the ass loft bed), so I curled up on the hardwood floor with a pillow. I flipped on the tele to distract me...hours later, I had yet to move...and felt worse. but not sick worse, just simply freaked out. I remember watching the NYC fireworks on TV and weeping, thinking 'what is wrong with me?'
I didn't any feel better the next day. when I was still in a tizzy the following day, I decided to go see an urgent care doc. he took my blood oxygen and flipped out; he was certain I had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in my lung) and called 911. in an ambulance I went...now also REALLY freaked out that there was something seriously wrong with me. yet after blood tests, MRIs, chest xrays...the whole nine yards, the only thing the could determine was that my iron was a bit low. brilliant. I was discharged seven hours later and went home to my apartment, feeling no better than when I left nine hours before.
over the next few days, I continued to feel worse...short of breath, heart pounding, body shaking. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. the only thing I did was go to work and hope I could endure the day.
on july 11th, a week after the initial symptoms, I couldn't take it anymore...I hauled myself into a cab to another ER. something was wrong with me. it had to be. hours later...the same news...nothing wrong. this couldn't be. I remember sitting in my apartment that night sobbing and wishing that someone would help me.
it turns out, I helped myself. the next morning on the way to work I realized what was wrong: I was having constant panic attacks. duh. my sister had struggled with it for years and obviously, so had my dad. I immediately got on the phone with my insurance and picked the first doc with availability.
I wasn't cured instantaneously and I'm still not "cured."in the summer of 2008—after two years of being on meds—I decided that maybe I'd have a go without them. I was fine for two months, then WHAM! the panic hit me like a truck (right in the middle of my training for Ironman #1). so back on the meds I went. I also switched from Effexor to Lexapro at one point...the withdrawl from Effexor was like nothing I've ever experienced...absolutely HORRIBLE.
now nearly four years since my first being diagnosed with the same affliction as my father, I am struggling once again. I haven't stopped taking any of my meds, but the panic attacks are creeping back...ALL the time. up the meds? change again? add something? maybe, but to be honest, I'm SOOOO tired of all of it. the panic, the side effects, the cost, the slave I am to daily (sometimes twice daily) little white and yellow pills. I'm 29 years old, not 89!
I don't have a plan of action to tackle this yet. my bf understands which is nice. and I do have the name of a new doc (my present one is just old...smart, yet wayyyyy overdue for retirement). I guess my first step was to write about it...just talk to myself in the way I know best: through word. and then take action. and as we all know—myself included—I'll find a solution no matter how pretty or ugly the path is.
so here goes...