pan·ic at·tacknoun1. a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety.
When I was in high school, I had my first panic attack.
I do not remember the exact circumstances surrounding this experience (though I could probably make a guess), but I do remember: how I felt- scared. What I did- I curled up in a tightly wound ball. Where I was- in my own bed. Who I was with- (or rather, speaking with on the phone) for the most part, I was alone. I was speaking on the phone with my husband–boyfriend, at the time–as I did most every night. I remember the Who, What, When, Where’s, and How’s, but I simply cannot seem to grasp the concept of Why.
At the time, I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea why I was feeling or acting in such a way. I simply remember being told that it sounded like I was having a panic attack. That has stuck with me for all these years.
Nowadays, I find myself experiencing sudden, intense, overwhelming bouts of anxiety. And most of the time, I cannot find a reason why for the attack.
Today while I was at work, I started feeling unwell, so I headed to the bathroom. While I was in there, this intense wave of anxiety came over me. My mind sent me back in time…
May 15, 2015…I was alone in the bathroom. It was my last day at a job that I was losing due to budget cuts. I loved the job. I loved the people I worked with. I was angry and upset that this was happening. My coworkers had just surprised me with a going away gift. I read the card. I read the handwritten notes of encouragement. I started to cry. I wanted to be strong. I didn’t want anyone to see me crying. I headed straight for the bathroom. I locked myself in the last stall, leaned my head up against the wall, and cried. I let out a forceably muffled sob. I pressed my hands to my face. I ran my fingers through my hair. I could feel my heart racing and my breaths were coming out quick and sharp.
I don’t know how long I was in there or even how I made myself stop. I remembered a random song that I had heard on the radio earlier that day and it was playing over and over again in my head. Finally, I made myself calm down. I blew my nose, wiped away the black smears of mascara from around my eyes, and walked out of the bathroom with as much dignity as I could muster. My face was red and puffy, and I knew it. It was obvious. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had just had a panic attack.
Today…I stumbled out of the bathroom stall, feeling as if I would rather vomit than to feel the nausea. I pressed both hands on either side of the sink and leaned on the counter. With my head down and my eyes shut, I listened to the sound of my heart racing in my own ears. I heard myself breathing. I felt my stomach churning. I felt like I wanted to scream.
Say it isn’t so…
I now realize that I’ve been having panic attacks again.
A panic attack doesn’t affect everyone in the exact same way each time. In fact, there are a wide array of symptoms associated with panic attacks and panic disorder.
Occasionally I have an intense and immediate sensation that something needs to be done immediately. Often times I find myself flying through the apartment or the office in a desperate attempt to finish what I knew needed to be finished and to calm the pressing anxiety that was building up inside of me. I need it done and I need it done NOW. I start breathing heavily once again. I begin to feel lightheaded or dizzy. The tiniest little annoyances easily irritate me. Any interruptions to my routine throws me into a fit. Eventually, I snap. Sometimes when I snap, I say things I don’t mean. All I wanted was for everything to be done in an orderly, timely fashion with no interruption. Life doesn’t always see it that way, however.
They always say the first step in fixing a problem is admitting that you have one in the first place. Okay, I have accepted that this is going on. I have a problem. I am admitting it right now. I’ve tried to handle it, but I simply can’t.
Whether these are panic attacks or anxiety attacks, I do not know. What kind of anxiety disorder I have, I don’t know either. Am I really suffering from depression? Am I just a hypochondriac?
Next week, for the first time, I am visiting a psychiatrist. I am confident that this will help me pinpoint what is going on and set me on the right path. I’ve prayed about this decision and I feel this is what I need to do. I am sick and I need to see a doctor.
God has given me so much. I continue to pray for strength. Some days I just want to scream, break down, run, something. There doesn’t always have to be something going on for me to suddenly have the overwhelming desire to do one of these things.
God, help me. Help my family. Help my friends. My coworkers. Help others who are experiencing the same things that I am. Let them be given the courage to speak up for their own health. Let them be brought to You. Let me be a light and testimony onto others. Amen.