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Panic Attacks

Living with a major depressive disorder, anxiety with panic disorder, and PTSD is not easy.  It is living with these issues that makes me strong.  That is the previous message of the last post I published.  The key words in the previous statement are, living with it.  Notice I didn’t say that I survive with it or I exist with it.  The living is the part that takes a pretty intense amount of strength and in my case medical intervention.

I am much better with the medications I take and I am not ashamed to need to take them.  I am better for having those medications and so is my family.  They see a healthier, active, more vivacious person as a result and I am more of the person I want to be.  I still worry more than the average person, sometimes to the extent that it freezes me where I stand (Yes, stress paralysis is a thing.).  It depends on my personal threshold and where I am on a given spectrum of okay to full-blown panic attack if I am going to pass the point of no return (where the attack is unavoidable).  I usually try to avoid triggers or take breaks when I need to.  I limit caffeine when I can and sometimes drink decaffeinated coffee (there is a use for that).  I eat right.  I can do everything right and still breach my threshold sometimes. 

I fight to keep control, and this is another reason that I will tell you I am strong.  I fight daily to rationalize and put worries to rest that will never sleep.  I fight hard to maintain control in situations that I have absolutely no say or effect on.  I fight from the moment I get up to the moment I sleep and some days it proves to be more exhausting than others.  Some days I lose the fight and panic. 

Panic, by definition, is a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or animals (  A panic attack is brought on by being overwhelmed and is triggered by an intense fear.   They can vary in degree or intensity.  The feelings felt, while to some may seem irrational, are very real to the person having the panic attack.  They do by definition produce some hysterical or erratic behaviors, but in the extreme attacks, a person can feel like they may not live through it.  In the fear of death, most would not act calmly or rationally.  

For me, it all starts out with an instantly quickened heart rate that causes my heart to bound in my chest.  It is a physical pounding and reverberating sensation that is so intense that it leads me to instantly feel nauseated.  I can hear my pulse in my ears.  My chest tightens to the point that the muscles ache and the area right where my throat meets my chest feels like it is closed off.  It is hard to near impossible to swallow and there is no catching my breath.  I feel like I am being suffocated.  Tears come down my cheeks and are often not accompanied with many sounds because I can’t breathe, and if I manage to take in any air it is in painful, stridulous gasps that burn like someone lit a fire from within my chest.  There is often sweating.  My limbs get heavy to the point I cannot stand up and it is at that point I either quickly sit or slide down the nearest wall or door. By this time I am lightheaded and begin to fear passing out. It is hell in one of the purest forms I can imagine.  It is at this point I start to wonder if I am going to live or die. I fear my heart giving out or actually suffocating from the lack of oxygen.

I usually take medicine at the sign of an impending attack that my doctor prescribes.  A day or two after writing my last blog post, I had a series of anxiety attacks and did not take that medication early enough to stave them off.  I have never had a series of anxiety attacks together like that.  There were three throughout the day.  I was so worn out from the attacks themselves and the after-effects of the medication, I was nearly unconscious for the day afterward.  

I know the trigger and I knew it was only time before I would, for lack of a better word, break.  It breached the point that it was unavoidable.   It was horrible, but it is always worth picking myself up after.   One cannot always be victorious, some battles will be lost.  There is strength in a loss too, there is an effort in picking up and moving on.

Dark days are hard, but it is always worth pushing through and past the dark days.   The light days are often far more numerous in between the darkened times.  So far, I have lived through each one, though this past episode did leave me with sore chest muscles for a few days. 

I could feel weak.  I could take back every word I said in my last post, but I won’t do either of those things.  I am here today, moving slower than normal, but I am conquering the day.  I am pushing forward.  I am looking toward good things and learning that I need to be more vigilant in breaking away from things that trigger my anxiety.  Perhaps I walked away a bit wiser and more alert of my need for self-care.  

I may expend more energy than an average person when it comes to internalized battles, but because I fight and I won’t stop fighting, I know I am strong. I am strong because I know life is worth fighting for.  Seeing my children grow and living each day with the love of my life is something I can’t ever give up on.  I won’t.


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