Panic attacks. Just when you think you’d seen the worst the Universe throws a gargantuan curve ball your way.
I thought I had found a way to shake them off. Knew the ins and outs of how this sick game with my insidious brain worked. But he checkmated me in the most spectacular of fashions. I knew that laying flat on my back in bed was a definite no-no. That sickening thump, thump, thumping was loudest most when my head was tilted up and facing my blank white ceiling. My sides were my refuge, my old faithful. I could find rest when my head was facing my bedside tables. I also felt safe sleeping on my stomach, arms stretched above my head, resting on my satin pillow. My head once again facing those walnut stained bedsides. Like the Queens Guard they are, their solid shape and presence warding off any oncoming dangers and helping me drift off to the land of nod peacefully.
Well that was until Tuesday night.
Tuesday night. It started off no different. The usual laying on my bed with the television turned on and my laptop opened up to the ‘what’s new’ section of Shopbop. Feeling no different to any other night give or take a few small chest pains here and there. I finished off overloading my wishlist with sartorial goodies and daydreaming of adventures in New York City with that white Equipment shirt and those fierce as hell J Brand leather pants and began to prep myself for sleep.
And prep myself I did. It was all going fine, I avoided rest on my back and went straight for my side. I was beginning to feel the sweet soft tugs of slumber sweep through my mind until the thunderous beating of my heart startled me wide awake. And with that came another attack. I managed to calm myself down only to find the panic perk immediately back up once I let my guard down. It was quite an encounter and once I felt like I’d won the duel I went back to my side hoping to find sleep awaiting me once again on my pillow. What I found was that non existent heart beat again thumping away. So before I could allow my brain to flip the crazy switch back on I turned to my other side but to no avail. Thump, thump, thump was all I could hear, piercing my earlobes and filling my bastard of a brain with horrendous ideas. I tried moving onto my stomach but it was no use, the sound was even more magnified when in that position.
After tossing and turning for what felt like years I found myself crying. Crying over the helplessness I felt in this war and crying because it was already 2am and I was genuinely tired and just wanted to sleep. I spent the next few hours battling with my brain. His insistence that my heart was palpitating over my actual fingers to my pulse stating otherwise. It raged on until the wee hours of the morning when I somehow found rest only to be woken up by another attack. It was already 6am, though still dark outside I knew that I would be unable to fall back asleep again. Plus I felt strange, though I understood it was all an act, an adrenaline fueled performance directed by my brain. I sat up and turned on my television, letting the grey light illuminate my surroundings and soothe my hyperactive mind. I tried my hardest to gain control but I couldn’t seem to find the reigns this time. I tried distracting myself with the morning program on the television, even attempting a game or two of Candy Crush on my cell but it was no use. This unsettling feeling was growing stronger with every breath I took. I stood up and paced my room, it helped for a mere few moments but the sensation remained, enveloping like a thick and itchy woolen blanket. I started to hear that heartbeat ringing through my ears once again so I tried reassuring myself by feeling for my pulse but that made things worse.
So much worse.
My pulse had quickened and no matter how many breaths I took I could not bring it down. I was alone in this house, my sidekick fast asleep in her kennel outside. I wanted to call out for my father but he wasn’t home. No one was. Visions of myself waiting in an emergency room or worse laying in a hospital bed began to plague me and induce me further into this new-found oblivion. I wanted to gain the upper hand and spank my brain for being an obnoxiously annoying little child but I couldn’t get a firm hold. For the first time ever I actually lost myself. I felt like someone had entered my vessel and was taking control and all I could do was watch through watery eyes and feel through trembling fingers. My brain had convinced every single inch of me that I was going to have a heart attack and die. And my pulse was proof of it. I contemplated calling for help but I knew they’d insist on a trip to the emergency room and I could not afford to do so. These pictures of a hospital bed frightened me like no other yet I wasn’t exactly sure what I was more afraid of. The embarrassment of being a twenty something who’d suffered a heart attack or not being able to pay the massive bill that would ensue from such a visit. I tried waiting it out, an hour passed but all time managed to do was make matters worse. I struggled with reaching out for help, it was so early in the morning and I didn’t want to be an even bigger burden on those around me but it eventually got to a point were I knew I couldn’t be alone any longer because I was terrified of actually dropping dead. So I reached for my phone and called a friend.
As the dial tone rang I was torn over the assurance of hearing their voice and them rushing to my aid or the comfort of them not answering therefore being blissfully unaware and unburdened by my crazies. By the sixth or seventh ring I had resigned that she would not answer and I was at this alone but she answered and with her sleepy hello I broke down in tears and could only manage to utter a feeble “I’m scared.”
Bless her soul she seemed to know exactly what was happening to me. She told me to stand up and breathe, that everything was fine. She was going to get dressed and come straight over but I needed to keep in mind the horrible traffic she’d face on the freeway so she needed me to stay as calm as possible. Through my splutters and chokes I tried explaining how my heart was beating too fast and how I was having a panic attack but thought I was going to have an actual heart attack. She assured me all was well and she was on her way. I tried to snap myself out of it and compose myself somehow. I got dressed and tried focusing on my breathing but every time I looked into my floor length mirror I’d feel an uncontrollable need to reach for my pulse, hoping to find it steady not racing. It was always the latter and it always triggered more tears and chest pains. After a long struggle with some simple black leggings and a white tank top and I went downstairs in search of my sidekick. I let her in and cuddled her on the couch, feeling slightly better but still plagued with chest pains of impending doom and waited for my friend Kristy to arrive.
An hour later the doorbell chimed and I raced to meet her there. She came in and gave me a hug that sent me back to a blubbering mess. I was so thankful she had come all the way down here, knowing that she was due for work but choose to comfort me instead. She had gone through all this herself so she just knew what to do and say. I spoke of my troubles and how I had been battling this for a few weeks but only this morning had completely lost control. She helped me put those troubles in perspective, offering to help even. She told me what I was dreading to hear, urging me to see a doctor but I explained how I couldn’t. I couldn’t see my doctor because I just could not pay to see her nor could I afford the tests and medications she’d no doubt prescribe me to do after such a visit. But Kristy insisted, even volunteering to pay for me but I couldn’t accept her generous offer either. I already was in debt to her previously and just did not want to add more to my tab. But I eventually saw sense and caved in. I made an appointment for that afternoon provided she came with me.
So once appointments were made she then insisted on taking me out to breakfast then a quick shopping escapade before the appointment. We left my home and had brunch outside in the warm sunshine. Talking through everything. While my panic had subsided I was still internally battling away with chest pains and feeling anxious about having another breakdown right here in public’s eye. Plus I knew I’d left the house with raccoon eyes, mascara had been staining my cheeks with black streaks all morning. I seemed to manage my corrupted brain just fine though. We went to the mall and I helped her pick an outfit for her anniversary date over the weekend. It was a great distraction even though now and then I’d hear my brain snarling in the background. Before I knew it midday had approached which meant it was time to head to my GP.
God I was so terrified. I wasn’t sure how this would all play out or what I’d even say to my doctor. Sitting in the reception area my anxiety surged forth yet again, like the ebb and flow of the ocean, and this time headaches erupted rather than those torturous chest pains. By the time my name was called I felt like I’d died 1000 times in that plastic navy chair. Seated in her office I immediately broke down into tears again as I tried to explain that I’d been having panic attacks and that this morning I had lost all control. She asked what was causing them and I told her how I thought my health was deteriorating, that I may have heart problems but she felt like there was more to it. Maybe there was. Sure I’d been under a lot of pressure of late, hell the past few years even, but had it become so much that I’d actually grown numb to it all?
She took my blood pressure and checked my heart, both normal aside from the heartbeat which was slightly rapid, a given since I was hyperventilating on her chair. She prescribed some Valium and told me I had to see a psychologist regardless of if I could afford it or not. There were options for people like me out there. We left and I purchased my medication which thankfully did not break the bank and went straight home. Kristy went back to her workplace. I spent the rest of the afternoon battling with my anxiety, struggling in silence around my family who knew nothing of the strife raging on within me. I held off on taking the Valium, only wanting to medicate when I truly needed to and I made it to bedtime without its need. I was physically and mentally spent and I prayed sleep would come to me tonight and not another encore of the previous nights atrocities. Thankfully I did manage to fall fast asleep with only a small attack at about 4am but I managed to fall right back asleep.
And here I am today. Feeling so much better now though I could have used a few more hours of rest! But a huge thank you is in order to such a beautiful and dear friend. To whom I no doubt would have been unable to have seen through yesterday’s horrors without her support and guidance. And though I thanked her profusely yesterday I still want to say one more.
Thank you dear Kristy.