Panic! At The Little Lewis home.
Please read at least the first paragraph.
I started hearing about panic attacks when I was a little kid. I didn’t really understand it, and didn’t really think it was serious. I also didn’t know how common it was. I had my first panic attack February 11, 2013. I’ve never had any symptoms of anxiety, nor have I ever felt “stressed”. I felt great all day, and all of a sudden, I started to feel panic, like something was really wrong with my body. I started breathing heavy and my heart started racing extremely fast. I felt like I was going to pass out, and my heart was going to explode. I was going to die. I had my wife take me to the hospital, for fear I was about to die. This was my first panic attack. It is a serious condition, and people need to understand what it is, and what it can feel like. It is not discussed in any health class. Reading on I will try and go over everything that has happened to me so far, and what I have learned.
My story of anxiety so far.
February 09, 2013
I was sitting at a coffee shop with one of my friends after cutting a video for his motorcycle club. I haven’t been drinking coffee lately, and I stopped high caffeinated drinks like Rockstars and Monsters. On this particular day I got a vanilla latte, double shot. After hanging out at the coffee shop for a bit, I went out on a date with my wife. Carrabba’s, Starbucks and a movie. Everything about this day and this date was normal, other than a higher than usual consumption of caffeine, which I have since read is a common trigger of anxiety/panic attacks. During the movie, I started to feel uneasy. Simple as that. I felt like something was weird in my body. I couldn’t concentrate, and I started to think about it more often.
I just tried to focus on the movie. The more I tried to concentrate, the harder it became. The uneasy feeling turned into shivering and I had to run to the bathroom a couple times. It became worse and my breathing started to become very heavy. I was extremely confused. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I have never walked out of a movie before, but I didn’t know what else to do. I thought I could tough it out, and maybe if I could get some rest things would get better. On my way out my heart pounded harder. I didn’t think I could drive anymore. I had my wife drive. My heart was hurting now, and I feared the worst. I was sure it was a heart attack.
This was a confusing thought, of course. I am 25 years old. Far too young for a heart attack right? I felt feint. Numbness in my head arms and legs, hot and cold sweats flashing up and down my body. I told Cynthia to forget going home, go to the hospital. It felt like an eternity waiting to get to the hospital. The roads I had driven down many times before, now seemed new to me. Each turn felt like it was going to be my last, and I was going to slip into unconsciousness for what I was sure to be the last time.
A welcome relief came across me for a split second as we pulled into the parking lot, only to be followed by another huge wave of panic. I wasn’t going to make it to the doors, let alone the ER. Panic became worse. I couldn’t talk more than a word or to, other than to tell my wife: “Hurry”.
Finally inside now, I felt a new feeling amongst all this. Anger. I couldn’t believe how unbearably slow it was to get admitted to the ER. Here I was having a heart attack and they wanted me to fill out a form? I mustered enough strength behind my shaking body to yell some choice words at the poor receptionist. It clearly didn’t help, and I still was forced to wait. A door opened and I was let inside. The rest seemed like a blur. Doctors and nurses coming up to me, asking me questions I don’t remember. Putting an IV in me, and someone telling me they were putting some chemical inside me to calm me down. Chest X-Ray, EKG, blood tests. I suddenly could breath again. My wife was there, along with my parents and in-laws and even a few friends. After a short time of making sure I was going to be okay, they released me. Confusion. Okay.
We drove home. I laid down and I went to sleep, grateful to be alive. It was over.
Or so I thought.
February 10, 2013
I woke up the next day, groggy. It was Sunday. It was quiet. I woke up before everyone else. I stood up and walked to the bathroom. I had a headache, and started to go over the events of the previous day. I started to feel anxious. I felt weak. I couldn’t concentrate. I felt like it was about to start happening again. I sat down. I got up. I walked to the kitchen. I sat down. I got up. I walked to the living room. I sat down. All the while my heart was racing. A tight sensation in my chest like someone with a tight grip around my heart. I laid down. I could now hear my heart beat.
I stood up. I started pacing the kitchen. I couldn’t stop. I wanted to stop. I walked back and forth for an hour. At which point I laid down again, and was finally able to take a nap. It was a complicated nap. I woke up several times with the sound of my heartbeat pulsing in my ears. This pattern continued all day, and into the night. I tried taking a bath. Listening to music. I couldn’t sleep on my stomach because it made by heart beat louder. Sleep was inconsistent. I could only stay asleep for an hour or two at a time, and spent hours trying to get back to sleep.
February 11, 2013 ~ February 13, 2013
After struggling for hours to stay asleep, I finally decided to get up. The day was much the same as before. I decided I needed to call the doctor and make an appointment. The day was a blur. The night was a struggle. The next morning I had enough. I went to the InstaCare. They called me back into the Triage, which I found out is kinda like hospital prison. A nurse came and told me she couldn’t help me. They weren’t allowed to do anything for anxiety and panic attacks and I would just have to wait for the Doctors appointment. This was the first time it really hit me what this was. It was a panic attack.
I went home and started doing research.
The options I found were too varied for my liking. Exercise, yoga, breathing techniques, medication, alcohol, drugs. Pretty much anything in life is a cure, it appears. The cause of it was confusing at first. I now get it. Adrenaline. It all starts with the chemical in your body that makes mothers lift 2-ton trucks off their children. You have a sensation, or worry, or fear, or anxiety. Your body reacts to this the same way it would if you were to confront a dinosaur. It pumps you full of adrenaline. Being you are not in any real harm or danger, you consciously feel the the affects. Cold Sweats, hot flashes, tingling or numbness, feeling feint, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. This can cause you to worry or fear, or become more anxious. This causes your body to release more adrenaline. So the downward spiral goes. At this point you are in full blown panic attack.
I went to the doctors that Wednesday. We spoke, and he confirmed my suspicion. It was a panic attack. He prescribed me klonazapan, a common drug for calming the mind by actually numbing it. I took a half, and felt about the same if not more anxious. After that, I swore to only take it if I got into complete panic attack mode.
While I didn’t have any panic attacks immediately after the first one, I was really heavily anxious for days, and slowly it finally started to subside. It never went away mind you, it just lessened enough I could feel like I could return back to a normal-ish life. On a scale from 0-10, 10 feeling like I require a stay at the hospital visit, and 0 being completely fine, I stayed at a 7 for the first week, a 5 the next week, and a 1-3 ever since. I have had a few panic attacks since, although those only reach an 8. The biggest difference I think is that I am aware of what it is, and how to react.
It only helps a little. I go day to day with it in my mind. And just when I feel like I am tipping from a 1 to a 0, I get an anxiety attack, and I shoot up to a 6-8. This affects me daily, and bothers me quite a bit. On the worst of days it even causes me to feel depressed. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be prone to depression, which I hear is a long term side-affect of this problem.
In conclusion, for those who are long time suffers or short term victims, and even those who have never been through anxiety attacks, know that knowledge is everything. I have searched up and down YouTube, Google, blogs, wikipedia for information. I don’t have the answer for myself yet. But speaking with people who are going through the same thing helps, and has even calmed me down in the middle of an attack. If you yourself are not a sufferer, be aware of this. It’s a real issue. For the sufferer, it’s as scary as an actual heart attack.