The worry, the dread, the tingling throughout my body, the light-headed feeling, the irrational thoughts-they are all there, and then some.
You know, for a while I felt silly saying that I have Panic disorder. When I was diagnosed, it was pretty severe, but then it got better. I mean a lot better. I found myself off of my medicine, and only having to fight a really low level anxiety sometimes. In general though, it wasn't affecting my day-t0-day living, or my sleep.
Well, this week I've been reminded-I have Panic disorder, and it stinks.
I have learned to notice anxiety pretty early on now-I can feel it first in my stomach. I don't exactly know how to describe it; I just know the feeling. It is kind of like when I was pregnant. I would ask my doctor all the time about going into labor, and she would say, "You will know." And she was right-I always knew when I was in labor. So I guess anxiety is like that-I always know when it's anxiety.
When I feel it, there is a process I have to go through. I call it my "filing process".
First, I recognize it as such-anxiety. Then I tell myself that anxiety can't hurt me. This is really helpful, because often times the fear of anxiety itself makes the anxiety worse. Having a panic attack is scary. It does some strange things to your body physically, and you really feel like something is wrong physically. Well, this just feeds the anxiety and starts a vicious cycle. But, if I remind myself that anxiety can't hurt me, then that piece of the fear becomes a lot less.
Then I make sure I'm breathing deep enough. Sometimes with panic, you can stop breathing deep, because you are breathing too fast. I try to slow down my breathing.
I also find something to do that is different than what I was currently doing. If I'm inside, I might walk outside, maybe start doing the dishes, read my Bible, or listen to music-anything that might be different. (No matter what, I always read scripture and listen to music as part of my "doing something different". God's Word is powerful, as well as worship music). If I'm in any of the bedrooms, I go to a larger area so I don't feel closed in. Sometimes I have to sleep on the couch, because the ceiling is higher in the living room.
Like right now-it is 4 AM, but I'm blogging. I needed something to do.
And I always pray. As I'm praying, I begin to go through my "files" in my head. What is in there that I'm thinking about? This helps me get down to what might be fueling my anxiety leading to my panic. It might be that I am just going too fast, having too much to do. Then I quickly decide what I need to get rid of. Maybe there is a situation that I'm trying to control, but I can't and shouldn't. Often times, it is specific situations. Right now, I am concerned about some guy that was on our street-will he come back to hurt my family? (long story that you can read a little about here) I am also concerned with my physical health. I am not feeling well at all since starting this new medicine. I'm not sure if it is the medicine or just the effects of the bacteria dying off (another long, boring story) so I have this question floating around in my head-"Should I keep taking the medicine or stop taking it?" My panic takes me down dark roads, and these roads say that something is really wrong with me-"I must be dying". For me, I usually begin to think I have cancer somewhere.
I think about EVERY THOUGHT. I don't let anything slide past. Every thought then gets a file. Thoughts that can truly wait, I put in the "I don't have to think about it" folder. If my mind won't let it go there, I hang onto it-maybe it is fueling my panic.
Right now, I have some thoughts like "my house is really messy", and "I teach on Wednesday". Those can go in that file-I don't need to think about those right now. But the thoughts about the guy and the not feeling good. My mind won't let me file those. They are consuming my thoughts, even as I type. Because my body hurts so much right now, I can pretty much nail down that it is mainly my physical situation that is fueling my panic right now.
OK, so now I have to deal with this issue. I can tell you now that I feel stuck. I don't know what to do about how I'm feeling, but I don't feel like I can call my doctor. I think her nurse is horrible. I'm just being honest, because if I'm not, I can't stop my panic. I don't think she listens, and feel that she is of no help. You have to be borderline rude to get through to her and that isn't a fun realization. I know I'm a nurse and am usually really assertive and good advocate, but this lady makes me feel stuck. I don't feel like I can move towards an answer so this just fuels my panic. When I feel stuck, I get anxiety; and when I get anxiety, it leads to panic attacks.
So what am I going to do about this? Well, it would be silly for me not to try to call my doctor again. I will try again on Monday. Until then, I will be praying that God will help the communication and give me clear answers. Even though I don't want to call her, I have to. Sometimes I have to do things I don't want to do. In me not calling her, I'm trying to control the situation, figure it out on my own. That is not working. But if a phone call doesn't work, I'll get an appointment to see the doctor. I'm the patient and the one paying; anything to help my mind get unstuck. I'm also going to take ibuprofen to help with the pain. If the pain isn't so obvious, my panic is less.
Now, I can't call until Monday morning so I will have to work really hard not obsessing over it until then. I will just have to constantly be checking my thoughts, filing them away, keeping myself busy, and PRAYING A LOT.
So that brings me to this-the whole time, I am praying. I know I mentioned that earlier, but I want to stress it again. I am not trying to figure it out on my own, but I do have to process my thoughts and feelings. I do have to face them, find out where I feel stuck, and work towards getting unstuck. But, I pray that God will help me get unstuck. I believe that God will help me, but He wants me to be a part of that-I have to do things as well. One of those things is resting in Him and His strength, but I am still having to do that. Does that make sense?
So here you have-what I do during my panic attacks. Thanks for reading-typing it helped my panic not escalate. Now, I'm off to take some ibuprofen.
Did I mention that anxiety is ruthless?
Disclaimer: While I am a nurse, I am not a doctor. I am not claiming to know everything about panic disorder and how to deal with it so please consult with a doctor if you suffer from this. This is simply what works for me and my experience. Plus, I needed something to do to keep my panic from escalating and calling 911 at 3:3o Am so I thought I would blog about it. I don't mind talking about it though, because I understand the awfulness of panic. Feel free to email me if you need someone to listen to you. We can panic together. I also recommend The Anxiety Cure. My counselor gave it to me, and I found it very useful, along with my counseling.