Wednesday, December 27, 2006

When Anxiety attacks!

*** it's long - sorry ***

I have, many times, heard the term ‘anxiety/panic attack’ ... although I have often felt anxious or panicky; I couldn’t quite understand what an actual attack was.

Until about two years ago.

I am not exactly sure when they started, because I don’t think I recognized them for what they were. I recall thinking that perhaps I had too much coffee, soda or something of that nature. But then it happened on days that I hadn’t had any coffee, soda, etc.

For a while I was convinced that I was having a heart attack or heart attacks, as the case may be. My heart would race, I couldn’t breathe, and my chest actually hurt – trying to suck in air was painful. I would get shaky, as if I hadn’t eaten anything even when I had. Sometimes I was dizzy or felt so nauseous that I would run for the bathroom … then the chills or hot flashes would start.

After repeatedly being told that I was just fine, I started to believe that I was just crazy. Not too surprising there, considering the year I had already had, the depression I was already experiencing and the migraines that were a constant source of agony.

Following the initial conversation with my Dr., I didn’t feel comfortable broaching the subject again, for fear that I would sound like a hypochondriac or worse a potential druggy tryin’ to score.

I tried to talk to friends, or family but only heard …’well it must be the hormones’ (2 kids in two years) or ‘buck up, you’re a strong girl, you can work through it’, ‘have faith, God only gives you what you can handle’ … how do you respond to those things? They were true … I was raging with hormones, pregnant and nursing for 4 years will do that to a gal … and I am a strong girl, I take life fairly head on and have been the one that most people turn to. Speaking of faith, yep, I have that too. I believe that God has a plan for me and all the trials and tribulations of life are just part of His master plan.

But still, as much as I tried to relax, as much as I tried to have faith, those pains just kept comin’ and the more often they happened, the more I withdrew from life as I knew it.

When you can’t talk about what is really going on in your life, and you aren’t a good liar/faker, what’s left? You step back. That’s it.

I did that for a while, people I promised to see or call ended up disappointed. The people that I worked with and for felt deserted and there is no doubt that my family felt neglected.

At some point I met with a different Dr., for other issues, and when she asked me some gentle probing questions, I let it all spill out. It was hard for me – I am the Queen of ‘Oh everything is just fine, I’ll handle it, don’t worry – got it covered.' Being even two-thirds honest with her was both liberating and terrifying at the same time. You’d think I would have taken the opportunity to be completely forthright, but I just didn’t have it in me, I needed to keep bits of myself.

I was already on Antidepressants and beta-blockers for my migraines, so when she prescribed an anti-anxiety med, I didn’t think anything of it. It was just one more tablet to add to the pile.

And do you know what happened?

It got worse.

So much worse.

I can’t really tell you much, I only remember bits and pieces … I remember the terror of knowing that I was indeed going crazy. Come on, if the medications for depression just make me more depressed, the migraine medications don’t stop the migraines and anti-anxiety med’s only make me more anxious, well then it must just be me. I must be broken. Unfixable.

And I felt completely broken. Completely, entirely unfixable.

I still do, most days.

Someday I'll tell you the story about how I stopped taking ALL of my medications at oncecold turkey. But it is too long of a story to go into now and I am afraid I don‘t have it in me to tell it anyhow … it still hurts to think about it.

The point though, is that I did stop. I stopped taking it all.

I won’t kid you, it was rough. My system had been saturated by so many medications and my body was NOT HAPPY that I stopped supplying it with the goods.

But I made it through.

And for a long time, I felt good. I felt whole, well at least partially. I had a bit of clarity and a renewed sense of hope.

It has been a long road, a troubling journey. At every twist and turn I am convinced that I will feel better. More whole, more complete, more calm.

And sometimes I do ... feel better, more complete, calmer.

But lately, I have been experiencing those same sensations … rapid heart beat, chest pains, hand tremors, nervousness, shakiness … oh you know, the gamut of things that I had almost forgotten.

In fact, this entire last week, I have been thinking to myself ‘Frannie, I think you are losin’ your ever lovin’ mind’ … ‘you better hush up or folks are gonna start to wonder about you’

Then I slowly, I am a little dim what can I say, I remember when I have felt this way before. I can recall how it started out slowly, just a glimmer of what was to come … and the rapid spiral into something I could never have imagined.

So here I am.

Medication free. A little concerned, knowing that a pill won’t solve this – not for me at least, but not knowing what will, ease it at least.

Knowing too, who I can lean on this time. Who understands and who doesn’t. Who might judge and those who won’t.

I have those anxious feelings again, but I am in a better place to ‘deal’ this time.

Well, at least that’s what I’m gonna tell y’all :)


My whole goal is to keep my spirit intact. If that doesn't happen, none of this is worth it. -Jewel

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103:1-3


T-girl said...

Been there, doing that! I am the same way "I can handle it!" The only thing that helped me is therapy... not implying anything... but you seem to have a lot on your mind and having someone to talk to may help you sort it out. It is not a crime, it does not make you weak to need someone to show you how to rewire your brain- this was me "I can do it!" LOL The only time I have slipped up into old habits is recently when my father had his stroke. Now I have something else on my mind with my mother that is not helping but... damn I am doing the same thing agian... secrets! LOL Sometimes we have to talk about them, not to "gossip" as others try to make you feel like but to work them out in our mind so we can find peace with them! Anyway, the point being it took me a couple of months with my dad but I realised... whoa issue here lets start changing the thought process because you are sinking and fast! It is amazing how those tini tiny little thoughts that seem harmless can snowball out of control into chaos in our minds!

If you want to talk to someone I can promise you it would go no farther... who the hell am I going to tell anyways who'd care? LOL I am just an EM away you got the addy!

In the end you are not crazy! Reading your blog I would say you are very very normal!

Hugs, I hope you feel better- T

PS Talk to your doc about a different class of drugs, certian drugs and even different ones within those classes will actually make the problem worse NOT better! You may have better results with another drug!!!!

Ms. Elenaeous said...

Hey Frannie, I used to get really bad anxiety attacks a while ago to the point that the NYC subway once shut down to remove me from a car! I went to doctors who wanted to prescribe medication but I just couldn't see myself having to take a pill every day so what I did was immerse myself in cognitive therapy. There are two books that literally saved me, one is called Feeling Good and the other is a thick hardcover Anxieties, Phobias and Disorders, I believe. The Feeling Good is an easy read. Try it and let me know what you think.

Anonymous said...


I've just started blog on my experience with anxiety/panic attack. If you are interested...

Anonymous said...


I've had anxiety/panic attacks back in 2001. Managed to live with it now, lesser frequency of attacks and leading as "normal" a life as possible.

The Imperfect Christian said...

I'm sorry you're struggling right now! I hope things get better quickly!

amandarama said...

Hang in there, Tootsie... and keep all of us posted on what works for you!

Frannie Farmer said...

dang, what would a gal do with out the likes of y'all?
Seriously T, I think we are as close to twins as 2 people could ever get.
Ms. E ~ I count on your sage advice to guide me through. I will absolutely be lookin' on for those books.
Kawi - welcome. I did check out your blog and I will be back.
TIC ~ Thanks, I appreciate that. Very much!
Amanda ~ I will let you know - if I figure it out :)

T-girl said...

Ironically Ms. Elanious recommended the book that saved my life! LMAO

Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy is spectacular! There is also a workbook and while I have it... I never used it! LOL I just did the class with the book and it was great!

Hugs- T

prunella jones said...

Hey Fran, I understand what you are talking about. I take medication too and it took awhile to find the right one. There is no shame in it. For me it's worth it because OCD was really ruining my life. Talk therapy for me was not as helpful but I know people that highly recommend it. Being perfect is boring anyway :)

kim said...

Frannie, don't give up on finding help. A friend of mine went through about five different meds before finding the right one.

If you feel strongly about meds than keep pursuing a therapy option. There is no reason to suffer. Life is hard enough.

You'll be in my prayers.

Swishy said...

I started getting panic attacks a year or two ago. It's horrible. One day a few months ago, I was sitting at work trying SO HARD to breathe, and I couldn't, and I was trying to be normal, and tears were streaming down my face, and finally I had to go outside until I could breathe again. I know what causes mine. I can't talk about it either, and unless I quit my job there's nothing I can really do about it, so I get it. No meds here--I think I would be a little bit scared to try them--but there are days I would kill for something.

I am so, so sorry. But you are NOT going crazy!

ffleur said...

Ok, we've all been there. I too thought I was crazy, it wasn't until I saw a TV special on anxiety that i realized what it actually was.

First thing to know: its chemical. Adrenalin surges into the brain giving a "fight or flee" feeling. But, there is nothing to fight or flee so it feels weird. And it comes out of nowhere. So we associate whatever we are doing at the time of the attack, with the problem. Hence avoiding that activitiy, pretty soon, life shrinks because we are avoiding everything which gives anxiety attacks. In truth, no activity gives anxiety, our brain manufactures it for unknown reasons.

Anti-depressents and anti-anxiety meds do work. You may want to try them again because they are always coming up with newer, better generation pills. Meds and therapy are the best, most effective combination.

What also works for me: good food (cut out alcohol, sugar, caffeine as much as possible), exercise and relaxation techniques. I have a few meditation/relaxation CDs. Pop one in, put on the headsets, lay on top of your bed and follow the instructions.

Make time for yourself. You have 4 kids! You need some space and time for just Frannie. And most of all, love yourself, realize you are valuable, adorable, lovable and worthy. Forget about crazy. Doesn't exist. God doesn't make mistakes and he sure didn't make a mistake with you.

Big panda hugs to you Frannie.