Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Anatomy of a Panic Attack

[You may recognize yourself in here, playing a role in my Bad Day. This is not meant to make you feel bad, in ANY way. This is my problem, my screwed up neurochemicals. You may have your own problems, and your own screwed-up neurochemicals, but you're not responsible for mine.]

I've been in an off mood. Re-entry into Real Life hasn't been easy. There are increasing layoff rumors at work, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't more than a little worried. (There's a campus-wide staff meeting scheduled for Monday, with the university president presiding. THAT can't be good.) The kids returned to school today...FINALLY...but both were complaining of aches and pains. My throat hurts, too.

In other words, I didn't start off with a particularly propitious baseline of mental health today.

Then I got to work. And got an email from a friend telling me about her Crazy Ex (who really makes all other Crazy Exes look very, very, very sane) and his latest legal/emotional torture tactics. In responding, I talked a little about similar issues we'd had regarding Stalker Girl. Really, I should have known better. Even six years down the road, I should have known that talk of Stalker Girl = Automatic Panic. But I wasn't paying attention. I did notice that my stomach was a little fluttery, though.

Then I read a blog entry from another friend, who is worried about her son's IEP. And responded with a note talking about N's IEP, scheduled for next week, and how scared I am about what will happen there. (Yes, I *do* make everything about me. This is a surprise? Have you not MET me? But I will say, in my defense, that these comments were at least vaguely relevant to the conversations at hand. That's not always the case.) After that, I noticed that my hands were a little shaky.

Then another friend emailed about our upcoming annual multi-family vacation plan. Yay, vacation! That couldn't possibly spike my panic, right? Oh, ye of little faith in my level of mental illness. In that email were not one, but TWO spiking comments. One was about our plans for N's birthday during our vacation. This shouldn't be an issue, but it is, because the whole subject of N's birthday is a stressful one right now. (I'd explain more, but it's all about guilt and overscheduling and money. And it's not even interesting.)

The other comment mentioned the traffic that's likely to occur on our way up to our vacation spot, and possible ways to get around it. Here's what you need to know regarding that: I get unbearably claustrophic in cars stuck in traffic. Especially cars stuck in traffic winding up a mountain on a road off of which there are no other routes. Guess what kind of road we'll be traveling? My level of claustropobia, by the way, is severe. Severe enough that I always spend the weeks leading up to our annual trip coming up with reasons why I shouldn't go. And, once there, I spend a lot of time trying NOT to spend a lot of time worrying about the trip home. (You can see why everyone should want me to come on their vacation with them, right? Because I DEFINE fun.)

So that was already there, in the back of my mind, fermenting. To add to it, I asked my boss yesterday about taking our travel day off, so that I could avoid the worst of the traffic. He said no...for valid reasons involving the fact that only one other person will be in our department of five people that day. He did say I could leave early-ish, but now I'm certain it won't be nearly early-ish enough, and it's going to be awful, and I'm going to completely freak out in the car, and...

Happy vacation to me!

So, perhaps it's no surprise that, after I read the email, I noticed that my heart was jumping around in my chest a little. I hit reply and then realized, hey, my chest feels a little tight, too.

Let's review: Jumpy stomach. Shaking hands. Fast-beating heart. Tight chest. That's a panic attack, all right. I'd call it full-blown if my cheeks were tingling, too. They're not, so it's only a minor one.

And so I closed the email window (I'll get back to you later, I promise, D! And remember what I said above. NOT YOUR FAULT OR YOUR PROBLEM) and opened this one, in the hopes that I can head the full-blown-ness off with a little blog therapy. And if not? That's why I've had a bottle of five or six Xanax on my person at all times for the last five years. There's a reason they call them rescue meds.

I'll have them in the car on the way to our vacation, too. For sure.

But, really, what I need is a new brain. With all its little neurotransmitters in the right places responding to the right chemicals at the right levels. Is that so much to ask?

Apparently, it is.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Do I see myself in the 5th paragraph? This kind of stuff IS contagious, right?

Kidding aside. Feel better. Be kind to yourself. xxk

Jessica said...

I saw my Dr last Friday... On the way out he said to just give him a call if I run low on Xanax. I love my doctor.

kris said...

i had my first panic attack at 24 or 25... sitting watching tv on a sunday night (i lived at home still). suddenly my heart rate went up to about 125 and i got crampy and sweaty and thought i was dying. i wwent to bed. got up the next day with about the same pulse. had another attack about a week later and i will tell you i lived in fear of another one for about 10 years. i would have minor ones occasionally but nothing ever that bad again. i think panic attacks are the curse of people in their 20's and 30's. i seem to have outgrown mine for the most part (i am not in my 20's or 30's anymore!!) but there were years i would not be without my librium (pill of that time period). i learned how to control my pulse thru my breathing too and how to rid myself of the 'jumpy' pulse crap i think is common to a lot of younger woman during hormonal ups and downs. good luck and keep those pills handy. peace of mind alone make them worth their weight in gold.

po said...

Rest assured, I have absolute faith in your level of mental illness (it being so very similar to my own).

I'm sorry you had such a perfect storm of suckiness, and it dragged you into the Bad Place :(. I hope you're feeling better, and remember that between the sucky trip up the mountain in traffic and the sucky trip down the mountain in traffic, you will drink a lot and be with people you cherish and have a wonderful time. Hugs!!

po said...

Oh, and sending you lots of good vibes for N's IEP next week!

PnP said...

Well, since I am responsible for a good majority of your panic attack, I will to contribute to your Xanax supply on the trip and even loan you our sled so you dont have to deal with traffic, at least on the way *down* the mountain. Wish I could do more. Sorry, you are feeling bad. I'l make sure to try to lighten the mood a little when we are away. Maybe chuck a few snowballs in your direction when you arent looking, or better yet, maybe drink a little and let you mock and laugh at me?! Feel better! D

Meg said...

Oh TC, I hope things are getting better and that you enjoy the time away with minimal traffic. Feel better.

Anonymous said...

If a new brain was just that easy.

Hugs it will be okay.

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Kathy R. said...

According to some self-help books I've read, I should write about my panic attacks while I'm having one. So, here goes: I am shaking all over, I've been crying off and on, I feel scared, alone and thoroughly defeated. I dread tomorrow because I WILL be alone---husband will be at work, my "safe" person will be gone most of the day at the dentist, and I'll just be here in my house going NUTS!!! I have so much I need to do, but I just can't, won"t conjure up the energy.
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