I Hate Panic Attacks!



I Hate Panic Attacks!

Fishing With My Daughter

I really dislike the word HATE but I don’t know how else to describe my feelings towards panic attacks. They pop up, uninvited, and can literally knock you down. In fact, last evening, a panic attack sucker punched me so hard while I was out to eat with my family that I had to get up and leave.

Panic Attacks are Very Convincing

We were spending a much needed relaxing week in our favorite vacation spot, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. It was dinner time so we decided to eat at the hotel restaurant, mainly because we all felt too tired to go anywhere else. The waitress came and took our order. I was looking forward to their famous popovers they serve as their appetizer.

Maybe I’m Having a Stroke

While waiting, I noticed I was feeling a little short of breath. I told myself it was just because I was a little anxious and I tried to convince myself to relax. My back was aching, which didn’t surprise me since I had been sleeping on a pull-out sofa in the hotel room. The mattress was so old that it felt like laying on metal bars. The ache in my back was moving to my right shoulder and then slowly down my arm. As I was trying to join in on the conversation, I kept getting interrupted by the obsessive thoughts in my head. I was asking myself “Why would my arm be aching?”, “Is it my heart?”,  “Am I having a heart attack?”, “Maybe I’m having a stroke because it just feels funny on one side of my body”. At that time, I felt my heart palpitate. Now I knew something bad was going on and panic set in.

I Got Up and Went in the Restroom

As I was panicking inside, I looked at my mom. She was laughing and having fun with the rest of the family. I decided to take a xanax in case it was only my anxiety making me feel this way. Finally the popovers came. I raised my right arm to grab the bread out of the basket. My arm felt funny as I reached over to grasp the popover. It even felt hard to grasp it. My daughter was asking me to put butter and jam on hers. I was trying to contemplate if I was going to speak up and tell everyone that I thought I was having a stroke. Instead, I told my daughter to have her brother help her. I sat there for a minute and I was moving my fingers around to make sure I could still use them.Since I had no problems doing that, I decided to butter my popover. As I picked up my knife, it felt very peculiar. The knife felt extra heavy. At that point, I looked at my mom and said “Can you come with me please?”. I got up and went in the restroom.

Crying Took a Huge Amount of Weight Off

Mom knows my history of anxiety and panic disorder. I started bawling and told her I was super nervous and was either having a panic attack or a stroke. I told her I might have to go to the ER. She looked at me and said I was fine and that it was just my anxiety. My mom also has anxiety so I trusted her. Crying took a huge amount of weight off of my back and it was starting to feel better. I told her to go back and I would be out in a minute.  I asked her to tell the rest of the family not to ask me about why I left.’

I Was Fine the Rest Of the Evening

Crying and the xanax was making me feel more normal and I believed my mom when she told me I was not having a stroke. I took one more xanax to knock the remaining anxiety out. I went back, ate my dinner, and was fine the rest of the evening.

I Thanked God I Was Okay

After dinner we all went fishing off the dock in town. The water was so still and it was very peaceful. I was able to enjoy the scenery and I thanked God I was okay.

Grand Rapids, MN

I Am Still Vulnerable

That was just a reminder that I am still vulnerable. I have not been “cured” of my mental illness and my medication does not heal me 100%. That panic attack proved to me that talking openly about mental illness and trying to help others with similar experiences is what I am meant to do. When I need help, I look for people who are empathetic to my situation. Some people are not as fortunate as me to have a support person that understands exactly how I feel.

I Want to Help You

I strongly believe in “pay it forward” and that is what I am doing. I want to help you. If you have questions about symptoms, techniques to get through stressful situations, or just need to talk to someone who truly understands, CONTACT ME!

– Michelle

 

 

Should Mental Health Be Taught in Schools?

Every Student Should Be Required to Take a Course on Mental Health

I often think how different my life would have been if we were taught about mental health in school.  Kids graduating from high-school would be aware of the symptoms, know how to support others, have learned some techniques to deal with stress, and know how to get help if they need it.  Mental health would lose it’s negative stigma – wouldn’t that be great?

I Wouldn’t Have Felt So Afraid

Thinking back on my very first experience with a panic attack, I wonder if it would have escalated to the level it did if I knew what was actually happening to me.  A mental health course would have taught me about anxiety and panic attacks.  If I suspected that was what was going on, maybe I could have reasoned with myself.

I Wouldn’t Have Been So Embarrassed

If all students were educated on mental health, and how common it is, maybe we wouldn’t be so ashamed to talk about it.  We wouldn’t be hesitant to get the help that we need.  Who knows,  it’s possible the suicide rate would decrease!

I Would Have Had More Support

Still to this day, I am very selective as to who I share my illness with.  I pretty much only open up to friends that are educated on mental illness or suffer with it themselves.  If more people were educated on the topic, I would feel comfortable talking to many more people about it.

Mental health illnesses are not going away. The world we live in can be a very scary place, especially to those of us who suffer from an anxiety disorder.  I am confident that everyone in this world could benefit from learning about mental health, whether or not they will be diagnosed someday, or close to someone that has a mental illness.

The Stress of Finals

Finals Can be excruciating for any student, but add a student with anxiety or any other mental illness to the mix, and it can be a total nightmare. Relax, count to 10, and keep on reading.

You do well in class, you ace all your homework, but bomb all your tests.  It seems like it’s a losing battle. I have known that I have had anxiety for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t realize I had test anxiety until I was out of college. (Great time to realize that, huh?) I paid attention in class, always did well on my homework and studied several hours for an exam. A few hours before the test, I would start worrying. What if I studied the wrong things? What if I forget everything? What if totally bomb the test? All of these “what ifs” will make any person a nervous wreck. Once it was test time, I already knew I’d be lucky if I got a D.

For all of you anxiety sufferers that are getting ready for finals, here are some tips to try before your next exam.

1. When studying, make sure to take breaks often, to relax your mind.

2. Don’t overthink! You know this stuff so don’t second-guess yourself.

3. When you are prepared for your exam, exercise in some positive talk. Make it fun–anytime you think “what if”, or participate in negative self talk, you have to do 10 pushups!

4. Practice relaxation exercises often, up until you take your exam.

5. You are stronger than you think! You got this!!!

Don’t know how to relax? Click on the link below.  These are excellent breathing exercises that I use often.  Remember, you can do this…good luck!

6 Breathing Exercises to Relax in 10 Minutes or Less


 

The Importance of Support

If you have ever experienced a panic attack, you know how they can sneak up on you without any notice.  This unwelcomed guest can cause all kinds of scary symptoms, and it may even convince you that you are going to die.  Unfortunately if you’ve had one panic attack, you can most likely expect another.  This is why, I cannot stress enough, how important it is to have a support person and a plan in place.

Many times, panic attacks will occur when you are alone, which is extremely scary. In my experience, being alone may not always be the worst-case scenario. Having a panic attack when you are with someone that knows nothing about anxiety and panic attacks, can be worse, and escalate the situation even more. It’s bad enough that you think something very bad is happening to you and your health, but when you are with someone and you see that they are also thinking something is wrong with you, it can increase your panic to a new level.

When you feel comfortable, communicate with your family and close friends. Explain what your symptoms are, and what you need from them when you are feeling nervous, or when you can feel an attack coming on. It will not only help them by learning what anxiety symptoms you have, it will help you because they will understand what is going on and they will be able to coach you through the situation.    One very important step in talking to your support person is informing them of what you might be feeling, doing, or saying during an episode of anxiety or panic.  Tell them ahead of time what you need from them.

Approximately fifteen years ago, my husband was in a very bad car accident.  A semi ran into his truck and he was badly injured.  He spent days in the hospital and I instantly started having severe anxiety symptoms.  After he was released from the hospital, we still had to travel back to the hospital for appointments.  Thankfully, my mother-in-law went with us to some of his appointments for added support.  Shortly after walking in the hospital, I felt my chest tightening up. I told them I was too nervous to go into the room and I would just wait in the waiting room.  As time went on, I had myself so worked up that I started hyperventilating.  My mother-in-law came out to update me on my husband, and at that point, I was in a full blown panic attack.  I told her I couldn’t breath and said something was wrong with me.  Keep in mind, I had not had any in depth conversations with her about my anxiety.  I saw the panic on her face and she told me she would walk me to the ER. I instantly felt worse because I thought that if she was thinking that I needed to go to the ER, something had to be wrong with me. By the time we walked into the ER entrance, I was hyperventilating worse than before.  I heard her tell a nurse that I needed to be seen immediately, and that my mouth and chin were turning purple.  Once I heard her say that, I was struck again with another surge of panic and had to sit down because I thought I was going to pass out.  The nurse put me in a small consultation room and begun checking my vitals.  At this point, I was violently shaking and slurring my words.  I convinced myself that I was having a stroke because my mouth felt numb and I couldn’t even talk.  After checking my vitals, the nurse said I was doing fine and that the ER was very busy so it could be a long time before I could get in a room.  After about an hour of sheer panic, they still were telling me nothing was wrong and they gave me Benedryl since I had already taken a different medication when I felt anxious in the waiting room earlier.  The Benedryl knocked the edge off eventually and I started to feel more normal.  I never did get to see a doctor and since I had calmed down, we left for home.  First, I want to say that I do not blame my mother-in-law for any of this, she was genuinely worried about me.  She had never been with anyone during a panic attack nor did she know anything about them.  This situation would have turned out completely different if I would have had a talk about my illness with her previously. She wouldn’t have panicked and could have possibly got me calmed down in the waiting room.  If that was my mom, who had known about my panic disorder, she would have told me that I am just having anxiety.  She would have rubbed my back and reminded me how to breath correctly.  Things would not have escalated and turned out to be the worst panic attack of my life.

Please learn from my mistake! Be proactive, and talk to people you trust about your anxiety and/or panic disorder.   The more people you have in your life that  can be there for you, the more comfortable you will feel. You never know, you might discover that someone close to you has similar experiences but hasn’t felt comfortable enough to open up about it!

 

 

Don’t Feel Ashamed – Anxiety and Other Mental Illnesses

It’s easy for me to tell you not to feel ashamed of the fact that you have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or any other mental disorder. I’ve been told numerous times how common anxiety disorders are.  Many people have been diagnosed with some form mental illness, we just don’t always know that because people don’t talk about it like they do with other illnesses.  That always tends to make me feel a little more comfortable knowing that so many other people have experienced what I have gone through, and still go through today.  Not that I wish this upon anyone else, it just makes me feel more “normal”.  If so many people have experienced what I have, why don’t I hear others talk about it? Continue reading

My First Experience with Anxiety

One Evening, My Life Changed Forever

What comes to your mind when I say anxiety disorder? What about diabetes or heart disease? I am not an expert on diabetes or heart disease but from what I understand, when you have diabetes, your pancreas is not functioning properly.  Obviously, heart disease affects your heart and circulatory system.  What about an anxiety disorder?  Does it just mean you get nervous?  Absolutely not! Just like any disease, something in your body isn’t doing what it supposed to do.  When you have an anxiety disorder, part of your brain isn’t functioning correctly.  Have you ever known anyone with diabetes or heart disease that kept their medical issue hidden from others because someone might think they’re crazy?  How about anxiety, panic disorder, depression, or bi-polar disorder? Do you often hear people openly talk about having any of these conditions? In my personal experience, I could count the number of people that have told me they have a mental disorder on one hand.  Why is that? I hear numerous people talk about other health issues on a daily basis.  I am not proud to say that  I was no different, until now. I have hidden my condition for years, only telling my family and close friends what I have gone through since I was a little girl.  I have felt ashamed, “weird”, and like people will think I’m “crazy” if I tell them.  I am ready to talk about this because I know many of you go through the same thing, and have similar feelings of fear and shame, that I have experienced.  I have lived with this condition for nearly 40 years.  I consider myself an expert on this subject and now I want to help others!  I would be surprised if someone told me an experience they have had with this disease that I wasn’t familiar with or had not experienced myself. Continue reading