Okay, WARNING!! I’m going to be completely transparent and it really makes me feel a little nervous but if I could help just ONE person get the help needed today, that is well worth the nervousness!!
So, backing up, I know that I’ve shared before that I suffer from panic disorder and I just touched on the surface of it. It started when I was 19 years old and I’m not completely sure of the reason that started it, but I had just gone through a major emotional time of my life with an engagement and awful break-up with some deep rooted reasons that shook my world.
I was a wreck. I felt alone most of the time, even though I was surrounded by family and friends. It was a time that taught me what it feels like to be crushed and needing to rebuild on faith alone.
So, that is when my panic disorder began, to the best of my knowledge.
I recall the first time it hit, I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep…and then all of a sudden, I could NOT breathe. I could not catch my next breath. It was like with every inhale, I would will to “catch up” to my next breath…
But. I. Just. Could. Not.
It was the worst feeling I had ever known. I KNEW that if I couldn’t catch my breath, I would die. And the feelings only increased as my panic began to rise. I ran to my mom who tried to talk me down; as I paced around the room, working feverishly to catch my breath and just calm down.
I don’t remember how long that first panic lasted but it felt like an eternity.
And it didn’t end there. It would hit at random, some nights I was able to relax and fall asleep peacefully. Some nights, I would be awakened to the awful feeling of no breath. The cycle was tortuous and at that time there were few resources to turn to. I was alone, nobody could understand the enormity of the feeling as it crushed down onto my chest…and paralyzed me from anything else.
I would recite to myself during the day, that it was only episodes and these episodes would pass. I heard from doctors that I wouldn’t die from this. I remember being furious at the non-caring comment made by one doctor whom my mom took me to see. He diagnosed me with MVP. That is a heart murmur issue and he put me on heart medication.
I knew that this was not the cause of my episodes but when my mom explained to him what I would do and say in the midst of these panics, he just blatantly said, “She WON’T die. She just has to relax”…
As with any issues we face, life goes on and we have to deal with the ups and downs whether we like it or not. I did that and kept my panic hidden as best as I could. After I had my first two children, I went through another enormous roller coaster of emotions and thought I could never recover from it. It was at this time the panics came back with a vengeance.
Tortuous. Severe. Debilitating. My husband had no idea what was happening and in his lack of knowledge, made me feel it was “all in my head”. That, in and of itself, was devastating. I know now that he didn’t understand how awful that felt to me but at the time it was like I was on island all alone with nobody to turn to.
After my third child was born, I formed almost an “abnormal” attachment to him and would just sit and hold him and feel “safe”. I remember anytime I would leave the house and if panic would strike, I would focus on his face in my mind and breathe until I calmed down.
This was the first sign that I ever experienced that “maybe” just “maybe” I had a fighting chance of getting past this. I had no idea how it would be possible, because by now, I had almost come to the conclusion that there was some “ticking time bomb” always waiting to go “off” in my body at any given time and I just had to deal with it all. I had tried many different ways to handle it. Lucinda Bassett (is that her name?) created a cassette tape program with workbooks which I ordered from the radio advertisement that I heard it over. This helped me for a time but never for good. I figured that I was the exception to the rule that it would ever be “over”. But knowing that there was finally a “title” for the disorder was a weight lifted off of my shoulders, after almost 20 years!
In all stories that I’ve heard and all the studies I have researched regarding this issue, there is never ONE way to overcome this problem and the resolution for each person varies. Some can learn breathing techniques to help them overcome the panicky feelings, that didn’t work so well for me. Some have help in medications and therapy. I had one therapy session and the doctor was a bit surprised I had never spoken to anyone years earlier and put me on a low dosage medication to allow me to sleep and control the issues. But even taking the medicine caused me to panic. I found that just splitting the dosage in half and taking as needed has allowed me to overcome the chest clutching breathing issues and sleep without being torn out of my restful slumber to the gripping feeling of being held underwater.
I know to some, this sounds incredibly simple to overcome. I remember feeling embarrassed to talk about it to anyone, which only makes it worse, in my opinion. I hope that opening up and just letting this out can help someone who is feeling alone and crippled by this problem. Seek out someone to help you; whether it is a trusted and caring family member, doctor or therapist. Get the help that makes YOU feel at ease; and not what anyone else tells you is the “answer”. You will know. And if all else fails, you are not alone. There are many out there who share this problem and have never talked openly about it so it could easily be hidden in people you already know and love and are close to.
I am tired of being held hostage to feeling like we have to be “normal” and never speak openly about any issues that we may have. It’s time to just be ourselves and I know it will only allow more people to open up and share their own issues…which is step 1 to a solution in any shape or form.
God Bless you and you are not alone.