Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I'll Take An Order of Anxiety With a Side of Panic Attack

A few weeks ago the husband and I had to go to a thing.  It was a thing I didn't want to go to, but sometimes in life we have to do and go to things we don't want to do.  It's called being an adult, I suppose.

Unfortunately panic attacks and an anxiety disorder don't give one flying flip about being an adult.

For days leading up to the thing, the anxiety built.  Then, right before it was time for me to hop in the shower to get ready, I took the dogs out to pee.  Evil Cody managed to escape and chase the UPS man driving down the street.  Apparently he was not cool with his mom being delivered a bomb and decided to do something about it.

His decision almost got him killed and my nerves were shot.  As I sat in front of my mirror drying my hair the anxiety escalated until I had the worst panic attack of my life.

I walked into the bathroom where the husband was getting ready.  He took one look at me and knew things were bad and getting worse by the second.

My breaths were coming hard and fast. I was sobbing, shaking my head, flapping my hands and rising on my toes.

When I have a panic attack, I want to run, not from the place I am or to a place I want to go, but out of my own skin.  Which, to my knowledge, is physically impossible.  And so I rise to my toes.  Or push off a table or the wall.  It does little to still the panic but I do not do it by choice.  It is instinct. 

I sat on the toilet, naked both physically and emotionally, stripped of any sanity I had ever known.

The husband knelt beside me and knowing there was nothing to say, he was just there.  Black spots began to dot the corners of my vision and started closing in toward the center of my sight.  The thought that I was going to pass out only increased my panic.

The husband instructed me to take long slow breaths.  Thankfully I was able to listen to him and the darkness never descended.

When the hand flapping and rising and toe curling stopped, I was exhausted.  The husband wanted to direct me to the bed, wanted me to get some rest.  But I couldn't let him go to the thing by himself.  While he didn't mind going he wasn't particularly thrilled about going by himself and the idea of not going at all wasn't an option.

So I fixed my makeup, put on my dress and pearls and clung to his arm.

"What if it happens when we're there?" I asked.  "What if I lose it?"

"Then I'll carry you out," he said.

I felt like I was floating above myself all night.  I wouldn't make eye contact with anyone and I hid behind a table.  At least I tried to hide.  There were low chairs at the back of the room behind a high-top table.  I thought I could sit in the chair and no one would see me.  Which was almost true.  You couldn't see anything but my head.  That makes me laugh, now that the terror has passed.  In fact, the whole thing makes me laugh now.

But at the time, it was the worst moment of my life.

When we got home and I changed and slipped beneath the sheets I was completely drained.  And my heart hurt, like it had been pushed to its limit and was weaker for it.

There is a saying that I'm sure we've all heard, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."

In the case of anxiety, I don't believe this is true.  Nothing about that panic attack made me feel strong.  Or empowered.  I didn't even feel proud that I was able to pull it together and be there for the husband.  The only thing it made me feel is that I shouldn't have had to deal with it in the first place, that he shouldn't have to deal with it all.  I should be a "normal" wife who has "normal" reactions to going to things.

There is another saying, one my mother said to me often when I was growing up, that I believe to be true: "There is good in every situation."

In the case of my panic attack, the "good" was the husband and how he responded.  Although I suffer from anxiety, I still don't think that I would know how to respond or what to say or what not to say to someone in the throes of a panic attack.  Because while the symptoms may be similar our pain is our own.  So how in the world the husband knew how to handle my panic attack I will never know.  But I am grateful.

He did not tell me it would be okay.  He did not offer words meant to soothe but end up sounding hollow.  He was just there.  Kneeling beside me.  When I was finally able to see straight, there was neither judgment nor pity nor impatience in his eyes.  Just love.  And it was good.

I can only hope that when the day comes that he needs me, I will know exactly how to be there for him as he was for me.

Quote of the Day
Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.  
~Zora Neale Hurston

Word of the Day
inamorata: a woman whom one is in love with.

32 comments:

  1. aw, hon...you really are quite awesome you know.
    and that's a fine man you got there too. And you are stronger and braver than you think -- no way I would have been able to follow through on the evening - I cannot even imagine. *hugs*

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    1. It was certainly a weird evening, but I'm glad I can look back and somewhat laugh about it now. I must have looked like such a weirdo hiding behind the table!

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  2. I'm really sorry you have to deal with panic attacks. They're horrible.

    I'm sure you'll instinctively know how to be there for him when the time comes. I'm really glad you have him...and he has you.

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  3. He's a good man. He gets you. I'm sorry you have to deal with this, but so glad you have someone who is sensitive and supportive. I feel bad about all the crap my husband has to deal with too, but at the same time I'm SO thankful that he knows just how to be there for me. And then I think, why on earth do you stay? I'm a freak show!

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  4. I get panic attacks all of the time and have serious issues with anxiety and I totally have urges to run when they happen. Like, I feel like I could run for miles when in reality I'd make it a few blocks before dry heaving in someone's yard from being a fat ass. It's a crappy feeling and I wish it would go away.

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    1. Hahaha! That's what would happen to me too if I actually tried to run.

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  5. Your husband is a keeper, for sure. I'm glad he knew the right way to show support to you. xo

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  6. Wow! I once thought I was having an allergic reaction and went to the ER; turns out it was a panic attack. Awful feeling. I hope you're not feeling as drained as you were that night. Sounds like you have a great husband :)

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    1. Thankfully I haven't had a episode like that since that night. The anxiety lingers but it is manageable. Somewhat.

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  7. He sounds like a good man. It is hard for people who don't deal with those issues to understand and be patient.

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  8. I've never wanted to hug you more than I do right now, good thing I'm not your husband. I'm glad you found someone who knows just how to take good care of you

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  9. What a scary situation. I've never had a panic attack, but as I get older, I get tiny glimpses into a world ridden with anxiety. My mother had them and it was so scary to watch. I love the moments when we discover our husbands' strength. Always makes me feel like I chose well. :-) I am glad you survived the night and wish away your anxiety.

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    1. I'm glad I survived too! Hope all is good with you! :)

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  10. You're right, SC, your sweet husband is the good in that rotten situation. So is the strength of your own will. Even if you don't feel like you are strong...you ARE! Kudos to your husband for not giving you that dismissive look and saying, "What's the matter with you?". I always admire people who recognize a situation and simply act. No fuss, no muss, no judgement. Just do what needs to be done. Bravo, Mr. SC. That right there is the sort of thing that makes a girl swoon. :-)

    Hugs and support from AZ.

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    1. I think I'll send you each a pound of bacon. It'll make you feel better, and he'd like that better than flowers. :D

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  11. It sounds like you have a wonderful hubs. Ive had that same panic attack. I know its horrible. It's the worst feeling in the world..besides waxing. Praying for your peace and comfort, girl. A greatness will come from it all. Beauty for ashes.

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  12. He definitely is a wonderful man and I know that you will do the same for him if he is in need. What a great post. It's hard to show vulnerability, but it's so nice to know that we are not alone in our struggles. You, my dear, are terrific!

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  13. Ooh, girl, I know that feeling, and as jazzed as I was to see you mention my name at least two times in this post (Handflapping! squeeee!), I'm sorry it was in those circumstances. It's funny how almost everyone thinks my alias is related to autism, but it actually has more to do with anxiety, because like you, I flail around, hand flapping, trying to escape my own crawly skin when the panic takes over. It never makes sense; it probably never will, but at least we know we are not alone.

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  14. I don't have panic attacks (yet) but I hate going to things. I always think it's not gonna be any fun, I'll be bored or no one will talk to me. Or worse, they WILL talk to me and I'll have to be friendly. It's usually OK, but I always build it up.

    I would so love to give both you and the husband hugs!

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  15. This is amazing. You are so strong.

    I've been there. God, it's aweful, isn't it? Hubby takes care of me too. He doesn't freak out. He just helps.

    But last month when he was in a foreign hospitial and delirious, I got to be there for HIM. And I was close to freaking out - but I breathed, and I grounded myself, and I allowed myself careful releases. I managed.

    xo

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  16. I'm only just reading this now, so sorry for the late comment.

    I can't pretend to know what you go through, but that's a wonderful husband you have there. If more smart, funny people like you write posts like this, people like me might learn more about how to help.

    Hugs x

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  17. You've got an amazing husband, and I'm glad he was there for you.

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  18. Thank you for this post. You really do an amazing job at describing how awful panic attacks are. One thing that has helped me is to picture myself freaking out in public and then insert that scene into a comedy and then laugh at myself. Doesn't make it go away completely but lessens the intensity and duration. Example: I have panic attacks in cars. My other half says "well we can just pull over and you can run around the side of the road waving your arms like a crazy person." I start laughing and the panic goes away. :)

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