February 25, 2009

Panic Attacks

Wow, today has been a struggle.

Have any of you (as in my readers) experienced panic/anxiety attacks? They are very hard to describe and for someone who hasn't experienced it, they may downplay it a lot. Attacks of this kind can be very scary- my husband thought he was having a heart attack once and rode in an ambulance to the hospital. There wasn't anything major wrong with him though, it was a combination of acid reflux, which mimicked the heart thing, and a panic attack. He had never really experienced anything like that before.

I dealt with it a little when I was in 8th grade. I was watching a semi-scary movie at the movie theater and I just suddenly got very afraid, with a deep sinking feeling inside. I couldn't really describe it. The next day it was still there. And the next. And so on. I would wake up at night freaked out by 'something' and go to my mom. Finally, she told me that I was going to have to figure this out myself, because by relying on her I wasn't going to get over it. So, I left my fish tank light on at night, and if I woke up I would watch my graceful angelfish and pray till I fell asleep.

After 9-10 months, it lifted. I grew a lot in my relationship with the Lord at this point, because He got me through. I read my Bible and prayed everyday, soaking it in. At times it would get better, then I would realize I was better and start thinking about it again, and be back in the same boat for awhile. But then, I never experienced anything else like it again until one night on our honeymoon, I just got really scared for no real reason. That didn't last at all. But, after I had Alexa, my second one, I began having them in conjunction with IBS attacks. (irritable bowel syndrome) I was mostly just paranoid about having one, and then in the middle of it I would panic.

After I got that pretty much healed up, my husband started having some problems, and then I started having them again just before Sarah was born. I wasn't sleeping well and was just ready to have the baby. Afterwards I was in bad shape for awhile. I panicked about the kids catching the stomach flu and then maybe I would get it. Every time my stomach bothered me a little, or the kids woke up at night, I was so fearful that 'this was it'. I had some serious attacks too. Just about every night my stomach was upset. (duh, all the nerves!) I generally only had problems at night anyways.

So, I have battled this since then. Recently, I really seemed to have gotten over it. Used to, just talking about it or reading about someone else getting it just ruined the day. I just couldn't. I would watch TV and wonder if the characters on the shows ever got sick or worried about it. I would wonder if other people ever had stomach issues and how it affected them. I became fanatical about healthy eating etc., not take the kids to public places, be worried about taking trips etc, because 'what if we got sick?' What a fear driven life, and I'm a Christian!!

So then, I did get sick. Twice. It kind of messed me up a little thinking, what does it matter what I do? Am I doomed to always deal with this? Slowly, fear began to build up again. Then I've immersed myself in all this birth stuff, and it just really fueled the fear already building. I was still uncertain and maybe a bit worried about it last night, dreamed it, then woke up this morning with a lot of rumblings in my stomach and gas and a little diarrhea. Uh oh, I think, what's up? Am I sick again??? Of course, that starts the ball rolling.

I prayed and my husband prayed. I ate a little and took some St. John's Wort. Finally, I just couldn't bring myself to leave the house with the girls to buy the diapers I forgot and called my mom. She also went through the same things as me at the same time, and some before. I talked to her about it and she helped me a lot. I was able to feel normal again, and move on. I was able to eat too :) But, I had someone get me the diapers.

The rest of the day has been fine, because I had visitors, but then when I'm alone again with my thoughts, it can still be hard. The only way to fight thoughts is with your mouth. You just can't fight them with thoughts. Your head needs to hear what your mouth is saying to change. So typed up several scriptures and printed them off, then put them in places where I could see them easily. While preparing food I read aloud what the Bible says about fear and healing. Over time this will build faith and cause me to memorize them.

What is a panic attack? Well, it's the feelings you get from a perceived situation. Like, I wake up with the physical bad feelings, since I'm already afraid of illness, I get worried and think, I hope this isn't anything bad. Then my brain starts rolling with what if I do get sick again, what does that mean? Why? What's wrong with me? I don't feel hungry, but I don't feel sick, but I don't feel good. And so on. Eventually, I get all worked up and feel a rushing force within me full of fear- I usually have diarrhea at this point, my husband gets the chest pain- I get hot and cold and sometimes sweaty; I feel lightheaded and faint, like I can't breathe. I feel fear mostly and try to breathe through it because I know it does pass.

Crazy huh? Just by being controlled by fear, and allowing my thoughts to run loose, my body will react physically. But, if I can confess the truth with my mouth, my mind and body will listen, and if I stay focused, they will obey. It may not happen instantly, but I have had it happen that fast before. It's hard to stay calm and rational though.

So, I mainly wrote this out because I'm curious if others experience it and how they deal with it. Let me know.


Shannon said...

I too suffer from panic attacks. I usually just breath through them, but last year in April, it was really rough. I went to a doctor who presribed anti-anxiety medication--waaayy to high of dosage. The medication intensified all of my symptoms and I had every side effect under the sun.

I switched doctors and my new doctor told me that I was in the driver's seat. If I wanted to be medicated so be it, If I didn't, he would support me in that too.

I felt at that at that point, I wanted to be on the smallest dosage possible. I still have a few small moments of panic, but it is not nearly as bad as last year.

May God watch over you and your family as you go through your daily life.


ccsmomma said...

I have suffered both with panic attacks and fear in general. For example, I used to be terrified to death and fainting of mice. If I saw a mouse even on tv it would trigger a panic attack. At the hight of my panic/fear of mice I passed out because my husband found a dead mouse in our camper (that I happened to be in at the moment.) Everyone else thought it was funny that I began to cry, couldn't breath, and blacked out briefly. I didn't.

What finally happened is that I realized fear is not of God. Therefore it was straight from the pit of hell. I prayed and asked the Lord to help me. Then I began rebuking the spirit of fear. Now I'm still not a rodent lover, but I can see them without totally melting down. For me, treating it as a spiritual battle was the way to help me deal.

Anytime I begin to be in fear (about anything) the Holy Spirit, who is faithful and true brings to my remembrance that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but He has given unto us a spirit of love, power and a sound mind." (1Tim.2:7)
Each battle with fear gets easy to defeat.

St. Johns it something too, that has just become part of my daily routine. Also there is something my mom takes called Rescue Remedy. It's made from flowers.

Hope you feel better.

ElleBee said...

I've struggled with panic attacks in the past. About six months ago, when things were really bad, my Christian therapist asked me what would happen if, rather than struggling and praying for the panic attack to end, I just let it happen? I never really considered that as an option until that point. It took him talking me through a couple of whoppers before I realized that I could do that. Instead of praying to God for it to end, I would just try to release control and let go, let Him take control. I no longer need my meds and haven't had a panic attack in quite a while, but at least I know what to do if one occurs. Hang in there!

liz from new york said...

my girlfriend had them so severely thst she wouldnt leave the house, stayed in for a whole year..literally! I must admit, I really finally DRAGGED her bodily out of the house, anf made her go into a small neighborhood store to buy a newspaper,and once she broke the cycle, she started to come around, my husband also has had them in resopnse to PTSD, due to being in the WTC rescue and recovery effort. It's scary, and VERY real to the person it's happening to.

Renée said...

Hi Jessica,
I definitely feel your pain, or rather your panic. I have had panic attacks since I was 16. Mine began when I was diagnosed with epilepsy, specifically syncope-seizures that followed a sharp pain. Since then I panic when I hurt myself, or need to go to the doctor, or dentist. I am so fearful of having a seizure. I turn pale, sweat, my pupils dilate, I become incredibly aggressive, and I feel like I can't breathe (as though my throat is constricting). My mind whirls, and I can't focus on anything except that I might be dying. I began to suffer from them more frequently, for example when I was stressed and sometimes for something as silly as eating a new food and being fearful I will go into anaphylactic shock! I breathe slowly, and pray, and drink water. That is all I can really do. My husband knows it is best to just let me be and not to tell me everything is fine. I am not on medication, but I haven't had one in a year or so. They are so frustrating, and people simply don't understand if they have never experienced them. Hope you are feeling better! :)

suzie said...

Ann, I really enjoy reading your blog. I have rarely posted a response though. I think you are on the right track with posting scriptures and meditating on God's Word. Are you a music person? I really am and I usually have hymns playing in my house. I don't think I have ever had a panic attack however, I know they are very real and empathize with you greatly. My challenges have come the other way, with depression. We also have parted with our cable TV in the last year and this has helped me tremendously. Praying for you, Suzie E.

Beth said...

I too am a sufferer of panic/anxiety attacks. Last summer I had diareha for 2 months straight. I had gotten to the point where I couldn't attend church because the mere thought of going sent me into an attack. My dr. prescribed a medication to me that I hated..it made me cry all the time and I couldn't feel my legs. Needless to say I stopped taking it but did keep taking another med that was prescribed to me..it's called Buspar and I can take it anytime that I feel a stress overload coming on. It just helps take the edge off a bit. I'm getting better with it and have found that if I change my breathing it helps me out greatly (deep breaths..in with my nose, push out slowly with my mouth). Right now I'm reviewing a book called "This is your brain on joy" and it's giving me some good ideas that I may try out to see how it goes.
Hang in there, it does get better. ☺