2 posts in 2 days? Phew, I am on a roll! I thought today that I would share an experience I had with anxiety and panic attacks– not to relive it but to help you or a loved one maybe try to grasp a little bit of what that hell feels like or what it does. I want you who are suffering to not feel like you’re crazy or that you’re the only one who has been through things like this and the only way to do that is to share my own journey. I want to say that I am not going to rationalize some of the thoughts I had, because I would be rationalizing my entire experience. My thoughts/feeling were at a time when I was sick and that is just the disclaimer I am sticking by.
I woke up at 7 am on my own, despite the fact that Evalyn was sleeping through the night like I had been praying for constantly and I could have been getting the sleep I so desperately needed. I lay in bed thinking “I should go back to sleep, I need more sleep, today will be miserable if I am tired, go back to sleep” but my body was awake. The more I told myself to relax and go back to sleep the more tense and anxious, until I was literally shaking in bed. At this point I had experienced a number of panic attacks and I knew what brought them on and I knew that shaking uncontrollably was one of the signs. So my mind began to whirl and I kept repeating “I am not going to have a panic attack, I am not going to have a panic attack” but the more I repeated it, the more terrified I became of having one (which is also called Agoraphobia– yes, it’s real) and the more I started shaking. I should add here that although I can’t remember, I probably hadn’t eaten in a few days in fear of throwing it up when I had anxiety attacks so I was probably also physically weak. At this point my stomach started to turn and I recognized the feeling of needing to throw up, but I was shaking so much that I couldn’t walk. I also didn’t want to wake Jesse, who was sleeping next to me so I crawled out of bed– literally and crawled to the bathroom, on my hands and knees. I made it to the bathroom before the full blown anxiety and panic hit and I started gagging, shaking, and hyperventilating. I lay in front of my toilet on the ground because I couldn’t get the strength to get up again. It was probably only about 2 minutes but it felt like 15. I had nothing in my stomach to come up so eventually the gagging stopped and I tried to stand up, but I was shaking too much to even make it to the bathroom door. I opened the bathroom door and managed to crawl on my hands and knees back to my side of the bed, but I didn’t have the strength to get back into bed so I just lay on the ground. Eventually Jesse woke up, saw me, and carried me to living room where I sat the morning trying to recover. Evalyn woke up, needed feeding and changing and morning went on all while I was shaking and anxious inside. Eventually it got to a point that Jesse was concerned enough to call his Mom over. (I am skipping things to take less time.) I remember sitting on the couch crying while my MIL hugged me and asking “why is this happening to me?” It didn’t seem to get any better and it hit a point where I just wanted relief, so Jesse and I went to the hospital. Yes, we went to the ER. I felt ridiculous but I also felt like it was my last resort. They admitted me and took my history and asked me a bunch of questions that I can’t remember and told me to wait for the mental health Doctor. Meanwhile I was still a mess: shaking, felt like I couldn’t breathe, emotional, scared, tired, exhausted. I told Jesse “maybe they should just knock me out or something, I don’t want to feel like this anymore!” Poor Jesse, I am sure it scared him. I remember a very kind nurse coming in to check on me and though I am never pushy, I told her that I felt like no one believed me– what I was going through, and that I was scared and that I just wanted help and I just wanted someone to believe me. She was very kind and held my hand and told me that they did believe me, they understood and they were working hard to get the Doctor down here to help me. It was the first time I felt like I might actually get some relief. Awhile later the Doctor came in and asked me questions, like if I had thought about hurting myself or my baby– which was shocking to me. No, I just wanted to feel normal! The Doctor gave me some medication that helped with anxiety and I was extremely nervous to take it; I have a lot of family history with alcoholism and though I had never suffered from it, any drugs of any kind scared me and I worried I might turn into some sort of junkie. But the Doctor assured me that wouldn’t happen and explained that while it could be addicting, that many patients used them for anxiety for a few weeks and were just fine. It helped calmed my already frazzled nerves and when the medication kicked in, I was actually able to get some rest and calm down. I felt horribly embarrassed for going to the ER over anxiety and panic attacks, but I thought I was going insane! I just desperately wanted to feel like myself again. I left with a prescription for anti-anxiety medication and had previously received a prescription for an anti-depressant.
I can honestly say that it was one of the worst experiences of my life, but at the same time humbling. My body was out of control and I couldn’t just snap out of it. I thought I needed to be admitted to a mental facility, in fact I remember saying that clearly. I knew what normal felt like for me and this was not normal. The decision to use medication of any kind is very personal and private, but I want to share the internal battle that I faced while making that decision… I didn’t want to take the easy way out, I didn’t want to just think that God couldn’t heal me, and I didn’t want to be sinning. In fact, many of my panic attacks and anxiety after this experience were based on the worry that I was somehow shaming or sinning against God because I was taking medication. This is was a hell for me and it was completely unnecessary! Mental health, just like physical health, sometimes requires us to put to use Doctors and medicine. I finally came to the realization that if someone broke their leg, they didn’t just pray to make it better– they also went to the Doctor to get it placed and put in a cast so that it could heal properly. The cast doesn’t do the healing; the bone does. It fuses back to itself, it regrows the necessary things it need to be a functional limb again. I finally knew what I needed to know for my recovery and healing process: the medication didn’t do the healing, the recovery, the work in my mind. All it did was help fuse and rebuild the physical part of my brain that needed medical help. By going to therapy, counseling, post-partum recovery groups, anxiety classes, and just discussing it openly I was doing the healing that I need in my mind.