Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Panic, The Panic

Spurred largely by Dooce's entry for today (I don't know Heather, but golly, I just want to hold her in my lap and rock her right now. We are so different, yet have so very much in common...isn't that just the point about, oh...humanity in general?), I feel like I finally want to talk about The Panic. Many of you who know me will be surprised, 'cuz while I'm a bad liar, I'm a good faker. But now that I mention it, how many of you have seen me outside of my own home in the last 3 or 4 months? Thought so.

OK, so here's how it started. My dad died. I'm amazed at the number of people who can say those words without bursting into tears. I can't. It happened last September. I will not even begin to attempt to express what my father means to me, and how devastatingly different my life is without him. Another time, I will, but not now. Shortly after his death, we discovered we were pregnant, and there was a little bittersweet happiness going on. Then, in December, a miscarriage.

Well, I was depressed. I knew I was depressed, my whole family knew it, my husband especially knew it. Mom and Andrea (sister) were going through much the same thing, and had already had the brains to get help, and medication, and were doing better (take that, Tom Cruise, you grade-A mo-ron). Me, I was thinking, "Well, this is a situational depression, and as such, will just get better on its own." I knew better, but there ya go. So I got worse, and retreated more and more into myself. Things suffered. About the only thing that didn't suffer was Bella, who became the focus of my life (no pressure, there, kid, you're just what Mommy is living for). I kept her happy, and that kept getting me up the next day. Just not out of the house. Or bothering to bathe regularly. And by this point, the anxiety was creeping in. Kind of a generalized anxiety, nothing rational, just a very real feeling that I might possibly die soon, which would come and then pass, the passing part usually if I could get hold of Alex. He has a very calming physical presence, he does.

Finally, I told my doctor, a ridiculously kind and gentle fellow, and he said (I paraphrase), "Here's a prescription; take some medicine, you idiot." So I did. It was a common anti-depressant, been around a long time. However, one of the unfortunate side effects for 12-16% of people who take it (of whom I am apparently one), is the occurence of panic attacks. Big 'uns. The first time this happened to me, Bella and I were in Wal-Mart (don't start with me, it's really unavoidable where I live--nowhere else carries the organic Jumpincow that Bella likes, or much of anything else). Right there, among the cotton-balls, I got freakishly hot, began to sweat copiously from every pore in my body, my heart pounded, my nose ran uncontrollably, and I suddenly knew with a certainty that if I could not be in my house lying down that I was going to die IN THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES. And let me tell you about The Panic: The whole time this is going on, you're thinking, "This is just so stew-pid. I am NOT dying. I am in Wal-Mart holding cotton balls." And yet, there it is, just so real-feeling.

After this happened a few more times--twice more at Wallyworld, twice at Kroger, and a couple times at work and various other places, I decided this particular anti-depressant was maybe not for me. My sweet GP gave me a referral to a good psychiatrist, the same one who has been so wonderful for Alex (that's right, it's a family affair now). He changed the medication to one that seems much better (though as Heather says, we'll let you know if it's REALLY gonna help you in a couple months), and also gave me something to help deal with the panic attacks when they happen, and something to help me sleep. Can you say "drugged to the gills?" But it's getting better. Truly it is. I can feel my sleep patterns finally normalizing (notice distinct lack of blog posts after 3:00 A.M.), and I've been to the office a little--not enough to actually be helpful to anyone yet, I don't think, but it's coming. It's coming. And I feel more a part of the world. So, again, UP YOURS, Tom Cruise.

BUT--and here's the tricky part now...apparently, when you first have a major panic attack, your brain kind of locks the experience in, to such an extent that even when you're not so much prone to The Panic, it can be triggered by being in the same environment you were in when it first happened. Like...Wal-Mart. We're dealing with this, as my husband says, with baby steps. I kid him a lot here, but the God's honest truth is, he is terribly wise in many ways, my husband. I am lucky to have him beside me. He knows the roads I'm on now, and is helping me to navigate them much more surefootedly than I would have been able to do on my own.

Oh, and Heather? Thank you, from someone you don't know from Adam, for helping me see that you can be a little nuts and still extract humor and joy from life...and that some days you just have to squeeze a little harder. And that blogging FEELS GOOD. Who knew?

Mom has already been able to discontinue her AD medication, and is doing well. We all still miss Dad incredibly, and that would just drive him nuts--especially the crying. Me, I'm improving day by day, and am living only slightly in fear of this guy:


  1. i understand as well my dear. i have all sorts of different things i am medicated for (so i feels), but the first thing was panic disorder. it was horrible horrible. i am very sympathetic. the anxiety and depression go hand in hand for me it seems. there was one medication that made me feel very anxious and gave me a couple of panic attacks as well. always good to read that people go on and things get better and we still struggle.

  2. Thank you for that, Jen. I have another psych. appointment in a couple of days, and I'm writing down all the things I want to investigate with him. I'm even wondering about a possible hormone link, because about the time all this started, I did stop nursing. And I gots me some cuh-RA-zee hormones to begin with. I've been very encouraged by all the people who have spoken up and said I wasn't alone.