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Panic at the… Pier One?

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“It’s happening again, I don’t know. I just don’t feel right. I think I’m about to pass out. We need to go.” “…Have a nice day!” said the lady behind the counter as we hurried outside. I turned around and mustered up the best smile I could. “Thanks, you too.” My skin was fuzzy and clammy. There was a buzzing in my ears and a pressure on my chest from my racing heart.  I sat down in the car. In my head, I knew that these were all of the panic attack symptoms that I’ve suffered several times in the past but 10 times worse, and 3 times in a row. It’s never happened 3 times in a row. Never. It was getting worse, that was weird too. “Usually it goes away by now.” It was about this point where I was really, actually beginning to panic (obviously not helping the situation). Looking back now, it was definitely that “sense of impending doom” that comes with the really rough panic attacks. It literally makes me feel and truly believe with all of my heart that I am about to die. That’s a strange feeling to have. It’s tough to explain or even understand if you’ve never experienced it before. The best way that I can explain it is that you’re standing on a railroad and there is a train an inch away from hitting you. In that moment you know that in the next second, you will be dead. I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s exactly how these darn episodes make me feel.

We walked into the ER. “Ugh, I don’t want to do this again… but I also don’t want to die,” I thought to myself. They took me for an EKG and took 7 viles of blood. Eventually, they put me in one of the rooms in the ER. The doctor walked in, “Well, your blood looks good but there’s one thing that’s a little off.” He threw out some doctor lingo but the phrase that resonated was, “possibly a blood clot in your lung.” It was weird… that I felt kind of relieved. I was glad that I had decided to go to the hospital because if there is a blood clot in my lung I sure as hell want to know about it. Those things can kill you in an instant. I was really hoping they’d tell me it was just a panic attack and that everything looked fine. “We’re gonna get you hooked up to an IV, get some contrast in you and take you for a CT scan.” Okay… “Well, this is a day of firsts for me,” I thought.

“The CT scan looks clear, there’s no sign of a blood clot.” I think I let out the biggest sigh of relief of my life. I felt pretty crappy for wasting everyone’s Sunday. They chalked it up to a panic attack, just as I had suspected. My relief quickly dissipated. “I’m extremely grateful that I don’t have anything going on in my lungs but it’s really frustrating not knowing why I get these attacks.” They’re SO random! They finally let us leave around 8pm.

So I don’t have any blood clots in my lungs, but I do suffer from panic (sometimes severe) disorder. I don’t want to take medications for it. Usually they come with way worse side effects than they’re prescribed to help with in the first place. So how do I manage it?

panicIn my experience, walking outside usually helps. It helps to be in a wide open space with fresh air. Take big, deep breaths. I’ve also learned to sit down immediately, or stay sitting down. The worst thing to do is stand up. It’s a pretty common reaction considering fight or flight kicks in. I’ve tried the paper bag trick, it’s not so much the avoidance of hyperventilating that helps me but focusing on the bag inflating and deflating. If I can find something to focus on, it usually will subside faster. I hate being alone when it happens. I also have a hard time being alone for the first couple days after it because I don’t know if it’s going to happen again. Plus the more I think about it happening, the more likely it is to occur. One of the best coping mechanisms is to STAY BUSY. If I’m not thinking about it, it’s way less likely to happen. Although it has happened while I was busy before.

Some people have asked me why I’m “panicking” while I’m at the store or when I’m washing the dishes. It doesn’t have to happen in a “scary situation”. In fact, it’s never happened when I’m scared or feeling nervous. It usually comes out of nowhere and it can happen at literally any time. Last Sunday, I was in Pier One with my mom when it hit me. We were having fun! I wasn’t the least bit anxious about anything! It’s more of a physical reaction than a mental or emotional one. It’s an awful feeling that I don’t wish on anyone. This past week was good though, no further issues. Hopefully it will be a long, long time before it happens again.

One person asked me if I’m stressing about all of the wedding stuff. Well, no, I’ve actually been having a blast with all of the wedding stuff. On a happier side note, We did our wedding registry the day before this whole mess. Mike and I brought my mom and his mom with us so that they could guide us on what we need. We both still live at home, trying to save as much money as we can, so we literally need everything when we move out in September. We went to Macy’s and Crate and Barrel. It was so much fun! Apparently I’m a mix between rustic farmhouse and Industrial. I’ve been thinking I probably should have done Bed Bath & Beyond instead. I was in there on Friday with my mom and they had SO many more appliances than Macy’s. I don’t know, maybe I’ll we’ll register there, too… Just don’t tell Mike 😉

Well, that’s what went on in my life last week! I considered not writing about this because I was worried that thinking too much about the details would throw me into another one. I decided to write about it anyway just in case it might help someone. My advice? Best thing to do if you think you’re having a panic attack, BREATHE and DO NOT PANIC. 

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Have you ever had a panic attack? If so, what were you doing and how did you handle it? Do you have any special things you do to get it to pass?

How about the wedding registry, where did you register for your wedding? Where would you register? Let me know in the comments below!

Until Next time…

panic

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I'm a 26 year old NASM certified personal trainer with a corrective exercise specialization! My love for fitness and nutrition blossomed several years ago. It has changed my life. Now it's my mission to help and encourage all of you through my blog as well! Feel free to contact me!

3 Comments

  1. Dave

    April 19, 2016 at 6:41 am

    Great post Erin, I think writing about it was a good idea…maybe it’s a good outlet. My panic attacks will start when you move out 🙂

  2. Nancy Hallo

    April 19, 2016 at 9:15 am

    nice piece, Erin…. I agree with your dad… good therapy exercise to “put it out there”. Interestingly, I completely understand as I suffered in my early 20’s with agoraphobia. My husband at the time was very understanding of my situations and encouraged my fighting through the “events” by my asking “what is the WORST that can happen?”…..this too shall most likely pass.. I enjoy your blog!
    Nancy Hallo

  3. Carol Matson

    May 7, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Love reading your blogs,(if im using that term correctly—being technology challenged) You give me and other readers I’m sure– alot of food for thought. Very creative and thought provoking journalism Erin.

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