My name is Amanda and I have panic attacks. Phew, that was a relief to say out loud, although to be honest, I didn’t say anything out loud, I wrote it silently, and my name is not Amanda, but I swear the rest is all true.
I have panic attacks, and I hate them. I hate absolutely everything about them. FYI – I have never actually spoken to a doctor about them (see about ten paragraphs down), so I just googled the term panic attack and can say with some certainty that what I have may or may not be actual panic attacks. Basically, I panic suddenly and for no obvious, external reason; I become paralyzed with fear, or sorrow, or stress, my heart races, my chest tightens and I have difficulty breathing. They don’t usually last long and when they go away, I am left with an uncomfortable alertness, which I think is a fear of my own thoughts, terrified that I may feel that panic again.
My very first panic attack was in my late teens or early 20s, I was old enough to drive, I remember that much and I was home alone at my moms house. I heard the front door handle rattle and became paralyzed with fear (note, it was someone leaving a flyer for who knows what and my life was in no way in any kind of danger). It was so overwhelming that although my car sat outside, and my keys were a few feet away, I called my dad to come pick me up. In the ten minutes it took him to get there, I was calmed down, but still unable to leave the house on my own. It was both humiliating and funny at the same time, the sane part of brain realized how ridiculous it was, while the saner part was desperately trying to understand what had just happened.
I had my second attack in Paris nearly ten years ago. We were lined up to take the elevator up the Eiffel Tower. It was a beautiful June evening, and someone suggested that we should take the stairs instead. Other than my overwhelming laziness, I saw no issue with this. I never likedheights, but I wouldn’t have said at that point that I had a fear of heights (in case it wasn’t perfectly clear, I now have a borderline debilitating fear of heights; the balcony in our old apartment on the tenth floor became off limits for me, especially if there was wind – have fun trying to find the logic in that).
I don’t remember how far up we were on the iron stairs ( I had to google that too, I knew it was metal, but couldn’t remember what the tower was made of precisely), but at some point I looked down. I became completely frozen, it was like my legs were dead weight, I suddenly gripped the railing as if I were falling, my heart raced and I wanted to cry. It was a hard moment for me because showing such vulnerability and weakness in front of people I didn’t know that well was unnatural for me and painful in itself on top of the insane and sudden fear that came over me.
The next major life altering one came about five years ago when we were skiing. Since then, no more skiing, Hubby is quite disappointed by that, but he is grateful that Crazy is now four so the skiing amongst men can begin.
Most often, I have them in the evenings, in particular when Hubby is out. Although tonight he was here and we were discussing what would happen with the kids if we both passed away at the same time – a morbid, but necessary conversation. This threw me into a full-on panic, and I desperately wanted to go cuddle with my children (these being the children that had just fallen asleep after an hour long bedtime battle). It still aches now 20 or so minutes later, but I know it will be a lot more painful tomorrow morning if I wake the little devils up. So here I sit, uncomfortably alert, a dull pain in my stomach and hating these stupid whatever they are.
So why haven’t I spoken to a doctor? This is where things really get fun, this is a new phobia brought on by a panic attack with one of the three crappy ass doctors I spoke to about depression since moving to this neck of the woods. The first two told me to essentially “suck it up and quit being a wimp”, and the third one told me to “go for a run”. While I do understand that physical fitness is important, and the endorphins released while jogging can be beneficial, it was clear none of these doctors were taking my requests for help terribly seriously. The biggest slap in the face for me was they were all women, and their blatant rejection of what I was trying to express made me feel inadequate as a woman.
So, yup, you guessed it, from each and every public attack, I have gratefully developed a new phobia. Luckily the ones I have in the privacy of my own home – when I have no witnesses – just turn into insomnia, because I am sure exhaustion will definitely help me get all of this under control. One day, I do hope to overcome my fear of healthcare professionals and seek advice on this, but for now, internet ranting is my best therapy.
PS. For any one in my inner circle, if you start treating me like I am about to snap, I just might.