Friday, November 13, 2009

They're Coming to Take Me Away...

...ha ha, they're coming to take me away, tee hee... Maybe it's time to talk about my insanity today!

I had the day all planned out. This weekend all four children will be at their other parent's homes so my sweetie and I have two whole days to spend together! So today was going to be my day to play computer games and do my laundry instead of doing them Saturday like I normally do. Then I got the call. One of the kiddos is sick. Poor guy has the barfy stomach bug that's been going around and on the way home I realized how differently we all handle the various feelings of pain and sickness.

One of my secrets I don't really mind sharing is I've got depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia. I only consider my illnesses secrets because it's not the kind of thing I advertise either. I work hard to appear normal but I suspect I'm only partially sucessful which is why people just don't usually like me. These can make life tougher sometimes but I accept them better because they are legitimate illnesses that I didn't ask for or want. If someone decides they have a problem with this aspect of me I can simply toss a number of doctor's diagnosis at them with a negligent shrug. It's real, it's not my fault, so oh well if someone doesn't like it.

From what I understand GAD and PD symptoms normally appear around adolescence. I clearly remember my first panic attack happening the very first day of Kindergarten. I was all freshly scrubbed up in my nice new dress, rather enjoying the bus ride, looking forward to the day. When the bus stopped I walked up the aisle, down the steps, and froze on the last step staring at this huge, unfamiliar building I was expected to enter. I was so scared my stomach clenched, I started sweating and shaking, and all I could say was "This isn't the right place!" The kids behind me and the bus driver were all getting impatient which only raised my anxiety levels to near hysteria. After that I must've reached a level of such overwhelming fear my memory just checked out to lunch because I don't remember anything after that.

That was only the first of many, many panic attacks. They only increased in frequency and severity over the years until I developed a reputation for being a hypochrondriac or maybe even a slacker faking illness to avoid things I didn't want. I've often tried to explain just how it feels in an effort to get others to understand. Each time I just ignored them, pretended not to notice the looks or whispers, but it broke my heart every time. I wanted to cry and scream at them in rage that I didn't WANT to feel this way! It's NOT my fault!

Picture yourself the last time you just barely missed some kind of car accident. Remember how that adrenaline burst felt? Your stomach clenched filling with a fluttery feeling, your breathing came faster, your heart pounded. At that moment you have a deep rooted terror of something indescribably horrible, DOOM, even if it doesn't express itself consciously. It's an unpleasant, uncomfortable feeling but you quickly realize that everything is ok and these feelings fade away. For me that's only the beginning and it can start at any time for no apparent reason at all.

Instead of a quick burst of adrenaline it feels more like someone turned the faucet on full and left it on! Usually it starts with a fluttery feeling in my stomach which jerks my mind away from anything else. I become hyper aware of every little sensation in my body analyzing if this was just a simple case of butterflies or the start of an attack but it's that suddenly diving into myself, withdrawing completely from any outside stimulus, repeatedly checking myself in fear that keeps the attack rolling. Next my stomach clenches harder, painfully, as I get a strange rushing feeling over the back of my shoulders and up the back of my neck. It feels like thousands of tiny bugs swarming over, their bites a sickening mixture of sting and ice. My heartbeat and breathing speed up and I shake. All of these feelings get more and more intense until I'm vomiting and lose control of my bowels. It does not stop until I use one of the tricks I've developed to fall asleep. When I wake up I'm a bit worn out feeling but otherwise just fine.

In hindsight I can see that as the illnesses progressed I slowly drifted further and further away from the world and others. I can't say for sure if the attacks caused the depression and social phobia or if the depression and social phobia are the cause of the panic attacks. It could be either. Finally, one day in my 20s, I mentioned these things to a doctor who was able to give me names to put to these problems. With a diagnosis came the long fight to recovery.

Finding out that there really is no cure for these problems and losing faith in doctors as medications, chats with psychologists, even self help books failed to make a difference I threw in the towel several times. "Woe oh woe, why me? What awful thing have I done to deserve this?" But somewhere along the way I had an amazing paradigm shift. I don't remember how or why but I came to realize some things.

1. Why NOT me? Am I more special than anyone else in this world that my life should be perfect, without struggle? Everyone has things they have to learn to deal with. These are mine.

2. I'm fascinated by people. Why do they do the things they do? Why do they think the way they do? What makes them tick? Who could understand better, get into people's heads, and maybe even care enough to help along the way than someone who's been through the hard times, pain, hoplessness, and suffering?

3. True, there's no cure for my illnesses but that doesn't mean that I can't learn how to control them, live with them, minimize the symptoms as much as possible to try to lead a normal life.

Those realizations really changed my life. I wasn't instantly all better, it still took quite a few years of work, but there was one wonderful year when I could look at myself and say "Wow I've come such a long way from where I was! I'm doing better now than I ever have been in my whole life!" I was proud, hopeful, and happy. This was when I met the man I later married. I was on my way to everything I'd ever wanted in life and it felt so great!

I almost wish my story ended there, on an "up note." Unfortunately that year of wonderful was followed right up with a year of hell so bad it made my toughest days look like a walk in the park. But I am happy to say that the panic attacks have at least remained under control! Even going through hell has got to be at least the tiniest bit better without the panic attacks than with them, right?


  1. Hi precious, I think I already know your secret, so I won't say anything in here. Btw, this comment has nothing to do with this post, 'cause I haven't read it yet, but I needed to tell you this as soon as possible. These are my biggest flaws: I'm too jealous & too possessive. I don't know how to share certain things, but I wish I did--my life would be happier and more complete. (Please e-mail me paganculture at gmail dot com). I know we don't know much about each other, but I can't recognize a good heart a mile away. And to even think that such heart would believe that I may be as narrow-minded as to keep someone amazing out of my life, just because we are a bit different from me, would break my spirit. I might a jealous-possessive, but I have lots of room in my HUGE silly heart to love and LEARN, don't you ever forget that my Wicked Darling.

    Much love!

  2. Oh Magaly, it sounds like I have some 'splaining to do! I don't think you're narrow-minded or that you toss people away because they're different! I've learned that you can be an honest friend to someone but not accept certain things in them. We have a friend like that! He's generally a great guy but when you put him in the game World of Warcraft he turns into someone that I don't like at all! I'll mail you right away ((((Magaly))))

  3. Wow, this was a really powerful post. You have really opened my eyes to what it must be like,and even though I'm sure I can never really get it, this is the closest I've come to understanding what a panic attack is. and i have a very important person in my life who gets them, so this helps me a lot. Thank you for sharing that.
    This will sound really trivial now, but i got a Superior Scribbler award and I am passing it along to you. You are a terrific writer. come by and pick it up!

  4. I am LOVING getting to know you. Each post reveals a little something more, and each inch that curtain moves over, the more I think I was right about you...

    You CAN be stronger than you think. ;)

    And you're also a spectacular writer! Those are harder to come by in the blog world than you'd think. Lol.

    It's horrible what trials you've faced in your life, but I'm glad to see that your beginning to move past the bad things, and are willing to focus on the good. Taking life as it comes is the only way to survive it, and you're doing a fabulous job. :D

    I'm curious say you like trying to figure out what "makes people tick." ...What do you see in me?

  5. Aw Dreamfarm Girl! Congrats on your oh so NOT trivial award! You did good, be proud! lol Thank you so much for mine!! And most important to me I can't tell you how much it touches me to hear that I may've helped you understand something about this illness for someone important in your life. The specific symptoms and what triggers an attack can vary wildly from one person to the next but they can always be devestating. One of the hardest parts of it is most people really don't understand because it can be tough to explain. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to tell someone only to get "oh yeah but everyone gets nervous sometimes!" ARGH! lol

    Carrie, what a sweet comment! Thank you :) I can be a roller coaster ride but I'm glad to know that you're enjoying the ride so far! lol I don't consider myself much of a writer, honestly. My mother was an English teacher so I'm all too aware of my many grammatical errors but I'd say that I'm content with my style, errors and all, in an informal setting like this personal blog. Only having read your blog for a short while and never having met you I wouldn't presume to say that I know anything about you! But my impressions so far are someone with a positive outlook, lots of love and kindness to offer, and who has so far done a wonderful job of rolling with the punches so that life's trials have made you stronger without becoming hard.

  6. Heeey! There's rules that come with this award? Didn't read the fine print again! Aw drat! lol Joking!!

    Today is the last day of our kid free weekend but hubs is napping so I'll do what I can knock out before he wakes up then devote tomorrow to finishing up. Hope that isn't breaking any of the rules ;)