A Taste of Insanity: My Life With a Panic Disorder
I’ve never been one to be very outspoken about my personal battles.
I like to keep public conversations and posts for the most part silly and light hearted. Speaking fluent nonsense and whatnot…
However, I believe it is time for me to open up and share a bit about my life long struggles with a severe panic disorder, Agoraphobia, and social anxiety issues. This is my curse that has at times crippled me, and my blessing as part of what makes me, well, me; flakey, offbeat, and eccentric.
My hope is to spread awareness.
I want other people to know they aren’t alone. the feeling is very real and can even become physical (dizziness, heart palpitations difficulty breathing, etc) I am hoping by sharing my experience and struggles as well as those of others i can help reach out a bit and give everyone a place where they can share how they feel and ways that help them cope.
The sad truth is many people don’t understand the hell this can be.
The Average person may in fact experience a panic attack once or twice in the lives brought on by some sort of emotionally traumatizing event or extreme circumstance. The issue is they may become under the misconception that people with panic and anxiety disorders can just “shake it” like they did. That someone with a disorder is just being weak willed, exaggerating, or looking for attention. The difference is in a person with an anxiety or panic disorder there doesn’t necessarily have to be an event or situation that moment to trigger a panic attack or heightened emotional response. It’s an attack of intense fear that something bad will happen. For me this feeling frequently rises when I am to deal with a social situation (especially a new one).
I’ve been dealing with anxiety since the moment I entered elementary school. Being diagnosed and re-diagnosed, crisis after crisis, throughout my teens and young adult life. It was an issue I denied most my life and self medicated. However, when my life and career began coming together and my panic attacks became increasingly severe I decided it was time to take this bull by the horns and learn to ride and cope with it rather than brushing it under a rug (it’s hard to hide a bull under a rug!)
THE TALE OF WHY I AVOID CONVENTIONS
As an example. I’m attending a major comic convention! hoorah!!! I’ve been excited about it for months! I’m in my hotel room and put on the costume I worked weeks on (it looks epic!! ) Without warning my mind starts racing both good and bad thoughts
“what will people think, who might I meet or see, what i should say, what other people could say, did i forgot to pack anything (i check at least 5 times for my i.d. makeup, con badge, and of course it is all there… each time i check.) What if i loose something? What if i get featured on a major news site? that would be awesome.. unless they have bad things to say, What if the convention center gets bombed, what if it catches on fire… would i help other people get out (I could be a hero!), what if i died in it? what if no one notices me? what if i draw the wrong kind of attention? what if everyone laughs at me behind my back? what if I am part of a big joke?”
I swallow hard I know these thoughts are insane and still feel relatively “ok” and excited for the convention so I pull myself back together and start to put my makeup on. Through the process my thoughts continue to race and I begin to come a bit nervous and agitated. I begin shaking, sweating, dropping things/ and knocking them over. I start obsessing over small details and how they might matter.
My makeup is almost done, and I look great. I tell myself I am being ridicules and to relax. I get my bag together and get ready to go to the convention. I know I was super excited and this was something i wanted to do, but i can’t help but feel at the same time, that I don’t want to go, after playing hundreds of scenarios in my head as I was getting ready, I don’t want to go anymore. I calm myself, drink some water, and sit for a moment trying to clear my mind. I logically know nothing is wrong, This is a fun event I wanted to go to, but the feeling won’t go away.
I get ready to go out the door for the convention when suddenly My throat begins to feel tight and it’s starting to become hard to breathe. I’m not actively crying, but my eyes are watering. My body turns white, and I am covered in goosebumps. My chest hurts, my fingers and arm begin to tingle and go numb, I get very scared. I feel like I can’t breathe, I go to my knees as I gasp for air and begin to panic. An ambulance is called I go to the E.R. my vitals are monitored I am given a breathing treatment and get administered Lorezapam through an iv and am sent home in a matter of hours. I feel exhausted and stupid. I don’t go to the convention I was so excited for… I go home instead. This in itself can be frustrating and rather depressing.
This is an example of a bad day for me. before I sought professional treatment again These days where more common then I’d like to admit to. The first half of the scenario ( the racing thoughts, shaking, difficulty breathing, sweats, etc) still happens to me quite frequently. My mind plays tricks on me and literally gives me the creeps. I have some measures and doctor prescribed emergency medication to go through now at home first to help alleviate the anxiety and not end up in the E.R. due to a panic attack. It can be paralyzing. I’m scared to go places and do things sometimes just due to the fear of having a panic attack itself. As they are horrific, terrifying, and I don’t want to draw attention to the issue… I don’t want to be “that girl”.
MY STRUGGLES IN THE CITY
Another Personal Hell of mine is when I do make it out to a social situation. I live in LA, it’s crowded here, and I am nearly every day forced to deal with people. I have good days and bad days. on a good day I am uber friendly prancing around with a skip in my step and a song in my heart(lalalal!). That can all quickly turn bad. Sometimes completely without warning my tone can switch. My thoughts begin to race and I become extremely anxious of and terrified about what others are thinking or may do around me. I pray that no one will talk to me. I feel like everyone is looking at me. I put my headphones on refuse to make eye contact and look down at the ground and I wish above all else that I could just be invisible. I’ve even had once or twice where someone has been obnoxious on the streets of hollywood and started following me to try to start talking to me even though i am ignoring them. In one instance a man was passing out his demo cds, i said no i wouldnt take one and to leave me alone. he continued to follow me and ask me questions. basic questions like “girl whats your name, where you from, why you walkn’ away” anyone would have found him obnoxious but with my nerves already on edge i found it unbearable. as I ignored him and continued to walk he stepped in front of me in my way and and reach as if to place his hand on my shoulder t0 stop me from walking for a second. I instinctively punched him in the face and ran away. Was this man obnoxious and crossing a line for most people, i feel so. Was my response right… probably not.
On a bad day, I won’t leave the house. I begin to get unexplainably anxious and feel panicked even just hearing the noises of the city and people outside my window. I won’t answer the door if someone knocks, phone calls, and i won’t let people come over. It’s silly when i think about it. I am able to joke about it and make light of the issue. The truth is it’s tough to cope! It’s tough to get around all of the thoughts and feelings and to get to the store, to work, to live!
I do have days to where I am absolutely fine. But part of the Fear is the Fear itself. You become afraid of actually having a panic attack and start obsessing about that mentally! ahhh!!! there’s no end to the madness!
Up until late last summer i used alcohol to help cope and get me past the feelings of panic. I know substance abuse is rather common among sufferers of panic disorders. You might have seen me in the past stumbling around a convention or two the previous year. As of Fall 2012 I completely ceased drinking any form of alcoholic beverage. Drinking was a crutch and not a very good one. I am proud to say I remain sober today even in high anxiety situations.
I used to be even worse. Hiding away in my apartment alone for days at a time refusing to see anyone. What has changed since then is I have someone who i can talk to and who i really feel zero anxiety around. there’s him and then there’s everyone else. this one support has helped me immensely to be able to function as a person. Another odd thing I have no issues working and functioning online. I can chat via text to thousand of people and interact through the social networks and feel 0 anxiety towards it though I feel and understand everyone is real. The anxiety however returns when I am dealing with a voice like in skype and I have trouble playing multiplayer games online openly or on XBOX live or on PS network.. no issues playing with another person if they are in the room though.
To those who have never dealt with a panic disorder I may sound insane… well good for you, this post isnt’ for you. This post is for others who have suffered and continue to suffer from similar issues. You aren’t alone! This has been a lifelong battle for me, and nobody has known about it until I said something just now. So yes, you can still live a normal life. It can be tough, but take it moment by moment don’t get discouraged if you start to feel anxious or have a bad day.
A light at the end of the Tunnel
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is proven to be effective to help treat anxiety.
I know a lot of people will knock medication, but sometimes Panic disorders can literally take over your life and make it impossible to function. Sometimes small dose Anti-anxiety medication can really help turn a coming on panic attack into a something you can manage. That’s up to you and your doctor. Eating healthy can help, as well as regular exercise, relaxation techniques, yoga, and sleep.
Want to share your story or advice? CONTACT ME!