It’s been almost 8 months since I had the panic attack that flipped my world upside down. I’ve never spoken in depth about this, but I saw a quote (on pinterest, duh) and it sparked something in me and got me thinking about it, and got me wanting to dive into all the scary details.
Let me just start by saying I feel silly saying a panic attack “flipped my world upside down” because I know it’s something many people experience over and over, every day, no matter what kind of environment they’re in – which isn’t the case for me, I’m very lucky. But it’s sort of the same as telling people they shouldn’t be sad because things could be worse. Even though I know it’s meant to help people look on the bright side, I also feel like it sort of forces people not to validate their feelings because “it’s not that bad.” So with that, the panic attack I experienced 8 months ago “flipped my world upside down.”
I’ve talked about this a few times, but never to this extent and given recent events, (I skipped a family trip because of this) I feel like addressing it. I’ve been told a hundred time that what I experienced was a direct result of a combination of exhaustion (I was hiking in the mountains), hunger (I hadn’t had much breakfast or anything for lunch), and the fact that I had been weening myself off of prednisone and didn’t take any at all that day. Knowing that prednisone is out of my system, I’m not hungry, and I’m not doing any strenuous work all at once, I would be fine, right? Unfortunately, that’s not how it’s been.
I don’t like thinking about this, talking about this, or giving it any of my attention in general. But the truth is, it’s just another new things I’ve developed in my ever changing life and I need to learn to handle it, cope with it, and learn how to manage it like any other illness.
I think it strikes me differently than when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease because with it, there is something off in my brain and I feel I should be able to control that. I can’t help what my intestines are plagued with, but my mind is me. It’s everything I am, was, will be, it’s the center of my entirety. I can tell it to be sad, happy, tired, relaxed, etc. So why is this controlling me instead? The idea that my mind and body are capable of such horrific emotion and feeling is what puts me in such a bad place. Like my brain is more than I ever knew it was. It’s capable of more. It’s capable of things I can’t control. It can make me physically ill without me trying. It can send me into a panic and send me spiraling into this never ending hell for no logical reason. I’m being repetitive but I just can’t completely comprehend it. Knowing I can do this terrifies me. I think back to how I was and felt before this happened and I’m jealous. I wish I could still be that person, but I can’t. I wish I could be adventurous and do things on a whim like I used to be without constantly looking for a way out “just in case”, or worrying about how long I’m going to be stuck in a car, or on a train, or in a plane, without being able to leave. Without counting down the seconds until I get be home. To just be myself and do what pleases me in peace and with happiness instead of worry. Without knowing that at any moment, my brain could send me into a spazzing terror. But it’s like.. now that I do know I am susceptible to such occurrences, I can’t do anything without that fear in the back of my head.
It absolutely kills my spirit. I loved exploring and travelling and seeing things and places I’d never seen before. There were day I couldn’t even focus on work because all I could do was think about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. I got butterflies in my stomach and knots in my throat at just the thought of the places I wanted to see. Like, emotional over how badly I needed to roam because I felt stuck. I’d spend hours in other countries (via Google Earth, lol) planning dream trips and volunteer expeditions. I have a notebook full of trips I’ve planned for “eventually”. I took every opportunity to leave my house an go looking for photo-ops and fun experiences. And now I can’t go 4 hours away from my house without getting sick, taking enough ativan and advil PM to knock me out, and deep breathing myself into a light headed tizzy. I received a gift for Christmas, and it was a photo book with a cute little explore saying on the cover and she said it was for my adventures, and I wanted to cry!! The first thing I thought was, “yeah, there’s no way anymore.”
I’ve felt low. I’ve felt depressed. I’ve felt hated, ugly, unappreciated, betrayed, used, heart broken, and every other negative feeling on the spectrum, but nothing compares to feeling completely, and utterly hopeless. Feeling like there is truly nothing you can do to get out of this feeling, or make it better. And believing it. Now that’s the worst feeling in the world. What do you do when there’s nothing you can do? I’m like, afraid of my brain. I’m afraid of my anxiety.
My whole body goes numb, and I feel pins and needles over my skin. Except it’s deep, like there’s something crawling from the inside out. The nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach that doesn’t go away when you breathe it out. Feeling the urge to burst into tears but nothing comes out, so you just scream. Uncontrollable vomiting and dry heaving when there’s nothing left. Being completely exhausted, full of sleeping aids and anti-anxieties but still can’t sleep. Trying every position you can think up to help make it better, but nothing. Crying yourself sick out of frustration. It’s debilitating.
I think the fact that I had this panic attack 6 hours from home is what makes me so anxious about going away.. and so in those trips, things I normally don’t enjoy are just pure panic inducing and miserable. Like I’ve always hated road trips, and I always acknowledged the fact that “oh, if I wanted to get off this plane, or train, I couldn’t. I’m stuck here until it’s time to get off.” but neither of those were ever enough to cause me panic. I’m still unclear about what I need to do to fix it. I heard the best way to fight your fears is to face them, and I’ve been all aboard with that until I bowed out of the ski trip Kyle’s family goes on every year (I’ve gone with them twice, so far). It was a moment of disappointment in myself, but also a moment of determination. Saying, “yes, I’m going to skip this trip because I’m nervous of how I’ll respond and how I’ll feel, but by this time next year, this will be taken care of.”
So I guess another “New Year Resolution” for me will be to get this under control without medication.. and by “under control” I mean under control. Not sort of coping. Like, I want to feel the way I do at home, when I’m on the road. Perfectly fine. Normal. Relaxed. and happy.