Friday, August 13, 2010


I wasn't one to have panic attacks as a child, teenager, or young adult. Panic attacks became part of my life when I started recognizing that something was wrong with my body in my late 20s, but I couldn't figure out what, nor were the doctors I was seeing at the time able to diagnose the problem either. The symptoms I have were beginning to present themselves when I lived in Panama with my ex-husband. Now my next statements are not a ding at military doctors, but more at the system; it's rare for you to see the same doc twice on purpose, you tend to get who ever is available that day. If you do see the same doctor more then once it's because I treatment plan is in place. Luckily we were close to returning to the U.S. and I was close to getting my degree with "real" health insurance and could see a "real" doctor. By this time, I'd been going in circles with the doctors for 1.5 years. So, when the symptoms would flare, and usually at night I'd start panicking, and I'd end up flooding my body with adrenaline. At least for me, I find that that surge of panic has a very metallic taste. Flooding my body with adrenaline did not help, and often made things worse. I can't tell you how elated I was when I saw my PPC doctor, explained my symptoms and within a month had a referral to a specialist.

Within 3 months of seeing the specialist, my body stopped being my enemy (well, I stopped seeing my body as the enemy). She said I think it's this and let's try this and go from there. The panic attacks stopped, because I now knew that these symptoms have a name, and medicines, and that the flares will pass, and best of all -- she didn't tell me it was all in my head like my ex-husband and the military doctors. I think her believing me was the most important medicine she could have given me. She gave me a gift that day.

So, a few days ago I had a full blown panic attack in the middle of the night like one at the very beginning when I didn't know what was wrong with my body. Because now I don't know what these symptoms really are, and is the medicine doing potential damage to my body for no reason. The wife held me, and tried to reassure me, to relax...try to breathe - use meditation...all good advice, but hard to put into being when fear gets in the way. I couldn't take deep breaths, I couldn't pray the prayers I could think of because they had too many words, in the end I used a military cadence: left, left, your left right left. I could match short breaths to the words, the familiar rhythm, and I fell back asleep.

Over the past few days I had to ask myself what's the worse that could happen? And I went to all of those places - cancer, removal of body part, a bag attached to my body, new meds, new exercises. Did I/do I think I have cancer, no, I don't because I don't think you can have cancer for over 8 years and not show signs of it (and if you can, keep that to yourself please). Do I think I'll need a body part removed or an apparatus added, no because my symptoms though bad for a healthy person are mild to moderate for someone with my diagnoses (though an apparatus still scares me). New meds, not such a bad thing especially if I can get off the drug that every person with xyz gets prescribed and there's no generic, and it's the one that isn't good to be on. New exercises, hey if that's all it takes to make my body part work lead the way. I looked up what the new specialist thinks I could have instead, and it's way less scary. Finally, I realized if I was diagnosed correctly then my life doesn't change. But, if I was misdiagnosed then there's the possibility for improved quality of life. This has helped, I'll get worrisome, but not overcome.

The other thing I realized is that I have to let go of the shame I feel at having my condition. You can't contract it, it might not be hereditary, they don't know why or what causes people to get the condition, and they're not even sure it's been "properly named." The shame shut me down (I allowed the shame to shut me down) during my visit with the new specialist. And that has caused me anxiety, but when we meet for my pre-op appointment, I'm going to tell her about my feelings of shame, I am going to describe my symptoms, I am going to ask questions about "bad" med, and then I'll ask her to now begin explaining the pre-op stuff. I claim my condition, it doesn't claim me. Reading "Kitchen Table Wisdom" helped alot, and I had no clue about the author's medical condition the morning I heard that wee bit on NPR. Her own story is woven into the book, and as I finished it last night, it occurred to me that her medical condition did not stop her from living, it changed how she lived, but it didn't keep her from living.

Naming my condition in my blog makes me feel weird, I'm not there yet, maybe I won't ever be there. But, I can now say and spell it without having to use it's acronym and then slaughter the only part I could remember hoping the medical professional could fill in the rest. I've finally gone to the 2 big websites and went through the content, there's two books I'll get if I was correctly diagnosed. And if I was misdiagnosed I'll research and ask better/more questions, and I won't feel ashamed.

I keep thinking that this has been a year of facing my worst fears, I hope I'm done, at least for a good while anyways.


Anne said...

Guru says, for an emotional swing of high stress, sit down and drink a full glass of water as quickly as you can. Then, 13 deep breaths in and out. It’s worked for me in the past. There is yoga philosophy behind it, but I think the forcing oneself to sit down and drink a glass of water just makes you sit still. Also, your breathing has to naturally regulate itself as you intake the water. Counting your breaths makes you aware of them and easier to control.

I don’t think we should ever feel shame for something we didn’t choose for ourselves. I know that I do from time to time too, but still, I don’t think we should.

Love and peace, my friend.

jsd said...

Anne: Thank you for sharing the Guru's advice, I'll definitely give it a try. Thank you for the love and peace :)

I agree with you, and after all this time for this particular condition I am beginning to be able to let much of the shame go. And when the shame begins to surface I'm able to say no to those feelings.

Lee said...

JS, Glad you're claiming yourself faults and all. You're a gloriously normal person and better at self management than anyone I know. Prayers for calm ascending. Can we stick you on the Rec prayer list?


jsd said...

Lee: Thank you for the compliment, and thank you for the prayer list offer; but how about for now personal prayer.