Saturday, October 20, 2012

Panic Disorder

Don't think i've mentioned this before. 
It's not something i don't like sharing, it's just a petty thing that seems to fade from the way of more important issues. 
Such as shopping. 
Haven't been shopping lately, other than fabric, so i though i'd share my story. 
Maybe it'll help someone who's tackling the same problem. 

Panic disorder. 

I was diagnosed at age 23. I went to the ER with what i thought was heart-failure due to anemia. After a series of blood tests and EKGs they sent me home saying there was nothing wrong with me other than my potassium level being a bit low. Have a banana, they said, and be merry. 

So i went home, feeling nauseous, lightheaded, faint and, in general, horrible. I had palpations, shortness of breath, plus my left arm was going numb. It was really not that nice, but it seemed to come and go, fade at times, and then become stronger. 
So i slept, and then i got to thinking. 
It was my "boyfriend" (very difficult relationship, even worse break-up, glad it's over) who first suggested the idea of something being wrong with my head. 

I googled, and it didn't take me long to find the good old "do you have a panic disorder"-test. I took it, and scored really high. Which gave me the courage to call the doctor, and make an appointment. 
The doctor made me take the same test, and said yes, it does seem like you've got it. 
It was huge relief. 

Sadly, the doctor wanted to treat me with antidepressants. Most times, they give good results in treating panic disorder. In my case, though, the pills took away my will to create, and since being able to Make Stuff is pretty much the reason i live, it was a bit of a bad choice. 

Anyways. Besides the meds, i got sent to a shrink. It was for a short term conversational therapy, and i was really apprehensive about it. I studied psychology in school (lukio? high-school? never got to figuring out the correct translation) and i didn't like it how psychology categorizes people. We are too different to be bunched up the way the science of the mind likes to do. 

I went, still, and it turned out to help me a whole lot. 
The shrink was a woman who'd dealt with a lot of patients just like me, and she knew what to say and what to do and what to look at. She taught me basic survival techniques, and made me realize this isn't going to kill me. After seeing her twice, she told me i was fine, and call her if i need help. 

I never called her. Seeing her the two times made me that much stronger. 
I tossed the antidepressants after a year. My doctor was a bit ticked at me... 

After that, i've coped with panic disorder without medication. It's better for me, but i don't recommend it without hesitation. Mine's a mild case, i've never been a free-floater, attack-wise. I start getting panic attacks when i'm really stressed out, or feeling poorly. There's always a reason for my attacks, but in most cases, they come and go as they please, regardless of situation. That's why i don't want anyone following my choice of zero-meds. 

So. Tricks and advice which has helped me. Most of this comes from the nice head-doctor i saw. 

1. Panic attacks cannot kill you. You're not going to die. You might hyperventilate and faint, but die, no. Realize it, and living with this thing gets a lot easier. 

2. When you feel an attack coming, try to take yourself away from the situation. Find something nice to look at, something cool to think about. Get up, go to the kitchen, have a drink of water. If you're shopping, you can hide in a household supplies section of any store, those are often quiet, and clerks don't bother you there. The main thing is to kill it before it grows. Don't let the budding attack get into a big one. 

3. Eliminate stress. There's two kinds of stress, yes, and you need some to keep your life in balance, but the bad kind of stress will make you have more attacks. So get rid of it. Be selfish, think about what you want to do. 

4. Eating can get difficult with panic disorder. It did for me. I went for days without eating, and that only made everything worse. So if you're not feeling like eating, or are afraid of eating making you feel nauseous, you can trick yourself with yogurt and soups. And don't forget to drink. Three pints of water every day. Dehydration will make you feel sick, and that will feed the panic attacks. Trust me. This i know. 

5. Talk about it. Don't hide it, like i did for a long time. My parents still don't know about this, but everyone else does. You don't have to announce it to the world, just casually mention it sometime. That way you don't have to be afraid of having a panic attack in the presence of friends. If everyone knows about it, it's not a secret, and that takes one more worry from your mind. 

6. Accept it. If you have a panic disorder, or any disorder of the mind, it's there, and it's a part of you, and you can't run from it. You don't have to love it, but accepting it will help in the healing process. 

7. Exercise. You don't have to pump iron seven days a week, just don't bury yourself in the sofa. Take a walk sometimes, go dancing, try ice-skating or swimming. It'll make your body stronger, make you feel better, safer in your own skin. Remember that getting out of breath won't kill you, either. 

So there. Mine story. I hope it can help someone. 


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. :o)

  2. Small thing for me, hopefully a big thing for someone going through the things i faced :)


talk to me