Anxiety Attack- The Day I Thought I'd Die

I've always heard of the term anxiety attacks or panic attacks. And working in the healthcare field, I've always dealt with patients who were dealing with difficulty breathing. But it wasn't until I had the most unforgettable experience in my life that I coud actually say with empathy how difficult it really is to deal with.

There is a difference between the two, anxiety vs. panic attacks. In general the terms are interchangeably used to mean the same thing. It's only from a clinical perspective that the two are defined differently. Basically the difference between the two are described in terms of the intensity of symptoms and the length of time the predominant symptoms occur.

This experience all derived from what could be a whole other hub in itself. It all started after I had returned home from a totally unexpected surgery from which I was hospital bound for about a week. I had found out 4 weeks prior that I was expecting. Well this third expectancy of mine ended up being an ectopic pregnancy. Basically where the baby is growing inside your fallopian tubes as opposed to your uterus where it is supposed to be. Long story short, I ended up at work one morning with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and had to be rushed to the hospital. So now that the background's set up for what lead to this horrific event, let me share with you the day I thought I would die.

 I was prescribed Darvocet for the pain, and Reglan to help with the God awful nausea. I had never experienced nausea so horrible in my life. Mind you, I've never had to have any kind of surgery under general anesthesia prior to this. My only hospital experience was delivering my 2 other children at the time, and that luckily for me was cake!

 

 My husband had taken off for a couple of weeks, being that I wouldn't be up and walking for the next week or so. So there I was, first day home and taking this pain med only for the sake of not knowing how bad the pain would be if I didn't. I absolutely HATED it's effects. Maybe some would argue otherwise, but hearing my own words slur behind my head and as I blurredly "floated" across the floor when attempting to take small steps did not sit well with me at all. I couldn't stand that I had no control of my physical and mental feelings while on that crap, but it was only one day out so I figured I'd take it a few more days and the pain should subside by then.

The next morning, my husband handed me my pain med and nausea med. We're sitting at the table, everyone eating breakfast while I on the other hand had the overwhelming feeling to curl up and hold on tightly to my seat with really no appetite at all. I really just wanted to stay in bed, but the nausea had a way of making it incredibly uneasy in any position of any setting so I joined everyone in hopes of any improvement. It's an unexplainable feeling of just complete discomfort regardless of what you do, a feeling of being so ungrounded is how I can put it best. It was at this time that I noticed that my breathing became more shallow. I thought nothing of it at first, figuring I was just still feeling the effects of tiredness the doctor mentioned I would.

My husband leaves to take the kids to school. This unsettling feeling of tensesness slowly crept up on me. I thought maybe trying to "walk" it off would help. I use that term loosely because my surgery consisted of a full incision across my lower abdomen in order for the doctor to gain immediate access to my internal bleeding. So I had the priviledge (if you could call it that) of a more unique reminder of a scar as opposed to under normal circumstances what would've only been a couple of inches. After scooting along for what felt like an hour, I had finally made it to the couch in our living room. I was definitely out of breath by now. This is what I felt at least.

 I sat and tried to find something in my mind I could wrap myself around besides being pulled away mentally in twenty different directions. It's the most unusual sensation when you can't take control of your own mindset. I found myself then, trying to find ways to relax. Soon it became an urgent matter in my mind that I HAD to relax. It occurred to me that I may be having some kind of reaction to the drugs I had taken. Now I really started to worry. By this time, my breathing was becoming much more shallow. Try this if you will please: take in a deep breath and hold it...now take in another on top of that and hold it....now imagine how it feels to take another breath on TOP of that! That- was EXACTLY how I felt with every breath I took. How in the world did I get to this state? Something's wrong, I thought. Why can't I breathe. Just relax, just relax, breathe in slowly I told myself. But the only thought that flashed through my head was I can't. Like as if a mental war in my own head, my sane self was telling me to JUST relax. While my panick stricken side was screaming...I know! I know! But it's not working!

My next immediate reaction was to take my pulse. By this time I was so exhausted from struggling to breathe, I felt I had to do something quick. I remember applying my fingers my wrist, looking out my window thinking, I am going to die today. I can't believe this is how my life ends. All the while, desperately struggling to just simply breathe. (Just explaining this forces me to inhale deeply at the thought of really how unimagineably difficult it was for me to just breathe in that moment.) My pulse to my touch was amazingly low. My mind was spinning by now, I was scared to death. I could not breathe and  my pulse was decreasing.

I was just about to dial 911 as my husband walked through the door. By now, I'm doing my best to hold back tears. Even then, I'm sure the attempt only lasted shortly because my husband was frantically trying to figure out what was wrong and I remember by the end of me trying to explain, I was crying out of fear and frustration. He helped me into the car and headed towards the ER. I was sure that I'd be dead before we arrived there. Remember now, the breathing demonstration I explained? I was still breathing with that same intense difficulty throughout this time. I literally felt as if every breath would be my last.

We finally reached the emergency room where the lady at the window proceeded to explain the paperwork that was required to be fillled out before I was seen. My husband sat with me and started to ask me questions from the paperwork. Oooh NO! I exclaimed....bring me to that window so I can tell her that I CANNOT breathe! At this point I felt compelled to throw the stupid clipboard through the window to prove how urgent this really was. No, of course I didn't do that. It was just a thought. I did however express the urgency of my desperately difficult time of breathing. I looked around and noticed surprisingly only two other people who were waiting in this ER waiting room. I needed something to be done, and quick.

My husband tried to help by reminding me to calm down and take deep breaths. I remember it so well, trying to explain to him that I can comprehend what he was telling me, to slow down and breathe... and I was telling myself to do the same, but my mind was just not cooperating. I felt my first ounce of relief when I was called in by the triage nurse. This is it, now they're really going to feel like idiots, after seeing that my vitals are down the drain and had me waiting out there forever. So the blood pressure cuff goes on my arm, my pulse is taken, and the results?.....as normal as a five year old sitting there sucking on a lollipop happily staring at a rainbow!!!

 My heart dropped. I could not believe that my vitals were normal. Normal? Are you sure? I asked, half thinking that the equipment must be wrong. There's no explaining the absolute frustration of breathing like a fish out of water while watching this nurse move about noncholantly when she was suppose to be my savior!

This is when I truly realized that it was all a mental complication. I could have never imagined that I could feel what I felt for as long as I felt, based off of my mind deriving this whole situation from itself. Though I realized this, my physical breathing difficulties, anxiousness, and fear did not subside at all. That really scared me. The nurse then brought me to a gourney in the hallway and my husband and I waited for what felt again like forever. Now, I was devastated and completely hopeless as to anyone being able to help me return back to a normal state.

 The doctor arrived by my side asking me to explain what had happened. As soon as I finished my last word he called a nurse over and gave verbal orders for an Ativan injection. Are you kidding me? I thought. I remembered patients at my work who had needed this medication prior to their treatments. At this point I was willing to take anything to become normal again. The nurse walked over and set up an IV in my arm and administered the Ativan.

Literally, within five minutes or less I was able to fully control my own breathing and my mind was pulled back together in one piece. This was a HUGE moment of relief for me. I was given a prescription for Ativan and told that I had experienced an anxiety/panic attack. I could not believe I had experienced what I did. It was a total nightmare. I honestly would've rather gone through the whole physical pain and rupture of my ectopic pregnancy (which is undoubtedly excruciating) than experience the physical and mental distress of feeling that I was literally going to stop breathing and die.

 I share my story in hopes of illustrating how frighteningly scary the symptoms of an anxiety or panic attack can truly be. That entire experience for me was my reality while it was happening. Though physically after examination I was perfectly fine, it did not have any effect whatsoever $6 on the reality I was living. This whole experience lasted for me for about a couple of hours until I was given Ativan. The longest couple of hours of my entire life!

There are different types of anxiety disorders and panic disorders. Both of which are defined as irrational fears of situations or particular objects marked by an intense physically or mentally debilitating response. My experience has opened my eyes to a whole new world of empathy for anyone dealing with this disorder. I have only had this happen to me once, but there are others who have to deal with this on a daily basis. Please stop by and learn more and enjoy a great read of a similar story from my friends perspective, TattoGuy.

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Comments 43 comments

singlmomat52 profile image

singlmomat52 6 years ago

I can totally relate. It is a very scary thing.I have been there and done that. Thank you for sharing. Great Hub!!!


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

What can I say? You had me on the edge of my seat and I began to have trouble breathing. How eloquently lucid and descriptive you are child and how captivating you made the story. A eal education, for which I thank you.


Missi Darnell profile image

Missi Darnell 6 years ago from Southern California

Good article! Also a sufferer of anxiety and panic attacks I can relate to this article. It is something that needs to be more openly talked about so that other sufferers dont feel like they are crazy. Thank you for sharing!


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

You wrote this so well I thought I was going to stop breathing.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Very scary, for sure! Thanks for reading singlemomat52.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Hi De Greek! Thank you for your compliment. I'm always eager to hear your response. I tried my best to describe the horrible reality that it was. Your comment is much appreciated. =)


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Thank you Missi, "feeling like they're crazy", I know what you mean. I never really took it that seriously when people mentioned panic attacks. I was completely ignorant of it's reality. I hope all goes well for you =)

sheila b.- What a very nice compliment. I appreciate you taking the time to read this. =)


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Great hub, I'm sorry for what happened to you but just reading it I was shortening my breath. Excuse me for the joke but this hub is really terrific. Very well written. Rated up and stumbled, and when my next hub on panic attack will be ready also linked. :)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

Thanks, Cheryl. That experience was described in such a real & immediate way it was almost palpable. Reading it happens to coincide with the latest news I've received from someone close who has suffered what I suppose must be chronic panic and/or anxiety attacks, in fact a lifetime of related difficulties. It has seemed at times to be surely exaggerated to hear someone say their anxiety is so overwhelming that he is unable to function during the episodes and that they crop up at any time and with whatever frequency they seem to choose. But I believe this person because it "rings true" & he certainly has nothing to gain by exaggerating!

Now, after reading your account in such detail, and possibly somewhat because your account had more anchors due to your medical background as well as its contrast with the majority of your experience without it, it seems clearer & more specific even in its frighteningly groundless way while in progress. I believe I can understand Mike's better.

In any case, he is about to undergo a therapeutic procedure which I read about in some depth after he told me about it. I can see considerable hope for helping him help himself to untangle the knots which have built the fears and doubts which haunt him. Its emphasis is on helping the client learn to heal. This was one line in their technical description which really caught my eye, because I so believe that one must somehow assume one's own driver's seat and that we have within us the power to do so, though we may need help:

"The intent inherent in EMDR therapy is to facilitate the client’s innate ability to heal. "

So, the good news is that there are treatments for chronic anxiety, it seems. Thanks again for sharing your intense one time experience with it!


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks hypnodude, I really appreciate your comment. I did my best to try to express the absolute difficulty of breathing I experienced. I was one of those people who'd always think, if you'd just calm down everthing's good. But in that experience it was even more frightening because mentally after knowing my vitals were normal, I still could not alter my physical reactions as much as I tried. I appreciate you rating and stumbling it. Let me know when you finish yours and I'd be happy to link on here as well! =)


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Hi Nellieanna, I understand your feeling of one's exaggeration. I used to think the same exact thing until this happened to me. I'm glad to hear that your friend was able to find a resource to help him learn his ability to heal. It sounds interesting, I'd love to read and learn more about it. Thanks for sharing that information. I wish the best for your friend. I appreciate your comment Nellieanna! =)


TattoGuy 6 years ago

Cheryl that was such a fantastic read and only fellow sufferers can appreciate how bad a panic attack is. I loved this hub and am going right now to link your hub to mine and I will also link it to my follow up hub I am doing this week, jeeez that was just one heck of a hub, brilliant !


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Hi TG! Yeah, unfortunately until it actually happens to you it's unimaginable isn't it?. My goal for this was to help those who haven't experienced this learn of how frighteningly real it can be to the one suffering it. Have an awesome day TG, I'll definitely be checking in for your follow up hub! Thanks. =)


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Oh, I have SO been there! I wrote a hub about my experience, too!


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

habee, nice to know someone else can relate. Going to check out your hub! =)


mistrunner 6 years ago

Hi cheryl, I'm sorry to hear of your loss of the child, and worse the subsequent anxiety that you felt. As youv'e read a couple of my hubs you will know that I emphasise with you over these attacks. A total feeling of helplessness is not something that I or anybody enjoy, I can only offer you my shoulder and ear if you need it, and hope that things will improve significantly. I live in that hope every day. Extremely excellent writant to, interactive with your audience as all have mentioned above, I look forward to reading more of your hubs.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Hi mistrunner, I really appreciate your kind words. It's nice to know that others can relate. Thank you for your compliment!


Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 6 years ago from trailer in the country

I had one really bad attack when I was working as a nurse...had to leave work suddenly and was fired because the owner didn't realize the situation. Panic Attacks are horrible.


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

There is a lot of this happening. It is amazing reading this, people really go through this experience. I was quite moved by this hub. Thank you for sharing a scary experience with us, and I hope things are better for you now, Cheryl.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Wow Enlydia, sorry to hear that you lost your job over it. It must've been a horrible experience to have gone through at work with so many things going on around you. Thanks for stopping by and reading. =)


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Hey Cheeky Girl! Yeah, until it happened to me I used to be one of those who'd think "C'mon...suck it up and deal with it...can't be that bad." Geeeez, did I ever have a lesson it that! I literally thought I was going to die. Thankfully, that has been my one and only experience and haven't had any more since. Thank you for taking the time to read this! =)


daisy storm 6 years ago

I was right there with you, trying to breathe and stay calm at the same time. When I had my panic attacks, I would have elevated heart rate, fever and even pass out. Scary stuff...I know! My Momma has had all your symptoms so I can emphasize. Hope you never have to go through it again! Sincere wishes for great health!


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks daisy storm! Wow, it's always amazing to hear of how all the symptoms vary from different people. True, very scary stuff. I wish the best for you and your Momma as well! I appreciate you taking the time to read this. =)


daisy storm 6 years ago

Thanks cheryl for your empathy as well. I think I misspelled empathy above...LOL! It was meant as empathy and not emphasize. Go figure...and I want to be a writer? :)I am truly sorry too for your loss. Wishing you the best for the future.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

I appreciate your kind words daisy storm. Haha, yeah I figured you meant that. We all make our mistakes here and there LOL! Take care.


loveofnight profile image

loveofnight 6 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

great hub, my mother suffered panic attacks for years at least 3-5 times a day. she got to the place that she did not want to leave the house and someone had to be available to her everyday.nice hub with a lot of good detail.....thx 4 share


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

I really feel for your Mom. I hope she was able to get some kind of help. Thanks for reading loveofnight.


GarnetBird profile image

GarnetBird 6 years ago from Northern California

Wow-GREAT HUB!! I am being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I know what you mean. After publishing my Lake of Shame book about my experiences at the hands of an incestuous stepfather I had hopes the attacks would go away. They lessened, but I still have to really watch myself and keep my life pretty calm (if possible/haha!)


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Thank you GarnetBird, I'm glad these episodes have lessened for you. Keeping life calm can be a challenge sometimes, but- It can be done! haha! I appreciate your comment. =)


Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

great story. I had a friend that thought he was havong a stroke or heart attack.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Yeah, we had a patient's wife who was with him at an appt. who complained of chest pains and shortness of breath. We called a code blue with her and thought she was having a heart attack too. So scary. Thanks for reading GH!


Stan Fletcher profile image

Stan Fletcher 6 years ago from Nashville, TN

This is a great hub. Glad I found you. Just wanted to pass this resource along to you and your readers. http://www.angelfire.com/id2/cafe/MentalHealth.htm...

I'm a fan!


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

Great Hub..there are no age barriers between anxiety, stress and heart attacks. It creeps up on you like a thief in the night ready to take your last breath away. I have had a few in my time, one night I dreamed I was breathing my last breath and I was, I quickly woke up in panic mode, sweating like crazy and breathing hard. Like I said a thief in the night wanting to suck the life from us. Thanks for the share, really enjoyed the read and information.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

I appreciate the comment Stan, and thanks also for sharing this link. Lots of great resources and info!


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

saddlerider1, "a thief in the night" is a great description. It is scary how quickly this can creep up on you, and you woke up in this condition?! What a nightmare to say the least I'm sure. Hopefully they weren't recurrent episodes. Thanks for sharing your experience and I'm glad you enjoyed the read.


@MagicBoy profile image

@MagicBoy 6 years ago from Qatar

Hello Cheryl, this was a very well written hub reading which gave me a very vivid picture of your condition and emotions you had gone through...I felt extremely sad that you had to go through all that, but am glad that you learnt so many things about panic attack and shared it with us with such precision and accuracy… surprising though that the vital organs stay absolutely normal when your breathing has gone bonkers, I guess it’s all in the mind..Take care…


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Thank you @MagicBoy. Yeah, my experience with my anxiety attack was truly that I thought I would die. I couldn't believe it that my vitals showed normal when my physical self was literally struggling for every breath. Our minds can be so deceptive. I don't how people do it on drugs...I'd rather have control of my body and actions than have my mind altered into who knows what lol!


Jon 4 years ago

truly terrifying

thinking you have reached the instant of death is the most mind blowing soul departing thing that can happen to you. I question whether I may have really died that day and wonder if I am yet to really die how it will be different.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 4 years ago from California Author

Jon, yes THE most terrifying moment of my life. Definitely one I'd never want to re-live again. Thanks for reading on my experience.


FreezeFrame34 profile image

FreezeFrame34 4 years ago from Charleston SC

Very well written Hub! I too had an experience similar to this- very scary. I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest; I was sweaty and couldn't breathe; never want to feel that way again!


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks so much FreezeFrame34! Ugh- I'm with you. NEVER want to experience that again. Hope you never have to either.


Jk 3 years ago

I had an anxiety attack last night and I literally thought I was dying, I woke up my parents and they rushed me to the hospital and they gave me lorazepam. Was my first time and hope it is my last bc it is the most terrifying thing one experiences as if it was the real deal, the last breath.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 3 years ago from California Author

Jk I hope it was your last as well. It's a real life nightmare.

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