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.