11:45 pm on a Sunday: I awake suddenly from sleep with my heart racing. I nudge my husband awake and whisper “something’s wrong”. My teeth begin to chatter incessantly, and by brain becomes hotter and hotter until it feels like it’s on fire. I try to communicate to my limbs – begging them to move, but they don’t.
These symptoms are similar to the side effects I had a few nights before, after my first dose of an anti-anxiety/depression medication. I am on something else. I am certain I will vomit. We wake our two boys and head to the emergency room.
1:30 am: I am able to fully move my arms and legs. I am told I must ride out the medication until it leaves my system. The doctor gives me an anti-nausea medication and suggests I no longer take the meds.
2:45 pm on a Thursday: My two two boys bop their heads to Christmas music in the back seat as we drive home from school. While stopped at a red light I begin to feel dizzy. My chest begins to feel tight, and breathing becomes difficult. The light turns green and I drive while hyper-focused on my breath.
While stopped at the next light, my left arm goes numb. I try to wiggle my fingers, but they do not move. I grab my phone with my right hand and clumsily type a text to my husband – hospital. I look back at my boys in the back seat and turn toward the direction of the hospital only two blocks away.
“Where are we going, Mommy? Where are we going?”
I push the button on the dash to turn my hazards on with the knuckles of my right hand. Both hands are now curled into a claw position and will not uncurl. I slowly drive with my hazards blinking in the direction of the hospital. My lips begin to quiver, and it takes incredible effort to open and close my jaw.
I can see the hospital half a block in front of me, but am uncertain if I will make it there. My eyes begin to tear and I tell my five year old through a clenched jaw not to be scared.
“Mommy’s going to be fine, baby *breathe*… but someone may have to come get mommy out of the car *breathe*. Hold your brother’s hand *breathe* and be brave. We are going to the hospital. Mommy’s fine…. Mommy’s fine..”
The car in front of me is waiting to turn left, but I begin to honk my horn repeatedly in desperation. I begin to wave my clawed hands at them, hoping the person will see me, get out of their car, and help. I chant silently to myself, please don’t die, please don’t die. The world starts to spin as I am finally able to slowly turn my car into the drive way and follow the sign with red letters that says Emergency Room.
My right foot has lost the ability to press on the gas, and as my car rolls into the parking area, I open my door and fall out.
I haven’t quite made it to the emergency room, but I can see the doors about 100 feet away from me. I start to scream from the pavement, “HELP! Somebody help me! I can’t move! HELP!”
Two people come running toward me with a wheel chair, and wheel me away. I point back toward my car and yell, “My kids! Someone help my kids! My kids are in the car!”
And just like that I became a scene in a movie.
The above happened several weeks ago despite not being on any medication at the time. At the hospital they did blood-work, gave me a sedative along with oxygen, told me I had a “severe panic attack”, and gave me some pills to bring home in case it happened again.
The next day it did.
I was on my way to a blogger/press function and had to pull over into a gas station. I took one of the pills they gave me, tried not to throw up from nausea, called my husband in a panic, and drifted in and out of consciousness in my car at the gas station.
Two days later I had another attack in my sleep. I awoke unable to breathe or feel my hands and feet. Apparently you need not feel an ounce of panic to have a panic attack.
Since then I have gone as a cash-pay patient to a Naturopathic doctor who is not covered by my insurance. The two medications I tried from my psychiatrist have done nothing but make me feel worse, so I am working closely with the naturopath to manage some of my anxiety/depression, and now panic attacks. This seems to be the better, though more expensive route for me.
Apparently, it is not uncommon for years of chronic stress to lead full blown uncontrollable panic attacks.
I am taking homeopathic remedies, have been instructed to take some things off my plate to help lower stress, and talk therapy is next up on my list.
Taking things off my plate seems to be the most unattainable as it is the holidays, I have two young children to care for, no family in the area, and am in the middle of preparing my family for our seventh move in five years.
Since I started this blog over four years ago, people have asked me the same question repeatedly – “How do you do it?”
How did I take care of a colicky newborn while learning to walk again after splitting my pubic bone giving birth? How did I overcome the postpartum psychosis? How did I care for my bed-ridden husband after knee surgery while chasing around a two year old, and then get through suffering a miscarriage afterward? How did I find time to do the required physical therapy three times a day for my dog healing from back surgery while pregnant again? How did I care for my toddler while healing from a split pubic bone a second time after giving birth? How did I deal with no sleep, another colicky baby, and bad infant reflux that kept our baby in an upright position for the first four months of his life? How did I write, and still do my contracted work for SheKnows.com, while my reckless 18 month old was in a half-body cast and needed constant care? How am I moving AGAIN?
I’ll tell you how I did it.
I put everyone else’s care ahead of my own. I ignored my own needs because over the past five years there has been no time for them. There was always someone else to take care of.
There was no one to take care of me, and I did not take care of myself…
and I grew resentful while playing the martyr.
I don’t suggest it.
It was never the remedy, and now it is the cause.
I am at a point now where my nervous system is haywire.
I am in “disorder”.
If I am sleep deprived, my body says sleepy = panic and begin to die.
If I haven’t eaten in a while, my body says hungry = panic and begin to die.
If I am cold, my body says chilly = panic and begin to die.
If I am relaxed and trying to fall asleep, my body says sleeping = panic and begin to die.
So I currently attempt to handle myself with kid gloves. I battle to be gentle with myself through the chaos that is our lives…
I fight for a moment of rest…
I bravely say, “I need help”…
and this week is better than the last.
Be gentle with yourselves, my friends.
Stress does kill.
It’s impossible to always put yourself first…
but poisonous to always put yourself last.