Monday, March 14, 2011

Trying to Breathe

The thing about panic attacks is that they don't make sense. So when you think you're feeling pretty relaxed, tired, and generally anxiety-free, and all you're doing is brushing your teeth and suddenly you can't breathe - that's pretty typical for when panic attacks hit.

I haven't had an attack in probably 10 years, and this weekend, I spent a good twenty minutes clutching onto my chest because of the pain, trying to decide whether I was going to puke or cry (or both), and trying to get enough air into my lungs. Thank god Devon was home, because regardless of how many panic attacks I've had in my late teens and early twenties, I was not prepared for this one.

For the first time in a long time, it passed through my head that I might die. It sounds silly now, but when you can't breathe and your chest feels like it shattered inside, and you don't really know what's going on, it's sounds about right. Not remembering ever feeling this bad, I thought perhaps it was an allergic reaction to the Trazadone (which I did fill), and perhaps an interaction between medications. We were going to go to the hospital if it had lasted any longer, but I got through it - despite feeling as though I couldn't and wouldn't.

I've had a panic attack in front of Devon before, but it was one of those can't-get-enough-breath-in-for-three-minutes type of attack, not the think-I'm-going-to-die type of attack. She was amazing and grounded and calm and very wonderful. She breathed slowly and encouraged me to match her breath, she put her hand on my chest where it hurt, she helped me find the best position to lie down in, and most importantly, she talked me through it.

I don't really know what's going on with me right now. I know I'm tired and I haven't been able to sleep, which is huge for me. I know I'm a little anxious about work, as I'm covering a mat leave and although I know my boss has put in a proposal for me to stay, I don't know - and don't know when I'll know - whether I'll be able to stay, or whether I have to launch head-first into job seeking. Nothing that warrants the panic that I had this weekend.

But like many thing in the crazy world, panic attacks make little to no sense at all.

Do. Not. Like. Hopefully this was a one-off.


  1. I can only imagine how scary that is for you. Let your therapist know and hopefully, more tools in your toolbox to cope. There is a lot on your mind right now and just wanting to be okay does not make it so. I know you are under good care and hopefully, this too shall pass. I am holding you in the light, Lex.

  2. Lex - I'm so sorry to hear you had to experience this kind of trauma, especially having it come out of the blue after so long without one. Thank god you have such an amazing partner, who is able to remain calm, even when she was probably pretty damn scared. And you shouldn't lose sight of your own strength in this too - you got through it on your own merits as well.

    For what it's worth, I'm just finishing up Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker, which analyzes all the psych data from the last 50 years. The studies on benzo withdrawal indicate that "rebound anxiety" is common for those going through withdrawal, which can include panic attacks (and increased anxiety, insomnia, physical pain, etc.). The good news is that it goes away with time, just like all the other wicked side effects.

    Hopefully it helps to know you experienced a biological side effect of your body detoxing, and that you're not at all alone in that. Still, I know that doesn't do much to lessen the pain and fear. I'm thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way.

  3. So glad to hear it was 20 minutes and not 2 hours, but still can't imagine what it must have been like for you :( Glad that Devon was there to steer you through (she sounds pretty darn terrific, BTW!). Hopefully things return to a pattern (sleeping, anxiety, etc) that is more manageable and less WTF. xoxo

  4. Lex - I just came across this link on one of the blogs I trust most for info on this front. It's a benzo withdrawal guide written by a doctor in the UK, and it lays out a very specific plan of how to approach withdrawal, what symptoms to expect, etc. Hope it may be helpful:

  5. Oh, and this is where I found that:

    She details her own successful journey to withdraw from 6 psych meds - great resource!

    Okay, done now. :)