Friday, February 1, 2008

the beginning

The last thing I remember was sitting in class taking notes.


I thought maybe I was clutching my pen too hard, because all the fingers on my right hand felt a little numb. I put the pen down and wiggled them around to get the blood flowing, but instead of helping the numbness crept up my arm. The right side of my face followed suit almost instantly. It was the weirdest thing. My heart, my reliably beating heart, was all of a sudden completely out of whack. It was pounding so hard I could feel it in my neck. Spots large enough to block out my vision floated in front of my eyes. I started breathing really fast, but couldn't get any air into my lungs.


It occurred to me that I was going to die. I knew it, but couldn't do anything about it. Was I having a stroke? A heart attack? How could one of those things happen to an eighteen year old? The room started to spin as it got harder and harder to catch my breath. I'm dying. Oh my god, I don't know what's going on. The room got dark as I realized that I had to get out, had to get away. I knew with grim certainty that if I didn't get out of that classroom immediately very bad things were going to happen. Gasping for breath I stood up, clutching the corner of my desk. By feel, I maneuvered around the seat and headed for the exit. Everyone in the room was staring at me oddly, but I was too focused on the door to care.


I made it to right in front of the professor's desk before I went down. The dark and spinning room was made of stronger stuff than I was. I fell about three feet from the door. So close.


The next thing I remember was being in the health office and having a doctor hanging over me with a stethoscope. I could feel my arm but not my face. I could see his lips move but couldn't make out what he was saying. My mouth opened but I couldn't talk. My entire body was still shaking. My hands were wet with sweat.


I had just had my first anxiety attack.


I would give almost anything if it had been my last.

30 comments:

laurie said...

my friend erik gets these from time to time. your description is extremely vivid. he has said the same thing--that he thinks he's having a heart attack, that he thinks he is going to die.

how excruciating. how awful. i wish it was your last, too.

Willowtree said...

As I've said many times, some people will do almost anything for a little attention.

Although strangely, farting in church isn't as one would imagine.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

laurie - woman, are you sitting on your keyboard? I had barely hit publish and there was your comment.

WT - well, you would know more than I about people doing almost anything for attention, wouldn't you?

Kaycie said...

Hubby has panic attacks; they are awful. The last time he had a really bad one, we ended up in ER observation because he was a 42 or 43 year old man with chest pain. It was horrid. I wish he didn't have them and I wish you didn't have them.

Nearlydawn said...

All I can say is YIKES! I can't imagine going through something like that especially more than once!

Thalia's Child said...

That was an amazingly accurate description. I wish my first had been my last too.

the mother of this lot said...

How awful. My mother had anxiety attacks for about fifteen years. She tried everything, doctors, relaxation tapes, the lot. Then one day, as suddenly as they had started, they just stopped, and she never had another one. I hope yours have stopped.

PixelPi said...

Oh, dear. Now I have to join another club. I have them too (but with different symptoms). I've found that most people don't really believe how you feel when you're having an attack.

Flowerpot said...

I've had them when driving and they are horrible.

Dumdad said...

How frightening! I hope you don't get any more.

Eileen said...

Oh do I know this feeling very well. anxiety is the worse thing to experience. Panic attacks, threatened to control my life, for a while. Thank God for medication, or I do believe I would be one of those people who never leaves her house.

I appreciate this post and hope your post more about this.
XOXOX

Lisa said...

Ah... The lovely anxiety attack. I've had them since around the age of 18 too. Ugh.

kitten said...

I use to have anxiety attacks & panic attacks really bad. As much as I hate to admit I had to be put on meds for it. They are still there, but not as bad. I hate that since of loss of control they make you feel.

auntie barbie said...

Thanks for sharing a difficult subject. You described them perfectly. I used to suffer from them on a daily basis, now only when I am under a lot of stress. I was always so embarrassed and ashamed that I could loose control like that and trying to hide it made it worse. Once I realized that so many others have them and could talk about it I was no longer ashamed. I’ve learned to control them through mantras that I repeat to myself when I feel them coming on.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

kaycie - I remember the time he ended up in the ER because he thought he was having a heart attack. Very scary.

nearlydawn - they're not at the top of my list, either.

thalia's child - you have them, too? I'm so sorry.

mother of this lot - mine mostly stopped quite a while ago, too. The problem is that since I'm not as used to them as I used to be, they sneak up on me better.

pixelpi - yeah, a lot of people think you're (for lack of a better term) nuts. Walk a mile in our shoes, baby.

flowerpot - I also had them while driving and I totally agree. It is the worst. I had to change colleges because I couldn't do the commute on the freeway.

dumdad - not anywhere near what I did in my late teens and early twenties. Thank god.

eileen - I never took meds for the panic attacks then. If they start back up full force now I'll be medicated so fast your head will spin. And I think I'm a closet agoraphobic anyway. I'd rather be home than almost anywhere.

lisa - oh, I'm so sorry. You were eighteen, too? I read somewhere that the start of them is usually hormonally triggered. I wonder if that's got any truth in it.

kitten - so your meds work for you, eh? Are they strictly for the anxiety? I'm glad you've found something that makes it better for you.

auntie barbie - I do the mantra thing too. I can usually head off most of them that way. It makes a big difference when you can recognize it for what it is. The ones that get me are the ones that sneak up behind you and don't give you any time to be rational. Those suck.

laurie said...

Rc, sorry, don't mean to scare you! my evening time to check blogs is right after the top of the 9 p.m. news.

caught you.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

laurie - you didn't scare me. I just thought you were dedicated. And fast. Really, really fast.

ciara said...

very scary...to think that 'surely you're going to die' i would think i was, too...for 2 yrs i suffered from dizzy spells so i was always 'anxious' i'm just glad i didn't get an attack cuz i think i would've freaked way more than you : /

i'm sorry you are still having them :(

Kimberly said...

Oh my! Talk about an intense experience! I've never had more than the pounding heart and blurred vision bit. Suddenly I'm so grateful.

elizabethm said...

Would love to know if you have found anything that helps, and hope they are a rare visitor to you now.

miss yerem said...

know the feeling very well,sadly enough,am extremely claustrophobic and very often have to use elevators when i work for the film festival here.last year the only thing that calmed me down was being in the same elevator as willem dafoe- i thought if we got stuck the hotel staff would surely try and get us out quickly:-)

aims said...

I think I have to pass on leaving a really good comment. This post has made me all nervous....

Akelamalu said...

Oh honey how awful for you.

I get the palpitations but thankfully not the rest of the symptoms. I feel for you. x

Omega Mum said...

What were you worried about? Did you know? I am feeling quite panicky just reading this....Does wine work?

Groovy Mom said...

I could totally relate. I have panic attacks, although it's been years since I had a full blown attack, and now my 9 year old daughter has them. She saw a therapist about it this summer and learned so much about how to manage her anxiety. I wish I hadn't waited so long to get help for mine. The first time I went to the ER because I couldn't breathe, they sent me home because I was "fine" just "hyperventilating". Why didn't they ask me then and there why I was hyperventilating? Why didn't they recognize that I had an anxiety disorder? Oh well. I was eighteen too.

Stacie said...

That must have been what I went through several months back on the way to the hospital. It doesn't seem like it was a bad as what you describe, but my heart did start to race and I freaked out a little (okay, a lot). I sort of talked myself through it and managed to get there without a huge problem.

I hope that all of that is in the past...I don't know what I'd do if that became a regular occurance!

So sorry that things are getting to the point to cause you to have an attack. Sending hugs your way, as always!

Iota said...

Wow, you describe that so vividly. I had no idea that such strong physical symptoms accompany an anxiety attack. Your blog is such a medical education.

Diana said...

How frightening! On one hand, I'm guessing you're grateful that it's not life threatening on the other, I'm guessing you're not thinking that matters much when in the throes.

I hope they come few and far between but I'm suspicious that, given all that's going on, they are not so rare as we'd hope.

Hang in there.

Sweet Irene said...

That certainly was a quite shocking experience and it is a shame that some people don't take anxiety attacks seriously, because they are very scary and traumatic.

I have them in a lighter form, but have thought in the past that I was having a heart attack.

I had my first one when I was 15 years old and my teachers thought I was being silly and making a spectacle of myself. I couldn't breathe properly and felt like I was going to suffocate.

There is a lot of ignorance out there and it is good that you are bringing this up as a subject to talk about.

my two cents said...

And to think I've been told that a reaction to epenephirine is a panic attack. It is not nearly that bad, fainting and all. Glad we don't see that doctor anymore.