Slaying Fibro & Other Invisible Illnesses

Encouragement, Tips, and Ideas from One Slayer to Another

When Anxiety and Panic Strike – My Story, Part One

The thing about anxiety is it can come on when you least expect it.

It’s like a stealthy ninja fighting with tools like panic attacks and self doubt. Shiny symptoms fly out of nowhere giving you no option but to retreat. Until you get treatment. Then you start fighting back.

When Anxiety and Panic Strike: My story part oneAs a kid, I had “fragile nerves.”

I was the kid who could never relax. I was always curled up in a tight ball, not able to just stretch out over the furniture loose and limber. I wanted to be close to family. If I got upset I had weird symptoms like numbness in my heels, in the backs of my knees, or across the palm of my hands. I had nightmares, but what kid doesn’t?

Was it because I was a divorced kid doing the two-parents-who-fought-all-the-time shuffle? Or maybe it was because I was in advanced classes at school and happened to be wired as a perfectionist. The doctors didn’t know. I’m sure they cared, but all of my tests came back fine, so there wasn’t a big need to keep digging for a cause.

I went about my childhood and just learned to deal with it. Fix it or forget it. I tried to forget it.

With adulthood comes adult stress.

In my 20s, I married and had the most amazing baby with the fiercest side eye you’ll ever see on an infant. Things were hard at home but I kept trucking. I worked full time among a very tight-knit group of people who were supportive when I became a divorced, single parent.

My stress went up which meant the numbness and tingles – which I later learned was called paresthesia – returned.

“When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras.” Dr. Theodore Woodward

Again, I was cleared by docs for any significant health condition. They all wanted to look for the zebra like Multiple Sclerosis. No one looked at the horse. I turned to relaxation techniques like prayerful meditation and yoga with some good results so I just kept going quietly through my life. Again.

When the anxiety hit, it hit hard.

Around my 30th birthday, my body decided it was going to engage in a battle. It felt like I was the enemy.

I had emergency surgery following a gallbladder attack that didn’t present normally (who would have guessed?) and had a terrible reaction to the pain medication they gave me upon discharge. Or so I thought.

My limbs tingled. I couldn’t breathe. My vision faded. I was convinced I was dying.

Six firemen stood over me in my living room one weeknight after we called EMS, and I was too busy thinking about my impending doom to even notice. They couldn’t find anything significant but suggested I go to the emergency room anyway since I was still considered in my post-op phase.

Finally, some answers!

There are times I say God brought angels into my life, and many times I am quiet serious that I had the perfect person for me at the perfect time. That night in the emergency room, a very kind and gentle doctor asked if I had ever been told that I suffered with anxiety or panic attacks. She was able to help me slow my breathing and listen. (I’m sure the drugs they pushed via IV didn’t hurt!)

It was a steady snowball down the hill of anxiety for me over the months that followed. Panic attacks lurked behind every corner. I cried out, “I don’t know why I’m scared,” as my (now) second ex-husband couldn’t understand why I didn’t just make it stop. Without my mother and kids, I would have floated away.

We added medication. Tweaked medication. Added in rescue meds when my panic attacks were so severe I couldn’t drive, sleep, or even leave the house. I felt like I was living in a nightmare, fighting for every moment of peace.

Self care is not an option. It’s a necessity. I’ve written a free eBook that I’d like to give to you. CLICK HERE to download Self Care 10 Ways (When You Just Feel Like Lying in Bed) for FREE.

Fear. Just fear.

I feared I was becoming agoraphobic quickly, and I was only thirty. To me, that meant never leaving home again. Newspapers piled in rows, hoarder style, blocking the outside world from my eyes.

My beautiful children needed me, and I had things I needed in my life that existed outside those walls. I did not want to become trapped inside, fearful of leaving my home because a panic attack would hit.

But the unfortunate truth is I did hide for a while. It’s happened twice in my life, and I hope it never happens again because it scared the hell out of me.

Next week, I’ll continue this series with a post about struggling through life with agoraphobia. Thankfully I’m doing well now, but I hope by sharing my story I can strengthen and encourage others.

Resources

Always consult with your doctor or mental health team if you are suffering from anxiety or panic disorders. It make take a bit of time to get your treatment plan to a place that truly helps you, but it’s worth it. Until then, here are some good, quick, and easy things to read for more information.

Always remember: You are not alone.

Share your story with me in the comments below or tweet me about your experience.

About Stephanie Pitcher Fishman

Stephanie Pitcher Fishman is a writer of fiction and family stories who battles fibromyalgia and other invisible illnesses every day. She's the author of Finding Eliza, The Widow Teal, and many genealogy guides in the Quick & Easy Guides for Genealogists series. You can find her author page at www.stephaniefishman.com. She writes about her experiences with fibromyalgia at www.slayingfibro.com.

Taking care of yourself is not optional.

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Slaying your dragon (aka your pain) takes a lot out of you. Those of us with chronic illness really need time to heal and care of not just our bodies but our mind and soul as well. Let me help by giving you my best tips and ideas in my eBook Self Care 10 Ways (When You Just Feel Like Lying in Bed)for FREE.