Anatomy of a Panic Attack (or How I Spent My Friday Night)

I’m no stranger to panic attacks. I was officially diagnosed with having them in 2005, but I know that I had some prior to that.

My diagnosis came after I was in the emergency room for not being able to catch my breath and having fuzzy vision. I had just been fired from a job that I was enjoying. I got in trouble at that job for something that I didn’t do, and once that was proven, my boss fired me for a stupid reason to get me out of there. I was so upset because I didn’t do anything wrong, and my family was out of the country so I couldn’t talk to them, and I got myself so upset I had an attack.

After that first attack, I was given medication (Klonopin) that has almost always helped me. I’ve been the emergency room a total of 3 times (including that first time) for attacks because the medicine wasn’t working the way I feel it should. But normally, my attacks are very mild. And fortunately for me, almost all of my attacks come from a predictable situation (flying and the dentist).

But for some reason, on Friday night, I had one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever had.

It started pretty simple. My rib cage was feeling tight. That can mean heartburn or a gallbladder issue normally, so I wasn’t worried. I took an antacid and sat on my couch to wait for it to take effect.

It didn’t do anything and I started to sweat like crazy. Then I started to hyperventilate and I was terrified. I don’t ever recall having a panic attack like this, and I freaked out. I thought I might be dying. And then I did the worst thing you could do when you are freaking out about symptoms.

I googled it.

And google said that I was having a heart attack. I know that I’m overweight, but my heart is in great condition. So I had to keep telling myself that I wasn’t having a heart attack. I took some Klonopin and hoped for the best.

By this point, I had had my symptoms for about 15 minutes and was getting light-headed from the hyperventilating. I decided to lay down on my bed because if I was going to faint, I wanted to be somewhere safe.

I debated about calling a friend to take me to the emergency room (or to call an ambulance), but I don’t have the same insurance that I did when I was first diagnosed. In the past, all medical things were free (never had to pay for my hip surgery or any trip to the ER). But now, I know that a visit to the ER would be $500, and I don’t even want to think what an ambulance would cost.

I think that I did pass out, because the next thing I remember was my symptoms were going away and it was about an hour after the start of them.

I have no idea what caused this panic attack, but it was a reminder of how lucky I am to have mild attacks most of the time.

Why am I putting this out here? Why not. I talk about everything else in my life, so why not this. And I’m saying all the not so fun details about it because maybe I can help someone out there not feel so alone with similar symptoms.

If you do have panic attacks like this, I highly recommend seeing a therapist. I did, and that’s how I’ve kept my attacks at bay most of the time. Medication is something great for emergencies, but I don’t want to have to depend on it every day.

Here’s to hoping that the rest of my week is slightly less dramatic!

5 responses to “Anatomy of a Panic Attack (or How I Spent My Friday Night)

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