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Panic

So I had a bad panic attack today. You know the kind… the shaking, can’t breathe, crying, feels like your heart is going to explode, all of it. 

I would have been fine, maybe, if I had been able to distract myself, or if I had my emergency medicine. But I couldn’t. And I didn’t. So I felt like I was dying. To make matters worse, I was at work. I was on my lunch break. I should have been fine.

Those of us who deal with panic attacks on a daily basis know that they can come from nowhere, can be triggered by anything, even when you are doing nothing at all. Including sitting outside on your lunch break. 

Personally, even though I know all of this, panic attacks make me mad. I know that it’s a system misfiring, my fight or flight system going off when there is no apparent danger to me, I know this. I know I have panic attacks. I know that I have a panic disorder. But they make me mad. Because, in the end of it all, I feel stupid. I feel like I should be able to handle myself at work, even with the stress, because I do work a stressful job that likes to throw me some curve balls. I feel like I should have a good reason to be triggered. And sitting outside on my lunch break before I have to go back to work should not be a trigger. Work should not be a trigger. 

It takes so much out of me when I have a panic attack, especially ones like today. With the shaking and everything, I’m just worn out. And of course, all I wanted to do was go home. So I did the only rational thing I could do, ask to go home. Well… that only got some raised eyebrows. Why? Because I couldn’t find the DSO, the one in charge that would tell me if I could go home or not, and when someone finally got ahold of them all I got was “Go to the ER”. So this nurse puts me in a wheelchair and is wheeling me down to the ER, and I’m just trying to remember to breathe and not bawl my eyes out while saying I don’t want to go to the ER, I just need to go home. We get there, and they all look at me to check in. Another nurse from the ER comes up and asks me what’s wrong and I tell her that I’m having a panic attack and that the DSO sent me down here. And she said something about me not having chest pain or being short of breath. Well, duh. So I calm down enough to call the DSO, she’s still telling me to go to the ER. I say fine and I call my husband to come and get me. I go and grab my things from the 4th floor. And tell them that I’m leaving, noticing that they are making a call to the DSO too. So this is just turning into a mess and a half. 

I finally clock out and just leave the building. And while I’m waiting on my husband, my boss texts me and asks not so politely why I’m leaving in the middle of my shift. And lo and behold, there she is, pulling up next to me. “You, I need to talk to you. Walk over here.” So I follow her. And she’s got her hands on her hips and asking me what’s going on. I explain again, and start crying again, because I’m still having a panic attack and she’s only making it worse. “Well I don’t understand how you can have a panic attack while you’re on  your lunch break.” Well aren’t you lucky that you don’t have to know how it feels? 

So I’m probably going to be written up for sure this time, because she told me this counts as an absence. And she’s telling me that I’m not dependable and she needs dependable people she can trust to do their job. And I totally get it. And I’m trying to be that person. But I couldn’t be that person today. Because when I’m having a panic attack, it’s not safe for my patients. I can’t focus like that. She tells me that I need to see a doctor and suggested that I go to the ER. The thing with going to the ER is that nothing is going to be done there. It’s a panic attack, not a heart attack. They will send me home. 

But this got me to thinking, how many people truly don’t understand how debilitating a panic attack can be? And instead of being so hard on someone about it, why wouldn’t you want to help them? I understand she’s a boss, and it’s her job to be tough and get things done. I get it, I really do. But when you have an employee crying in the parking lot, I would imagine a little compassion can go a lot further. 

Panic attacks are weird things. People experience them in different ways. Whether they are being silent and staring off into the distance, or making a scene (like I did today). Panic does things to people. And I doubt that any two people go through them the exact same way. I shake, my face turns red, my heart beats fast, I hyperventilate. But there are times, too, when I have a panic attack and I simply get sick to my stomach, or stare off into space. 

For those who need a little further explaination: 

“A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying. Panic attacks typically begin suddenly, without warning. They can strike at any time – when you’re driving a car, at the mall, sound asleep or in the middle of a business meeting. You may have occsional panica attacks or they may occur frequently. 

Panic attacks have many variations, but symptoms usually peak within minutes. You may feel fatigued and worn out after a panic attack subsides.

Panic attacks typically include some of these symptoms:

  • sense of impending doom or danger
  • fear of loss of control or dying
  • rapid, pounding heart rate
  • sweating
  • trembling, shaking
  • shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • chills
  • hot flashes
  • nausea
  • abdominal cramping
  • headache
  • dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness
  • numbness or tingling sensation
  • feeling of unreality or detachment”

Mayo Clinic

So a lot goes into a panic attack. And if you have panic attacks and face each day the best way you can, you’re a bad ass. Just saying. 

I’m doing better now. Just resting. I hope everyone has a great day.