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
- trembling, shaking
- shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
- hot flashes
- abdominal cramping
- dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness
- numbness or tingling sensation
- feeling of unreality or detachment”
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.
These are words spoken in wedding vows and they mean so much to me.
When we got married, I figured that I would be the one with the bad days. Having Bipolar Disorder gives you some ups and downs in life, days where getting out of bed is a feat in itself. But I found someone who has grounded me in safety and security. And when I have a bad day, it’s not as bad as it used to be.
Now, I take care of him. And some times, it’s not easy to do. Not because I don’t want to do it, I would do anything for him. I would change the world for him if I could. But some times, it’s difficult to watch.
I remember a test that we had to do, to see how his muscles responded to stimuli. No one prepared me, when we took vows, that in sickness and health meant watching a doctor basically torture your husband for a test. A test that he needed, but you could tell that it was painful.
“In sickness and health”, we really think of the healthy times. I see families together being happy, you don’t want to think about what happens when someone gets sick. And some times people think that sickness means just a simple cold or something. But a medical mystery? That’s something entirely different.
It’s been an adventure. With the good days and and the bad days, I can tell you that we have taken our vows seriously. We take care of each other. We take turns some times, and some days we take care of each other at the same time.
They don’t tell you, when you take those vows that you’re going to worry. Or that you’re going to want to know more, that you’re going to try to research everything you can to try and figure this out. They don’t tell you that you’re going to call every doctor several times a week just to get an appointment, or a certain medication refilled, or an MRI scheduled. They don’t tell you all of this.
But they can’t tell you that it makes you stronger. That it makes your marriage better. Love and marriage, sickness and health, it takes work. You have to want to work on it – I’ve seen illness tear people apart. But, for us, I feel like this adventure has made us stronger and made us love each other better.
I know in my heart that I love my husband more and more every day. I want to be with him and take care of him, no matter where this takes us. I want to grow our family together. This has brought us closer than I ever thought possible.
To my husband, I am so proud of you for being you. For waking up each day and fighting your battle. For loving me like you do. You are an amazing man with such strength, we can only keep going from here. Together, we will make it through this. You give me courage and strength when I need it. I will always be here for you. I’m proud of all of your accomplishments. I love you to the moon and back, Siempre por Siempre.
Self care is an important issue when dealing when mental health. It’s one of those things we seem to neglect some times, especially when we are in a low swing.
Here are some tips to help with self care:
1. Be sure to get some sleep: It’s hard to do when you’re having an episode of mania or when you work a crazy schedule. But your body needs sleep. It’s how you process information and your body restores systems. Try to schedule it to where you can get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If you are having trouble sleeping, you may want to talk to your doctor and let them know that you aren’t getting enough sleep at night and discuss a good course of action. My doctor was kind enough to prescribe a sleep aid for me. Some times, I still don’t get enough sleep, but that’s my own fault for being a night owl.
2. Drink plenty of water: Water is great for the body! I’m not going to ask you to drink a gallon of water a day, but you do need to drink more than 8 oz of water a day. Your body needs water, considering you are mostly water. Daily activity drains you of water. And drinking a soda does not count as water. Drink up!
3. Make sure you eat: Believe it or not, breakfast is important, though I usually skip breakfast because I’m running out the door in the morning. But your body needs food. And when you’re manic, you might not notice that you’re not eating. Please try to remember to eat at least 3 meals a day. Maybe have a light snack in between meals, something healthy?
4. Listen to your body: This can be as simple as “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired”. If you need to take a nap, find the time to take one, and if you need to eat, find something to eat. Your body knows what it needs you just have to listen to it.
5. Make a wellness toolbox: A wellness toolbox can look like anything. Most people have a box with a few of their favorite things in it. Some have a journal and pen, music, a favorite book, a stuffed animal, it can really be anything. But it’s like something that will help cheer you up.
6. Take a shower: Even on the days that you don’t want to get out of bed, getting up and taking a shower can do wonders for you. Yes, it requires some energy, and it may take some coaxing, but you can do it, and you will feel better.
7. Go for a walk: If the weather is nice, go for a walk, especially on sunny days. Your body will thank you for the sunshine. It gets your body moving and your heart pumping.
8. Call a friend: Sometimes it’s nice just to hear someone else’s voice other than your own. Plus, it’s a great way to catch up.
9. Play with a furry friend: Dogs and cats have been shown to reduce depression. If you have a pet, play with them or simply take some time to pet them. It makes them feel good and you too.
10. Journal: Journals are great tools. They can be set up in any way, shape, or form. They can be scattered thoughts, or bullet journals with concise lists. A journal is for your own thoughts on the day, on something that is bothering you, maybe some poetry, anything you want.
Hopefully, some of these tips help. Keep your chin up!
In light of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, as well as BPD Awareness Month, I thought that I would go back and share a little more about my diagnosis.
For those who don’t know me, or haven’t been following along for very long, my name is Preslee, and I have Bipolar I disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder (an old diagnosis that has been recently relisted…), and Anxiety. But I am much more than my diagnosis. This is my story.
First, let me start by saying that, at any given time, anyone can be touched by mental illness. Current statistics from NAMI.org say that “approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. – 43.8 million, 18.5% – experience mental illness in a given year. 2.6% of adults in the US live with bipolar disorder. 6.9% of adults in the US -16 million – had at least one major depressive episode in the last year.” So, before you start to say, “it’s not real”, or “It could never happen to me,” it is real, and it could happen to you.
When I was 15, that’s when things started to get more and more depressing. I started cutting myself, I lied of course. To protect myself from punishment and scrutiny, I lied and hid what I was doing. I didn’t need any more pressure. I started to cut myself to relieve the pain I felt inside. I stopped sleeping, because, when I did sleep, I had nightmares. I started hallucinating, death was following me. I remember when I got in trouble at school, for a stupid poem I wrote, and instead of getting help, I got in trouble.
Cutting was something that felt good. It was easy. It made sense. It helped ease the storm inside. There was a rush. I needed it. It became a coping mechanism, it became an addiction.
Looking back, because hindsight is always 20/20, I can tell you that I was depressed long before then. I remember when my nephew was born, I was around 10 years old, and my legal mother had to send me away with some friends to “cheer” me up. She would try to get me involved in things, I was in peewee cheerleading. But I was sad, but it was more than sad.
Moving forward, I managed. I dealt with my feelings the best that I could. I got involved with band and color guard at school. I had boy friends. I had some best friends. When I was old enough to work, I emersed myself in my job. But, the idea to cut, the need and the desire, was always there in the back of my mind.
When I was 17, I was raped by my ex boyfriend. It wasn’t violent or anything. But it is what it is. Still, he’s “sorry that [I] took it that way.” Just add that to a list of sexual abuse history. Possibly started in Pre-K, the counselor was seen taking me into his office and locking the door. They said that you could hear me screaming down the halls, but I don’t remember that. When I ran into him in intermediate school, he said that he remembered me because I “always wore those pretty dresses”. He was fired for indecency with minor girls. Then, there was the incidents with my niece and nephew’s dad. He would have me to sit on his lap when we were alone, kiss him on the lips. He would touch my thighs and my chests. One night, I was watching him play video games and I fell asleep in his bed, I woke up to Donna being all pissed off because he was asleep in the bed with me. Another night, I woke up to him standing in my doorway watching me sleep. He came into my room, saying that I was uncovered and was covering me up, even though the sheets were already up to my chest. “Kiss me”, he said. “No, I don’t want to kiss you, go away.” I kept saying that over and over, but he wouldn’t leave. He kept leaning over me, his lips so close to mine, I could feel his breath on me. He kept asking me to kiss him. And he wouldn’t leave until I did. I’ve slept with my door shut ever since. When I finally said something about it, we took it to a detective who gave him a polygraph test, and called me a liar.
The mood problems, they weren’t problems — or maybe I just didn’t pay attention to them — until I got to college. This was after the first semester, my fiance at the time had cheated on me. I began to isolate myself. I started having panic attacks. I was depressed. It wasn’t until I got my Bid for Tau Beta Sigma that I started to leave my dorm room. I even went to the clinic on campus to get help.
During that time, the mother that I had always known, tried to kill herself. I had called the cops on her. She was taken to the hospital in Ft. Worth. While there, she was telling people how they could kill themselves in their rooms, so I told the nurse, who told the social worker, who told her doctor, who eventually got her sent to Wichita Falls. She was there from November to January, and we have not had a relationship since. While all that was going on, I found out that my real mother was right there, and we have never been better.
I got married to the guy that cheated on me….because that’s a smart idea.
A couple of years later, it got really bad. I got depressed. To the point that I couldn’t handle going to work. I was angry. I was having panic attacks. I broke down and went to the doctor. She started me on Prozac 10 mg. It worked well enough for the first year. I was managing my emotions. Yes, I would have down days, but it wasn’t too bad. Until the meds weren’t helping. But when the doctor wouldn’t help me, I found someone else. She increased the Prozac to 20 mg, until that wasn’t working. And then she started me on Seroquel, because I made the suggestion that I thought that maybe I was Bipolar. I was having mood swings, high to low. I managed. Until managing was all I was doing.
Eventually, I started seeing a counselor, which, eventually landed me in the hospital for suicidal ideations. Stress is not something that I handle well. When I get stressed, I often take it out on myself. I think that there is a type of octopus that eats itself when it gets stressed, maybe I’m not that bad, but it’s bad.
The hospital stay itself, wasn’t bad. The first night was scary. I remember going in terrified. I had never been hospitalized, even for illness. So I had no idea what to expect. And you hear horror stories of mental hospitals — people screaming, padded rooms, etc. I remember my husband (at the time) dropping me off. I was scared. I didn’t want to be there. I knew it would be good for me. But I didn’t want to go. The first night, scary. But I made some friends. One, I still talk to. We have each other on Facebook and check in from time to time. The doctor there diagnosed me with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and PTSD. And all he focused on was the rape and the sexual abuse history. Yes, I had been recently triggered, but that’s not the whole story. I was reading The Hunger Games while I was there, he said that I needed to be more like Katniss.
That’s when everything in my life, up to that point, fell apart. My marriage, that I worked so hard for, fell apart. When I got home, I was there for two weeks, still going through symptoms, the panic attacks, the depression. And yes, maybe I started a fight. He kicked me out. So I left. I packed what I could, I went to my mom’s. And things were really rough and tough for a while.
I was having a hard time holding a job, I couldn’t stay in one place long. Financial instability means that your housing situation probably isn’t the best either. I lived with my mom for two weeks, then I stayed with my sister for a couple of months, I had my own apartment for a couple of months, moved in with some friends (which was a disaster!), and finally ended up back with my mom.
During that time, I saw a couple of different doctors through the MHMR system. The doctor that I saw in Ft Worth diagnosed me with Bipolar I disorder and BPD and PTSD. Of course, I cried with I got the BPD diagnosis because it’s a personality disorder.
We managed my meds the best we could. I started working again, though I still had the hard time with going to work. But having to help mom and not wanting to disappoint her, I went to work.
In 2014, I reconnected with a lost friend. We had met back in college, and I had liked him, but at the time, I was engaged…. Anyhow, turns out, he liked me too. We talked, started dating, moved in together, and got married. It’s been a crazy ride. But, he is very supportive of me. He sits with me in the dark times and helps me ride through the storms. He helps bring me back. It’s been amazing having someone like him with me. Marriage isn’t easy, but it’s even more difficult when someone has a major mental illness.
Now, the doctor I’m seeing has me down as MDD, Bipolar I, BPD. He took me down from 7 medications just down to 2.
My symptoms are everywhere.
-I don’t always get enough sleep, or I get too much sleep.
-I get mad at everything. Like, every little thing. Even things that shouldn’t bother me, bother me. And, when I’m mad, I have over-the-top reactions. I’ve noticed lately that my brain gets fuzzy when I get mad, like I’m going to black out or something. My breathing changes….
-I, mostly, want to hurt myself when I get mad. Sometimes, I want to hurt others. But when I have those thoughts, I turn them around, because I could never hurt someone else like my thoughts are provoking me to.
-I hear a voice in my head, but honestly, I think it’s mine – but more bitchy. Telling me that I’m worthless, ugly, stupid, or worse. I try to get the voices/thoughts out of my head by slapping/tapping/hitting my head. I want to make it stop.
-It’s a coping mechanism (pretty sure) that I can switch to pure bitch in a split second. My husband refuses to talk to me when I’m like that, and I don’t blame him. He tells me that when I switch it’s scary. He said that my whole demeanor changes – face, mouth, tone, speech pattern, even my eyes. Years ago, I called her Paige. But she’s not a true alter, I have no memory loss or slips. I remember what happens.
-Depression – same as ever. Days where I don’t want to get out of bed, eat or shower.
-Manic episodes that include shopping sprees with no concern for where the money is going to come from, until it’s over and I’m left with the guilt.
-Fear of rejection or abandonment. The people I love are going to leave me…
Even with all of this, I am more than just a diagnosis or a statistic.
I am a wife, a sister, a daughter. I love music. I love reading so much that I can get lost in a good book and have no idea that you’re talking to me. I’m a caregiver. I have two dogs and a cat that I love very much, because they are my babies. I love watching Netflix, I found out that the movies I grew up watching are on there, so I’m super excited!
I believe that even though I live with a war in my mind, I am a gentle person. I know that I can take care of others, and I do just that. Because I have been through hell myself, I will move mountains for people. I am compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic, and kind. I try to believe the best in people.
You are more than your diagnosis.