My First Panic Attack

7 Jun

I had said a while back that one day I would sit down and write about my anxiety disorder and how it came to be. Apparently, today is that day.

When I was about 16 or 17, my pediatrician told my mom that he was concerned that I might have an eating disorder. In the interest of full disclosure this was only sort of the case. I was definitely having some issues with food restriction and my body, but in retrospect I see this phase of my life as the beginning of a yet-to-be-diagnosed anxiety disorder. There were a lot of things going on in my life that I had absolutely no control over and being a teenager I was unable to recognize this. In an effort to gain some semblance of control in a world that I really didn’t understand, I began to control the things that I could: I stopped eating and I relished the praise (or what I interpreted as praise) that I got from everyone around me. I was pretty damn skinny… Around this time I also started drinking and doing a lot of drugs.

My mom took my doctor’s advice and took me to my very first psychologist/psychiatrist. Sure enough she diagnosed me with an eating disorder and threatened hospitalization if I didn’t start eating food. Then she sent me on my way with a prescription for a behavior modification drug and instructions to return to her every two weeks. The meds I took, but I refused to show up for my appointments because I really didn’t care for the lady. This is the one and only time in my life that I have taken medication for my “issues.” I absolutely hated it! Sure I didn’t feel so low anymore, but I also couldn’t feel the highs. And I missed them. Desperately. I made the decision for myself to stop my medication and figure the rest out later. After all, if it was so easy to not eat, then it must be equally as easy to start back up again.

When I was 17 and a senior in high school I had an after school job at a daycare center as the Assistant Teacher in the infant room (ah, my humble beginnings). One day I took an Adderall (that was not prescribed to me) before I went into work at 3pm. I did my job happily and thoroughly, but by 6pm I was really starting to feel out of control. I couldn’t stop talking to anyone and everyone who would engage me. I got off work at 6:30 and drove myself home, chain smoking the whole way. When I walked in the door is when the full freakout began. My mom wasn’t home (and you must remember that these were the days before cell phones) and I couldn’t even  so much as sit still for a moment. Finally, my mom called to let me know that she was on her way home from work. Within the 15 minutes it took her to get home, I paced the apartment back and forth, back and forth growing colder by the second. Mind you, this was June. So, it was not cold outside by any means. Every time I paced into my bedroom, I would put on another layer of clothing to stop myself from shivering. Eventually, the walls started closing in on me and I HAD TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE ASAP. So I walked outside and continued my pacing in front of our apartment building. When my mom pulled up she (as well as most of our neighbors) saw me pacing the sidewalk wearing layers upon layers of winter clothing, crying hysterically, and hyperventilating.

She wanted to put me straight into the car and drive me to the emergency room, but I refused. Eventually she coaxed me back into our apartment so she could call the doctor. The doctor instructed her to give me Robitussin because it would mellow me out. Thankfully, it worked. Then she called my best friend to come over and hang out with me because I was refusing to talk to her about anything that had happened. So, my BFF came over and took me for a drive to smoke some pot because she thought that would calm me down even further. Between the Adderall, my adrenaline, the Robitussin and the pot, I felt like I was rolling on ecstasy. But not in a good way. If there is a good way. My eyes were rolling back in my head, I couldn’t feel my tongue,  and all I wanted to do was go to sleep.

So that’s what I did. She took me home and I went to bed. For a very long time.

When I awoke, however, I felt good as new and went about life as if nothing had ever happened. No one even really spoke about it, at least not me anyway. They say you always remember you first panic attack. They also say that no subsequent panic attack can ever be as bad as your very first. I can attest to that. However, I can also attest to the fact that you live life in fear of reliving that first attack. Forge the phobias that develop along the way. Those fears pale in comparison the fear of panicking like you did for the very first time. I don’t fear airplanes, tunnels, traffic, being alone, or even pregnancy. But I avoid those things in an effort to avoid the hell that is an anxiety attack.

At the time, I had no idea what a panic attack even was and I still wouldn’t learn for many years to come…

 

 

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