Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 3

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Post Suicide Attempt: Prologue – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/post-suicide-attempt-prologue/

Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 1 – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/post-suicide-attempt-chapter-1/

Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 2 – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/post-suicide-attempt-chapter-2/

When I was transferred to the unit in the psych hospital that had lower security, I was given a tour by one of the nurses.  I was a little afraid because I had no idea what to expect.  But the fear and hesitation I felt was nothing compared to where I was before.  This unit was much nicer.  There were sofas, the patients were allowed to open the windows and change the tv channels themselves, there was art on the walls, and I got my first glimpse of sunlight in days.

I was taken to what would be my room, where I was introduced to my roommate.  She was my age, and very friendly.  I was also introduced to another patient who showed me all of the ropes and made sure I had someone to sit with at dinner.  I was also quickly introduced to some other patients, but I didn’t really get to know them until later.

My nurse also explained “privileges” to me.  There were different levels of privileges.  The lowest was on-unit privileges, which meant that you were not allowed to leave the unit except to go to classes.  Next up were in-house privileges, which meant that you could go anywhere you wanted inside the hospital as long as you signed out and were back every hour to confirm that you hadn’t run away.  After that you got grounds privileges, which meant that you could go anywhere on the hospital grounds (you could go outside and breathe fresh air!) as long as you signed out and came back every hour.  I was immediately given in-house privileges since I had behaved so well in the previous unit.  Your doctor could also grant you evening and weekend passes so that you could spend some time at home as long as you were with a family member at all times.  And if you misbehaved, you could have your privileges taken away.

Finally, I was given a schedule.  The schedule listed all kinds of classes that were available.  These classes included horticulture, yoga, art therapy, wellness (which was super boring, but it was the only class we absolutely had to go to), and some other activities.  Our doctors also referred us to groups that were more specific to our particular issues.  I was assigned to Women’s Group (a bunch of women who sit in a circle to share their issues and support one another), Managing Emotions (learning how to identify what you are feeling and express it in a healthy way), and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Skills for Anxiety (learning tips and tricks to help understand your triggers and how to cope with anxiety).  I can’t really share too much about these classes because we had to sign some confidentiality forms; all I can tell you in that they existed and I learned things.

I started to get used to the routine, and I got used to eating eggs every single day because that’s what they always served the vegetarians.  Don’t get me wrong, eggs are delicious.  I just got a little tired of eating them every single day.  My original roommate was released after one night, and I was assigned a new roommate.  She was mostly bedridden, and she asked me who I was every time I entered the room.  But I made friends elsewhere.  I am even still in contact with a couple of them.

I was also finally allowed to go outside when I had a panic attack and freaked out because I felt like I was being confined in too small a space, so that was good.  It was freezing outside.  I got soaked by all of the falling snow, but I GOT TO GO OUTSIDE!  Seriously, don’t ever take the fact that you are allowed to go outside for granted.  And really, how good can it be for someone’s mental health to never let them breathe fresh air?  Even prison inmates get to go outside for an hour every day.  I’m not going to get into that right now because it’s not really relevant to my story, but I was thrilled to finally be allowed to go outside!  It was the best I had felt in months!  I even called my parents to tell them the exciting news!

There were also many challenges that I came across in this unit, and there were several things that went on outside the hospital that I felt like I was helpless to do anything about.  My school, for example, was a source of many issues.  But I’ll talk about that next week.  See you guys then!

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Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 2

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Post Suicide Attempt: Prologue – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/post-suicide-attempt-prologue/

Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 1 – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/post-suicide-attempt-chapter-1/

Valentine’s Day came a few days after I was admitted to the ICU, and I had quite a few visitors that day.  It was nice.  I was brought flowers, candies, chocolates, and stuffed animals.

I also learned that I would be moving to the psychiatric hospital as soon as they had a bed available, which ended up being the following day at 10pm.  I had to quickly pack up all of my stuff, throw out my flowers and head over there.  My personal support worker took me to the psych hospital across the street in a taxi, as per protocol, and she brought me inside.  I was greeted by a nurse, and my personal support worker left.

The nurse who greeted me showed me my locker, where I would have to keep all of my stuff.  I was allowed one book at a time in my room, and nothing with a hardcover.  All of my clothes, toiletries, and the rest of my books were locked up by the nurse.  If I wanted to get something, I had to ask at the nursing station.  She then showed me to my room.

The room had a greenish hue, and the paint was chipping in several places.  There were two chairs and a table, all attached together, and a bed.  There was also a light on, which I would later learn never turned off.  I put the book I had chosen to keep with me on the windowsill.  The window was protected by bulletproof glass and the blinds were stuck shut, so I never got to see outside.

A few minutes later, a different nurse came in and started asking me a bunch of questions.  This took a very long time, and I don’t remember all of the questions.  I do remember the nurse calling me promiscuous because I had had some no-strings-attached sex that I had to tell her about to be admitted, and I remember being asked if I had ever been arrested for a bunch of different crimes.

She also asked if I had AIDS, and I said no.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“How can you really be sure if you’ve had sexual intercourse outside of a monogamous relationship?”

“I’ve been tested, and I don’t have it.”  I really did not like this nurse.  I didn’t like most of the night-time nurses, but the day-time nurses were all excellent.  I wondered if they scheduled the grumpier nurses for nights so that they would have less interaction with patients while they slept, or if the nurses were grumpy because they had been scheduled to work nights.

Eventually she left, and I went to sleep.  The real adventure began in the morning when I was woken up to a breakfast tray.  At this point, I wasn’t eating much; I still felt pretty queasy from the overdose, and I don’t think I ate anything on my first morning.  I did have tea, though.  The only tea this unit had was orange pekoe tea, and I still can’t drink or smell that kind of tea without being reminded of this unit is the psych hospital.  It also took me several months to be able to eat eggs again since most of the vegetarian meals were egg-based.

The unit was shaped like a donut.  The nursing station was in the middle with windows all around it so that they could see what was going on.  There was a hallway around the nursing station with doors to all the patient rooms, the lounge, the isolation room, and the bathrooms.  There was also a door in the far corner from my room that led to the unit with lower security.

Since there wasn’t much you could do in the unit, a bunch of the patients walked in a circle around the nursing station.  There was one woman in overalls who told me that the government had murdered her children and were now trying to silence her by keeping her locked up.  There was the girl who would eventually become one of my best friends.  There was the guy from Newfoundland who was very friendly.  Most of the patients were nice and welcoming, even though I hardly ever left my room.  But there was one patient who terrified me.

When this guy walked around the nursing station in circles, he would shout, “I didn’t mean to hurt her.  They said I meant to hurt her, but I didn’t mean to hurt her.  It was an accident!  I DIDN’T MEAN TO HURT HER!”  All the rooms had windows into them (except for the isolation room) so that the nurses could look in on us, and this guy would stop at mine and stare at me.  He looked in once while my family was visiting and my sister jumped up and screamed.  On one of the few occasions where I did leave my room to ask one of the nurses for juice, he stood behind me at the door and told me, “Your body is just like hers.”

Another terrifying situation was when I was in my room, about to go to bed with the stupid light that didn’t turn off shining above me, when the guy from the room beside me tried to get into my room.  My door handle stuck all the time, which usually annoyed me, but this time I was grateful for it.  The night-time nurses didn’t do anything about it while it was happening.  I don’t think they were paying attention because when I went to tell them what had happened, they were playing cards with their backs faced to the rest of the unit.

I knocked on the door.

“Yeah?” the one nurse asked when he opened the door.  I found him pretty intimidating.  He had once refused to give one girl her PRNs, the medications that you are supposed to be able to get whenever you asked for them as long as your doctor said it was okay.  She didn’t get her anti-anxiety meds and she had an anxiety attack.  He got mad at her, as well as the patient and I who were trying to help her breathe through it.

“That guy just tried to get into my room.”

“Oh, what?  Did he scare you?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Kind of.”

“Go back to bed.”

And that was that.

I was admitted on the Friday before a long weekend, so I didn’t get to see my doctor for a few days.  As soon as I did, he told me that I would be moving over to the other unit, T2, as soon as a bed became available.  At this point, I was considering begging to be allowed to go home.  I promised myself that I would never hurt myself again because I never wanted to end up back in that place.  I kept telling my mom that I wanted to go home, but she kept telling me that I needed to stay where I was.  She told me that this was the place where I was going to get the treatment I needed.  I knew she was right, but I wanted nothing more than to get out of there.

Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 3 – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/post-suicide-attempt-chapter-3/

My Recovery

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I am happy.  In this moment, I’m actually a little grumpy.  I am always a little bit grumpy in the morning because I’m not much of a morning person.  What I mean by saying that I’m happy is that I am, overall, pretty happy at this point of my life.

This is the first time I have ever felt this way, at least that I can remember.  I’m not going to say that everything is perfectly fine.  That’s not true.  But I can say that I am doing extremely well.  Everything in my life is going well at the present moment.

I have started an online course in grammar as part of a creative writing program that I have decided to enrol in to keep myself busy this year.  I got a job that starts on June 17.  There were five positions, and one-hundred-twenty people applied.  I made it.  I have started to see someone who is not abusive, and that’s going well so far.  I’m doing everything the average 19-year-old would be doing: college, summer job, dating, etc.  Not only am I doing that, but I have accomplished some pretty amazing things in the past little while.

I am extremely proud of myself.  I reached my rock bottom a few months ago, and I have been able to build myself up even stronger than I was before my downward spiral.  Not only that, but I have been open about everything that I am going through.  It hasn’t always been easy.  There have been times where I have thought to myself, “You should have kept all this to yourself, Sophie.  You shouldn’t have told anyone what was going on with you.”  However, that thought has only occurred to me a few times.  Most of the time, I feel proud and happy that I have shared my story.

I had a few goals that I hoped to accomplish when I made the decision to be open about my mental health issues.  The first was to provide a voice that would hopefully be able to speak to others who are going through similar issues.  Nobody should feel alone when they are in a battle against their illness.  The second goal was to help people who don’t know what it’s like to have a mental illness gain some understanding.  In my case, members of my family didn’t know how to react to my issues because they had no way of knowing what I was going through.  I know that the not knowing really worried my parents, so I wanted to provide the families and friends of individuals dealing with mental illness with some information.  My third goal was to open up people’s eyes to the lack of mental health care in our society.

All that being said, there have been some challenges.  There are always going to be people who can’t see things from your point of view, and that is something that I have had to deal with.  Not everybody is going to be understanding.  I occasionally have people say things to me that make me feel very small.  Whether someone tells me that mental illness isn’t really an illness, or that I’m not capable of something menial because I am mentally ill, I am always taken aback by negative comments.

However, I think that these comments say more about the person who said them than they do about me.  If someone doesn’t believe that mental illness is a real kind of illness, then their opinions are trapped in the stone age.  If someone thinks I’m not fully-functional, I would really like to see them handle everything that comes with being mentally ill.  If I believed that everyone who is mentally ill wasn’t really ill and that they weren’t able to function, I wouldn’t have been able to recover as well as I have.  It was my belief that I am more than my illness that gave me the strength to get as far as I have in my recovery.

I really hope that if someone has the belief that they aren’t really dealing with a real illness, or that they will never be a fully-functional member of society, they might read this and possibly reconsider.  I know this sounds cheesy, but determination is a huge part of recovery.  There are many other aspects to recovery (medications, counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, having a strong support system, etc.), but I think that believing that you can get better is the most important part of actually getting better.

I also just want to put this out there:  If you know someone who is going through a hard time, even if it is not due to mental illness, don’t be a dick about it.  Even if you don’t want to offer your support, you don’t have to be rude.  Be kind to people no matter what their story is.

Psychiatric Assessment

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About a week ago, I had an appointment with a psychiatrist.  Yesterday, my case worker went over the psychiatrist’s assessment of me.  I found the results kind of depressing.  I have four psychological disorders, and I function about half as well as most people.

The four disorders I have are: recurrent major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia.  I’m actually still researching these because I don’t totally understand what all of this means.  My case worker knows that I like to know what is going on.  He knows I like to learn everything I can about whatever condition it is that I have, so he wrote them all down for me.  Once I learn a little more about them, I’ll probably make a blog post about each of them.  But for now, I will tell you what I do know about them.

Major depressive disorder is what you probably know of just “depression.”  Usually, people who have major depressive disorder experience an extremely low mood for at least two weeks.  Then these people, with treatment, come out of their depression.  Since mine is recurring, I will have depressive episodes than can last for a few weeks to a few months.  Then I will come out of this depressed state.  It’s not bipolar because I never experience the extreme highs that come with it.

Dysthymic disorder is similar to major depressive disorder, but it is less severe and lasts longer.  Dysthymic disorder lasts at least two years.  Although, I have most likely been dealing with it for much longer than that.  It is characterized by a low mood that is relatively consistent over a long period of time.

Panic disorder means that I will experience intense moments of panic, and I will sometimes have panic attacks, for seemingly no reason.  All of a sudden, I will have catastrophic thoughts that will cause me to freak out a little.  These thoughts will be something like: “Something bad is going to happen,” or “I am going to die.”  I can go from 0 to 100 in 30 seconds.

Agoraphobia is common when you have panic disorder.  In fact, it is more common to have both than it is to have panic disorder on its own.  Agoraphobia means that I have a fear of being able to escape.  This means that I will feel panicked if I feel like I am stuck in a place that I can’t get out of.  This means crowds, the subway, etc.  With me, though, I often feel the most panicked when I am alone with a stranger.  I am afraid that they will try to do something to hurt me, and that I won’t be able to escape them because nobody will be around to help.  The reason that agoraphobia is common with panic disorder is that because I sometimes have panic attacks for no reason, I worry that I will have one in public and not be able to leave the situation.  For example, if I have a panic attack in a mall, everyone will see.  It might freak some of the people out, the strangers around me won’t know what to do, and I will be embarrassed when it’s over.  I’m usually a lot more calm when I am with someone I feel comfortable around.

Anyway, I hope to learn a lot more about these disorders so that I can find out the best way to combat them.  I will keep you posted!

The Hospital

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I have gone to the hospital for mental health-related issues more than once, but I want to share one of the times I went.  I was sent home that night, a few hours after getting there, so this post is more about the emotions I went through than any kinds of treatment.

This story starts with me in my residence room.  I was sitting on the floor with all of the pills I had in my room, as well as a bottle of gin (or maybe it was vodka), in front of me.  I wanted to stop feeling so fucking miserable all the time.  I didn’t really care whether I lived or died, so it was fine with me if dying was what it took to stop hurting so much.  I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to swallow all the pills, and then chug the alcohol, to end my life.

As I pondered what to do, I used a knife to cut into my calf.  I watched myself bleed, and then the thought of dying became very real to me.  For a split second, I really did not want to die.  I mean, I didn’t really want to live.  But I didn’t want to die.  I don’t know how to really describe that feeling, but you would know if you’ve ever felt it.  I decided not to try to end my life.  Instead, I texted a friend.  After talking to her, I decided to go to the hospital.  She told me that she was proud of me for being so strong.

Everyone who was staying in my residence that weekend was drinking that night, so I drove myself to the ER.  I don’t remember when I started crying, but I was definitely crying at this point.  My vision kept getting blurred by my tears, so I really had to focus on the road.  When I got to the hospital, I got into the line of patients waiting to see a nurse so they could wait to see a doctor.

When I saw my nurse, I told her that I wanted to kill myself.  I told her that I didn’t want to die, but I was worried that I would end my life if I didn’t get help.  She brought me to a room with nothing but a bed.  There were three solid walls, and one wall that was glass with a sliding door.

When I was left alone, I started bawling.  One of the nurses kept offering me water, but I declined.  She told me that if I needed anything, I should let her know.  While I was waiting to see a doctor, the friend who had encouraged me to go to the hospital kept apologizing for not being able to come be with me that night because she was in a different city and had no way to get there.  She told me that she wanted nothing more than to be with me that night.  Since she couldn’t, she made me promise that I would keep texting her to keep her updated.  She also made me promise to ask someone who was in the same city as me if they would stay with me that night.

I texted a friend who lived on campus and wasn’t drinking that night.  I asked him if he would come stay the night with me when I left the hospital.  I told him that I was afraid that I would hurt myself if I was left alone.  He said that he wouldn’t and told me to ask someone else.  I told him that if the positions were reversed, there was no way in hell that I would let him be alone.

My doctor came in, and after telling him about how I felt, he said that I seemed like a smart girl who was just on the wrong path.  I was sent home, but I was told that I had to go to my mom’s house.

When I went outside, it was pouring.  I walked to my car in the rain, getting soaked.  I started the drive to my mom’s house, but by the time I got to the highway it was clear that it wasn’t safe to drive.  My eyes were extremely puffy from crying, tears were fogging up my vision, and my windshield wipers weren’t able to keep up with the rain.  I couldn’t see anything.  I was also so frazzled that I got lost going to my own house.  It was clear to me that if I tried to get home, trying to not kill myself would be a complete waste.  If I tried to get home, I would have gotten into a car accident.  I pulled over, and I texted the same friend that I had already asked to come over.  He said that he would come over if I really couldn’t get home.

I called my mom to let her know that I wasn’t coming over that night, but that I would come over first thing in the morning.  At this point, she didn’t know what was going on.  She kept asking if I was okay, and I told her that I’d tell her everything when I saw her in person.  I was still bawling my eyes out, and I was occasionally hyperventilating.

I started my car again, and I drove back to my residence.  I walked from the parking lot to the building in the rain, but I was already soaking wet.  It didn’t matter anymore.  I went back into residence.  Everyone was yelling, and it was really loud.  Nobody noticed me come in and go to my room.

When I got to my room, I set up my extra mattress for my friend who was coming over.  He didn’t come in the end, but I’m not getting into anything about him right now.  That’s not what this story is about.

When I found out that I would be alone for the night, I put on a movie to distract myself.  I don’t remember what movie it was, and I didn’t really watch it.  I just kept cutting into my calf until I was too tired to stay up any longer and went to sleep.

When I woke up, I had several voicemails from my mom.  She wanted to know what was going on and if I was okay.  I sat on the floor and called her, and I told her I would be home in an hour.  A little over an hour later, my mom called.  She wanted to know where I was.  I had been sitting on the floor, feeling completely drained and weak, so I asked if she would come get me.  When she arrived, I went to let her into the building.  She cleaned up my room, packed some clothes for me to wear, got me to get dressed, and then she took me home.  If she hadn’t come, I don’t think I would have gotten up off of the floor that day.  I don’t know if I would have gotten up off the floor that week.

I spent the whole morning thinking about how I could still end my life.  The only reason that I didn’t was because I didn’t want my mom to be the one to find me.  I felt hungover because I was so dehydrated, but I didn’t care.  I didn’t care that yesterday’s makeup was now a smeared, black mess all over my face.  I didn’t care that my room was a complete disaster.  I didn’t care that I was alone the night before.  Nothing mattered to me that morning except that I wouldn’t let my mom find me dead.  She did find me broken when she came to pick me up, but I wouldn’t let her be the one to find me dead.  If I were to end my life, someone else would have to be the one to find me.  It wouldn’t be my mom.  That would be too hard for her.

For a while after this happened, I felt as though I had died.  I felt numb, and I didn’t care about anything at all.  I lost a lot of weight because I didn’t really bother with making myself food, and I stopped reaching out to people for help.  That night made me feel like it was too much trouble for other people to have to worry about me, so I didn’t tell anyone what was going on.  I had been told by a “friend” that night that my issues were making them unhappy, and I decided that I wouldn’t put my issues on anyone’s shoulders again.  That night was the turning point in my illness where things just kept spiralling downwards.

In retrospect, I should have seen how much my one friend truly cared about me.  Even though she couldn’t be with me in person, she did her best to make sure that I wouldn’t be alone.  I should have seen how much my mom loved me when she came to my residence to try and put me back together.  I also had another friend who I confided in, and she was determined that I would not stay in bed all day every day.  She told me how bad she felt that she hadn’t been in residence that weekend, and she said that she wished she could have been with me.  But in the frame of mind that I was in, all I saw was the bad.  I felt alone despite the love others had shown for me.  One of the things that really keeps me going now is thinking back to how wrong I was then.  I was wrong to think that I was nothing but a burden to people, and now I keep holding on to that knowledge to keep myself strong.

This post is dedicated to Jenessa Murray and Erin Brookes for being such great friends.

Panic Disorder: The Demon

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I have panic disorder.

It is a type of anxiety disorder.  Along with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and a few others.

Having panic disorder basically means that I have recurring panic attacks.

When I’m not having panic attacks, I worry about when the next time I am going to have a panic attack will be.

I can physically feel that worry.  It controls me.  It possesses me.  It weakens me.  I am a prisoner within my own body.

Anxiety is like a demon.  It’s like one of those evil spirits that takes possession of people in horror movies.  I need an exorcism of sorts to free me from it.

I feel it straining my back, my shoulders, my chest, and my neck.  It’s not tension.  It’s not pain.  I don’t know how to describe it, but it has taken away my freedom.

I’m constantly fighting it.  I try to use logic to reason with it.

“Nothing bad is going to happen,” I repeat to myself.  I know this is logically true, but I still have trouble really believing it.

I’m fighting an uphill battle, and I’m not sure that I can win the fight.  I try different tactics.

I resort to violence.  Maybe if I cut myself open, I will reach the demon.  Maybe he’ll escape through the opening in my skin.

I try to starve him out.  If I waste away, maybe he’ll waste away with me.

I try to work him off.  I hit the gym, hoping that I’ll sweat him out.

I use medications to try and kill him, but they only stun him a little.  He might be passed out for a while, but he comes back as the pills wear off.

I listen to Florence and the Machine’s “Shake It Out,” and I hope that one epic night will make everything better.  I hope that friends, sex, alcohol, and dancing are enough to make the demon leave.

But he stays.  He is a parasite.  He grows stronger as I grow weaker.

I want to keep fighting, and I will fight right to the end.  I’m strong enough to keep fighting.  I just don’t know if I’m strong enough to win that fight.

Panic Attacks for Dummies

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So, I’ve already made a post about panic attacks, but I’ve decided to write another one.  I don’t really like talking about my panic attacks.  I’m pretty open about explaining everything else I have dealt with regarding mental illness, but my panic attacks are more difficult for me to talk about.  It’s not that I don’t want people to know what they’re like.  In fact, I wish that more people knew because I often feel like a lot of people just don’t understand what a panic attack is.  It’s just hard for me to talk about them because they are so terrifying for me.  Having a panic attack is the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced.  I don’t like to talk about having them because I don’t want to think about them too much.  However, it is something that I feel is important to share.  Hopefully, if people who have experienced panic attacks continue to share their stories, the general public will know a lot more about them.

I’ve been asked many times about what triggers my panic attacks.  I’ve been asked about the triggers way more than I have been asked about the panic attacks themselves.  The truth is, I don’t always know what triggers them.  Sometimes there is a clear trigger.  It could have been a conversation, a loud and crowded room, or something else identifiable.  But a lot of the time, there is no identifiable trigger.  Sometimes the panic attacks just happen for no apparent reason.

I find that a lot of people don’t really understand how the panic attacks can just happen out of the blue.  I’ll be asked, “But what happened beforehand?  Something must have upset you.”  That isn’t always the case, though.  Sometimes I’ll go from being in a perfectly good mood to thinking that I’m going to die or that something bad is going to happen.  I don’t understand it either, so it makes it really hard for me to answer all the “But why?” questions.  Sometimes those questions actually make me feel anxious because I don’t know what causes my panic attacks, and I start to wonder what the hell is wrong with me.  I start to think that I must be crazy if I start freaking out for no discernible reason.  Maybe I am crazy.

Whether I’m crazy or not, the panic attacks still happen.  I can usually feel them coming on, but there isn’t really anything I can do to stop them.  I feel very uncomfortable right before my panic attacks.  My muscles tense up, and I start to feel restless.  I feel like if I sit still I will explode, so I keep moving.  Then I start to shake, just a little at first.  I start to feel dizzy, and I get tunnel vision.  I feel like I can only see the air right in front of me.  My surroundings, the faces of people around me, are all blurred.  My hearing gets fuzzy too.  It sounds like I am underwater, and I can only hear a little bit of what is going on above the surface.  My mind starts to travel from thought to thought, but none of the thoughts really make sense.

“I’m in danger.”

“I need to get out of here.”

“I need to escape.”

“Something bad is going to happen.”

“I’m going to explode.”

“I’m going to die.”

“Everyone I love is dead.”

“I’m going completely crazy.”

“GET OUT OF HERE!”

Sometimes I make it out of whatever situation I’m in, but not always.  Wherever I am, I start to shake even more.  I am having my full-blown panic attack now.  I start to hyperventilate.  I am breathing so fast, and my chest hurts.  My heart is racing.  I feel weak.  My breathing starts to slow down a little, but then it speeds right back up again.  I’m breathing even faster than before.  All of my energy is focused on my breathing as I try to slow it down.  I’m still having thoughts about how something awful is going to happen, but I try to rationalize my way through them.

“This is just a panic attack.  I’ve had them before.  This will not kill me.  I am in no real danger.”

But I still can’t focus, I still can’t stop shaking, and I can’t control my breathing.  Until, all of a sudden, my breathing starts to slow down.  Once I’m breathing at a regular pace again, my heart stops beating to fast.  My chest doesn’t hurt quite so much anymore.  My vision comes back into focus, and I can hear normally again.  The shaking doesn’t stop right away, though.  Neither do my thoughts of impending doom.  I don’t really believe that the panic attack is over.  It’s too good to be true.

I try to focus on the present, and my mind calms down a little.  I start to think more rationally, but I’m still shaking.  I still don’t feel like I’m capable of supporting myself, so that’s what I focus on.  I focus on sitting or standing up.  I focus on remaining upright until the shaking starts to slow down.  It can take a while.  It takes longer if I’m alone.  Once the shaking stops, it’s over.  I still feel a little weak, and I often make stupid decisions at this point in time.

I often to self-destructive things after a panic attack, like call someone I’m not supposed to call, self-harm, or isolate myself for a day or two.  Even though I went from 0 to 100 in just a couple of minutes, it takes a long time for me to get back down to 0.  It takes a long time to get back to even a 50.  The panic attack has gone away, but it hasn’t taken all of the panic with it.  I still worry that I’m going crazy, and I feel hopeless of ever getting better.  It can take a few days for me to feel back to normal again.  It’s kind of like a panic attack hangover.

Anyway, that’s what my panic attacks are like.  They’re probably similar to some people’s, but very different from others.  This is what I experience.  Sometimes it happens only once a month, but sometimes a few times a week.  It varies.  I hope this post helps people who have never experienced a panic attack before understand what it’s like, and I hope that it has made people who have had panic attacks feel a little less alone.