Panic attacks are not fun

I have Panic Disorder (in addition to Major Depressive Disorder), and most of the time, I’m able to control it through medication. Unfortunately, a few days ago, I hit the perfect storm of running out of Xanax just before my delivery was scheduled to be delivered by my mail pharmacy, only to go check the mail and realize that someone had pried open the box and stolen all the mail, including my medication. I went into a full-blown panic attack on Sunday, knowing that I had to suck it up and try to just get through it using willpower alone. Fortunately, my best friend understands my condition and asked me to call him, and stayed on the phone with me until I could breathe again.

I don’t know what other people’s panic attacks feel like, but when I’m having one I get super-overheated and start sweating profusely, my heart rate goes way up (from my normal resting pulse of 55 bpm to as high as 150 bpm) and I feel like I’m going to die of a heart attack. My senses shut down until my eyesight gets so blurry I can’t see, my hearing turns into a whooshing sound like I’m trying to hear underwater, and my head feels like I’m spinning in circles too fast and can’t get my bearings. On top of this, I start to hyperventilate and can’t speak in complete sentences without concentrating really hard.

It’s a horrible feeling. One moment you’re fine, and the next you feel like you’re going to die at any moment. My doctor and I have tried to figure out what my “triggers” are for many years, and I don’t seem to have any. I just get random attacks. Thankfully, I was able to explain the situation to my mail order pharmacy and they are going to expedite a replacement shipment to me, and my doctor ordered enough at my local pharmacy to get me through until the mail order comes in.

The biggest problem with mental illness is that those who don’t have it don’t understand that it’s not a choice. I can’t just decide to be happy or decide to not have a panic attack. That would be the same as trying to not be female or not have brown eyes. Yeah, I can mask the brown eyes with colored contacts, but beneath the contacts, my eyes will always be brown. Same with mental illness, I can mask the symptoms but the underlying disease is always there. Having depression and panic disorder is not anything I would wish upon anyone, much less myself. It’s extremely stigmatized still, and it’s hard to control.

If you know someone who has depression or some other mental illness, please don’t tell them to just be happy and it will all get better. Ask what you can do to help them out. Sometimes we just need a person to cry on until the worst of it passes. I’m okay today, for the most part. I can’t tell you how I’ll feel tomorrow. Each day is a surprise as to whether it’s going to be an easy day or a difficult one. Thankfully, I have some great friends who understand me and don’t make me feel like I’m some sort of freak.  Next, I need to get my family to understand it.

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