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I suppose I should write about this, because years down the road it'll be interesting to see what I've done.

So I've got panic disorder.

In hindsight, it started about 2 years ago. I went in for my twinrix vaccination to go on a cruise to the Caribbean. I also got a tetanus shot, which hurt a ridiculous amount for some reason. No matter, I'm a strong lady! I can handle this. Why am I not breathing so well? Oh god. Am I ok? Am I going to faint? I'm faiting. Stop shaking. etc etc etc etc.

Long story short, my brain took on the worry/panic feeling so much that I wasn't breathing. My lips turned blue, I was flush, which the doctors noted when I was standing up paying for the whole thing. Luckily one of them guided me to a chair because I was soon semi-conscious and staring around the room wondering how I'd gotten there.

They put me on a couch, gave me some juice, and ten minutes later I was fine. I figured I'd just reacted poorly to the misplaced tetanus shot (apparently they hit a muscle, and so it hurt). I bike home, everything is fine. Next time I get a booster, I make a note of my reaction to the nurse, she is awesome, tricks me into not realizing she gave me the shot, and let me recover for 5 mins lying down. Awesome! So nothing happened, I figure it was just the muscle thing.

I start at WestJet, going through training. I have an energy drink for lunch because pepsi was there giving out free products to all the employees on campus. About half an hour after lunch, I find myself feeling as though I am going to die. My legs can't stop moving, I can't focus on ANYTHING, my chest feels heavy, my heart is racing and skipping along. My coworkers note the colour of my lips has changed, and I notice that my distal circulation (fingernails) is ineffective. It comes in waves. Sometimes I think I'm going to be ok, but then it clutches in on my entire being, feeling basically like your muscles in all of your body have become those of a hand with fingers, and they're trying as hard as they can to crush you and all of your insides.

Class lets out at the end of the day, and though I'm exhausted, I feel much better. Relieved not to have made a total ass of myself by being carted away by EMS or something. But what the hell happened? I assume caffeine overdose and just avoid the stuff for a month or two.

In hindsight, since that moment 1.5 years ago (october 2010), I've had more panic attacks. I have a heart palpitation, and I always have. This has become a source of panic. I remember standing in a line for a mock shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, thinking that if I rode it, I was going to die. I rode it anyway, lived, and had a great time.

I've been avoiding letting my anxiety ruin my life, even before I realized what it was.

But then one day last month I was at work. I show up at the gate, ready to go. My crew are there, I meet them, and all I have to do is work Edmonton-Winnipeg. Easy-peasy hour and a half. No problem. And the loads are low (few guests on board), awesome! I'm feeling ill at ease. My head is tingling, I'm not thinking properly.. But I can do this. Come on Kate, you're fine, let's just work this last leg and be done with the whole pairing.

I get on the plane, open all the kits I need, everything's dandy. Takeoff, everything's dandy except that my chest's a bit heavy. I concentrate on my breathing, and it's nice. But I've got someone with me in the back galley, and she wants to chat, so I can't completely concentrate on breathing. That's fine, she's nice. I like chats.

It's during beverage service that it hits me in the face. I'm instantly feeling flushed, my head is tingling, my arms are weak, I'm basically spaghetti in the aisle. Spots start appearing in my vision, and I look to my coworker and tell her I need to sit down. She of course says that's no problem - the plane's not full, they can handle it. I sit at the back and experience the worst waves of complete panic and death-feeling ever. No caffeine, I think to myself. I've not eaten much, maybe that's a trigger? I had a bit of a shitty day, but that can't be?

I have no idea what the trigger was, but I only got up again to leave the aircraft after landing (they had enough flight attendants to land without me). And then they took me off the aircraft in a wheelchair, brought me out, and I hopped in a cab. Upon getting home, I was 100% fine. Except that I was incredibly mad at myself. The whole time I was sitting on the plane, I'd been telling myself to calm the fuck down. I am fine, and I'll be fine. That was when I realized it was indeed all in my head. Myself vs myself.

Going to work the next few pairings was hard. I'd find myself wondering if it was going to happen again. Shaking, trying to distract myself. It's worked so far, and I think I've removed flying as a trigger - but who knows what the next one will be.

Today I was supposed to fly out on a pairing. I called in sick. It's been over a month and I have had no time at all to see a doctor. Between seeing friends, CS work, events, deadlines, life, relationship, and everything else, I have had no time. I had a week and a half off recently, which I spent 5 days of sick in bed. Unable to get out of the house and get shit done.

So today I'm officially going to the doctor and talking about what's going on. It's scary. I've discussed it with Aaron, and he's supportive as hell. He wants to see me learn how to control it, and he's actually been the one who thinks that medication could help me to get through. I don't like the idea, personally. I like who I am, the way I think, the way I do things. I think positively way more than 90% of the time, and I don't need to change that. I hear stories of people taking pills and changing their personality. I saw my dad flip flop on meds when I was a kid (he also has panic/anxiety), and I know that they change a person. I've seen it with my own two eyes.

I don't want chemicals to make me less fun. I don't want them to make me less quirky or awesome. I want to keep doing Cherrystems in an awkward and trustable way. I like me. I like me so much.

But at the same time, those attacks are the absolute worst feeling I have ever experienced in my entire life. I have never been so sure of my impending death.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 20th, 2012 01:11 am (UTC)
I have some neurological pills that I can take "as needed". So when I feel something approaching that I know I will either not be able to quelsh on my own, or would be incredibly taxing, it helps a lot. And it's just enough to drive the edge down so I can work, think clearly, etc. Not enough that the problem is invisible and not enough that I crash when the meds wear off.
Mar. 21st, 2012 10:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the tip. A couple of friends also have a similar prescription for when things get really gross. I'm hoping that's what I can do.

I've got my first appointment to talk to a psychologist tomorrow. Hopefully we can bash this thing in its face!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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