Since my asthma attack that landed me in the ER a few weeks ago, I've had ongoing, daily panic attacks.  My mental state has deteriorated and sleeping has become an increasingly difficult task. In the past my bouts of insomnia always seem to cycle themselves out, but this time it seems stuck on high gear with no end in sight. I keep asking myself where did these panic attacks come from. I've never had them in the past and why I'm I dwelling on death.  It never bothered me before and now I can't seem to escape its clutches. These panic attack seem to come out of the blue with no apparent trigger and when they hit, I lose all ability to calm myself down or to think rationally.  My thoughts are completely focused on the panic attack like an obsession...it's as if I'm wearing blinders and what I see is a very narrow, scary view of life.  I weep, shake and pace.  I'm overwhelmed with the fear of losing control and slipping away forever in some psychotic world. I am, however, one of the fortunate ones because I have people who love me and who will help me regardless of what that help entails.  I know it's no fun sitting with me in ER's at all hours of the day and night and at doctor's offices.  By the way, why don't any doctor's offices have comfortable chairs or better reading material?  I try very hard to keep telling myself that I'm not being a burden to anyone.  My family loves me and wants to see me get well, but it's hard not to listen to all the negative dialog going on inside my head.  I wish I had an on/off switch and since I don't I'm at the mercy of going through some rather agonizing episodes of negativity.

In the last few weeks I've learned many things...most of them are things I'd rather have been kept in the dark about than to have learned them through first hand experience. 
  1. It seems anything regarding mental health facilities are a huge clusterfuck.  Shouldn't it be organized and welcoming to set the patients minds at ease? Yet the places seem oppressive and upon entering it sucks the life from you.  Everything seems so sterile right down to the color schemes and layout of the rooms. Everything about it screams, "RUN!"
  2. People using mental health facilities are scared, anxious and filled with many negative things and need friendly, helpful people working at the facility they use.  While Nurse Ratched was an integral part to the One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest story, she has no place in real life and shouldn't be working at any place involving mental illness.   
  3. People using mental health facilities seem to too easily lose their "human" status as soon as they become a patient. Why is suffering from a mental illness any different than suffering from a physical illness? The difference I believe is in the eyes and attitude of the beholder and of the caretakers.
  4. Because mental illness carries such a stigma, it's easy to become just a diagnosis, a case number and nothing more.  People too easily lose their identity and become a page from the DSM-V.  Too many mentally ill people have lost their ability to fight or stand up for themselves.  When I look at myself I don't see the person I was 20 years ago...a person who had wind in her sails and was going places. 
  5. Regardless of what mental state a person is in, unless they have a specific, detailed plan for suicide, the person will be sent home and referred back to their primary care doctor who in turn is supposed to refer them to a psychiatrist. The process for help is way too long and complicated!
  6. Help for someone in crisis is not immediate and because it isn't immediate it makes holding on all the harder.  It makes having faith in the system nonexistent. 
  7. It's difficult to believe and trust others especially strangers who don't seem sincerely interested in your welfare.
  8. Things that happened 40 years ago can seem like they just happened. Grief, fear and pain comes in waves and sometimes those waves are like a tsunami.
  9. While primary care doctors are good at what they do, treating mental issues is not their forte and they seem to be clueless as to what the person really needs and how to help them.
  10. Public mental health facilities run by state or county agencies usually are a scene right out of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.  At best, my first impression was  dismal and scary and I really did keep looking for Mildred Ratched until I found her. 
  11. It's very easy to feel like one of the cows being herded through a system that seems surreal at best.  I kept finding myself wanting to "Moo"....really!
  12. Keeping a medication diary has been a blessing for me.  It's the only way I've been able to keep track of what meds I take and when I take them. Simple tasks have become confusing and meaningless for the most part.  I'm afraid it would be too easy to take an accidental overdose because I can't think straight most of the time.
  13. If you're able to find something that helps calm you down, regardless of what it is, go with it and use it...self-help sometimes is a person's strongest ally.  For me and I know this probably makes no sense, my son takes me for a drive when I'm having a panic attack.  Somehow the combination of that and an Ativan helps. 
  14. I've denied, ignored and covered up being depressed for years until it's gotten to the point of me losing the ability to function normally and do daily tasks like brush my hair, get dressed, go outside (I have to force myself to go places), take a shower and interact with people face to face in a meaningful way.  I've become a hermit because it feels safe being a hermit, but I hate being a hermit because it's not who I am.
It's daylight now...it's time to go take more meds and let the dogs out.  At least they like going outside.  Maybe I need to become a dog so I can feel normal once again. 


  1. I am so, so sorry Mildred. I have a really bad panic/anxiety disorder too and when it's bad, it's REALLY bad. The nausea, adrenaline dump, fight or flight, hyper awareness....I feel like my eyes are bugging out. I can barely breathe & feel like I'm being crushed to death. Headache, back ache. I am too paralyzed to do anything but too restless to sit still. Every minute seems to drag on for hours. Compound that with a bout of depression and the 'maybe you'd just be better off dead, no one would care, they're all better off without you anyway' thoughts start. I hope you get some help and relief for it cause it's no fun. What keeps me from following through is my dogs....I can't bear to think of them being rehomed, esp. at their ages of 14 and 10. I adore my husband to pieces but even that's not enough to keep those thoughts away. I can't help but think that he'd be better off without me too.

    You're right about the reading material in doctor offices. I've always said I need to be a magazine consultant. No one wants to read Car & Driver yet for some reason every single office from lawyers to doctors to dentists have that one available. You can never go wrong with People Magazine and National Geographic. Surprisingly the Midas shop has the best reading material. I love trashy celebrity rags and they have lots of them.

    1. I think we need to get together and critique various doctors offices.

  2. I hope you find some serious help soon Mildred...it sounds just awful.

    1. Delores, I've certainly had better days that's for sure.

  3. I am so so sorry. I spend a lot of time on the crisis line talking through panic attacks with people. Terrifying things. As you say, if you find something that works for you - DO IT. And yes, mental health services the world over are inadequately funded and resourced. Which sucks better than a Dyson.
    Those negative thoughts become negative screams. I so hope you find help. Soon.

  4. Having suffered panic attacks since tracking down an illness 10 years ago, I have some insight into their disruptive effects --some of which I've expressed in poems (see "Invalid's Workshop")-- but even after my life was saved, the panic remained. Some sort of PTSD or effect of concurrent asthma onset. Jung thought everybody caught in the currents of life suffered some sort of trouble. When I get the jumps too often, I go see somebody --Ativan is good but can get addictive-- but mainly I try to keep the rational mind occupied and exercised. Poetry is most efficacious but word puzzles --crosswords, jumbles etc. are reliable and plentiful as well, anything to keep cognitive distortions down. All my best wishes to you.

  5. Such a state can put a normal life dead stop. I know from experience. With migraines and anxieity, I retreat to a darkened room, play a CD on repeat of thunderstorms or oceans, scent the room with lavender and sage, and lay on the bed. I focus on colors and relax from head to toe, over and over and over. It doesn't engage, but it disengages.

    1. I've begun to hate my bed. I tried putting a 4 inch memory foam topper on it yesterday and freaked out as soon as I tried laying on it. I couldn't get off it quick enough. The mind is a funny thing, that's for sure. And I do appreciate the "family" I have via blogging. The love and support I get from you guys is so wonderful and humbling beyond words.

  6. This is so hard to watch you go through as your life long friend. You have always been our leader and confidant of Walter St Gang. However it isn't about me or others. This is you and you need us....I hope an pray you know me well enough to feel like you can call me at any time day or night. I hate that you are going through this. I myself suffered from anxiety for years an thought something was seriously wrong with me but to embarrassed to tell anyone. I eventually got so sick and tired of it all I would talk myself down using breathing as well....I think what ever works is different for everyone....I love you my friend!