Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.-Anais Nin
I feel torturous fear. My entire body becomes chilled. Palms perspire and feel as though 1000’s of stick pins are pushing into them. The small hairs stand up on the back of my neck. My heartbeat quickens to 175 beats per minute. There’s tightness in my chest. Tingling and numbness in my left arm. Am I dying? Will someone help me? Please!? My head pounds and I become dizzy. My teeth clench. I feel as if I’m living outside of myself. That I’m not real. I touch objects, but can not feel them. My breathing becomes shallow and rapid. I have feelings of impending doom.
My brain speeds up and all thoughts scatter. My eyes dart around the room. Can anyone sense what’s happening to me? My anguish? My need to live? To run away? That I’ve lost my breath? That I’m shutting down? Dying. Of what, I’ve no idea? I hyperventilate and my body shakes. I think I’m going to pass out. Won’t anyone help me? I can’t breathe! I can’t see! My face flushes. I am shaking. I reach out with trembling hands and scream, “HELP, I’m dying!!” Am I crazy? Can those around me see it? See me? Heal me. Please!
So pronounced was my need to live that I lost my breath. Every single day.
I would wake up and try to focus. Stand up. Breathe air into my lungs. It felt as though they had collapsed. I could barely gulp in air. The tightness in my chest would intensify and my heart would constrict. Such was my need to live. My need to survive everyday. I was a young wife and mother. I had lost control of my spirit, mind, and body. I wanted to die. But I didn’t. I wanted the fear to subside, but it never did. Every day I spiraled out of control. Every damn day.
It took years to come to grips with the fact that I was doing all of this to myself. That I was hurting myself. I went to the emergency room constantly. There were EKGs, EEGs, blood work, stress tests, and echocardiograms. I was a healthy, albeit crazy 22 year old woman. I fought the good fight. I finally found my way to the Anxiety and Panic Disorder program at the University of Michigan Hospital. After an assessment, I was put into an anxiety group discussion. I worked hard at my program. I faced my fears. My anxiety went into remission. I was able to live again. Enjoy my husband and children. Find my way back to happy.
Ten years later I started having symptoms again. My children were growing up. I was self-destructing. I was gaining weight and sabotaging myself. I started waking up in the night with panic attacks. It was time for medication and more therapy. I started Lexapro. Within one week the sparkle returned to my eyes. There was life in my life. There was hope. I and my family flourished. I realized that I was like a diabetic. I needed the meds to bring me back to life. I still take them. I need to.
I work with an incredible therapist. He helps me find my way. He tells me I’m not crazy. That I am good. He makes me work hard. Makes me accountable. What’s surprising is the fact that I’ve become an adrenaline junkie. Nothing scares me. Well, hardly anything. There’s that unnatural fear of sharks that I have. I think I was killed by one in a past life.
If you feel these symptoms, know that you are not alone. Get help. Talk to me. Talk to others. Find your way back to life. And breathe easy. You are okay.