panic attacks

I seem to be having panic attacks. Or something. I wake up way too early in the mornings and then spend hours nauseated, sometimes vomiting, heart racing in bursts or waves or whatever they are, cold and hot, groggy, jumpy, unable to sit still to read a board book or really listen to Noah. Even on a ‘good’ day, I can’t eat in the morning–and I’m having trouble eating an appropriate amount late in the day when I feel better, too. I don’t know how to express how utterly useless I am most mornings now, and how bad I feel physically. It’s actually unreal-seeming to me that such little-sounding symptoms are so overpowering in my life right now, but this has been my experience of the past four weeks.

Being sick in this way is the main reason I’ve sort of fallen off the internet recently. It eats up so much of my time that getting through my teaching work and our household work is even harder than it should be. But most of all, it just feels AWFUL awful awful.

And it’s so bizarre! Sure I have a lot on my plate right now. But I’m under way less pressure than I’ve been under at many other times, and I am far less nervous and worried than I’ve often been. Family life is good. Our finances are good. I go to sleep easily at night. I enjoy doing non-work things. And then I wake up in this physical experience that sucks so much, and it’s far more dramatic on work days (weekend mornings close to normal), and yet it doesn’t involve me thinking negative thoughts or worrying about what needs to get done, just the body experience and an utter inability to quiet it.

I’ve sought various kinds of care, of course. The most pointless therapist in the world was baffled, wanted me to have more drama in my life, and suggested I search the internet to see if there are any suggestions “out there” that resonate with me. My primary care provider found that her preferred meds for this situation are incompatible with breast feeding; the first week I tried it, a nightly antihistamine actually eliminated the problem, But then it came back. I’m trying calcium/magnesium and a B complex. I’ve dramatically cut my caffeine intake, mostly because I can’t stomach coffee and can’t manage tea until the afternoon, and I’ve noticed that my heart rate is strangely reactive even when I’m far from a panic attack (racing and pounding more now with climbing stairs or drinking coffee), which feels weird. And I know getting more sleep would be good, but that appears to be impossible! I’m reluctant to try Zoloft for various reasons–most of all the slow buildup and difficulty involved in going off and on–and am running out of options here. And the disconnect between my experience of my own stress and anxiety levels (on one hand) and this ongoing physical thing (on the other) weirds me out.

Anyway … That’s where I’ve been. Hope y’all are doing better than me!

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9 Comments

  1. Posted 21 September 2013 at 11:21 AM | Permalink

    I’m so sorry to hear about your (temporary!) ill-health. Warm wishes for well-being.

  2. Posted 21 September 2013 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

    *hugs*

    I think I’ve said this before (probably in a comment on an earlier post!) but the first summer after I moved to Boston I struggled with early-morning nausea and loss of appetite, shortness of breath, a lot of the symptoms you describe. I had immediate life-change stuff going on (cross-country move, grad school, new profession, new apartment, new kinda-sorta relationship and questioning of my sexuality) but like with you a lot of it was really good and constructive. The health clinic I went to didn’t have much to offer besides “stress” and prescribed an inhaler to help with the breathing difficulty, which I used periodically for about six months and by then the issue went away. I never had a formal diagnosis of anything or meds.

    Have you had all of your bloodwork done to check for vitamin levels, etc.? Even if the symptoms are weird, it might be worth checking for stuff like iron or thyroid levels, etc. — just to rule stuff out. I have a thyroid condition and when it was overactive I’d get racing heart issues that were really unsettling even though they weren’t indicative of heart trauma.

    Also, I’m SO SO SORRY that you had an unhelpful therapist. It’s always so incredibly dispiriting when you get up the oomph to seek out help and then get a response of “Google it maybe?” from the paid professional. What is that noise.

    *hugs again*

    ~A.

  3. Posted 22 September 2013 at 2:28 AM | Permalink

    That sound difficult. I’ve occasionally had phases of feeling similar, especially in the morning. Weirdly, Hyperemesis while being pregnant stopped it from recurring.

    Could it be a delayed response to previous stress? Your pregnancy was hard, and if I remember correctly, your financial situation was precarious for quite a while. Is there another therapist you could try? I really recommend counselling for panic attacks (although I used to get them in the sessions sometimes and that was uncomfortable).

    Have you considered antiemetics like Domperidone? Some are compatible with breastfeeding, and perhaps eliminating the nausea will help you to eat properly, which in turn might help with the panic.

    I hope you get better soon. It can’t be easy feeling like that and getting through teaching and looking after your boys.

  4. Posted 22 September 2013 at 7:29 AM | Permalink

    I’m really sorry to read this, Molly! It can be so frustrating to know that something’s wrong but not be able to figure out a solution or a way to fix it. Especially when you’re reaching out for help and those resources aren’t doing a whole lot. I hope you continue to seek care and know that we’re all thinking of you and wishing you well!

    S.

  5. Lara
    Posted 22 September 2013 at 7:45 AM | Permalink

    So sorry to hear you are going through this! I know that free advice delivered via internet is just what you need ;), so here goes: I had a less dramatic version of what sounds like this, and the cal-mag really helped. It took a few weeks, maybe a month, I recall. I got the heart pounding thing, and palpitations, but in the afternoons, around 2:00, when I had baby down for nap and was finally relaxing a little. My kids were 4.5 and 1.5. I thought it was because I got exhausted from a chronic sinus infection, but it didn’t go away even when I got better, so the doc did a whole bunch of heart testing, which probably exacerbated the situation, because it added worry to weird symptoms. After a couple of months, I found someone who prescribed cal-mag, and that seemed to make the difference. Similarly, I was not feeling particularly stressed out, just your average 2-small-kids situation, and I was teaching part-time. It’s possible it just went away on its own, honestly, but it was after I started the cal-mag, so that might have been the key. The practitioner who prescribed it suspected I was depleted from long-term nursing. He also offered beta blockers, which I declined. It was a strange and highly unsettling episode. The worst was having a couple of docs along the way say stupid stuff, like, “you probably tend to be a nervous person [read, "woman"], right?” I hope that whatever helped me, whether it was cal-mag or a little tincture of time, works for you, and that relief comes quickly.

  6. Posted 23 September 2013 at 3:58 PM | Permalink

    This sounds really rough and I’m sorry to hear that you are dealing with it.

    This is just one person’s experience (uh, that would be me!) but I had a very easy time getting started on Zoloft (lowest dose since I was b-feeding), felt remarkably better within 1-2 weeks and then had no issues when I quit. And I quit in March of last year thinking spring was around the corner (false, spring was not happening until June!). Anyway, just wanted to share my experience.

    Good luck.

  7. Posted 24 September 2013 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

    So sorry to hear that you are going through this – I have suffered from panic attacks on and off now for a number of years and wouldn’t wish them on anybody. Tools that have helped me: hypnosis, yoga (to help with shallow breathing), aromatherapy (i make a blend with Neroli which is great for panic attacks, Roman Chamomile and Lavender) and recently EFT. None of those may appeal to you, but thought I would share as I leant about them all through friends etc. Medically I have been prescribed Zanex but have never taken it – I do find though knowing I have it on me and if I needed to could take one helps sometimes as I feel I have an out from the panic if it comes on. You can take this and breastfeed my GP has told me. Def avoiding coffee is helpful as well. I hope this passes for you.

  8. Posted 29 September 2013 at 3:02 PM | Permalink

    Molly, I’m terribly late to this party, but I wanted to post that I hope that you’re feeling better! If not, I would second what some others have written, that a more complete physical checkup and a better therapist might be in order. As an anxiety sufferer myself I know that it can be triggering as hell to keep making the damned appointments (and showing up for them, not to mention paying for them, gahh) but help is out there. Keep your fans posted on your progress, please!

  9. Posted 30 September 2013 at 8:48 PM | Permalink

    Been there with everything but the vomiting. Have your doc check your thyroid TSH level. It’s just a blood test. And the fix is just a pill which is completely compatible with breast feeding, sometimes even necessary for. Depending on cause or type of problem, might take a bit to get dosage right, but once it’s right problems abate almost instantly.

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