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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How I Got Here: Part Three

The Lexapro attack was what would continue to fuel the rest of my attacks. It has been really scary for me to be in a public place, where I felt like I couldn't explain to anyone what was going on, while having the attack. Of course at the time, I didn't know it was a panic attack. But I would soon figure this out.
When I talked with the Nurse Practitioner who worked for the psychiatrist, we not only switched my medication but she also gave me a prescription for Clonopin for the panic attacks.
I wasn't sure I needed them until a couple of weeks later. My husband and I went to eat lunch and I couldn't make it through our lunch. I started having a panic attack in the restuarant and found myself dreading the thought of waiting until our food was delivered. I wanted to get OUT. I tried holding my husband's hands, breathing deeply... it didn't work. I finally had my husband get our food to-go so that we could get out of there.
On the way home, I picked up the clonopin prescription.
For the next 2 years, I would carry that prescription everywhere in my purse. It became really helpful when I had to drive the 2 hours roundtrip by myself every time I went to and from my classes. (The fall after my brother passed away, I started classes to finish my Bachelor's at TWU, whose campus is 45-60 minutes away from our house).
I started having panic attacks driving to school, but was able to get them relatively under control. They were triggered by obvious stressors- Driving in the pouring rain or snow, etc.
Eventually, it got to the point where I didn't want to drive if the weather was bad. So I started avoiding class if I knew it was going to be really inclement weather. Then that turned into obsessing over whether there would even be a *chance* of bad weather. I never went to school without checking the weather multiple times. I hated that the fear of having more panic attacks was controlling that part of my life, but there wasn't much I felt I could do about it. Besides, at least I still had everything else under control.
I spent two years doing this. And this fall, the fall semester of 2010, I was prepared to finish my last couple of classes before student teaching and graduating with my Bachelor's in Early Elementary Education. I had worked so hard for it for so long. I had sacrificed so much. I was ready.
But it wasn't 2 weeks into the new semester and the panic attacks were back. Driving home from my evening class, I had one. And then another. And then driving to school. And then another and another and another. One night, I bawled half the way home because I was so tired of the attacks overtaking and controlling me. I couldn't get to school. I couldn't get home. I was spending the whole time I was commuting on the phone with friends, just trying to distract myself from the fear that was overtaking my body. I was spending the whole time I was in class just waiting to get out of there so I could get back home, where I felt safe. It had gotten out of control.
Finally, I pulled out of my classes on campus. I knew it meant putting my career and everything I'd worked for on hold, but I had no choice. I obsessed over it for weeks. During those weeks, I lost a man who used to be a dear friend of mine. He was my first boyfriend in high school and I had been close with him and his parents for many years while I lived in Tennessee.
At the same time, I was working 4 different part time jobs and taking 4 university courses. I was getting everything in order to student teach and finishing my resume so that it was ready to hopefully help me get a job in 2011.
Together, it was all too much. I found myself not reacting well to my friend's death at all. And during all of this is when I started having sporadic panic attacks. On the way to preschool to pick my daughter up. At the grocery store. At the pediatrician's office. On the road. And finally, at home.
My life felt out of control. My body felt out of control, and my mind felt out of control. I thought I was losing it. ALL of it.
I've already talked about going to the doctors. And how I chose to ignore their advice. But I'm glad I went. Because if I hadn't been through all of this, I probably wouldn't have been so adament about SOLVING these problems... as opposed to putting a band-aid over them (which is what the medications the doctors recommended) would have done. And if I hadn't been through such extreme issues, I wouldn't have realized that I have physical issues (and probably have had for years). You see, I thought this was ALL about panic attacks. I had no idea that I had underlying health conditions that were only making it easier for my body to have anxiety and panic.
Treating the health conditions has been the hugest first step in helping me get over all of this. But I still have a long way to go. Because I have had a lot of experiences that have left me with a lot of stress and anxiety.
I didn't just wake up one day, terrified to drive in the rain or sit in traffic. 5 years ago, I had no problem driving 2000 miles by myself in any kind of weather. And I did.
But this is all how where I got to where I'm at. That's how I got here. But by the grace of God and faith in natural medicine, I'm reversing so much of what I've gone through over the last few years. And I can't wait to blog about more triumphs over all of this that I've been through.

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