Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Catching My Breath

Not often, but every once in  a while, there are moments where I feel like I can't breathe.

Chest tightness.

Gasping for air.

Heart starts racing.

Ears start to ring.

It is frightening.

I dislike it very much.

Sometimes it's just a moment. A brief fleeting moment.

Other times it lasts just a bit longer.

I know these are very mild panic attacks.

I know that in a few minutes my heart rate will return to normal. I will be able to take a deep breath.

I'm not a stranger to panic attacks.

I had my first one when I was 18. And I didn't know what was happening. I thought maybe it was a heart attack. It was in the middle of a football game at the high school I had graduated from a few months prior. I freaked someone out. I was embarrassed and not quite sure what had happened, but tucked it away and hoped it would never happen again.

But life happens, and I started to have them.

With help, I was able to get them under control. I had, okay, I still do have, a lot of anxiety. And it had reached a point where it was getting in the way of life. But I faced it, admitted what was happened and sought out help with it.

I managed to get the anxiety mostly under control and the panic attacks stopped.

But then came cancer.

I had my first one at one of my check-ups. It was my 6 month check-up with the breast surgeon. I hadn't seen her since one quick follow-up from the initial mastectomy and while I was waiting for her to come in, just out of the blue, I had a panic attack.

I suppose in some ways, this is a very mild form of PTSD. I was back in the office of the doctor who found my cancer. No one had warned me that a strong reaction might happen. To be fair, if someone had, I'm not sure I would listen.

Another 6 months, in the same office, I was prepared this time. So I focused on my breathing and I made it through. But then she found another lump and she ultrasounded it and then told me it had to be biopsied.

Panic attack.

Thyroid biopsy - panic attack.

Getting some lumps in my armpit ultrasounded - panic attack.

Recently I had to take granny in to get a Dexa scan. It just so happens they do the Dexa scans in the same place they do mammograms and breast ultrasounds.

You guess it, once they wheeled granny away (in her wheelchair) to get a scan, panic attack.

It was awful. I never want to go back into that area of the hospital again.

I had to remind myself we were there for something routine, that I wasn't even there for myself, that granny would come out of there okay.

It was horrible.

I came home and told my husband I would never go there again unless there was no other option. That for the next Dexa scan, he had to take granny. And if I needed another one, then I would do it at the secondary location I did it over the summer at. And if I ever needed my breast or armpit ultrasounded, he could drug me with xanax and maybe get me to agree to go.

I know, I know. Sometimes you have to face your anxiety head on. But I'm not there yet. I'm not ready. I don't want to face it. I want to never have to deal with it again.

And I'm totally okay with not being ready to face it. I've got enough on my plate, and it's not like I have to go to this room all the time. This is my third time ever having to be there.

So for now, I'm going to try to just keep going. And cross my fingers that no more panic attacks sneak up on me. But if they do come, I'm going to try to just breathe and catch my breath.

1 comment:

  1. This reminded me of the first panic attack I had. I was about two weeks into my second semester of college. I can still picture the little room I sat in as I waited for my parents to pick me up. Just thinking of it and the way it sneaks up makes me feel short of breath. That was also the last day of school for me. I never went back.

    Nowadays, showers and bedtime seems to be the worst for me. I used to love showers, but I think it's that quiet time that allows my mind to wander into dark areas I'd rather not be in. At bedtime, I rely on Ambien to shut off my mind.

    Take a deep breath and hang in there!


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