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panic button

You ever wake up with that feeling of impending doom, like something is about to happen - something bad - and you just don't know what?

That's how I woke up this morning. I've been looking over my shoulder all day, constantly refreshing the CNN page waiting to see that red-bannered breaking news headline announcing armageddon.

I was exchanging emails with Faith this morning about September 11 and how days with a beautiful blue sky and pleasant temperatures always make us think of that day.

And then I had my first panic attack in over a year. The last one was in March 2002 and shortly after that (that day I had a series of panic attacks lasting almost the entire afternoon), I started taking anti-anxiety medication and life has been panic-free since [I've had panic attacks since 9th grade, so we can't blame that on 9/11].

And then today. I was attempting to cross Main street in order to get a salad from McDonald's. My feet froze. I broke out in a cold sweat and headed into that void where everything feels like a dream and I knew the closed throat and short breaths were not far away. I walked back into the building, composed myself and walked back out again. I wasn't going to give in to this one.

I eventually made it to McDonald's and back into my office, but I write this with shaky hands and a light head.

As Faith said: I know I ask this over and over, and that there's no answer, but when does it stop?

What I want to know is why does it keep suprising me? Why does that day and the panic sneak up on me in my sleep and wake me like a sinister alarm clock sometimes? Why do I carry that feeling throughout the day and let it hang over me like a storm?

And yes, when will it stop?

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» We Can't Forget from The Church of the Blinding White Light of Stupidity
We can't forget, though at times I wish I could. [Read More]

» We Can't Forget from A Single Guy In The South
(cross-posted at A Single Guy In The South) Michele has an excellent post about panic attacks and the lingering effects of September 11 on her. I've mused about the effects to myself privately before, but have never taken the time... [Read More]

» Ping pong . . . please get the door from Tiger: Raggin' & Rantin'
I am mostly ragging on myself because I kind of played hookey from work today as I had to hang around so this friend of mine I am assisting in doing a pro se divorce could come and pay me... [Read More]

Comments

In my darkest moments, I honestly don't think it will ever stop.

I know, that's not very hopeful, but .... [sigh]

I hope your day gets better, I really do.

I empathise. Hope you feel better; I went through a long period of general dread broken by moments of panic and long, long, long nights of lying awake listening for planes. I really notice aiplanes now, or I suppose I should say still.
I can say that the worst parts, the panic moments, just gradually stopped over the last year. Maybe they will for you too. Here's hoping (and good on you for not giving in). Best wishes.

Maybe this is a fatalistic attitude, but I don't think "it" will ever stop. This is the new normal. So...it's a matter of learning to deal with the new norm. All the badguys are never going to go away. We don't live in a 30 minute sitcom where all the bad situations get handled and everybody lives happily ever after. This if life. We had a rude-awakening on 9/11 that we're not nearly as safe as we thought...but it just brought us into the real world. When it comes down to it, we have a MUCH safer world that people in so many other parts of the world. We don't have civil war, we don't have dictators, we don't have religous zealots running our country. Even with the way our world has changed since 9/11, we still have it so much better than many other places.

It's just one of those things where you have to adjust to the way life is. It'll never go back to what it was before. And I think that's a good thing. If it did, we'd forget.

The post you refer to was written over a year ago. Nothing has changed for me in that time, and I suspect that it never will. I've spent more time trying to learn to live with it rather than fighting it, because I cannot fight it. I look out my window at home and see planes flying that look so low they will hit the Empire State Building. At work the view of the planes is worse. From my boss' office we see all the way up the East River. More than a few times I've started squirming in my chair watching an approacting plane or helicopter.

At those times, I get back to my desk, I pop a xanex, and I call a friend and yammer about mundanity until the feeling passes.

I woke up this morning to the sound of a circular saw down the road , and through my whirring fan in my window I SWORE it sounded like the Muslim call to prayers. Needless to say this is an Alprazolam kinda day. And to top it off my husband will be flying to the East coast in two weeks. Make that an Alprazolam MONTH!

Knowledge of brain chemistry is still in a very crude state. I can empathize, although in my case it's depression, instead of panic attacks. I've suffered from it since puberty. It's never gone away completely, I've just learned to live with it. It's a part of me now, and I can't conceive of living without it.

I'm having one of those days, too, M.

Except in (I guess) typical male fashion, my fear sparks over into geysers of rage. My heart rate skyrockets, I see stars, my back teeth clench together and I get that urge to lash out. I'm keeping it in check. I'm taking deep breaths. I wish I had a damn Xanax. Or four.

D

David,

Buy a gun. Go and shoot 200 rounds at the shooting range.

Magically, the feelings of foreboding will disappear.

P.S. The comment above was not a joke.

A gun helps dispel feelings of helplessness for many people.

Mine started when my mom died. I realized the hard way at 30ish I was still very much a mamma's boy. When she was gone, everything I had leaned on her as a centerpiece came crashing down. A few meetings with a shrink (ironically from NY) helped a little, but he yawned a lot and I realized my life really wasn't that out of the realm of normal to him. I wasn't crazy, it was just stress, and as Tracy said earlier up there it is the new norm. We live in a world that is fast-paced, frenzied, stressful where immediate results and gratifications can never come fast enough. 

I do take some medication (Zoloft), but I also have lean on God. I am not a religious whacko, but it does help me for what it's worth--but it does require a lot of  faith and that's where a lot of times I struggle.

 Aside from the prescribed meds, I have been drug and booze free for almost 10 years after 10-15 years of very heavy usage...sometimes, I wonder what the harm would be in pulling a big three foot bong hit -- it sure did the trick back in high school/college. But that's another subject, probably. 

Another thing the guy (shrink) told me was that it was all about chemical imbalances that we really can't control all of the time, aside from a very regimented diet and living process that might involve devoting quite a bit of time to some stress relief tactics (yoga, meditation etc...) but even so the daily stresses do still creep in every once in awhile and we have the fight or flight spooky feeling. Popping Xanex (or generic versions of it) are a good out, but a more long term answer might be to examine some of the sources of stress in your life and to try to manage/minimalize them or even eliminate some of them all together if possible.

Sometimes I try Golf, but last night I came away from the course feeling more stressed then when I went out there--in other words, it only works if you have your "A game" going (as Tiger would say).

 Masturbation might help some, but it's not usually the type of thing you can just do in the middle of a busy day at the office when you feel the onset of panic or anxiety. Well, I guess you can, but you might get that talk from the boss. 

I would think that living in NYC or in the area (or any major metropolis), has to be much much more stressful on a daily basis then living where I live in B.F.E. Nebraska. Especially these days. I know you have posted about moving in the past, but then again geographical cures usually only work temporarily in cases of panic attacks because the problem usually comes mostly from within. 

Depression could cause these attacks as well, but my shrink put me through me some depression tests and it wasn't the root of my problem. Interesting tests though. 

You could be going nuts (slowly and painfully). Which would probably be normal. 

Blogging? Sure. I would think it has to help. 

Interesting that it was in traffic when you had your problem. Sometimes when I am closed in by traffic on all sides, like at a light, I feel a mini-anxious moment begin in my gut and chest. But I am a legendary claustrophobic which probably stems from my sister zipping me up in a sleeping bag when I was a kid. Airplanes are not my friend.

It could be that your body is getting used to the meds and might need an adjustment.

Anyway, there are my ideas on the subject. Sorry for the too long post on this--but it is a subject I am, unfortunately, fairly familiar with and since I need you and your blogging in my daily (it helps me stay regular, remember)  life I thought it might be worth the time to try to help you if at all possible.

Holy shit, Michele, I didn't know you suffered too. I'm too afraid to talk about it. When I start describing that void you spoke of, I can feel it creep back. That horrible feeling that reality is going to slip away and never come back. The hammering heart, the nausea, the cold sweats.

For a while, I thought it had gone away. I spent almost a year with no attacks. Then slowly, they started coming back. Now I'm twice as scared since to me, it now feels like no medication can help. I hated spending my days taking Xanax like Pez and walking around in a fog.

If anyone out there thinks this is something you can simply "think" your way through, you're wrong. It's a chemical imbalance that honestly tips you into insanity for a while. You can't determine what is real, and it's a horrible feeling.

This is one reason I don't do drugs and am not a liberal. I like reality too much.

God bless you, and you've got someone else to chat with if you ever have the need.

Ahhh...Xanax. It took us almost one year exactly to get out of NYC--we closed on our house on Sept 7, 2002.

The only thing that got me through the closing, with both of us crammed into my one-bedroom apartment in Queens (my girlfriend's apartment was two blocks from the UN; she walked home with me from Manhattan on 9/11 and I never let her go back) was Xanax and Paxil.

Paxil, as it turns out, also has a significant anti-anxiety effect, so after awhile I stopped needing the Xanax. Stopped needing, but not wanting.

It was a few months before I admitted that I needed anything. I was three blocks away from the WTC on 9/11, and rode out of the first tower's dust cloud on my bicycle. That's a big punch to the brain, and for many months afterwards I was basically an adrenalized loon. I shouted alot. I drank a lot.

Things are better now. But I still work in the same place, downtown Manhattan (only two or three days a week, fortunately), and there's not a single day I'm there that I don't remember.

And, every so often, there will be a day where I'm just abuzz with fight-or-flight, waiting for...it. Those days happen whether I'm in the city or not.

And I'm among the least of those affected. A co-worker of mine was outside watching the fire when the first tower fell. She was knocked to the concrete, stunned by the blow, thought she was going to die and then--surrounded by opaque dust--thought she had been buried alive. I didn't experience such a profound moment, and still I'm haunted.

I can't imagine what it's like for those WTC workers who survived, for the families of the firefighters and the other victims, or for the recovery workers. Can't even imagine.

But this is something that will always be with us. This is one of those Big Big Life Changers. There's a peculiar sort of bond in that, I think, and that's one of the few good things--if not the only good thing--to come out of this whole rotten, world-shattering, history-making mess.

I have just a sense of being afraid and panic but not hyperventilation...i imagen the worst kind of things. And cannot help myself. And it fucking sucks.

this page is stupid

I have a childe.
Will he have the same as i do?

Victory over panic/anxiety and equally important is victory over XANAX addiction a possibility? Do not resign yourself to any of these anomalies, including xanax addiction, instead of resigning to them, embrace them, welcome them and re-create a new you. Understand the "why" is this happening and that will lead you to the "what" (you must do to acclimate). Remember that the brain is the fragile resting place of the soul. I can honestly say that even though I have no control over panic/anxiety, I do have control over how I will react to the attacks and in time, those too will and have diminished and in time this to will slip into the quiteness of yesterday. I welcome your comments.