Never in a million years did I think I would have a panic attack. I guess that I should have figured that the possibility of me having one would have been high since I get anxious really easy (I have ever since I was a little kid) and I let my mind get away from me frequently. I’ve heard about panic attacks, but I didn’t really know what they were all about until I started Googling them after I had one.
Every year my family seems to get the stomach flu. I don’t remember getting the stomach flu prior to having kids (although I am sure that I did at some point). Usually we get sick in the fall or winter, so it was a big shocker when we got sick in middle of summer. My oldest son got sick on Monday and was throwing up throughout the night. Then by Monday afternoon he was all better. Tuesday we were all fine. Wednesday I woke up and started laundry and my morning was going okay. Then around 8:30 my stomach started hurting and I was hoping that I was not going to get sick. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to get sick and it was probably just upset from something that was not the stomach flu. By 9:15 it is really not feeling good and I have diarrhea (too much information, I know). I know for sure that it is my turn for the stomach flu. Throughout the day I am in and out of the bathroom puking, dry heaving, and going #2, which is the consistency of #1 (again TMI!). In-between bathroom runs I am on the couch or bed trying to sleep or just trying to rest. My stomach is running on empty because I can’t get anything down, nor do I want to eat anything. I notice throughout the day that my arms and legs feel a little tingly or numb. Kind of like they are asleep. I don’t really think too much about it, but as the day goes on they get a little worse. Around 5:20 I’m noticing that my legs and arms are more tingly than they have been. This starts to worry me because I’m not sure what is going on and that is when my brain starts to go into overdrive!
My first thoughts when I feel this sensation is that I am sure that I have something more than the stomach flu because I didn’t feel this way when I previously had the stomach flu. Then I think back to this video that my sister-in-law just sent me that is about women having “Little Heart Attacks” and not knowing it (I will not be putting a link of the video in here because I don’t wish to cause anymore panic attacks!). The video was well done and funny and of course the couple of things that I remember about the video are numb limbs and clamminess/sweating, which was how my body was reacting. Now my body starts to go into panic mode because I am thinking that I am having a “little heart attack” or maybe I am having some delayed food poisoning issue (we had sushi the night before) that is serious. I go and sit down on our big poof chair and I tell Christopher that something is wrong because my limbs feel numb and tingly. He tells me that there is nothing wrong with me and I just have to calm down and take some slow breaths. He tells me that I am breathing too fast and am hyperventilating. He tries to find a brown paper bag that I can breath into, but he isn’t able to find one. He does find a bigger paper bag and makes it so that I can use it to breath into and out of, but the bag is too big and doesn’t work. By this time my body is in full on panic mode!
My limbs, starting with my hands and arms, have completely gone numb. I can no longer feel them. My fingers and hands start to curl inside of themselves. It is like my hands are in a fist, but at the wrist they are curled into my body. My body has involuntarily done this and I can’t get my hands to move. I am also sweating a lot. Christopher has me lay on the couch. As I do this my arms were down around my stomach and are slowly moving up my body (again no control on my part). As this is happening my legs are going numb and I cannot control them. My feet have pointed and each joint in each of my toes is bent (like they are curling up too). I start to feel the numbness in my chest and when I start to feel this I really freak out. Christopher has repeatedly told me that I am just panicking and I need to calm down, but my mind is too far gone to heed any advice from him. I ask him to call 9-1-1 because I need them here. It felt like I was going to die because I couldn’t feel my limbs, they were all tensed up and I had no control over them. Then my chest and face was starting to go numb and this freaked me out.
The paramedics and fire department got here really fast. While Christopher was on the phone with 911 I was screaming in my head, “JUST GET THEM HERE FAST!” They got to the house and of course the boys are thrilled that the firemen are at their house! They check my heart rate, which is really fast and they check my blood pressure, which is normal. They ask Christopher and me some questions about what brought this on. They kept trying to figure out what was stressing me out to cause this. They thought that something big had to be going on in my life. Christopher said that one of the paramedics kept asking him if we got into a fight recently. We told them what was going on, but they must not have believed how powerful my mind can play with me! Anyway, they confirm that I am having a panic attack. They say that I need to start taking some deep breaths and take them through my nose. They are right there and when my breathing isn’t going right they correct me. At one point a paramedic asks me to sit-up on the couch and I couldn’t even do that because I couldn’t move. I had to get help. What I was told was that because I was taking in too much oxygen all of my muscles completely cramped up and that was why I couldn’t move anything and they were “curling” up into themselves. As my breathing got better the paramedics suggested that I not go to the hospital, but stay at home and just breath correctly. I agreed with them. Before they left they had me practice trying to open and close my hands. At first I could just move one finger about 1/2 an inch open and shut. I kept practicing and it got better, but I would say that it took a good two hours before I could open and close my hands like normal. I also had to walk around and I had to get help doing that for the first try because my legs were so cramped up. The paramedics also wanted Christopher to go get me some gatorade because I needed the electrolytes to help my muscles and I needed something in my stomach.
Once I got some gatorade and continued to stretch out my muscles I definitely improved! I did feel completely sore all over and the feeling was like having just done the hardest workout of my life and my body been completely sore from it. Once I got use back in my hands I Googled “panic attack” and this tidbit showed up in Wikipedia
The effects of a panic attack vary. Some, notably first-time sufferers, may call for emergency services. Many who experience a panic attack, mostly for the first time, fear they are having a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Experiencing a panic attack has been said to be one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person’s life and may take days to initially recover from.
Panic attacks are no joke and I can vouch for that! I just hope that I don’t have any more now that my body knows what to do! I do have the knowledge this time around of how I am supposed to breath, which is a plus. I do have to say that my symptoms are very commonly associated with women having heart attacks, so it wasn’t a huge stretch for my mind to immediately go there. Just recently I remember reading about Rosie O’Donnell having a heart attack that she didn’t know about and she said all of the symptoms that I had (numbness, nausea, and clamminess/sweating). I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that it doesn’t happen again because it was the worst pain that I have ever felt in my life.