Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hi, I'm Mandy And I Have Panic Disorder

What is Panic Disorder?

People with panic disorder have sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes. Sometimes symptoms may last longer. These are called panic attacks. Panic attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control even when there is no real danger. A person may also have a strong physical reaction during a panic attack. It may feel like having a heart attack. Panic attacks can occur at any time, and many people with panic disorder worry about and dread the possibility of having another attack.
A person with panic disorder may become discouraged and feel ashamed because he or she cannot carry out normal routines like going to the grocery store or driving. Having panic disorder can also interfere with school or work. 
Panic disorder affects about 6 million American adults and is twice as common in women as men. Panic attacks often begin in late adolescence or early adulthood, but not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder. Many people have just one attack and never have another. The tendency to develop panic attacks appears to be inherited.
"Panic attacks?!?!?! What in the world are you so worried about? Can't you just relax?" 
These were the words from my husband (bless his heart, he just did NOT understand at the time). 
Looking back on my life, I can now recall 3 instances (there may have been more) where I had a panic attack, but at the time had NO idea what was happening to me. The first time I was in college, and two other times I made trips to the ER because I thought something was seriously wrong with me. 
Back in 2005 I was at work and suddenly felt light headed, dizzy, and the side of my face started to go numb. I could feel my heart start to race, so I stopped what I was doing and told my boss that something was wrong with me. My boss and coworkers could see that the color had left my face and told me to sit down and began taking my blood pressure. It was somewhere around 147/93 or something (I'm usually 100/70 or even lower sometimes). 
Thoughts started to enter my head.....high blood pressures, light headed, heart pounding, numbness on one side of my face....was I having a stroke?!?!?! My boss recommended I head to the ER (which even fueled my fear) and when I arrived at the hospital I was hooked up to an EKG and they took my vitals. My heart rate and BP was still high, but coming down. My EKG ending up being normal. The ER doctor ending up sending me home with a muscle relaxer because he thought I was having neck spasms. 
I had also drank about 3-4 cups of coffee that day and that's when I found out that caffeine and I don't mix. 
The second ER trip was again in 2005 and again, everything came back normal. I did have two caffeinated drinks that day so I made the connection that it must have been from that. I pretty much just diagnosed myself as being caffeine sensitive and left it at that.
Fast forward to 2014, when the biggest attack ever happened. Now I had started to make the connection between 2005 and 2014 that little "episodes" that were happening to me were actually panic attacks. Usually they were very short lived (a few heart palpitations and dizziness and then they'd quickly pass), but I was able to get through them with no issues. I knew that I could handle about 1 cup of coffee a day and that I had to have caffeine before noon, or "issues" could arise. 
In January, my grandmother passed away from breast cancer. When someone close to you dies, you tend to think about your own mortality (or at least I do), and now that I'm a mother, I think of it even more. I'm not so much concerned about myself or where I'll go, but I tend to dwell on what would happen to my husband and children if God called me home sooner than later. 
In February I found a lump in my breast which really started to scare me. I had it checked out and it turns out it is just a fluid filled cyst.  As stressful as it was, I am so glad I got it checked out.
Well in March of this year, I started having chest pains off and on. They would happen mostly at night and a lot of the time they would be accompanied by heart palpitations. I told Jamie one morning that I probably needed to get checked out....well the next day a family in our church lost someone from a heart attack. He was a wonderful man, who left behind a wife and five children (all who are very young). The day that happened, something hit me inside. Thoughts of the children and his wife, and thoughts of my own mortality began to fill my head. Then the chest pains really stared to scare me. I was at my daughter's dance class when I could feel a panic attack start to come on. 
At the time I wasn't too concerned about it, because I've always been able to get through them without any issue. However, this day was different. This time I was having chest pains and tightness. As much as I kept telling myself that it was just a panic attack, the physical symptoms were getting worse and worse. I took my daughter home and told my husband I was driving myself to the ER (that's a dumb decision by the way...get someone to take you). 
On the way to the ER I was feeling very light headed, and could feel my arms and legs beginning to go numb. All I could think about was that I HAD to make it to the ER without passing out behind the wheel. I put my hazard lights on and definitely broke the speed limit getting there. As I was pulling in front of the hospital, my muscles in my arms and legs started to cramp up. My fingers started to cramp and bend and I had no control over them. I didn't even get the chance to park my car, but stopped right in front of the ER doors and made myself in.
The poor man at reception looked at me, and I gasped "CHEST PAINS....PANIC ATTACK!!!"
I was taken right back and they began taking my vitals. My blood pressure and pulse again was pretty high and my body was shaking as I was sitting in the chair. The nurse was asking my name and birthdate, and I had the hardest time getting the correct words out. I remember I kept apologizing to them because I knew it was a panic attack, and felt like I was taking up space when someone who was "actually sick" could be sitting where I was.
They hooked me up to an EKG, BP monitor and pulse oxygen monitor. I asked for some oxygen because I thought I was going to pass out, and felt like I couldn't get enough air. Then they left me (alone) for a good 5 minutes or so. I remember the alarm kept going off on my machine....either because of my pulse or BP or something, but that further fueled my anxiety.

My sister-in-law (God bless her), shows up and starts to pray over me and play worship music for me. I remember I started crying because I was so ashamed of myself for letting fear completely take me over. I remember thinking, You're a Christian!!!! Where is your faith?!?!?!  I really thought when it came down to it, that I'd have more faith....and I really had none at that moment. I was terrified. 
Scriptures began to race through my head like "God doesn't give you a spirit of fear, and Fear not, and Do not be anxious about anything." 

I remember praying, God, forgive me for my lack of faith. Forgive me for my fear...I know it's not of you.  I don't think I have ever felt so ashamed of myself as I did that night.

The nurse came in and gave me a shot in my shoulder and within 5 minutes or so, I was starting to calm down (the photo above is about 10-15 minutes after they gave me the shot).  

The doctor prescribed some Xanax for me and recommend I follow up with my primary and also a counselor. He also wanted me to see a heart doctor since I told him I have a leaky heart valve.

After that night in the ER I began having what I called "after shocks". I would have three or more panic attacks every day and would need to take the Xanax to control them. I felt terrible for having to use medication, and of course told no one (but family) about what happened. There is such a stigma with things likes anxiety and depression, and you think you can have better control over your life when these things happen to you, but the truth just can't. And no one understands what it is you are going through unless they too suffer/ed from panic attacks. 
As much as my husband tried to understand what was happening to me...he just couldn't. He could not understand why I couldn't just calm myself down (He's much better now with everything).

That next week was filled with blood work and doctors visits. I had an Echocardiogram done and they did see my leaky valve and also diagnosed me with a heart murmur. My blood work came back all normal. I've had the leaky valve as long as I can remember, so the heart doctor agreed that while it can cause some palpitations from time to time, it really is nothing to worry about. He did not think it was causing the chest pains, but that my stress and anxiety were causing the chest pains. He did send me home with a heart monitor though just to see how things went over a 24 hour period.   
Everything came back normal with my heart monitor. I still had the panic attacks daily and still was getting chest pains, but noticed that the chest pains went away as soon as I took the Xanax. I knew then that it was anxiety that was causing the chest pains and not that something was wrong with my heart.

The funny thing is...that even as I write this, it all sounds so absurd and illogical to me that something was seriously wrong with my heart. However, when you are in the midst of a panic attack, all logic flies out the window. You are operating on fear alone. The total loss of control over what is happening to you is a very REAL and a very SCARY thing.

Signs & Symptoms

People with panic disorder may have:
  • Sudden and repeated attacks of fear
  • A feeling of being out of control during a panic attack
  • An intense worry about when the next attack will happen
  • A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
  • Physical symptoms during an attack, such as a pounding or racing heart, sweating, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, feeling hot or a cold chill, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, or stomach pain.
When you are experiencing these physical symptoms listed above, it can honestly feel like you are dying. You body is sent into fight or flight:

What Happens When the Fight-or-Flight Response Is Triggered?

Researchers have identified numerous physiological changes that occur during the flight-or-flight stress response. These changes are believed to be triggered by the sympathetic nervous system through the release of stress hormones, such as, epinephrine (adrenaline) into the blood stream. This release causes immediate physical reactions in preparation of the muscular activity needed to fight or flee the threat.
Some of the changes during this process include:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Accelerated breathing
  • Constriction of blood vessels to some parts of the body and dilation of blood vessels to the muscles
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Auditory Exclusion (hearing loss)
  • Tunnel Vision (loss of peripheral vision)
  • Sweating to cool your body in response to the heat generated as your body gets ready to contend with a predator
These physical changes occur rapidly and automatically. If one were experiencing a life-threatening event, they would be expected. But, when they occur while picking up a few groceries for dinner or sitting in a meeting at work, they can be quite frightening.

How Fear Is Reinforced When There Is No Danger

During a panic attack, the body’s alarm system is triggered without the presence of any danger. It is the absence of identifiable danger that actually intensifies the fear associated with panic attacks. If there is an identifiable danger, we understand the symptoms. We can then fear the danger, not the symptoms. However, if there is no danger and someone experiences sweating and changes in heart rate, breathing, vision, and hearing, it would seem logical to fear the symptoms, even believing they are life-threatening.

This is exactly what was happening to me. Most of my panic attacks have no trigger and happen out of nowhere for no reason at all. So when you start to experience the symptoms above while you are watching tv, or eating dinner,  or getting your hair done, or even sleeping, it can become very scary.
I was weened off of the Xanax and was put on Celexa (which is an antidepressant, but also treats panic disorder). I took Celexa for about two months and my panic attacks went completely away. I then went off of the Celexa to see if I could go on without any medication (I was also seeing a counselor at the time) and things were good until about a month ago. I started waking up in the middle of the night in full blown panic attacks and then they started happening in the day again.
The last big one happened while I was waiting to get my hair done (something that always is very relaxing for me). I hurried and took some Xanax that I carry with me, but it still was not going away. I took half of another Xanax and the panic attack finally subsided after about a half hour. The only bad thing is that I actually dozed off in the chair while getting my hair done lol. My poor stylist had no idea what was going on. I had to call my husband to come get me because I knew I shouldn't drive like that.  
So I now am back on the Celexa and the panic attacks are back under control. As much as I am prideful and want to say I don't need any medication, I know right now I need it and that's ok. I also know that taking medication for panic attacks does not make me any less of a Christian.  When you have a headache, you take something for it. This is the same. I would never think to ask someone who is Diabetic to stop taking insulin because Jesus is all that they need. Now don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer that Christ has the power to do anything and can heal anyone at His will. However, I have found that most condemnation and shame concerning these disorders comes from other Christians who just do not understand what you are going through.
I also know that as a Christian I can have freedom from this, and that is something I pray for. I know God will deliver me from fear and anxiety according to His will, and I trust in that. Taking medication to help with things is not a lack of faith.

We all go through things in life, and I know there is a reason for everything. We just might not understand it at the time.  I remember saying "God, if this is a season I am to walk through; then I will walk through it with You and come out better on the other side." If panic disorder brings me closer to Christ, or if I can help someone else out there who also suffers with it, then surely it happened for a reason. 
So that is my prayer and reason for writing this novel lol. If you suffer from panic disorder or depression or general anxiety disorder, or similar mental health issues, please....know YOU ARE NOT ALONE and YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SUFFER IN SILENCE. Let people help you and find others who have been through it. Let others pray for you, and NEVER feel ashamed of what's happening to you. 
Life can be very stressful and hard on a person (especially moms), so please take care of your mind, body and soul the best you can. If you suffer from panic attacks and need someone to talk to or someone to pray for you, please feel free to message me on Facebook HERE anytime. 
I hope this reaches someone who is suffering, and that they know they CAN and WILL get through this. There is always hope. :) 


  1. God really does make "all things work for good" in our lives. Jesus suffered. Through His suffering, he was "perfected" and "learned obedience." The Father was with Jesus in the middle of the suffering. He is with you as well. It's written that He's "afflicted in our affliction." You are never alone. He tells us "Fear not, for I the Lord your God am with you." :) He will cross this off your list in His perfect timing, because you trust Him. I come into agreement with you for complete healing. He promises that "nothing is too hard" for Him...and that what's "impossible with men, is still possible with God." Linking arms with you, and running to the Throne of grace and mercy" believing our Daddy has a plan that will lead to complete "freedom." Even "panic attacks" will have to bow to the name of Jesus. May His Kingdom come to you, Mandy in a new and powerful way, and His perfect will be done in your situation. May healing, restoration, and peace to the storm be yours in the weeks and months to come! Be healed, in Jesus' name, by the power of His love! Amen.

    1. Thank you so very much Donna and I am in complete agreement with you. Thank you, it means so much to me!

      God bless you!

  2. Why do you look so good even when you're hooked up to monitors?! Lol, j/k. Bravo to you for this post, I suffered major anxiety and panic attacks while I was pregnant with my twins, it was awful!! Hope the meds help you.... I know it's not fun to rely on them, but Gd gave us medicine to help us, and sometimes there is no alternative!

  3. Do you drink caffeine? I had panic attacks all day long and chest pain all day for a year until I stopped caffeine and the day I did that it was at least 75% better no more full blown attacks at all.
    Prayers :)

  4. It's like I'm hearing my own story! I have started having panic attacks the past four months. One almost required a trip to the ER, but I was able to calm down after taking some melatonin. I start seeing a therapist next week and hopefully they will prescribe something for me. I mention the Celexa. Thank you for telling your story! I'm helps to know I am not the only one in the world with panic attacks :)

  5. Just an update! I went to the doctor last week, and he prescribed Celexa. He also diagnosed me with Panic and Anxiety Disorder, slight OCD, and depression. This medication is used to treat all of them. Thank you for your blog post. Glad I'm not the only one :)


  6. You can see, then, that anxiety attack symptoms are just the result of your body's natural response to something that doesn't exist.
    do have this fear, and it builds on your naturally heightened travel anxiety to trigger an anxiety attack.
    For more information: anxiety attack

  7. thanks for sharing. how old were you when it happnened?


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