Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thank God for Dogs and other things . . .

I suffer from panic attacks. I have ever since I was in my teens for sure, maybe even earlier. I didn't know that is what they were exactly until I was having one and called a friend for support and in my describing why I was calling she said, "It sounds to me like you are having a panic attack." In my head panic attacks were like on TV: lots of emotion, lots of acting out, having to sit down, nearly fainting, or breathing really hard. My panic attacks are very internal and except for a shortness of breath (which is very faint compared to those re-enacted on TV) no one would know it was happening. She said Xanax (sp.) was the answer. My doctor didn't agree, but she prescribed something less addictive, which I appreciate.

The interesting thing is now that I have a name for what happens, and now that I consider is a "thing" and not just overwhelming nebulous feelings taking me over, I can deal with it. Obviously I can take the drugs my doctor prescribed and don't get me wrong: I DO! But, also, I feel the symptoms starting, I identify the feelings as "outside the norm". I can say to myself, "okay this is happening, but you can breath through your nose, don't make any rash statements, take a pill and give yourself 30 minutes to calm down". Sometimes when I am busy I get caught up in the feelings before I get a chance to analyze them. Things seem so out of proportion when this happens, but as soon as a breather comes and I can say "wait, I think I know what's going on" there is a calm (slight, but real) that allows me to deal with the panic, both emotionally, intellectually, physically and chemically. For those of you who don't suffer from panic attacks (which a year ago I would have said was me) it is hard to explain how all of this is going on inside and very little of it is identifiable to the outside world. You might see a dust up with a co-worker as just that when actually something has put that person or yourself in the throngs of a panic attack and the dust up is just a reaction. You or the other person might come across as aggressive or angry or very confident, when in actuality you or the other might be dealing with some very strong internal emotions that are making the reaction seem like this, but it isn't choice or strength of's just underlying panic. This is all very easy to see after diagnosis and chemical balancing, and nearly impossible to see before.

So, how do Dogs fit into this? Well, I had a panic attack today . . . stressing over unidentifiable dollars in a billing situation at work. Money is one of my panic buttons, but usually not someone elses, that is unless I have to justify something that happenened 6 months ago on a bill that is literally 5364 lines long and I can't seem to find the answer. Anyway . . . that is a long boring story, but the panic begins and I am not aware of it until just before my drive home. My doctor says you really shouldn't be driving during a panic attack...I just laugh...when you have been having panic attacks as long as I have . . . well I couldn't count how many times I have driving during one. Anyway, I am in the car and I know that I just need to get home where there is something to drink (water or coke, not alcohol) and take a pill. When I get home tho' there are dogs to take care of. Cats and chickens, too. But dogs jump up and greet you and sit in your lap and lick you face and bound around the yard and then back to you and for a while the panic is just gone. No, I was not cured I still took the pill.

I am trying to wean myself from this behavior. I am going to try to use dogs, and knitting to ease my panic naturally (when I am at home, I don't have this luxury of time and space at work). My plan is to breath through my nose, play with the dogs, take a pill, pick up my knitting. Trick my brain into thinking that it is the knitting that is calming the panic not the pill. And using that transference make my knitting take the place of what the doctor prescribed.

We will see how that goes here at Powell Cottage. Ta ta.

No comments: