It was Late Spring 1995… I was working my Accounting internship at a Landscaping business. I was responsible for the basic paperwork and accounting for the business while I was over seen by the Accountant who had been there for a while. Down here in Augusta, Ga it gets super hot in the summer. The one thing I immediately was worried about with this job, was that they did not have air conditioning. But, it was spring and only time would tell. The owners wife ran a little flower shop out of the Landscaping business as well. Everyone seemed pleasant enough. Things began to get weird, the owner was forcing everyone to participate in a prayer session in the mornings. I didn’t really mind that since I had my own prayers I was sending out during this time. Shortly there after, I noticed the owner was talking to himself in his truck every morning. He said that Jesus talked to him every day. To each is own I say! Then he began shutting my office door and locking it, putting his hands upon me and telling me that Jesus was coming to kill me. Me, being the strong minded individual I was, just ignored his BS and carried on. However, after about two weeks of this I noticed I started to feel sick all the time. At first I assumed it was due to the heat and all the chemicals that where in the building with me plus no A/C! Here is what happened in the beginning, for a typical day:
Wake up to my alarm. Get my three kids ready for daycare (at this time, May, school was out). Get everyone in the car and drive to daycare. While driving I felt dizzy or lightheaded. Arrive at daycare and bring kids in to there classes. The dizziness would get me real good as I would go to leave the building. Out of no where! This happened several times over the course of a week, getting worse each day, until I passed out in the reception area at daycare. I assured everyone I was just fine, maybe caught a bug and would then continue on my way to work. The entire drive I would feel very dizzy and ill. I would continue to feel dizzy and sick while at work and after the day I passed out, I started having to leave and go home to lay down. I would be there about 2 hours and then just feel so sick I had to go home. I would drive directly home and go to bed. Believing I surely must have some kind of bug! This happened for a few days, then I felt so ill I just couldn’t even try to go into work. My husband, at the time, would take the kids to daycare so I could rest and hopefully get over what ever I had. My kids were ages 3, 6 and 8 at this time. By the end of the next week, I had missed the full week of work and was still feeling very ill. Out of no where, I suddenly felt terrified! I found myself peeking out the windows like someone was out there and they were going to kill me. I became so terrified of this, that I then was unable to be home alone. I was scared to death and freaking out if I was alone. Mind you, I had three kids, was married and we all lived with my parents in a big house. All the adults had jobs during the day. I had one close friend and I would go over to her house (she lived on the street behind us) and lay in the bed in her spare bedroom all day, feeling sick, but had to have the door open so I could hear and see her. If she was not available I would take a pillow and a portable little tv and lay on the floor of my fathers office while he was at work. I have no idea what my parents or anyone else was thinking was wrong with me. I just felt very ill all the time and if I was alone I would freak out feeling super terrified, my heart would race and the fear engulfed me. Now, after about two more weeks of this all, I was standing in the living room, everyone was home because it was the weekend and out of no where I suddenly felt like my heart was racing so fast it was going to rip out of my chest, my lips become tight and numb, my arms and legs were tingling and I was engulfed in so much fear. Fear feeding the physical symptoms more and more. I was terrified! I just knew I was going to die! My husband took me to the ER when I requested to go, feeling I was going to just die at any moment. As I sat in the ER, I felt I was being completely ignored and I was dying! Next thing I knew my lips were puckered out, all my extremities were numb and I felt extremely dizzy, I fell forward out of my chair onto the floor. I curled into a fetal position! I was yelling in terror! The nurse got a bed for me to lay on and and quickly wheeled me to a room by myself. They shut the door! They left me there and took my husband to fill out paperwork. My fear overcame me to the point I just had to yell for help! “Help me Please!” The nurse came in yelling at me that there were other patients with heart conditions and I needed to stop yelling. I told her I was dying and no one seemed to care. She just left! At that point my entire body stiffened and curled inward. I was paralyzed, unable to move! Lips puckered out and my face was contracted. My limbs stiff and hard yet curled inward and bent. I could barely even get a sound out of me. Then my parents came in the room and I remember looking at my mother and her saying…. “Oh Dear…” They took me to have a CT scan and I was still paralyzed. The doctor came in and the nurse injected something in my butt, which I found out later was a muscle relaxer. It felt like my entire body melted. I melted and was no longer paralyzed. The doctor said the scan was good and she believed I was having a Panic Attack. She wanted me to go see a therapist, gave me the number and sent me home. Now I am thinking, Panic attack? I doubt that very much! Something is seriously wrong with me and no one gives a rats ass! But I kept having the attacks. Still felt sick 24/7 and had several full blown horrible panic attacks a day. Still unable to be alone. So I went to the therapist. She talked to me about panic attacks and gave me a prescription for Xanax to take when I felt the attack starting, I was to see her at least once a month but she preferred more often if possible. At this time, it was almost impossible for me to go anywhere. I would have an attack if I was in the car and if I tried to go to a store, I would have an attack. I couldn’t drive because as soon as I would get in the car I would have a panic attack. I was diagnosed with Panic Attacks with Agoraphobia. I did not like taking any medications and would only take ibuprofen when I was getting a migraine, but I gave in and took the Xanax when my next attack started, which was very often, every single day, multiple times a day! The horror of it all! You feel terrified, you just know your dying and the physical symptoms alone is pure torture! The Xanax would ease the panic attack so I would not be in a full blown, paralyzed state. As soon as I felt the heart racing and limbs tingling I would take one. Within 15 minutes I would relax some and not end up paralyzed. However, I still had multiple attacks a day, everyday! I was grateful to not end up paralyzed though. I still felt sick 24/7 and still was unable to even take care of my children. At this point i was two months into all of this. I read everything I could find on panic and decided I was going to do something about it, even though I still believed I surely was dying. I chose to make myself do guided meditations everyday whether I liked it or not. Every single day I did the guided meditations. I noticed after a month I was feeling not as sick all day and the panic attacks eased up by doin got he breathing I learned in meditation. I could go directly to bed and do deep rhythmic breathing and then go to sleep instead of freaking completely out. I did this for a total of six months and finally the panic attacks stopped. It was now the end of January and as fast as the attacks came on, they were suddenly gone. I was thrilled! I found a job and graduated from college and then we even bought our own house. However, like clockwork, my panic and agoraphobia would come back every single two years. I would immediately do the meditations, but still would feel sick 24/7, however, the meditations did help me cope with it much better. They started in 1995 then they came back in 1997, lasted six months and then stopped. Only to return again in 1999 and last six months then stop. And again in 2001, which was when I decided I needed to be on some type of medication in hopes of stopping this cycle and I went on Paxil. The Paxil made it all a bit more tolerable but I was still agoraphobic!
In 2003 my oldest son died in a car accident, age 16! I guess the grief and depression over ruled the panic that year and I was in bed for six months. Since then I have found that instead of coming on out of no where every two years and lasting six months, I have problems with panic and agoraphobia at any given time and day. I can do great for a month, then wham I am freaking out. I have been on a few medications since my sons death. I moved away for five years then moved back to the house I owned. While I was gone I had a great team of doctors and therapists and I was on a good combination of medications, but when I came back here they refused to prescribe some of the medications I needed and put me on different ones. So I had to find a way to cope with life now. I Rarely ever leave the house, I Do Not drive! I basically stay home and mostly in my room. I take Ativan for the panic, which I have to take every day and cannot just take when an attack comes on! Sucks! I am on Effexor and I take Trazadone to sleep since I also have insomnia! My way of coping is to not leave the house unless I feel like I want to go to the store for something. I take my medication on schedule and I do NOT look at people while I am out. I found pretending no one is there is the only way I can be in the store. I don’t see anything that is going one there! I just go to where ever the things I need are and then check out and go home. Unfortunately, I also have severe chronic pain now. So on top of the Panic with Agoraphobia and Anxiety disorder with Severe depression, I also have to deal with severe chronic pain every day of my life! But that is a entire different subject than what I am on today… We all have to find a way to survive and cope with our disorders. I say what ever you find that works and has you in the least amount of physical and emotional pain is right choice for you!