Panic Disorder: A First Hand Look

In the summer of 2002, at the age of 23, I was harshly thrown into the world of Panic Disorder. My first panic attack, like a lot of people, came out of no where. While I stood on the porch at my Aunt’s house I suddenly became dizzy. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart started pounding. Something was terribly wrong. A million thoughts raced through my mind all at once. Am I having a heart attack? Am I going to die? What will happen to my son if I die? These thoughts produced such a life-shattering fear that I can’t even begin to explain. I held my chest and tried to keep from fainting as I walked inside to have someone call 911. The ambulance came within 10 minutes. I was taken to the hospital where a battery of tests were done. Everything came out fine. But this can’t be right. Something was seriously wrong with me! I was given some “medication to calm my nerves” and sent home.

I tried to keep my mind off of what had happened to me. But, of course, there was no way possible to do that. Over the next 2 weeks I found my self in the Emergency Room eight more times with these “heart attacks”. Every time I got a clean bill of health and more medication. During the last visit, I was told to see a psychiatrist because there was nothing physically wrong with me. Are you kidding me? Nothing physically wrong? You want me to see a shrink? I am not crazy!

The days just wound into each other. Even now I can’t remember certain things. I found myself on the phone contacting a psychiatrist. The appointment they gave me was almost a week away! What would I do until then? I was dealing with this fear and anxiety every minute of every day. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I lost 20 pounds in a short time. I worried about everything all of the time. I played out scenarios of bad situations in my head. What would I do if an attack happened while I was at work or at the store? I ended up staying inside my house where I was safe. When I went to my appointment I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia. I started taking Zoloft and seeing a therapist. I didn’t want to go on medication. I just wanted it to go away. I wanted to control it on my own. But, it was out of my hands.

Now, four years later, I am doing extremely better. The panic attacks, although rare, do not last nearly as long as they used to. The anxiety and worry about everything is not constant. It has been three years since I was house-bound.

I hope by sharing my story I will touch someone. There are ways to get help. You don’t have to go through this alone. I know first hand that there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

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