March 28, 2011

Is It the Wine?

I had a panic attack tonight at a volunteer meeting. Of all things. How much less stress can there be at a meeting than one where you are there, voluntarily about something that is strictly voluntary? Oy.

So, because I am free to dance naked on this blog, I will attempt to outline my day and my thoughts in order to start recording these maddening events in hopes of tracing exactly why they happen.

First. I am a 47 (nearly 48) year old woman who is experiencing hormonal fluctuations. Ahem. I have had panic attacks all of my life. In the past they have happened in the middle of the night. I know! Pounding heart, nausea, sweats... I don't even know how often they happened - once a month? I never tied it to my p. before so that could have been! Hmmmm...... 

Anyway, I think I had a major one before moving from Athens, while still living in my little house. I was at work and suddenly felt ill. Very ill. I thought I was coming down with the flu but not exactly the flu. Its very difficult to describe but I literally felt like I was going to just fall over and....? Then what? I couldn't imagine! I don't know. I didn't stop walking until I got to my door. I vegged on the couch and eventually felt fine!

Now in HK, they happen at all times of the day and night. A cold, clammy feeling comes over me. I feel nauseous, closed in, panicky (hahahaha!). Anxious, weirded out, dizzy, out of place. So much fun! I have my little "tricks of the trade" as I call them. If I am on the MTR, I pull out my phone and time the distance between stops. I play games on my iPhone. I read emails and text messages. Anything that is simple and feels natural. If I am at a dinner party, that's a little more complicated! I might try to drink water, focus on the conversation, tell myself to relax and wait it out. One time I really believed I had to leave. HAD TO. But my husband was having fun and talking with other people, and I didn't want to upend everything because of this "fake" thing. I waited it out and eventually, I felt fine. That night as well as tonight, I had a glass of wine. But! I had wine last night at Grappa's at the airport, knowing I was coming home alone on the MTR. No problem! No panic, no dizziness.

Tonight's episode: I'm sitting in an office space, about the size of my living room - so not tiny, but comfortable. There are seven of us sitting around a table. Not squished in, lots of leg and elbow room. There is wine on the table, potato chips, chocolate and cookies. I eat a few single chips, one cookie and two pieces of chocolate. (I also had a large Diet Coke earlier in the day with a late lunch of steamed dumplings, and 2 Reese's pieces.) I have a small, very small! glass of wine. We are talking, everything is amiable, and suddenly I have this little hot flash. I check around the room and others have a little glistening going on as well, so I know it is warm in the room. But then I feel a little dizzy and that's all it takes. I slide down hill fast. My hands get sweaty, I feel the panic rising, I think I might faint or just fall down. I believe I can't even make it to the door. I wonder what people will think or do when I stand up and then crumple, with no explanation. I feel that if I do fall down, I will be paralyzed. Just frozen on the ground and I won't be able to get up and leave. So, now I start to worry about how to get out of the room without making a scene: throwing up, fainting to the ground, dying. Then I realize I'm having a panic attack. I try to calm myself down: I put gum in my mouth, I pretend to check text messages. I see its nearly seven o'clock so I think, if I can't get control, I have been here for an hour, I can use the "somewhere else to be" excuse. I focus on the conversation, feel my stomach turning, time is running out. Something bad is going to happen and it will happen when I try to walk to the door. I give in, signal to the meeting coordinator by tapping my wrist that I have to head out, she smiles understandingly, other people nod their consent, I pick up my jacket and purse and get out the door. I don't stop, though, because this is a small reprieve. I make it down the elevator, down the street and turn onto the main street. Another wave of panic hits again and I debate about taking a cab - I only need to get home and I know I'll be fine. No! I won't take a cab....better not to be stuck in the cab when I throw up, faint, die, etc.  I'll walk, go slow, enjoy the evening air...except now I can't imagine I can walk all the way home. I give in and go to the MTR station which, oddly, seems safe and familiar. I ride one stop, exit and by the time I reach street level again, all is normal. Completely, happily normal. I walk up the hill and stairs to my building. In the door (yay!), up the elevator and into my apartment.

Huh! I'm hungry! What's on television? Washing machine is humming, cats are disdainfully interested in my arrival, and all is well. So, some residual feelings as I type this out and replay my thoughts/feelings. My husband has said, "Why don't you tell me when its happening? I can help you." You know what's funny? I don't know what would happen if I admitted to a panic attack in the middle of a panic attack! I think I might start crying or throwing up or fainting or die.

The other thing I'm supposed to think about is what I was thinking or doing before the P.A. Everything was fine at the volunteer meeting, but before that, I had gotten my hair done along with a manicure and pedicure. The husband says our money is "fine," but I do know that we're just starting to turn a financial corner so I felt slightly guilty for getting the extras (mani/pedi). When I went to pay, the credit card was declined and I was not embarrassed or concerned really, but I did write Mr. Veronica a kinda nasty email. I don't even know why I did it. I knew we had the money. I knew everything was fine. I just had to push a couple of buttons. So, I was guilty about the mani/pedi and then guilty about being mean to Mr. I'm a better person than that and so madly in love with my husband that my behavior is really questionable! I knew it would make him feel bad and I did it any way.

So, a little financial stress, some guilt, a little wine and viola! Panic Attack Day!

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