It all started Thursday night. Wes was on his way to bed after a long day when he stopped short at the bottom of the stairs and vomited all over the floor and down the front of his clothes. We had just gotten back from his superhero class and dinner. I'd gotten him an ice cream after dinner and knew something wasn't right when he barely touched it. Josh was at a work event and I was home alone with the boys. Thankfully, Oren was asleep in his carseat from the drive home so I could give all my attention to my poor (I can't believe this is actually happening again) sick boy.
It was gastroenteritis (you know, the stomach flu). And by the next night I had it and by the following morning Oren had it too. This in and of itself is no fun at all, but at least it's short lived. Only lasting about a day, it disappeared about as quickly as it came. My problem is what it lead to, which for me, was a panic attack.
I wanted to write about this because it's something I've been dealing with for about the last six or seven years. I know I'm not the only one to deal with anxiety issues, but it's so rarely talked about, sometimes I feel like I am.
I don't get them often, only about once a year on average, I'd say. My panic attacks are not frequent and are not something I have to deal with often, thank god. Usually they're triggered by an emotional event...having Wes for example. Right after he was born, on our first night home I had one. But also when I get really sick, usually the vomiting kind of sick, seems to now end in a panic attack. And with as sick as we have all been this winter, it's now happened twice this month alone.
If you've never experienced a panic attack, the best way I can describe them is to say that they are so totally bizarre and scary. What usually happens with me is they come out of nowhere in the middle of the night. It almost always wakes me up out of a dead sleep. Panicked, of course, I wake up shaking like a leaf, heart racing, sweating, blood pressure through the roof, teeth chattering, tingly arms and hands, lightheaded, with shortness of breath that I can't control (like hyperventilating), nauseous, and if I haven't been already, vomiting. It's like I wake up in the middle of a crisis that's not really happening. I have all the symptoms of panicking but without an actual reason to do so. (It's not like I'm being hunted down by a murderer --- it's completely uncalled for!) In my head I realize there is nothing actually wrong and no reason to be panicked but I can't shut down or control the physical symptoms despite knowing this. They completely take over my body and I just feel trapped inside of it. It's absolutely miserable and I've never been able to stop one without medical intervention.
Because I vomit so much when it happens, or as in the case this month I vomit so much it triggers one, I quickly become dehydrated. Earlier this month it happened in the middle of the night and Josh took me to the ER where they got it under control with just anti nausea medicine and two bags of IV fluid. Sometimes I need a dose of anti-anxiety medicine (like a xanax) to stop it. Sometimes all I need is re-hydrated...
They've checked my heart with an EKG to see if the underlying cause is a heart issue linked to dehydration since it always sends my heart rate through the roof, but nothing turned up there. Basically, they don't know why I get them or how to stop them from happening without medication. As I've said, they've been infrequent enough that I've resisted going on a daily anxiety medication to prevent them. But now, with two this month alone, I'm feeling like a daily medication might be the only answer. I certainly don't want to have any more (ever again, please!) and trips to the ER are not cheap or fun. This weekend when it happened it was during the day and I was able to just go to an urgent care down the street to be treated. But they usually happen at night when the emergency room is the only option.
I'm not sure yet just how this will all work out, or if this is something I will have to continue to deal with for the rest of my life. But I wanted to be honest about this thing I've been dealing with so much lately. And I wanted to talk openly about it so anyone else out there who might be reading this and might be facing something similar knows they are not the only one. It's scary and inconvenient and totally crappy when it happens, but I also know that I'm not crazy and it does happen to other other people and I will figure out some way to manage.
Has anything like this ever happened to you? I'd love to hear how you've dealt with it (and best of luck to you if you're like me and still figuring it out!)