Under Attack

My heart is pounding against my chest, so hard it feels like it might break through at any moment, pounding so strongly I can feel it beat in other areas of my body.  It is racing so fast, like it wants to escape the prison it finds itself in. My heart is beating so loudly I can hear it in my ears and I’m sure that others around me can hear it pounding.

I start to sweat, not the sweat of a good workout but a clammy feeling.  I become hot with a heat I can’t escape.

I feel weak and my legs start to feel shaky.  My mouth has dried up and my hair feels like it is standing on end.

My toes curl trying to dig into the earth as if I am trying to anchor myself against the slippery slope I suddenly find myself on.  I have a distinct feeling of being off-balance and I am about to fall over.

I am vaguely aware that I am going blind.  My vision is dim and objects seem far away.

My back is against the car and I press myself into to it as if the car and me are one.  It has become my safe place.

I look at the road before me.

I unglue myself from the car and I try to walk as fast as possible without seeming like a crazed woman running across the street.   I am sure that I am walking tilted because I feel that I’m about to tip over.

I finally cross and catch a glimpse of myself in the storefront window.  I look perfectly normal.   I’m not sure how this can be with all the chaos I feel inside.

A panic attack.

Just the simple act of trying to cross the road to reach the store on the other side can be an ordeal of tremendous proportions.  And then there is the store itself.

I often wonder if they are a legacy of my traumatic history or if I would have developed this disorder even if I had a stable life.  I will never know the answer to that question.   And it probably doesn’t even matter. I do know I had them as a child.

I credit therapy for the lessening of my panic attacks.  But more than that I credit myself for the work I put into not letting the panic have complete rule over what I do. I can be very stubborn and persistent about going into stores and places when I need to.  But it can cost me a great deal to do so.  Fatigue, discouragement, frustration and even sickness are the the battle wounds I will suffer fighting this war.

But I can not let myself became housebound.

So I’ve had to develop certain behaviours to help me cope.  And it helps that the panic has lessened considerably in the last few years.

I can only go into a store if it has shopping carts.  They are my lifelines against my feeling unbalanced in the wide-open spaces.  I always research what I’m going to buy beforehand so I don’t have to do any reading.  If I can I will pay in cash because cards can take too long.  I look for the shortest line-ups.

I will socialize knowing the work it will take to stay present and to stay in the room. I stay close to walls and doors.  I always sit on the outside never in the middle of things.  I need to be able to escape if I can’t fight the urge to do so.

It can get tedious doing these types of behaviours but at least it gives me a life.

Some days it’s hard to believe I used to socialize, travel and shop without giving it a second thought.

Someday it will be that way again.

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8 Responses to Under Attack

  1. Harriet says:

    I didn’t have any trauma in my life and I have panic attacks, so I think there must be something else beside environmental causes. It sounds like you have some good strategies to help you. I don’t know how you feel about meds, but I take a very low dose mild beta-blocker and it helps control the panic attacks by not letting my heart race out of control. It breaks the cycle and I find it really helpful. I know that this is used by some actors and public speakers to help them fight anxiety and panic.

    • lostinamaze says:

      Right now I take clonazepam if I need it. Unfortunately I tend to be hyper sensitive with some drugs so I’ve had to find other ways of dealing with it. I haven’t heard about using a beta-blocker. I will have to ask my doc about it. Thanks for letting me know.

  2. One long journey says:

    Interesting post – I’m glad you have made progress and find ways to ground yourself. I am curious as to how long ago you were able to socialize and go out without planning for it. You had panic attacks as a child, but did they go away for awhile and then reappear as you started to work on your trauma?

    Just curious – the brain is a fascinating organ.

    • lostinamaze says:

      The panic attacks as a child would come and go. I didn’t realize until a few years ago that’s what I was experiencing as a child. I would have them on occasion throughout the years. Then wham, 13 years ago they took over my life. It took about 10 years before I was diagnosed. They were bad when I first started therapy but have lessened considerably when I actually started the trauma work. Go figure. I wonder if it was my body telling me that something (trauma) needing dealing with. No more ignoring. It does run in our family as well.

      It’s been in the last couple of years that I have able to socialize quite a bit more freely.

      What I hate the most is the random-ness of them.

  3. Dear Lost,

    I read the first part of your post without realising I was holding my breath! In my head all I could hear was, “it’s a panic attack… It’s a panic attack!” and sure enough, it was / is.
    It’s a brilliant description. I could feel it rght to my core. That whole thing about desperately trying to walk fast without appearing ‘crazed’… That whir of distance, like you re not quite in the body that’s walking… a bit like pretending that you are not as drunk as you are…
    It’s desperate.
    I want you to know that I’m so sorry you have this; yet so glad that you can still hope.
    Panic attacks have such power. The power to completely isolate you.
    I’m so glad you won’t give up, and thatyou have the hope that alows you to see life without them.
    I know just how much strength and determination that takes.

    Much love.


    • lostinamaze says:

      It’s interesting but in the midst of the worst of it I didn’t have any hope at all. The only place I felt have safe was home and the only place that I could go was work. But as I started to work on some of my deeper issues the frequency of the attacks have lessened and I have been able to see that just maybe I can at least manage them. My world has slowly been widening again. One thing I know for sure this has not been easy at all.

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