To me, anxiety has always been part of who I am. Nerves, worry, IBS…it’s been called different things, but I’ve always had it.
Managing it is a process. At times, it is terrible and affecting all parts of my life. At other times, it is in the background–there, but at a level that makes me more productive.
PANIC, on the other hand, is a totally different beast.
Sometimes, we talk about anxiety and panic attacks like they are the same thing. I am definitely guilty of it.
However, it just takes one true PANIC attack to remind me that it is a totally different beast.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a real panic attack. I have had plenty of anxiety and moments where the anxiety has made me feel sick–but haven’t experienced a full blown, systemic panic attack in a few years, in all reality.
When panic leaves, you don’t miss it. In fact, it is easy to forget how terrible it is once it is gone. It is a distant, shadowy memory–one that you know has happened, but, at least for me, it is as if my brain switches to “off” and it is just not there anymore.
About a month ago, however, I was out walking my dog. Another dog approached us, off leash, and a fight ensued. I reached down to push my own dog out of the foray and bam–he bit the crap out of me. Not on purpose–but out of fear. Luckily, I was only about half a block from my house.
Dog bites HURT. My hand was bleeding and swelling. I called my husband and he swooped out to the rescue. I was overwhelmed with pain and suddenly, my body tingled everywhere. I was going to faint. I couldn’t hold my body upright. My whole being became drenched in sweat and I became utterly convinced that I was dying…that I need to go to the hospital. I was going to throw up. I couldn’t handle losing control of my body.
My husband had the foresight to shove a pill in my mouth. He knew exactly what was happening to me. He recognized the panic attack for what it was–not like me, who was utterly convinced that my body was in a total crisis.
Suddenly, that panic switch was turned back ON.
Panic, and anxiety for that matter, is inextricably linked to my body–especially to my gut health. If I feel like I need to throw up? PANIC. Diarrhea? PANIC. Nausea? PANIC.
And the funny thing about panic? It makes all of these symptoms feel so much worse. It becomes a vicious cycle. Stomach hurts, panic sets in. Stomach hurts worse. Later, panic is still around and convinces my body that my stomach hurts and it all just KEEPS. ON. GOING.
I had a hormone panel done around the same time as the great dog bite of 2019. My hormones were okay. My Vitamin D was low (not surprising, considering WINTER) but, to my surprise, I was informed that my thyroid perioxidase antibody hormone was elevated. The doctor I saw informed me that this means I will most likely develop Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in the next 5-10 years.
Of course, much googling ensued. I read all about how one autoimmune disorder like Hashimoto’s could lead to a whole host of other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, fibromyalgia, etc.
My stomach began to get queasy.
I also read how sometimes, if you try to heal your “leaky” gut, you can stop the inflammatory autoimmune process. So, of course, I bought 50 thousand recommended supplements and started swallowing them each morning. I felt both compelled to cut out gluten and dairy and guilty that I don’t want to.
Suddenly, my IBS went haywire. Here I am, trying to make my gut healthier but, instead, it is swinging back and forth from IBS-C to IBS-D.
Meanwhile, the panic was switched back on, thanks to one, random panic attack. Like BAM.
My body remembered the panic. And it couldn’t stop thinking about it. Or fearing it.
It grew. And grew. My stomach got worse and worse.
And now, here I am.
Panic is back. Stomach is in turmoil.
I have perspective, unlike the previous time panic entered my life. I know my triggers. I can minimize them.
Nothing is worse than the moment this body covers itself in hot sweat, shaking, trembling, convincing itself that something truly terrible is happening.
I want to cling to safety. I want to run to my therapist and have her reassure me that I am okay. I question all my relationships and my worthiness, all over again.
I don’t like it.
I’m ready for the panic to switch back off.