Since I know you love hearing about them. I am writing about my most recent panic attack which was yesterday at 2pm. It lasted until just after 4pm. This post will give the reader a picture into what a panic attack accompanied by chronic illness feels like.
In brief, if we named panic attacks, I would name this one like an interesting flavour of ice cream. I’d name this panic flavour, Monkey Mind Panic. Caution, contains nuts (pun intended).
Monkey mind, a phrase I picked up a while ago, is “from Chinese xinyuan and Sino-Japanese shin’en 心猿 [lit. “heart-/mind-monkey”], is a Buddhist term.” (Wikipedia)
I imagine the monkey habitat at the zoo. A deafening, dizzying, cacophony of “Ew Ew Ah Ah.”
Racing thoughts obviously go along with every anxiety disorder. They play a particularly powerful role in the anxiety before, but also during a panic attack.
During a panic attack, it’s like an argument erupts in my mind. The mind does not heed the warning, Don’t Feed The Trolls.
I wanted to tie this into chronic illness. It might explain why I had the attack.
Here are some of the contributing reasons:
- I have issues getting around my apartment. I was spending the day and this night on my own
- I regularly take some serious medications, one of which is for my anxiety disorder. I had run out on the weekend and the pharmacy didn’t deliver until later
- I have on-going concerns about my recent surgery. I feel frustrated that the surgeon’s office has not returned my calls
- I have a phobia of vomiting and choking. My stomach was off from a Meatloaf I made that was too fatty (I went on one of those Everyone loves Bacon kicks)
So I add bits of those ingredients together and add the secret Monkey Mind ingredient that I called Existential Freak Out No. 9 aka “Oh my god, I’m going to die. I am dying. I need an ambulance. I should call one. I don’t need an ambulance. I should be seeing the doctor more because there must be something they don’t know about. I’m too young to die. Everybody dies! Yes, but no one is especially good at it…”
Okay, okay, take a breath. STOP!!
And this is the quiet moment when the Monkey smiles at you and starts peeling a banana. It’s gotten its way.
This is that moment of lucidity, the calm inside the eye of the tornado. It’s here that I remember that I talk a lot about mindfulness. I give myself a nervous laugh at the irony. The irony makes me feel more human and asserts that I’m not the only one who might be feeling this right now.
At this point I did what I needed to do. In that moment, I need to calm my stomach, so I took a stomach medication. I also needed to deal with the Monkey. I did this by getting up, changing my perspective, hobbling around on my crutch and tidying up in the kitchen for just five minutes. Then I took some breaths, called the pharmacy to ensure my medications were coming. I then sat and waited. Things were winding down, I was exhausted but I had to stay awake. I decided to grab one of my journals and a Sharpie and make a list of words I knew in French.
My medication came and that solved the other physical issue. I made myself a tuna sandwich. Then I fell asleep.
So take what you will from that! Can you relate?