The Anxiety Attack

by Bill Brenner on August 24, 2010

Overcoming fear and anxiety is a major theme of this blog, and people who think they’ve experienced it often ask me to describe what it’s like for me.

Mood music:

It’s been about four years since experiencing a real anxiety attack, but I remember the feeling well.

It starts with a worry. Maybe it’s concern that Sean and Duncan are sick. Kids below the age of 10 spike fevers all the time, especially in the winter. But when it would happen, I’d start to ponder all the worst-case scenarios.

That worry would simmer into full-blown fear that something awful might happen. Because of the loss I’ve had in my life, the anxiety attacks would always come back to that fear of loss.

If I had an argument with my wife, my brain would spin on that, and it would escalate into full-blown fear that she might leave me. That was never a real danger, mind you. But escalating fear is part of the process.

If I had a sore toe or a pain in the shoulder, it would escalate into fear that I might be having a heart attack. A history of particularly vicious Crohn’s Disease left me prone to the constant fear of impending death.

Then the anxiety attack would move from the worry stage to the point of physical discomfort. I’d start having trouble breathing. My chest would throb and hurt. I’d get the pin-and-needle feeling in the feet that one would get if those body parts fell asleep.

By the end of the anxiety attack, the imagined pain would be replaced by genuine physical pain.

The overall experience would last anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours.

As the attack eased, I would go looking for comfort. I always found it in the food or the wine.

In one particularly inspired moment, I took two Vioxx pills with a few swigs of wine. I was on Vioxx for back pain, and was pissed when the drug was taken off the market for causing real heart attacks.

Two minutes after swallowing the pills and alcohol, full-on wooziness kicked in. It felt good for a few more minutes, until the thought sparked into my head that maybe I was woozy because I was about to overdose. It’s also worth mentioning that I was doing house work during all this.

I called Erin, who was at her friend Sherri’s house, and told her what I did. Sherri, a nurse, said I’d live, and I started to calm down. But for a few minutes I was in full anxiety attack mode.

Though I spent years doing intense therapy to get the OCD under control, the fear and anxiety didn’t start to recede until I started taking Prozac.

When the fear and anxiety went away, it was one of the best feelings you could imagine.

I started to be hungry for all the experiences that used to generate the anxiety.

Life has been SO MUCH BETTER since then.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

B.K. DeLong August 24, 2010 at 1:43 am

Oh, but the relief of anxiety going away is completely overshadowed when the current dosage or current meds start failing to quash the attacks after weeks or months of blissful peace. It’s like a tumble back into hell that feels like you’ll never crawl back out again, ever…even though you will with a dosage upage or chsnge in medication.

Still, the feeling is horrible – especially if it becomes a pseudo-quarterly rollercoaster ride.

jesse March 27, 2012 at 4:36 am

Anxiety question:
How far of a stretch is it, to have Anxiety while only doing certain activities.
Compared to..
Having Anxiety un-predicted( Anytime ).

billbrenner1970 March 27, 2012 at 4:46 am

I don’t think it’s a stretch at all. While someone can suffer them at random, there are definitely cases where certain stresses can be triggers. For me personally, dealing with the crazies on my side of the family would trigger them, as would work stresses.

Becca November 19, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Yes, I love this site and support it offers……. I just went off Zoloft with four years under my belt. After my first six months of “bliss” it starting tearing me down little by little. Now, I can manage better although I am still a little agoraphic.

I am at the point where I try to expose myself to panic induced activity maybe subconsciously, and I don’t think I am ready……because I got more anxiety however, my mind needs the exposure and wont let me stop. In the end I just end up being frustrated to the point of aggravation, which discourages me to the trap of wondering if I will always “fail.”

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