Post Partum Anxiety and Panic
After the birth of my daughter the heart palpitations increased in strength. Any time I went out of the house, I had a looming fear that I was going to “feel bad”. I was afraid that something was going to happen to me. I was all too familiar with the sensations I had been feeling, about once a week now.
Symptoms of a Panic Attack
It would start with an increase in heart rate, a pounding in the chest, ringing in the ears and a sense of not really being where I was. It was almost as if I were leaving my body somehow. I would then feel a cold sweat take over my skin. My vision would slowly become impaired. I would start seeing black spots like if maybe I was going to black out. I always thought I would faint, but I never did. My legs would then weaken and I would have to sit wherever I was. Sometimes it was on the floor, in the middle of a store. I would be weak and unable to speak or breathe. In that moment, in my mind, I was telling myself that this will pass. I was only thinking “breathe in, breathe out, it will pass”. I knew people were talking to me, but I could not hear them, or respond.
Then just as suddenly, I would start to get a little more oxygen into my lungs. My breathing would begin to normalize and my heart beat would start to slow down. I could feel my skin warming up and could sense the color rising back up to my cheeks. All of my body functions were frozen, including blood flow. The power had been turned off and now it was coming back on. Just like that I was normal again, but the memory of what I experienced, would not turn off as easily.
Doctors Still Find Nothing
In my mind, there was no way that there wasn’t something seriously wrong with me. I had done every blood test, every test the cardiologist could give me and even tested for blood clots again. The results showed perfect health. That is good news, however, if nothing was wrong, did that mean I would feel like this forever?
Depression Set In
I was slowly shutting down from life. Fear of having those frightening sensations again, was consuming me. I avoided going anywhere alone with the kids, which was sad. All other moms around me were going to parties, looking nice and having fun and I did not understand why I could not be that way as well. I stopped caring about my appearance to a certain point. It was little things like putting my hair in a pony tail instead of blow drying it or wearing a not so cute outfit to a party. I gained a little bit of weight because I was afraid to go to the gym.
I put on a great show, though. If any of my friends and not so immediate relatives read this, they will probably be in shock. My outward appearance was upbeat and my sense of humor was still there. I was social and just blamed my appearance and lack of energy on the fact that I had two small children. This was actually at least partially true. I managed several months this way, but I only felt worse.
Starting Medication for Symptoms
I asked around for a good primary care physician and found one. After he reviewed all of my tests and asked me a bunch of questions, he mentioned that my problems might be mental. I started crying. Surely I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t making this up. I know what I felt and it was real. He explained neurotransmitters, chemicals in the brain, serotonin, blah, blah, blah. All I heard was Charlie Brown’s teacher – “wa wa wa”. He decided to put me on Prozac to see if that would do the trick. I was not happy since I was never a fan of taking medication. At this point I was not on any medication. I certainly was not a fan of taking something that would affect the brain, but I was desperate.
I went home that night and told my husband what I had learned and that I was going to start taking Prozac. My only request was that if I started acting weird, he would HAVE to let me know! We were both a little excited to see if this was the answer. I thought I would only take the medication for a little while and then I would know if it was a “mental” issue and move on.
Emergency Room Panic Attack
Three days after starting Prozac, I was at work feeling great. It was November 1st, the day after Halloween. I had a lot of energy and I was in a great mood. I was thinking there might be something to this whole Prozac thing. As I was working, around lunch time, I felt a slight increase in my heart beat. I started to feel nervous, but tried to ignore it and just keep working, but all of a sudden, I felt like I was going to die. All of the sensations I had in the past, were nothing compared to what I was feeling at this moment.
All of the sensations I had experienced before were there, but tenfold. My breathing was labored, and I was DRENCHED in sweat. I COULD NOT speak and I COULD NOT see. It was as if I were frozen. This one did not pass and my co-workers called 911. The paramedics checked a few things while I was on the floor of my office. As usual, everything was negative. I was not having a heart attack or a stroke, but I insisted that they take me to the hospital anyway. This was not normal. I was there for hours and the sensations never completely went away. This time, I also had nausea and a nervous stomach. There was also a feeling of impending doom and I wanted to throw up. I remember walking to the bathroom in the emergency room and my legs were shaking. They were very unstable. I forced myself to throw up and felt better. This gave me some hope. Maybe I just had a stomach virus.
Not Recovering from This Panic Attack
I stopped taking Prozac, but a few days later, I still felt the same. My stomach felt queazy. I wanted to throw up, but couldn’t. Food would make me nauseous and I could not eat. Every few minutes I would feel goose bumps all over my body. It was like an electric current flowing all over me. I think that is when I started saying I was short circuiting. I went to my Dr. and he was horrified. Of course everyone thought it was an adverse reaction to Prozac and since he prescribed it, he felt terrible. I did not blame him, though. After all, he was the first Dr. in over 30 years who ever mentioned the possibility of my issues being “mental”. I did not know it at the time, but that was the first step towards discovering what was truly “wrong” with me and the first step towards feeling better than ever in my life. To get there, however, would prove to be quite an arduous journey.
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