OK, I still don’t know what happened to me, but a few weeks ago I began feeling weird at the grocery store to the point that I wanted to abandon my cart full of 29 pints of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream, run out of the store and go home. I felt like I was going to pass out, but at the same time felt horribly scared about it. And do I run and put all the groceries back so they don’t thaw because I’m such a responsible customer? Or do I just bolt out to the car?
Invariably, I squat down and look intently at whatever was on the bottom shelf as if seriously contemplating grabbing another 14 pints of Americone Dream. Hmm, Cherry Garcia or Americone Dream, I just can’t decide, so I’ll just stay down here for a few minutes until I figure it out. Also? What the hell is wrong with me? Go away you scary awful feeling, you. Clearly my plan worked, as no one asked to assist me and I never lost consciousness.
But it kept happening.
But only at the grocery store.
And then it began happening everywhere I went.
And then I couldn’t leave the house.
So when my husband said hey, do you wanna go to the mall—
“NO!” I screamed. “I mean, I think there’s something wrong with me.”
I confessed and suspected that I must have been having panic attacks. Constant 24/7 high anxiety with periodic panic attacks. And heart thumping. Rapid heart thumping.
Why is it always a Friday night when you realize something is wrong enough to go see a doctor? And on Labor Day Weekend for that matter, so it’s even longer before you can see your doctor?
A couple of advice nurse phone calls later led to the suggestion that I try see my doctor on Tuesday morning.
Four highly anxious, try to deep breathe, very long days away.
Apparently either anxiety is a very low priority, or they are not allowed to tell you that you can go to the damn Urgent Care Center and get DRUGS for it. And at that point, I didn’t know you can go to the damn Urgent Care Center and get DRUGS for it.
So, naturally I asked the internet what to do and ended up barely making it to a tea shop and some other place for “alternative” anxiety remedies. I drank lots of passion flower tea and tinctures with very little result. Tried wine a couple of times but I can’t drink more than a glass so it just sort of made me feel….winey.
By then I had lassoed my husband who was not allowed to leave my side for any reason whatsoever. On Saturday, he called the Urgent Care Center who said I could come in but if my racing heart was a concern they’d send me to the ER. If my heart seemed ok, they could give me something for the anxiety. Or I could just go to the ER, but the thought of leaving the house to go somewhere and sit all panicky for 8 hours…I couldn’t make myself move to do it.
But, the Urgent Care Center said they were empty and this is the first time I hear that something can actually be done and be done NOW about the anxiety (as long as I wasn’t having something like a heart attack–you know, one of those five-day-long heart attacks where you can pace the house like a crazy person wondering if you’re having a heart attack.) I was going crazy with the anxiety and would have done ANYTHING for it.
Except leave the house.
Here I was one mile away from relief and I couldn’t bear the thought of going somewhere.
So I sat on the couch clinging to my husband all night trying to distract myself with CNN and other shows that do nothing but talk about death and dying.
The next day, Sunday, I’m gulping down passion flower tea, and swearing off white food, and trying to exercise even though it makes my heart go pitter patter too much, and asking the internet what could possibly be causing this horrible mental state I’m in. The Perimenopause internet Guru says to diet and exercise to help balance your hormones, but Anxiety internet Guru says panic attacks and anxiety come from some childhood trauma and I couldn’t think of anything, unless you count the time some kid hit me in the head with a baseball bat or I fell off the monkey bars but I think they were talking more about psychological trauma.
I’d never been prone to anxiety or panic attacks before which was also supposed to explain my problem.
My husband shook his leash at me and tried to reach the logical part that was left of my brain and said as gently as possible “you are going to be scared here or at the urgent care center, so if they can help you, you may as well be scared there.”
I decided if I could take a shower, I could make it. (Did I also mention that I was getting panicky in the shower too? WTF?) But I couldn’t leave the house looking like a mangy stinky rat with 2 or 3 days worth of bed head.
So, I silently cursed my fear with an F-bomb and took a shower while my husband stood guard.
I then paced the house for a few minutes talking myself into going and said “F^&* it, let’s go!”
At the Urgent Care Center, Ron fills out paper work and I start to cry. This is like the second time Ron has ever seen me cry in his life. I’m like baseball and as you know, there is know crying in baseball.
They call us into a room and asked me what the problem is and I start crying all over again, so Ron had to explain everything. Of course they asked me things like has anything happened in your life recently blah blah blah. No. No. No. My blood pressure is normal, my heart rate is relatively normal. End result: they gave me drugs (generic Ativan) and I felt a million times better within 30 minutes of taking it.
I didn’t feel awesome, but I felt better. And dopey. And much calmer.
I don’t go to the doctor very much and I don’t have a lot of drug experience and I didn’t know you could just walk into a place and say “I need drugs for my anxiety” and boom – you have drugs for your anxiety. (OK, it’s not that easy, but almost…)
That pissed me off. I could have had relief so much sooner! Those days of anxiety are hard to describe other than to say that it’s the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. The fear that I was going crazy and that it would never end, the vulnerability that I couldn’t take care of myself, the racing thoughts of doom and despair. It’s outright paralyzing.
So Tuesday after Labor Day I went to see my doctor who gave me a bunch of tests, so more waiting for results, so more on-again-off-again anxiety, crying, etc., until they decide it’s not hormonal and he prescribes generic Lexapro.
So now I’m waiting for THAT to work. Impatiently waiting. It’s been almost two weeks and I’m in a better mood, I can walk around the block, I can focus on some tasks again, but I still can’t go to the grocery store. The freakin’ grocery store, people!
And if and when this drug takes full effect and I’m all better, I’ll be trying to figure out an exit strategy. Find the root cause of the anxiety and panic attacks so I can ultimately get off the drugs. I mean – no more wine, according to the warning labels – WHAAA?????. Right now my question is, is it perimenopausal? Or did something traumatic happen in my childhood that involved a menacing monster shower head roaming the aisles of the produce section attacking customers like Godzilla that will only reveal itself through regressive hypnotherapy?