Have you ever had a Panic Attack?

by Susan

Anxiety is a bully standing on my chest making it impossible for me to breathe.

My stomach churns with nausea and I can picture the stress damaging my body.

Anxiety and panic attacks have plagued me throughout my 35 years. When I was a child, my parents just thought Janice and I were ‘worriers’. But, by age eleven, my worry turned to physical panic attacks that would make me throw up. While at university, I was sometimes physically ill when the stress of exams and perfectionism took over.

However, I did enjoy relief from panic attacks for several years during my career as a software developer as I learned to conquer my perfectionism.

But, after giving birth to Julia, my panic attacks returned. Medication helped but did not control them completely. Birthing Sophia was even worse for my anxiety.

You’d think by now I would take my mental health seriously and take better care of myself. But as a crazy-busy work-at-home mom with a preschooler and a baby, I’ve taken advantage of my body and have worked too hard. I’ve pushed on with one more project, one more post, one more email. But two weeks ago my body shouted, “Stop.”

At 11 p.m. I stood at the kitchen sink, exhausted and nauseous. Suddenly, I gave in to a dangerous negative thought… “What if I can’t do it? I feel so sick. How am I going to…?” And like an electric current, panic shot up my spine and ignited my head with flaming heat.

I knew the signs. I knew it was coming. I lowered myself to the ground and, since my husband was asleep upstairs, I called my mom to come up from the office.

She called back that she was busy with an order and would come soon. I couldn’t reply.

Thankfully, she changed her mind and came up to see what I needed. All I could say was, “Get me a bucket.”

The next thing I heard was her voice saying, “Are you conscious?” I realized I was throwing up into a bucket she was holding with one hand as she held my head up with her other hand.

I hadn’t passed out for long – only for a couple of minutes at the most. That’s all it ever is. A shot of panic, an electric bolt of heat to my head, and I pass out. When I regain consciousness it’s always accompanied by vomiting. Then I feel a strange relief that it has passed. But I’m left with a sadness that, once again, I’ve lost my fight against anxiety.

So, for the last two weeks, I’ve taken some time to relax and focus on myself. I’ve even joined a yoga class! The nausea has subsided a little and I haven’t had any more full-on, pass-out and throw-up panic attacks… so far.

I know I must value myself. I must invest in my mind and my body – give them what they need to survive.

What about you? Have you ever had a panic attack or experienced extreme anxiety? What techniques have helped your deal with your anxiety?



Email Author    |    Website About Susan

Susan Carraretto and her identical twin, Janice Croze, created 5 Minutes for Mom in 2006. Susan loves all social media, but her top addiction these days is Pinterest. She recently published a children's book titled "The Pest Detectives" which you can download now in digital format for free.

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

1 GreenJello November 12, 2008 at 12:55 pm

GABA. Get yourself some GABA. Like yesterday.

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2 Barbara H. November 12, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Yes, I have, after a virus hit my spine and I couldn’t walk on my own for several months, then was told I had a 20% chance of having MS, so every little twinge caused fear another attack was coming, and that translated into general anxiety.

The best resource I have found is http://www.quietinganoisysoul.com.

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3 mom24 November 12, 2008 at 1:05 pm

I have never dealt with such serious attack but have a sil who does. I feel for you though – some of us have bodies that are way more sensitive to stress than others and this ‘Mommy’ job is doggone difficult because it is the most important one we have.
WHen I am anxious (on the verge of a freak out), I must stop what I’m doing, leave the situation directly, and walk somewhere while breathing deeply.
Then, I pray….
Blessings to you – I know that the Lord will help you in this if you ask….

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4 Rachel Dominguez November 12, 2008 at 1:15 pm

I just came across your blog today when I entered your contest for the Grocery $. After entering, I began reading your blog and couldn’t help but post a note on this. I too, suffer from SEVERE Panick Attacks. Since I divorced my boys father (who was beating me) I have gotten so much better, however for 2 years I was calling 911 more than once a month. My attacks felt more like I was having a stoke or seizure. I would also pass out and begin shaking uncontrollably like a seizure, I had test after test and the neurologist said it was a stress induced seizure to do Panick attack. When I woke from the seizure, I felt like my entire left side went numb. Like I had had a stroke. I would call 911 and on several occassions I had someone take me to the hospital. Each time….only panick attack. It was so scary.

I took Medication for years, and when i had one I would lay in a dark quiet room and breathe. I think what helped the most was reading books about it. If you dont have one…get one. They do help.

Rachel

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5 MomOf3(4ToB) November 12, 2008 at 1:16 pm

I feel for you. I have never experienced panic attacks as severe as what you have described, but I have had to deal with severe anxiety. I hope you are feeling better! Do take care of yourself and don’t feel guilty for it. By taking care of yourself you are taking care of your kids too! :)

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6 Shan November 12, 2008 at 1:19 pm

As women and mothers, we often do too much for others and do not take enough time for ourselves. I’m glad you took some time for yourself to relax. **hugs**

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7 kerry November 12, 2008 at 1:21 pm

you poor thing! good for you for taking some time for yourself. exercise always helps.

i had my first full blown panic attack at 30,000 feet on an airplane. i had flown many, many times before. it totally came out of nowhere. very scary.

september 11th happened 2 months later. it took me a long time to fly again, and when i do i have some medicine in my pocket that i can pop in if i feel one coming on!

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8 Erin November 12, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Wow. I’ve only had one full blown panic attack in my life, and it was so scary! I was in therapy at the time, and dealing with really hard stuff. Continuing with therapy after the panic attack (even though I hated every minute of it) helped eventually, and I luckily haven’t had one since! Good luck!

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9 Grasping for Objectivity in my Subjective Life November 12, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Wow Susan, I’m so sorry – that sounds horrible! I had a terrible bout of anxiety for about 5 months while I was engaged (planning a wedding, going to college, and working full time is NOT all it’s cracked up to be!!), so I completely understand, although I never had quite that many physical symptoms.

Although the stress associated with my anxiety left when we got married (Marriage is a thousand times better than engagement!!), the hormonal imbalance damage was done and I ended up needing to be on medication for a few months to get “rebalanced”. It was very much worth it, though.

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10 Robin November 12, 2008 at 2:10 pm

I have not had one of these in a while now and I pray I do not have another anytime soon. I never passed out or got sick, but I would feel as if I couldn’t breathe and as if I was about to pass out. and of course feeling that way only intensified the symptoms. I have been to the ER before thinking something was wrong only to be told it was panic/anxiety. Words do not express the intense feeling that these attacks bring on. I do have medicine if I need it to help relax me and get me through. I have found that if I try to stay calm and control my breathing and just keep telling myself it will pass soon, I can usually get through them.

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11 DJ November 12, 2008 at 2:11 pm

I do have anxiety attacks, nausea etc. but nothing like you have! I’m glad to hear your taking better care of yourself. You need to put yourself first more often. If this blog missed a day or two of updates, I’m sure we will all still be here!

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12 The Mom November 12, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Oh no, i feel your pain! I’ve had them for 7 years now and I take meds for anxiety. My first few actually sent me to the ER I swore they were heart attacks! Now I deep breathe or lay down….very very occasionally will i head to my emergency xanax. HUGS, sorry you deal with those!

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13 Paper Bridges November 12, 2008 at 2:15 pm

No, I’ve never had one. I think I’m too laid back about things (except my writing, I can see the perfectionist in me when it comes to that.)

Is that what the doctors say it is? Panic attacks caused by perfectionism. Maybe you need to talk to a councilor, someone who can help you talk things out. I can see yoga helping, but that might not be enough. Take good care of yourself, Susan.

Monica – not a doctor, yet awesome at free advice.

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14 Tracey November 12, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Yes, I’ve had them and they only occur at night. I usually shake, my heart races, and I cry. They usually pass within an hour, but I’m exhausted afterwards. I don’t get them all the time.

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15 Blessed November 12, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Susan – I feel for you and I can relate. Fortunately my attacks haven’t been as severe as yours. I think you’re doing the right thing – taking it easy for a bit. That’s what I have to do.

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16 workout mommy November 12, 2008 at 2:40 pm

omigosh Susan that sounds horrible! I’m glad that you are focusing on taking care of yourself (and yay for yoga!) I’ve never had attacks like that but I do have issues with anxiety that seem to be getting worse. Thanks for the reminder to take a step back and take care of myself.

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17 Virginia November 12, 2008 at 2:45 pm

God bless you for writing about your anxiety so fearlessly. People talk about it as though we’re worriers or someone who should just “rely on the Lord” more, but it goes way beyond that. I, prone to being anxious, found myself in a situation where I was taking care of my dieing mother, who moved in with us, as well as transitioning to being a work-at-home mom all during the same time period. The stress of what was happening as well as all I had to do to take care of her, her affairs, her medicine, scheduling chemo appointments, coordinating with hospice…the list goes on…became far too much and I found myself having full-on panic attacks on a daily basis. Celexa worked well for me and my doctor said it is safe for women who are pregnant or nursing. I know you’ll be able to overcome this day by day because talking about it is an important part of battling the demon.

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18 Shannon November 12, 2008 at 2:46 pm

I had one last Wednesday sitting in the Oral Surgeon’s chair as half of my face was swollen and looked like two tennis balls were shoved in it.
I tried the deep breathing yoga has taught me. I tried to pretend that I was sitting on a beach in the south pacific. Nothing. The nice man put me out of my misery and put me to sleep to take the tooth and two sets of roots out of my mouth.

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19 BlapherMJ November 12, 2008 at 2:54 pm

I’m sorry to hear this, as I can totally relate… I’ve gone from panic attacks with nausea and cold sweats, to migraines, to gasping for air with heart palpitations. Although my stress level hasn’t really lessened, the anxiety has. I guess I finally got to the point a couple of years ago where I just started saying “oh well.” My stomach is ruined and I still get horrible headaches, but I can make it through most days…. :-)

I hope you continue to take care of yourself every day, not just when you feel bad. Your babies need you!

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20 Tiff November 12, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Yes yes yes. I have anxiety disorder on top of PMDD. Medication is helping but I still worry and on ocassion have attacks. My husband . .worse than me. It makes us both exhausted. I don’t throw up but I cry and shake uncontrollably. It’s so scary.

I hope you are able to conquer this. You can throught prayer.

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21 casual friday everyday November 12, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Yes, I’ve had them. Suffered with extreme panic attacks for a few years. And mysteriously they went away when I got pregnant with my first son.

When I get into situations that would normally have triggered them I just try to detach myself from the situation so that my brain isn’t able to get into that panic and then put my body into it.

I’m sorry you have to deal with them!

Nell

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22 Donielle November 12, 2008 at 4:03 pm

My husband suffered from them for years. A major overhaul of his diet has helped him immensely! Hope you find a way to get them under control.

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23 Tiff November 12, 2008 at 4:18 pm

I know exactly what your going through. I am 24 and been having them for about 2 years now. They are so scary because they are so unexpected and can happen even when nothing is going on! I have a 5 year old daughter and have been married and divorced, lost a grandparent and moved around a whole lot and am not sure if its because of all of this stress within such a short time period??? I have tried many medications but I don’t like them cause they either make me gain alot of weight or make my head feel disconnected from my body. I try and talk to myself, I dont know if that works for you, but somtimes they just come and you are past the point of talking to yourself. If you want to talk more email me! LOL I could write a whole story about it!

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24 Mandi November 12, 2008 at 4:36 pm

I grew up with a mom that suffered from them terribly bad. They seemed to hit usually at night when everything was quiet. I remember way too many nights of her letting out a scream and running outside. Being outside breathing in the cool air seemed to help. When she would feel them coming on she would always let out the most blood curdling scream. I pray for you and your family and hope that you find a way to overcome them.

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25 Mom24 November 12, 2008 at 4:59 pm

I have never had a panic attack, but my husband has. It’s hard. Sometimes I can be completely supportive, most of the time, I think, but sometimes it just makes me crazy. I don’t understand why he can’t just calm down. I’m starting to realize that he truly can’t, but I wish I could understand why. It’s very hard because I feel like he wants me to get caught up in his panic as well, and I don’t. I stay very calm and tell him over and over that he’s fine, that he’ll be ok, that he just needs to fight through it and that I’m there for him.

It drives me absolutely up a wall that in my HS junior’s health class they spent 5 days watching Sybil and yet have not discussed anxiety or depression–conditions they are MUCH MORE likely to encounter either personally or with a friend or loved one in their lives.

Thanks for sharing. I think the more I learn, the more I can understand. I hope.

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26 Miche November 12, 2008 at 5:54 pm

This is weird, but right around 7 months of pregnacy with my first son, I started getting “stressed out” and wouldnt be able to swallow-liquid or solid-items. It got worse after we moved (yes, we moved 4 days after AJ was born) far away from friends and family. I finally went to a doctor and found out that I have Silent Reflux-had no idea that existed-but medication seemed to keep it at bay. Then it went away.

Then when I got pregnant with my second son, I remember the day I felt just so overwhelmed at the thought of two, and that feeling that I couldn’t even swallow my own spit came back and I had to gag. The doctor said I just needed to go back on the medication, but I really felt it was caused by stress and a “panic” that I felt when I started thinking “I can’t do it”

SO, long story short, I am only taking the medication when I cant keep anything down (and that has been rare, thankfully) and whenever I start feeling panic and stress coming on, I stop what I am doing, make sure the kids are safe and go lay down with my eyes closed for just 10 min. I relax, ignore everything and shut off for a bit. That has helped me to focus on the small chunks I need to tackle instead of looking at the whole mountain.

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27 Alicia November 12, 2008 at 7:39 pm

I had one several years ago. Mine started with respiratory distress. I had just left the ER where they had to perform a painful female procedure, and I thought I was having a reaction to the medication. I was so frightened I started telling those “last words” to my husband. I seriously thought I was dying, and we wouldn’t make it back to the ER before I would stop breathing. The triage nurse immediately recognized it as a panic attack. She told me some different way to start breathing (that I don’t recall now) and to sit in the waiting room. That helped some, but I still had all the physical symptoms you decribed. After sitting there for 15 minutes or so, I vomited everywhere, and not long after all the symptoms went away. It was the strangest feeling, and not something I ever want to repeat! I’m so sorry you are plagued by these, and I respect you so much for sharing it!

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28 Jennifer Nordin November 12, 2008 at 8:16 pm

As a clinical aromatherapy practitioner, some of my clients have had phenomenal results with certain essential oils and blends for reducing/eliminating anxiety and panic attacks. Therapeutic/medicinal essential oils can affect the emotional center of the brain in ways no other therapy can. Calcium citrate with equal amounts of magnesium along with a B complex supplement are crucial for helping the body with stress. Mineral deficiency can contribute to a host of neurological disorders. High fructose corn syrup, aspartame,MSG, and other food preservatives can contribute to panic attacks.
In our culture we still are pressured to treat our bodies like machines! I think the expectations we are burdened with is a huge factor to depression, anxiety, ADD, etc. My prayers are with you as you search for solutions to your health challenges!

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29 MommyNamedApril November 12, 2008 at 8:16 pm

oh, you poor thing. i have definitely had some bad panic attacks, but none which even compare to yours. my worst ones were when I was pregnant. the anxiety made my unable to sleep. i would literally go for three or four days on a couple hours of sleep before my body would give out completely. i can remember once when i was pregnant with my first son and still working, i had to pull over the car on the way back to the office after a meeting, and i passed out from exhaustion as soon as i got into a parking lot. i don’t even remember pulling in – just waking up to my cell phone ringing over an hour later.

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30 Shannon H November 12, 2008 at 8:19 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this, Susan! I don’t have panic attacks but I do have my own anxiety issues so it’s always nice to know I’m not alone. Best wishes!

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31 Stefanie November 12, 2008 at 8:31 pm

Yes, and I now take medication and haven’t had one since. They started out of nowhere.

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32 Stephanie November 12, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Good for you for taking a break! I took that yoga class at BlogHer this past July and it was terrific – super relaxing…

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33 Alyssa November 12, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Actually, I have panic attacks too and I have since I was in 3rd grade. I had the same type experiences in college that you did. I can totally relate. Last week when my baby was in the hospital and my 4 year old and 19 month old were with my in laws or my parents I was full of anxiety as to how I was suppose to handle it all I felt so “out of control”. I think my control tendencies to be a control freak come from my anxiety and panic attacks.

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34 Rachel Tramontana November 12, 2008 at 9:31 pm

Susan – on three SEPARATE occassions I’ve driven myself to the hospital with (what I thought) were 100% heart attack symptoms. (At 25, 27, 30). The same symptoms each time, and all three times….after blood tests, EKG, heart/lung xray, etc. – they said … you had a panic attack, honey. I’ve learned to deal with them – mostly through medication. I’ve found that if I keep the medication that usually stops it for me with me at all times (in my handbag, in the car) I don’t have them – or not nearly as much/bad. If I DON’T have the medication and I start to feel the anxiety … then I definitely panic. And I don’t have to take it – just KNOWING it’s there is all I need usually. That’s what’s helped me. The breathing techniques, etc. – haven’t helped, at least for me. I know they do for a lot of people. Once I’m full blown going into one …. I’m going into one…so I’ve tried to stop them by just making sure that I have some of the medication in all the places where it’s happened to me (the car, etc.) Just my two cents. :) Hope you feel better!

PS: As a side note, if you ever break a finger and want to get seen in the ER before everyone else – you know…you don’t want to wait for hours and hours – just complain of chest pain, and then explain the broken finger. They’ll see you INSTANTLY. *j/k*

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35 Bettina November 12, 2008 at 10:22 pm

I feel for you and know exactly what you are going through! Hugs and prayers sent your way!

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36 susieshomemade November 12, 2008 at 11:18 pm

That’s horrible. I am being treated for anxiety but nothing that severe. Although, if I let my blood pressure go the way it was going…

Anyway, I am on medication and I practice progressive relaxation and meditation. It helps but in extreme conditions, I am still worried about myself.

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37 Michelle November 12, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Susan I’ve never had a panic attack but I can’t imagine the feeling ..I hope that you feel better soon.

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38 Melanie November 13, 2008 at 12:39 am

I’ve always had problems with anxiety, although not as severe as yours. Mine have gotten worse since having a child because now I am constantly anxious and worried about her on top of my normal anxiety. I feel sick to my stomach much of the time although I never get physically sick. I have considered going to the doctor for medication- but that makes me anxious too.

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39 Donetta November 13, 2008 at 12:46 am

I have known them as well. It has bettered over the years. Mine was due to PTST from torture, abuse and a murder I witnessed while my own mother held me by the shoulders so I would not be next.
So yes. I know those things.
Cold soda pop can is first defense.
On 10-31 I had an episode while out for the first time ever with my 7 and 11 yr old treating. A figure caped mush like the man who led the occultist group that suffered my childhood was before me .I panicked! My Mr. held me arm and shielded me. Even now I just shuttered thinking of it. The kids said it was not real and i told them the memory was. We got me home and I rallied only to have it happen AGAIN right in front of my own home. I had to stay real close to hubs. I went to a meeting the next day and by 10 am I was in my closet calming down. My fight flight kicked in and I just had to defuse. Klonopin used to be used , but now I can get through most of them by talking them out with hubs. It was a memory of the man dedicating me to the dark side and the feeling as a child of “I DO NOT AGREE!” I actually remembered that. I told him and them after a day or so was back to normal. It gets better year by year.

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40 Summer November 13, 2008 at 12:56 am

I’m glad you posted about this. People need to be made more aware about panic attacks.

A little over three years ago I was thrown into instant panic disorder within a matter of hours after two medications I took interacted toxically. The disorder was so bad, the slightest shout or flash of light would send my body into uncontrollable spasms. The terror I constantly had to fight off was as you mentioned, nauseating. Shots of warmth zinged from my head to my feet. I had many other symptoms. Recovery took a number of months but I still have to deal with panic attacks on occasion. Most of the time I can sense them coming on and work to either prevent a full fledged one or work through it quickly because I know what’s happening.

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41 Sofia November 13, 2008 at 4:58 am

Nice one.

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42 Rona November 13, 2008 at 8:46 am

Yes, I wasn’t able to sleep for a whole week due to severe pain. I recognized what was going on and told my husband. He immediately got me a sleep aid till my doctor’s appointment. I’m now taking Xanax, which addresses my anxiety and allows me to be in deep sleep for 7 hours.

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43 Bailey's Leaf November 13, 2008 at 9:27 am

I am a panic attack sufferer. It was moreso when I was younger. Teen years and into college. I’m claustraphobic, so that can set me off. Once, Hubs took me to Niagara Falls (Journey Behind the Falls or something like that), I turned shades of white and he had to drag me out. In high school, I would wake up, have my panic attack and vomit then go to school. In college, I had held off a project until the very last minute– a project with another student– and was in such a panic that I had to go wake my mom and dad up to talk me out of it. I had realized that though my project work was great, I was responsible for someone else’s grade and it tipped me over the edge.

I’m happy to say that as I’ve grown older and felt more comfortable with life, panic attacks are less. I’m a homebody, though. Traveling is a tough thing for me. I’ll do it, but I can never sleep in a hotel. (The site of many other panic attacks.)

Girl, I understand what you are going through. Deep breath in, deep breath out.

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44 Callista November 13, 2008 at 10:11 am

Yes I have panic attacks. I had a huge one after giving birth to my first child. I disassociated and couldn’t move. I didn’t want to hold or feed my child, panicked whenever I thought about it. I had a smaller one after giving birth to second child and I had more just recently after surgery. The hospital really incites them in me. I get them other times too sometimes. I’ve been on anti-anxiety meds before and am right now but don’t need to be on them all the time. I dont get them constantly. Knowing the signs and recognizing that one is starting is very helpful because hten I go somewhere alone and deep breathe to stop it from coming.

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45 Amy November 13, 2008 at 10:47 am

I have two books that helped me immensely with calming myself down and quieting the “worries”:
Just Listen by Nancy O’Hara
Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron

I can’t pretend to know what it’s like for you, but it sounds miserable. I hope that you find something that works for you. God bless.

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46 Ren November 13, 2008 at 2:24 pm

I’m sorry to hear what you’re going through. I hope you find something that helps you soon.
I experienced severe panic attacks for a little over 2yrs. I tried medications and relaxtion techniques. The thing I found that works the best is breathing exercises (close to lamaze breathing). It helps calm me down and keeps me from falling under.

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47 marina November 13, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I’ve had many panic attacks, one most memorable was in New Orleans during the jazz fest with my folks, it was just too many people around.
I started seeing a shrink, and i started to work thru my problems, and slowly the attacks subsided and also my phobias.
i mean, i still have my moments, but i’m way better…
MuchaCostaRica

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48 Nan G November 13, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Susan, I had problems with panic attacks for many years. I was put on addictive medication for far too long. I quit cold turkey when my best friend said I didn’t need them. I believed him and he believed in me.

The panic attacks continued even ending in a trip or two to the emergency room but then I found a book that changed my life. It taught me how to control them, how to work through them and I have used the methods to help others I love learn to get through them too. Here is the link to the book that helped me so much:
Anxiety & Panic Attacks Their Cause and Cure

http://www.amazon.com/Anxiety-Panic-Attacks-Their-Cause/dp/0449213315/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1226625147&sr=8-2

Please take the time to read this book, it can help you. Now I rarely if ever get panic attacks and when I do I can control them without medication and end them before they get to a point I can’t control. (((HUGS)))) If you ever need to talk I’m NanetteG on twitter :)

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49 Sarah November 14, 2008 at 1:13 am

I found the book, “From Panic to Power” by Lucinda Bassett to be extremely helpful for me. Now that I know my early symptoms, I can avoid full-blown attacks. Good luck.

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50 Suzie November 19, 2008 at 12:21 am

I think I just had my 4th one. I was in a meeting yesterday. Something I can ordinarily deal with. All of the sudden, my entire body began to tremble and I knew I must leave. It was cold in the building, but I was hot and not sure if I could make it to the car without passing out. But, the car was my life line. I felt so much better when I got there. My body stil trembled for a few hours when I got home.

I was not sick. Was this a panic attack?

Today I was fine. WTF was that?

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51 Stacey Blain June 4, 2009 at 8:53 pm

I have also experienced anxiety and panic attacks. I would get sweaty palms, heart palpatations, difficulty swallowing, overwhelming sensation of doom. I was put on medication which helped in relieving these attacks but I don’t like having to rely on medication. My doctor informed me of a treatment called NeuroFeedback. I have had a total of 18 sessions and it has been amazing. From my own personnel experience, I would recommend it to anyone dealing with anxiety. It has been an answer to my prayers!

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