In my skin – overcoming anxiety.

A few days ago I wrote a blog titled Fear.
Today I’m writing about the fear OF fear, and of conquering fear.
I have come a long way, just inside my own skin, and I am proud of where I am now.

For anyone who has ever experienced panic attacks or anxiety, I hope this proves to be encouraging, in that, you can overcome it – this “fear of fear”, which ultimately is what panic attacks are all about.

There was a time in my life when the thought of leaving my own house filled me with terror, and eventually I couldn’t.
Trapped by my own fear.
In even darker times, albeit thankfully only briefly, I even began believing that some evil force had taken possession of my mind.
At that point, when things had spiraled out of control, – if there is a precipice between sanity and insanity, I was balanced on the very edge of it.

I’m almost ashamed to write that. Will people think I’m truly a crazy person?
I don’t think so, but, true crazy is never THAT far away, for any of us. Not really.
Remember that next time you see some homeless person muttering to the sky.

It all began when I was around fifteen and began dabbling with drugs.
Nothing too heavy, a little bit of pot here and there and alcohol, mostly.
I had been suffering terrible migraines too, so was put on all kinds of anti migraine medications which possibly could have contributed to the depression I found myself in.
I was looking for a way to numb myself from all that was going on around me in my life, and mostly, what was inside of me.

One night, while at a friend’s place I smoked some marijuana that affected me physically in a way that it had never done before.
Incidentally this friend of mine had strict Muslim parents so what we were doing was even more stupid and fraught with dire consequences.

The affect of the pot hit me instantly like a tonne of bricks.
My vision became extremely disturbed, I was unable to focus properly -things were jumping instead of remaining still, and instead of a happy buzz it turned into one of the most frightening experiences of my life.

My friend, unaware of what was happening to me, played a silly joke and leaped out from behind a wall to scare me, and this was when I felt it…. felt myself slip from that precipice.

A physical splitting of my mind occurred in that instant.
It’s the only way I can describe it.
I became two people in that moment.

Along with that split came the physical sensations….

You know the feeling when you lose your stomach in fright or those “butterfly” like sensations you get on a roller coaster ride?
Well imagine it never ending.
Losing your stomach but that feeling just keeps going and going….rising and rising and intensifying all the while.

My heart began racing, as though it would explode in my chest- I could hear the blood pounding in my ears.
I was hyperventilating, pains were shooting through my chest, I felt dizzy, out of breath, my hands were as cold as ice and I felt as though I was going to die at any second!

Two voices were speaking to me simultaneously inside my mind.
I could hear them as clearly as though they were people in the room talking to me.
One – not MY voice though, was saying…. “Just calm down….take deep breaths…it’s going to be ok, just calm down!”
The other was saying, almost with glee….  “You’re going to die…your heart can’t beat this fast without exploding…Any minute it’s going to stop beating and you’re going to die!”

It sounded like true evil speaking to me.
I felt truly as though I had gone insane.
The voices fought inside me, screaming at me, as my friends rushed me from the house down to a neighbours house where eventually an ambulance was called.

I remember the shame and indignity of being questioned by the ambo’s, going through the list of much harder drugs, to try and find out what was happening to me.
I wasn’t a drug addict. I was just a stupid kid experimenting with dope, but in my head I wondered what ELSE was in the dope.

In the hospital I was treated with disdain by the nursing staff.
Nobody explained to me what had happened.
They gave me a little white pill and hooked me up to a heart monitor, which scared the crap out of me because I kept waiting for the blips to STOP….leaving me dead.

I wasn’t allowed out of bed so they brought a bedpan for me. It was humiliating. I didn’t want to use it but I had to.
I overheard one of the nurses say – “They always seem to do that afterwards….have a really big long pee.”
It was terrible. I just felt like a “they”, whoever ‘they” were.

I never did understand what had caused such an intense physical reaction, nor what had occurred inside my mind that night.
I never EVER smoked Marijuana again. I hate the stuff, with a passion! Can’t even bear to smell a whiff of it. I’m uneasy being around people who smoke it.

The results from that experience I believe affected me for many years to follow, and maybe even still to this day.

I began experiencing panic attacks shortly after this experience.
At first it was just the occasional burst of palpitations, which although quite disturbing and uncomfortable, were nothing like what I experienced one day whilst standing at a train platform on my way to work.

Completely out of the blue, no warning, no feelings of impending anxiety, not even any conscious unsettling thoughts and all of a sudden I was back to feeling EXACTLY as I had done that night when I’d smoked the marijuana. Like a flashback.
It utterly terrified me and what was worse was that it happened whilst I was out in a public place!

I hid in the public toilet on the platform for some time…
I don’t remember how I got home, but somehow I managed.

From that day on I became afraid of going outside, and eventually, for a period of time, couldn’t.

I became a prisoner in my own skin…completely trapped by the physical sensations that my body would throw at me.
I became so infinitely tuned into every single sensation, every heart beat, every breath, and always with a deep sense of dread that IT would happen again.
IT- that could paralyze me with fear…more than fear – terror!

It began to control my every waking thought, and even, eventually, IT sabotaged the safety I thought I could find in sleep….waking me at night, breathless, clutching at my chest as once again my heart raced out of control.

I began having nightmares as well.
Vividly REAL they were…. terrifying dreams of death and dying….of dead children standing in the Amity ville horror house beckoning to me, telling me they would “see me soon”.

I even had an out of body experience during this time where I floated up to the ceiling only to lose control even OUT of my physical self, in a frenzied swirl of rainbow colours that eventually crashed into my “body” on the bed, triggering yet another nocturnal panic attack.

Every day was a struggle, but night time was always the worst.
I had moved out of home at that point and my boyfriend (now husband) worked nightshift.
To be alone at night filled me with even more dread.
To just feel “normal” for a few minutes… an hour….to not feel the clutching fingers of anxiety squeezing in the pit of my stomach.
It exhausted me trying. Honestly, I can’t explain that feeling of mental and emotional exhaustion. It was overwhelming at times.
To try and control my breathing… to “breathe OUT” those feelings of anxiety.
But how could I when the fear bubbled inside me, ever present, always standing on guard anticipating that IT would strike again, out of the blue.
Always….out of the blue…when I least expected it.
For no REASON.  No thoughts, not conscious ones anyway….no situations…
These panic attacks were sly…always lying in wait to strike at any given moment.
“Attack”, really is the right word, because I felt as though I was in a battlefield…at war , with my own mind, and it was constant….every waking moment I lived in fear. (In fear OF fear.)

When my first waking thoughts were of how I was going to get through the day, and how I just wanted to give up and not have to face those hours ahead….I knew I was in trouble.
I also knew that nobody was going to be able to help me with this.
I had gone to counselors, even a psychiatrist…my own doctor had prescribed medication to control the palpitations, but none of it worked.
I spent many hours on the phone to lifeline counselors during the worst of the attacks…too ashamed to speak to my family, my boyfriend, or my friends of exactly how I was feeling.
I didn’t want any of them to know the true depths of how low I had sunk.
I felt mad – alone and just plain crazy!

There came a defining moment when I just KNEW I had to do something.
I had a choice.
Either to beat this or have THIS be the reality of my life.
I knew I just couldn’t go on.  I was exhausted on every level.
I couldn’t go out, or if I did, it wasn’t too far from home and I had to make sure that I knew where the hospitals were or doctors…”just in case”.

That voice, the one that spoke to me that first night was always there telling me that I was going to die.
I decided, that the only person that could help me WAS me.
I began to have faith in ME.
Logically, intelligently, I knew what was happening.
The fright, fight flight syndrome…my body’s reactions, the physical sensations were ones that I read about, and understood.
It was all about fear…..Fear OF fear.
Time and time again I read that these attacks were self limiting, that even if one were to pass out from hyperventilating that the body would correct the situation.
That the body has it’s own safety valve….that people do NOT die from panic attacks!
My heart was fine, God knows I’d had it checked that many times.
All I had to do was get through them….grit my teeth and deal with all the horrible sensations.

I began to do that….and each time I told myself “Well….now that was pretty bad, BUT, hey I’m alive!
I had to do that many MANY times…
I began to force myself to go out, to face situations where I would be alone and in public.

It was hard, but I kept telling myself that if I didn’t do this my world would just keep shrinking smaller and smaller and I didn’t want my life to BE like that.
May as well just BE dead.

I don’t even know how long it took – years really, but eventually, slowly, each panic attack became less and less terrifying.
Unpleasant, and physically uncomfortable, but there seemed to be less fear involved each time.
The attacks themselves became less frequent.
It got to the point where I was able to get through them without the panic, in fact with the aid of some tricks I head learned, I was almost able to stop, or at least minimize the length of the palpitations.

I took my life back!
Told that voice to shut the $%#@ up!

I still have the occasional bouts of palpitations.
There have been periods in my life where I’ve had all kinds of physical sensations that stem from anxiety.
A tense jaw, nerves twitching, ectopic heart beats, headaches, strange buzzing sensations under my skin….weird stuff.
I just seem to be more acutely tuned into my physical body – more than the average person. It’s annoying and disturbing at times.

On more than one occasion I have found myself worn out and exhausted thinking “I hate being in my own skin!”
But….it’s just how it is. Who I am…part of what makes me ME, and whatever else pops up I know I can deal with it.

I have come from a place where the confines of my body have been a terrifying place to be in.
From a place of being agoraphobic, scared to even walk out of my front door… to the person I am today who frequently travels to the most remote places in Australia – the outback, where there ARE no easy to get to hospitals or doctors or people at the other end of the telephone that can console me and tell me “You’re going to be ok”

*I* tell me I am going to be ok!

Whatever happens…I am going to be OK!

This is a song I wrote called “In my skin” which pretty much sums up what it’s like for me, at times. Not all the time, thankfully, but certainly there have been periods in my life where I have hated being in my own skin.

In my skin from Tracy Lundgren on Vimeo.

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About Tracy Lundgren

I am a people watcher,life observer, nature lover, spiritual seeker loving this crazy wild ride that life is taking me on. I am still a blank piece of paper waiting to be filled and that is good.
This entry was posted in Anxiety, Life, teenagers and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to In my skin – overcoming anxiety.

  1. Adam S says:

    Sounds like the same thing that happened to me. I smoked some cheeb once a long time ago which I think was laced with something. PCP i’m guessing. It was not a very pleasant experience, and I remember the same two voices. Weird that you mention that. I went outside to get my head straight, and was sitting on someone’s porch — in the middle of the winter, with 3 feet of snow on the ground — sweating like it was mid-July. Not just my forehead — my whole body was drenched. I have a hard time sweating when its hot out? My jeans were soaked, and I thought I was literally going to fucking die. I’ve never experienced anything like that before, and from that point on, I started going through all of the same kinds of shit you described. Constant fear of “the fear”. I still deal with it to this day, and that was probably about fifteen years ago. Good advice though for anyone looking for coping tips. Congrats too, hope you are able to continue kicking ass!

    — my speakers aren’t working, D’oh!!

    • desertrose7 says:

      Strange that you heard the voices. I wonder if there’s a medical explanation for that?
      I’ve never experienced anything like it since.
      I’m sorry to hear that you’re still having to deal with anxiety issues.Frankly, it sucks and people can’t SEE what you’re going through on the inside.
      Do you still have full blown panic attacks?

      • Adam S says:

        Well, I think the medical explanation would be something like, “you got really, really stoned and that’s what it does”. At least, that’s what the street doctors would say…

        I agree. Yeah, occasionally I do. I get over-stimulated so easily. I don’t get it. It’s like input-overload. I deal with it though, the same ways you do.

      • desertrose7 says:

        Yeah, lol. The street doctors might. The real doctors might say…well, that’s why so many people who smoke dope – yes “just dope” can sometimes end up in psychiatric institutions.

        I can’t drink coffee or caffeine laden drinks. I used to smoke cigarettes – I was a heavy smoker, and that made palpitations worse Even too much sugar can be awful as as far as getting me hyped up.. I’ve switched to an electronic cigarette. Still uses nicotine, but the absorption of nicotine is way less. I’m not chewing my arms off – or anyone elses, for a nicotine fix, but my body is way less stimulated than before.

        If I do occasionally get a bout of palpitations (it’s never a full blown FEAR/panic attack thing anymore) as strange as it sounds I find that hanging over the bed with my head between my knees stops it within about 30 seconds. Not sure why that position does something but it does, for me anyway.
        A nurse once told me about carotid artery massage. Two arteries running down either side of your neck. If you’re having palpitations, gently putting pressure on those arteries (you can feel them pumping) and massaging them will make your racing pulse suddenly click back into normal rhythm.
        Pinching your nose and blowing (like to unblock them, as you do on a plane) can also help with palpitations.
        All sounds weird, but honest to God, all these little things do help.

      • Adam S says:

        I appreciate all that info yo. I’ve been doing all kinds of stuff for it for a long time. Tried it all! I’m the exact same way. I can’t do coffee anymore — half a cup at most. I still smoke though. Physiologically it hurts, Psychologically it helps. I think. I’ve tried the electro-ciggy too. It seemed to help, but I could probably smoke the whole thing in one day. I quit for awhile, and it was the best thing that ever happened to my body. I’ll be trying again soon.

        I’ll try the ol’ ‘rub the arteries’ trick. I’ll keep you posted haha!

      • desertrose7 says:

        What kind of E-cig did you try? What brand? I’m curious.
        I thought I’d need the pills, the patches, the gum, being locked in a padded cell, all at the same time to quit.
        I’m floored that it’s been more than a year since I smoked a cigarette and that this has actually worked!

      • Adam S says:

        I don’t know what it was called, to be honest. I bought them at a local party store. There was only one per package, and the thing weighed five pounds. It only *looked* like a cig. It was probably one of the first ones they came out with though. I tried it when they just started to advertise them. What are you smoking? Some of these e-cigs look ridiculous. They’re like welding torches?!

      • desertrose7 says:

        Lol! Yeah, my hubby has a modified E cig called a “grip” – huge and the inside of it looks like a bomb!
        Those cheap E-cigs that LOOK like cigarettes are crap. You really have to spend a bit of money to get something decent and something with longer lasting batteries. I use an Ego T with atomized cartridges.
        Hey, if you’re interested do some reading on this site http://www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/ Really helpful people there with a wealth of information.

      • Adam S says:

        Thanks yo! I just thought of a novel idea for us tar-heads: *why don’t we just quit and not do it again* God, I hate being a smoker!

      • desertrose7 says:

        Well, that would be a novel idea yes. Just think of how many arms we could chew off in the process.
        I kind of like having my nicotine fix without all the tar and smoke though. 🙂

      • Adam S says:

        i wanna be nicotine free!!

      • desertrose7 says:

        Go for it then! 🙂 You sound serious. I heard that all the way from down under.
        You CAN do it!

  2. David says:

    I enjoyed your post. I know of several friends who have panic attacks linked to smoking. Likely a stimulant like PCP is the cause for massive release of norepinephrine or other stimulant int the brain. I don’t know why tis recurs. I am curious how you were able to control them so well?

    • desertrose7 says:

      Thanks!
      Because I have a nursing background, colleagues at work were very helpful in explaining the whole physical side of things. Understanding it, and being checked by doctors numerous times to reassure me that I was physically OK made it a little less scary in the long run, but it did take many years.
      It’s like anything though, constant exposure to what you fear – and knowing that ultimately you’ve come through it and are OK, is the only thing that can help you deal with it.
      I suppose too I just realised that ultimately the only person who could help me WAS me.

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