Monday, December 03, 2007

A day in the life of a socially anxious phobic

I had a PANIC ATTACK in the health food store tonight and had to call my husband on my cell and have him help talk me down.

I once had a HUGE panic attack in the middle of the grocery store. A couple of years ago, I guess. I had to run out of the store and leave my half full grocery cart there. I'm very embarrassed by that. I did call them as soon as I got home to let them know (I said I had "an emergency" and had to leave right away - if you've ever had a huge panic attack you know that's true) but to make matters worse they were rude to me about it. Sadly, I've found more people are rude than are understanding these days. If I had another choice, I would have taken it. But if I hadn't gotten out of there when I did, I would have passed out, and I'm not joking. I couldn't catch my breath and my heart was pounding harder than it ever has in my life. I was faint and nauseated, and it was one of the most terrifying things EVER. That day I finally understood why people go to the ER during a panic episode. After that experience, I had a very hard time going out and doing things by myself because my mind/body connected store = deathly panic attack and I'd start to uncontrollably panic. A panic attack is a natural and healthy physical response to something the body perceives to be a life threatening situation. It's the same concept as the "fight or flight" response, only it's usually attached to something that's not really life threatening. If it's a true panic attack from a phobia, you can't just "get over it" or "ignore it". It's not a spiritual thing (not that it can't be, but it's not a given). It's a natural and healthy God-given response that is amplified and assigned (beyond your control) to something it shouldn't be assigned to. And it really, really sucks and is very exhausting and embarrassing.

After that huge grocery store incident, it was so very bad for a long time. I had to drag someone out with me anytime I shopped, unless it was a very very short trip to, say, the pharmacy or something. Then I finally worked my way out of it and was able to go shopping alone for hours. Until today. Being sick all last week has completely shot my nerves.

But I didn't run out of this store (though I wanted to SOO badly). My hubby wasn't really able to calm me down, but he kept me grounded enough to where I could get the few items I needed and get out without too much damage. The poor cashier probably thought I was trying to shop lift or something, with as nervous and terrified as I had to look. He kept looking at me funny.

I haven't had to call and have him talk me through something like this in so long! I hope this is a one time thing and doesn't mean I have to work through all this stuff again. It was really hard and really stressful and I still struggle with it sometimes, especially on days where I'm not feeling very well.

1 step forward, 2 back. That's the life of a socially anxious phobic.


Heidi @ GGIP said...

I'm sorry to hear about your panic attack. That is good that you were able to get through it though. Hopefully that gives you some confidence.

Maybe from now on you can try to get that same cashier at the health food store and just give him funny looks every time;)

Kim said...

(((hugs))) I've had a few panic attacks in my life, and they are truly awful! Unless you've had one, you can't possibly understand how debilitating they are and how scared they make you!!

I think I had my first one when I was in high school and we were watching a fake (we didn't know it was fake) trauma from an MVA while touring the local hospital (it was a drunk driving awareness thing). I had to leave and go sit down in another room before I passed out.

My second one was during my second year of nursing school when I had to take a patient (a baby, actually) down to get a small bowel follow-through to check the placement of her feeding tube. I (apparently) really hate big machines that use x-rays and other things I can't see! Again, I almost passed out!

Ugh. Me no likey panic attacks! I hope that you're able to work through this one and not be afraid to go to that store again!

The Rock Chick said...

Hi Crystal--

As a fellow panic attack person, you did the right thing by staying and getting what you needed. I know they are terrible, but fleeing (and I've done it myself) only reinforces that in your mind somewhere and makes it worse the next time.

Easier said than done, believe me, I know!!!

Hope you are feeling better!


thefradycat said...

Hello again Crystal,
This is Britney from Berit New York I am that crazy person that has been posting on your "Who, ME? Blogging about YOU?" in the ETSY forums. I have to say the more I read about you the more I think "hey this person has a lot in common with me."
If you are interested here is a little info about me that I think we may have in common.

I am married to a guy that is from Dallas Texas ( he won't admit it though).

I also suffer from phobias and panic attacks and have been diagnosed with OCD and generalized anxiety disorder, thankfully I have found a Christian therapist to go to here in NYC.

I totally understand how you may feel about having panic attacks in public. When I have panic attacks in public I usually have to step away by myself and try to calm myself in any way possible. Thankfully I feel that at this point i my life I can rely on God and the fact that I have suffered since I was a pre-teen, to figure out how to deal with them. It is something that is so complex yet once you get to the root of it all I think you can manage it. I know my faith has played a major role in my healing and dealing process!

So please feel free to contact me through ETSY convo or email I shall be posting later.

Take Care and hope to hear from you soon,
Britney Frady-Williams
Berit New York

Field Notes said...

It sounds to me like you have a lot of insight on your panic attacks. It's wonderful that you have a husband you can rely on to provide social support when you need it. And, it is a blessing that they do not occur more frequently. I suppose we all have burdens to bear; you do everyone a great service by talking about yours.