Archives for July, 2011
Imagine this: you're at work and you're having a panic attack. Your heart is racing. You feel like you're going to throw up or pass out. You feel scared and embarrassed in front of your co-workers. Perhaps you know that you can alleviate the attack by taking a quick walk or by taking a quick break in the bathroom. Or, maybe you know that sitting down and drinking some water will help. But what if your workplace doesn't allow you to take a walk or a bathroom break? What if your workplace doesn't allow you to sit down? Or allow you to have food or drink at your workstation? Are you forever stuck without the resources you need in order to calm (or prevent) your panic?
Today at my 9-to-5 office job, I started feeling a little queasy. I was staring at one of the 7 or 8 gigantic Excel spreadsheets that I had open on my desktop. The tiny little rows and columns started to shift, overlap, and blend together into a distorted lattice of alphanumerical dizziness. Probably just eye fatigue, really. But coupled with the uncomfortably ill-feeling belly, it felt like a red-alert warning. Something is wrong with your body!, the warning cried. You're going to puke and you can't see straight! Danger! Danger!
The other week, I wrote about the frustrating world of migraine symptoms. So many migraine symptoms overlap with my own personal panic triggers. (And I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't easily deal with nausea, pain, and dizziness -- you too, right?) And now, another great migraine-related Catch 22: when the effects of migraine medicines overlap with your panic triggers. You may know the feeling. You feel a migraine coming on, and you've got a pill in your pocket that can save you from the pain, the sensitivity to light, and the sick stomach. Of course, that pill -- that miracle pill, really -- is going to make you lightheaded. Or jittery. Or drowsy and all fatigue-y. If fatigue, sleepiness, and the jitters have a proven history of making you panic, do you still take the miracle pill?
They say that no two snowflakes are alike. Perhaps this is true; perhaps it isn't. But can't they at least be classified into snowflake types? Some have a round edge; some are scalloped. Some resemble flowers; others look like tiny spider webs. So many different types. Close-up photos of snowflakes are beautiful to look at. But, you're reading a blog about anxiety -- not weather or photography -- so we're not going to examine snowflake structure in depth here. (If that bums you out, see if this makes you feel any better.) Instead, we'll look at panic. Panic attacks aren't quite as thrilling to examine under a microscope as snowflakes. But if you suffer from them, some close investigation can provide you with new insights about the way your body and mind work (and work together).
The sky was gray and I heard thunder in the distance. It wasn't even raining yet during my head-throbbing walk from my car to the front door. I had left work early with a migraine. I walked into my apartment and hurriedly got ready for my date with the dark bedroom: meds, a glass of water, and an ice pack. It was 3:00 pm. The other week, I finally bought some light-blocking curtains for the bedroom. ("Helps reduce stress and improve sleep!" boasted the plastic package.) Glad to finally have a dark room to retreat to, I drew the curtains shut. Save the light of the alarm clock, I was in near complete darkness. Ahhhh. Perfect. For about five seconds or so.
(This is part two of Success, Failure, and High School Math. You can find part one here.) HOW TO FAIL A MATH TEST I had to define "logarithm." "A logarithm," I wrote while smirking, "is the rhythm at which loggers work!" I should have known that math teachers don't have a high tolerance for lumberjack humor -- or creativity in general.
I hate the word "success." Wait, no -- I don't hate the word. I hate its overuse. Success this, success that. Dream it, do it. Believe it, achieve it. Blah blah. Success. The get-rich-quick crowd hawks it via books and CD's. The multi-level marketing cultists sing its siren song. Even conventional wisdom equates success with money.
Just like I could never forget my first panic attack, I could never forget my first migraine. I was sixteen or so and had absolutely no idea what was wrong with me. Laying face-down on the couch in my parents' living room with the lights out, I remember stuffing my throbbing head between the cushions. Nothing could kill the pain. I was half convinced that my brain and my heart had temporarily switched locations. My newly-transplanted heart, I imagined, had gotten cozy behind my right eye and it stabbed my optic nerve with each beat. Put simply, migraines aren't just painful -- they can be scary. I'm about halfway through Dr. Carolyn Bernstein's The Migraine Brain, and even after 11+ years of suffering from at least 2 or 3 migraines per month, my storehouse of migraine-related knowledge has increased threefold thanks to this book. Migraines aren't just bad headaches -- they're a complex neurological disorder that involves far more than just head pain. They're something like a four-act play. A four-act play that, in my case (and perhaps yours), can invite anxiety and panic.