Panic Disorder | Coping Regime

 

e5ea621e766252e6580e131251da2abd

Going through the experience of a panic attack are some of the scariest moments I ever had to live through. Each time felt like the last time, and to think it was a ‘harmless’ event was impossible, at first.

I really believe it was my frame of mind that helped me to cope as well as I did, as best as I did. It was really mind over mood, so to speak.

The frequency of the panic attacks seemed to diminish once I graduated from Nursing School and eventually came to a point of being almost non-existent. It look accepting what needed to change, dedication, and a change in mindset to adequately manage, and mostly prevent the return of the attacks.

Nursing School created a high level of stress in my life, not only was I dealing with the usual and expected stress related to the volume of weekly readings, essays, exams and presentations, but I was also trying to manage the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, Depression and Social Anxiety. Furthermore, I was dealing with the psychological devastation of a cheating partner, relationship conflicts with friends, and the death of family members.  I believe it was a combination of these factors, fighting against each other, that led to the development of the panic attacks. I wasn’t diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety at this point, but I am sure my mental health history would have suggested it.

What coping mechanisms or techniques did I use to help manage the symptoms of, and prevent panic attacks?

I think the scariest part is the fact that you think you are about to die. The symptoms are very similar to a heart attack, which is why a lot of people will Dial 911 or go to their nearest Emergency  because it can be difficult to decipher between the two if you have never experience either one of them before.

With both, you get chest discomfort, short of breath, dizziness, apprehension, and/or nausea. The difference is usually the intensity of the chest pain, and the duration. Please note that not everyone who suffers a heart attack or a panic attack will experience chest pain or discomfort. Working in Emergency, I have seen people come in with crushing chest pains to mild heart-burn like symptoms to vague complaints of  “I am just not feeling that well, I am just more tired”. Panic attacks come on abruptly and are short lived, lasting only a few moments, and the pain DOES NOT radiate to the neck, back or jaw. If you ever experience chest pain and cannot contribute it to an exact ‘non-emergent’ cause, or when in doubt, call 911. Never EVER drive yourself to emergency if you think there is ANY possibly it could be a heart attack.

First and foremost, the biggest thing that helped me was when I finally decided to go see my doctor. It look me a few months to go, when the attacks were happening every other day, because I felt embarrassed over my lack of control over my own mind and body. Confiding and trusting my doctor provided me with a peace of mind that these signs and symptoms were being produced by my mind, and not something more serious. She sent me for a cardiac workup that included blood work, and diagnostic tests (ie. chest xray, ECG, and a cardiac holter monitor). All the reports came back normal, as suspected, and I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder. My doctor and I discussed my options for treatment, an developed a plan that best suited my life. I took a non-pharmacological approach.

Having a definite diagnosis, brought a sense of peace because I was able to know, without a doubt, that these physical feelings were harmless. The absolute worse that could happen is I could faint as a result of hyperventilation.

Which brings me to my next, very important, coping technique; the art of breathing.

Most often, people begin to feel lightheaded when they are breathing fast and heavily. When the panic attack comes on, you usually don’t realize that your breathing has increased, because you are scared stiff of what is lurking around the unknown corner of Doomsdale. That impending doom feeling, the feeling that something so horrible is about to happen. Your body is trying to figure out whether it wants to fight or take flight or play dead.

There are so many different ways to practice breathing techniques. Count to 4 or 5 or 6, or 10 (but don’t make yourself pass out), hold for x amount of time, breath out through your nose, or through pursed lips. Just pick what ever comes natural and easiest for you. The idea is you want to slow down your breathing and distract yourself by focusing on and counting your breaths. If you breath in through your nose the first time, but breath in through your mouth the second time, who cares…. just breathe – deep and slowly.

Just as important as breathing is relaxation. I know it seems impossible to be able to relax when you are in such a heightened state. An easy way to achieve this is to practice deep muscle relaxation. I often used this technique at night when my attacks were the worst. Get into a comfortable position. Start from one end of your body and work your way up (or down), tensing and releasing each muscle group. Tense as tight as you can, but without causing pain. The idea is to not only distract your mind, but it also helps you distinguish between what a tense body feels like, versus a relaxed one. I hadn’t known how tense my body really was until  I went for my first massage, and the massage therapist expressed concerns over how tense I was. My neck muscles were the worse, which often brought about agonizing, frequent tension headaches.

If  neither of those two did the trick, then I would depend on calm music and stretching, or endlessly pacing around the room until I tired myself out or forgot what I was pacing about. Keep in mind, although what seemed like forever, the panic attacks only lasted a few moments. Most of the time you spend is on psyching yourself out thinking about, instead think of something else, anything else (blue frogs, purple grass, pink sky, the smell of eggnog, a polka-dot pig;  the more random the better).

Sleeping was(is) exceptionally hard because my mind likes to wander and worry at night, so I started creating a routine for myself, and never went to lay down in my bed unless I was tired and on the verge of falling asleep. This meant, laying on the couch, watching TV, and waiting for that moment my eyes would start to droop. Some other remedies that would help me were a warm comforting bath with Epson Salts, Chamomile tea, and Melatonin, but eventually I had to upgrade to a prescribed temporary sleeping aid. Do what ever you need to to ensure you get an adequate nights sleep.

During the day if a panic attack would strike, I would use those same methods as mentioned above, but I would also incorporate other options such as going for a walk, calling a friend or family member, or wrote my thoughts and feelings down in my journal.

I also used reflection as a key competent to my management regime. Reflecting on previous attacks, helped me to see that I was always going to be okay, and it showed me what worked and what didn’t. Being more aware of my body and mind allowed me to feel and anticipate when an attack was likely to hit. It provided me with an opportunity to intervene before it turned into a full blown fit of terror.

Eventually I started to hit the gym, and I think that is actually what pushed me over to the happier, calmer side of life. Some other things that helped were decreasing or eliminating the factors that were causing unnecessary stress, and simplifying my life.

Really, it is a matter of finding out what works for you. A lot of the time (especially in the beginning)  you will spend your time trying to figure out different techniques that work for you. Don’t give up on this trial and error process. If you are having a hard time coping, and haven’t seen a doctor yet, I advise you to make an appointment. There is no reason anyone should have to suffer, and always know that you are never alone.

ℜachel ℘age ♥

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panic Disorder | A personal story

Panic Attacks; unfortunetly, something I am way too familiar with. Worst moments of my life. I seriously thought I was dying every time, then the thought of dying would just increase the intensity of the attack. Out of nowhere, minding my own business and BAM. My body would start to feel really warm – hot, and I’d feel really lightheaded, like pre-syncope (pre-fainting). My heart would start to race (I could feel it pounding in my chest; I could hear the rhythm echoing in my ears). I would find it difficult to swallow, and sometimes it was like I would forget, for a moment, how to breathe. My chest would start to tighten. The world around me wouldn’t feel as “real” (very wierd sensation to explain; it’s like I’m stick inside my body, looking through these windows – my eyes). I really thought I was going nuts. I was certainly losing control, to the point where it felt like my life was being sucked out of me. Then… the impending doom. The ultimate panic. That moment of “I’m about to die, my life is now over”. Tears would start to roll down my face. What seemed like forever was probably only a few minutes, maybe 10 mins at most. They would happen at random, never triggered by anything in particular. They would keep me awake at night. For some reason, they were always so much worse at night. I would have to get up out of bed and start pacing my room. If I laid down, I’d hear my hear pounding, my body would shake with each pound. I’d often check my pulse, just to see how crazy it was going, or to see if I was dead. Worst mistake ever. Feeling my pulse, or envisioning my heart stop pumping in my chest, would freak me the (beep) out of me. Impending doom would hit me again. What is worse then dying, if you think you are always dying?

To be honest, me typing out that last part made me feel a bit uneasy, a bit on edge. My pulse started to quicken. I closed my eyes, and I took a deep breath in…

Now I am back!

This happened for almost 6 or more months, my entire last year of nursing school. I was living in hell, so too speak. They started off gradually, one every 2 weeks, but increased to almost daily. I was living in complete fear – fearing when the next one might rip through me. Eventually it started to affect all aspects of my life. The only places I felt comfortable was at home with my head in my books, or at my boyfriend’s (now ex’s) home. I never really wanted to do anything or go anywhere, because I was deathly afraid of making an ASS of myself out in public (even around my own friends). I am surprised I made it through that last year of nursing school without having to pause my studies or repeat any course(s). (I’m very proud of myself).

I reached out to my doctor, and did a series of blood work and diagnostic tests (chest xray, ECG, cardiac holter monitor). To no surprise, all came back normal.

I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder.

My doctor advised against treatment in the form of medication. I know what you are thinking (WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD SHE NOT WANT TO TREAT YOU), but I agree with her reasoning based on the information I provided to her.

She felt the medication that is used to treat panic disorders, could really attack my ability to study. Plus panic attacks come and go so quickly, the attack would be over by the time the medication would kick in, and they aren’t the type of medications you want to take around the clock. They are sedating, and make you ‘too mellow’, and very addictive. Benzodiazepines are used on an “as need” basis (unless directed otherwise by your doctor). I was also against taking anti-depressants (at the time). So really my only option was to just ‘deal with it’, and I did.

Reflecting on that entire situation, I also don’t think I ever really told her exactly how bad it got, or all the dreadful details. Probably because I was scatter brained, and too quiet and timid – I didn’t know how to ‘speak up’. This is probably when the Social Anxiety, and Generalized Anxiety started.

I isolated myself so much that social situations made me feel incredibly uneasy. I didn’t want to hang out with my friends, and I even stopped showing up to family holiday gatherings.

The sad truth, I lost some of the ‘greatest’ friends due to my illness. Well childhood friends. BUT if they were truly meant to be in my life, they wouldn’t have gave up, they would still be here.

Hundreds of people will enter your life, lots more will exit. It will sometimes be a blessing, other times it will hurt. But everything happens for a reason, a life lesson. I have learned that as you get older you meet new people and start to build relationships based on similar interests, values, beliefs, and even mental illnesses (or mental wellness). The people in my life now have a very unique understanding of mental health, and can relate either on a personal (either they suffer from a disorder, or know someone close to them that does), or professional level. I find these ‘new’ friends can truly and deeply relate, and don’t take offense to my flare ups (moments where I isolate myself, and become MIA (missing in action) or non-existent; whatever you want to call it). I am truly blessed to have such amazing friends in my life, and I am so grateful for the friends I have yet to meet.

The great news is, I rarely get Panic Attacks anymore. Maybe one or two a year if I am unlucky. They pretty much vanished once I graduated from nursing school. I was able to spend all my energy on learning how to overcome those awful attacks on my own through relaxation, diet, and excerise.

I’ll be speaking more about treatment, and specific, yet simple, things you can do to help in another blog

Disclaimer: None of my information, education or personal stories are for diagnoses or treatment purposes. Mental Health Disorders are serious, and most of the time require help from a trained medical professional. If you think you suffer from one, and find you are having a really hard time coping…. please go speak to your doctor. Do not be afraid. Truly, they are only there to help you. It is very helpful to make a mood and thought diary, and write down everything you experience. When it is time to see your doctor, make some bullet points and some questions to ask to discuss with him or her. This will shed some of the anxiety. You can do it.

Follow my Social Media sites for more material related to mental health:

Blog: mindovermood.ca
FB Page: /mindovermood1
FB Profile: /rachelpage
FB Group: click the link above
IG: mind_over_mood
Pinterest: mindovermood

Brighter Days – Get Up

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

When depression hits, it is easier to spend the days laying supine on the couch instead of facing the day and accomplishing your daily responsibilities.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Some simple advice: Get up anyways.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Do what you need to do, force yourself.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It is hard, seemingly impossible task. I know.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
BUT…
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Being left alone with your thoughts only allows more negative thoughts to transpire. If you break the cycle by forcing yourself to get up, you may be able to find a bit of beauty throughout the day… beauty you would have otherwise missed. Small changes like this, over time, can pull out of the darkness.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This is why I always stress the importance of ‘self-care’.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Self-care is doing ‘anything’ for yourself that makes YOU happy.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Even in your darkest moments, there will allows be something that can bring a bit of light.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It could be as much as indulging in your favorite bowl of sorbet (Mango for me please), allowing your creative nature to flow through art, completing a DIY, a candle lit bath, snuggling with your furbaby, reading a self-help or a favorite book, getting dressed up to stay in (and perhaps take a bunch of selfies)…..
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I just rambled off a bunch of things that bring a bit of happiness into my life, now it is your turn to think of the things that could make your day a little bit more enjoyable. Think about the things that once brought you joy before the depression hit? Perhaps you write poetry, draw, paint, crafts, do it yourself projects, writing, cooking, hiking…
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Even if you don’t want to do it, do it anyways.

The second most vital part to ‘feeling your greatest’ is getting enough sleep.
7 to 8 hours is ideal.

If your having difficulties falling asleep, there are many remedies to help. For example, sleep routine, sleepy tea, rest and relaxation an hour before bed (no phone), a bath, stretching or mediation etc… and if all else fails, talk to your doctor. Perhaps a prescribed medication may help temporarily.

Have faith in yourself.
You can do it.

Follow my Social Media sites for more material related to mental health:

Blog: mindovermood.ca
FB Page: /mindovermood1
FB Profile: /rachelpage
FB Group: Mind Over Mood | Mental Health Support
IG: mind_over_mood
Pinterest: mindovermood
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Sharing Stories

It wasn’t until I relapsed with Major Depression, and experienced the troubles and triumphs, that I wanted to reach out to the world and share my story.

I hoped by doing so, I would be able to help others and provide some level of hope.

My story began. . .

Some people thought it was a wonderful idea, while others were a bit hesitant as they thought it would have negativity consequences on my career. Although, I was never really worried about that as depression is as common (if not more) as hypertension these days, it is just less talked about. I was more worried about what people would think, and the assumptions that would transpire. My personal stories that I blog about are open, honest, raw, and vulnerable.

I think my deepest anxiety came from my negative assumptions my coworkers would have, but that anxiety was quickly neutralized with their abundance of support. Many of my coworkers were quick to open up to me about their own personal stories regarding their struggles with mental illnesses. It only validated how common mental illnesses are, and how uneasy people still feel to talk about it.

I am showing people it is OKAY to talk about it. It is okay to be taking medication. It is okay to see a therapist.

I am still the same person I was before anyone knew I was diagnosed with Major Depression. By the way, I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and ADHD. . And Joe Blow over there has hypertensive, high cholesterol, and diabetes (and no body thinks any different about him).

I honestly didn’t know the type of response I would, I was nervous and at times psyched myself out preparing for the worst. . .

My negative thoughts were quckily prooved wrong with an out-pouring of support from friends, family, coworkers, and from people all over the world. People started sharing their stories with me, some people turned to be for guidance and support. The next thing I knew I started creating social media platforms to provide my growing amount of followers a space where people could turn to for support.

This is still the beginning.

I only began this journey 2 months ago.
I am so excited for everyone to continue on this journey with me. ♡

The Inattentive Mind

xGettyImages-813040474-640x213.jpg,qv=1511826828.pagespeed.ic.xyKRhlxSWi

Time has escaped me. Nearly two weeks since my last published blog entry. I sit here and momentarily mediate to the sound of instrumental music while I gather my thoughts. My thoughts have been scattered lately, trying to organize them has been my deepest trouble. I try to sit down to compose a creative, informational, and purposeful blog entry, but my mind goes blank then is flooded by different thoughts of where to begin. I get overwhelmed, I get nowhere.  Minutes will pass and my frustration will begin to build, why do I struggle with this?

That golden question sent me on a journey to discover an answer.  Why do I continuously struggle with disorganized thoughts? Why am I often plagued by an endless amount of thoughts that I seem to have little control over? Why do continuous thoughts hinder my ability to sleep? Why I am so easily distracted?  Why do the simplest of sound of airplanes, chewing, or a buzzing sound bother me so much? A pin dropping on the floor could easily annoy me. Why do I get so easily irritated? Why can’t I focus? Why do I make impulsive decisions, or act without reason? Why do I seem to hyper focus on thoughts or task but never really seem to get anywhere? Why do I always take things so personal or out of context? Why do I have such a difficult time regulating my emotions and moods? Why does the smallest concerns turn me up side down, and eat away at me? Why do I have such a hard time making or sustaining friends? Why am I always so anxious? Why do I suffer from depression?

Could I be going crazy, or could it be Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)?

The answer is yes, to ADHD.

I was diagnosed with ADHD (multiple times) when I was a child and as an adult but never received medical treatment. As the years went by, it was forgotten about.  As a child I was also ‘diagnosed’ with the learning disability “auditory processing disorder, and as an adult (in university) it was changed to “auditory processing – short-term memory – disorder”.

My parents chose to not medically treat my disorder out of fear, and a lack of available education and research. They saw energetic and bright children turn dull. They saw children who were were once sociable turn isolated and withdrawn. They learned about all the risks of medication, and found it impossible to see the benefit. Research and education about the medication Ritalin was minimal when I was a child. Ritalin, at the time, was the first (and only) line of treatment for ADHD. It was meant for hyperactive children, and I only suffered from mild hyperactivity. My problems were with inattention, and distraction. When I was a child, ADHD was predominantly a male disorder; it was “rare” for females to be diagnosed with it.  It was thought that the ratio between boys and girls was 10:1. Girls went massively under diagnosed in their childhood, struggled throughout their lives, and if they were lucky, were diagnosed in adulthood. Fast forward to 2018, it is now almost as common in males as females with a 2:1 to a 3:1 ratio. Research has showed us that females tend to struggle with inattention, distraction, and emotional dysregulation, whereas males struggle more with hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

During my school years (Elementary to University), I had what was called an “Individual Education Plan” or an IEP. This was a plan, developed by the school in collaboration with my parents or me, which focused on my strengths and had strategies to optimize my success in learning by managing my ADHD and learning disability.   The common theme in all of the IEP’s was the strategies for managing ‘inattention and distraction’.  I was able to complete majority of in-class projects, or tests in a quiet room (free from distraction), with extra time to complete them in. I was always seated in the front row of the class, right in front of the teacher’s desk. I had access to learning materials and/or devices to help me with assignments or tests, such as a computer, speech-to-text software, a dictionary or calculator, tape recorder, or ear plugs. I have to say, my school and my parents really tried everything in their power to see that I succeeded. At home, my parents really focused on natural remedies for trying to manage my ADHD, through a  structured lifestyle, and diet and exercise.

Unfortunately, it was not enough. Despite all the changes in diet and structure, and things I had access too, I still continued to struggle. My parents were told by my middle school teacher that I would only ever be an ‘average’ student. The psychiatrist that re-diagnosed my ADHD and learning disability in University said that I should reconsider my decision of pursuing a career in Nursing as I would gravely struggle with it.

I didn’t listen to either of them. Regardless of the diagnosis that has been given to me, when I want something bad enough, I will do whatever it takes to achieve it. I have always been hyper focused on goals, which has worked to my advantage in succeeding my highest potential and accomplishing my goals.  I did struggle immensely (to the point of severe, almost daily, panic attacks), but I didn’t let it stop me. I had to keep finding and adapting ways to work with my mental health disorders. I had, and continue to have, an incredible support group that supported me and empowered me to keep going when I was struggling through the hardest of times.

BUT I did it. I graduated Nursing School (without having to repeat any courses), and obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. My greatest accomplishment thus far.

I do have to be honest with something though, as an adult,  I have found it more difficult to manage and cope with my disorders.  I tried for many years to self-treat, but eventually those strategies started to wear down, and I started to run out of options. I started to adopt maladaptive coping techniques, which is probably why I developed Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and relapsed with Major Depression, both of which happened recently. I will write a detailed blog about that journey, and how I finally was able cope and manage, another time. I am in a much better place now.

I now wonder if my ADHD contributed to the development to my Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression, or are they separate disorders unrelated to each other. So far, I have read that it is common to be diagnosed with both anxiety and depression, and ADHD. Only a trained professional, a physician or psychiatrist, would be able to decipher if depression and anxiety is secondary to (or caused by) adhd, with a comprehensive physical and mental health assessment, and often trial and error of medication.

I wish I could offer some additional information about ADHD and some personal experiences as to how I successfully managed it, but I am still learning about it myself. Currently I remain untreated, but I will discuss a treatment plan with my doctor at my next follow-up.

Below I have attached pictures with some useful tips on how to ‘naturally cope with ADHD.

I have also included questionnaires that assess for ADHD, as well as Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. They are not to be used as a self-diagnostic tool, however If you answer “Yes” or “More than half the days” or “Nearly every day” for a lot of the questions, please consider seeking professional help from your doctor.

If you have any questions or mental health concerns please feel free to contact me through email, or through Facebook or Instagram.

My Facebook Profile is www.facebook.com/rachelpage

My Facebook Page is www.facebook.com/rachelpageblog

My Instagram is www.instagram.com/rachelpageblog