In March 2017, I wrote about my experience with panxiety – panicky anxiety attacks that flood emotions and body.
Pounding heart. Constricted throat. Knotted stomach. Dread washes over me. A panxiety attack.
Coming, unbidden, from somewhere inside my mind; spilling into my consciousness and flooding my body with anxiousness.
Breathe in through nose to count of ten, fill lungs, feel belly lift. Hold. Breath out slowly to ten.
Drift – visualize place of calm. Walking on beach, tide tickling toes. Finding beach treasures: sea glass, sand dollar. Smell sea tang. Feel breeze against skin.
But the panxiety is stronger – can’t focus; can’t concentrate. Pace. Half-finished tasks lay scattered around the house – stopped in mid-flow. Forgotten. Pace.
Distract. Words on page, coloured pencil on paper. But, hands and mind shake.
These attacks, a daily occurrence:
lasting minutes or hours. Sometimes the dread follows, flows all day. Few solutions to the foreboding; apprehension. Becomes so hard to concentrate that writing, my usual distraction from mental and physical pain, is almost impossible. I lose words; sentences fly off into the ether.
There are times I can force myself to lay still. To tell myself one of my “head stories.” Perhaps to drift off to sleep for awhile. This doesn’t mean I stay under long, nor that I wake calm. But when I can “nap,” my emotional and physical self gets a break from the relentless panxiety.
In November/December 2019, I stopped taking psyche drugs for depression and anxiety, as well as seeing a therapist. But, in 2017, I confessed to:
turning to medication more than meditation when the attacks are furious and frequent. Always haunted by anxiety, these spells have increased in number and severity. Linked to a series of traumas, mental collapse and going untreated for several years afterwards.
My drug of chose was Xanax to tap down the panxiety. Ativan and Klonopin had low efficacy and high side effects. Even with Xanax, I often struggled to function. I lived in freeze-frames unable to maintain forward motion. Chronic, drug-resistant major depressive disorder is my background music – the downbeats; these attacks are staccato rhythms. Often beginning as a purely physical sensation, my mind opts in later with a psychological rationale for the dread. It’s that whosh feeling when you reach into your pocket and can’t find your keys, or search the bottom of your purse for a missing wallet.
I wish I could say I stopped treatment in late 2019 because I was “better” – such a relative term –; rather I was tired. Tired of crashing on antidepressants; tired of day long cries; tired of rationing anxiety medication; tired of therapy that went no where (my fault, not the therapist’s). I needed to feel what rock bottom and full panxiety was.
I didn’t foresee the challenges and difficulties of life in the time of virus. So far, I’ve remained off meds and away from therapy. Still am a high-functioning depressive. Still have panxiety. Still feel freeze-framed. Still angry, irritated and irritable. Still struggle, muddle, and remind myself to breathe.
Grounding exercise for panxiety. Where I am:
Five things I can see
Four things I can touch
Three things I can hear
Two things I can smell
One thing I can taste