No puppy blog this time. Only the faintest tinge of humor. I share with you a medical caveat based on personal experience. But first, a relevant excerpt from that-book-that-has-everything, my novel Highway To Oblivion:
“Patina was being smothered by a dirty rag held by an amorphous hand.
Anxiety lurks. Like a monster from a just-forgotten nightmare, it prowls in the shadows right outside the bedroom door of consciousness, waiting to pounce when the lights go out and the shadows soften. To live in nervous fear, starting at every sound is the true danger. To meet your monster head-on and survive the onslaught can make all the difference.
Are these attacks the norm instead of the aberrance we choose to make them, like closeted toilet habits which must be performed but denied simultaneously? From time to time we each awaken with that drowning pressure, riveted by moonboots of nightmare magnetism to wherever we find ourselves. Can we relax and enjoy the show while our hearts explode and our minds implode in direct proportion? Can we treat the puzzle as an attack with no more validity than a sneeze on the margins of time and remember to say Gesundheit, take a deep breath and congratulate ourselves on being human? If we accredit, name, prescribe, analyze, we accord it more power than it would ever on its own to able to muster. We feed the very beast we are out to slaughter, then wonder why it is so huge it can’t be killed.
Suppose as children we were told there might be times when out of a cloudless sky would come a seemingly foundless fear, smacking us with such physicality that we would think we might die on the spot. Suppose we were reassured that we would not. That the fear, like a bit of bad chicken salad, might sicken us briefly, but would depart as magically as it had appeared, leaving us none the worse for wear.
Life is more than half preparation, a preparation deeper than squirreling away the practical specifics. It is a preparation of the soul, that calisthenically-exercised part of our psyche, to evaluate the situation and deal with the adversary even while our bodies are riveted in pain. Patina had always been strong on preparation.
She realized that to slow the pounding of her heart she must transfer the energy. Like a karate sensei breaking a board, force needed to be localized and then focused. Her fear needed an outlet beyond the fight or flight syndrome. Released through the concentration of pen to paper, she willed her brain to form words. Stream of consciousness it was not, rather a sharp little waterfall that could wear away stone. To accomplish anything at all from the madness was a huge success, and the success itself proved that her life rolled onward, unstopped by fear and heart-hammering sweat. As on the day of diagnosis and during the ordeal of the biopsy, she regained control of her life. It took a while, but she did it.”
That said, I myself am no stranger to the anxiety (panic) attack, having suffered several during times of personal crisis when I was unable to arrest the fight or flight response. My heart flopped in my chest like a dying mackerel. Like Patina, I wrote away the incidents by focusing on the deliberate act of forming words, pen to paper. However for the past two months, no amount of writing or focus could prevent that feeling of being sucked down the rabbit hole. Close to blacking out but hanging on by fingernails. Incredibly expensive, debilitating, depressing (and I must admit more than a little frightening) to find yourself an Alice whose wonderland is in fact hell and who is treated a couple times daily to a surprise return trip there. A medical mystery for a television drama. Four first-rate doctors ordered myriad tests and did their best to answer my off-hours calls for help. I even visited the local ER twice, because at least I would be closer to the paddles, the shots of ephinephrine, the oxygen mask. None ultimately needed. All tests were negative.
Finally the ah-ha moment. I intuitively posited that my new heart drug (prescribed for erratic blood pressure last summer shortly after I had indeed experienced a genuine panic attack with a viable logical reason behind it) far exceeded the needs of my usually normal system. I consulted the uber-cardiologist. “Well, yes. You can stop the pills. Shouldn’t do any harm.” Eureka! Now two weeks later, yanked from the brink of an expensive and potentially-cancer-causing cat scan, me-myself-and-I are all back. Many thousands of dollars poorer. Two wasted months in hell. The moral? The lesson?
Trust your common sense. And check your medications.
Causes Mara Buck Supports
Kennebec Valley Humane Society, Amnesty International