What is a Anxiety/Panic attack? I myself have never experienced one but according to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America Website), Anxiety/Panic attacks is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
- Chills or heat sensations
- Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
- Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself) Listen to this podcast.
- Fear of losing control or “going crazy”Fear of dying
A few days ago I received a phone call towards the end of my school day as I was bringing an ill child to the nurse’s office myself. This phone call I received was from Ella’s school nurse. I was fully expecting to hear something about her behavior but when the person on the other line said who she was I thought oh she must have a headache…WRONG! The nurse began telling me that Ella had originally came down because of a headache and that she gave her some of her headache medicine and then she went back to class. Then a little while later she came back down saying her heart was racing, she felt really hot, her hands and legs were shaking, Ella thought she was going to fall down her legs felt so weak, and that she felt like she was going to puke and couldn’t breathe. The nurse then went on to explain that she believed Ella was having an anxiety attack.
I began to worry. Ella has never had an anxiety/panic attack before. I was wondering how she was handling it? What caused it? And if this was going to become a new worry now…
This past week was Ella’s first week with me since the end of October. In past posts I have written about when she had tried to stab me.She has stayed solely with her dad with the exception of Christmas Eve and a couple days over Christmas break. So I was very excited to have her back so to speak but I was also trying to be realistic in my mind with my expectations for the week.
As the week started I soon began to see that her anxiety was in over drive. Visible tremors in her body (mostly hands and arms), short rapid breathing. Her behavior started out excellent. No disrespectful fits or defiance. As far as what we did together we spent each night at home. She did have dance but other than that we were at home. We watched movies, did our nails, gave each other massages, and talked. It was nice and unusual all at the same time! It was almost “normal” mother daughter interactions! I enjoyed it so much and I did not think about the future…about “I wonder how long this is going to last” or “I wonder if she has an ulterior motive?” I just enjoy spending fun, engaging time with her!
During this week her sleeping was horrible. Granted her sleep is always horrible! 🙂 However, this past week she was averaging about five hours a sleep a night. Waking up in the middle the night pacing the hall or playing school in her bedroom.
Then on Thursday it all came to a head with her panic attack. At first she didn’t want to talk about it. Then she wanted to know if she was going to die because her heart was “racing so fast she thought she was going to die!” So we talked through what a panic attack feels like and how you cannot die from one. I tried to get her to tell me what she was thinking about before her panic attacked began but no luck. She said she had forgotten. So I let her plan our night so that she would calm down and relax. She kept talking and worrying about having a heart attack, because that’s how she described her anxiety attack.
The next morning we were at here therapy appointment and she wanted to teach us about A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) and she showed her therapist and I this video: Eagle Eddie and The Wing Team. She spent most of the time teaching us about gun safety and A.L.I.C.E. It was very clear that was what was upsetting her. This made me sad because she was already extremely anxious to be back with me and then to add this on top of the already existing anxiety…it made me feel like I could not help her when I wanted to so badly. Then it got me to thinking that so much of recovering from a mental illness is up to the individual suffering from it. If he/she doesn’t want the help he/she will not receive the treatment in therapy. Today was good for Ella overall in therapy she did a wonderful job indirectly telling us about her panic attack. Towards the end when it was time to practice coping strategies for if it happens again at school she began to shut down. She literally buried her head in the chair (a cushioned chair). She did not want to practice her deep breathing or even talk about strategies. I was just happy that in her own way she was about to tell us that she knew why she was so anxious the previous day.