Yesterday I felt a bit gross and headachey but I’ve had a cold for a week so I thought I was just normal sick and maybe I just needed to eat something, but then at dinner I ordered something but before it came I started feeling hot and cold and wrong and terrible and that level of nauseous where you feel like you should throw up but you don’t want to throw up because you know you won’t stop throwing up. This was all accompanied by a terrible sense of dread but probably because that’s what you’re supposed to feel like when you realize you’re about to get violently sick in public.
I walked to the restaurant bathroom and made it almost halfway to the stall before I found myself falling to the ground and I sat up against the wall for a few seconds wondering what was happening to me and then next thing I knew I woke up and I had blood in my mouth and I’d somehow rolled myself into one of the stalls (which was thankfully empty because I can’t imagine how horrifying it would be to see an unconscious stranger wriggle under your stall door while you’re pooping).
I texted “help” to Victor and then crawled outside to the lobby and he and Hailey took me to the Emergency Room where I spent hours with a nausea that three rounds of anti nausea IVs didn’t touch, chest pains, dizziness, faintness and a very ouchy tongue that I apparently tried to bite through while unconscious. After X-rays and blood work and an EKG and CT scans came back clear the doctor said she had no idea what was wrong with me and sent me home.
I still feel weak and off and wrong, but after sleeping most of the day I realized that I’ve felt this way before…after a panic attack.
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks aren’t the same thing although we tend to use the words interchangeably, but anyone who has had a massive panic attack knows the difference. I have anxiety attacks a lot. It’s a sense of dread coupled with racing thoughts and terror. They suck and can be debilitating but you usually can recognize them once you’ve had a few. You can calm yourself down with breathing tools or meds and eventually they pass.
Panic attacks are much more physical. If an anxiety attack is like being punched in the face a panic attack is more like being mauled by wild dogs who also have switchblades for some reason. The symptoms are different for everyone, which makes it even more confusing. Severe stomach distress, heart pain, fainting, the feeling that you are definitely going to die and very soon. About 10 years ago I ended up in the ER thinking I was definitely having a heart attack but it was a panic attack. I think yesterday was the same thing.
In a way it’s reassuring, having an answer for something that otherwise makes no sense. In other ways it’s scarier than ever, knowing that my brain can mimic murdering me so strongly it baffles everyone. I feel lucky knowing that I’m probably okay in spite of a really terrifying night. I feel guilty for scaring my family and for costing us $2k in ER bills that basically showed how crazy everyone already knows I am.
If this happened to anyone else I’d tell them that they’re going to be okay and that they did what they should have and that it’s not their fault and that everyone deals with medical bullshit. I don’t know why it’s always so much harder to tell yourself the things you so easily believe for others. But if I write it maybe I’ll believe it. Maybe you’ll believe it too.
This is where I was going to put a picture of my CT scan for the most introspective selfie ever but I’m looking through my paperwork and apparently they just sent digital copies to my doctor so basically this was the most overpriced photoshoot ever. Instead just imagine a picture of a brain with “WHY ARE YOU EVEN LIKE THIS?” written on top of it.