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These are a few of my favorite things

So. Panic attack this morning. Whee! First one in six weeks or so, and on the panic attack Richter Scale this one was about a 5--which means you have to sit down and hyperventilate for a minute, and you have only a minor adrenaline hangover afterwards, and not the ravenous sugar-hunger of a Richter 7.

You'll sometimes see one coming half an hour or so before it hits, and try to turn it aside, but these suckers are sneaky. Just when you stop singing ("Loooook around, we're living with the lo-o-o-o-st and found...") or concentrating on a task (mascara--every single eyelash...) for a second, wham! Weird shit starts going through your head, images that feel like memories, but aren't and you know it.

Images like...something to do with an advertisement for epoxy. That was this morning's, what I can remember of it. Epoxy. WTF. And Sandra Oh. Go figure.

Then the dread floods in and a thousand thoughts lance through it, each one tainted with a horrible physical feeling of hopelessness and terror, and you wonder how you'll go on living like this.

There's a part of you standing there saying, "It's not real, it's not real, it's not real," and another part of you that recognizes that that part of you isn't the part having the seizure and you're not gonna die of despair.

And then it passes, and for a few minutes--fifteen at most--your thoughts continue to rear up a bit and show you the whites of their eyes as they settle.

Half an hour later you're on the bus on your way to work and almost normal, and then you're getting off the elevator on the 14th floor and trying not to think: I thought these were over. When will they be over?


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 30th, 2008 06:10 am (UTC)
That's possibly the first description of a panic attack - from the inside - that I've read. It sounds hideous. And very tiring.
Jul. 30th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, both. I've tried to describe an attack accurately because for the first fifteen or twenty of them, I had no idea what was happening and no way to research it. Oddly, "seizure-thing in shower" wasn't very helpful as a Google search term, and even my most precise description to a clinical psychologist (and a psychic, and a BodyTalk practitioner--I did try...) met with blank and slightly alarmed looks.

So many people refer to a moment of strong anxiety or stress-and-worry as a "panic attack" that I ruled that out. So it took me a year to find some clinical descriptions of panic attack and realize that a) that's what was happening to me and b) medical doctors don't know a fucking thing about it so I wasn't wrong to avoid them.

Anyway, I post publicly about mine in the hope that someone else will find the descriptions helpful.

By the way, I'm pretty sure the cause is MSG. I avoid it radically, but it is everywhere.

Edited at 2008-07-30 03:28 pm (UTC)
Jul. 30th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
You certainly made me think that panic attacks are not what I had thought they were.
Jul. 30th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
I posted a journal under precisely the same misconception myself, a few months before my own real panic attacks began. Weird.
Jul. 30th, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's what I imagined them to be.

I have just once had that kind of experience, but in coming out the other side it actually proved to be very positive for me. (I uncovered a lifelong fear, and by acknowledging it made it disappear. My serious fear of the dark disappeared at the same moment.)
Jul. 30th, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
Those breakthrough moments, where acknowledging a fear makes it go away, are extremely rare in life. I can't say certainly that I've ever had such an experience.

Interesting that a phobia went with it in your case. I wonder how often a phobia is hooked to a suppressed memory. Probably near 100%, I guess.

(Deleted comment)
Jul. 30th, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
I do. And it's a weirdly schizophrenic thing, the almost metaphysical sensations the attacks bring, juxtaposed against the near certainty that soy sauce is the cause.

I've just entered the world of Asian cooking. I hate to be booted out so soon.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 30th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
While it certainly wouldn't hurt me to cut down on salt, I don't think salt is the problem--'cause if it were, I'd be having these suckers twice a day.

I'm pretty sure it's the MSG found in less-than-stellar quality soy sauce. Natural fermenting creates free glutamic acid, which is the key component of the umami taste that soy sauce embodies. When industrial food production doesn't have time for natural fermenting, the free glutamic acids are added into the product in an artificial form ("hyrdolized vegetable protein" is one of the names for it, but it's all essentially MSG).

The trick is to find natural, barrel-fermented soy sauce, at probably ten times the price of the cheap stuff. I thought I'd solved this problem, but labeling laws in China may not be quite all one would desire, and apparently I screwed up with the bottle I just opened.

The hunt is on.
Jul. 30th, 2008 05:50 pm (UTC)
Would it help to use Japanese tamari soy sauce? That's what I buy because it is gluten-free and (I realise that this is a massive assumption) the fact that it's a health-food shop type purchase and Japanese not Chinese makes me think it's more likely to be MSG-free.
Jul. 30th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)
Well, you're right on target. After posting that reply to kispexi2's comment, I went a-researching, and discovered that tamari is Japanese soy sauce made almost entirely from soybeans, as opposed to shoyu, which is about half soybean and half wheat (hence the gluten difference).

The base ingredients of a healthy soy sauce should be soybeans, wheat, water and salt--skip the wheat for tamari. Anything else means it hasn't been naturally brewed or fully fermented, and that means some form of MSG will have been added under one of its many nefarious names.

Here endeth the soy sauce sermon.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 30th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
Wow! That looks like a fantastic resource. My Asian hypermarket is very...what's the word? Low-tech, I guess, compared to See-Woo. Maybe "tacky" is the word I'm after.

But what a treat it is to wander those aisles. My mom and I go sometimes and just ooh-and-aah over the cool unfamiliar stuff. I'm sure we look ridiculous. But it's fun.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 31st, 2008 11:43 am (UTC)
Hee! Yes, that's it precisely. If I go with my mom, I can pretend that I'm much more sophisticated.

I am a terrible person.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 31st, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
I never don't heed Joss.
Jul. 30th, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC)
Oh Man!!! Sorry I missed this post yesterday and that you were in no place to call me! I so had anticipated that these were behind you. Interestingly, they all seem to have some TV or advertisement component in the beginning. When we are most susceptible to the brain washing of commercials is when we are really tired or in a hypnotic state after being sucked into one of the mind boring television programs. I wonder if yesterday's had anything to do with how tired your brain must be after your intense work assignment. You've been at this horrible work hours and push for a couple of weeks now. I know my brain would be worn out!

Anyway, I'm sorry you experienced another one when we were so hopeful that they were over.
Jul. 30th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
You know, I went to the movies on Sunday and was exposed for the first time in many months to commercials. They werep there, on the HUGE screen with the BIG sound system for 20 minutes while we waited for the trailers, which are also commercials, that precede the movie, which is filled with product placements. I felt woozy and brainwashed afterwards--activated and giddy and stupid.

Hmmm. You may be on to something here...

The work stress isn't helping, that's for sure.

Anyway, much better today, and I will say this: each episode is a learning experience and if nothing else, I'm getting better at tolerating them.

Thanks for your good thoughts. I still believe these suckers WILL come to an end.
Aug. 1st, 2008 04:36 am (UTC)
*big hugs*
Aug. 1st, 2008 06:17 am (UTC)
Things are fine now. I'm a firefighter now! Hee!

Your icon--which I have admired for several years--sums up all that was hot about Simon Tam: the pretty, the neck, the white shirts, and the attitude. Happy times.
Aug. 1st, 2008 08:43 am (UTC)
I'm glad you are better now. I know we've talked about these before. I've only had two and that's plenty for me.

I miss Sean Maher. I don't understand why he isn't working.
Aug. 1st, 2008 05:58 pm (UTC)
I miss him too. He's talented and he's awfully good looking, with such an expressive face. I can only imagine that his lack of work is because he's so, I don't know, specific. Hard to cast. He can be funny in a straight-man, deadpan kind of way, but I can't begin to imagine him, say, playing Dr. Horrible (whereas I can totally imagine NPH playing Dr. Tam--you know?)

Ever since I saw him in that silly movie--was it "The Wedding Planner"?--with John Stamos, I've thought Sean should play more gay roles. Sadly, there aren't all that many of those lying on the ground.
Aug. 2nd, 2008 10:03 am (UTC)
I saw that movie. It was very silly. :-)

He's so talented, it's very frustrating to not see him working.
Aug. 13th, 2008 04:26 am (UTC)
i was looking through your lj 'cause i was sure you had mentioned having panic attacks - because someone on my flist mentioned that someone else posted some links about coping and other useful stuff.


honestly, i haven't read the links yet, i'm headed to bed now, but i wanted to pass it on to you in case they links help.
Aug. 13th, 2008 04:33 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you so much. I'm just reading the article on how to get rid of panic attacks altogether, and it jibes 100 percent with what I've been doing for myself. Very validating!

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )



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