It all started when my middle son and I were on our way home. He was about 5 or 6 years old then. We were inside an MRT (a local train in the Philippines) when I suddenly felt dizzy, increased heart rate, and my palms were sweaty. I didn’t know how to handle it then so I fainted.
Luckily, my then 5-year-old son was quick to respond and according to him, he asked for the help of the security guard. When I woke up, I was already in a hospital. The doctors couldn’t determine what went wrong with me and just gave me Vitamin B12 as my maintenance, as they thought I have Vitamin B deficiency.
That was my first episode. It stopped until another episode happened a few years later.
It happened again in 2010. After church, I felt chest pains, tightness, and numbness in my lower extremities. I paid P5000 pesos in the hospital for a brown paper bag. After that incident, I made sure a brown paper bag was within reach. I placed one in the car and in every corner of our house, you’d see a brown paper bag.
In addition, it was 2013 when I went to Australia. I was chatting with friends when all of a sudden I felt like I was having a “heart attack.” Scared to “die” in Sydney, I went straight to the ER only to find out I had panic attacks. The doctor explained that these attacks come in after a stressful event. But that’s the thing, I wasn’t doing anything before it happened.
I went home and researched about Anxiety attacks and panic attacks. I found out they’re one in the same.
According to most online dictionaries, anxiety attacks, also known as, panic attacks, are episodes of irrational fear that may trigger anytime, anywhere.
As thoroughly explained by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a panic attack 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
Panic attacks or anxiety attacks usually last for 10 minutes and will subside. In my case, the intensity occurs after 10 minutes, and because anxiety attack symptoms can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack or people with thyroid problems, I’m usually at the ER thinking I have a life-threating issue.
But, mostly, the diagnosis was either GERD or too much stress. So in a month’s time, I was rushed to the ER for more than 8 times. And the most recent was one just earlier today – and it was scary!
When the ER doctor said there’s nothing’s wrong with me, that my heart rate was fine, EKG was normal, I already knew that he would say that. I was hoping for something different. He confirmed I have a “mild” panic disorder, which is common for people in the creative world, he said. He reassured me that even his “creative” friends suffer from it due to stress.
When does anxiety become a disorder?
Being anxious is normal. Everyone at some point is anxious about things in life. However, when it’s constantly happening and it already interferes with your relationship at home, at work, and your daily routine is already affected —that’s when you’ve crossed the line from normal anxiety into the spectrum of anxiety disorders.
Now, if my case is considered “mild” what about those people with full-blown or severe panic disorder? There are different types of panic disorders: (1) Generalized anxiety disorder (2) Panic attacks and panic disorder (3) Obsessive-compulsive disorder (4) Phobias and irrational fears (5) Social anxiety disorder and social phobia and (6) Post-traumatic stress disorder.
I’m not sure about those but what I’m diagnosed with is the #2.
I know it’s all in my mind and I can get over it. I was able to get rid of it before so why can’t I now?
Admittedly, age has something to do with it. I’m no longer in my 20’s. I was active then and not much now. I have non-alcoholic fatty liver (high enzymes that may trigger rapid heart rate), and high Triglycerides, Cholesterol, and all. So, it’s all in my lifestyle that I have yet to change.
Having a panic disorder in the Philippines is painful. Almost 80% of the population lack knowledge about it. Due to ignorance, they mock people with disabilities. Oftentimes, they thought attending to us is a waste of time.
Thriving is the key to live harmoniously every day for a person who has panic disorders. It’s tiring, but, hey, I’m getting by! If IronMan can cope, so can I!
Do you know someone who has a Panic disorder too? Let me know below so we can help each other!