Story by "J"
First let me say that I'm thrilled there is a forum for people with this disorder. It helps so much knowing that it's NOT just in your head, that you're not alone.
When I was about 14 I began asking myself "Who am I?" over and over to the point where I would panic because I felt "out of my body", so to speak. Like someone else mentioned, I had a big problem with mirrors. If I stared into a mirror too long, I felt as though I wasn't even real. It's so hard to describe. Eventually this seemed to pass, but then when I was about 20 I was driving down a dark road one night (alone) and I suddenly had this horrible realization that I was all alone. and that odd feeling came back with a vengeance. I had to turn the radio up all the way and roll down the window - anything to take my mind off of it. These panic attacks only seemed to occur at night, so I just tried to make sure I was never alone after dark. Years later I was about to go to bed when all of a sudden my legs felt like they were going to give out from under me. I went into the bathroom and put cold water on my face. it didn't help. My heart was racing so hard and loud that it was pounding in my ears. it felt like it was going a hundred miles an hour. I called 911 and they rushed me to the ER. After hours of EKG's, blood gasses (which are so painful) and a lung sweep to check for blood clots, they sent me home. The general consensus was that I had pneumonia. I felt better knowing there was an alleged reason for my feelings that time. But weeks later, it happened again. In fact, I went to the ER 3 times in one month. Finally the resident doctor told me that he thought I should see a psychiatrist, because all of my health tests were inconclusive. I was diagnosed with panic/anxiety disorder and prescribed Xanax. It seemed to help, but I was scared of becoming dependant so I stopped. Everything seemed fine for a time, but then the attacks returned. I would have horrible visions of seeing myself dead and my parents crying, I would have that classic impending feeling doom - like THIS time it was for real. I absolutely thought I was losing my mind. To this day I deal with the attacks, though my husband is a wonderful support and always gets me calmed down. I tried taking Effexor and had a HORRIBLE attack - the worst ever. (My doctor said that Effexor has some "adrenaline issues" for certain people. Trust me on this one!!) Now I don't take anything. I just try to relax, and focus on other things. For some odd reason, I've noticed that when my sinuses are congested I feel even more anxious...not sure why. I also noticed that other people here have mentioned marijuana use in association with these feelings. I too smoked for a brief period of time, and the last time I had an awful attack.
Some days are good, especially if I keep busy. I know rationally that it is psychosomatic, but that doesn't make it any less scary. Thanks to this disorder, I've become a hypochondriac and I "have" every symptom I read about. I just want to feel normal. I think we all do. We're stronger than this - all of us are.
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