The Art of Panicking

The Art of PanickingIs there an art to panicking? There is a school of thought that says in order to combat attacks, you need to stop fleeing from the situations or things that cause anxiety. But what if the thing that causes you panic is actually implanted inside of you?

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but recently it feels like I’m waking up from this sick coma I have been in for the last few years. That in itself is a praise worthy thing and I am so very thankful that some of the old “Kimmie” seems to be returning more and more. However, the new Kimmie has come with some very unexpected side effects…namely, panic. I have always had anxiety regarding certain things like surgery, catherizations and general medical situations. This anxiety has always made sense, let’s get real…who wouldn’t have anxiety about all that? However, the new panic that lives within me has really stopped me in my tracks. For the first time I think I am finally processing everything that has been happening to me physically and mentally…and it’s scared the hooey out of me. So in the spirit of honesty and transparency in this journey, I thought I would share what I have been working through and the antics that took place in my latest quest to stop the panic.

Before I begin telling my stories of panic antics, I think its important to share what has been causing my anxiety. I have an implanted ICD device that paces and shocks my heart, if necessary, to stop the tachycardia rhythms. The last few years I was getting paced frequently and shocked twice. (You may be thinking, twice doesn’t seem like a lot, but trust me…you only need to be shocked once internally for you to know that you never want that to happen unless absolutely necessary.) Therefore, any time I get a pace or have a weird heart rhythm I think, “Is THIS it?! Is my device about to shock me?!” Some days I don’t have any weird rhythms and then some days it feels like it will never end. Another thing I am battling with is my lungs (they are not the strongest) and there are days when it is very hard for me to feel like I am getting enough air. The hard part of these particular heart related symptoms is that they sometimes mirror anxiety attack symptoms. Once an anxiety attack gets going, it only seems to accentuate the things that start the panic in the first place. Thus ensues a ridiculous cycle of me feeling like I am the crazy lady rocking in her chair and murmuring prayers under her breath. Not.my.best.look.

So back to the original question…Is there an art to panicking? I’ve tried so many different methods, but recently I decided to give Exposure Therapy a try because, to be quite honest, I got tired of hiding out and not being around those that I love the most. I, being the adventurous person I am, came up with a plan to test out what happens if instead of leaving when the panic set in, just stay and let it run its course. For those of you who have panic attacks, you will know that this is a huge endeavor. Thus began, what I like to call, “The Panic Attack Tour of 2015.” I didn’t let anyone in on the plan, I just decided to see what would happen.

First up, dinner with the girls! A gorgeous evening with friends at one of the leading golf resorts in America. Everything was going fine until my heart had a little arrhythmia. I tried to hide my panic, got up to go to the bathroom (had my friend walk me), started sweating, shaking and feeling like I couldn’t breath. Thankfully my first stop on the Panic Attack tour was with some of my closest friends. They noticed that I was panicking and knew I liked fresh air. So being the sweet friends they are actually asked the waitress to move our dinner/dessert out to the patio. While I felt better being out there, it was to late, I could feel the tears starting. So there I sat, looking out at one of the most gorgeous 18th holes in America, surrounded by close friends, as the sun set and crying like a goober. My dear friend asked me if I wanted to leave and although it would have been easy to say yes, I said “No, just keep having your conversations. I have to just let it happen.” They talked, we ate cheesecake (this did help quite a bit. LOL) and then bit by bit the panic subsided. Although, I was totally embarrassed…I had won! I didn’t run away and I made it through. I looked a little ridiculous I am sure, but at that moment I didn’t care. I also felt totally grateful for that group of friends who didn’t judge, comforted and made it possible for me to brave out a panic attack in public.

The Art of PanickingEven though I had a panic attack, I felt like it was a success. So I continued on with the tour and started taking solo trips to places in town by myself. I ended up panicking all over town…

I panicked at my favorite candy store…

The Art of PanickingI panicked while getting ice tea at my favorite outdoor venue…The Art of Panicking

I panicked while walking on the beach…The Art of PanickingI even panicked on the side of the road with this as my view…The Art of PanickingSo after all the “practicing” it was time to try another dinner with friends. One of the many perks of living back in my hometown is that there are always friends visiting and this summer has been filled with visits! Our chosen restaurant had stairs and after climbing what felt like a mountain, I was already feeling the palpitations and arrhythmia as my heart tried to keep up with my steps. So I immediately braced myself for more and started to feel panicky. This time I distracted myself a little more with talking and got up a few times to breathe fresh air out on the deck. This didn’t stop the panic attack but it did help all the symptoms. Maybe the difference this time was I wasn’t afraid of letting it happen in public, or being surrounded by even more friends, whatever the reason the panic came quick and left quick this time. Thank goodness for that because the evening gave us some of the most incredible sunset views imaginable. The Art of PanickingThe Art of PanickingThe Art of Panicking

After all these big steps I have been reflecting on what the Panic Tour of 2015 did for me. I think the thing I learned most is that even though the anxiety is a relevant and frustrating bi-product of my recovery trail, I hadn’t really spent time dealing with it like I had all my other physical symptoms. I had been praying to God, asking him to take away my anxiety but not following through with the work He wanted me to do. My anxiety hasn’t gone away and I know I will continue to have panic attacks but I know that…

I will never say no to an evening with friends, even if I’m afraid the panic will be there…

I will never stop exploring the views around me, even if I’m afraid the panic will be there…

I will never give up on myself, even if I’m afraid that the panic will continue to be there…

And

I will trust that God has even more incredible views for me on the recovery trail, even when I am panicking.

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9 Comments on “The Art of Panicking

  1. I was born with a ventricular septal defect, corrected in 1980 when I was 5. Then I developed Ventricular Tachycardia and now have an ICD. Yes, I have been shocked 3X in a 5 minute period. That was quite the experience!!! Like you, I am waiting for technology to catch up so they can do another procedure on me to try to correct the exact place in my heart where my electrical conduction can go ker-flooey.

    I have learned to control the anxiety and panic attacks for the most part… But there are still days…………..

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    Like

    • Hey there heart warrior friend!!! Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your story with me. I can’t even imagine 3x in 5 minutes…that is so intense! I’m glad to hear that you are controlling anxiety, that gives me hope!!! Sending you all the best!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Kimmie! When the first one happened, I didn’t even know what it was, because I was outside sledding with my kiddo! Then 30 seconds later it happened again. Then again!

        The crazy thing is I felt relieved – because for some reason I thought it would feel like holding onto an electric wire on the pole outside, or sticking a fork in a socket. That kind of shock. But that is not how it felt to me.

        It has been quite the adventure, that’s for sure!

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      • Outside sledding?!?! Well, at least you had a good view. Lol. The second time I was shocked I was actually in a big school district meeting in front of a group of people…it was quite embarrassing to say the least. Mine really kicks me back, my limbs kind of fly out a bit and then I get a bit of a stutter for awhile after. I don’t know if it’s anything like that for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • OH MY GOSH! I did this big scream noise like a AHHHH! AHHHH! AHHHH!…. But after the first one I turned to my Dad (thank God my Dad was there), and said, “Was that a sonic boom?” Because we lived only a few miles from the airport in my city. He looked at me like, “huh?”… Then it dawned on my what was happening.

        When all was said and done, I went to the cardiac clinic, and they were “inappropriate shocks.” My heart was not in VT, it was just going too fast, and my device was set to err on the side of caution and deliver shocks.

        We turned that feature off right there that day. ha ha ha

        Like

      • I did the scream noise too!! I actually grabbed a lady that was sitting next to me, just out of reflex (I feel so bad for her). I can actually picture your whole moment and it is actually comforting to know that someone else has experienced similar feelings/sensations. I’m so happy that your Dad was there with you as well…what a blessing!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! Do you mind sharing which device you have? I have a St.Jude… my lead is actually on recall! I will have to have a replacement if technology has not caught up by that time. So, we are hoping the battery will keep for another bit.

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      • My first device, the battery was NOT good so they replaced it a few years with Boston Scientific and I have LOVED it. It is wireless, so all my remote monitoring happens once a month and all I have to do is stand in the same room with my monitoring device and it sends it on. I’ve had it for a few years now and the battery is still going strong and the leads have stayed in place! Love it!

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      • The sheathing around my lead actually wore off!!! My replacement will require removing the lead unless we can just take the ICD out. The doc I am with now said that there is a new teeny tiny ICD-like device that has come out that I may be a good candidate for. We shall see.

        I, too, do remote monitoring. So much nicer than going to clinic every 3-4 months.

        Like

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