It's 3am. I want to take advantage of a panic attack. And this isn't just any panic attack. It's what can only be described as a "Prescribed Medicine Induced Panic Attack". Why? Because it's shear terror and pain that can't possibly "naturally" appear in a human body. It's far more intense than any panic attack or anxiety I've ever experienced. Since being on Benzodiazepines, my anxiety actually increased, and the panic attacks became far more intense. Then I began tapering off the Benzodiazepines and "WHOA!" I had no idea what I was signing up for. The panic attacks became so "unnatural". I would writhe on the floor, my body twitching in a convulsion-like movement...crying and screaming...my body feeling as though an alien was pushing through each and every inch of it. It's a feeling I'd wish on no one.
I am now 3 months off of Benzodiazepines and although I don't suffer as many panic attacks as I did during my taper, I'm still enduring enough of them that it makes me feel discouraged at times...and very alone. The one sign of "healing" I can see with these panic attacks is that they don't last as long as the ones I had during my taper, and the intensity has lessened. However, I am scared they are going to be a lasting side effect from this medication for months to come.
So what does a "Prescribed Medicine Induced Panic Attack" feel like? Well, now at 3:10am, and the effects of tonight's attack are dwindling, I will tell you. I woke up one hour ago feeling groggy and very confused. I have been sleeping quite solid this week and most nights have been sleeping straight through till morning. I opened my eyes and checked my iPod. My eyes were too blurred to see the time so I set my music back to song #1 and pressed "play". But very quickly I knew something was wrong. Without a warning, my stomach turned and my lower back felt heavy. I began to feel as though my body was already rising out of bed and yet my body stayed frozen under the blanket. I then HAD to get up. I shot out of bed and paced the bedroom floor, pulling at my hair. My stomach turning, my bowels rumbling, my heart racing so hard I could hear it pounding in my ears. I grabbed at my chest and pulled my sweater away from my neck. I sat on the stairs near my bedroom and began to tremble and cry. My breathing became heavier and I felt as though the room was spinning below my feet. I walked to the washroom, then to the stairs, then to the fireplace...finally ending at my husband's bedside, begging him to be with me. He has been an AMAZING support through my year long recovery from this medication...but he'll fully admit the night time attacks are not his strength. He's tired and half asleep. He just doesn't know what can be done from his end at 3am when I'm sobbing and terrified. But I need him...or anyone. I am terrified and literally feel like I'll die. I hate being alone during it. I sat there sobbing and telling him the same story he's heard many times before at 3am. "Something is not right...it's different this time...I think I'm going to vomit...something is in me and I don't know what it is...when am I going to get better?...this isn't right, this isn't normal...please be with me...I don' want to be alone...I just need somebody." That goes on for awhile.
I then moved to my side of the bed and sat there with my legs crossed. I sobbed louder and louder...the feeling of having to "throw up emotion" is the only way I can describe this. The Benzos have numbed a part of my brain for years that SHOULD have been able to show emotion. Now it is coming back to life since I've taken away the meds...but with that comes very intense emotion. The sobbing is loud and filled with sadness. It's as though I've lost the most special person in my life and I am mourning their loss...maybe in a sense it's true. I've lost "me" and now I'm finding her again.
I then sobbed even louder and eventually had to move to the family room so that my husband could sleep. I came out here and felt nothing but sadness. My hamsters are the only thing awake in my house at 3am, so I sat by their cage and they proceeded to listen to me as I cried about the shear terror of this panic attack. I started to remember that it was 1 month ago to this day that I also had a "3am wake up call" which led to a 3 hour panic attack. It was the 3 weeks following that attack that I was led down a path of horrible side effects once again...nausea, frequent panic, muscle aches, loss of appetite and lack of sleep. Is this the beginning of it again? Will it be a cycle of 3 weeks of "horrible" followed by 1 week of "okay"? That's just not acceptable! So then the panic continued. Horrible thoughts, described as "intrusive thoughts", come in to play. "I can't live one more day like this...life isn't worth living if this is how it's going to be...there is only so much one person can take before they break...my husband will grow tired of this and leave...I'll wake my daughter up with my crying and she'll be scared of me...I'm just a screw up and don't deserve anything good...I'd be better off in a home somewhere so my family can finally have peace". My hamsters listen patiently to my obscured thoughts. I begin to feel things settling and can move to the sofa. I curl up with my pillow...my constant companion since I was a baby. I wipe away the tears and blow my nose several times. I sit alone in the family room. Not one light is on. The "tick tock" of the clock is first irritating but then quickly becomes "company" for me and calms me. I'm cold now. But feel frozen in fear and can't move to grab a blanket. I hug my legs and rock myself for awhile and put my iPod on. Classical music - Chopin's Nocturn in E Flat Major - is playing and I begin to feel a bit sleepy. And now here I am, typing this.
These panic attacks are the loneliest thing I've every endured. Especially the night time attacks. I've had "non medicated induced attacks", and there is a big difference. There's a level of intensity with these ones now that I never had before. It's pure terror. The intrusive thoughts are prevalent with each attack and it's horrible. For "x amount" of minutes, you feel completely worthless. You envision every possible way that you could just "vanish". Whether it's walking in the woods near your home and hoping a coyote finds you...to walking the streets and hoping a stranger takes you. I feel completely detached from all I love and want nothing more than the pain to end...and yet nothing would ever come of these feelings...because that's all they are - feelings. They're about as real as the monster in your closet. The best way to describe it is to say it's the "Benzo Beast" trying to bring me down - HARD. Nothing will every come of it and after those "x amount" of minutes, the feelings subside and you are left feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.
It's 3:54am...I will try to sleep now, and will hope this is just one bad night and not the beginning of 3 bad weeks. And I'll hope that tonight's attack was perhaps the last 3am "prescribed medication induced panic attack" I'll ever endure.