September 2014 was the first time I experienced being dizzy from lack of air. I thought I was going to die. It felt like everything is closing in, the light starts to turn into darkness, my heart beating too fast I thought it was going to explode and I felt like drowning. My hands were clammy and cold and I can feel tingling sensation on all four extremities. I didn’t realize that in my panic, I can still move around, faster than normal. I looked for help around me but everyone was busy with what they are doing or might think I’m a crazy woman to be avoided at all cost. I had to hold on to a post. But I didn’t pray. That time, praying was the last thing in my mind. Exerting an effort was scary enough.
That was my first experience to anxiety attack which happened when I was on my way to meet a friend and I had to climb several flights of stairs to get to the subway platform in 61st St., Woodside. In my hurry, I forgot to pace myself and started gasping for air. When my lungs started burning, that’s when my mind started panicking.
The second attack came as a surprise. My roommate and I were just sitting and talking at the dining area of our apartment. There was nothing exciting about what we were talking about – just the regular mundane daily occurrence, when all of a sudden she noticed my breathing became shorter and shallower. I started feeling my heartbeat in my ears and pressure building up in my head. i could even hear a siren-like sound coming from inside my head. I had to stop talking and go to my room to lie down and close my eyes. It didn’t help. I was brought to the hospital, waited for few hours before I was able to calm down and was given a referral to a psychiatrist. All those times, it never occurred to me that it was Anxiety attack. I thought I was having a heart attack which I insisted I be tested at the hospital.
During my first psychiatrist visit, I was given Zoloft which helped immensely – either placebo or real, I’m not sure either. I went to the doctor once every week for the first month and once a month after that.
On April of 2015, I had my third big attack. I can barely get up in bed in the morning without feeling pressure in my head, walking around takes effort and I would go to work feeling a big boulder hanging around my neck. My roommate had a regular job of 11 hrs a day while I only work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so we mostly don’t see each other until the weekends. One day, I lost consciousness while I was alone at home. This triggered another panic attack which compelled me to go to the hospital right then. Again, nothing is wrong with me physiologically. I came home with another advice to visit my psychiatrist. My friends from church were worried about me being alone at home most days so I spent a couple of weeks at their house. Ate Myla (who is a doctor and our pastor in church) taught me how to control my breathing during an attack by using a paper bag. It helped and gave me hope that this could actually work but I held on to my medications for that “just-in-case” moment. Trusting God and letting it be was a second option. This was all in me. At the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking, “I have been dealing with things on my own for too long, I think I’m strong enough to deal with this alone.”
I have been very diligent in keeping my appointments. After a year of medication and monthly doctor’s visit, I noticed how I have been gaining weight. I told my doctor about it but told me I need to continue my medication until I am sure that I will no longer have any attacks. At that time, I don’t get any unless I get too excited or too anxious. I stopped going to him. I weaned from taking the pills, learned how to relax my mind when attack is starting and paced myself every time. I tried going back to the gym and I did for a few weeks but a year of sedentary living has made me lazy. That didn’t last. I tried my best to keep the attacks at bay. And there is one thing that I could not bring myself in doing again – Running. I don’t run in races but I used to enjoy a nice little stroll and a little jog from time to time. After I found out I have anxiety, a little running (even jogging in place or brisk walking) would make me gasp and dizzy.
NOTE: This is the first part of my journey in overcoming anxiety. It took me time to collect my thoughts and gather my courage to write it down. Because whether we want to or not, to some people, anxiety is not real. And for someone at my age, they think I’m just being an attention-seeker or really crazy (yes, I’ve heard it even in this democratic, liberal world). Just because I experienced it, I am in no means an expert in this topic. I just want to write down what I went through and hopefully in one way or the other, be able to make people see anxiety through my eyes and how I and anyone else can overcome it with the help of prayers and tons of understanding from people around us.