Panic

pan·ic
[panik]
sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 6 million Americans, or 2.7% of the population, suffer from panic attacks. Women have twice the likelihood of developing panic disorder compared to men. People who have panic disorder experience panic attacks seemingly for no reason at all, and have a fear of recurring attacks.  Some sufferers also develop agoraphobia, or a fear of a specific place or situation. Click HERE to read the article, “Five Things People With Panic Attacks Want You To Know”. Nice information Randy, but why are you telling me all this? Keep reading.

I survived a heart attack in my late 30’s that left me with some scar tissue on my heart. As a result, my heart would occasionally beat very fast.   These are called arrhythmias and if not checked can be fatal. 15 years ago I had an implanted cardio-defibrillator or ICD for short installed in my chest that sends a jolt of electricity to my heart whenever my heart rate gets too high. That “jolt” returns me to sinus rhythm.  In January I had two such arrhythmias one week apart. The first occurred on a Saturday at 4:00 am while I was sound asleep. Imagine how you’d react if you were sound asleep and suddenly received 25 joules of electricity pumped into your heart. It scared the heck out of me! I couldn’t run. I couldn’t fight.  All I could do was freeze.

Mary comforted me as we sat on the edge of the bed. Once I had gained my composure, I called my cardiologist.  He asked me a few questions and concluded the ICD had done its job and asked me to come to his office on Monday morning. In his office, they determined I had experienced what is technically called ventricular tachycardia and at 271 heartbeats per minute, the ICD did what it was supposed to do. It shocked my heart which brought my heart beat down to a normal rhythm. The next week became almost normal until the following Saturday when I had a second event. This time we called 911 and I took an ambulance ride to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. I spent three days in the hospital and underwent all sorts of tests.  In the end, my doctor added a couple of new meds, adjusted the ICD and sent me home.

That Friday we met some friends at Seasons 52 for dinner. I was still feeling a little wonky after the two episodes but didn’t want to miss the fellowship. Just as dinner was being served I felt like I was going to blackout. My head felt hot and my ears tingled. I was sure I was having another event and asked that someone call 911. My friend, Robert, helped me to the lobby where the paramedics were waiting. My cardiologist met me in the ER and ran the usual tests. Although my heart rate and blood pressure were higher than normal, I showed no signs of arrhythmia. My doctor concluded that I had experienced a panic attack.

I’ve never had a panic attack and for the next few weeks, I had to deal with several… some minor, some more serious. I had been seeing a therapist for several months to work through issues associated with my cancer and she was very helpful in helping me understand my anxiety. The first thing I learned was there are triggers that can bring on a panic attack. For me, just thinking about going to bed caused me to replay the 4:00 am shock.  Loud sounds, driving on the freeway and getting overheated also caused me to get lightheaded and dizzy.  Fear would grip me for up to fifteen minutes where I couldn’t move.  Other times, there was no trigger.  One night Mary and I were watching TV when a panic attack started to build. By this time I had some experience and knew what to do.  We turned the TV off and sat on the couch side-by-side. Mary held me and prayed into my ear while I focused on my breathing.  Slowly.  In through the nose and out through the mouth.  Within minutes I was back to normal.

My therapist says I am going through something similar to PSTD. Although I don’t have any symptoms of my cancer, it is still looming in the background and can return at any time. I can also have another arrhythmia without warning and the ICD may or may not do the trick. All this weighs on my mind which doesn’t help my anxiety.

Now, I do a calming exercise every morning. I sit in a quiet place and go through a series of tensing different areas of my body and relaxing along with deep breathing. It sounds weird but only until it works. I also pray and read my Bible including several healing verses. There is something very calming about prayer and the Word of God! The one that I usually go to when I’m feeling anxious is 1 Peter 5:6-7.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

It’s funny how just when you get settled into your new normal, life has a way of interrupting with a newer normal.

“Pressure: pushing down on me,
Pressing down on you, no man asks for.” David Bowie

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18 thoughts on “Panic”

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences with panic attacks, that had to be terrifying. I am praying that Good will continue to heal and comfort you.

    1. Thanks for reading my post Ray. Candidly I’m still dealing w the new meds and the stress. Some days are better than other but as an old friend once reminded me “If that’s the only thing, I live a very blessed life”.

  2. My friend, thank you for allowing us to walk through this with you. I have suffered what I believe in hindsight to be 2 panic attacks in my lifetime and they are frightening! I will be more aware of PTSD like symptoms in those fighting egregious disease.

    Love you Randy and continue to pray for you!!

  3. Randy, this is a subject I’m well versed in …. unfortunately so. I’ve had seasons of panicked attacks on and off all my life. Sounds like otherwise you are feeling well. That’s something to be thankful for!
    Love to you and Mary. Give us a call. Lots to tell you.

  4. Randy, I am thankful you are feeling better and that you have Mary along side of you. The fact that you can pray, do some bible reading and exercise is such a blessing. I also am thankful you have so many wonderful friends around you to love you and keep you in prayer. Please know that I am one of those friends. I love you and are keeping you in prayer. Nice to see you looking so well this morning 💕💋🙏

    1. Thanks Denice! I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have friends like you and Ted. Moreover, if I didn’t have God in my life it would be almost unbearable. Thanks for your prayers!

  5. Thank you for sharing this and even having the courage to do so. To me suffering from panic disorder felt like something I had to hide – that at all times I had to keep it together lest everyone know I was losing my mind. I was diagnosed with panic and general anxiety disorder at the ripe old age of 20. I have suffered with God and without Him and let me tell you its a much better with! All my love, prayers, good vibes and whatever else you need.

    1. Thanks, Sharon! You hid it well my friend. I can’t imagine dealing with the highs and lows without being able to lean into God. Time for lunch at Woody’s!

  6. Randy, you are a great example of God in your life. I sit in amazement when I hear how the “God man” part of you is able to take over and let the “Spirit” living within you control what would otherwise be a panic attack. I am grateful for our relationship and to be part of your small group. God’s wisdom in using us to help each other is being clearly spoken in how you are living your life! God is Good!

    1. Bob,
      Thank you for your kind words. To God be the glory! Glad that you’re in our life group. You add a great deal of maturity and wisdom.
      Blessings,
      Randy

  7. Thank you for sharing your experiences Randy. I am sure it will help others. Sometimes pain and medications and life experiences cause the onset of panic and anxiety. Through the years while working with clients with PTSD and other anxiety disorders, I have found that it is the simpler things that help the most: taking time to focus on your breathing and your thoughts and understanding what your triggers are so that you can respond with focused attention. For me, God’s word is the best way to focus my thoughts in a peaceful direction. What also helps is guided visualization along with pleasant distractions. With all the health issues I have been facing, photography and studying take me away from it all. We are so blessed to have faith in God’s provision. He gives personal attention to our needs and shows us the way to respond to life’s difficult moments through his word, through the love of others, and anywhere we look to find him. Looking forward to seeing you and everyone at group on Monday.

  8. Good stuff, Randy. I love that you are combining breathing exercises/meditation with Scripture & prayer. It’s inspiring how you are leaning on your faith & the help of others as you accept vulnerability & walk out your struggle moment by moment. I think this is the kind of walk that brings others along because it’s genuine. Blessings to you & Mary!

    1. Thanks Stephanie! Scripture says He will direct our paths but I haven’t found the verse that says the path will be smooth. Blessings on you and yours!

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