May 4, 2011

If it wasn't for Wikipedia...

I would have no idea what was wrong with me.

Despite finding myself in the Emergency Room last night after being driven to the hospital in an ambulance with an oxygen mask on my face.

I pray to God that you never find yourself in the Emergency Room of a New York City Hospital. 

Let me preface this by saying that I used to think that panic attacks were ridiculous and that people who had them were overly dramatic and didn't know how to cope with stress.

I didn't know that "Experiencing a panic attack has been said to be one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person's life and may take days to initially recover from." (Wikipedia)

Let me tell you, Wikipedia is right. So to anyone I may have scoffed at for ever having a panic attack, I'm sorry.

According to the EMTs, I was having a cumulative panic attack brought on by my body basically failing me. According to Wikipedia, panic attacks are good because they are an early warning sign that your body is failing you and the attack is basically a hormone and adrenaline rush that signals that the body is trying to defend itself from harm.

Mind you, I was feeling fine until about 4:30pm yesterday when I went to Starbucks for my 3rd cup of coffee of the day...this time with an extra shot. I don't ever drink coffee but this Finals week has left me with no other alternative for my sleep deprivation.

To recap: After getting home from a class bbq at my professor's house at 1am on Thursday night, I realized that I had lost everything I had written throughout the day for my 'Developing Countries' paper due to a file corruption caused by switching from using Word for PC to Word for Mac and back. Cue nervous breakdown. Friday after work, I spent the night desperately trying to finish the paper that I was oh so close to finishing the night before. When I didn't finish, I woke up extra early on Saturday to do so before heading to work, coming home and starting Paper #2 which I finished on Sunday morning...and then started Paper #3. By Monday night, I was at 3,000 words and in good shape. But it was 2am and I just couldn't write anymore. So I went to bed, woke up and headed to work. The plan was to go from work to class to home to finish writing my paper so I could move out of my apartment, go to class tonight and officially be on summer vacation.

That didn't go according to plan. As I was getting ready to leave work, I felt like my heart was beating really fast and I was kind of dizzy and not feeling so hot. I figured it was just the caffeine so I got on the subway and headed for class. Well, the train was held up due to signal failure ahead (I hate that announcement), and I was sitting on a crowded rush hour train trying to read The Divine Comedy on my Kindle and my heart was beating really fast and I felt really lightheaded and I just kind of collapsed. I came to a few seconds later and as soon as I got off the train, I called my friend Erin for help. By the time I walked from the subway to school (about a 2 minute walk), my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. My hands were really tingly and I was breaking out in a cold sweat and I just felt really clammy and I was having a really hard time breathing and this whole time my chest was just pounding.The EMTs initially thought I was having a heart attack (which was terrifying) but after checking me, they determined it was a panic attack, slipped an oxygen mask on me and brought me to the ER.

After being asked if I was on drugs by multiple doctors and sitting in a room in the middle of the ER with absolutely no privacy and constantly being confused for different patients, I was finally seen by a doctor who seemed utterly confused about my situation. Come on, this can't be that rare. She ordered an EKG and then they gave me tylenol (???) and told me to go home without any kind of explanation as to what was happening, why my chest was still hurting, nothing.

So I went home. My friend Erin came to the hospital and emailed all of my professors for me and they've all sent great emails in response telling me not to worry about anything which is refreshing...except that I still have to get it all done.

I went to my Primary this morning who is referring me to a cardiologist to see if anything more serious is going on.

I'm still having a lot of chest pain and still pretty stressed out about finishing up my last paper, moving out of my apartment and getting myself to Florida in one piece. I'm hoping to try and get through everything by tomorrow and that I'll be myself again in a few days but this whole experience has been pretty scary.

To be perfectly honest, I'm disappointed in myself. I've always been so on top of everything but losing that paper just screwed up everything. I should be in class right now, I should be going out for drinks tonight to celebrate finishing my first year of grad school and instead, I'm having major chest pain and I'm still not finished. As scary as all of this was, I'm disappointed in myself for not holding it together, for going to work on Monday when I should have taken the day off to finish, for not calling out of work because I cared too much what my boss would say (my last day is Thursday, why should I even care?), for drinking obscene amounts of caffeine when I know from past experiences that my body can't handle it, and finally for not finishing everything and making all of this harder on myself.

I'll let you all know how I'm doing.


  1. so scary! don't be disappointed! you have a lot going on. maybe cut down on the caffeine? sneak in some at home yoga. you'll get through this! sending happy thoughts

  2. Christy, first of all, I'm really sorry that you're going through all of this. I'm sure it's really scary! Second of all, you need to not be so hard on yourself. That's not going to help anything. You're a human being, and we make different choices etc that, at the time, sound good/make sense, etc. Now you know, that if this happens in the future, what NOT to do. Everything is a learning experience, not a reason to punish yourself.
    Try and cheer up, and focus on getting one thing done at a time. You WILL do it, and it WILL all get done.
    Sending you hugs!

  3. Don't be hard on yourself! Get lots of rest and take care of yourself - so you can get better soon. What a scary thing - I'm glad you are okay. Take care!

  4. WOMAN! Take care of yourself, oh my goodness! I've had a panic attack and I can agree that they are the most scary thing in the world. I'm so sorry you went through that.

  5. oh my i hope you feel better! i know how traumatizing it can be to feel like you're having a heart attack, but having close friend's nearby really helps :)

    best of luck!

  6. I hope you feel better soon! I'm so sorry that this happened to you, and I hope you're bright, shiny, good as new ASAP!

  7. I hope you feel better! I get panic attacks and usually have one really bad one every year, most of the time for no reason at all. Very scary and I know how you feel. xoxo


  8. Christy!!! OMG!!! That is so scary!!! I am so glad you are ok and that you were able to narrow down what is wrong. You def need to lay off the caffeine, especially since you're not used to it. I'm also so thankful your teachers are being so understanding, as if you didn't have enough to worry about!!!

    If it makes you feel better I had my first panic attack shortly after moving to Florida when I was 18, I thought I was having a heart attack and went to the doctors and they told me I had gas. Not kidding. It took a few months before my primary gave me a stress test and figured out I had really high anxiety. In the meantime I had a handful more attacks, once driving in rush hour traffic! GAH! They are def the real deal and not to be shrugged off.

    Sending you hugs from the mitten! Love you!!!

  9. I know the feeling--I hope you feel better. Don't be disappointed with yourself! You just need to finish that dang paper and get yourself in bed!


  10. panic attacks are SO terrifying!! i used to have them often! glad you're ok, girl!

  11. Hey we don't all have it together all the time, so cut yourself some slack! The most important thing you can do now is try to prevent that from happening again, don't beat yourself up about it though!

    Glad you're okay. And yes, please, cut back on the Starbucks. You'll be saving loads of cash too!

  12. CHRISTY!!!! GIRLLLL you are wearing yourself tooo thin!! First of all, I work in the mental health field and although I have never personally had a panic attack I have seen them and can understand what you went through!! They are terrifying and painful and you will feel a little out of it for a couple of days. Sadly though, they can happen to everyone and some people are more predisposed to them than others. One thing you will want to try to do though is not fear them. I feel the more that people fear having a panic attack the more they expect one to come when things are getting really hard and they more they have them.
    Try and take a few mintues when your stressed like that and clear your head and just breathe. As for you paper. I have beeennnn there and done that!! One thing I always try to do is save it multiple places. I save it to my Flash drive and then ALWAYS e-mail it to myself.
    Better safe then sorry!!
    Feel better girl!!!

  13. i'm SO sorry to hear about your panic attack. those can be extra scary. right before my fiance proposed to me, he had a panic attack because he wasn't sure if he could afford for all the stuff for the day of the proposal (he took me to a fancy dinner, shopping, etc). he ended up with his eyes rolling back, passing out, and temporary blindness for a couple hours because of the lack of oxygen! don't be disappointed in yourself, but just remember your limits hun!

  14. OMG, I hope you feel better very soon!! That is super scary and I wonder if it has something to do with how you felt a few weeks back. I'm glad you are getting it checked out. Take care!!

  15. don't be disappointed in yourself! after following your blog for a while, i can tell you are definitely a girl who can handle almost everything but its ok to fall down a little bit. it's part of life. you'll get back up, finish up and be better than ever. hang in there girl that beautiful light of summer is just around the corner for you!

  16. Ouch, sister. That's a rough one. I too (as you'll find many, many people have) get panic attacks. Though not as frequently anymore. My doctor attributed it to a thyroid problem (then I was dx'd with hypothyroidism!) so if you keep having them consider asking to have your thyroid tested.

    I know that in these kinds of situations having someone say to you "Don't sweat it!" or "There's nothing to be anxious over!" is like saying "Don't eat that steak!" to a dog after you just placed it in his bowl- Pointless and irrelevant. Just know that other people are out there with similar experiences and that having anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. :)

    Best of luck on completing all your projects!!

  17. I am so sorry to hear this. Your story reminded me of the episode of Sex and the City when Miranda had a panic attack. I hope you get to feeling better soon. Try to take it easy! I have never gone to the ER until this January when I got dehydrated soon after my son was born. Needless to say, I know the feeling of being in a cramped place with people from all walks of life (And I have no idea why THEY are there...drugs, alcohol...who knows!) It was really scary. Get well soon!

  18. oh my god how horrible!
    I was sitting reading this at work almost having a minature panic attack! I hope that you are alright soon. xox

  19. HOLY COW!!! That is terrifying! I am so glad that you are okay and getting closer to figuring out what is wrong, but wow, I hope you start actually feeling better soon. TONS of hugs to you. xoxo.

  20. I am so sorry you had to go through this!!!

    I suffer from anxiety and have had panic attacks in the past. It is so difficult for people to understand if they have never experienced it for themselves. I am a perfectionist by nature and know people used to simply think I couldn't handle things. So not the case!

    Don't be so hard on yourself. You have to give yourself a break- exactly the message the panic attack is sending you- and know that in the end it'll work out.

    Sending love!

  21. noooooo! oh sweetie, i'm so glad you're okay but so sorry you had to deal with this!

    rest up, take care of yourself and get back to 100 percent real fast. i'm so glad a break is in your very near future.

  22. I'm so glad you're okay! Thanks for sharing your story- very inspirational! And you'll find that everything always ends up working out in the end!


  23. My wife has had panic attacks, it can be very frightening. I am glad you are okay. Stay relaxed.

  24. I am so sorry that you have to go through all of this during such a stressful time. The important thing is that you take care of yourself, and it sounds like you are doing just that! I am thinking of you, girl! Best of luck!

  25. Wow, what a scary situation. I think your body is telling you to stop beating yourself up! No need to be disappointed in yourself- sounds like you need to slow down a bit.

    I hope you feel better!

  26. Oh, so sorry to read about this. I hope are you feeling better now.

  27. Good grief girl! So glad you got through this (know this via facebook) but that's so scary! I was praying for you a lot this week as you tried to get done and am happy that you're DONE now. Don't even *think* the world school for a long, long time...

  28. I know the feeling! Fall semester, 2010, I lost a 12 page research paper and supplemental notes/materials for a presentation that went with it to file corruption. Half of the files on my flash drive were lost two weeks before finals. I almost died. My grade was reduced from an A to a C in just days. There was no way I could recreate a semester-long research project in a week and a half! Good thing the semester's over and relaxation time has begun.


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