So, I meant to get this up yesterday, but due to things around the topic, I spent yesterday trying to distract myself.
Anxiety (and depression) seem to go hand-in-hand with autism, and no one yet has been able to determine whether they are co-occuring conditions, or whether there’s something about the autistic brain wiring that lends itself to anxiety and depression, or perhaps they’re symptoms of trying to deal with a world not suited to us for years and years on end (which is what I suspect they are, personally, but I’m not a scientist). Could really be any one or any combo of those things.
Basic intro over with, let’s go on to what I want to talk about (and hear from others about) today: Anxiety attacks.
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I tend to get anxiety attacks when medical issues are being discussed, and they present (for me) like hypoglycemic attacks: lightheadedness, cold sweats, dizziness, shakes, etc. I know one person who “whites out” when they have an anxiety/panic attack, and another who thought they were having a heart attack when they had their first (that they could remember) attack.
The reason this topic came up for me to write about was what happened to me this past Monday.
CW: Mention of dental procedures, not very detailed, but method of injecting freezing stated.
I spent the weekend researching the #BoycottToSiri issue (see my previous two posts), which was alarming and threatening enough. But Monday I also had a dental appointment to fix a filling and deal with a cavity, and then Monday evening I had my first meeting of the ASNL Board. So tense all around.
Got through the cavity filling and filling fix just fine (my dentist also has anxiety, and she used one of the lead aprons for the x-rays as a deep pressure blanket for me, and I had one of my small stuffed toys to serve as a tactile stim, as well as my music on my iPod and my sunglasses). I usually don’t have a huge amount of trouble, although I really hate the sound of the drill, I can feel the needle the entire time it’s in my flesh (the freezing injection), and I hate the feel of the drill (the vibration that goes into my bones). For a while I would take an Ativan before I went to the dentist, but those pills got lost sometime between my stay at Pleasant Manor and the move to my apartment.
Was going out to pay the bill, and ended up a bit lightheaded while standing at the counter to pay. Think there was a bit of cold sweating as well, but it was mild, and sitting for a few minutes with some cold water to drink dealt with it.
So I wandered up to the Starbucks in the Avalon Mall, and ordered a bite to eat (as I hadn’t yet made food at home). I was partway through eating my sandwich when a full-on anxiety attack took hold. I wasn’t even able to stay in my chair (with my head down between my knees) – I had to get down on the floor (which was admittedly nice and cool, though the cleanliness could be debated) and lie down beside the wall, under the table, with my head propped up a bit. (Lay down on my right side, so that it was easier for my heart to pump the blood around.)
I’d say it took me about ten or so minutes until I was able to sit and stand up without the shakes and needing to sit or lie down again. What’s alarming (or at least all the people in my life found it alarming, and I do too now, looking back on it) was that no one said or did anything. I suspect the staff couldn’t see me – it was fairly busy, and I was over against the far wall of the Starbucks and hidden by the shelves/”case” of products – and the people next to me couldn’t see me, because there was a baby carriage in the way (for all they knew I might have been in the washroom). But at least one person did see me – they looked straight at me – and said and did nothing.
Not sure why. I mean, here was an adult, somewhere between 30 and 50 (I do have silver in my hair), lying on the floor in a not quite fetal position. And they didn’t ask me if I was all right or if they could help me. (Every other time this has happened – usually in hospitals, see above re medical issues – anyone who’s seen me has asked those two questions.)
Admittedly, there’s not much that can be done. Yes, cold water or orange juice can help a bit, but for the most part, I have to wait for the anxiety/panic/reactions to subside for me to be able to do anything. Usually that takes between about five and fifteen minutes, depending on the severity of the attack. (If I start to panic, and don’t do something about it, it’s more severe when it breaks loose. Probably usual enough. It took me until… maybe seven years ago or so?… before I could recognize when an attack was on its way. That was about… 25 years of panic attacks when I couldn’t recognize when one was coming on. And 24 or so years when all the name I had for them was “nerve attacks”, because I didn’t realize it was anxiety/panic causing them. I think I based that name in part on the fact that the first attack I remember was after I hit my funnybone – which is the ulnar nerve as it passes through the elbow, for any who aren’t aware – and had to sit down until the cold sweats and shakes passed. I was 8 or 9 at the time.)
Still, one would expect people to be at least a bit more concerned with that kind of situation. Yeah, I can definitely see where my family and friends are coming from with respect to the concern over it.
What about you? What’s been your experience with anxiety/panic attacks? Is there anything you’ve found that can help alleviate or deal with the effects, other than medication? Let’s Talk About it!