We are embodied spirits.
Our chemicals are "crazy"; we are not.
What you think of is a product not of your intellect or your will, but what the chemicals that are unbalanced decree that you MUST think of. They do this by virtue of where they are located in the brain and how badly they are depleted.
I am intimately familiar with all the descriptions of what it's like, particularly in this thread; it is in fact those very thoughts that make me feel more fear, but it's really hard to tell if they are not found at the same instant together.
I no more want to examine these things that cause me fear than I want to examine what nonsense runs through the mind of a psychotic person who has lost touch with reality entirely.
We are "wired" for many, many things. Among them, I believe, we are wired for:
- Knowing God and loving God and others, including ourselves. Yes, many people do believe that the only one who can truly fill the "God-void" is God, and that He has done so. I am in that group. I was an adult convert to Catholicism from agnosticism 25 years ago.
- Living in such a way that we are not tortured by our knowledge of the world (that is, while we know the facts about the universe that makes our heads spin even when we are not in the midst of acut anxiety, those facts do not lead to despair -- they lead to awe and an appreciation of the basic conundrum at which all mankind must stop -- How did all this stuff get here? Is there anybody in charge? Can something create itself? So, we are wired to see the beauty in the construction and operation of a human cell or a crystal or a molecule.
- Living without anxiety. We are wired for joy -- that is demonstrated by the fact that when we are not joyful, when we are anxious, we are "sick." When things go wrong, though, we are wired to seek the healing that can help us.
- In some people, particularly those with a family history of panic and other illnesses, the problem is probably close to 90% that the problem is a faulty chemical balance in specific areas of the brain.
- Once a person has found a medical treatment that prevents the attacks, it might be interesting to look at the issues and symptoms in an analytical way, but while we are sick and are still having the troublesome thoughts and feelings, we are attempting to find sense in the incoherent babbling of a madman. Every thought we have is born in our brains. When the hardware of our brains has a problem, we learn about it by our distress.
- The malfiring neurons are going to perform differently in each of us. There are no archtypical thoughts that mark a specific illness. Of course, you can analyze why you wake up with a specific song on your lips. But doing so doesn't lead you any closer to getting rid of the things that bother you.
- I hear the term "recovery" used a lot, but I have a problem with that. Except in the cases of people who suffer for a short period of time and do or do not take medication for a few months, get better, and never have another attack again -- they, alone, I would consider to be recovered.
- For me, and for many of you, I suspect, we will never "recover," using the classic definition of that word. We will *always* have panic disorder and major depression (what I have). But that's not bad news; the good news is that with ongoing treatment, I was unaware for 12 years that I *had* the illness. In other words, we remove the symptoms by restoring the proper chemical concentrations in the brain, and we get "back" to our lives -- in many cases, those lives are much improved over time after beginning medicine.
But we do not "recover" -- the symptoms go, and we feel completely healed, but I think it is important to remember that we are never "recovered" from this illness unless we have one episode that never, ever returns.
Nothing is wrong with examine your weird thoughts; personally, I want to get away from them as fast as I can because they are what is making me feel scared. The perceptions themselves are scary because we all know they are not the way the world really looks and feels.
So, time spent contemplating the navel of our "experiences" tells me a couple of things:
- You're not as totally petrified as I am when I have an attack (despite assurances to the contrary, when I have an attack, it feels as if I will most certainly die).
- You may have a milder form of anxiety that allows you to contemplate the navel of your experiences, while the sooner they turn to dust the better for me. Of course, I observe them to a degree, and say, "Arghh. If that was how I felt about things all the time, I would surely kill myself." It's so awful to me that I want nothing but to run away from them. I want them to leave me alone. I know they are sickness, not even worthy of paying any attention to.
When we have a panic attack, we have lost a vital part of our constitution that allows us to see the world as it is. We think we are in danger when we are not. We think that thinking about the ultimate questions of existence is a task we oughtn't do because it makes us crazy, all the while forgetting how many times when of sound mind we in the past contemplated the beauty and immeasureableness of the universe and experienced the thrill of the awareness of what we actually KNEW about where we are in this tremendous universe.
All of these thoughts about profound things are entirely normal; but when our chemicals are wrong, we come to the wrong conclusions.
What you think in a panic attack is the pus that comes out of an abscess.
Do not waste your time examining its contents.
Look instead to get your chemicals corrected so that you no longer have symptoms.
I still keep wondering about those who say they want to analyze their behavior. I wonder if they are suffering from something entirely different than I am.
For me, when death seems imminent, I don't want to analyze anything except how quickly I can restore the level of Zoloft in my bloodstream so that I do not have panic attacks at all. My doctor says that's what I have to look forward to.
In the meantime, same time as last night, 8:30, right on schedule, the attack came. I waited 10 minutes to be sure, but that was too long and the darn Antivan took about 2 hours to work. My doctor said I could take another if needed, but advised that I take a half rather than a whole. So at about 11, that's what I did.
Until the Zoloft reaches the therapeutic level in my system, I'll have to supplement it witn Ativan.
Consider this: if we were "crazy," we would not object to the perceptions, sensations, and so forth. We'd be oblivious to their craziness.
This problem cannot be solved psychologically except in the mildest of cases, and I have the feeling that someone who has a mild case will never look for a board like this.
While I agree with all the "focus outward" talk, and it's great advice, for me, as long as I am in the grip of this thing, psychological methods don't work. I gave it a chance yesterday, I think. Nine hours. It lifted once for about ten minutes, but then was back in full force.
Today's attack at 8:30 was really horrible, but I hung on, knowing that the pill would take effect soon and that I could take another.
I'm getting to the point where I will probably take an Ativan at 8:00 pm whether or not I feel an attack coming on. I can no longer tolerate them.
Well, I exaggerate, I suppose I could, but I think it's stupid to willingless experience such suffering when one doesn't have to. You see, in the middle of it, when it's particularly scary, I doubt for a little while if I will ever feel "normal" again. I always answer myself in the affirmative, but it takes so much energy it is so exhausting. And I cannot do anything else while I'm having an attack. Oh, I sit at the computer and do things, but if I had pressing work to edit here, I could not do it, unless the attack was very minimal, and I haven't had one of those in a while.
I am probably going to seek out a CBT therapist who specializes in panic disorder. I'll ask my current therapist; perhaps she does that and I just don't know about it.
There are two roads to managing this illness:
A. Correcting the biological error B. Trying to interpret it as psychological
The best minds at work on this illness say it's a combination, but in some people, like me, the percentage of responsibility is in the neighborhood of 90% biological, 10% psychological.
I am so grateful that men and women over the course of the last century toiled and searched, cared and drove themselves to find the medicines that can help us. I am so grateful for the men and women and companies that invested their money in pharmaceutical research. Without them, there would be very little hope for you and me. The asylums would still be open, and I am sure I would be locked away.
But we are productive, intelligent people with something important to give our world. I happen to be at the apex of my professional career. I managed my depression since 1993 and simply could not have done it without Zoloft. And a LOW dose -- 50 mg and then 25.
I guess this is a treatise urging all of you who are not pursuing medicine to change your mind and really analyze the statistics about major mental illnesses.
Don't waste your time trying to figure anything out -- what distortions you see or think in your brain are not worthy of your examination. They are symptoms of your illness. Find a good doctor who knows a lot about this stuff. Seek out someone in your community who is associated with current thought on these issues. Don't let anyone tell you that therapy alone can help you.
That's if your panic is severe. If it's mild, psychological methods might work. But if it were so mild, I don't think you'd be agonzing over your thoughts and trying to understand them. Doing that, in fact, is another symptom of the disease. If you enjoy doing that, then by all means, do it, but don't complain about how weird those thoughts are. Yes, they are weird, they are distortions from a mind that needs a tune up and an oil change.
The "not me" feeling is among the worst. I never want to see that again. My analysis of it is this: It's a jumbling of concepts in my mind caused by faulty nerve communication.
My sister the doctor even confirmed that she thought in my case, the relative weight was high in favor of organic cause.
But those people, those researchers, those executives at the drug companies who said, "This is a huge problem that we ought to address." They are heroes in my book. God blessed them with compassion and with the ability to devise experiments that would allow them to isolate substances that had a beneficial effect on people who are sick like us.
Look what they did!! It's incredible. God has provided help here for all of us. It's not self-analysis for seriously sick people -- especially while their brains are operating in a deficient chemical condition. Self-analysis can come when we are chemically stable.
The help God gives us are these drugs and the psychiatrists who are expert at using them to alleviate human suffering.
God gives us the freedom to say, "I don't wand meds," but I really believe doing that is a tragic mistake.
So, we are not crazy; our chemicals are.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to seek out and find the finest psychopharmacologist you can afford and become his or her patient. You tell him or her that you want to have no more panic attacks and no more crazy thoughts, and that you believe you have a chemical imbalance.
I am also so thankful for my doctor, who is really an expert in this field.
I hope this hasn't come across as too pedantic. So let me tell you a little story: I resisted consulting a doctor to treat my depression for many years, and I regret it. I didn't think I needed medicine. I was "better" than someone who needed medicine. Medicine had an aura of "crazy' to it, and I was not crazy, just depressed.
Finally, I agreed, after my mental image of what it would do to me was changed. I had ideas that it would make me "drugged up" (it didn't) and that I would become a zombie (it didn't). In fact, my entire life changed, I went to graduate school, started doing work I love, and while my life was far from perfect, I had no depression (or anxiety!!) for 12 years. Not bad.
So I know the reluctance to take medicine; I did it myself.
Why don't we start a sticky thread where people report their treatment plans and update it over time? Anyone want to do that? I'd like to see everyone here at least stop going in the direction that is going to make them suffer more --- analyzing the minutia of their unbalanced thoughts.
Those thoughts are WORTHLESS folks. Use the energy you apply to that analysis to find a very good psychopharmacologist or a regular psychiatrist.
Please forgive, if you can, the sheer length of this, but I really wanted to say it all.
Bottom line: You have a problem. You've been told the answer. Don't sit in the corner and gaze on the navel of your distorted, nightmarish thoughts. Your thoughts are aberrant; they are the product of a sick mind. To get your mind healed, you need medicine.