Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Panic Attack

I have never had a panic attack. In fact, I have sort of scoffed at the idea of panic attacks. Mostly because they seem utterly counterproductive. I am far too rational to have a panic attack.

I like to think of myself as rational and resourceful and even though I know that I jump to conclusions and imagine worst-case scenarios like I am an accident-probability consultant, I tell myself that it is all part of having a brain that has been trained to read closely and analyze things. I image worst-cases so I can be prepared.

I have always believed that I was a mind over matter kind of person (perhaps with the exception of those challenges on Survivor where they have to eat something disgusting because gross things do make me dry heave). I don't think I am likely to just lose it; I am more likely to brainstorm a slew of possible solutions even if I am ruling them out as I go. I've just always assumed that I would be able to handle crises with some level of logic and strategy.

This theory does not apply, however, to "crises" that involve me getting stuck with needles.

I should say that my blood work today went fine. It was painless even -- the tech who did it was really really good and I barely felt a thing.

But that makes no difference.

It's not the pain that bothers me. When I first explained my needle issue to the nurse, she made note of it on my chart ("Patient is high-anxiety.") and she assured me they would numb the area before inserting the IV.

But the "ouch" of the IV is the smallest part of my issue. It's just the idea of something in my veins. Something foreign and invasive. It makes me feel sick and small and out of control and I really really hate it. I hate it so much it makes my stomach hurt and it makes my head feel light and it makes me uncomfortably aware of my breathing becoming sort of frantic and that's just from thinking about it as I type this.

So the nurse was very nice and understanding as I tried to explain all this. I told her about the wisdom teeth mishap and I was explaining that since I can't eat all morning and my surgery isn't until 1:15pm and I am going to have to have a conversation with the anesthesiologist that morning to determine whether I will be under general anesthesia or just have an "arm-block" and be awake except for the arm... basically I'm afraid that the anesthesiologist will say something about needles or blood or whatever and I will just faint during that conversation.

Which seems ridiculous and I (logically and rationally) understand that. But there is nothing logical or rational about the way I feel when the nurse is telling me in a very matter of fact voice that if I am under general anesthesia they will put me on a ventilator. "You know, to help you breathe."

Yes, I know what a ventilator is for, I am staring at you like this because I am trying not to hyperventilate.

So now I totally get how panic attacks happen. You suddenly feel light headed, you know that you need to take slow deep breaths and instead you start gulping air to keep from passing out and presto! Hyperventilating like an idiot.

I don't want that to be me.

So I told the nurse that the doctor who took out my wisdom teeth prescribed me an anti-anxiety pill to take the day of the surgery and I asked her if she thought I should get a prescription this time also.

She raised her eyebrows and nodded enthusiastically.

"Those medicines are good stuff. Definitely call and get that."

So now instead of being a rational person who can stay cool in a crisis, I'm on Xanax.

I can't wait for this scar to be removed.

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