PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

 

Panic attack logbook

I am a bad logbook writer, for I failed to note the exact dates. Also, I wrote the following entries from memory, not right after each fact. I am also certain I have left out a few events, but the ones below are the most significant and memorable.

- Prior to having full-blown panic attacks, I had been suffered on and off, for years, from frightening palpitations, often from too much caffeine, dark chocolate, button mushroom, Chinese food (maybe due to the high MSG content), a certain food supplement that was touted to detoxify the body, and from certain bodily exertions at the wrong time, like when I had just eaten bread, pasta, or anything with flour.

- I was walking around Greenbelt 4 after lunch with Alfie when I experienced the worst palpitation I had ever. I thought I was about to die of heart attack. For lunch, I had Sprite and spaghetti at KFC, then I had brewed coffee and blueberry cheesecake at McCafe. I sweated profusely, trembled a bit, and had some difficulty breathing. I had to ask Alfie to buy me a bottle of cold mineral water. The attack appeared to be a severe case of over-stimulation due to caffeine combined with sugar rush. Minutes later, I felt weak, groggy, and hungry. We had to repair at the nearest place with rice and chicken: Wendy’s. I felt better, but I had difficulty breathing in my walk to an appointment that night.

- I had a full-blown panic attack at Moonwalk Church in Paranaque around 9:30 AM. I remember having a breakfast of leftover monggo beans and rice, plus a dessert of dried peanuts, which I suspect to be rotten. I feared dying suddenly and alone around total strangers. I asked for help from one of the women serving the priest, and she referred me to a volunteer doctor at the back of the church. The doctor took my BP, which was 150/80. She said maybe the maintenance medicine I was taking was inadequate. She never mentioned the possibility of panic attack. When I gathered enough strength to walk, I nervously braved the sun and luckily caught a taxi several meters outside the church. I took a pill of 50 mg metoprolol to calm me down, as the doctor recommended.

- I was supposed to meet my from Junrey at Inasal at Iba Pa restaurant after lunch at the corner of Merville Access Road, when I palpitated at the mere thought of walking under the sun at noon. It was not like the palpitations I usually have. It was tachycardic, or faster than normal. Nervously, I told Junrey to proceed to a nearby eatery instead. I remember having an overly sweet and sugary breakfast and lunch prior to this: syrupy taho, six pieces of longan fruit, and leftover rice and monggo beans. I panicked because of the thought of fainting in the heat and collapsing under the sun due to heat stroke. I took metoprolol.

- I was about to send my friend Marie and my high school classmate Melvin emergency cash of Php1,000 each at the nearby MLhuilier. I am not sure what I ate this time. My palpitations seemed to be due to the thought of losing money or maybe the thought of MLhuillier being attacked by goons with guns. On top of these fears is the fear that I would be making a fool of myself at this place while panicking, or I might not be able to make it as I walked my way home.

- Ironically, it was the celebration of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary during my community’s assembly at Kassel Condo near Vito Cruz cor. Taft, with a replica of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Mediatrix from Lipa City as our special ‘guest.’ I even touched the statue for healing, yet I was still attacked by irrational fear as lunch neared, because the thought of going home under the hot sun raced in my mind. For breakfast, I ate siopao from 7-11, which I learned is made of flour, not rice, three pieces of Calasiao sticky puto/ricecake, and three slices of guapple. Obviously, I feared collapsing while walking under the sun, even after hitching a ride with Kuya Rey and Ate Odette. This is where three people recognized what I was going through as panic attack because they had been through it, or at least someone they know did.

- I got dizzy after being seated the whole day in front of the speaker during a leadership conference in community. I panicked because it was so strange, for I felt okay the rest of the day. The panic symptoms refused to subside even after hitching a ride with Kuya Rey and Ate Odette. I had to call my brother Ronnie for help and, even though embarrassed, had to ask Kuya Rey to kindly drive me all the way to gate 3 of our village. I feared I wouldn’t be able to take the tricycle then walk the two hundred or so steps to my place.

- I chatted with former officemate A. about my situation, and I learned she shared my problem! I panicked at something she said which escapes me now.

- I had a similar chat with another officemate M., who, incredibly enough, also went through the same thing and even got confined to the ICU because of mitral valve prolapsed. Naturally I panicked at the mere thought of catching the same due to the high probability of it happening.

- I emailed a doctor about my problem, and her response scared me to death. After giving an advice on how to relax (“Be seated and drink one glass of cold water”), she told me to see a cardiologist. I know this is ridiculous, but the mere thought sent me to breathless panic.

- I couldn’t watch the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close straight through because I found the hysterics literally breathtaking. I had to take a pause in between palpitations. The memory of the unmentionable horrors of 911 was just too much.

- I survived Joan Didion’s detailed memoir of her husband’s death, but not without palpitating upon paragraphs that vividly describes the heart attack. I had to face my fear in this case, and I think I won to a significant extent.

- In comparison, I couldn’t bear watching the TV series Deadliest Catch episode featuring Josh’s and Jake’s father figuring in a stroke and dying at the hospital. That was so terrible, for it reminded me of my friend Malou dying of aneurysm. To this day, I can’t muster the strength to see that episode. Okay, I lost.

- During the high school reunion back home, I palpitated under the sun after some 30 minutes, then I felt faint. Luckily, help was on hand. I took refuge in an alumni’s air-conditioned car, and a classmate handed me a bottle of water, restoring my sense of (false?) security.

- When I reviewed my friend Weng’s paper after she asked for help, I felt suddenly tired even when I hadn’t done anything yet. I think I had a sudden fear of losing the ability to work and dying from hypertension.

- Was all this a result of nicotine withdrawal? Side effects of maintenance drugs? Effect of vitamin+mineral supplement I was taking? Nutrient deficiency? Stress due to recent events? Past traumas and unresolved issues? I don’t know. What I know is that I can’t stand palpitations and fast/racing pulse/heartbeat! Maybe I just can't accept the truth that I am hypertensive, and these are all symptoms of hypertension that I will have to learn to live with or at least manage.

- At least three Facebook notifications sent me to panic hell, with one incident so bad it stretched to maybe more than an hour. I thought I’d die that I had to take metoprolol again. It’s maybe about the fear of being found out or being rejected for expressing the real me. In one case, it was clearly exacerbated by what I just ate: decaf coffee but with sugar, two pieces of raw plantains, one whole Tagaytay pineapple, rice and lots of okra boiled in leftover monggo beans.

- I was again attacked by panic at MLhuillier as I was sending money to my mother at home, but this one is strange: I panicked even after dieting by reducing my rice consumption and eliminating coffee and sugar. The questions that raced through my mind were: What if I collapse alone and don’t make it home? How much money I have left? After several months, I realized the fear could be springing from this then unconscious thought: What if robbers attacked this place? I surely would die in a cold-blooded exchange of gunshots.

- While hearing Mass at our parish in Kalayaan Village, I had palpitations and, strangely, tremor. I thought of dying suddenly and alone at night, and all my siblings were out of town. Would someone rescue me, just in case?

- I was one of the emcees during our high school reunion back in the old hometown. Minutes before starting, I was palpitating and, according to witnesses, looked pale. In other words, I got so nervous about speaking in front of all those people whom I knew and who knew me well. One alumna who’s a doctor gave me a tablet of metoprolol. This was my first time to take this drug, although I’ve read about it several times in my online research.

- I was reading Dr. William Douglass’ newsletter regarding the danger of hypertensive medicines and chlorine in drinking water. I couldn’t take what he’s taking, because I felt like I was about to have a heart attack from having drank all that chlorinated water for decades.

- Now this is really the worst of all: I panicked big-time while reading The Anxiety Disease: New Hope for the Millions Who Suffer from Anxiety, Dr. David V. Sheehan’s book on anxiety, because I stumbled into a page discussing the mortality rate of anxiety patients with mitral valve prolapsed. I don’t know how I was able to lull myself to sleep without taking anything while my heartbeat refused to go back to normal. The trouble is the next morning, I would wake up to my heart thumping after remembering my last thought: I could die from mitral valve prolapsed right about now. What saved me were the videos from YouTube which offer ways and means of managing panic attacks, including qi gong or belly breathing and avoiding certain diet. This is where I discovered a book that somewhat ended the terrifying kind of attacks. Barry Joseph (or Joe Barry) McDonagh’s Panic Away Program is the one that advises me to face my fears once and for all, by inviting my body to exhibit more panic right in the middle of a really nasty attack.


- Okay, the truth is there's really something worse than the above. It's when our area in Pasay was hit by a major fire. It was round 6 PM, when a girl in the neighboring house told her grandmother in an alarmed voice that there was fire nearby. I went out of the house to check with the grandmother, and in an even more alarming voice, said, "Yes, there's fire, and it's near Tambunting," which meant the fire was right in the block! What would a guy going through panic episodes do but tremble in panic? I scrounged around for a change of clothes, nervously located my wallet, and that's it -- I planned to run to the church where I thought it might be safer. While trembling and catching my breath, I checked the house one last time to make sure I wasn't cooking anything or no faucet was open. I locked the house and was about to flee when the woman who lived in front of house learned of the fire by this time. She rapped my gate hysterically and yelled, "Anybody here?! Call the fire station! Anybody!" I answered her, what's the phone number, and she yelled even louder, at the top of her voice: "I DON'T KNOOOOOOOW!!! I told her I would run to the barangay hall. While racing to the barangay hall, which is right beside church, I saw two little girls sobbing while carrying a box each of their house-clothes to safety. This intensified my nervousness. But what set me really panicking was my neighboring woman named Odette. When I came across her down the road, I asked her, "Is the fire near?" She said in a maniacal, high-pitched voice: "YES, CAN'T YOU SEE IT? LOOK!" pointing to the heavens above. Verily, I looked and true enough, the fire was visible from afar and it seemed to be reaching up to heaven. My heart must be thumping like crazy by this time. I don't know how I mustered enough strength, but I made it to the church somehow. It must be the adrenaline. But a few meters to the church, my heart was racing too fast, probably faster than my worst case, and the pounding wouldn't let up for an hour or so, right through the entire length of the ongoing mass. Oh, I can't remember what or how I prayed, but I prayed hard. I am sure I also complained, asking to know why God would humor me with this when he knew I was in the middle of dealing with my anxiety issues. I also remember creating a little scene while the mass was going on: I constantly asked the guy who's leg was amputated and who was seating on a wheelchair behind me whether the fire would reach our place, our village. I couldn't understand how he could stay calm and composed through it all. Meanwhile, some survivors started pouring into the church entrance ground; of course, their mere presence was not a comforting sight to me. At the end of the mass, I had to ask one of the lady servers for a cup of cold water because, I told her, I need to take my medicine (metoprolol) to slow my heartbeat. She obliged, while visibly absorbing the tension from me. I'm not sure how I survived after, but I did, and strangely, it made me realize that my heart could take such a hit.

An hour after of spirited texting everyone I know who could rescue me from this hell, I would learn from another neighbor that the fire was actually razing the informal settlement in the opposite side of the road, not on our side. The fire, it turned out, never crossed our side of the street, because it was under control when speeding firetrucks doused it. Among the establishments lining that side of the road  where hundreds of houses turned to ashes, only one was eaten up by fire. Ah, women.

It was already 12 midnight, yet I still couldn't sleep. I could smell a trace of the smoke, and fine ash particles floated in the air outside. To help me get to sleep, I took a tablet of diphenhydramine HCl 50 mg. Honestly, I was expecting to die, but luckily I am still here.

EMCI check claim and encashment
On the way to Cebuana with Robert
After having a breakfast of breaded chicken with my assigned photographer on the way to the Makati hotel office of The Farm at San Benito
While negotiating a steep incline at The Farm at San Benito (I backed out.)
Going to my boss’s house in Merville to proofread an issue of his magazine (I backed out.)
Going to the same to claim my pay (I backed out.)
Going to RCBC Makati via taxi to claim my check (I backed out.)
Second attempt on the above with Ronnie on a taxi.

(To be updated)

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