I cant remember my panic attacks

Posted by flamecharley @flamecharley, Sun, Sep 29 7:22pm

If I have a panic attack, it will last seconds to minutes. I really should begin with the fact that I don't even know if it is a panic attack. My symptoms range from sudden overwhelming fear (and some other feelings I can't seem to pinpoint), hyperventilating and uncontrolled crying to silent crying, a sense of doom, loss and uselessness, and shaking. However, after the attack is over, I can't seem to remember anything more than who I was with, where I was, that I had an attack, and I can recall the moment of the overwhelming fear and the feeling like I've just been slammed into a wall. It's almost like my brain freezes or blacks out and I can't remember any other feelings (thoughts especially) that I had. Is this normal? The "attacks" happen a few times a day, almost every single day. Sometimes they are triggered by something mildly uncomfortable, other times it is just out of the blue. For some background, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, ARFID (another eating disorder), a food phobia, major depression disorder, sever social anxiety disorder, and major anxiety (separate from the social anxiety). Has anyone else had this problem?

Liked by Leonard

Hi @flamecharley and welcome to Connect. That must be so confusing.

@jt5369 and @jenniferhunter may be be able to offer you support and share their experiences.

Back to you @flamecharley, have you mentioned this to your doctor?

Liked by Leonard

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Hi @flamecharley. I have found that keeping a daily journal is helpful to me. When I have a panic attack or backflash I write it down and then try to remember what was happening five minutes prior to it. My Psychologist advised me to do this. Our regular weekly sessions are very helpful. Have you shared this information with a Doctor? Take good care of you.

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@ethanmcconkey

Hi @flamecharley and welcome to Connect. That must be so confusing.

@jt5369 and @jenniferhunter may be be able to offer you support and share their experiences.

Back to you @flamecharley, have you mentioned this to your doctor?

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No, I have tried therapy but quit the first time when she started to set me up at a residential program in the cities for an eating disorder treatment. I went to a second therapist at a hospital the next time but quit again when she threatened to have me make a phone call to order a pizza and take me to the cafeteria. Talking does not help me, especially talking to a stranger. I finally switched to Mayo and found this and thought I could find some answers or someone who is going through something similar.

Liked by Leonard

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Hi, @flamecharley – I'd also like to invite into this conversation @retiredteacher @abopp2022 @rubywitch67 @mandrake70, all of whom have mentioned panic attacks. @jakedduck1 also may have some thoughts for you. They may have some insights from their experiences to help you distinguish whether these are panic attacks you are having. Hoping they also may have some thoughts on the fact that you don't recall everything about them and feel like your brain almost freezes or blacks out.

While awaiting these members to join the discussion, flamecharley, you may be interested in reading this Mayo Clinic information on panic attacks https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021.

Do you feel safe with having these episodes?

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@flamecharley I have had a few panic attacks in the last few months but nothing like what you have described. That sounds truly horrendous. The fact that you aren't able to remember much about them makes me wonder if it is something other than a panic attack. I would definitely talk to your doctor about this. My heart goes out to you.

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@flamecharley If you are persistent, you can find the triggers and the reasons behind them for your panic attacks. I had them too, and I felt like a train was coming and I was stuck on the railroad tracks and could not escape. I felt exactly like you describe, and my sense of doom was the realization that I really had an injury that would require spine surgery, and I had always been afraid of pain that was related to medical and dental procedures and the doctor or dentist who would do this. I had seen several surgeons about a spine problem with a herniated disc, but when I was told that I had significant spinal cord compression and needed surgery by a high pressure doctor who wouldn't stay and answer questions, it started my sense of doom and a queesy feeling every time I thought about it. I had a whiplash twenty years earlier, and thought for years that I would be OK even though I always had some neck pain and I just lived with it, but here it was now, slapping me in the face and there was no escape from that reality. I've wondered if I would have had the same reaction if the news had been delivered by a compassionate doctor.

The arrogance and pressure was a definite trigger for me because I grew up with bullies that I couldn't escape, and the threats had created a fear of pain in my childhood. Then when you add real medical people into that thinking, in my mind it wasn't much different than being bullied and it came with unpredictability and the fear of a new problem being discovered that I would need to endure. I had always feared getting physically hurt and injured, and now as a adult, that was the cold reality I faced, and I had an injury that could get worse, cause disability, and increase the risk of paralylsis if nothing was done to stabilize my spine. Also, I was loosing the ability to hold my arms up and control their movement, and I had lost about 50% of my muscle mass in my upper arms and shoulders. I am an artist and was loosing the ability to do my art work. Of the 5 spine surgeons who saw me, this one was the only one offering surgery, but he rescinded that offer when he didn't understand my symptoms. I had physical pain everywhere in my body and in my legs and feet that was caused from spinal cord compression in my neck. This doctor told me to go to a rehab doctor, and fix the leg pain, then I could come back for spine surgery. Of course this was impossible since the spinal cord was causing the leg pain, and only spine surgery could decompress that. I did seek a 6th opinion at Mayo, and had very successful surgery that gave me back my life and art ability with a little rehab on my part. I was able to go into that surgery calmly and fully onboard believing in a successful outcome and I left my fears behind. I was a little nervous the night before, but was not having panic attacks anymore. I had resolved all of that by understanding and working through my fears.

What I learned from all of this is that I was thinking like a 5 year old. Babies are not born with irrational fears. All of that is learned from our experiences in living and the traumas we endure. The good news is that we can unlearn the reactions to the fears when we find their sources. When I realized I had had a serious injury that was causing my spine problems because my vehicle was struck from behind, it triggered the panic attacks. I had a lot of work to do in overcoming my feelings and beliefs. I wrote down the significant events in my life and started looking for a pattern of things that triggered fears. What emerged for me was a pattern of negative events and never being safe no matter how hard I tried to avoid bad things, and there were some traumatic events linked to vehicles. When I uncovered the links between the traumatic memories of my past and my anxiety about facing major surgery, I was able to comfort myself and heal some of those childhood wounds, and to make an informed decision about the surgery that would change my life. In doing all of this, I overcame my fears and fear no longer controls my thinking.

Phobias are just labels that makes it easy to describe something. Your life is much more than that and is a complex web of your life experiences both good and bad that have shaped you into the person that you are. Our brains are hard wired to remember the trauma and stressful events because of our survival instincts, and knowing that helps to minimize the stress of the bad memories. It seems from your posts that just talking with a therapist is stressful for you and that it is hard to be able to trust someone to help. If you find the right therapist, like a psychologist who does cognitive behavior therapy, they may be able to help. I did that to make sure I was on the right track about my surgical fears, and it confirmed that I had worked through my issues. Being an artist certainly helps, as art is very healing. Music works well too. I could recommend a book by Dr. Sood from Mayo about building resilience "The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress Free Living". He has a second book which is a workbook type to work on your beliefs about your life. I didn't have this when I was confronting my fears, but the books explained why my methods worked for me. Hopefully you'll get some ideas from all of this. Here is the link and my patient story.
https://marketplace.mayoclinic.com/shop/healthy-lifestyle/book/mayo-clinic-resilient-living-combo_752700
https://sharing.mayoclinic.org/2019/01/09/using-the-art-of-medicine-to-overcome-fear-of-surgery/

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Dear Flamecharley. …..As someone who has had Panic Disorder for YEARS and have experienced, literally, hundreds of full on panic attacks, the first thing I want to tell you is that I completely understand how terrifying these are and living with the constant anticipatory anxiety of it happening again is a living hell.

During every single one of my attacks, I absolutely believed I was going to have a heart attack and die. Or, if the heart attack didn't kill me, I would end up in a mental hospital, in a locked room, trapped forever in this horrifying nightmare.

The best news I can give you is that even after experiencing hundreds of these…….I AM STILL HERE! I have NOT had a heart attack nor am I living in a "home for the bewildered." But even better news is that I found a doctor who understood Panic Disorder and did not dismiss me as a "Nervous Nellie," or an "Anxious Annie." For those of us who suffer with anxiety and panic, this is probably THE most important step towards our "recovery." The second step was finding a good therapist (I'm partial to therapists who practice CBT…..Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) who also has a great deal of experience with these disorders. In our favor, and sadly, at the expense of many other people, most visibly our returning military, the recognition and acceptance among doctors and therapists of PTSD has brought deeper understanding, and compassion, to ALL of us with various anxiety and panic issues.

When you were giving us some personal background, you mentioned that you've been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, ARFID (another eating disorder), and a food phobia. (Please understand that I am NOT a doctor or psychologist) I have no personal experience with any of these disorders and have a very limited understanding of their root cause, but I do believe anxiety is part of their equation. You also state that you've been diagnosed with a "major depressive disorder," as well as "sever social anxiety disorder, and major anxiety."

Any ONE of these disorders can take a great deal of intestinal fortitude to deal with, but you are carrying around a load that would break the backs of most of us. You did the right thing by seeking therapy, but your description of the therapists you saw………most especially the one who "threatened to make you order a pizza" in my opinion, should be reported to the proper authorities as bordering on abuse! I don't know what kind of therapy that person was practicing, it sounds like aversion therapy to me, but those people really need to know what the hell they are doing. I don't know how many times you saw this therapist, but I'm glad you dumped her!

I feel like I'm getting off the track here, as your original question/concern was wondering if what you are experiencing is EVEN PANIC. Have you actually been diagnosed by a doctor? There are many variations to a panic attack. Some us get all of them and some people only get a few. And the list I'm going to post here does not include everything a person having a panic attack CAN feel, but these are the most common.

Sense of impending doom…..this is usually the fear of having a heart attack, a stroke or death
Fear of loss of control or that you're "going crazy"
Rapid, pounding heart rate……you can often feel your heart pounding in your carotid arteries
Sweating and chills……You can feel one or the other or both at the same time, such as your head sweating, but your hands are cold, or you can feel very hot one minute and very cold the next. Hot flashes are common as well…..intense heat and sweating that comes and go.
Trembling or shaking…..sometimes you can't SEE the shaking or trembling, it feels like it's happening internally
Shortness of breath and tightness in your throat
Chest pain
Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness…this is almost always caused by hyperventilation
Numbness or tingling sensation…..this is also a common symptom of hyperseptation
Feelings of unreality or detachment, also called disassociation…….this is one of the most frightening symptoms. "Things" just don't feel real or right or normal, you feel a horrible disconnect from your own body, your thoughts and feelings, your surroundings….things that are familiar suddenly seem strange. It's difficult to explain this sensation unless you've experienced it yourself. But it's VERY frightening and ramps up the panic.
Headache

I would like to stress that hyperventilation can cause more of these symptoms then I've "marked." Hyperventilation occurs when our normal breathing pattern is thrown out of balance. When we breath, we take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. During a panic attack, we tend to breath rapidly, taking very shallow breaths. This means we are not taking in enough oxygen and not ridding our bodies of enough carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide builds up, this is what causes us to feel lightheaded, dizzy, short of breath, our lips and fingers to tingle and a number of other unpleasant sensations.

There is an easy "cure" for hyperventilation which will stop many of these horrible sensations VERY quickly and while I say it is "easy," which it is, it's NOT easy when you're having a full on panic attack. But once you have proven to yourself that this simple method really DOES work, it becomes easier if you have another attack. This method is breathing into a paper bag. A lunch size bag works best, or a smaller one if you happen to have one. Place the bag firmly over your nose and mouth and breath as slowly and deeply as you can for 10-15 breaths. You will know when you are breathing "correctly" as the bag will sort of crumble when you inhale and expand when you exhale. What you are doing is called "re-breathing" and it will restore the natural balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide In your bloodstream. You will know it's working when you realize many of your symptoms are slowing down or stopping and you are feeling calmer. I'm not saying this will completely stop your panic attack, but it WILL put the brakes on your chaotic, frightening symptoms and will help you begin to think more rationally. You will, perhaps, for the first time in 5 or 10 minutes think "I'm just having a horrible panic attack, I'm NOT going to die!" and once you've had THAT thought, your more than half way home! When you notice your symptoms slowly stopping, a sense of calm takes over, more like an intense sense of relief. I also would like to stress that at this point, it is very important to "self-talk" in a positive way. This is also not as easy as it sounds, just like putting a paper bag over your face while you're having a major panic attack is not easy………but when the benefits outweigh the "risks," or the "fear," it's worth it. Self-talk, for me, when I was first learning this technique, was to learn about hyperventilation and all the ways it can affect our body. As I grew calmer, I would tell myself the reason I got lightheaded and dizzy and weird was not a brain tumor or me going crazy, it was the imbalance of oxygen/dioxide. My lips and fingers tingled and felt numb for exactly the same reason…….once you understand the symptoms of a panic attack and what causes them, and have a paper bag with you at all times, you have everything you need to bring yourself back from the edge. It can take some practice, and you can practice when you're not having an attack. (Don't breath into the bag too long……if your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels are normal, breathing in "extra" carbon dioxide can make you feel dizzy and odd.) Just get comfortable in how to hold the bag over both your mouth and nose, and practice inflating and deflating the bag a few times, then put it away.

I do apologize, Flamecharley. I was a "community leader" on a different site for 10 years in the Anxiety Forum. I think I'm trying to give you too much advice all at once.

I would definitely suggest another sit down with your doctor and discuss each of your issues and how he/she is going to help you deal with them. It sounds like you were sort of "thrown to the wolves" and have been trying to figure all this out on your own. It does sound like you need someone to help you take each of these issues and make sense of how they can all be related. Your food issues cause anxiety, your anxiety issues exacerbate the food issues, increased anxiety can cause depression just as depression can cause eating disorders and anxiety. It's a can of worms for sure, but it's ALL fixable. You need to find the right therapist for you and trust me, this can be a real process. It's like kissing a boatload of frogs to find the prince. The key is not to give up. I saw 7 therapists in a 2 month period before I finally hit on the one I knew was right for ME. And I understand what you mean about it being difficult to talk to a "stranger" about really personal stuff. But……once you find the right therapist and spend a few sessions just getting to know each other, then they aren't strangers any more. It's much easier when you're talking to a friend.

All of us on this forum can give you support and advice and share our experiences and that is really important and it does help. But the reality is that we can't give you the same help as your doctor or a professional therapist, and those are the people who can and will get you better.

If you've managed to read this far into my rant, I hope you'll give your doctor and therapy a second chance. You SO deserve to feel better. And again, I apologize for this epic tome. I'm either a frustrated writer or, God forbid, just someone who loves to hear themselves talk.

NEVER GIVE UP ON YOURSELF!
Ruby

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@flamecharley

No, I have tried therapy but quit the first time when she started to set me up at a residential program in the cities for an eating disorder treatment. I went to a second therapist at a hospital the next time but quit again when she threatened to have me make a phone call to order a pizza and take me to the cafeteria. Talking does not help me, especially talking to a stranger. I finally switched to Mayo and found this and thought I could find some answers or someone who is going through something similar.

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@flamecharley
Although a long shot the possibility exists they aren’t Panic Attacks. They might be Focal Seizures. You might want to ask for a referral to a Neurologist. However it is difficult at best to differentiate between the two. It may take an Epileptologist
Have you seen a Neurologist or had an EEG?
Do you ache or feel sore after one of these episodes or have a headache before or after? Are you tired, confused or do you sleep afterwards?
Wishing you the best,
Jake

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