Fucking Panic Attacks

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I tried everything I could think of to get my breathing under control. I used breathing techniques I learned from meditation apps (who claimed the techniques were the same ones SEALS operatives use when under fire.) I tried telling myself everything was OK. I imagined the doctor telling me everything was OK. I told myself, fuck it- worse thing that could happen is that you die, and you gotta die one day anyway. Somehow even that nihilistic reasoning did nothing to calm me. My husband couldn’t calm me. Doctor’s couldn’t calm me. Even the nurse telling me to think of cute puppies couldn’t calm me down.

And puppies are fucking adorable.

I recognized the sensation immediately because I’ve had a panic attack once before. OK, three times before, but all for the same thing- trying to Scuba Dive. My brain is not OK with lowing myself into the watery grave knowing that I’m a C-student and who only got a quick once over on how my equipment works; which is not what you want in an emergency scenario where you have seconds to make the right decisions or else your lungs will explode. My dumb 20-something-year-old brain would’ve happily dived into the abyss; blissfully ignorant of all the worst-case scenarios while I swam with sea turtles, explored shipwrecks and searched for Ariel’s hidden cave of dinglehoppers and thingamabobs.

But I didn’t try scuba diving at 20. I tried it at 30.

And I know too much at 30. As I lowered myself down, feeling the water encase my entire body one inch at a time, all my brain thought about was what if something happens? How am I going to react when my breathing tube gets pulled out by a rambunctious otter or my goggles fog up and I can’t see shit or my tank suddenly springs a leak and I don’t have time to think- what am I going to do then? Am I going to pause and think, okay, what did the instructor tell me? Step one was…. NO! I will just REACT. And that’s okay when you are an expert scuba diver or just a generally smarter person than I who remembers shit easily. Those people will be fine, they can use their gut instinct to guide them through because their brain knows the info at a subconscious level. But I need something explained to me FIFTY times before the concept is stored in my memory’s permanent files. Otherwise, all other input I take in is like the info has been written on a note to Inspector Gadget- and self-destructs as soon as I read it.

Storage for my short term memory is basically just a shredder.

It also doesn’t help that I have flawed coping mechanisms. Actually, flawed is being kind. Insane, I have an insane person’s coping mechanisms. I’m the type of person who stands on a cliff and is scared because I have to fight the impulse to jump off. It’s how my brain copes with the idea of falling off. Somehow it rationalizes by thinking- fuck it, if this is how we are going to die, let’s get this shit over with. And then I have to tell my brain- NO! You fucking idiot. I can’t believe I’m stuck with you. So, I’m certain that in an emergency scenario, among my ocean friends, my gut reaction will be to flail around and pull out mine – and everyone else who happens to be around me – tubes out.

So when the doctor told me that my potassium was high, and it was high on three different tests, and on the third test it was so high that we might have to consider dialysis, I broke. High Potassium can mean a lot of things and none of them are good, so the google machine told me. Kidney failure, type 1 diabetes, hormone disorders- all no bueno.

It wasn’t just that though. I felt the crushing weight of everything. My husband has been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, polycythemia vera, that has a 14 year life expectancy. But they can’t seem to prove he has it, they just have a sneaking suspicion he has it. A sneaking suspicion that he has a rare version of a rare blood cancer that they can’t prove. So what are the chances that two 30-something-year-olds who 1.5 years ago were healthy young bucks, but now both have major unexplained medical problems? Pretty fucking low I would say.

But if both of our healths are in decline, it must be something in this house we just happened to move into 1.5 years ago, right? The house that had a major leak when we first moved in that spanned three rooms and went on for days. A leak that our cheap landlords didn’t remove any insulation from, but cut some holes in the floor and simply air dried it. Not to mention the color of the water we drink from the faucet is opaque. And did I mention the landlords are cheap? Old Germans who believe all house maintenance is a DIY project.

So now we have to move.

Oh, and let’s not forget this is all happening with the backdrop of a fucking pandemic.

Driving to the store to buy food for my terrible low potassium diet I started thinking about it all- how we have to move and why did we stay so long in a house we knew was probably growing a forest of mold and how do we survive if we both have medical issues and can no longer work? And now I have to go to the hospital for a bunch of test where a bunch of corona zombies are roaming the halls.

My hands and feet started to sweat, and then went numb.

My vision started to go.

An ape sat on my chest.

And then I couldn’t breathe.

There was no air.

I made it back home, ran to the backyard where my amazing hubby was gardening and bawled my eyes out. With my mascara running down my cheeks I blubbered, “I can’t breathe!”

And in the stoic way he does everything, he simply told me to ‘get in the car’.

We drove to the ER where they performed a series of tests. And you know what they found?

My potassium was LOW.

FUCKING LOW.

Doc said oopsies, sorry, we were wrong.

My bad.

Fucking Christ.

Apparently, potassium tests commonly pop falsely hot. Doc said he was confident my past three tests were wrong and I was fine and should go eat a banana. His argument was that false HIGH positives are common and false LOW positives are uncommon, so all is good, or some bullshit like that.

Oh, and my husband got a call from his doc who now strongly suspects he has Hemochromatosis, which isn’t good news, but isn’t bad. It has a totally normal life expectancy rate and doesn’t end in his bone marrow shitting the bed and the disorder transforming into leukemia.

So, long story short- fuck pandemic panic attacks.

Also, science is hard.

Also, never go scuba diving with me.

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