I was feelin’ great before bed and fell asleep pretty easily with help of melatonin and likely because I was exhausted from only 6 hours of sleep the night before. I had taken the Citalopram at 10pm Saturday night. Here are the events of early Sunday morning:
* I wake up at 3am immediately feeling slightly panicky.
* thinking it will pass I lie awake in bed and concentrate on my breathing, trying to calm myself.
* get up to use the restroom thinking I’m just feeling restless. This helps a little, but I’m still afraid I’m going to start hallucinating (even though it’s never happened before) and I’m afraid of things that might jump out at me from the dark.
* I lie back down and the panic intensifies. My limbs are numb, especially my arms. I feel a cool sweat beginning to form, my heart is racing, and I can’t slow my breathing.
* getting up to move to the living room, I start to shake which leads me to wiggle my fingers quickly, wring my hands, rock back and forth, and talk to myself in an attempt to release the nervous energy
* I check the door to the apartment to make sure it’s locked.
* I’m imagining friends around me so I can talk to them. So they can help me calm down.
* I keep talking fervently only it’s more like a whisper because it’s late, I don’t want to wake up Dave, and I still have enough control to want to avoid embarrassing myself. I can’t go more than a few seconds without talking. The thoughts in my head are mostly coherent, but it might not sound like that if anyone were listening to my whispers. Mostly I’m saying, “ok, ok, ok” and “I can do this”.
* I can’t help but feel that I’ve become the crazy person on the bus.
* I’m shocked and terrified by how much drugs can affect my demeanor, thoughts, and personality.
* I’m afraid this will never work. I’m afraid I’ll be too afraid to try something different.
* I think about opening my laptop to look up how long I can expect this to last, but I can’t get myself to do it. I’m too distracted. I don’t feel capable.
* I’m extremely worried about having an attack at work. I can’t stop imagining it. Where would I go, how would I explain it?
* I completely understand what they mean when they ask if I ever feel like doing something “outrageous”. I have so little control over myself right now I’m afraid I’ve lost my filters that stop me from saying or doing things that are supposed to stay in my head. I’m thinking of things I might do. What if I have a panic attack at work and I get too hot and start to take off my clothes?
* if this gets any worse will I have to go to the emergency room? What can I do to stop it? I need to go online and research techniques.
* is this because I forgot to tell my dr. that I take ibuprofren a lot and I took some tonight? Maybe it’s from the drug interaction?
* I keep thinking this is not worth it. I never want to take these drugs again. What if my dr. tells me to keep taking them. What if I can’t get ahold of her and I have to take another dose tomorrow night because I’m not supposed to stop without checking with her first. I’m afraid I won’t be able to sleep Sunday night before I have to work the next day.
* Feeling very hungry. I know I have to eat because the adrenaline rush I’m having will make me sick if I run out of energy to burn. My stomach is feeling slightly naseous like when I get hypo-glycemic. Finally I get up for some cereal thinking that if I throw it up I’ll never want to eat Cheerios again.
* Terrified it will make me sick, I have to force myself to eat the cereal, but soon I’m able to finish it and surprisingly it seems to calm me down. Cheerios? A cure for a panic attack? Maybe it was just coincidence.
* This one lasted about 40 minutes from start to finish. It’s good to know they have an end, but that’s a long time. I wonder, can one get stuck in a panic attack that won’t go away on its own?
* Even after it’s over I check the door a couple more times to make sure it’s locked.
* 4:40am besides feeling a little sick to my stomach, I’m back to normal. Time to try sleeping again.
Feeling pretty good right now. I guess I can’t be sure that it’s completely over, but in the same way that it is a downward spiral, it feels right now as though it’s spiraling up. As a frame of reference, the spiral went like this: I panicked, realized I was panicking, started to panic about panicking, and then panicked that I was going to panic more about panicking. On the flip side, I’m pretty confident that it’s over because I just realized that I’m currently feeling pretty good and that makes me feel good about feeling good.
This has allowed me to remember those nights when I’d wake up feeling restless and wasn’t able to keep lying down. I’d sit up in bed or if they were really bad I’d have to get up and walk around. I didn’t think they were ever very severe, It’d usually pass in five minutes and then I’d fall right back to sleep. It didn’t occur to me that it might be yet another symptom and I should mention it to my dr.
Sunday morning, after another mere six hours of sleep, I call the resident psychiatrist on call at Stanford to ask if I can go off the Citalopram. She reassures me that the side-effects usually go away within a week and that it’s one of the best drugs out there for anxiety. I tell her I’m terrified of having a panic attack at work and I don’t know what I’d do. She says my dr. could prescribe me something to take if I feel one coming on, but I won’t be able to get ahold of my dr. until at least Monday. She talks me into taking it again, says I can take it in the morning instead so I can hopefully get some sleep, and tells me I can halve my dose until I talk to my dr., but she doesn’t recommend it as I wouldn’t be “on track”. I call my dr. to leave a voicemail explaining the previous conversation and ask her to touch base with me on Monday.
The rest of the day I spend recovering, shaky, tired, but not able to nap until finally late in the afternoon when I curl up with Dante and listening to him purr calms me enough to doze off for a bit. We have a party in the evening that I force myself to attend. I’m more socially awkward than normal, but I make it through and have a great time. It serves as a reminder that I’ve just got to get right back on the horse.