Well now I know I can't merely quit my SSRI. I woke up with a panic attack, a feeling of suffocation, of not getting enough oxygen. Is this what waterboarding feels like? I took a pill.
Anxiety attacks are also called panic attacks, and I see why. The feeling is one of panic. This is not the first time I have tried to go off the meds, and it is not the first time I have had an anxiety attack. I was half expecting one. However, I had forgotten just how terrible the feeling is, how it comes upon you so suddenly.
All of a sudden, I know what it feels like to be mad, to have the screaming heebie-jeebies. I'm not screaming, however. I might be, if I believed the attack would not end sometime soon.
I can see why someone might commit suicide, the feeling is that terrible. I, however, know that the feeling will pass, eventually. Nevertheless, I can empathize with those who feel suicidal. Mental anguish can be so terrible, so painful, that one might do anything to stop it. I am not there, so don't worry about me. No, I am not just whistling past the graveyard. However, I have had a glimpse of that anguish tonight. Walked a mile in those shoes. Had a look at those demons. Ugly little fuckers. I understand them better now.
I do not, however, feel in any way hostile to anyone or capable of violence. I want to make that clear right off the top. Whether on my meds or off, I am psychologically incapable of harming anyone. That much I know, that much I am sure of. I mention this only because of the false charges and misconceptions that are currently numerous against the effects of SSRI medications (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). The theory is that if you take SSRI's, they turn you into Adam Lanza. Or Jared Loughner. They don't. Those fellows were tormented by a different legion of demons, ones unknown to me. I have never had a glimpse of that tribe. Anxiety is not the same thing as psychopathic rage. A drowning person has no desire or purpose of harming others... he just wants to breathe.
I dare not lay down again tonight. Or so I feel at this moment.
I don't know how much of the attack is psychological and how much is organic, i.e. the result of an imbalance in my brain chemistry. The imbalance that some say does not exist, self-appointed experts like commenter OhReilly. Sure feels real OhReilly. I think it may partly be psychological -- I fear the feeling of panic so much that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is no doubt, however, that much of it is organic, the result of stopping my medication four days ago.
Feeling somewhat better now. Or am I?
Oh great, it seems I have two options: (1) to view life though a chemical haze, or (2) be tormented by anxiety attacks. I want a third option: to view life through a normal lens. No anxiety, no depression, no SSRI side effects. I don't know if option 3 is available to me anymore, but I intend to find out. I think I need more than my General Practitioner family doctor to guide me through this. It's time to find a specialist.
Updates: I googled "How to stop an anxiety attack." There is a lot of info on the web. One of the best bits of info is that anxiety attacks are fairly common. I learned that it is helpful to (1) cool the body down (stand in front of an air conditioner, open a window, etc) (2) take a walk (3) breathe into a paper bag. I did all these things and feel better. Another set of suggestions includes drinking a cup of Chamomile tea. Doing that now.
A couple of websites recommend keeping a journal or blogging as a coping mechanism. However, the best natural ways to treat depression and anxiety include (1) breathing exercises, (2) physical exercise and (3) sunlight. The latter has beneficial effects and the sites recommend a minimum of 15 minutes of sunlight per day. If you live in Seattle, you can get something called a light tunnel to take the place of natural sunlight.
One website explained the feeling of suffocation during a panic attack. It is a false feeling resulting from the misfiring of a "suffocation alarm mechanism" in the brain, making the patient feel that death is imminent. Other scientists dispute this theory, but I believe it, having just experienced it.
Well it's 3:24 AM, I think I'll try to get some sleep.
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