I Sometimes Have Panic Attacks Now

Hello fellow club members!

I just wanted to talk about a tough experience I'm having. I hope others can read about it and not feel alone with similar experiences.

I got my first pacemaker about 1 1/2 years ago, after suddenly beginning to wake up in the middle of the night feeling sick, only to pass out within a few minutes. This turned out to be due to vasovagal syncope with asystole, trigger unknown.

The first time it happened I thought it was just a fluke, maybe I was dehydrated or something. My partner and I were shaken by the event (he found me on the floor unresponsive in the bathroom), but we started to move on.

The second time however, was extremely traumatic for me. I passed out on our balcony and cracked my head open on the bricks there. When the EMTs came, I passed out again while they were asking questions. When I came to I could see an EMT standing over me with an ECG that showed a flatline. I believed in that moment that I was done for. I thought I would simply pass out again and never wake up. The EMTs rushed me to the hospital and I remember telling my partner I loved him as they wheeled me out the door to spend the night alone in the hospital, unsure if I'd ever see any of my loved ones again. It was during Covid so my partner could not come with me to the hospital.

Something about that experience frightened me so deeply that I developed general anxiety and crippling panic attacks. I was hospitalized for three months, not for my syncope, but for my anxiety. While I'm a cautious person, I've never dealt with full-blown anxiety and panic attacks before that moment.

During my time in the hospital, I had another syncope and my heart stopped this time for 15 seconds. I decided this was just too scary for me and decided to go for a pacemaker to try to correct the physical problem and hopefully help heal the mental issues stemming from it. The good news: the pacemaker worked! I have had episodes of pre-syncope since then, but I no longer lose consciousness, and I feel safer knowing that my heart will not randomly stop anymore.

I also was started on Sertraline to help my anxiety. Over time I was able to return to my normal self, no longer frightened by the sound of ambulances, for example. I still tended to have panic attacks when I felt an episode coming on though. Crying hysterically and saying I was scared and that I don't want to die.

More recently, there were two times that I experienced episodes and took them in stride. Just laid down and waited for the feeling to pass. No crying. Life had become normal again, and my partner and I even got married, which was wonderful!

But last night, I had a bit of a backslide. I caught a cold while on vacation, and felt fine the day before yesterday. I noticed a little sore throat before bed that evening. Then by last night I had developed a fever of 103 and my Apple Watch kept dinging because my resting heart rate had been over 110 for 10 minutes.

These episodes first started not long after I caught Covid, and I have it in my head that being ill with a bad virus may have started this whole thing. So now, when I catch something, I'm nervous I will have another episode triggered by my body fighting something off.

Last night during the fever I had an episode and I was absolutely beside myself thinking the fever and heart rate would get worse and that I would have to go to the hospital. I thought I may pass out since my heart was just racing full speed ahead, sitting around 130 bpm while lying down.

This is when I realized even though I did well with handling my previous episodes, I still have a lot of trauma to work through around the idea of needing to go to the hospital. To make matters worse, my husband was out shopping when this happened. I called him and he rushed home, but it just made me feel again like I would be taken away from him to die alone at the hospital.

I've had some therapy and learned techniques to try to calm myself down when having a panic attack, but sometimes I really just lose control, and this was one of those times. I hope I can learn to overcome the trauma of that initial experience, and learn how to accept that hospitals are a good place to be if you're in trouble, and that I will die one day, maybe when I don't expect it, maybe even alone, and that has to be okay.

It's easy for me to think about that logically when nothing is wrong, but in the moments where I believe I'm dying, I just lose my marbles. I try to tell myself it's okay and that I wouldn't feel anything, wouldn't even know what happened really. And for the sake of loved ones who are around I would much rather slip away gracefully than crying and frightened whenever the time does come.

But for now, it looks like I still have a lot of work to do in order to face moments like that in a better way. Any advice or wisdom y'all could give me to help me find some peace would be much appreciated. Thanks for reading!


You are not alone

by AletheiaO - 2023-12-23 23:21:58

I have gone through the same things and I 100% know how you feel. I have experience the same things you have described I went to talk to a mental health counselor and they sent me to a psychiatrist that prescribed a medication for Lexapro. I definitely recommend doing this. 

My Christian faith has also helped me and I will be praying for you 🙏

I am here if you ever need to talk. I also really enjoy singing too I take voice lessons. I'm also in choir called the Madrigals I'm going to be lettering this year. 


by Lavender - 2023-12-24 08:46:51

You most definitely are not alone! Anxiety and panic can certainly be brought on by the trauma you went through. Your body is just fine now but your brain got stuck in defense mode. 

The brain needs retraining to make your subconscious understand that you're safe now. Constantly reaffirming that will gradually smooth things over. I'm so proud of you for doing proactive steps to fight back!  Counseling and meds, meditation and exercise are all so very healing. 

You haven't posted for a year so it sounds like you're adapting to you pacemaker! Congratulations on your marriage! 🎊

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