Anatomy of an Anxiety Attack


I am not sure what to write about. But this is not a first. At times when I know I want to write about something, I’m purely and completely blocked. And I am sort of stuck. Plus, for reasons I don’t know and can’t really understand I am having an anxiety attack.

Trying to describe what an anxiety attack feels like, on one hand, is easy. On the other, it can be tricky, because anxiety attacks look like many things. Many people who have them curl up into a ball and don’t want to be talked to, touched, or disturbed in anyway by anyone. Others have symptoms that mimic a heart attack: chest pain, shortness of breath, cool, clammy skin, nausea, etc. Mine don’t look like either of those. And I haven’t had one for a long time, so this is like a visit from an unwelcome acquaintance.

My initial sign of an impending attack is the feeling that best can be described as having the wind knocked out of me by a kick in the stomach followed by having acid poured down my throat. That is usually followed by nausea with these sensation of big, nasty birds flying around and crashing into the walls of my abdomen. And unless it can be somehow controlled, the sensation generally won’t go away quietly. It sticks around and will either fester or get bigger. Like it did today.

One of the other things that happens, and it is usually something that I can never shake when it does, is a huge dose of fatigue. I am experiencing that as I write this. Being tired is part of my life most of the time anyway, but when I’m dealing with the issues surrounding this, I deal with what is essentially a force multiplier. That makes the overall experience so much worse. And it is just plain unpleasant when it occurs.

I currently take medication to manage this. Buproprion XL, more commonly known as Wellbutrin. 300 milligrams each day. Most of the time it works. But there are those rare times when it doesn’t. It’s on those days, which I can in no way predict, that I have a hard time. And I have been dealing with this for the better part of the past two days.

One of the things that I personally don’t experience, mainly because I don’t share this about myself, is the stigma that many people experience as a result of being diagnosed with a mental illness. I have been dealing with it for nearly 16 years. Most of the time I’m successful. And I have help if I need it for those prolonged periods of trouble. I am not suicidal. I don’t self-medicate. And I find ways to work through the times I have difficulty. Mostly I read, and I write, and I pray. Sometimes I work out extra hard. All of those activities really help. But sometimes I have a harder time coping than others. And for some reason this has been one of those times.

I had to think about what could have triggered this episode, and I have an idea what the trigger was. Yesterday I watched an episode of the PBS series “Frontline” originally broadcast a little over a year ago that centered around the changes in the Catholic Church when Pope Benedict resigned and Pope Francis was elected. Many of the problems surrounding the church were discussed, like the issues surrounding the Vatican Bank and money laundering, the Legionaries of Christ and their founder, and the ultimate issues surrounding the sex abuse scandal. I have to suspect that it played a part in this episode occurring. I don’t know how else it could have been launched simply because I was okay the day before.

Talking about this is risky; it is a side of myself that I don’t generally share. But doing so was worth the risk because it was somewhat therapeutic. Now all I need to do is survive the overnight.

Anatomy of an Anxiety Attack

3 thoughts on “Anatomy of an Anxiety Attack

  1. Sherry Sullivan says:

    Walt, I admire your honesty and wish you every success in managing this part of your life. By sharing this, you may not only find some relief for yourself but others as well.


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