Four ER visits. Two by ambulance. All four times I was convinced I was having a heart attack.
The sensations came without warning: the heat that permeated my insides; intestinal spasms that paralyzed me; a racing, pounding heart; nausea; dizziness; crushing chest pain. Then, one by one, my senses would shut down. I couldn’t feel my fingers. Noises were muffled and obscured. My head spun and vision darkened. All of these culminated with the very real feeling that I was slipping away and was going to die.
After a slew of cardiac tests came up negative, one ER doctor asked “do you suffer from anxiety?” My answer? No! Of course not! My life has never been better!
The attacks started coming with more frequency and intensity. In the middle of the night. During playdates. While having supper.
I felt I was endangering my son’s life and the lives of others. I stopped going out. I stopped getting out of bed. I was terrified of being left alone.
When every medical test came up negative my husband recalled the question from the last ER visit:
“Do you suffer from anxiety?”
So, one day after dropping our son off at school, my husband bundled me up and brought me to the hospital that changed my life: CAMH. The diagnosis: Severe Panic Disorder caused by untreated Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I was struck by two things upon being treated for this disorder: one, the staff – from receptionist to physician – are incredibly calm. Two, all staff members have a kindness that permeates everything they do. There are no jerks at this hospital.
My initial shame at being treated at a mental health facility has turned into gratitude and pride. If I had known even one person who turned to them for help, I would not have hidden this for so long. And, like most other things, there is always a positive: the kindness that was shown to me has inspired me to spread kindness everywhere I go. I found that the more I looked outward to see how I could help others the fewer the panic attacks. My little hamster-wheel brain can only handle one thought at a time, so if I concentrated on being kind in every situation, the less anxious I felt. It was a win-win situation.
Through medication, therapy and KINDFULNESS (my version of mindfulness), I am back to being an active and supportive mother, wife, daughter and friend. I get out of bed EVERY DAY, happy, ready to take on the world. Plus, I started this blog to inspire others.
These are dark times with ominous headlines over every news outlet. CAMH saved my life and now I can bring joy and hope and kindness to others.