I Donut Like Panic Attacks

I started a new job this week…well, that was the plan anyway. I worked half of a day on my first day, two days ago, because my cat got very very sick and we ended up having to put him to sleep. That was not fun.

Then this morning I drove to work in the middle of a panic attack that started last night. I made it exactly three steps into the building before I ran out the door and puked in the parking lot. I was hyperventilating and sobbing, my vision was blurry, I was thinking really dark, disabling thoughts:

  • Maybe I’ll be in a car accident and I won’t have to go back in there and face everyone
  • I’m a pretty useless person if I can’t even make it through an entire day of a relatively easy job that I got so I could have a stress respite
  • I don’t deserve to be happy
  • I should probably do something to hurt myself since that would match the pain on the inside, and it’s closer to what I feel I deserve
  • I can’t do this I can’t do this I can’t do this

Intellectually I know that these are lies my depression was telling me, but the feelings were so strong. The thoughts caught me off guard and I fought them as hard as I could in my crisis state. I had so little rational energy and focus that I couldn’t make myself walk back in the building or think about doing anything else but sitting in my car and sobbing. Because…???

I told my employer that I was having some “mental health issues” and that I was seeking professional help. I’m sure they will all be afraid of me now, and I’m not sure that my job will be safe if these episodes continue. Fortunately they know me from  when I worked there many years ago, and they know I’m a good worker when I’m well. I do have that going for me, but it didn’t make me feel any better as I struggled to breathe and stop sobbing in my car outside the building.

I took half of a Xanax and started to drive home, hoping to get there before the med wave hit in full force. My vision was still blurry and it was hard to breathe, and I couldn’t stop sobbing, so I pulled over several times.

One place I pulled over was in front of a donut shop. I sat there and stared at people going in and out of the shop and I realized something. People don’t walk nonchalantly into donut shops; they run. They cannot get in there fast enough. They’ll leave their cars unlocked to save time, they’ll push in front of each other at the door, and their faces are lit up with pastry anticipation. When they walk out of the donut shop, they walk slower as if starting the carb coma early. Their faces have a serene look of satisfaction. They have donuts – nothing can stop them now!

I made it the few blocks from donut shop to home safely and got on the phone with my therapist. The dark thoughts are lingering, and the Xanax is keeping the panic and anxiety at bay. I still can’t help feeling like a dead weight.

It feels so bizarre to be unable to accomplish something simple because of my faulty brain chemistry. We are adjusting my medications currently, and that always makes me very very fragile. It opens me up to severe anxiety and severe depression episodes, almost without fail.

Those of you who deal with mental illness: how do you deal with your employment on the days when your brain chemistry doesn’t allow you to function? What do you tell your employer? What do you tell yourself? Have you ever been terminated or had to quit for mental health reasons beyond your control? Ever encountered any discrimination because of mental illness?


About Allison Anarchy

I write because I have to
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10 Responses to I Donut Like Panic Attacks

  1. I have changed jobs in the past for mental health issues (well, workplace bullying which lead to mental health issues!) and also have had to leave three jobs because of depression/anxiety. My career is resting somewhere on the bottom of the garbage tip right now, which is just so, so depressing to think about that I might stop and turn my attention elsewhere …
    Financially, we need me to be earning money – as in, unless I start earning again soon, we will have to give up our house within a few months; that level of urgency. However, I literally don’t feel capable of working. So I am on this godawful path of trying to find a job I can do in an environment of high unemployment.
    Guess how that’s impacting on my mental health, ho ho?

    • laneydodson says:

      Thank you for sharing, DB, and I’m sorry you’re having to face all the heaviness. Some days I feel like I can handle going to work and other days I wonder how I have ever held a job down with my dysfunctional brain. I’m fortunate that so far my new job has been understanding. I get the feeling that they won’t be if something like this happens again. All I can do is go forward and do what I can!

      Real life gets just that much harder when our mental illness gets worse. I hope things start to even out for you soon! Take care.

  2. valsox76 says:

    I understand what you’re going through in terms of my mentalstate andhow it affects my wmployment….when I was first diagnosed, I kept wondering how do I tell my employer…I HAD to, but just WHO? I told my supervisor who, THANK GOD, has been very understanding. (had she not, then I probably would have gone HR on her)…and that’s The ONLY person at work who knows and who I want to know. Unfortunately, My office environment is very, how do I say this, gossipy and snap-judgmenty. People love to judge people and gossip about others without taking time to know and understand what they may be going through. Very-clique like…It’s almost like it’s high school again. People make comments about and respodn to each other without thinking about how their words might affect someone. Even in team meetings, I’ve been faced with this. I’ll ask a question or make a comment and I’ll here snickers or whispers…It’s gotten so bad that I’m very apprehensive about speaking up. My boss is doing everything she can to stop this but some people just don’t want to listen.

    So can you see why someone like myself is hesitant to mention my anxiety/depression to others? I guess what I’m trying to get at is just think hard about how you want to approach addressing our issue and exactly WHO you wan to tell and what to say to them……so far it seems like they’ve been understanding, so I’m hoping they continue to show their empathy and work wit you.

  3. I don’t know how I make it at work done days. Other than I work at a factory so I can get out of my head and just go in a kind of robotic mode. I’ve been at my job for over 7 years and honestly I think the only reason I stay is for the medical insurance. I have to see so many drs and my therapist and without insurance I couldn’t afford my appointments and my medications. Some mornings I have to take an anxiety pill just to make it in the door. I wish the best for you.

    Lisa x

    • laneydodson says:

      Thank you for sharing and your encouragement. I think some days it does help to have activities that give us structure but don’t consume all your mental energy. I have also stayed in jobs I probably should have left just for the medical insurance. It’s definitely better than living without insurance!

  4. Linda S. Becker says:

    I recently went on intermittent FMLA at my job because of my fatigue from several illnesses. My primary care physician has tried a med adjustment with me that I knew wouldn’t work – halving my antidepressant and taking it in the morning instead of at night. Uh, okay. Predictably, I went back full steam for a few days and felt much better. I tried the half dose again the following week when I wasn’t flaring so much and yeah, deffo need ALL 300 mg of my wonderful wonderful Wellbutrin, so went back full dose several days ago. So much yes.

    I went through medication roulette for several years before finding a combo that works. 4 out of 5 med adjustments since then have been disastrous. It may take a while or not, but trust me, it is SO worth the aggravation of experimenting with different meds to see what works for you. Effexor was Very Bad for me but I didn’t know it at the time. The Welly has been a god-send and work is tolerable now because of it. I actually love what I do but I’m so frustrated with having to wait on others to do stuff that needs to be done, and it not only makes me chipper enough to go, “well that’s okay because I have all this other stuff to do,” it boosts my energy so that I can actually get to work at a decent time most days. I still get the bad days like what you’ve described, but they don’t happen anywhere as often as they did, and I haven’t yet vomited yet so yay there.

    Hang in there, Laney. It will get easier. Maybe not better, but it will get easier. *gentle hugs*

    • laneydodson says:

      Thank you for sharing and for your encouragement! The medication roulette (best nickname) is really hard right now.

      My Dr talked about adding in Wellbutrin in a few weeks when I’m a little more stable. I’ve never been on it but I’ve heard really good things.

      • Linda S. Becker says:

        I hope the medication roulette gets easier for you soon. It was really really rough for me. Just make sure you stay on schedule for anything you take. Today I slept in and didn’t drag myself out of bed until 4pm. I missed my morning meds so just took the ones that wouldn’t get me wired. I looked at the Welly and thought about just taking a 150 mg since it was so late in the day, but then figured I could just take the whole 300 mg tomorrow. 10 minutes later I started bawling from being useless and physically not able to even sit up from a bad costochondritis attack, so I took the full dose and a med I take for when the costo hits. Have been able to sit upright for a bit but my chest still hurts. Brain and mood are thankfully back to being on kilter, which has made the pain more tolerable. I do hope you’re able to try the Wellbutrin soon. I’ve had great success with the extended release version. Hang in there.

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