For me, fibromyalgia also means anxiety and panic attacks. I don’t talk about them a lot as I don’t want to worry my loved ones.
When they start, I feel hot and my chest feels tight. From there it escalates into a full-on head-spinning, heart-pounding, chest-squashing nightmare. I sweat, hyperventilate, shake and sometimes cry uncontrollably. All this time I’m thinking, “I can’t breathe,” which is ironic because I’m actually breathing more and faster than is normal. It’s terrifying and it brings with it a huge black cloud of dread that just sits in my abdomen for reasons unknown to me.
I know in reality that my panic attacks trace back to my fibro. To the pain it causes and to the confidence it has stolen from me. However, when it’s happening, I feel panic-stricken, petrified and pathetic, and can’t understand why it won’t stop.
Sometimes I can get myself out of them with breathing exercises and distraction techniques, but most of the time all I can do is wait for it to be over. At which point I feel both mentally and physically drained and I feel weak. I feel that way because sometimes a particular thing brings a panic attack on and other times they begin out of nowhere. So I never know. This brings me back to the old fibro baseline of feeling powerless.
If you have a loved one who struggles with panic attacks, please try not to say, “Don’t panic” or “Why are you panicking?” when they are experiencing one. It’s really not as simple as that.