I had my tickets booked and I was already on the bus to get to Bombay where I would get on a flight and fly to Canada! I was so excited yet so sad to leave my family and my best friends behind, who were following my bus till the outskirts of Goa, sad to see me go. The bus briefly halted at the last stop and I snuck out to steal a hug from them and said our goodbyes.
I was about to board the flight! I had said my goodbyes to my dad and my uncle who came to see me off. My mum was on the phone talking to me. I knew she was pretty sad about not being able to see me off, one way I was relieved because I hate to see her cry. When I do end up crying I get super ugly and cry uncontrollably. One of the reasons I absolutely hate to cry in front of anybody.
So anyway, I got onto that flight. I was so excited as the flight took off I was listening to Usher’s Let’s go which is my go-to song when I feel like I need a push to do something or I need a sign for a go-ahead; I am a big believer in signs. I had a very uncomfortable seat by the way; right in between 2 guys who ate and slept and my claustrophobia would kick in. Every now and then I excused myself to go to the washroom for a break and stayed behind for a little bit.
I landed in Toronto on the 6th of September. Still, remember that day like it was yesterday. I initially lived with my best friend’s uncle’s place. He came received me at the airport. Within 2 weeks, I was out looking for a place to move in with a friend that I had met in college.
Let’s fast forward to the day I graduated in April 2013 and moved to Regina, SK. And then fast forward to the day, I moved to Red Deer. Throughout this time I was really stressed out about passing my exam to be able to practice physiotherapy. My family did not understand the entire credentialing process and often innocently pressured me into getting registered and passing my license exam. I tried explaining them many times that the paperwork can halt or slow things down, but it ended up in how they had told me that this was a bad idea and that all these hardships were something self-inflicted.
I was watching TV with my boyfriend and munching on something, I don’t quite remember. Next thing I knew, I was “choking”. I couldn’t breathe and I felt my throat closing in. I could hear my heart beating so fast and hard as if to let my respiratory system know that it was going to take care of places that were shutting down, struggling to stay functional. I remember being very certain about these particles of food in my airway. It wasn’t big enough to literally choke me, but, nevertheless it was very uncomfortable and I was definitely very short of breath at that point. I wanted it out and I wanted it out now! I signaled to my boyfriend to perform Heimlich’s maneuver. It didn’t work and then I actually turned upside down on my sofa with and got him to pat my back several times. I could see he as scared by now! But he tried to keep himself very calm for me.
I stayed up all night; I couldn’t sleep for the fear of choking. Whatever sensation I was feeling in my throat seemed to get more accentuated the minute I laid down so I just propped myself up with my eyes open and stared at the ceiling, sometimes outside. I was certain that it was a bad idea to fall asleep.
The next day my I went to the ER and the doctor in charge did a few tests. We were there for a few hours and he told me it’s possibly a panic attack! I was shocked…how could I get a panic attack? I’ve read other people getting it but I am the most chilled out and carefree girl I’ve ever known. I tried explaining to him that my throat hurts and that there is obviously something that has scraped it from inside. I also noticed that I wasn’t able to swallow solid food anymore, the consistency really mattered. Every time I looked at food, I started to feel scared. It was all very strange. But I was convinced that this wasn’t a panic attack because of course, I could never get one! I went to the ER several times when I got breathless, I noticed it was worse at the end of the day. I could not eat solid food for 3 months and survived on ensure. My boyfriend started to grind meat and different kinds of food so I could eat. I cried every day out of exhaustion. At the time I worked in a long-term care facility and helped with the rehab of amazing people affected by multiple sclerosis. They would have mini choking episodes in front of me. I would help feed them twice in a week. I enjoyed doing this job before my panic attacks but now Tuesdays and Thursdays felt very heavy. I would wake up tensed and prayed that whomever I was helping did not choke or didn’t feel the need to cough. Even a cough during this activity triggered my panic attack. At times, I felt like I was going crazy! I didn’t know what was happening to me.
I felt very helpless during this time. Maybe I had some kind of neurological problem I thought. I was convinced to find out. The doctor in the ER finally referred me to an ENT specialist. Dr. Pabbies, I still remember seeing him walk in. He had this really assuring personality and I felt very safe in his presence. It was the first time in the last few weeks that I felt some relief. He greeted me so warmly; it was like meeting an old friend. He then told me how he had gotten a referral from the ER and as he picked his phone to check this referral I knew what that might have said, “Hey that’s the crazy girl I was talking about. She is okay! Convince her that all she is suffering from are panic attacks.”
He started off by asking me what I thought it was and what symptoms I was experiencing. He took a good look in my throat and told me that I might have pain due to the coughing. I still wasn’t convinced. He gave me an option of performing endoscopy wherein he’d go in with a camera attached to a tube and take a look at the insides of my throat. That stirred me up a little. I do not like the idea of anything entering throat like that, especially now. I mean I couldn’t eat food, the most natural action to mankind and then he was talking about me letting him put a freaking tube through!!! I immediately vocalized how I felt about it. He then let me know that he thinks it’s totally unnecessary, but if that gave me some peace of mind he’d do it. He said he would keep my file open for one year and that if the problem still persisted or got worse, then he would intervene. We agreed and I left half panicky and half relieved. At least I had options; somebody had bothered to convince me in an assuring manner. He also suggested I see a psychiatrist and I told him that I didn’t think I needed one. He smiled and said if in the future I needed to talk to one that he’d refer me. And then I left.
For whatever reason the next one-year I lived believing sternly that I didn’t need to see a doctor. I strongly believed and affirmed that this was going to pass. It’s strange how being from the medical background, I still hesitated about going to a psychiatrist. Sometimes I wished I had gone sooner so that I wouldn’t have lost all this precious time. I loaded up my fridge with ensure bottles and puree all of my food. Sometimes, I would cry just before my mealtime and wonder if this was here to stay. Very often, I d have my doubts if I’d live longer(LOL!). I had already told my boyfriend that in the future I wouldn’t want him to marry me, as I didn’t want to be a burden on him. I sobbed uncontrollably that day. This was all very confusing to him, and he was so worried. But through it all, he said that I was being silly and that there was nothing wrong with me and that if there were something, he would help me get any medical help necessary. I firmly decided in my mind and thought that I was going to be okay…probably?
Doubts have their way of creeping in on any person. I wanted to get a barium-swallowing test done. As time passed by I felt like whatever I ate got stuck in a little spot in my throat and that stayed there till I washed it down with some water. As a result, the food that I ate had to be washed down after every bite. I obviously started getting full and didn’t get my nutrition. Now I had to break my meals down into several sessions to give my body the minimum nourishment it required. The barium-swallowing test revealed I had no abnormalities of pouches where food was possibly getting stuck. Now I started getting more alarmed. I was experiencing these real symptoms that were freaking REAL and physical. I didn’t think that a mental cascade of reactions could make me feel things on a physical level. I wanted to go ahead and do a video fluoroscopy. I felt a little better about not having any physical abnormalities. I finally canceled my video fluoroscopy test. Because my stress levels had gone down significantly, and because of all my purposeful calming down techniques my eating had gotten better by ten percent. Now I started to believe something was really off about what I was thinking. Before I knew it, I was panicking about having panic attacks.
Impact On My Social life.
Anxiety attacks had changed the person I had become. I had become highly guarded. I couldn’t see it then, but now as I look back I can definitely tell I was going through a major change. My very personality was changing.
I could no longer go out with my boyfriend for dinner dates. He loved them and now if we went for one, I couldn’t talk and eat at the same time. A different setting made me uncomfortable. I found all the noises distracting. So we stopped eating out.
I could no longer sit with my colleagues and have lunch. Not all of them were close enough for me to tell them my story, plus talking about it made it real. I am not sure, but sometimes I wondered if people thought I was being bitchy or high and mighty for not having lunch with them. I’d be sitting in the corner of my bistro having my lunch hoping nobody came and asked me to join them. I dreaded 12’o clock. My colleagues were such amazing folks, they asked me multiple times to join them and I would politely decline making excuses. But of course, that seemed rude dint it? Eventually, I started opening up to them about my eating problem. They understood! I kicked myself mentally for not telling them in the first place. Some of my colleagues noticed I was losing weight; they would get me things that were easy to eat…stuff that I liked out of care. I felt so much love at that place! I would get hugs and encouraging words. I never thought much of it but did that ever make a difference. I still remember when a friend walked up to me, looked into my eyes and said if you need me I will be there, do not for a second think you don’t have family here. I will take you where you need to go. I felt all these emotions stirring up inside me and I burst out crying, I couldn’t stop for a while. As I was shaking, I thought to myself, I am going to get through this.
I somehow felt these panic attacks were maybe a result of something I had done. Not sure what it was. Maybe it was the kind of lifestyle I was living, or the thoughts I was thinking or for having moved away from home when my parents didn’t want me to. I am a believer in karma; hence I thought well all of this must be my fault! Sometimes I felt as if I deserved it. It was really rough fighting with that voice in my head, constantly pointing out at me. Many a time it still does.
This was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had. So, imagine wanting to talk about something that was already quite real, had been so for more than 2 years. But all of a sudden talking about it made it happen even more. Denial was better…but deep inside I knew I needed some type of intervention. Back then I couldn’t get myself to write or talk about it. Even thinking it in my head was restricted.
I felt as if I developed some behaviors. Certain things had to be kept a certain way for me to feel at home and comfortable. For instance, while eating dinner the table had to be just at the right height. The TV had to have something I was interested in. If my boyfriend had a soccer match (that I obviously wasn’t too interested in) then that had to be changed. If the house wasn’t tidy to my liking, I’d flip out and stop doing anything, I’d stop eating or stop being ‘present’ at home. I’d come home from work and if the kitchen wasn’t how I had left it I wouldn’t feel like cooking because of all the chaos. I would find a space that was tidy and sit there for hours till my boyfriend came helped me either tidy the place or cook a meal, as there was no way I was going to step into a messy place. This took me by surprise, as a few years back I wouldn’t have cared.
I still am not very comfortable eating amongst people other than my family and of course my boyfriend. I hardly eat anything on my social outings. I hope I don’t end up offending people whose homes I go to for dinners, but I sense that I may be causing some discomfort to the hosts. I have also become even pickier about what I eat as a consequence.
The Reason I Wrote This Huge Saga Of My Unfortunate Experience:
At the time, when I was going through this experience, I would look around wanting to find somebody who had the same experience. After a certain point (2 years or so) I started being very vocal about my problem in hopes of finding somebody. For a long time, I didn’t. This made me feel very dejected, and I have had some extremely sad days as a result. The memory of this experience still does! Now, I feel as if I need to share these little experiences of mine so that if there were anybody out there that relates and is looking to heal from such past instances, they would find that solace in simply reading that another human being went through this harrowing experience and made it through. Currently, I am doing great and I believe so can anybody else. It doesn’t have to be full-blown panic attacks; it could be plain anxiety, which is not so plain to the person who experiences. It is very difficult to make somebody understand what we’re going through to a person who has not experienced it. I once made a promise to myself when I wasn’t able to eat, that if this problem got resolved, I would be less fussy about food for one thing (I have been a fussy child all my life with regards to food) and that I would be a nicer human being and reach out to people to lead better lives and show them that we can have amazing lives even living with anxiety.
The picture was used from flickr.com. The link is https://www.flickr.com/photos/practicalcures/23388685185/in/photolist-BCM8fR-C7nq1T-w1WKp7-pXGLcP-DGf4pE-4A19ms-4BKTyH-d6vFkL-81Pbwy-bpwquP-6VXBg2-26XL4jD-5a41Yw-nuFQjT-q1mzEy-JTVHNq-TMwepT-22ygUvY-7GJy4c-pVcMJq-XbBg3M-JryMZ4-gYWvDi-8X36pc-XfYrft-bkZjFZ-bxLqja-VNvQst-W6SqTt-9e3umP-9r13u8-7PpfTj-cV27F5-4xSW2F-nxdpvu-27XYbuA-dxg3SB-asSL1d-drZ1Vs-bCPuZ8-4sGnzD-9928MV-cnKuAN-EPcLp1-e2vkBu-97TxE8-3KWthR-HMxWu2-24XYUNX-c7hYEA