My panic disorder seems to be severe enough that it eclipses even my serotonin withdrawal syndrome. I am experiencing SWS because I ran out of venlafaxine. Since my last update about my SWS, most of my SWS is largely the same: vertigo that I am mostly used to, cold sweats that I used to, brain zaps are less frequent but last longer, completely used to the ringing in my ears, body aches that I usually ignore.
Unlike most disorders, it is exceptionally simple to pinpoint the precise moment I developed panic disorder: when the United Kingdom government put me in jail for the “crime” of asking for political asylum. I have had the disorder for almost five months, but especially compared to depression, anxiety, and PTSD, I do not know much about panic disorder and how it affects my life. As the time and distance increases between me and the UK, the disorder will change and possibly disappear.
Until now, I had underestimated how well the venlafaxine was at treating my panic disorder. It has taken some time to parse the different issues: SWS, stress, anxiety, PTSD, poverty, and others, but I am now sure that the venlafaxine had a tremendous impact on my panic disorder. Since I am out of venlafaxine, my panic disorder is much worse. I have more panic attacks and they are more severe. Yesterday, I had a panic attack that lasted for about six hours. I was able to end it by drinking two cups of coffee.
A panic attack is a “fight or flight” response to a stimulus that is not important enough to deserve a fight or flight response. During fight or flight, the body implements uncontrollable responses to prepare itself for an usually powerful action such as battling a wild animal or running for survival–the heart rate rises, the senses are focused, the body is more alert, and other things. Imagine being stuck in a dangerous situation that you cannot control–like a war zone–for six hours. The stress on the mind and body is enormous. My panic attack yesterday was similar: I had the physiological response as if I were in a war zone, but I was merely in a hostel dorm room. My body expected and prepared for a death match, but nothing around me was threatening. My rational mind was acutely aware of my body’s inappropriate response but my rational mind was powerless to change things.
In a war zone, other people expect and understand when the people around them have the fight or flight response and are “on edge.” A panic attack is always out of place, however, so it is difficult for the people around me to understand why I am “on edge” in a hostel. When I am around people while having a panic attack, I must spend enormous energy trying to moderate and filter my actions and words. My body has prepared itself, and my brain, for a war zone, but since I am not in a war zone, I cannot behave as if I were in a war zone. I must use acting skills to pretend that I am not having a panic attack. It is another layer of exhaustion.
The panic attacks always involve some level of “flash backs”, during which memories of the United Kingdom come to mind for no obvious reason. The memories are stressful.
I would like to write more about this, but I am too drained to continue. My entire body is shaking from the stress.