I just spent the weekend with a friend who is really sufferring from mental illnesses. One problem she has is panic attacks. I don't know much about the subject, so I'm hoping maybe some of you here can help me out.
My friend tells me that her panic attacks are brought on by nothing. She will just get them out of the blue. However, when I spent the weekend with her, it seemed like her panic attacks were brought on by something that was going on.
First, we were going to her brother's wedding and her shoes wouldn't fit and she broke them and needed new ones.....panic attack
Next, we were at the wedding and she was supposed to cut the cake, but other people started doing it and she felt left out......panic attack
After that, she found out that her mom invited relatives over to her house for dinner the next day and not her (she was really upset).....panic attack and this time she wanted me to take her to the hospital.
Now, could it be that these things actually triggered the panic attacks? Or was this all just coincidental? Or are panic attacks both situational and non situational?
This is really sad because she is dillusional and on all kinds of meds that don't seem to be helping her. She drank a whole bottle of benedryl yesterday and said that she doesn't remember doing it. She is married and has two very small kids and I know the family is going through hell. The hospital just put her in Pine Rest today which is a mental hospital of sorts. She is in the in-patient program and cannot check out until she gets a doctor's ok. I am glad she is there because if she drinks a bottle of benedryl unknowingly, who knows what she could unknowingly do to her kids. Anyway, and info or stories concerning these issues would be helpful. She wants me to come and visit her, but I feel so unprepared to deal with this...I don't even completely understand whats going on because she doesn't even know whats happening to her.
Figure Skating Is A Dangerous Sport
Wow Arianne, that's a lot of stuff going on. Maybe you need to talk to her counselor or doctor as to what role you should or need to play in this situation. Thank God for good friends like you though. How are you through all of this???
Sorry to hear of your experiences with your friend's situation. What you describe doesn't sound like the panic attacks I'm familiar with. I've dealt with them my self off and on over the years. What kinds of symptoms was she having when these attacks occured? Did she feel as though she was going to die? Did she have a rapid heart beat, was she shaking? Was she completely unable to do any more then just stand/sit there and shake?
It's an intense, horrible sensation where you think you're at death's door, and then as the feeling starts to pass you get incredibly embarrassed and feel you've made a total fool of yourself which only heightens the anxiety that you felt in the first place. Frequently panic attacks have an undetermined trigger, although mine had a specific trigger most of the time.
The episodes that you described with the broken shoes and the cutting of the wedding cake don't quite fit the classic description of the problem which makes me think there's some other underlying problem at work there. It's sad that your friend must be hospitalized but on the other hand the doctors and staff are best able to analyze and treat her condition.
Stick by your friend, and in the meantime find out all you can about panic attacks and panic disorder. In addition to calming your own fears about the subject, it will help you become more aware of the subtle things which may be helping to trigger her attacks. She needs a lot of support now and in the future as she learns to deal with the situation.
MY TVC 1 5
When my friend had the panic attacks she could move and talk. She would just appear really upset and usually be crying. She said sometimes she gets an overwhelming fead about her and sometimes feels like she's choking.
I am happy to be there for this friend, but there is another problem. I'm not sure if it is her mental illness, but ever since I've known her (from childhood) she has been VERY possesive and manipulative. She doesn't want me to have any other friends but her. We only ever have one sided conversations where she dumps all of her troubles on me. Somehow she pictures me as a perfect person with a perfect little life who has no troubles. This relationship is VERY draining on me and almost more than I can mentally handle sometimes. I don't know where to go from here and my husband is in Maine right now coaching a basketball camp, so I don't have any support from him. My friend wants me to visit her in the mental institution, but I have no money for gas (its a distance to drive and prices as you have probably noticed are going up tp 4.00 a gallon (help us all!)) and am SEVERLY directionally impaired. If my husband were here to drive me around, it would be a little different.
My question is, how do you be a good friend to someone like this when it is affecting your life and the other relationships that you have? Since she tells me she is unable to make any other friends, I am her "one and only" and that puts A LOT of pressure on me. I told her she needs a support system of several people, but since she doesn't get along with her family, that is pretty hard. I care for her and hope that she gets well, but I just don't consider her to be a close friend as I told you most everything is one sided and she is very manipulative and I am so afraid of what I say around her (including anything about being happy or having OTHER friends!).
Plus, in public she is very affectionate to me (I am a stand-offish, often shy person) and she will hold my hand and make me feel uncomfortable as I am only really comfortable holding my Husband's hand in public!!!
Anyway, sorry about the ranting, I've just needed to get some of it off my chest as the last few days have been pretty awful and I don't have my husband here to discuss it with him (lucky him!!).
Any more sage words of advice, oh great Goldenskaters?
Rooting for the divas with Kwanford
Sigh. This reminds me of a friend of mine who has been spiralling downward ever since she left NYC about 10 years ago. Lost her job, marriage died, got addicted to pain medication, started and stopped drinking again (she's a recovering alcoholic), has been diagnosed as bipolar, has one medical crisis after another, got raped, has been on disability for years, and can't manage her 9-year-old who has emotional and behavioral problems including obesity.
It is very sad because when I knew her in NYC, my friend was functioning and delightful. Those were the good old days when panic attacks and chronic depression were her only problems. We were very close. But from the point where she lost her job - for reasons clearly related to her own behavior, but she could only see it as victimization - the endless series of crises just sapped my ability to take her at her word. She will do things like tell me one thing for a year, and then admit it was not quite true (e.g., about the addiction). I'm sorry to say that I no longer have confidence in either her handle on reality or her truthfulness, and I'm not even sure I believe the rape story.
Besides which, I see (from a distance) the many negative effects of her problems on the child, and it just infuriates me. I in turn bring out her defensiveness. At this point I'm only a remote occasional presence in her life -mainly for the sake of the child (my goddaughter), but also in the hope that someday she may get it together again. All I do is send gifts and call once in a blue moon but I have not cut the thread.
Sorry to go into this detail but I thought it might resonate a little. There may well be a continuum between the acute mental illness your friend is experiencing now and the behavior she showed earlier.
Trust your gut with your friend. You are not her one and only (you didn't marry her, I take it) and don't let her manipulate you or convince you that reality is as she sees it. (Did I say my friend is very smart and a mistress of manipulation?) It is very difficult to befriend someone who is mentally ill because they aren't able to be a friend in the ways one normally expects. Do what you can and don't do what you can't, and try to congratulate yourself for the compassion and patience you are giving her.
Being a supportive presence in someone's life does not have to involve huge time commitments - if you can manage to communicate love, hope, and goodwill through a note or call, that is enough to lift someone's heart. It's better to do that than to be gritting your teeth and getting mad at her because she's manipulated you into doing more than you want to. (Been there, done that.) Your friend needs care that you can't give and she needs family and friends in her own surroundings. Hopefully she can make friends in the institution itself.
Hope this helps. And I hope YOU (and your husband) are doing OK these days.
Thank you, Spun Silver, I appreciate your kind words of advice. Yes, this friend is similiar to the one you mentioned. She is often dillusional. She thought her mother-in-law was trying to kill her for one year. She even told me that someone shot her car and ran her off the road. No one really has this much drama in their lives, do they? If so, then I must REALLY have a boring life! Anyway, now she tells me a lot of this stuff really never happened and that she must have imagined it. So, again it is hard to take her at her word and that makes having a relationship very difficult.
On a lighter note, I get to fly out to Maine this next Monday to meet my husband and drive back here to Michigan together. We will spend a day or two in Boston and do some sightseeing and then he will come back to start interviewing to replace the job he just recently lost.
I consider myself an independent person, but you never really realize how much you need other people until they are gone for a long time. I can't wait to see him again!
Da' Spellin' Homegirl
Oh boy, what a load for you guys to carry. Of course, what these people need is real intensive therapy. Kudos for you to help them so much. It also looks as if they are the kind that just pretty much wear you down. There's really fine line between trying to help them and keep your own sanity. Sounds like you are trying to help but distance yourselves as much as possible, which sounds to me like you're doing a pretty good job doing. Also, I had some knowing people say that nervous and mentally ill people are great with the tough stuff but the small things are what gets to them. It all sounds like they must have had a lot of problems in their youth. Anyway, we can pray for you all and you should feel really good about taking care of them. Just don't let them pull down. You just can't help feeling so sorry for these people. How awful it is to feel the way they do.
Rooting for the divas with Kwanford
Thanks, Grgranny. You pretty much nailed it!
Yes, part of the difficulty (with my friend anyhow) is the unevenness. There are times when she's smart, funny, and caring, and times when she's full of self-pity, lies, and fantasies, and I fear for the child's safety. But her ex-husband and his family are in the picture and I know they are watching out for the child. Also, she has reconnected with AA and found a world of support there. There are many different 12-step programs and I suspect Arianne's friend could fit in in at least one of them, once she is released.
And you're sure right about prayer.
Arianne, have fun in Boston! I was just there and visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for the first time. It's a real beauty, if you like art. And I will be praying for you and your husband.
Matt Savoie~Soul Skater
I have a panic disorder and just about anything can trigger it. It's pretty scary, but I just go into a bathroom or some quiet place and breathe for a little while, and I'm pretty much alright. But it does suck, majorly.
One of my college friends has a partner who is bipolar. Other then some 'highs', he hasn't had a low since they've been together. He had one years ago and had to be hospitalized for several months - as a result he lost his job and his house. He goes to therapy and has a miniscule dosage of medication, now. I pray that he does not have a 'low' again because I wouldn't want him or my friend to have to deal with it at that level.
Anyway, I would advise calling your friend or writing her notes. You'll be maintaining contact with some much needed distance. Just let her know you are thinking about her even though you can't visit at this time. Have you spoken with her doctors about if they think your visiting is a good idea? Sometimes they don't want the new patients to be distracted.
Da' Spellin' Homegirl
I remember a relative was put in the hospital, mental ward. They read all her mail before she got it. Mine was one of the few they let her have. You have to just talk about things that wouldn't make her feel bad. Try to encourage, etc. There's always few things you can talk about, such as the weather. Just don't say anything to make them feel guilty.