Need help managing husband's panic attacks

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by slsh, Dec 29, 2012.

  1. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    This has been going on since late spring/early summer. I took him to ER first time, where his heart rate was elevated, but everything else was fine. doctor suggested panic attack, which husband poo-pooed. He was given an rx for Xanax which he hasn't used (works at a refinery, so I understand that). He's had full cardiac workup short of another cath and it was all normal, and had an endoscopy that was shockingly normal for a morbidly obese 49-year-old who has been chewing tobacco for 30 years.

    He's been feeling "bad" for a month straight now. We did have the flu run through the house, and he ended up with- sinusitis, treated with antibiotics, so he *should* be back to baseline.

    He had another "small" panic attack yesterday morning. I let him be for a while, then patted his leg (I don't like to be crowded when I'm having an attack) and told him there's no such thing as a "small" attack. He moped around all day long, took a couple naps, did sit with- Boo while I ran Diva up for preop lab work, but ... really, he didn't do a darn thing all day other than (I'm guessing) obsess about how bad he felt. At 7:00 last night, he said he was going to hospital to "make sure it's all in my head." I told him to drive carefully. I heard him come in around 10:30 - I didn't say anything to him because... well, "I told you so" just didn't seem to be appropriate.... sigh.

    It's taking all my strength to not just lose it on him and tell him to get off his posterior and do *something*, anything. We are complete opposites, and we know it, and that's why I haven't offered my solution to panic attacks (grit teeth, get angry, get thru it, and when I feel like my heart is going to explode, then I will take a minute or 2 to do deep breathing/meditation, but then I have to get back to doing something/anything).

    It's affecting our home life and apparently also affecting his work - he said there are days when he just prays they don't need him to do anything because he just "can't." The man is completely losing it.

    He did come to me the day after Christmas and told me he's ready to see a therapist (pigs were flying and it was snowing in Hades). I have not been pressuring him - suggested it once when this all started, but I knew he would have to want it for it to have a chance of working. I called and left a msg, but I'm sure most professionals took the week off, much to husband's dismay. I think there's a 50/50 chance this will help - husband is going to have to admit the full extent of the stressors in his life for the last 24 years, and he's not that kind of guy. He "gets over" things quickly - like when our daughter died, I actively grieved for literally years, but I remember our first and probably worst fight about 3 months after she died - I was just screaming at him that I wanted our daughter back and he didn't seem to give a darn that she was gone, and he just looked at me and said "She's dead. I can't change it, it's done, and I've just accepted it." He's been like this forever, and I honestly think the cumulative effect of 24 difficult years is making him lose his mind now.

    I'm trying to be empathetic and supportive, but.... the man's timing could not be worse. Diva's surgery is on Wednesday, and I had my own "small" panic attack while we were filling out paperwork yesterday. I hate surgery, period, totally stress about the kids, and am once again going to have to do this on my own. The recovery period is going to be a bear. Then we've got thank you who, while maintaining, has stalled and is frustrated; Wee, who is having his own issues about college (major anxiety); and Boo, with his ongoing issues, some more pressing than others. I don't have it in me to pull husband thru this pile of manure too. It's not new that I have to deal with- the various issues on my own, but... it *is* getting old and would be nice to have husband a bit more present.

    Heaven help me, I have zero patience for his panic right now, and am really resenting the medical bills he is piling up because he just needs reassurance that it's all in his head. I mean... really?

    I know I sound like a witch, but... I really need some practical advice here on how to help him (or at least not verbally annihilate him). The really horrible selfish toad in me feels like I've been dealing with- this koi on my own for years, but still managed to at least keep things running (relatively speaking) around here. The fact that he has totally shut down is really really *really* burning my toast.

  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I used to have severe panic attacks to the point where I could barely leave the house for fear of having one in public. They are truly terrifying. You can't just "snap out of it." Two things helped me a lot. One was medication. I refused to ever take Xanax because it makes me feel useless and spacy. I do take a low dose of clonazepan and it has always done a great job of keeping me from even starting a panic attack.

    Another thing that helped was reading some self-help books. I have always been very active in trying to help myself. The best book I ever read for panic is still around. It's called "Don't Panic" and the last names of the authors are Wilson and Reid. They take apart a panic attack physically and tell you, step by step, how you can stop one in it's tracks. I have always been thankful for that book. I use the knowledge I gained from that book all the time. I used to put it in my purse and carry it to work and if I felt an attack coming on, I would go into the restroom and sit in a toilet stall, reading the best chapter.

    There are also triggers. I did not go near caffeine for fifteen years. Even decaf coffee was a trigger and it's 97% caffeine free. Alcohol...forget it. I never drank. Very early on I realized one sip would cause me to have panic so that is the extent of my sip a few times in high school.

    My panic attacks would come and go but definitely reappeared during high stress times...before I took my medications and learned the methods to stop them. That is also a factor. A self-help group also helped me tons.

    Your husband needs to be proactive about this. But if you yell or belittle him or make little of it, that may only make him worse. by the way, hyperventilating can give you the symptoms of a stroke or heart attack. One side of my body went numb once and I rushed to ER and it was just hyperventilation. But you really can't ignore a symptom like that, can you?

    I wish both of you well. Panic disorder isn't fun for the person who has it and those who live with the person who has it. It seems so selfish, I'm sure, but really it's an illness :)
  3. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Sue, ask his doctor for extended release xanax instead of regular xanax. He can take it at night and it will last for 24 hours but he wont feel the druggy effects the next day while he is working. I take the extended release and they are wonderful. I used to take klonopin but I like these even better.

    He does need something for his anxiety and if you can tell him you know someone who takes this form and does well on it maybe he will take it.

    Im not surprised about his tests either. I have excellent blood pressure and blood sugars. The only reason my cholesterol went up was seroquel.
  4. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Did they check for mini-strokes? Those can look like panic attacks... and yes they are "all in your head" but it's medical, not psychological.
  5. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am SHOCKED that the docs went for xanax first. From what I understand, unless you have a problem that makes other benzos not work, docs are supposed to try some of the other benzos first because they work longer and present far lower risk of addiction/dependency.

    I DO NOT hate xanax. I would NEVER have survived the last 2 yrs of pms with-o it. It just isn't the most effective benzo and it carries more risk than the other do.

    Your husband needs an antidepressant like prozac or lexapro. MANY of these are on the cheap medication list at Walmart, etc.... My husband takes citalopram and it works super well for his panic attacks. with-o the medications, the self help will likely be very frustrating but with them? they will be more effective and so will the work with a therapist.

    I am sorry you have to deal with the crises all alone. It really stinks, doesn't it?