Yesterday I had my first, true panic attack since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and it was one of the most horrifying experiences of my life. I’ve had symptoms of an ensuing panic attack, but outside forces were able to stop them. For example, when I was working an event called Christmas in the South, I was in the throes of my first depressive episode. Panic attacks occur out of the blue from what I’ve researched, but I also think there are a multitude of factors for those already suffering with a mental illness that make them suddenly occur.
When I was working this event, my depression was already pretty bad. Schoolwork was pilling up–especially from my French class–and I was no longer able to cope with anything. I was excited about working Christmas in the South, but the unfamiliar atmosphere was already inducing panicky feelings within me. When someone showed me a picture of the line outside, this is when my stomach started to hurt, and I knew I was going to eventually have a panic attack. However, my boss called me to work another booth, which wasn’t as busy, a co-worker gave me half of a Xanax (which was not prescribed to me at the time), and all of those factors were able to put a stop to the attack.
A few weeks ago while I was working the mall I began to feel that same panic for absolutely no reason. Work was going fine. I had 2 appts., which is the goal in a 4-hour shift. Yet, I started to feel panicky, and I think I would have absolutely freaked out had my co-worker not finally showed up and I was able to bolt and shop at Teavana to buy a beautiful mug this tea-snob desperately wanted. The general atmosphere of Teavana, the samples I tasted, helped alleviate the panic. When I went back downstairs, I put myself right back to work, and it really helped that I was working with one of my favorite co-workers–we can be outright chatty with one another. This general conversation got rid of any bad feelings I had.
But yesterday was abysmal. I thought it was going to be a good day. I woke up tired but was actually looking forward to the drive to Aiken because my boss needed a ride with me, and I adore her greatly. We arrived, had some breakfast, set up, and began to work. The atmosphere was nice and relaxing. Adjacent to us was a woman putting on a mini cooking show that I enjoyed watching. I was also making appts. and had more than my boss. Of course, our other co-worker hadn’t showed up, so we were beginning to worry about her. However, this is when things start to become a little foggy for me. I don’t remember where I went, but when I came back to the booth, my co-worker showed up. There were more people, I was having to work harder, and I eventually had these panicky feelings overcome me–a sense of terror is the best way to describe it. I kept telling my co-worker I felt panicky and I had no idea why, and she tried to calm me down. I couldn’t. So I kept working, got 7 appts., and my co-worker had to leave because the heat was making her feel sick and dizzy. We were inside, but there wasn’t any air conditioning–just fans, none of which were aimed at our booth.
However, the heat wasn’t bothering me. I had drank plenty of water, so I wasn’t thirsty, but the panicky feeling kept rising. My co-worker started to note that I was getting really pale: she wasn’t. My boss then came back from a smoke break and told me to take a break, so I did. I walked outside and sat in my car, blasting the air conditioning. The panic was rising, worsening, and I felt this sudden dizziness overcome me. I did not feel nauseous, but there was a slight pain in my stomach. My chest hurt. My heart was beating really fast. I felt terror, I felt like I was going to faint, maybe even die or something like that. It was this impending sense of doom. I figured if I got up and walked around I’d feel better, but I didn’t. I went back inside and sat down but was unable to work, unable to function.
I still complained about my panicky feelings, my dizziness, asked where my boss was, and my co-worker told me she was feeling sick from the heat. Yet, neither of them were reacting the way I was. I was shaking, head in my hands, slightly rocking back and forth, and this urge to break down crying was rising in me. My co-worker kept commenting that I should probably go home because I didn’t look good, but I told her I needed the hours. She then suggested I probably not go to work the next day either, but I told her I needed the hours. Yet, nothing was getting better, it was becoming harder to breathe, and I was about to go to the bathroom and completely break down, when my boss came back and told me I needed to go home, that I looked absolutely terrible, and that she would give me the rest of my hours for my shift. She said I did a good job, because by then I had eight appts., and she would earn one more for me.
I rushed out of there, got in my car, blasted the AC, and broke down sobbing with bouts of intense breathing difficulties. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to calm down by myself, so I called my dad crying, gasping for air, and explained what was going on. I was probably on the phone for 10-15 minutes with my dad trying to calm me. Eventually he did, and so I was finally able to make the 45 minute drive back home. Yet, the aftermath of the panic attack lingered within me for a few hours after that, even though I had taken another Klonopin. I went to my fiance’s house, laid down in bed, and I seriously felt like I needed to be in a strait jacket, to have that tightness around me, to calm down. Eventually my fiance gave that to me (not the strait jacket), and I felt much better.
Needless to say, I did take off work for today, which absolutely sucks, but my mental health is far more important. I am also absolutely now terrified of having another panic attack. While this coming week isn’t schoolwork heavy, I am going to have to work a major event (just 5 hours) that has the possibility of triggering another one, unless I can get a more powerful anti-anxiety med from my pdoc that will prevent one.
This terrible experience has led me to the conclusion–yet again–that no matter how much I can get done, no matter how accomplished I feel from it, I am still vulnerable to attacks like this. It is one of those just-because-you-can-doesn’t-mean-you-should moments.
I really hate my limitations. My dad and I talked about them, and unfortunately, being a writer absolutely has to be my last priority. School and work come first. Ballet is also a priority because it is a temporary stress and depression reliever, but writing, book promotion, those things have to come last, which means I may not be able to do those things as often as I want to or feel like I need to–especially book promotion, which I used to love but now absolutely hate because of this panic attack. I only hate it because I myself can no longer be the sole person in charge of promoting my book. I need help, which is why I’m seeking out a publicist. This isn’t uncommon for even NYT Bestselling authors to do, but I can’t manage it anymore. For now I cannot cope with anything. And my dad pretty much told me I need to set aside one day per week where I do absolutely nothing physically or mentally taxing, even if this means sleeping in for half the day (which I did today).
I still am going to keep up with a few promotional things (like Tumblr, my website (which needs updating like once a month), this blog, and Twitter, as well as using The Fussy Librarian and sending out a monthly newsletter), but from last month’s sales (I felt last month was the hardest I’d ever promoted my book) and this month’s sales, all of that work I’ve been doing to promote my novel has not been paying off what-so-ever. I have a burgeoning following on Tumblr, I have posts that constantly go viral, and they receive thousands of notes. I have been using more graphics to help promote When Stars Die, but perhaps moving those graphics to Instagram will yield better results. I know I could do more, like continuously seek out interviews, look for a myriad of opportunities to help promote my book, but those are things I CANNOT handle, which is why I need a publicist to help me. AEC e-mails us weekly with publicity opportunities, but I absolutely cannot handle those things. I will be doing one assignment they gave us this past week, but it’s because this assignment can actually be a part of my don’t-do-anything day.
I know I have a VERY worthy book. The cover is eye catching. In the past, when I was shelling out ARCs of my book, PLENTY of people requested a copy because of the current synopsis alone–and the cover probably helped. And I have a 4.31 rating on Goodreads from 80 reviews. However, I am no longer shelling out ARCs because that is unmanageable. I have not been doing podcasts recently, and I have yet to really use the webcam I bought to do a Youtube video.
Even so, I am happy to report I have three more chapters left of When Stars Die’s sequel to finish. I have its glossary done (though not in alphabetical order), and then it’ll be sent off for copy edits. I will do NOTHING writing-related for a week, then start revisions on my YA contemporary, The Glorious In-Between, a standalone novel that will be sent off to another publisher who specializes in the book I wrote.
If any of you know any publicity firms that work with YA novels, I would love for you to recommend me a few.