Early Morning Calm - 30 Years Later

by DeborahLynn
(Lynn, MA)

The Early morning Calm helps me keep the edge off

The Early morning Calm helps me keep the edge off

My first panic attack arrived with and continues with choking on food, some 29 years ago. My sibling, a clinician who knew CPR, was arguing with our parents over dinner. Yelling makes me nervous, and always did. But since I had been living half a continent away, and was home for only a brief visit, it was I who insisted on a family dinner, even with the risk of an ensuing argument.

Yelling makes me nervous. Sib and parents were yelling. Suddenly, I felt a thin sliver of celery caught in my windpipe.

The clinician-sib saw this; our parents saw it. I was suffering, and couldn't cough up the celery.

The sib did nothing. Too busy fighting with parents. "She's OK," sib said. I wasn't. Finally, my panicky parents were able to catch the attention of the restaurant manager, who called 911.

But emergency services wasn't needed. I managed to get out the celery - without sib's help, but sib could well have either performed the Heimlich Maneuver, or used fingers to go down my throat and grab the food and pull it out. But no, sib and parents were too angry with each other.

That was in 1983. To this day, I am afraid to eat, but eat I do. But those first six months, when I stopped eating solids (and, already slim, lost too much weight, too fast), I was misdiagnosed with an atypical anorexia. I was placed on protein shakes for the calories and vitamins (but even those, I could barely get down). When there is agitation at the table - caused not by infants and other children, but by grown-ups - my food stops up in my throat. When I'm as good as forced to down food (by a well-meaning relative, for example), I choke up.

I don't know when Clonazapam was approved for market, but I wasn't prescribed it until around 1992. Mass. General Hospital had started up an anxiety disorders clinic, which was recommended to me once it was determined that I didn't have anorexia. But I never got there - life's events kept me busy. One of my parents passed away, and I was caregiver for the other, as well as working two jobs. The panic attacks increased in frequency. I spent most of my 20s and half of my early 30s underweight and always hungry.

Finally, a prescriber-therapist talked to me about Clonazapam. I felt it was lifesaver - almost. It didn't eliminate the panic attacks, but took the edge off their severity, and decreased their frequency. I tolerated it well - many people don't, and I'm not here to advocate for it one way or the other.

Meanwhile, in those pre-medicated years, I read a book on anxiety and panic. The author talked about getting to a space where we are when we first wake up. I call it The Early Morning Calm (TEMC). The trick to maintain that feeling throughout the day. It helped and continues to help keep the edge off, an edge that is, as always, related only to food. If only I could remember the author and book title!

In addition I was assisted by that sibling. For years my sibling denied the lack of help in the restaurant (I hesitate to use a pronoun, to protect my sibling's privacy). Finally, a few years ago, came an admission. Sibling was angry, too angry to help, not happy a dinner with the family was forced upon all of us. I, in turn, took my share of the responsibility. I was young and starry-eyed, and thought family reunions were the cat's meow for everyone. Little did I know.

I explained TEMC to my sibling, who, with a career in medicine, knows well how the mind works. We talked about this, and the conclusion for both of us was that TECM was workable, and proven - in my case.

I live by the ocean. I love waking up to the waves. TECM is now a different kind of calm for me. Sea breezes in all seasons, ribbons of sunrise and sunset. I still take the meds, and still practice TECM in the theory described by an author long ago, but 30 years into panic disorder, I'm eating a little better, a little more frequently, and experiencing the true early morning calm of the ocean.

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