How Does It Feel?


So, I haven’t been okay for a while.  This is likely to be all over the place, so buckle up. Maybe, take some anti-nausea medicine or something.

Just after my birthday, I had a panic attack, after not having a panic attack for years.

The panic attack terrified me.

I was at work and had just finished eating my lunch. No one was in the office. I was mulling over some code I was writing. I figured something out and was pretty excited about my solution when I had pressure in my head that made me feel like my eyeballs were going to pop out of my skull. It felt like I had just submerged under water and it was crushing me. It was sudden and absolute.

I started to call 911 because I was fairly certain I was having a heart attack or a stroke. Except this little voice was whispering “panic attack…panic attack”.

I wanted to call Randy, or one of my friends, but I knew if they heard me babbling, they’d call a life squad. I didn’t want to put them through that fear and I already spent time in the hospital this year from falling down a hole. No way I wanted to take on the expense of another emergency room visit when I was getting more and more sure it was a panic attack.

I paced for a few minutes, then walked down the hall to the network dude’s office and told him I was either in need of immediate medical attention or I was having a massive panic attack. He asked me which I thought it was and I told him panic.

I sat in his office while he played music and told me silly IT stories while I sobbed.

My death wasn’t imminent. My brain just turned on me.

And then it went and did the stupidest thing.

It wouldn’t stop.

My doctor gave me an EKG which read fine. My blood work came back acceptable. But my panic attacks just wouldn’t stop. I was having multiple panic attacks a day and that was new and exciting. I mean, it’s not like I forgot what they were like, but I certainly never had cycling panic attacks. They suck.

There has been a lot lately.

My oldest friend in the world died. My parents and her parents are friends. I’ve known her for her entire life and she died. She had cancer.

A blogging friend, Rena McDaniel, died in her sleep. She was 53. I loved her. For those of you who have been with me for a while, you might have seen her in the comments from time to time.

My older son is going through a divorce. His story is not mine to tell, I’ll just say that it’s been goddamn stressful. I hurt for him and his wife. Oh yeah, and he took a new job within his company and moved.

To Tacoma, WA.

He’s literally as far away from me as he can get and still be in the continental United States.

My doctor referred me to a psychiatrist because cycling panic attacks just weren’t working out for me.

We decided to try Ketamine treatment.

This is where shit gets really weird, you guys.

I was a teen in the seventies, and I smoked the shit out of weed. I’ve been fond of weed my entire life. But that’s as far as I’ve taken it. I have been curious about a psychedelic experience, but always just a bit too afraid to try it.

As I type this, my head is throbbing, both because the weather is wonky which triggers cluster migraines. Also, after taking my third treatment this morning, I have a ketamine hangover .

I want to find a way to describe what this has been like. But I can’t find the words. Which is weird, because I can fucking talk. I mean, I am goddamn good at it. I can talk your legs off.

I hated the first two treatments. I was uncomfortably high. It was bizarre and off-putting.

The after effects were wicked as well.

My anxiety shot through the roof the following day, both times.

But no panic attacks.

Also, my focus is sharper than it has been for…I don’t know…ever?  It comes and goes, but I have been experiencing moments of clarity that I didn’t know I could feel.

Both times I was treated, once I got a day in between me and the weirdest fucking experience of my life, I realized that I was feeling a lightness in my head that was foreign to me. I honestly hated the ketamine experience, but I could tell it was helping, so I continued.


Well, today the doctor upped the dose enough that I went from being as high as I’ve ever been to entering a place or a world or a universe that is huge and dark, but not really scary. I didn’t feel real. I would so much love to tell you everything I saw and experienced, but the experience faded.

Other than Bob Dylan. I remember Bob quite clearly.

I learned after the first two go arounds, that covering my eyes helps. I also wore noise cancelling headphones. The doctor started a classic rock playlist and gave me the first of two injections. Rocket Man by Elton John was first which I found hilarious.

Because he was singing about being high as a kite, just as I was climbing up that kite string.

picture of a girl with a kite

But it was Bob that I found most memorable.

I know it was just the one song. I know I listened to others, but I was traveling through this weird, off kilter landscape that exists only in my brain with Bob Dylan singing “How does it feel?” over and over and over.

Well, Bob, let me tell you. It feels weird.

Sort of wonderful and sort of not. I saw clay walls being constructed before me that went to infinity. I watched structures being constructed and dismantled before my eyes. I was part of all of it. I didn’t feel that I had any form. Or that maybe I had turned into Gumby. So, Bob, again…it feels weird.

I am no longer curious about psychedelic drugs. For me, personally, I would never do this recreationally. I don’t get the appeal. It is way too fucking intense. There is a fair amount of euphoria and a lot of it was pleasant. But way too intense to do this for no good reason.

I do feel hopeful, though. I feel better than I did the other two times. I am hoping that tomorrow isn’t going to be like the other days where I have to take anxiety medicine every 4 hours.

My doctor thinks my panic attacks may have started due to separation anxiety.

Which made no sense to me at all.

I went through Randy getting sick and nearly dying without suffering from panic attacks. We lost our granddaughter, McKinlee, after she battled in the hospital for months before succumbing to her heart issues. I didn’t have any panic attacks then.

I am actually quite excited for my son and his new life. He is over the moon in his new apartment on the bay and kicking ass at his new job. We still talk as much as we always did. I look forward to every picture. Even the one of the towel bar in his new bathroom.

My doctor explained, even if I am happy, that doesn’t mean I’m not experiencing separation anxiety and separation anxiety often brings on panic attacks.

I mean, I guess that could be it.

Either way, I hope I am climbing out of this because it’s been a nightmare.

I have 3 treatments to go, the next one is on Tuesday.

I’m going to work on my own playlist. Not that I wasn’t terribly amused by Mr. Dylan, but I think I need to cultivate my own list.

I am open to suggestions. What song would you want to hear while visiting the dark corners of your brain?



24 Thoughts.

  1. Michelle, I’m so sorry you’re going through this and for your losses and the stressors.

    I had cycling panic attacks on the 80s. I was terrified of being on medication, so I haunted the local library to read everything I could on panic attacks. (May the gods bless our librarian, Mrs. Lipkin for helping me track down all of those books!!)

    It helped me start to get enough of a grip to reinforce sort of personal positive triggers — like, if I saw a hawk, I was reminded I was safe. A seagull — free, mourning dove — not alone. And then things like — yellow bus meant I needed to make sure I had eaten that day. It’s so easy to ritualize things in those times, bc ritual is comfort. It’s idealized time.

    I started carrying peppermints, bc if I felt an attack coming on, the peppermint pulled me back into my body and out of my head.

    Eventually, I was fine, but the anxiety is always there, bc it always had been.

    Then — the Pandemic happened, menopause finally happened. My husband got diagnosed with and then beat cancer. Two of our cats died of oold age. Serial aquaintenances succumbed to the virus. Another pet died of old age. We got covid and then got well.

    And then — when everything was finally OK and even better — cycling panic attacks. Depression. Crying so much so often that the texture of my face changed.

    It was both so disappointing and so undermining.

    I’m OK now (talking and walking with my husband, walking in general, nourishment, reading, tea and weed) really helped me over a few months — I got lucky.

    But it seems to happen when we feel most vulnerable — extremely — and maybe bc some of us, we had so many people to help in the last three years that now is safe to fall apart.

    Just a guess, but like you, both times my attacks flipped on — it was after a feeling of enormous relief.

    You’re OK. You’re going to be steady again. It’s just the overextended security crew deactivating the last of the neuro-landmines.

  2. Oh Michelle!

    If you have Apple Music I’ll send you a playlist that I made for a trip to Hawaii.

    I’m sending you lots and lots and lots of love and virtual hugs.


    • You are the best! Errr…I have an android, not an iPhone so I don’t use Apple Music. Speaking of Hawaii, I am taking my mother there in August. We’ve never been. We’re meeting both my sons there. My younger son will be there for a month for a yoga retreat and my older son is meeting us. It will be the first time we get to see him since he moved last month.

  3. How about “They’re coming to take me away ha ha, he he”. Only kidding. This sounds scary as hell. I’m of the age where I did a lot of hallucinogens in 1969 – voluntarily – and had good and bad experiences. There is really only one of them that stays with me even this many years later. Who knows what was in that crap back then, but I will admit that was the last time I used any recreational drug – including weed. I find that getting even a little drug high brings back memories that I’d rather remain lost. After looking up Ketamine, I noticed that the main usage (after anesthesia) is to treat depression. By the way, back in the early 60’s (or 50’s) Timothy Leary and others were experimenting with LSD to treat mental patients – so we seem to have gone full circle.
    I genuinely hope that this too shall pass, so that you can go back to being yourself with no ‘otherworldly’ experiences.
    Try “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. Of course, it depends on how you want to feel during the next ‘flight’.

  4. I hate that you’re going through this. But I’m glad the ketamine seems to be helping. I’m also with you on the psychedelics. I’ve never tried them myself because while they sound interesting I just think, yeah, that’s not my scene.
    Also I’ve gone through and rejected several songs for either being just not right or too uptempo for the kind of playlist you might want. Not that uptempo is bad but I thought you’d want something soothing. So here’s one thought: a song called “Flight 180” by Bishop Allen.
    And surely something by The Madisons, for obvious reasons.

  5. I’m glad to hear/read this update, even if it’s distressing to hear of your recent troubles.
    I took a hit of Special K almost 20 yrs ago, in the grips of suicidal depression – as you say, it was quite intense and W*E*I*R*D. I never ever want to fall down that particular rabbit-hole again. I have only a few fragmented memories – but one was of seeing a psychedelic reflection of myself in a full-length mirror, the other was of pixelated fractals (or fractilated pixels?) until the pressure in my head overflowed and I ran into the bathroom to throw up. (I had fasted since I’d heard it could make you nauseous, but I still had some slime to emit…)
    I slept it off, perhaps my depressive state was lightened somewhat, but I’ve stayed far away from any similar experiences.

  6. Michelle, do you follow Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess? I’m sure you must. She’s doing katamine treatments right now too. Y’all should connect.

    I’m glad you are getting better. Love and hugs, and ENJOY YOUR BOYS AND MOM, that sounds so perfect. I can’t imagine a better vaca.

    • Thank you! I am so excited. My mom is so excited. She feels bad about my dad not going, but he can’t make a trip like that. He can barely walk down the driveway these days

  7. I truly hope the treatments work for you. The Bloggess is having them this week also. As for the playlist, when I got high on psychedelics, I used to like the first side of Todd Rundgren’s “A Wizard, A True Star” but I never had any ketamine, so I don’t know whether to recommend it or not.
    Good luck, and may you be feeling much better very soon.

  8. Oh hell, I’m so sorry you’ve been going through this. I’ve had a weird return to panic attacks this year, but not on that scale. Thankfully they seem to be mainly under control. I recommend Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones, with a healthy dose of Nick Cave. Hope that helps, my very dear sister across the pond!

  9. Wow! I’m glad you share stuff like this. It makes the rest of us not feel so alone. I had a panic attack on a plane once. I had no idea what was happening. My mom having been through many told me what was happening. I couldn’t breathe, I felt trapped. It was awful. I was able to get through it. I’m going through some stuff now and I know it’s going to get harder. I am trying to shore up my self care and reserves of strength for the coming storms, but I’m terrified. I think the death of someone we’ve known our entire lives rocks our security. I know starting to see people perish in my circles is definitely rocking mine. Sorry to hear about the hole incident. 🙁 Hang in there. Yay for doctors, support, and pro-activeness, and writing. 🙂

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