463 Faileontologist.

First of all, I’d like to apologize for not having another section of my Defective Detective story here for you guys who enjoyed it.  I actually have it mostly written out in my mind, but the reasons will be made clear soon enough.  Secondly I’d like to apologize for bringing my personal drama here.  I understand that when you go to read a comic the last thing you need is someone bringing you down with their troubles.  That being said, this is as close to therapy as I can afford, so please stick with me on this.  I would appreciate it very much.  

If you’d just as soon not know anything about this part of my life then read no further, I would completely understand if you chose not to. 

Those of you who’ve been with me for a long time may remember at the end of the comic’s first story I went to the hospital thinking I was having chest pains.  Well, I mean I was having them, they just didn’t have anything to do with heart troubles.  They were caused by a very bad panic attack.  The worst I’d had in years.  It cost a lot of money for a doctor to tell me there was nothing physically wrong with me.  A cost that wasn’t offset by insurance, as I have none.  Needless to say I am hesitant to return to the arms of the medical community, so now I must suffer without hope of relief. 

I’ve had panic attacks since I was 16 or so.  For those of you who don’t know, a panic attack is a sudden rush of irrational fear.  The causes can be various things, or nothing at all.  I’ll try to describe what it’s like:

  Try to think of a time when you thought you were in real mortal danger, like you made a bad move in traffic, or something.  That moment, when you think you’re about to be hit by another vehicle, is what it’s like to have a panic attack.  Except it doesn’t stop.  You never get that moment afterwords, when you don’t get struck by an oncoming car, and relief washes over you.  Sometimes it only lasts a few moments, and you can get yourself under control, but other times the feeling just goes on and on.

That’s what it was like for me this morning.  It was way too early for me to need to get up, but I startled out of my sleep.  Everything was cool for a moment, then it started.  Suddenly I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  Then it spiraled out of control from there.  The rational part of my mind knows there shouldn’t be anything wrong with me, but that instinctual voice kept telling me there was.  I mean I can’t completely rule out that my situation hasn’t changed since last time.  It’s unlikely, but there’s just that sliver of doubt and terror can creep in.  It just kept building and building.  My heart was pounding, my body was shaking, I felt like I was going to vomit, and it just kept getting worse, which the original panic feeds on.  Even as I type this out my body is threatening to start up again.  The mere memory can be enough to start another attack.  Luckily I don’t have anywhere to be today.  I’ve been having “aftershocks”, for lack of a better word, all day.  Sudden rushes of shaking and fear.  The body can’t keep the the fight of fight response going indefinitely.  I’ve been able to get something like sleep in the down moments. 

It has not been a good day for me…  I kind of knew this was coming though.  I had a really bad attack a couple of weeks ago, and a little one a night or so ago.  The cycle will likely continue till I can find some way to break it.  Last time it was months before I got to a point where everything evened out. 

One of the ironic things about all of this is that a lot of my panic attacks are probably caused by being overtired.  They happen when I’m all alone, in my bed, trying to rest.  So I associate the fear with going to sleep, which makes it hard to rest, which leads to more trouble… 

All I really need is an expert to tell me there’s nothing wrong with me, so I know that what’s happening is just regular panic like I’ve dealt with for all these years.  As I said, this isn’t an option. 

I know that there are people in the world who are way worse off than me.  I know I’m not a unique snowflake, going through things that no other human could possibly understand, and I’m trying not to sound whiny.  I’m just looking for advice, or insight, or something that will help me make it through these bad times.

Even if you don’t have anything to say, I appreciate that you came this far with me.  Thank you very much for reading the comic.  My little issues should not affect the posting schedule in any way. 


Hey man, keep up the good work. Also, if you need it, we readers will be more than happy to tel you nothings wrong so suck it up and all that. Get well soon.

Well, I wish I could actually offer you some helpful or meaningful advice, but I’m afraid all I can do is offer my best wishes. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with this. I’ve known some people that have suffered from chronic panic attacks in the past, and I know it’s a real and very frightening thing to have to deal with them. All I can say is, be strong, keep believing in yourself and your body, and we’re all with you

1. Awesome bit about the “Faileontology”, stroke of genious.

2. Listen to jazz music to calm your nerves. It’s not very dramatic, and even when it is fast, it’s still subdued.

I thought I was having terrible, frequent (daily) panic attacks last summer, but no medication helped them. Turns out I have a cardiac problem: when my heart revs way up, it feels like a panic attack. A heart stress test didn’t find anything, but a 24-hour monitoring test did (and then the moron of a doc didn’t say a damn thing…I found out when I requested a copy of all my test results 6 months later…I definitely understand being hesitant to visit a doc and pay through the nose for bad advice).

I understand being hesitant to see a doc, but panic attacks are crippling and are something NO ONE should have to cope with. The doc visits might be pricey, but meds like Xanax and Ativan are very, very cheap; there are free-or-sliding-scale clinics almost everywhere, and hopefully you can find one. Having had what were effectively daily panic attacks all summer last year, I know how rotten this is for you. And maybe it’s not panic attacks–maybe there’s some kind of physical cause that, if they could find it, would be cheap and easy to treat. (Beta blockers for my heart issue are also very, very cheap.)

Panic attacks can also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, as it can make your heart rate and various other vitals go all out of whack (that’s the technical term) Just something to consider

Have you tried looking into free medical help? Like free clinics, free doctor advice, that sort of stuff? As long as I am uninsured, I get my medicine refilled every month, and I just pay the prescription cost (which, through a few places only costs 4$). No idea where you’re staying but if you live on either coast there’s bound to be a few more than the Central Time Zone.

I wish I could offer some advice, but a serious of panic attacks in busy places left me fighting agoraphobia for close to a year. I literally had to take a running start to get out the door. The key thing is I *fought* it. I have an insistence in not giving in to fear of any kind.

I do know how you feel though. So at the very least I am sending hugs your way.

It sucks that your job doesn’t offer insurance. I’ve had panic attacks before, mostly while I was on anti-depressants, but never any as bad as you described (except one time when I ate a pound of chocolate…). I can’t really offer any advice for you except go to the doctor. If I were you, though, I’d try to find some way to get insurance maybe even going as far as to get a different job.

Something that I have occasionally tried, with mixed results, when I get panic attacks, is to pretend I’m swimming somewhere in my head. And of course, since I am swimming, if i try to breathe I’ll just suck in water and drown. So I can’t try. So i swim and swim and swim and swim, and once I get to whatever “shore” I have found, I “surface” and can breathe again. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it leaves me feeling more stressed because I can’t find my way to the surface, but it is a fairly simple mental exercise that may well work for you.

I’ve suffered them in the past too.It’s about balance, I honestly think it’s when you take a sharp alert and logical mind and try to make that your personality, whereas your personality is really that thing on the inside that doesn’t know how to deal with your outer ego’s way of life. Once i started looking at it like that my inner self was calmed. Try getting something to believe in, find a happy place you can centre your inner self in while still satisfying your outer ego.
Keep it up bro, and doctors are full of shit, talk to someone who is perfectly balanced in their life. For me it was my grandmother. For you it could be a friend or that little old lady you help do the shopping with. You know the kind of person I mean, really peaceful and content.

I gotnmy first panic attack about a year ago, and spent the worst two months of my life trapped in the panic cycle. the attack, the aftershocks that last basically til the next attack. it is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with, and am very sorry to hear you are suffering. the reason i say ‘panic cycle’ is because that is exactly what it is. a 20 min cycle with the end of one attack leading into the next, until you can break it. the things that helped me were: educating myself as much as possible. I read nearly a hundred different articles on panic attacks, anxiety disorder, etc. once I knew what I was up against, the syptoms were very easy to recognize, and I had an established timeline for about bow long it would take to break the panic cycle (best case scenario- 1 attack, no aftershocks, is about 20 mins, btw) and second, I would distract myself hevily. the more distracted my mind was on other thngs, the less able it was to cling to irrationality. what worked for me was spending literally a month revisiting my entire DVD collection. movies, tv on DVD, anything to keep me distracted long enough for the cycle to break.

eventually I did find a doctor to put me on the right medication (don’t be discouraged if he first few don’t work for you, it’s a delicate balance). but man, I remember what those first few insuranceless months were
like, and I am still paying off the money I spent rushing off to the emergency room because I was convince I was dying.

good luck! I really hope you’re feeling better soon!

I’m new to your comic and love the heck out of it! I went back to the front and read all the way through. I hope you stick with it because it never fails to get a laugh. Besides, I can’t seem to get enough of Carol’s red-haired, emerald-eyed, full-figured yummy goodness. (note to the artist: more pin-ups)

About the panic attacks, research is your best friend. Any information you have will help to get a grip on it. Or at least help in sorting through the medical BS.

I’m sorry to hear about what’s been going on with you man. I wish I had an answer but I don’ t have any experience in this at all.

All I can think of is finding a place where they’ll check you out for free so your fears can be put to rest.

I don’t know if it will work for you as it did for me, but practicing Zen meditation worked for me. You have to practice it for a while and what I did when I got an “attack” was to go into meditation and ride the feeling, kind of like surfing your emotions (I notice another J mentioned picturing yourself swimming). Instead of allowing yourself to panic, you just take the feeling and ride with it. The ability to do this may take a while to achieve, depending on how long it takes you to get into the swing of meditating and schieving an “alpha” state.
I am sure there are other ways to achieve this, there are biofeedback devices, which allow you to meassure and thereby know when your brain moves into the various brain wave states, and obviously there are drugs you can take to do it. the neat thing about meditation is that you can meditate even when you can’t sleep and get rest, which can be really important.
You might want to avoid some natural stimulants like caffiene, sugar, etc. for the time being until things start to stabilize. It is amazing what caffiene and a lack of sleep can do to your perceptions, in university I started having hallucinations when I went through a three day crash studying for finals running on “No-Doze”, Coke, and no sleep. Didn’t do to well on the finals either.
We your audience appreciate your keeping your “deadlines” on postings, but not at the expense of your health. So take care of your self.

I’ve been following this comic for a while now, but this is my first time commenting. Your blog really struck me, because I had an anxiety attack just last night. They’re probably only similar to panic attacks in name and basic description, since anxiety is gentler, but they do make it very difficult to stay in my right mind if they happen. Anxiety attacks have shut me down in the past, so I had to find ways to fight them.
I have a suggestion… however, it’s brief: remember to breathe. It might sound overly simple, and maybe it is, but when I’ve concentrated on breathing steadily, within the first couple minutes the pressure of the attack always lessened. The brain does need oxygen to work effectively after all, so I’m guessing it might help with a panic attack too, even if it’s only in a small way. For me personally, once I was concentrating on breathing instead of concentrating on the feelings of the attack, I could tell myself the attack would pass and that realization would take away more of the stress.
Anyway, I hope you find a solution that works for you soon. My best wishes to you!

Like a lot of people have said, research is your best friend. I have a phobia of the dark that triggers symptoms like what you described so I tend to sleep with a lamp on. I’ve had this fear ever since I can remember and the strongest ones have had me on the verge of screaming in terror with the after effects keeping me awake for the rest of the night no matter how tired I was at the time.

Different things help different people. For me, turning on the lights banishes the majority of my fear. For you, a mantra like “I’m perfectly healthy. Nothing is wrong with me.” might help or it could be something simple like what Kristin suggested. If I recall my health classes in high school correctly, your breathing regulates a part of your circulatory system so trying to maintain steady breathing could help. Most things might not work at all for you or worse, make the attacks even harder on you. Have faith, never give up, and you’ll break this cycle.

Hey why not try throwing your psyche a bone with this one. Find an object that brings you comfort. Something like a teddy bear or whatever you prefer. It doesn’t matter what. And just keep it nearby. You can use it like an anchor to the saner half of your mind if you will. I can’t guarantee anything but it usually helps to have something tangible to yank you back to the real world. Other than that, just try to focus on the reality of things.

Good luck to you. I really hope someone here can help you.

You might have something medically wrong that’s causing fast heartbeat etc, and you can’t afford to get the medical treatment which might discover and treat that. Or which might not, since medical diagnosis is basicly a crap shoot, there’s too much to know for any particular MD to cover very much of it.

What helps me with that sort of thing is an attitude of fatalism. I have to trust to luck, and I’m not going to live forever anyway. Just accept what comes, and learn what I can from it, and learn what I can about it.

But my wife gets panic attacks at the thought that she might die, and that fatalist idea sets it off pretty consistently.

I once knew someone who made a list of foods etc that tended to set it off for her. Bananas, coffee, marijuana, etc. When I looked at the things on the list they pretty much all had high potassium or affected sodium/potassium balances. i considered she might have a liver problem that affects the liver’s ability to regulate potassium levels, and suggested controlled tests to see whether she could set off attacks that way, but she refused to do anything that might start a panic attack so it stayed unresolved.

My wife had bad panic attacks and was prescribed klonapin for them. The klonapin relieved the problem while she was on it, but it got much worse whenever she ran out. And she quickly got habituated to it and had to keep increasing the dose. Eventually it reached the point that the maximum safe monthly dose lasted her less than a week, and she suffered withdrawal symptoms regularly. It was hard to get off of it. In general I think antianxiety medication is overrated.

She got complete relief from her panic attacks with hypnotherapy. The hypnotist told her that when she felt a panic attack coming on to stiffen one finger and relax everything else, and because she was under hypnosis it worked, she remembered to do that when she got panic attacks. Simple hypnotic suggestion of this sort tends to last an unpredictable time, often it fades out in a couple of weeks. So it isn’t something you’d want to pay significant money for. You migiht find a hypnotherapist who’d barter for artwork. And once you get some experience you could be hypnotised over the phone. If hypnosis works then that’s a strong sign that it isn’t an organic problem that an MD might help with.

You might read up on the orienting reflex. When you see you’re about to have an auto accident your mind speeds up and tries to take in every detail that might help you deal with it. Then quickly the problem is over, one way or another. If you panic and you dno’t know why, it might help to do the same thing — to look at every detail around you to find out what you need to do immediately. Maybe that would help, if you don’t find an immediate problem just the fact that you carefully looked might prompt a reset.

That sucks man… I’ve enjoyed reading your comics and your little blogs, so I hope you get well soon. A lot of people offered some reasonable sounding advice, so maybe some of that will help.

I’d probably vote for Kristin’s methods, just because it makes the most sense in my mind. And it’s free. And simple. Both of which are pluses as well, ya know?

Anyways, somebody else said it as well, but don’t let the comic get in the way of your health. Of course, maybe the comic is HELPING you keep the attacks under control, who knows. In any case, take care of yourself first, yo.

Peace out.

I’m really sorry to hear about your condition. Based on your description of it, I think I may have had a panic attack about 5 or so years ago, in the middle of the night. I’m no medical professional, but it might be time to sit back and evaluate your life. Is there any fear you have that maybe you don’t realize you have? Could be your subconscious is trying to tell you something’s wrong or needs to be dealt with. It could be a behavioral problem, a personality issue, something that really requires you to change your whole life.

Don’t be afraid to do some deep soul searching, even if what you find is painful. Work through it and don’t give up. My prayers are with you. *hugs*

So, this is awhile ago, but still commenting on it. >.<
Don't let your work get in the way of your health. Even if you still intend to make your deadline, letting yourself know that it's ok to miss one if something bad (like a panic attack) happens can help a lot.
I get something similar (probably more so than i'd like to admit), and like one of the people above, i meditate. The results can be immediate if you're in a panic attack, but doing so on a regular basis also makes it a little easier to deal with one if it shows up.
Concentrating on a small object, or doing something very, very focused can also be useful.
There are medications out there, and probably some that aren't too expensive. Just try to tell the doctor everything you can that may (or even may not) be contributing to it, so they have an easier (ie more succesful) chance at figuring out what will help the most.
Overall, your comic is pretty awesome, so don't worry about it. ever. k? And remember that if you can convince yourself everything is ok, it usually will be.

Oh great.
The creator comment section is now longer than the webcomic and takes up all of the neat white space at the top, relegating actual comments into the dark zone where they have to be highlighted to be legible…

… and those comments have turned into a massive circle-jerk pity-fest.

Anyway…. Crave.
There is no point in apologising. Do what you gotta do and move on. Own your choices.

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