Medicating Salvation: No Xanax No Peace


Medicating Salvation, or How I Survived a Situational Panic Attack


Wednesday Night, April 15th

I had to wake early for our flight to New Jersey on Thursday so I set the alarm for 6:15am and went to bed.  My head hit the pillow and rather than sleep, my body prepared for battle.  The large muscle in the back of my thigh began to quiver and convulse; it bullied my other leg into doing the same thing and soon my back spasmed in communion.  Fear crept up my throat and closed it off; my tongue thickened, absorbing all the moisture in my mouth. I had an immediate urge to evacuate my bladder and bowels that would repeat itself for the next five hours.  My heart seized.

I left the bed.  I drank wine knowing it would slow my body down and it did, but not my mind nor my chest.  I was filled with terror – terror of being alone, terror of tomorrow, terror of not going to sleep.


Time climbed forward and my spiral climbed with it.  At some point I took a vomit bowl (I am not a drinker) and lied down on the floor in my kids’ room, thinking their sweet slumber would soothe me.  It didn’t.  I went back downstairs and turned on the tv at it’s lowest volume so I would have to work to hear it but I didn’t need to work; I was already tired.  I am tired.  I am always tired and never have a problem going to sleep.

I thought of the time my friend Julia bought me a lavender-weighted pillow to lay on my chest after the end of my first marriage and how good that felt, how comforting.  I found my flashlight and dug out the next best thing; my hot water bottle.  It felt good, my chest relaxed and I fall asleep.  It was 4:30am.


Our taxi and flight were without complication which was nice, but irrelevant since the trigger had already been pulled.

The flight was the trigger.

I’ve never said much about the last time I flew (we took three flights when moving from Madison to Montreal in August, 2014), But the truth, which I NOW HEAR YOU LOUD AND CLEAR, BRAIN, is that I was altered by those flights.  I scheduled them poorly and my then 18-month-old daughter suffered by vomiting, thrashing, screaming and hyperventilating.  The dirty looks of our cabin mates quickly switched to sympathy and offers of assistance.  She was spiraling.  It was terrifying and the communal sense of worry was palpable.  She had hand-foot-mouth disease and refused the breast – but she was beyond latching, she was beyond reach – I couldn’t help her.  In the thick of it I turned to my husband sobbed, “I want off this plane NOW.  I want off this plane and I want to take my baby home!”  But of course, we had no home.  The impact of those flights and particularly the painful realization of having nowhere to take my baby took root in me and only now, eight months later, the night before the next flight to which I would expose my child, did my fear manifest.

Thursday Night

At 8:30pm while watching tv with my in-laws and eating papaya, a wave washes over me.  Immediately sick from the fear of reliving last night, I abruptly say good night and go to bed.  Every symptom appears only now with the added dread of doing it in a different house.  I am existing on an hour-and-a-half of war-torn sleep and yet I cannot go to bed.  Embarrassed, scared and crying, I wait as Kris runs to the pharmacy for melatonin and sleeping pills.

The pill shuts my body down enough to collapse.  Farrah, though asleep next to her brother, wakes several times in her unusual surroundings.  I somehow manage to go back and forth to her throughout the night.


Some rushes throughout the day.  No rhyme or reason.  I’m scared enough to call my doctor back home in Montreal.  She cannot see me until May 12th.  Today is April 17th.  I feel terrible.  When I’m not shaking I’m aching from the previous nights’ shaking.

Friday Night

Full house of family.  Exhausted by 8:30pm and determined to fall asleep with everyone still awake.  I say goodnight and take melatonin.  I work very hard at controlling my mind and fall asleep by 10pm.


The day is happily consumed by my in-law’s 50th Anniversary Party.  Everything a pleasant blur, a warm distraction.

Saturday Night

Things are the same as Friday night; lots of guests, lots of buzz, so I disappear early to pop a sleeping pill and spend more than two hours alone in the guest room willing my brain to overcome my body while the house is still awake; the fright of being alone through this drives me mad.


Visiting with friends in the morning and more family in the afternoon.  I’m present but not really available; I feel it can surface at any moment so I think very hard about not thinking about it.

Sunday Night

I go to sleep at 9:00pm, again while everyone is awake.  Take two melatonin.  Tremors begin shortly after lying down.  I cannot control my body or mind.  Constant evacuation.  Fear escalates as in-laws retire to bed.  10:15pm I take sleeping pill.  10:30pm Kris turns off all lights and comes to bed.  Panic washes over me.  Convulsions and nausea take over.  Kris tries to help but cannot.  Guilt for keeping him awake.  I accept the isolation and spend next three hours in the dark switching from sofa to sofa downstairs, mind and chest never stopping.  Take another sleeping pill at 1:00am.  Added terror about what I have just done.

It’s 1:30am and I know it’s not going to stop and decide that since my in-laws can be with my kids in the morning, I should go to the ER now.  Sad and guilty that Farrah might not see me in the morning for the first time in her life.  So desperate for peace.


My pulse is through the roof but my EKG and chest X-ray are clear, just like last year.  I am given Ativan through an IV to prep for a CAT scan to check for pulmonary embolism but some blood test comes back saying I don’t need it.  The Ativan takes over.  I am released with a scrip for five Xanax pills.

I fall asleep in the car and sleep from 4am-9am.

It’s no coincidence the return flight is today.


Travel long but without issue.

Monday Night

Home.  I collapse in bed with Farrah then somehow transfer to my own bed later.


My days were not too bad except today, my first day back home.  Tightening of chest all day.  Constantly sweating.  I step on the scale because I know I am different.  I have lost six pounds in six days.

First moment of calm came in editing Anniversary photos and writing these words.  Farrah getting a distracted-yet-inexplicably-patient version of her mother.

I have five pills.  Five Xanax from that ER visit.  Five.  I can’t bear the thought of taking one in case I need more and what if I can’t get more and spiral and spiral and spiral.


My husband is frustrated with me.  He spent the entire time in a New Jersey Emergency Room shuffling through our cross-border emergency-only health insurance.  “Take the pill”, he says, sternly.  But there’s nothing wrong with me physically.  This is a mind problem and my mind can fix my mind.

My friend tells me this is irrational and I don’t doubt it.  This is probably not the time to go au natural.


Take the pill.

Medicating Salvation to be continued …


14 thoughts on “Medicating Salvation: No Xanax No Peace

  1. Hi Lisa,
    You don’t know me, but I’ve been reading your blog for a while. I hesitate to tell anyone what to do, but I will pass on some advice that my therapist gives me regularly–self care, self care, self care. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself, especially when others depend on you. If the self care you need is that pill, take it. If it’s something else–do it. Please forgive this stranger for telling you what to do, but know it’s from someone who’s rooting for you and wants you to feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lisa,
    I actually deal with this myself, and truly hate to admit it. But I caved and took the pill. It helped. I have a prescription and I have to say I take 1 every once in a great while, but it is nice to know it’s there if I need it. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can deal with one pill every once in awhile compared to the total reversal of the person I am, when the panic/anxiety attack hits. I would prefer to do it naturally, but have yet to find something that’s comparable. Just my input. And I agree with Victoria take care of yourself.



  3. You are loved and cherished. I love and cherish you. You are beautiful, blissful and bountiful. You are you are you are…a GOOD mother. Even when everything inside you falls apart …you are a good mother. I will remind you of that when you cannot.


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  5. I tend to follow doctor’s advice. If it were me, I would take the pill. I love reading what you have to say so I hope you find your way back no matter how you do it. And I think you are a good mother too, one of the best, really.


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