“Hi, Damon. It’s Me… Again.”

After an EKG, Echo and labs, the cardiologist concluded, drum roll please… all tests were negative. I did not experience a cardiac event, so what was it? As I ruminated about the situation, obsessively inquiring with Dr. Google, it all kept circling back to a panic attack. Could that really be what happened? The dizziness, racing heart, shortness of breath and near syncope was intense and the sense of impending doom and eminent death was very real. It had been over a year since I had last spoke with my therapist, Damon. It seemed like now was as good as time as any to reconnect.

On May 9, 2016, I sat, in an upright fetal position, on the all-too-familiar black tattered couch and updated Damon on my recent experience and symptoms.

Progress Note – 5/9/2016 – Pt: Brooke Miller
Reporting panic sxs – chest pain, shortness of breath, arm tingling/numbness, hot feeling and fear of fainting.  Cardiology results WNL.  Intrusive thoughts/obsessions include falling asleep and not waking up, falling asleep and harming family, fearing children will become drug addicts and people judging self. Compulsions include excessive cleaning, forcing self to stay awake and difficulty with decision making re: kids.  Y-BOCS 25 ASI 32.

Y-BOCS Score of 24-31 = Severe OCD
ASI Score of 18-35 = Low Anxiety Sensitivity

I recall Damon inquiring if I was under new or increased stress and I quickly replied, “No, I’m fine.” I was always quick to assert, myself and others, that I could handle the situation and didn’t need anyone’s sympathy, as I didn’t want to impose.

Damon and I got right back to work, identifying bans and exposures. My bans, or compulsive behaviors that I needed to work on resisting, included information seeking, checking, perfecting, picking, reassurance seeking and avoidance. We started with a few, low anxiety rated (3-4) exposures including stand in front of a mirror with head down and don’t check, store one utensil “incorrectly” and respond with “maybe it’s cancer, maybe it’s not” to any physical symptoms.

We concluded the session by scheduling weekly appointments for the following four weeks. Returning to the world of bans and exposures was challenging, but very much needed. I was not well. My anxiety was creeping up again and the never-ending cycle of obsessions and compulsions were taking up all of my waking moments. I was running on fumes, and my fake smile and confident demeanor were cracking. I could sense a metaphorical storm brewing, and little did I know it was about to unleash its wrath.


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