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Susan Ivy
Susan Ivy, Nurse (RN)
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Last night I had a very disturbing experience. I was in a

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Last night I had a very disturbing experience. I was in a hotel room with family and I fell asleep first and about 15 minutes after I fell asleep. I woke to feeling like my leg arm and face on my right side were violently jerking uncontrollably. I screamed out and my family said that they seen nothing. My heart was beating extremely fast and hard and I cried. During this time I really had no thoughts other than feeling something that apparently did not happen. It could be some sort of nightmare I have been under extreme stress. I was out of town and while I was gone my house burned. I am on my way back (by car) we were caught under a bridge in our car during a tornado and very intense hail in OK City. I'm from WI we do not have that kind of weather. I was very scared. I thought that maybe it was some type of anxiety attack in my sleep. I also take seizure medication because I get severe headaches and have an irregular brain wave pattern. I have never had a seizure I am aware of just looks like it on an EEG. What are your thoughts on this. I'm afraid to go to sleep tonight.

I'm sorry to hear about the incredible stress you are having and the loss of your house. This is indeed a major life stressor, and only intensified by then being caught during the tornado and hail.

I grew up in Oklahoma and know how frightening and suddenly dramatic the weather can be there. To be caught out in it in a car is extremely frightening, you must have felt there was no place safe to be any more.

It would be expected to have at least some anxiety, and likely Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms after undergoing these two significant stressors (and it sounds like you may have another major life stress if you moved recently from WI - even if a good reason for moving it is still a big stressor)

I think it is a good sign that your family said they could not see anything. Nightmares are a common symptoms to victims of Post traumatic stress. As you had fallen asleep, and called out, then awoke, this does sound most likely to have been a nightmare - which can certainly get the heart rate up.

I would make sure you are taking your medication as ordered, since you do have the history of seizures (not that you have not been, but just to be extra careful).

I would call your doctor in the morning just for an evaluation to rule out anything more serious physically going on, but I again, suspect that this is PTS Syndrome (don't know if we would call it PTS Disorder yet, unless symptoms become prolonged), as you seem to intuitively be aware also.

What happens with post traumatic stress is that while you were experiencing the trauma of loosing the house, dealing with the tornado, etc., you went into a "fight" stage. Your body excreted adrenalin and cortisol and you did what you had to, to deal with the trauma and to survive. After things begin to somewhat settle, then all the fear and anxiety begins to come to the surface.

This is a critical stage, and you are doing the right thing by reporting this. It will be important for you get continued support and to talk about this incident and express your losses and grief. A crisis counselor is recommended, someone that has experience in helping trauma survivors. You can work through this.

To read about this and to find some resources for post traumatic stress, please see this page:

(this is a not-for-profit website, full of resources, and I think that even tonight you can read about some coping skills that will reassure you).

I would suggest that you talk to your family and have them nearby you while you sleep so that they can reassure you if you experience another nightmare. I tend to think that you will not, but if you do, they will be there for you.

Also, if you do experience another incident here is what you should focus on during the acute anxiety and rapid heart beat - focus on very slow and deep inhalations and exhalations. This really can slow the rapid heart rate down, because breathing like this will increase the oxygen in your blood stream. Perhaps you and your other family members can practice deep breathing tonight before you go to sleep, so that they can remind you and demonstrate the deep breathing if you did happen to awake disoriented and anxious again.

This page of the same website as above has relaxation techniques, including instructions for deep breathing:

I hope you have a calm and restful night.

Please reply to this post if you have additional questions about this or need any clarification.
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