When I was about 17 I had my first panic attack. For anyone who hasn’t had a panic attack it’s somewhat hard to explain. Your heart starts to go a mile a minute and you’re shaking like crazy. Symptoms can be different for everyone, but what seems to be unifying is this irrational feeling like you’re going to die. After I had my first panic attack things started to go south. I began becoming terrified of having another panic attack and I got myself into this seemingly never-ending cycle of panic – so scared of having one that I’d push myself into having another one. It got to the point that I wouldn’t go out at certain times of the day because I only felt safe at home. It was scary and I didn’t have any idea what was happening to me. Years later, after taking a few university psyche courses, I realized that that was a panic disorder with the beginnings of agoraphobia.
Luckily over time the panic faded and I began to feel calm again. Years passed and, while I am generally quite an anxious person, it was never like that again. That is until a couple of weeks ago. I’m not completely sure what spurred it on again, but the panic came back. For the first few days I could barely eat and I couldn’t stop shaking. I had a conversation with my mom and she said to me “you need to deal with this. Even if it goes away on its own this time, it will come back and you need to know what to do.” At first I didn’t want to hear it, but I knew she was right. So this time I’m not waiting around. I’m taking an active role in dealing with it.
I found a counselor and booked an appointment right away. We talked about ways to deal with it when the panic is at its worst and how to deal with the general, lower level panic. The way I feel day to day goes up and down, but already I feel like its a lot more manageable. What I’ve been trying to focus on is taking better care of myself in general – not just waiting until I feel my worst. Each morning I’ve been following this meditation course by Oprah and Deepak Chopra, which has made a huge difference. It lets me start my day in a calmer manor. I’ve also been journalling, blogging (that’s been a big help in keeping my mind off of the anxiety), watching comforting shows and really importantly trying to go on lots of walks and keep physically busy. One of the things about anxiety is that your body fills with adrenaline, which feels awful when you’re sitting feeling frail and shaky. Getting up and moving helps the adrenaline flow through you.
Last time I dealt with this one of the things that made it tough was that I didn’t really tell people what was going on. I didn’t know how to explain it because I didn’t think it made any sense and I was scared of people thinking I was crazy. But if anyone is struggling with this please do tell someone, or lots of someones. It’s not something anyone should have to hide and you need a support system to get through something like this. And don’t be afraid to tell people what you really need – what would make you feel safest and most comfortable. Often times people want to help and they just don’t know how to do it.
I know to some this might have seemed like an odd topic to suddenly touch on. I suppose I want you guys to know why I may not be completely myself right now and I don’t want to feel like I’m hiding a piece of my life. Whats more, I want to encourage people to talk about stuff like this. No one should have to be ashamed of the struggle they’re going through. Just because it’s not a physical ailment doesn’t mean it’s not real. It is real and it deserves care and attention.