Updated: Nov 22, 2020
After yesterday's post someone asked me what a panic attack felt like and how many do I have nowadays.
The latter part is easiest to answer because it's none! I don't have any. If I experience a shock my heart rate will escalate but it is purely reactive to the situation and will go back to healthy resting rate quite quickly afterwards. There are memories/flashbacks that can set my heart racing and as soon as I see them for what they are I talk gently and compassionately to myself and concentrate on my breathing using the 7-11 technique to calm myself. Writing this blog is already bringing things back but I am not afraid.
So what is a panic attack ?
A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety. Panic attacks can also have physical symptoms, including shaking, feeling disorientated, nausea, rapid, irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating and dizziness. The symptoms of a panic attack are not dangerous, but can be very frightening. They can make you feel as though you are having a heart attack, or that you are going to collapse or even die. - https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/anxiety-and-panic/how-to-deal-with-panic-attacks
For many months I would wake, and for the briefest of moments, feel OK until the onslaught of anxiety and panic would hit me like a runaway train. 'Oh no not again'- I would leap out of bed and open the curtains trying to convince myself I was not alone and I would be OK. Nausea always accompanied the rude awakening starting the kind of dialogue mentioned in my blog 'Mayhem'.
Struggling to catch my breath, the sweat would start to drip down the sides of my body.
At it's worst I would curl up on the floor groaning and holding on to myself. I would begin asking God for help and forgiveness. Begging for redemption and for this punishment to end, for at the time this is what I believed it to be. Sometimes I would start to wretch, believing that if I was sick it would take the attack away.
Eventually the attack would pass and I would begin to feel I could function. I would have a warm shower to help regulate my temperature as the attack would often leave my chilled and shaking. Once I started to follow the routine of the day I could at least deal with getting my daughter to school and get to work. My Panic-o-meter never really settled until the evening. I would spend all day on a pretty high stress level and then as the day drew to a close I would feel calm. Of course once I took my meds I was guaranteed 5 hours sleep, which for a 9 hours a night person was hardly enough, but it was time away from the fear and dread in my head. Then of course it would start all over again the next day.
For me panic attacks looked different depending on where I was at the time-
I could be in a busy place with lots of people and noise and suddenly feel claustrophobic. I would need to get outside urgently. I needed air. I needed the world to stop and give me a chance to catch my breath. Often that is exactly what I would do. I would make my excuses and get out and if the outside wasn't possible it would be to the nearest toilets. I would notice that I was incredibly hot and need to cool down or I would faint and twice that is exactly what happened. I passed out on a station platform and once in a public loo. Thankfully the first time I was with my boyfriend and the second time I came around so quickly no one had time to spot me.
One of the problems with panic attacks is once you have had one you begin to fear having another so you start a vicious cycle. I also became terrified of fainting in public and started to note where every exit and toilet was should I feel the need to run. I remember only ever booking end seats at the cinema and theatre. To sit in the middle of a row full of people with bags on the floor terrified me. What if I fell over people or fainted or threw up on them because I couldn't get out in time?'
Every time I didn't need to run it fed the idea that I was lucky rather than just OK.
People who have never experienced an attack either personally or witnessing one often think it is a heart attack or fit depending on the age and symptoms displayed by the sufferer.
I'm not going to go into why someone may have an attack but what I am going to say is that there are ways to reduce them and stop them but finding what works for you may take time and patience.
People like the Speakman's have a great book which, in a simple way, explains what the attacks are and how to deal with them. There are also books in my resource blog that help to rationalise and overcome panic attacks. For me it was taking my power back which most effective methods do.
I realised that I had to the power to change my life, my health and be true to myself. I believe that a lot of mood disorders are caused by emotional friction e.g trying to be someone you are not, living up to others expectations and putting yourself last. By taking small, manageable steps we can change our lives for the better e.g eating less junk food, reducing stimulants like caffeine and taking some form of exercise......and normally a big dollop of self-forgiveness and compassion.
If you feel alone with what you are going through please reach out for help and don't be put down by others.
You can contact me via the contact form........I'm happy to listen.