So before I delve into this next post, I want to say something really important.
The amount of positive support and kind words I have received not only from that last post but from this blog in general has been wonderfully overwhelming. There are strangers who I’ve never met tell me they relate to what I’m saying, old friends from high school, and even close loved ones all giving me support and honestly, its that kind of thing that tells my suicidal thoughts to shut up. So I can’t thank all of you beautiful viewers enough. Ya’ll are really wonderful.
Anyway back onto some shit am I right?
I’ve been doing exposure therapy and lately because feeling and sitting with the anxiety you try to suppress is really fucking awful, I’ve been getting panic attacks from them. My therapist gave me some really awesome stuff to read and to think about and I thought I’d share some of that awesome wisdom with you and also my tips from how I’ve been dealing with it for the past 2 years.
The Medical Facts
To start it off, you need to know some really key facts: a panic attack cannot kill you. A panic attack cannot lead to a heart attack. You cannot faint during a panic attack. A panic attack cannot make you “go crazy”. You will not suffocate during a panic attack. No matter what symptoms you may be experiencing, there will be nothing physically wrong with you during an attack. I cannot stress this enough because this information was by far the most important in helping me live with them.
A panic attack is your adrenal glands being a dick and being all like, “OH FUCK THERE’S DANGER HOLY FUCK YOU SEE THAT NOTHINGNESS? DANGER DANGER DANGER DANGER!!” And your brain saying, “Alright if you say so.” But your really just having a cup of tea and reading a book and there is absolutely nothing dangerous. Having a fight or flight reaction isn’t dangerous and therefore having a panic attack isn’t dangerous. Unpleasant? 100%.Scary? Oh fuck yeah. It may feel like you’re going to die, but take it from the girl who went to the hospital over a panic attack, there is nothing physically wrong. So that takes care of one catastrophe thought.
The Fear Channels the Event
I’m still struggling with this a lot because panic attacks really fucking suck. But, it is true that if you fear a panic attack, it is most likely that your fear will come true. Its happened to me multiple where I’m terrified that I will get a panic attack at so and so important event and because I’m so terrified, it ends up happening. Your brain predicts shit like that. More recently, I’ve been treating it like an annoyance. I don’t fear it coming, but when it happens my mind reacts like a stubborn tween.
“Oh my god REALLY? You HAVE TO DO THIS NOW? UGGGGHHHHHHHH WHYYYYYYYY… Stupid fucking brain doesn’t get me.” And then its like “Yeah that’s right fucker suck it up.” So I mutter, “OK whatever BRAIN. Ugh.”
There are some situations I do avoid because I’m afraid that it will trigger a panic attack, such as huge parties or dances, or night clubs, or heights (and lots of other things that can be avoided pretty much all the time). Sure it really fucking sucks to miss some of those things because they can be pretty fun, but I’ll be able to enjoy them when I get over this.
Some of these are my coping mechanisms to help you float through it, some of these are from that worksheet I was given.
- Let your mind go blank: This is really difficult but its really nice. Its actually really unusual to have absolutely nothing going through your mind, (especially for me when I constantly have weird random shit going through it like potatoes wearing tutus) but it stops every negative thought in your mind. On the downside, there’s also no reassurance, but I take no negative thoughts over a chance of reassurance any day in this ol’ head.
- Take your mind off the sensations: Not everyone shakes or trembles during an attack, but I definitely do. I tend to play the piano to whatever music I’m listening to (Chopin’s Nocturnes. Always.) and that stops them from shaking and it also takes my focus off from the shit that’s happening everywhere else in my body. It took me a while to find what that was, but it helps me calm down pretty damn well.
- Breathe: This is the hardest one, especially if your chest constricts (WHICH IS TOTALLY NORMAL) making it difficult to catch your breath. I tend to hyperventilate (which is bad). Since I normally don’t notice that I’m hyperventilating, I have someone tell me to take really slow, deep, belly breaths with them. If I don’t have them, I have a recording of my boyfriend leading me through that and telling me a bunch of other positive stuff. When you stop hyperventilating, the horrible sensation of being lightheaded will also subside which generally calms you down.
- Listen to music: This, again, might just work for me because I figured this out on my own. Listening specifically to very complicated but soothing classical piano music (like Chopin, Brahms, or Debussy) really keeps my mind engaged and off of the panic attack.
- Engage in physical activity: I have never tried this, but the book swears by it. If you walk around, even if it feels like you can’t (because you definitely can), gets some of that pent up adrenaline out of your system. I like to curl up in to a ball and shake but every person’s situation is different.
- Find someone: I generally like being with someone while its happening. Having someone rub my back, breathe with me, and talk about things in their life really takes my mind off of it. (I always like asking the question, what took you breath away? I get great answers and stories) If you may be getting in a situation where you won’t be someone you trust, have a recording of someone you trust speaking to you. (NOTE FOR PEOPLE WHO HELP: Be. Calm. Let me tell you there is nothing that makes it worse than the person whose trying to help freaking out as much as you.)
Some Questions to Ask During
You can either have someone ask you these questions during or you can think of them on your own, but they may help with any freak out thoughts you may be having:
- Are these symptoms I’m feeling dangerous? (Hint: No.)
- What is the absolute worst thing that could happen?
- Am I telling myself anything to make this worse?
- What is the most supportive thing I can do for myself right now?
Final Things to Keep in Mind
- YOU WILL NOT DIE.
- Millions of people have gotten through this a-okay and so can you.
- You can handle these symptoms or sensations.
- It’s not an emergency.
- It’s not the worst thing that could happen (as much as it may feel like it.)
- Take as much time to feel calm and relaxed.
- It will not hurt you.
- Nothing serious will happen to you.
- Fighting and resisting it hinders it, so just try to let it pass.
- YOU. WILL. NOT. DIE.
Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?