I thought hard about what I wanted to write this week. It wasn’t until I was on the verge of a panic attack last night that I realized I wanted to give people some insight into what it is like to have a panic attack. I understand this is a hard topic for some people to read, and I respect that. However, I believe this is important for educating people and giving them insight into how to help.
I want to show people how to write it also, give them perspective and depth into one man’s panic attacks. That leads me to a key point: Panic attacks are unique to an individual. Just like our bodies react differently to everything in the world, so does our mind to stress or panic.
For me, a panic attack starts with this tightening feeling in my chest. Slowly, the rope pulls around my heart and suffocates it. A black hole is left in its place, sucking away all my emotions. It takes away all the happiness and joy I could muster.
Then my muscles tense up like I’m being jolted with electricity. I dig my nails into my palms as the feeling tightens my body. I slowly curl up into a ball as my muscles pull at me. My teeth clench together and grind against one another as I struggle to breathe.
Then I forget. I forget how to move, to breathe, to talk, to live. I take in deep gulps of breath, but forget how to release it. I gasp, taking in more and more air. More air than my lungs can hold. My nails dig deeper into my palms, but the pain has disappeared along with my other senses. I want to breathe. I want to release the air into the atmosphere. I beg my brain to remember as I continue to gasp, until…
Finally, I exhale. My eyes stay closed as my body recovers. I don’t move for ten minutes, just laying there in a ball. I wait for my muscles to slowly relax and my breathing to return to normal. Then I open my eyes, and as always, my wife is there, stroking my hair. Waiting for me, like she always does. Opening my eyes to see someone, anyone, being by your side helps so much.
Now, you may ask what some control techniques are when you feel a panic attack coming on. For me, there are a few things that normally work. I turn to my senses before I lose them. What can I smell around me? I’ll use wax warmers or diffusers to help bring me a pleasant smell.
I cuddle with my dogs, relying on my sense of touch and comfort to bring me back down. My head laid on the soft side of Dutch is one of the best feelings. I’ll close my eyes and try to force myself into a happy memory or thought to counter the negativity trying to invade my mind.
Music will often transform me too. Nice, soft music is typically what I turn to. The piano or an acoustic guitar are some of the most soothing sounds for my crazy mind.
Those are things that work for me, so that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Maybe it will help someone, though. If I’ve helped one person, I’ve done something worth doing.