Panic attacks suck. There’s no two ways about it. I swear you actually forget how horrendous they are til you’re having one again; that was me last night, anyway. My first panic attack in ooh I dunno… six months? It started off with tears. I just couldn’t stop crying – I couldn’t tell you why. Little things had niggled at me over the weekend but nothing I thought I couldn’t handle. Or so I thought. The crying soon became uncontrollable and you’d think to look at me, someone had died.
I was losing control, I knew it. I couldn’t stop though. I tried to explain to my boyfriend what was going on in my head, but honestly I don’t think even I knew what was occurring up there. I still don’t. He held me tight and somehow it just made me worse – I was like a burst water pipe. I legit sat there and in my head on a loop was ‘what the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck’. I was scared, and my brain took that and ran with it. I was beyond being able to rationalise anything, and my old friend Panic soon started knocking.
So here it is; a look inside a panic attack:
I can’t believe I’m here again, I thought I was past having these.
Haha that’s what you thought.
You’re losing control now, your heart will start racing soon, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Fuck fuck fuck. I’m scared, what am I scared of?
Ah fear, lovely, now you’re fucked.
Steve’s looking at me, please stop looking at me, how can you love this?
You’re worthless, you’re weak.
“I’m sorry” I mutter. Why can’t I speak properly? Am I broken?
Yes, yes you are, you’re a mess, you’re starting to shake now, hearts racing, soon you’ll go tingly.
I can’t stop it coming.
I thought I was stronger now? “I’m sorry” I keep saying, my voice is shaking, my hands are shaking, is my brain shaking? I can’t catch my breath. I claw at the bed sheets, I clench my fists, I need to fight this, I can stop it coming.
No you can’t, weak weak weak.
My cries have become yelps, big awful cries, as if someone’s attacking my brain with a pitchfork. ‘Help me’ I whimper. Steve rocks me. ‘Help me’.
How can he help you? You’re alone. You’ll always be alone. Nobody can save you now.
Panic is taking over now. Am I gonna die? I’d forgotten it was this awful. Would it be better to die than to have no control?
Yes, you’re a waste of space, you shouldn’t be here, you’ve gone backwards, you’re back at square one, you fail.
My whole body tenses, I’m stiff. I release, I’m trying to fight, only to tense again. My ears feel blocked, sound is muffled, is this normal? I can’t see through the tears, how is there so much water in me? Is it water in my veins and not blood? I’m so tired. I want to give up.
I’ve zoned out now. Spaced. Lost. Will it ever end?
I’m not sure if what I wrote up there makes much sense, but it’s the only way I could think to convey what went on in my head. Mostly I couldn’t think at all, and all I could focus on was how frightened I was. If I could have upped and flown out of my body at that point I’m certain I would have.
My boyfriend, the whole time, had been deep breathing with me. He’s always done it whenever I’ve had a panic attack, he tries to get me to mirror him. It works after a while and I do begin to settle, but I always have to ride the storm first. I don’t know how long it lasted – the panic attack that is – but it felt like an eternity. I felt sick afterwards. Limp. Drained. Nauseous. Steve had to physically uncurl my fingers because I’d clenched so hard. I felt like a failure and I felt ashamed.
Let me tell you something now though, panic attacks do not equal failure or shame – would you shame someone for having an epileptic fit or for throwing up? No, you wouldn’t. It’s something that goes beyond our control, and it’s okay. It doesn’t make us weak, nor does it mean we’re ‘back at square one’, no matter what our silly brains tell us. It’s part and parcel of something we have to deal with, and we’re just as strong and wonderful for going through one, as we were before it took hold.
It’s important also to note, that we in fact won’t die. During my panic attack last night – and many before that – I’ve been convinced I was done for. I couldn’t see a light. It’s like being stuck in a dark thin long tunnel; your brain tells you that you’ll never get out, that you’ll never see light again. But you will. They don’t last, and you will survive it. You might need a day or two until you feel yourself again, but you’ve got this. At least that’s what I’m telling myself today. I feel very tired and very fragile, and I keep blubbing! I’m just trying to focus on taking care of myself best I can, and I hope if you have days like this, you make yourself a priority and be sure to love every inch of who you are.
Do you suffer with panic attacks? What do you do to help calm yourself down? Do you have a routine you follow post-panic? Please let me know below, I think we could all use a friend on this one.