Hey everyone, remember me? I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in a while! Revision took a complete hold over me up until Tuesday, then I went out drinking, then I caught tonsillitis, eeek. So whilst I’m full of cold and incredibly contagious, I thought I would write this post, which I have been thinking of writing for a while now!
I have battled with panic attacks since I was roughly 14 years old. I was incredibly quiet at secondary school and bottled my emotions up in the hopes that they would just disappear. Of course they didn’t. My temper became incredibly unpredictable, my mood swings were terrifying and I was generally horrible to be around. At night I would lay there, completely unable to sleep – at this time I would average on 1-2 hours sleep a night and fall asleep in class. I have always been an incredibly academic person, but because of this I completely lost all passion for school and gave up with my grades.
One night, when I was laying there with just my thoughts to occupy me, my mind started drifting and I started playing out horrible scenarios in my head [something I always tend to do when I can’t sleep]. Next thing I knew, I had a tingling sensation in my nose, fingertips and toes, and they went numb. I tried wiggling them and pinching them to gain some feeling and then my breath started to become shallow. I was gasping for air and shaking all over. Tears started falling uncontrollably down my face and I tried to call out for help but I couldn’t speak. All I could think was “I’m going to die”. This state of helplessness lasted for over an hour and it was truly awful. This is a panic attack for me.
Panic attacks are different for absolutely everyone. They are triggered by different things, the pain manifests in different areas and their bodily reactions are different too. If you would like to see another post about panic attacks by the lovely Daniela and how she deals with them, please click here. Her post gave me the courage to write this so you should all go check it out!
As I’ve said, my panic attacks were quite severe at age 14, and for a couple of years they showed no sign of easing up. I would have at least one a night – sometimes lasting for five minutes, sometimes for several hours! It took me a long time to learn how to deal with them and how to nip them in the bud before they escalated, but I finally managed it! 7 years on and I probably get a panic attack once every six months (if that). Below is my own little makeshift guide on what helps to ward my panic attacks off:
- Recognise the triggers. What I mean by this is what sets them off? For me, I have a few fears such as losing the ones I care about, being abandoned and generally worrying that I will end up alone. Over the years I have recognised that these are recurrent triggers for my panic attacks. Once you know your regular triggers, it makes it easier to predict when you might have one, and to therefore remove yourself from the situation.
- Learn how to spot the symptoms before it turns into a full-blown panic attack. My very first symptom, which I always experience is the tingling in my nose, fingertips and toes. Once I start to feel this, I become mentally prepared for a panic attack and concentrate on my breathing and positive thinking in order to ward it off.
- BREATHE. The first thing I did when I started having panic attacks was talk to my mum. My mum’s panic attacks are fairly rare as she mainly gets them whilst driving, particularly on a busy road. She told me that whenever she feels one coming on, she pulls over and concentrates on her breathing and taking control over her body in order to avoid hyperventilating which would lead to a panic attack. This advice is TOTALLY invaluable. The cause for most panic attacks is shortness of breath: you are not supplying your brain with enough oxygen and therefore start feeling faint.
- Tell a couple of close friends/family. I personally find it really helpful to call or to sit with someone whilst I have a panic attack, usually Dan or a close friend such as Jess or Katie. Sure, it’s embarrassing at first but they will understand. I tell them what I need from them, such as “Tell me to breathe”, “I just want a cuddle”, “Reassure me that everything will be alright”. This reassurance/ comfort helps me so much during a panic attack. I used to hide away from the world, embarrassed of my panic attacks- but trust me, having someone there for you really helps!
- Don’t bottle up your emotions! This was a really big one for me. I’m quite private when it comes to my emotions, I would rather not burden anyone else with my issues. But this was one of the main reasons for my panic attacks! Suffering in silence is not the way forward! I started keeping a diary, which I used to vent all of my emotions, which helped loads. Just venting these everyday upsets is so important for my mental health. As my confidence has improved, these days I usually just end up ranting at one of my friends or Dan… Sorry guys!
- Find a hobby. This really could be anything, photography, dance, blogging, drawing, painting, colouring, reading, running, etc. etc. One thing which has worked particularly well for me is Yoga. I’m hardly an expert and I have never been to an official class, but there is an amazing App called ‘Pocket Yoga’. The exercises are 30 minutes long and are so useful when I am feeling particularly stressed or out of control!
At the end of it all, I think it’s most important to find something that works for you! Because every panic attack is different, the way you deal with yours will obviously differ from how I deal with mine. But hopefully in thinking a little more about your symptoms and your triggers, you will be able to find a way which works for you!
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, I have been really nervous about publishing this one, so feedback would be great!
Do you suffer from panic attacks? Are your symptoms similar to mine? Or completely different? Please comment below and let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you!
Thank you so much for reading. Don’t forget to follow me on my other social media accounts.