I had my very first panic attack when I was 18. I can still remember it. I was at church. I went into the bathroom because I felt stressed. I fell to the floor and couldn’t breathe. Somebody touched me and I started screaming! It was frightening and humiliating. I didn’t realize this was a panic attack. I didn’t know what it was. I just knew that it was embarrassing. After having several panic attacks, I began to be able to control them a little better. I didn’t scream, but that fear of losing control has always stayed with me. My experience is not uncommon. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), six million adults in the U.S. struggle with panic attacks.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is more than just being worried. There are physical symptoms like shortness of breath, sweating, chest pain, nausea, vomitting or tingling in your hands. Panic attacks can be so intense that they are mistaken for a heart attack. When you have panic attacks frequently and severely, they can turn into an anxiety disorder known as agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is when you avoid any setting that could trigger a panic attack. For me this included making phone calls, going in elevators, crowded places, gym anxiety, and many other activities. I stopped doing anything that might trigger anxiety.
I have gradually worked through my anxiety with a lot of support. The ketogenic diet has also made a huge difference. This weekend, however, I had a panic attack and made the decision that it would be my last. I have made a commitment to myself to break the cycle.
*Thank you to my friend who sent me this very appropriate song.
Breaking the anxiety cycle
This is my plan and I am sharing it with you all. While there is a physiological component to panic attacks, if you are in tune with your body you can head one off. My hope and commitment to myself is to never allow my axiety to spin out of control again. So here it is. I have been commited to personal growth. I am trying to not only heal myself, but be an inspiration to others in the process.
Learn from the past but don’t live there
Childhood trauma and narcisstic emotional abuse are major factors in panic attack. After evaluating the triggers of my last several panic attacks, I realized much of it was due to living with an emotionally abusive person for years. A narcissist will criticize everything you do to the point where you start questioning everything you do. It takes time to recognize that loving people don’t do this and to break the habit of worrying.
Be honest and assertive
One of my biggest issues as an empath is that I try to be there for everyone and support everyone, even at the expense of my own mental health. A therapist once told me if you increase assertiveness you will decrease anxiety. I have had a history of being non-confrontational. Even though I am a “badass goddess”, I often dodge confrontation with people I love. I do not like hurting people or disappointing people. Sometimes confrontation is necessary. Be direct, honest, and compassionate when you set boundaries, but set boundaries. People that love you will appreciate and respect that you have boundaries.
Find your tribe
Over the last two years I have made so many friends. One of the things you gain by being honest is real friends. Real friends love you the way you are and support you. I always thought I needed a “rock” or an “anchor” to keep me emotionally stable. This is the root of codependency. Find a tribe. Have more than one person you can depend on for emotional support.
I journal almost every day. When I find my mind spinning, I write in my journal. One of my biggest triggers these days is texting anxiety. You text someone when you are stressed, and they when they don’t reply back it sets off an anxiety cycle. This is not just an issue for me, I have a ton of other friends that struggle with this. My journal gives me a safe place to “talk” and get things out. Plus, the process of journaling quiets my mind so that I don’t overthink. This way I can give loved ones necessary space and work out my own problems.
I meditate regularly. Sometimes I use grounding techniques to clear my head, but I usually use creative visualization. Most of my friends know about the girl in the blue dress and my yellow Corvette. They are all creative imagery I use during meditation. Everyone has their own way of meditating. I have been meditating for over 20 years and I no longer follow any rules with it. It brings me peace, helps me solve problems, makes me feel spiritually connected, and calms me down.
Recognize the overthinking and nip it
Most of my anxiety attacks are triggered by overthinking. It starts with a small statement and then snow balls. All of a sudden I am worrying about what you think. Should I explain that I didn’t mean it that way. Wait… Maybe I should. Oh damn, I just sent you ten text messages explaining that I didn’t really mean it that way. And wait now…I look a like a total lunatic and you are never going to talk to me again. Nip this at the start. This is all in your head! (;
Stress, clutter, and tasks are another big trigger for me. Even writing this blog post created a little anxiety for me. Here you are trying to write a post about your last panic attack and you’re having anxiety about it. Ironic. Baby steps baby! Break things down into baby steps so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
I think I will always have a smidge of anxiety. Anxiety is a normal emotion. What I am trying to do is allow myself to feel my emotions, recognize them, and let them go. So while writing today’s blog post I feel a little anxiety. I want to write something people can relate to, that’s not boring, that’s inspirational, but writing is hard. Don’t freak out! You can do it unicorn goddess. People get you! I am commited to actively working on my anxiety disorder.
No more freakouts!
Your friend, the unicorn goddess!