This a not just another post about the hell of living with anxiety and panic disorders. This is my story, my personal experience. This is me, trying to explain how it feels. This is me trying to explain how it feels to live with this daily hell. This is all me. I am a Forty Plusser woman and this is really hard to deal with. But I cope! I must! I have a husband and two amazing children, so I must be strong!
Since forever, even as a child, I have this constant nervous feeling that surrounds me. I can’t always pin point it to a certain event or trigger. It is just always “there”. It’s part of me, like ALWAYS. As a child I just couldn’t sleep. When I went to sleep around eight o’clock in the evening, I was dead tired, but as soon as I drifted off to sleep I would get this adrenaline rush… and I would became fully awake! I got so worked up and worried about how I would be able to get up for school the next morning! I got so anxious each night and cried myself to sleep… night after night. My whole freaken childhood… most of the nights I spend crying. You must believe me. Like twelve o’clock, two o’ clock in the morning… I just couldn’t sleep. Like clockwork… I became anxious EVERY single night!
Now that I am an adult, I am over that, in a sense that I don’t care how much I sleep. Some nights I sleep like two hours a night, some nights eight hours and some nights nothing at all. As an adult my anxiety became worse… and I also started to have panic attacks! What a bummer! I had my first FULL BLOWN panic attack way back in 2002. It was around 01:30 in the the morning. I woke up from a dead sleep. Nothing could have prepared my body or mind for the feelings that flooded my body when it was in full panic. It happened out of the blue, without any warning. I experienced shortness of breath. Then a racing heart! “O my word, I am having a heart attack!!”. Then I began to feel dizzy, light headed and got hot flushes. My tongue felt swollen and I also had this choking feeling. My arms begin to have tingling sensations. I immediately knew that something was wrong. I couldn’t see. I thought I was dying. I went to the nearest hospital’s emergency room. Long story short is that the doctor confirmed that there was nothing wrong with me. It was “just” a panic attack. Sure… just a panic attack. Super (NOT!).
I do worry a lot about having another panic attack, especially in crowded places such as shopping malls and social gatherings where it would be embarrassing to have a panic attack. So for me it’s not just the symptoms that make panic attacks so debilitating, but also the feeling of being out of control. When might an attack strike again?
Going to church is a real struggle for me. Church is suppose to feel safe for everyone. Not for me! I feel very uncomfortable to go to church. I am at that point in my life that I want to avoid going to church! I fear the bouts of panic attacks or anxiety will happen in the middle of church service and disrupt everything! With almost every sermon, symptoms of a panic attack starts to pop up! The room begins to spin… cannot catch me breath… my heart pounds out of my chest…etc. It is a big big big challenge to redirect my thoughts… With every sermon I do my best to relax and focus on the sermon. What really helps is a bottle of iced water! When I feel this dooming feeling, I just take a few sips of this cold water until I relax. Please take note: Sometimes this water helps, but sometimes not at all!
The symptoms of anxiety and having panic attacks do interfere with daily activities such as job performance and relationships. My biggest dilemma now as an adult is that I fear meetings, going to church, going to shops or even at sport events. To be quite honest… any place or occasion where I am surround by people.
I tend to look around in my office, neighbourhood and church and all that I see is confident people who surely do not experience anxiety at the concept of interacting with other people. We all have anxiety at some point, but for the majority of us, it’s situational and temporary. We as humans, are programmed to deal with a certain amount of anxiety on a regular basis. A healthy amount of anxiety is what drives us to be our best.
So how do I cope? When you are having a panic attack and you think that you are dying it isn’t always easy to focus on any coping strategies. The counting method doesn’t work for me at all. I try to control my thoughts by focusing on things that I can see, touch and smell and taste. My panic attacks do last anything from 2 minutes to 3 hours! Don’t laugh… when I am at home and I start to have a panic attack, I try to make myself some toast! I plug in the toaster and slide bread in the slots. It’s like the smell of the toast calms me in a way!! Then, by eating the toast I actually begin to relax… My doctor also prescribed meds that I use when needed.
Overall, my anxiety don’t stand in my way too much. On good days I live life, and on my worst days I hope that it will pass… again… Truth is that with every panic attack I am not sure if I will “survive”. With every panic attack I feel like I am dying… I know that the feelings of nervousness or panic attacks are very real, but the truth is that many of those symptoms can be improved or controlled over time. Your diet, exercise, mindfulness etc. can have a huge impact on your mental health. I try to live my life as a whole. I would encourage anyone to speak out to friends, to family, to a doctor or anyone, because that is the first step! It is okay to ask for help when you need it. Your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of and it’s important that we look after it.