What I learnt from having a panic attack
Updated: Mar 3
I had only had one panic attack before...I think. There may have been others, but to be honest, I feel like my mind is so busy and clouded and hazy these days, it's hard to remember things that happened five minutes ago let alone months or years ago.
But in the middle of December, I had another panic attack. I had had a good morning, I was stressed thinking out the day ahead but ultimately felt in pretty good spirits because I was organised and looking forward to the weekend. I can't pinpoint anything that triggered the panic attack, but before I knew it, I couldn't breathe, think or move. I started crying and my brain was foggy.
I managed to breathe through it and felt like I was able to continue with my day. Little did I know, the remnants of the panic attack were still lingering and less than an hour later, I was slumped against a bathroom stall shaking and barely able to make sense of anything. It seemed to take forever to get the cortisol out of my body. A hot cup of peppermint tea, some chocolate and calming essential oils helped but by this stage I was physically and emotionally drained and laying down and being quiet was the threshold of my activity for the remainder of the day.
Since then, I have been doing research on panic attacks and have managed to find out the following: They are more common in women than men (not surprising) and typically affect those between the ages of 20-30. They also only affect between 1.5-4% of the entire population. I found this interesting because I thought that with the changes constantly occurring in society, the prevalence of stress and depression that panic attacks would also be on the rise and affecting a greater number of people. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy that the statistic is not greater.
There didn't seem to be anything in particular that triggered my attack and my research confirmed that this is common. However, severe stress is often a cause of many panic attacks. The symptoms of panic attacks can include racing heartbreak, dizziness, shortness of breath and muscle tension. I experienced many of these but I wouldn't think that ALL of them are necessary to classify it as a panic attack.
One of the things that irritated me after experiencing this was the unhelpful comments and advice people were making. One irritating human approached me with a stupid grin on their face and laughingly said "You need to breathe through it". Don't you think I know that idiot? And while I was trying my best to breathe deeply and calm my heart, when you are in that moment, all sense of rational thinking goes out the window.
Another ignorant human who was having a lot of difficulty understanding what a panic attack was and why it was such a big deal said "I've had anxiety before" as if to say that it's not a big deal. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME! Anxiety varies in intensity and develops gradually over time, whereas panic attacks appear suddenly and often involve a sense of detachment and arrive with greater intensity.
I have also experienced anxiety. In fact, I experience it often and usually it is associated with a particular place. Now, anything to do with that place breeds further anxiety. I have and continue to implement strategies to deal with this, however, they are not always effective. I continue to work on my physical, mental and emotional health so that I can live a positive and productive life and am confident that one day I will be free from anxiety and that panic attacks will be a thing of the past.
For more on mental health and positivity, check out my YouTube channel.