I can’t think…I can’t focus. My thoughts are scrambled and I’m choking on air. My hands are numb and this body doesn’t feel like my own. Everything around me has turned blurry and it’s closing in on me. I can’t hear anything except my breath. Out of control and shallow. My heart feels like it’s trying to rip itself from my chest. I feel small…I feel trapped. This is anxiety…this is a panic attack.
I had my first panic attack when I was 14 years old. At the time, I didn’t know that’s what it was. I had never experienced anything like that before. I remember my mom just staring at me, not knowing what to say or do. It scared me. But I laughed it off anyway.
No one teaches you about depression and anxiety as a kid. Mental health is not at the forefront of conversations. It’s not taught in school or church. Parents will have the “sex talk,” but there’s never a mental health talk. And there fucking should be.
If I had been educated, and given the tools to be proactive in my own mental health, I feel as though things may have turned out a little different for me.
I didn’t understand my thoughts and feelings, and I didn’t think anyone else would either. That or they wouldn’t care. “Being a teenager,” was the usual excuse or explanation to my behavior. So, I thought it was normal to feel this way.
Empty and numb one minute, scattered and panicked the next. I just went through the motions of my life, with this cloud hanging over me. Dealing with the overwhelming ups and downs that anxiety brings, is exhausting. No one should have to live that way.
But if I’m going to be completely 100 with you guys, I’m still learning how to deal with it. I do know, now, what my anxiety looks like though, and am familiar with some of my triggers. However, there’s not always a rhyme or reason for anxiety. So avoiding or preventing a trigger may not be entirely possible.
Sometimes you just have to ride the wave baby! So, my tips today are, how to deal with the aftermath of a panic attack or a general episode of anxiety.
I am by no means a Doctor or Mental Health Professional. If you or someone you know are dealing with a mental illness and need professional help, PLEASE reach out to your local hospital or call 911 in an emergency. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline @ 800-273-TALK (8255). Whether you’re suicidal or not, they’re there to help. If talking isn’t your thing, you can text this crisis line. Text: HOME to 741-741.
Be an advocate for yourself; Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Ok, so the tips I have for you today are for generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. Anxiety is a bitch and wreaks havoc on your body during an episode. Whether that moment is brief or prolonged, your system suffers.
You’re thrown into fight or flight mode. The nervous system is bombarded with increased levels of norephinephrine and cortisol. These chemicals are what give you the rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and get you prepared for whatever “bad thing” needs an ass kicking. Survival mode at its finest. Thank you Mother Nature.
Now, when your brain finally realizes the “bad thing” is gone (or was never even really there), you will be drained physically, mentally and emotionally.
How to deal with the aftermath
#1 Remove yourself.
Remove yourself from the person, place, or thing. If possible. You need space from your trigger. If you don’t know your trigger, or there wasn’t one, a nice quiet place is still a good idea to retreat to. Now that you’re in a quiet, calm area, the next thing to do is…
Catch your breath and ease back into your natural rhythm . Get comfortable. Sit up straight. Sitting up straight opens up your lungs and gives them room to fully inflate.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m having a panic attack or just an intense moment of anxiety, I tend to fold into myself. Fetal position = squished lung space.
Place a hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Physically feeling your breath move up and down will help bring awareness to it. You will be more conscious and able to slow it down. Do this for as long as you need. Don’t rush yourself.
Breathing is the first thing I try and get under control because when I can’t breathe, I continue to panic. Having my breath steady gives me the ability to now focus on other parts of me that need calming. This is usually when I can start to feel my hands again.
#3 Shake it off.
And I don’t mean this in the douchey, or lyrical way. I literally mean shake it off. Remember the not breathing, panicky thing you just went through? Well, sometimes due to oxygen not reaching all your extremities, things may be tingly and or totally numb.
I will sit, (or stand if I can muster the strength) and wiggle my fingers, clench and unclench my hands, and I keep working from there. Stretch your arms out, swing them around, do whatever feels comfortable and natural. Lengthen your legs, move your feet around and just give everything a good little stretch.
After you have taken a decent amount of “you time” and re-centered yourself, It’s probably safe to frolic about your daily routine once again. Just remember, you fucking rock and the bad moments in life will pass.
However, I realize not everyone is in my particular situation. So take these tips with a grain of salt. Please alter and use what works best for you and your current lifestyle.
Hang in there my lovelies.