I am one that suffers from anxiety attacks and on the rare and shitty occasion, a panic attack. If you've never had the privilege of experiencing either, bless your fragile little heart. God knew you probably wouldn't survive either one, so count yourself lucky. I've talked to enough people that find it "odd" to say that I encounter the occasional tail-spin-out-of-control drama that my body likes to undergo, but hey not everyone is perfect.
When I have an anxiety attack, my heart rate starts to slowly climb, my hands start to shake, my stomach feels nauseous, and I can't focus on anything except desperately trying to calm down. Sounds like anyone's way of dealing with stress, right? Except for me, my heart rate doesn't slow down, the shakes don't stop, and the nausea lasts and lasts…all of it continues for hours. It's quite awful and my brain ends up being scrambled eggs for the longest time and by the time my body has cooperated with me to be somewhat normal, I'm exhausted.
But it's the panic attacks that truly are the worst. I've had a handful of them in my life and I know others that have had them, too. They can all be different. One of my friends swore she was having a heart attack at the age of 24, like an elephant was sitting on her chest. Nope…panic attack. Mine are weird. It can start off like a normal anxiety attack but it goes up about 20 notches. So my breath comes in faster and my heart beats so fast I can feel it pulsing through my eyes. What I tend to do is notice the fast breathing and force myself to slow it down, which is actually more like barely holding my breath and breathing fast all at once. Can you see how this might become a problem? Then the fun stuff begins…my whole body's reaction to the chaos of my brain…
My fingers start to tingle and so do my toes. The tingling turns into a slight numbness that creeps up my whole body as if I've been given an IV of lidocaine that is dripping into my entire system. And the final destination of the numbing effects goes into my eyes and finally into my tongue and lips.
I can't speak when this happens, can barely swallow, blinking is weird, and all I can focus on is the tingling that has taken over my entire body.
If you've never experienced this, can you imagine? It's awful. You aren't paralyzed but you are unable to move correctly or do much of anything to fix the problem until your mind and body decide to cooperate and settle down.
A week ago, I almost experienced one of my panic attacks. I was very upset and could feel my breathing coming at me in the weird waves that they do, the heart rate spiking, and my muscles tensing for the inevitable numbness to come. But the fantastic thing that happened next, astonished even me. I actually talked myself OUT of having the attack. I closed my eyes, told myself I'd be okay, even said "fuck it" to the upsetting situation, forced more balanced breaths, and calmed my heart. The dizziness in my head was there and the numbness in my fingers began climbing up my hands, but that's where it stayed. I simply allowed myself to be upset, allowed myself to be pissed, accepted my emotions for what they were and stopped trying so hard to control it.
While I was proud of myself for being able to settle down, I was more excited that I didn't have to take a pill nor explain to anyone around me that I couldn't speak because my tongue felt like I'd been poked in the mouth with a needle 100 times by a dentist. Embarrassing moment averted!
It takes a lot for me to have a panic attack, and the anxiety attacks run on several different levels. However, it's good to know that I can simply find little mantras to settle my nerves…
Or if all else fails, take a pill.