Disclaimer: a) This post does not serve as a source of definitive information. I write from my personal experience, not diagnosed by any medical professional.
b) This is a long one.
What are panic attacks? These are periods of intense fear or apprehension of sudden onset.
How do you know you’re having one? You might feel palpitations, sweating, shivering, shaking, numbness, nausea or a feeling I’ve imagined as a boulder rolling around inside my stomach.
Can you foresee an attack? Like mentioned before, they’re sudden. But through experience, you can tell the signs of an approaching attack.
Are you given medication? According to my not so extensive researching on google, there isn’t a sure shot way of avoiding a panic attack by popping pills. But there are ways you control the frequency and if you’re lucky, completely stop its occurrence over time. However, the medication you receive in case you do find it necessary, goes only as far as reducing your symptoms but not prevent a future attack. Talk therapy is something you can look into for counselling.
Source: Google reading.
I’m 21 and memories from school are starting to become a tad hazy now. (What are you a grandma, Anya?)
It was 6 years ago. So, spare me for not remembering details of the events leading up to it, but I was in the casualty of a nearby hospital on the first day of tenth grade. I remember having the last bed, curtains drawn, a tall doctor pressing into the sides of my stomach and my dad at the head of my bed. I needed the doctor to tell me 3 things: how to stop my limbs from going ice cold, how to stop myself from throwing up and how to stop my head from spinning like the Pulsar.
He found nothing, obviously. I didn’t have a disease; I was just scared. I feared something so trivial; I need to go back in time and shake that girl that hooked her two big toes and slept on that bed like the world had fallen on her head. I had to give my dad an explanation as to why I’d behaved so unusually that he had to drive me to a hospital at 8 in the morning, so I blamed it on the human body and it’s way of making me bleed a few days every month with accompanied cramps. And as for the doctor, he probably thought he knew what a kid with a case of the ‘school scare’ looked like. He didn’t.
My dad gave into it and let me stay at home for the next three days since I WOULD NOT budge.
That, I believe, was the first time I ever felt genuine fear for something I’d never felt in all my years of attending school. Yeah, laugh all you want at my 15-year-old self. I would too now because I can’t remember how it felt. I didn’t hate school. I had excellent attendance not because my parents wouldn’t let me sit at home but because I liked going to school. I had straight A’s (Almost), I played a couple of sports that I wasn’t the worst at, and I enjoyed my time there. There was no reason for me to take off three days to calm my head. When I did decide to go back, there was not even the slightest bit of apprehension at all. It was like those three days didn’t happen.
I forgot all about it after that because like I said, I was one of those that liked going to school and mostly I liked knowing. What I had pulled on my first day wasn’t something I understood and while it made me uneasy, I accepted it was best not knowing why it happened.
What was once safely shut off in a safe that I never intended to open, I forgot existed, bounced open again one morning during my physiology practical revision classes in college. It was the end of my first year of medical school, we had to go in batches to look at instruments in our practical lab. That was all that was expected. Look and if you didn’t know you could ask around or ask a professor for help. I could make it out in less than half an hour. But…..
The jitters began right outside of college. I put it off for all of two seconds before it came back again with a vengeance. I was the last one left in the little classrooms we often used to place our bags in. I waited, managed to pull a book out, put it back in, and made a run for it back to my hostel room.
It was a two-minute run to my room, I would know because it was two excruciating minutes of swallowing back puke. My room was on the fourth floor, but I only made it to the communal washrooms on the ground floor to throw up in one of the toilets. That was my ‘crying in the bathroom’ moment without the overhead shower washing away the ugly tears that refused to stop.
Can someone pay me for the dramatics already?
It wasn’t the run back to the room. It wasn’t the fact that I had just hurled up. I was still retching and trying to catch my breath while dialing my father up. You’re never prepared to receive a call from your daughter, away in another city, sobbing bitterly over the phone, unable to breathe let alone talk. I know I was begging for him to do something or tell me something. I know I kept reminding him of tenth grade and I know I was asking him to help. As a father not knowing what was happening, you can only do so much as panicking and telling me to sit down somewhere and try drinking water.
I’m a generally anxious person. I’m on the edge for the slightest of things that don’t go according to plan or even if they do go according to plan. I barely scrape through with sudden improvisations. The unknown doesn’t sound adventurous (It’s changing.) and most definitely doesn’t excite me. If by excite, you mean rile me up in the worst way possible, then okay, yeah. It excites me. I have my fair share of adventure, don’t judge me; I’m not a wuss.
I’m not proud of it but I’m not done with it. It’s become a way of life to try and have most things in control or know what path I walk. I need to know direction. I’d lose my shit in a game of ‘Blindfold me, spin me and let me go find people’.
But through years of getting worked up at very tiny things and letting my mind go into overdrive, I’ve learnt to be prepared. Prepared for when I know and prepared for when I don’t know.
But then there are times I surprise myself and catch myself off guard. That is where the problem lies. That is where my panic attacks crouch, waiting. You don’t anticipate panic attacks, obviously. How do you know you’re going to freak out on the first day of your last year in school? How do you know you’ll flip out looking at an empty classroom? How do you know you’re going to hide AFTER the dance performance that the team won, teaching yourself to breathe not because you just danced but because your body won’t let you enjoy that brief happiness?
Having said that, it’s still a debate between momentarily losing my cool and panic attacks. But, to be prepared, here are some things that I find could be useful if I remember it the next time around, for anyone that wants to know.
Personal tips from the author: 1) Breathe deep and long breaths.
2) Get on the floor and lie down flat. Trace patterns or focus on details.
3) Force self to grab a book and read. Or color. Put your mind into something else.
4) There’s always one person you can call, right that minute to calm your nerves.
In these trying times, for anyone that has panic attack or anxiety attacks, while I definitely don’t understand the full extent of your battle, my heart goes out to you.