I ended 2017 with a blog about my intentions for the New Year and a quote from my pal Buddha which said, “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” I can’t believe it has been over 5 months since I wrote my last blog. I certainly have had my hands full. Not only that, I was struggling with what I wanted to write about. Yup, for five whole months. Talk about a writer’s block. Truth is, I have been going back and forth regarding the topic I am writing about today. It is a topic that I am open about as much as I can be. It is raw, real and hard to write about because of those very factors.
For me, panic attacks have become a new normal. I wish it wasn’t always this way, but sadly, it is. I have been getting panic attacks for over a decade. In the beginning, I just figured I was an overly anxious person who worried about ‘things’. Then those ‘things’ just kept piling up and made me worry more frequently. I could take the smallest feeling of getting a headache and basically convince myself within minutes that it was a tumor and that I was going to die. Nice, huh?
As I sit here writing this and periodically reread my grammar, I can’t help but pause and think how absolutely crazy and insane this all sounds. I mean, how a person can go from a minor ache or pain to literally within seconds feel like the world is caving in on them with their heart racing so fast and thousands of thoughts swirling all around their head seems quite nuts. With my panic attacks, they are mostly associated with something physical. Once the physical sensation happens (a headache, some twitch, a localized pain) it is over. Legit, game over. Game, set, match, OVER. My mind is now fully in control and good luck to me over the next 2 long and grueling hours. You read that correctly, sometimes it takes me 2 hours to fully get rid of my panic attacks.
My panic attacks in the beginning were pretty low key. They used to come and go and I would be able to switch gears and get rid of them fairly quickly. My pregnancy with Camryn drastically changed the frequency and severity of my panic attacks. Over the course of my not-so-wonderful 9-month pregnancy with Cam, I miscarried Camryn’s twin, I had pneumonia, I had the stomach bug, I had to wear a heart monitor for a month due to increased stress levels, my skin burned in three spots from the gel of the heart monitor pads, I had an allergic reaction from the steroid cream I took for the burn that caused me to break out in a full body rash that made me scratch so much I bled and I got a stress fracture during my 8th month and had to be on crutches. YES, all of that shit truly happened. I was a fucking wreck for that entire pregnancy. All of this meant I had to go to the doctors, A LOT. Going to the doctors for me became a norm but for my brain it was a quick trip to panictown. At any moment where I had any sensation in my body, my brain immediately thought “great, here we go with another trip to the doctors”. I would think about my appointment from the minute I woke up until the second it happened. Not just think, obsess is a much better word for it. What will my tests results from my lab work say? Will my blood pressure be normal? Then I became obsessed with checking my heart rate. I used to do it roughly 50 times a day. I wish I could go back to the old days where going to the doctors wasn’t such a big deal, but for me, it is a huge deal.
So what brings all of these crazy ass panic attacks on? It wasn’t until while being pregnant with Camryn that I realized my trigger. It was stress. One would think that this would have been obvious, but to me, it never was. When I am overly stressed, this is how my body tells me that I need to take care of myself better. If I don’t comply, well, off to panictown I go. One way that I started to take care of myself was through meditating. I began meditating during my pregnancy to the Calm app which was recommended by a friend. Folks, I am serious when I say this, STOP what you are doing and download this app. I used the free version for 10 months and finally bought it after I had Camryn. It was $60 for the entire year and the amount of information, knowledge and support this app has given me is priceless. As I wrote in my last post, I was going to meditate for 30 days. After those 30 days, I was hooked!
I wish that I could say that my go to technique is one specific item like meditating. Truth is, sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. There are nights where I have to try four different techniques in order for me to get one to stick that pulls me back to normalcy. That doesn’t mean I have failed. It just means that I was a little deeper in the weeds and I needed to switch it up and use more of my tools. My advice when someone you know is having a panic attack is to listen to what they want to do. Sometimes I want to talk and other times I just want someone to talk to me. When I call my mom to talk me off of a ledge, she becomes a storyteller. She can talk to me about a hair elastic and I wouldn’t care. I just need to listen and get my mind off of what I currently am thinking about. Also, support them in any way you can. Perhaps you can offer to meditate with them or do deep breathing exercises. Panic attacks are real. They are scary and can often leave you feeling helpless. You won’t ever know what a true panic attack feels like unless you have experienced one yourself. When I tell people that I suffer from panic attacks, most people think I am joking and can’t actually believe it. Just remember, everyone is struggling in life. Everyone has their own set of challenges. Try and recognize the symptoms when you can and be patient. If I could stop my anxiety, I would have done so by now.