July 26, 2008

Don't Panic...

My mind starts drifting, the room starts to feel unreal, ahh crap, breath, breath, I have to sit down, ok, ok, still feeling light headed but I'm breathing. Oh no, now my stomach's making strange noises, I feel like I'm going to puke, get home, hurry, hurry, oh God I'm going to get sick, no I have to control it, I can't control it, my hearts going to pound out of my chest.

Home at last, need to lay down, my head is swirling, my whole body is shaking, I'm so cold, ughhh my stomach, curl up on the couch, put my head against the back of it, try to relax, I'm freaking out, this is never going to stop, I'm going to get sick and I'm just going to keep getting sick, need to sleep, it'll go away if I sleep....

This was a very common scenario when I first started having my panic attacks 8 years ago, and it was always a grueling experience that drained me emotionally, physically, and mentally.

But, the doctors couldn't really help me and they still can't really treat me for it, they just don't understand enough about what causes panic attacks.

I took classes and even ended up on bi-polar medication to try and help treat the symptoms, but none of these things really helped. I ended up having to basically treat myself, make my own way through the terrible experience of panic attacks.

Unless you've experienced a true panic attack, you can't truly understand the experience. It's like nothing else I've ever been through in my life, and nobody can really help you, but you.

You see commercials all the time with treatments for panic disorder and anxiety disorder, but when it all comes down to it, you've got to be able to treat yourself.

I've found the thing that helps me the most is talking myself through my panic attacks and mentally "pushing" them away from myself, which I now know is called "bio-feedback".

It sounds complicated and it takes some time to get a grasp on, but it helps. You have to picture the panic attack in your mind, imagine where in it in your brain, and see yourself pushing it from that spot in your brain and out the back of your head. It may sound silly if you've never experienced panic attacks, but suffering from panic attacks teaches you very quickly to try anything. I still suffer from panic attacks now and again, as I'm sure I will for the rest of my life, it's just not something that goes away in most people( no matter what a phychiatrist tells you, they're just trying to help). But, it does get easier as time goes on to control them, as long as you're willing to make your way through it.

Here are some things that I've done to ease my way through my panic attacks over the years that might help you:

  • Just relax. I know it may sound hard, especially in the middle of a panic attack. But, just letting the panic attack "pass through" can be the quickest route to it's end.

  • Instead of counting on a comfort zone(most people who suffer from panic attacks have a "comfort zone", a place where they feel most comfortable when suffering from an attack), find a comfort object. This is something you can take with you, like a lucky coin, necklace, or, if you're into piercings, a comfort labret ring or eyebrow ring.

  • Remember to breath. A lot of people, when in the middle of a panic attack, get so hyped up during one that they forget to just breath normally. Hyper-ventilation can also occur, so just focus on getting your breathing under control.

  • Learn to "belly breath". Breathing from your stomach up to your chest, you can find plenty of books on it(especially yoga books). It gets more oxygen to your blood, without all the work.

  • Find a focus. Find an object, a person, a building, whatever you can find. And focus on that thing. This can help you "pull away" from your mind, a sort of day-dream technique, and helps you through panic.

  • Do not let yourself become a recluse( agoraphobia is a big problem for people with panic disorder). Remember, whether you leave the house to go out with your friends, visit your family, etc, or not, if you suffer from panic disorder it can happen anywhere at anytime. Sitting at home is not going to make them go away, it's only going to make you hate yourself for not being strong enough to leave. If you're going to have a panic attack, you're going to have one. Locking yourself away is not going to stop that, so go out and enjoy yourself for at least a little while.

And remember, panic attacks and anxiety attacks are two completely different things. They're in the same general mental disorder category, think of anxiety attacks as being the son of Panic disorder. But, the symptoms are much heavier in cases of panic, and anxiety can usually be treated with medication. I'm no phychiatrist or doctor, I've just suffered through panic attacks for 8 years of my life. If you think you may have panic disorder or anxiety disorder, I encourage you to see a doctor. A lot of what people perceive as one of the above disorders can actually be caused by problems with your thyroid, heart problems, and a wagon full of other things. Get checked by a doctor, don't just assume, it could mean your life.

I hope this has helped some of you out there suffering from this terrible disorder, as I wish I could have found more information like this when I first started suffering from it.

Here are some useful links for you to find out more about panic and anxiety disorders:

Wikipedia.com- A wonderful site for finding information on all of the topics I mentioned above.

The Mayo Clinic- The Mental Health section of their site has all sorts of information.

MedicineNet.com- This site offers a fairly good catalogue of information on both anxiety and panic disorder.

PanicAttackSpace.com- A great blog, chock full of information and statistics on panic disorder and panic attacks.

Anxiety Attack- A great blog for finding more information about anxiety attacks. It's well written by a sufferer of anxiety disorder.