But there’s nothing to be anxious about......

in life •  last month  (edited)

Have you ever had a panic attack or an anxiety attack? I have unfortunately had several of these episodes and would wish them on no one.

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The first one hit me completely out of the blue, I didn't understand what was happening. Sweating, fast heart beat, worried that this might be a heart attack. I couldn't speak properly, like there was something missing between what my mind wanted me to say and the mechanism of speaking and articulating those thoughts. My legs felt heavy and my hands were shaking uncontrollably, just what the hell was going on?

I didn't know what a panic attack or anxiety attack was, I had heard other people speaking about them but it didn't occur to me at the time that this was one of them. That only became apparent to me later.

All but a few of the attacks I've had have occurred while I was at work and while it's not ideal to have one at all, the effect of one is significantly heightened while thinking your co-workers and colleagues are sitting around you. I was taken into a small break room to help me calm down each time and various team leaders sat with me while the attack passed. Each team leader had their own way of trying to help me but I realise now that they were unable to help as much as they wanted to. No blame can be associated with any of these members of staff, they each tried their best to help and are all people I trust.

What’s the worst thing you can say to someone who’s having a panic attack or anxiety attack?

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Only after the attacks, while discussing them with various people, did I realise how words and statements can affect your mental state at a time of high stress. I am sure this is also the case with situations of depression.

While having one of the attacks one of the Team Leaders said to me, “But you know there is nothing to be anxious about, right?”

This statement/question just made things worse, it heightened my anxiety but I was unsure why, I don't have the definitive answer just my own thoughts on it.

The contradiction!

When someone asks you in this manner, “But you know there is nothing to be anxious about, right?” The logical response probably would have been, “Yes!”. Its just….I don't think logic came into it, something was causing the anxiety and taking me to the point of losing control. In fact I was having difficulties at work, specifically around the type of work I was being asked to do (thats maybe for another time) and my general anxiety might have been justified, just maybe not to the level I was experiencing at that particular moment. The statement/question was not inappropriate, but the timing was. I did have something to be anxious about, my mind’s reaction to the situation was an overreaction but a genuine reaction nonetheless. This is where I think the contradiction rests, asking me to validate a position that my mind obviously doesn't agree with just made things worse.

After the attack passed and I had calmed down the same question had very little effect on me from an anxiety point of view, but it did make me reflect on what had just happened. What is the best action to take? What should and shouldn’t you say to someone having a panic attack? I don't know the answers but I do know that if I was with someone who was having a panic attack I would be careful with my words.

What I found helpful

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Someone sitting there with me was more help than most of the words they spoke. To have someone there while the attack is occurring is reassuring and grounding. Let the person having attack calm naturally, encouraging controlled breathing is an option but dont push it too hard. As the attack is fading is the time to talk more, offer a drink of water, check if the person needs anything, be supportive but not intrusive. Remain calm yourself, if the person who is having the attack sees you getting stressed then anything you say or do wont seem helpful. By being calm and just being there, you are helping.

Thankfully I haven't had an attack for a long time and I am nearly finished with medication, which is great but I will never again underestimate just how destructive anxiety can be when not dealt with properly.

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
Photo by youssef naddam on Unsplash

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You are definitely not the only one. It is so important to share these experiences. I never thought that I would ever have anxiety or a panic attack but that has been my life for the last 4 years . of course the logical part of our brain knows there is nothing to worry about. I find it very frustrating, so we also get this panic about the panic or anxiety about the anxiety because it is such an awful experience. What medication did you end up going on?

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I went on citalopram, it took a while for it to take effect but did help. Im only on a small dose now and looking to come off it completely in the near future.
I agree with the anxiety point as well. I got to the point where I was more worried about the possibility of a panic attack than the original cause of my anxiety. Then got depressed when I would come down from the heightened state of worry. Quite a destructive cycle.

I have managed to stay off drugs but I get so close to taking them when I am in the middle of it. Respect that you have done something to manage it.. it is incredibly hard and takes ALL your resources to stay on top of things. Herbs, yoga, walking meditation... you name it Ive tried it. Great to hear citalopram worked for you.

I am so glad you wrote about this.. alot of people dont understand what its like. About a year ago on Steem @naturalmedicine we ran a challenge where we talked about how we managed anxiety and @ecotrain also has raised questions around mental health. The more we talk about it the better xx

RESTEEMING. Thanks @torico for sharing this one.

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I appreciate your comments. I do meditate and i'm lucky to live in an area where nature is on my doorstep. I also took up Ki Aikido which has been a great benefit. It has lots of focus on relaxation in stressful situations and it has taught me how important breathing is. Sounds simple to just breath but in modern life we often breathe in such a shallow manner. When we can focus on deeper breathing techniques we give our body and mind a chance to deal with stress in a much more efficient way.

Thanks for writing about this. I'm not sure if I've ever gone through a panic attack but I really like the part where you write about dealing with / supporting someone who is experiencing an attack.

Have a great week! :>)

@scruffyal,

It is good to see other's talking about "real life" issues, that trouble us all, but are perhaps seldom discussed. I do feel it's often what we do, not what we say... and this is a wonderful example. Dealing with my Multiple Sclerosis, and ALL the medications I have taken throughout my journey, many have caused these types of attacks... I am truly sorry you h ad to experience these episodes, but also happy to hear that you can not only explain your situation.... but also give excellent solutions in which to maybe help...

Thank you for sharing this personal but important moment in your life... special mention goes to @riverflows, for sharing this in the Natural Medicine Group... truly a wonderful example of sharing the love, and passing on important topics...

Love and light...

Wes

Hi scruffyal,

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  ·  last month (edited)

@curie Thank you so very much, I really appreciate that.

  ·  last month (edited)

odd i thought i wrote a comment too... the gnomes must have stolen it.

I thought you had too. I was sure I saw your name before I wrote one of the above replies.

mysteries of the interhole...

Good point and well-written post! I'm not a doctor and am not trying to diagnose you, but the panic attack you describe sounds like a specific "type" that I have also had. It involves your vagus nerve getting pinched, which can happen anywhere along the nerve itself, but it often tends to get pinched around the area where the esophagus meets the stomach. The vagus nerve passes right through that same hole in the diaphragm and if your stomach pushes up or even herniates a little, the nerve can get pinched. Anyway, one symptom or result of a pinched vagus nerve, aside from severe anxiety, is that your legs feel heavy and you can also feel somewhat dizzy or like you're going to pass out. This is because an aggravated or pinched vagus nerve (and its associated anxiety) can then cause a vaso-vagal response (or vasovagal syncope). Your vagus nerve is actually trying to shut you down in response to your heightened fear and the veins (or arteries, not sure and always get those mixed up) in your legs widen, allowing blood to settle in the lower extremities. Your blood pressure drops and drains somewhat out of your head, making you feel woozy. You can even faint, but it's not life threatening... just a weird way your vagus nerve can decide to manage various stressors.

@geke Thank you for the insight, this does make some sense to me as I would often feel faint when they struck. Not always, my assumption was that blood was being directed to elsewhere in the body in response to a fear emotion but I was never entirely sure. The heavy leg symptom was quite often the last to subside, I would try to take a walk to clear the sensation and it usually seemed to work.

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I think that you have the right point. Sometimes we are trying to help and say things that we believe will help but they bring the opposite reaction. It might be better just to be there and reassure the person with the presence instead of words.

I do hope that you won't experience such attacks in the future anymore :)

Thank you for sharing something on such sensitive topic. Have a good day!