By Racheal Chapman
But what is it that you were panicking about? I wasn’t. I wasn’t panicking about anything. I was watching Saturday night TV, warm cuppa in hand, all cosied up in my pyjamas. The kids were asleep, chores were done. There was nothing on my mind.
Then BOOM, it happened. My heart started racing and I instantly felt jumpy, on edge. I started to feel a tingling in my hands and my feet, I was restless and I began to sweat.
I know what this is, it’s ok, it’s ok. Breathe……7 beats in, 11 beats out, get rid of that CO2 build up. Shake out the hands and feet. I can get through this.
My heart raced even faster, and louder. It felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. My stomach was churning, I was getting hot flushes and I felt dizzy. Then this sense of doom filled me from head to toe, might I die right now?
Nothing bad is going to happen, I know what this is. Breathe……7 in, 11 out.
I felt disconnected to my body.
Shake out your hands and feet, tap your eyebrow, cheek, chin, collarbone. Breathe 7 in, 11 out.
After around 15/20 minutes, my attack was as good as over. This was a pretty short one for me. Later that very same week I had one in the dead of night, for nearly an hour, leaving me too anxious to doze back off to sleep for quite sometime afterwards.
I’ve had countless pre-panic attacks, and around 8-10 full blown attacks over the past 5/6 years. Whilst some have arisen due to a genuine fear – a crowded tourist boat full of people on the Thames-others have come out of nowhere. Literally, a bolt from the blue. And boy do I hate those ones the most. See for the most part (catastrophising anxiety episodes aside) I’m a rational person…so when it hit me whilst I was shopping with a newborn baby in Tesco, afterwards I got it, I kind of understood why I had an attack. But Saturday night chillin’ in my lounge with my favourite rooibos tea, really?!
That said if I were to analyse it, then perhaps there has been an underlying trigger to the ‘bolt out of the blue’ attacks … the Saturday night in question, I was tired and little did I realise that most of my family (myself included) were coming down with a nasty sickness bug.
But whether there is an obvious conscious trigger or not, panic attacks still suck. They can make you crumple in times of slight angst, and will even go as far as to steal a perfectly happy (relaxed Saturday night) moment. Consequently, they CAN make you fear leaving the house, and at their worst steal your enjoyment.
BUT, they don’t have to control you. I’m pretty good at talking myself round these days – the 7/11 breathing, reciting positive phrases or Bible verses, repeatedly tapping various points on my body, making a deliberate effort to listen to sounds around me to ground me - all of these strategies help me to overcome each and every panic attack.
I can, have and will overcome panic attacks.