*Disclaimer: This is a really sensitive topic and I've had this post planned for weeks now but it's taken so long for me to edit and make sure I was talking about everything I felt would be helpful and what I was comfortable with. Please be respectful. P.S it's also a really long post so I hope you are comfortable haha!!
So I thought I'd write a blog post about "Panic Attacks" seeing as I've never really written about them before and I feel like they maybe need to be spoken about more. It's a subject which is quite personal to me and I have a lot of strong opinions and thoughts on them. A lot of people don't really know a lot about them and I guess it is hard to understand something like this if you haven't felt it yourself. So I'll try and leave a bit of information out there and maybe it will help someone who is struggling or wants to try and understand panic attacks a bit better!
One thing I would definitely say is that panic attacks are different from one person to the next, and not everyone experiences them the same way. Just like how anxiety is really, you may have some of the same triggers but you most likely will not have the EXACT same anxiety as someone, although many traits will be similar! Also, panic attacks are not always really frequent, others may only get one if a specific phobia is triggered, others may have them a lot and over many things, others may not have panic attacks at all. Everyone's stress levels are different and everyone has different triggers and reactions to situations and scenarios.
Some of the symptoms of a panic attack are:
* Increased heart rate
* A lot of butterflies in your tummy
* Chest pain
* Feeling dizzy
* wanting to go to the toilet
* Having a lot of thoughts at once
* Feeling hot or cold very suddenly
* Feeling easily irritated
* Feeling detached from surroundings around you
* Dry throat
* Overload of the senses
* High feelings of emotions
* Feeling "smothered"
* Irrational/distressing thoughts
* Feeling you have to "get out"
Not everyone feels every symptom in every panic attack and there are a lot more symptoms, but I just listed some of them. Afterwards you may feel really tired because of all of the blood pumping around your body and the fact it feels like everything which happened in the last few minutes was sped up. Basically you feel like you've just done the bleep test.... (what a joy that was if you participated during secondary school!)
From personal experience, panic attacks are horrible.
For me, my stomach tips and I panic and I have loads of thoughts at once and everything generally feels claustrophobic and nausea may kick in. I feel like I have to get out so I'll probably want to find a toilet or just be out of the situation and have myself a moment. I'll usually feel really tired and rundown after having one and just generally rubbish for allowing it to happen. There is a lot of negative feelings afterwards and during, and it's pretty hard to control. For me, I'll often want to get out so I can compose myself and calm down without disrupting anyone else or causing any issues, and when getting out isn't an "easy option", it makes it worse and stresses me out even more. Yet I feel annoyed at myself for feeling this way, when it's pretty difficult to control, the mind is a very very skilled thing. The frustration afterwards can be really annoying as it's so easy to be extremely hard on yourself. I can also feel self-conscious about others seeing me in this way and that can sometimes make it worse.
Fresh air is actually really good for me during an episode, but it can totally depend on the situation and how I'm feeling. That's one of the most annoying things, it can be very spontaneous and not everything which calms me down during one will have the same effect in another time.
I feel like I kind of have two "types" of panic attacks, not sure if that's a thing or not, but how I feel is that I can have some "panic attacks" where I'm literally in a situation for example in class or out with a friend or something and it's a situation where I am sort of "stuck" as it could be described and can feel like I'll probably need to "get out" if that makes any sense. Basically everything I described up there ^^^
Other times, I can have "panic attacks" where I'm just at home and panicking about something which is either happening in the future or stressing me out. I have loads of thoughts and it can be quite difficult to manage because it can disrupt my thinking and sleeping. Sometimes it may not actually be a "direct hit" like I'm not actually in the situation at the moment but I'm building up to it and it causes that uncomfortable feeling. I feel a little more sociable sometimes if this kind of anxiety hits me, sometimes I just feel like a bit of reassurance can help a bit whereas when it's a literal situation I am facing which is causing me to be anxious, sometimes I prefer to be on my own or given some space so a public toilet where I can calm myself is ideal! I'm not sure if I'm making any sense here, but if you understand what I'm trying to explain, please let me know!
And for me, I've had them in a lot of different places, whether it's in school, at a friend's house, public transport, friend's family cars, restaurants, in the street, during exams, inside dentist waiting rooms. It can be extremely frustrating and can really be a confidence breaker. Knowing that there are loads of places I've had them can be daunting and I have tried very hard not to avoid situations or places. During my sixth form years, I had problems with one particular classroom/teacher, which I think was caused by initial anxiety right at the beginning of sixth form, either way, every week I had to be in that classroom, I felt anxious and I'm not even really sure why, especially as my seat was closest to the door so I wouldn't have to disrupt if I felt like I needed a moment to myself. I don't really understand why I got so anxious but it would come every single week. I think the reason was because it became an uncomfortable pattern. Also I personally find it hard to speak up sometimes if I'm having one somewhere where it feels "rude" or "strange" for example, at a friend's house or something and I don't want them to feel like I'm being rude or feel stressed in their home when it isn't anything personal. It's just something which happens. This can make it harder to feel comfortable as I can begin to feel anxious in case I have a panic attack there and they think I'm weird or rude for it being in their house or whatever, it sounds pretty stupid I know, but it's like a catch 22.
My mind also has an annoying habit of remembering certain parts of the panic attack or anything to do with that, for example what I was wearing or eating and that can often have a negative effect too. It's really hard to control panic attacks in the sense that, sometimes having too much control can be too much, as it can throw you off if you are convinced you're going to be fine and then aren't. Also I'm not going to go into too much detail, but I went through a phase of really trying too hard to prevent them and it just wasn't good for me.
Exams definitely brought out the worst panic attacks in me and from about Year 10 onwards, I would have them in pretty much every exam which probably means I didn't do as well as I maybe could have done in my GCSEs and my A Levels just because I was trying to keep them on the low and focus. It wasn't really all about being anxious about getting the perfect grades, it was the fact that I was assigned a seat and stuck there in silence for however long the exam was and claustrophobic feelings kicked in, like I felt like if I was to have a panic attack I couldn't get out very easily. Unfortunately, I'd be so worried over that it would often trigger one. I had a two really bad panic attacks in Year 13, both coincidentally English mocks, the first being a really bad one during the exam and another before the mock. It was a bit of an awkward situation and not something I like to think back on, but they happened. I'm sort of relieved that two of the worst ones happened towards the end of my exams at school because it would have made the "buildup" even worse for the next set of exams. Even though it is frustrating also that they happened so late in school, sometimes I do wish if my grades could have been different and to be honest, they probably could have been if I'd not been so bogged down with anxiety during the actual exams. Another reason why exams don't measure intelligence!
I think the worst part of panic attacks is just the way they get in the way of your life, in your daily functions and generally make you not want to do things. It's a really tough thing to have to deal with because there is a lot of anger and frustration coming from the fact you want to do things easily and can't. It's something I'm not sure some people really have a full understanding of, until it happens to you. It's really difficult to explain what they are, how they can make you feel and how they prevent you from living a fulfilled life. It's also really exhausting and tiring because sometimes panic attacks or being stressed in general makes you feel shattered so much more easily and quicker than others.
So the advice I'd give if you suffer with panic attacks would be:
* Talk about them to people you spend time with, if you feel like you may be anxious in a situation, let a friend know so they are aware of it, although you may not wish to be reminded of it in your face, so warn that. I sometimes find that discussing that a situation or trip or whatever it is may cause a bit of anxiety, at least it's not a WTF moment if something does happen and you won't have to deal with explaining yourself and what is going on while it is happening.
* Try not to let them overrule your life, something I am still working on now, it is hard because you may want to automatically avoid things or places where you've had them before and trust me I've been there done that, but I do aim for 2016 to control them better, even though I know it is going to be hard!
* Try and learn what makes you calm and how you can bring it to the situations you are facing. It may not work every single time but it's good to keep in mind!
* If you struggle really badly with them during exams, tell a teacher! I eventually cracked and told my tutor in Year 12 of sixth form that I struggled and although I wasn't 100% sure she took me seriously, she did try and get me a seat near the back which did help a little bit, but discussing it can definitely find out what options you have and what may be best for your circumstance.
* Go to the doctors and see what they can help you with. It may not be a lot but discussing your options is important and you may just get the help you need.
* Remember to keep breathing and that IT'S OKAY to take a breather, particularly fresh air can be refreshing during a panic attack so remember taking a break is okay. The sooner people realise that especially those with anxiety or any mental health problems may need breaks/more breaks than the standard person the better. Breaks can really help space things out and take your mind out of the situations temporarily.
Can you relate to anything I've mentioned here or have anything more to add?
I'd love to hear anything you have to say!
I am still not 100% sure whether to make a post about "Anxiety" as a whole or not, I'll definitely consider it but for now, I just thought I'd give a little talk about panic attacks.
Thank you for reading this post and please know that if you are suffering with anything like I've described, please know you are not alone and that you have my support!
I am leaving some potentially helpful website links below:
Mind official website: http://www.mind.org.uk/
Anxiety UK official website: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/
Samaritans official website: http://www.samaritans.org/
NHS Panic Attacks: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/understanding-panic-attacks.aspx
Love & hugs