Monday 13 February 2017

What a Panic Attack Really Feels Like

What a Panic Attack Really Feels Like mental health anxiety OCD Depression mental illness wellbeing help advice support mind NHS Choices

You know that feeling you get in your stomach before you go into an exam or an important job interview, they call it butterflies? A panic attack feels like that. But fuck the butterflies. It feels like having a stampede of wildebeest going through your chest. I may as well be standing in the middle of the Lion King because I'm about to get trampled on by something a lot more painful than any wild animal. 

You know when you miss the bottom step as you walk down the stairs and your stomach lurches. A panic attack feels like that. But lasts much much longer. Your stomach fills with so much dread and anxiety, like it's a cola bottle, with a mint dropped inside. Then shook. An inevitable disaster waiting to happen. 

As I stare into the distant, I'm not ignoring you, I'm trying to distract myself from the bellowing voices in my head playing ping pong. Telling me I'm dying, I'm going to die. I'm having a heart attack. While the other side knows, this is just anxiety and nothing ever happens. It's just anxiety. But this half is too weak. It's a mouse about to get trampled on by the stampede of wildebeest travelling through my chest at 100mh.

I start shaking. Why am I shaking? My legs going. It's going up and down, up and down like a children's sea saw. But this isn't any fun or games. Why can't I stop it? What's happening? I'm gritting my teeth. Bitting my lip, like I think the solution to the problem is buried in my mouth somewhere. 

My heart rates getting faster. Faster. Faster. Why do I feel like I'm running up a hill? Why am I struggling to catch my breath while simultaneously not moving an inch? Something's crawling on my skin. Suffocating me. There's tingling under my skin like an ants nest has worked its way into my body through burying holes in the souls of my feet. 

I need to escape. I need to fight. I need to run away. I'm in danger. I run. Running further and further away from the situation. I need to get out. I keep going. I need to make sure I'm safe. 

I stop. The breathing gets faster. I try to concentrate on my breathing but I can't. I'm playing catch up on the stopwatch. I've been going faster than they've allowed for the 60 seconds in the minute. I need to slow down. I need to stop. But what if someone can see me? What if someone can hear me? What if someone finds me in this mess, what will they think of me? 

I try and close my eyes. I can't. They won't close. They are going insane. My eyelashes are flicking in front of me like a crazy light show at Glastonbury. What's wrong with me? Am I having a fit? Why can't I calm down? Why is the world spinning? I'm at that children's play park again. But this feeling is a lot more sinister than a bit of roundabout induced nausea. 

I feel like jelly. My legs feel so heavy. I check to see if I have anchors to my feet because it feels like I'm constantly being pulled down by this uncontrollable force. While I feel like being pulled down, sucked into the ground. I also feel like I'm floating. I feel dizzy and faint. I'm going to collapse. I stagger around like a drunk on a wild Saturday night. This is no fun, light-heartened night out, though. 

I feel like I'm watching myself from the other side of the room. Sitting and shaking my head in despair at such a feeble, ridiculous human being, getting into a state over literally nothing. Why does this happen? Why does such a sophisticated and intelligent part of the body make me feel all the feelings & emotions at once, making me go from 0 to 100mph in the space of about 60 seconds. 

I slowly feel like I'm coming back down to earth, like a balloon which is slowly losing its helium and gracefully flowing down to base. Apart from there's nothing graceful about coming out of a panic attack. As I catch my breath, I start to realise what I've down. I've let the devil instead my head win again. I've missed half of my lesson for no reason whatsoever.

What a Panic Attack Really Feels Like mental illness health wellbeing NHS Choices anxiety OCD depression support help advice

Slowly, I fall down against the wall, till I reach the floor, curled up in a ball. Tears start filling up my glasses. I'm angry. I'm annoyed. But above all I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed in myself for letting my OCD/ anxiety get the better of me. I've done it again. I've failed. How on earth can I go back to my teacher and explain this? 

I can't. Not yet. I stay curled up in a ball, sobbing, praying that no one can hear me. Until I feel ready to face the world again.

However, the impact and effects of panic attacks don't just stop when you bring yourself back down to earth. Oh no... after a panic attack, I'm exhausted. That overdose of adrenaline can knock me out for the rest of the day. Going from a peaceful state of mind to a full on panic attack takes it out of you. It's like getting up and deciding you're going to run a marathon one day, with no prior training, an unimaginable strain on the human body. 

But it is just anxiety. You think you're going to die. But your not. You think your anxiety is going to keep getting worse and worse, but it's not. This is because there's a glass ceiling to where anxiety stops. When you have a panic attack, your anxiety has reached its climax. Nothing is going to happen from there apart from gradually fade away. 

If you've never experienced a panic attack, you are incredibly lucky. They are one of the worst things you could ever go through, both physically and mentally. They are unpleasant, yes but they will never kill you. If you had a panic attack before you can get through it again, I promise. 

If you are worried about panic attacks or you have had persistent attacks which are negatively impacting your daily life, it may be best to see a doctor who will be able to help you deal with your anxiety more effectively.

Thanks for reading, as always X

For more information on panic attacks; please check out the links below:

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