I’ve been toying with the idea of writing this blog for a while, which may explain why I have been a bit MIA recently…
But back to the present day.
I have spoken in the past about suffering from high levels of anxiety on a day to day basis which I have accepted is part of my life. Some days it is worse than others, and some days I don’t notice it at all. One thing I have never spoken about it having panic attacks, mainly because they happened much more frequently when I was younger, but also because I still feel there is some stigma when people say they suffer from them, and that I might be making this up for attention or sympathy – which is not the case.
For me, living with anxiety is something I have learnt to do; however, when I have a panic attack, it feels as though the whole world is crashing down around me, and that I have lost control. When I was younger, I didn’t notice as much the feelings of anxiety, possibly because there were other teenage girl hormones swimming around my body, making it hard to differentiate the feeling of worry with the regular feelings of just being a normal teenager. Thinking back, this could have been the reason that my panic attacks were much more frequent back in the day (that makes me feel so old!) because I didn’t know how to deal with the levels of anxiety I was feeling, making an attack more common.
Nowadays I have my ways to get around them. If I’m feeling anxious, before I start to feel like I might have a panic attack, I try to distract myself, whether that’s painting my nails, going on my phone or writing. It helps me to focus on something new, and takes my mind off the feelings. I’ve found that if I draw attention to the anxiety it tends to get worse and could potentially turn into a panic attack where I feel like I am no longer in control, which wouldn’t be ideal if I was in work or out and about.
When I’ve been reading up on this area in the past, a term that I have come across is disembodiment, where you feel unreal or detached from your surroundings. Although it might seem quite farfetched, the only way I can describe this feeling is being unable to function in the way you are used to. For me, when I have a panic attack, I feel as though I am on a different physical level and I am looking down on myself and I can’t control how I am feeling or acting. I feel like the panic attack is at its worst when I am at the highest, and as I slowly come back down to reality, it begins to ease off. It might seem quite strange to read, but there is no other way I can describe it.
You may be wondering why I am writing this all down; well, my mind seems to clear better when I have something new to think about. Although I am talking about a very sensitive and personal subject, I don’t feel anxious writing this. I have been planning on writing this blog for a couple of weeks, but I haven’t found the time to really sit down and write about my feelings, mainly because I don’t want to overthink anything that could potentially turn into a panic attack, but also because I didn’t know how people would react to reading this.
One of the other reasons this blog was on my radar is because after not suffering from a panic attack for over a year, I had my first one a couple of Fridays ago. I wasn’t doing anything stressful, I hadn’t had a bad week at work, and I felt generally in good spirits; it was just a Friday night spent at home with my boyfriend, playing with the cat, then out of nowhere… BAM. It was a horrible experience for him as I haven’t had one since we have been together, but the only thing I could do was sit on the floor, stroke Simba, drink water and walk back and to from the kitchen to take my mind off it. One of the positive things I have read about panic and anxiety attacks is that usually the most they will last is 20 minutes; and although that can seem like a lifetime when it is happening to you, it is good to know there is an end in sight.
I can’t pinpoint when I started to have panic attacks, but I know my anxiety has become worse in recent years. Although this seems like a bad thing, it does mean I suffer less from panic attacks than when I was younger.
Until recently I never spoke openly about having anxiety or panic attacks. The fact of the matter is that until I opened up about the way I was feeling, I began to realise that I wasn’t alone. I remember when I went on a group holiday around 8 years ago during a time that my panic attacks were at their worst, I felt like I had to pre-warn my friend that I was suffering from them, which made me anxious about how he would react, but I was shocked to find out that he too suffered from them which is when it dawned on me that what I was feeling was completely normal. Although it probably doesn’t seem like a big step, to me it felt like a massive breakthrough.
Throughout college and University I still suffered from a high level of anxiety when it came to my work, friends and relationships. One of the times when I thought I would never get over my panic attacks was when my Granddad passed away in 2009. If you’ve read my other blog posts you will know that I went to University in Nottingham in the same year and absolutely hated it, which meant me moving back home only two months into the semester. I think the stress I was feeling about putting on weight, being in a different city and not fully being strong enough to live away from home all blew up in my face at once, and I felt I had no choice but to move back to Manchester.
Strangely enough, the day after I had my last panic attack, I saw that my auntie had posted this on Facebook. For next time I am feeling anxious or panicky, I am going to refer back to this. I felt compelled to pass this on, and hopefully it will help someone in the future.
If anyone would like to know more then this website has a lot of information – MIND