Since it’s Monday, that means it’s time for the Mental Health Monday series! It’s been going really well so far, with lots of amazing people sending me their stories and sharing them with the world to (hopefully) make anyone reading it feel less alone and less like they can’t cope. It sums up a broad spectrum of mental health issues; with a number of fantastic pieces lined up about depression, BPD, anxiety, panic attacks, and numerous other issues. The conversation does not, and should not, stop at depression and anxiety, it’s important that all mental health stories are spoken about.
This week, the very lovely Kate from Kate Takes 5 wanted to share a piece from her archives which really does paint a very clear picture of living with anxiety – as well as her own experience, it contains some quotes from others who have been in that position too. It’s a great piece and I’m thrilled that she wanted to be included in the series.
Have You Ever Had A Panic Attack?
The more I talk to women of a certain age the more it seems that anxiety and panic attacks are an unspoken pandemic of our generation.
Background, situation, personality seem to have nothing to do with it – admit to anyone that you’ve suffered from mild to extreme anxiety and the floodgates open – everyone it seems has a story to tell.
I had my first peep into the world of anxiety about 8 years ago when I found myself in a packed conference room with a large number of my then colleagues. Despite having had numerous similar meetings in the very same room, with the very same people, I had a sudden urge to get to the door and get the hell out of there before I collapsed. The more I thought about collapsing in front of everyone the harder and faster my heart began to beat until I sure I was going to pass out. And there I was – stuck in a vicious circle of fear feeding fear.
After that, every time I had a meeting scheduled in that room I would be anxious the same thing would happen again.
I have no idea what brought on that first attack. And to be honest I still don’t know if it was an anxiety attack or a panic attack or even what the difference is really, but once the evil little creature had found its footing it lived there at the back of my mind, biding it’s time until it felt that another appearance was warranted.
The next time it was in a church in the middle of mass. Again a packed room. Again the door too far away. And so I began to recognize the possible flashpoints and would try to avoid them as much as possible (apologies God and past bosses).
Over the years those moments all but disappeared, but in recent months I’ve started getting the same feelings again – this time in much more random places. Talking to friends, walking down the road, on a beach with the kids – an intensity of the moment sweeps over me and I begin to feel dizzy, then my heart and mind start racing until I manage to either talk or breathe myself down. Fortunately, my moments are mostly mild, fleeting, and controllable. I doubt very much observing me that you would have any idea what is going on inside my head at the time.
It seems odd admitting to it in public. It’s still a bit of a shameful secret amongst sufferers I think. It’s almost like an admittance of not coping with life. Although I believe strongly that I am. If I’m honest I don’t consider myself the type of person who would suffer from such things. Whatever that ‘type’ is.
But there is it. Not my fault, but my problem.
And I’m not the only one.
On a recent discussion on the subject, M admitted to me that ‘Lately I’ve had the constant feeling of butterflies like I’m anxious about everything. And then I’ve started feeling near panic attacks about some things that shouldn’t make me feel panicky.’
Ruth at Dorkymum says “Earlier in the year I found myself straying into feeling anxious again, I felt like I had this huge pressure on my chest all the time and I was crying at the drop of a hat
Lilliwhiterose told me: “I suffer from Panic attacks, they got so bad earlier this year that my daughter started to imitate me when they happened in front of her. I got a good doctor so they have abated for now. I never ever felt ashamed of it. It is the most frightening experience toÂ go through in that moment and time seems to stop so much so that I feel that my mind and my body are going to stop.’
Sara, who writes openly about her diagnoses on her blog Where is my Mind? also went through major issues with her condition:”It was a surprise finding out that that was what was wrong with me, I thought I was dying, my attacks caused me to go unconscious each time. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone outside of my immediate family, and only now after 7 years am I starting to open up about it’.
Why do they happen?
Although each case is individual many sufferers believe that it’s down to the frantic pace in which we live our lives. We run from one task to the next trying to squeeze in just one last thing – ‘I’ll just do this and then I’ll sit down..’, ‘I’ll just finish this before I take a break…’, ‘I’ll just go here before I have a rest…’ And of course the sit down \ break \ rest never come because the tasks are endless. M says that “I’ve decided I live life too frantically. I try to fit too much in, I try to get one more thing done on the To Do list and I try to catch up with one more email and everything overflows into the next until I stay up too late and get up too early and end up feeling like I never do anything well enough…The crappy pseudo-strength we call ‘multi-tasking’ has a lot to answer for. The idea that Women are Good at Multi-Tasking is such a dangerous myth. A few people multi-task well but never for long periods. No one can do several things at once really well for any length of time. This idea that multi-tasking is a strength is an anxiety generating, production reducing roadblock in the path of normal, healthy living.”
Online living also has a lot to answer for. We are constantly connected, constantly checking and rechecking accounts, constantly being summoned here, there, and everywhere. And there is no let-up, there is no time to just ‘be’ in the moment – even if that moment is simply standing waiting for a bus.
Annie advises that “The biggest change that’s worked for me and stopped my anxiety and worrying is to spend more time offline. It makes a huge difference for me, and as it turns out its not that life is going too fast for me but that I am going too fast to enjoy life.”
Major life changes, a particular traumatic event, or even hormones are other possible triggers.
If your condition is mild like me then many simple things may help – slowing down, disconnecting, breathing, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, cutting back on coffee, drinking herbal teas, rescue remedy to name a few.
But if your life and choices are becoming debilitated due to panic or anxiety attacks, or even the fear of them, then a good doctor should be your first port of call.
There is plenty of help out there and plenty of people experiencing the same thing, so don’t be afraid to open up to someone about it.
And lastly – never, ever be ashamed of it.
If you’d like to be involved in Mental Health Mondays and have a story to tell, or want to say ANYTHING, drop me an email, or pop a comment below! I’d love to hear from you.
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