Anxiety and Panic Attacks
A “Panic Attack." Two tiny words that so accurately describe what actually happens when you experience one. You feel panic and you can feel like you are under attack from an unknown source. From personal experience, I know how utterly terrifying they can be and I truly wouldn't wish one on my worst enemy.
So what’s the definition of Panic? Google says “Sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behaviour.” Yep.
The definition of Attack? That depends. If it’s relating to illness then it’s “a sudden and short period of illness.”
Having personally experienced literally hundreds of these monsters during a two year period in my early 20’s, I feel that the definition of Attack when relating to a violent act is more accurate. “A violent act intended to hurt or damage someone or something.”
That’s what it felt like to me, that both my body and my mind were under attack, and after each one abated, I felt a little more damaged than before.
Back then, once I sought professional help and understood that I wasn’t actually going mad, I was able to free myself of panic attacks by gradually understanding that the physical side of an attack was my body’s natural reaction to a perceived fear in my mind. I eventually learnt that the fear came from past fears and beliefs from my childhood that were now replaying in my adult life due to a quick succession of big changes I was going through at the time.
It's still amazing to me that our unconscious mind can set off such a petrifying catalogue of physical effects that gradually took over every area of my life. Things came to a head after about two years of trying to cope when one Monday, I tried to get on the train to work for the 100th time without success, dragged myself home and sobbed myself into the worst attack I'd ever had where I thought, "this is it, I've finally gone mad." That morning, my Mum finally persuaded me to go to the Doctors which started me on my road to recovery.
Things gradually returned to a more acceptable kind of “normal” for me, and although I managed to stop having panic attacks, it took a lot longer to rid myself of the anxiety that had been the loyal friend to my panic and even to this day, I can still feel anxiety when I am going through periods of change. However, these days, anxiety is a familiar "friend" I have learnt to live with and it doesn't stop me from doing the things I want to do.
I want to reassure anyone who is experiencing panic attacks that with therapy and support, they CAN be overcome, you are most definitely NOT going mad and life CAN get back to normal.
If you would like to try counselling as a way to understand why you get them and how to deal with them, then I would love to hear from you. Here's my Contact Details.
In the meantime, here’s a creative piece I wrote to describe my past experience of Panic Attacks.
Panic at the Disco
A normal day was to become the way that you’d show me what you could do
Me fine one minute, happy and calm, the next petrified, utterly, utterly petrified Of what? I hadn’t a clue
It was just “you.”
That way you would finger your fear up my neck, tightening my scalp like a Dagenham Facelift
Squeezing my head with a vice like grip until my head felt light and I thought I just might.... pass out
‘Cos my heart, it would start to rave wildly in my chest
Like panic at the disco – utter chaos playing to a chaotic beat under my breast
A tune I’d come to dread and fear because when you were near
I could hear the rate of my heart
I would start to breathe in such an unnatural way that it has left a scar to this very day
The memory of you can still squeeze my lungs so tightly when stressed
But you no longer have the power to control me so lightly
That breathing. God, it was like I’d just run a 100 meter sprint but from the safety of my own chair - I hadn’t run anywhere
But I felt like I wanted to run like Forest Gump and never look back - I just never knew what the hell it was I wanted to run away from? You? Me?
That answer didn’t come for another 20 odd years but that’s another story that will only take the glory away from your 15 minutes of fame. I digress!
So the cherry on top of the cake that is you
Was the obsession I built with needing the loo!
I just had to be where I could see it
Me and Armitage Shanks became lovers, I’d sneak in to see him to hide from the others
Who didn’t feel like they were losing their mind
With him in full view I felt safe. Safe from what?
I had no idea, that bit was always unclear but he sheltered me from the perceived fear
And I’d sit there and I waited til the panic abated and I could leave without shaking and go back to faking that I was perfectly fine, fine FINE!
I lived through those years waiting for something JUST SO TERRIBLE to happen
In the most innocent of places full of kind faces
In my head, I just knew that if I didn’t get off that train
Out of that shop, off that plane
Out of that lift, out of that restaurant, then that would be it, I’d be lost to you
Soon, the only place I felt safe was my home, my Safe Zone.
But after a while, you even took that away from me
That final day, another attempt at trying to get on the train to work
But you wouldn’t allow me to - I tried and I cried but I couldn’t
So I made my way home, I’d never felt so alone, I cried and I sobbed, I felt robbed
Of the life I’d once had, of the woman I’d been, I felt like a child again, helpless
And you chose that same day to finish the job as I started to sob you got me
To a point that was so low I had nowhere else to go, you’d won and I let you feast on the remains of me for a while
But when you’ve reached rock bottom, the only way is up
The fighter in me wasn’t done yet
A different tune started to play in my chest, a beat of hope that I could come out of this stronger
No longer Panic at the Disco, more an anthemic “I will Survive” number whilst I tentatively danced around my bag
I began to realise that no matter if it FELT like I was dying, I never did
It might have FELT like I’d never stop crying, but I did
It might have FELT like something JUST SO TERRIBLE would happen, but it never did
I came to realise you were a liar – you made me think you were so scary but you were all mouth and no trousers in the end
No more than a bully, seeming so strong on the outside but with no inner strength - not like me
You may have attacked me hundreds, maybe thousands of times but here’s the thing Panic Attack
Copyright Samantha Lee 2019
I've always loved creative writing since I was quite young and more so lately, it's a great way to connect with people who may be going through similar experiences as those I choose to write about.
I have my own FacebookPage for counselling4essex where I post a variety of inspirational quotes, videos, my own thoughts on particular subjects to do with the reasons people come for counselling and I also publish my poems/writing there once in a while. Here's a small selection I've written over the past year. The links should take you to my Facebook Page where they have been originally published.
This is a poem about this wonderful role of mine. The Counsellor
I suffered with severe anxiety and panic attacks in my early 20's, it was one of the worst times of my life - here's a piece I wrote about it. Anxiety
This is a creative piece based on an emotionally abusive relationship. Bad Love