The Joy of Panic Attacks

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

On the heels of my first really hardcore panic attack in months, I feel the need to write it out. A lot goes through my mind in a short amount of time, and not a lot of it is great. In fact, most of it is scary, negative, and full of regret.

If you've never had a panic attack, let me break it down a little bit for you. Basically, your body goes into panic overdrive--adrenaline rush, fight or flight against yourself, and you have nowhere to go. Your heart pounds, your body tingles, you shake uncontrollably, you fight nausea, you have this overwhelming sense of doom, and your mind goes nuts thinking that your body is about to die. And if your body dies, what happens to your mind? Even falling asleep is scary because your body feels like it's slipping away from your mind, but sleep is exactly what I need most of the time a panic attack hits.

Maybe that doesn't sound too horrible, and right now, separated from the feelings, I can tell myself a thousand different things I could have done better. But in the middle of a panic attack, it's so hard to tell your body to calm itself, that nothing is wrong, because I just can't trust my body anymore to tell me if it's actually something serious or if I'm just essentially faking it because I'm stressed.

It's a scary situation to find yourself in. If you can't trust your body to tell you what's going on, what can you do?

I suppose I can trust my body. So far, the record is panic attacks 100%, other serious illnesses 0%. I know most of my triggers, so I try my best to take care of those things throughout the day so I don't purposely put myself in harm's way. But sometimes we get comfortable. Sometimes I learn a new trigger. Things happen and change and evolve, and I just have to go with the flow. Unfortunately, change seems to be a trigger, so I need to tread that water carefully.

The problem with last night's panic attack is that my whole body went into 'what if the depression comes back' mode and started to fight that, which only recreated the emotions and physical sensations I felt last summer when I went through that whole debacle. For a half hour or so, maybe longer, last night, I was panicking over the possibility of the depression returning because I could feel it wrapping its tight grip around my bones. It was terrifying.

The depression strips me of ME. And it leaves the new me angry, sad, with no way out of my skin to find the rest of ME. The overwhelmingly uncomfortable feeling of not caring enough about life to want to stay here (because what's it all for anyway?) creeps in while ME is still in there and threatens to take over. ME doesn't feel strong enough to fight that, even after months of happiness or no panic. Because that doesn't matter. The imbalance hits no matter what's going on in life.

But that can be prevented through eating right and exercising, both things I haven't really been holding up my on end of the deal. Of course I'm still vegan, but I haven't been eating nearly enough fruit these days. Mostly rice and beans. Not enough water, and definitely NOT enough exercise. I've been working through new scheduling processes for work, so I am finding more and more time for myself, which is awesome. But in that free time, I want to write, relax, or snuggle puppies. I don't want to run or lift weights or do anything where my heart starts pumping too fast because that's a trigger (since that's part of a panic attack's symptoms).

However, I NEED to take better care of myself. If I want to be here for a good, long while, I need to eat right, de-stress, exercise, get some sun, sleep enough, and breathe. I need to stop worrying so much about a future that isn't guaranteed. I need to be in a better place mentally, spiritually, physically. But I need to take it one day at a time. It's all I have, so it's all I can conquer.

Taking a few deep breaths this morning to honor the journey. <3

7 comments:

Celine said...

I've had a phase where I would have a lot of panic attacks - sometimes a few a week. It's been ages since I had a bad one, just a few minors this year (knock on wood). It's hard to keep up with eating well, and especially exercising. It's so easy to give in to the fear or the laziness that keeps you from going on that run, and to just stay inside instead. I still struggle with this even though my attacks have mostly stopped, but there is still this feel of "what if". What if I do get an attack when I'm away from home? When there is no one near me to help?

Panic attacks are super fun. Hang in there <3

Michelle Kampmeier said...

Celine, thank you. :) It's been a while for me too, and I'm also in the 'what if' camp. It's not easy, and it IS a struggle, but we can make the most of the good time we do have. I completely agree with everything you've said, and I really hope things stay on their track for you and get even better. <3

Melissa Lummis said...

It's been a long time since a full blown panic attack has hit me, but anxiety attacks have come back. I think we take three steps forward, two steps back as we learn to manage the chemical and electrical imbalances. And it is chemical and electrical. Once the button has been pushed, there is this cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters (or lack thereof) that sends us through a house of horrors. You are not alone, however. <3

Also, I've been studying therapeutic yoga these last few years and recently am working on healing emotional trauma and PTSD with yoga practices. Listening to people talk about PTSD has convinced me that people who suffer from panic attacks have some form of it. Our panic attacks are actually us reliving some trauma, although it may have happened so early in life we have no idea what it was or we don't make the connections.

Just some things to think about as we continue on our healing journey. Thank you for being brave enough to share with us. Much love and light coming your way. <3

Michelle Kampmeier said...

Melissa, this is definitely a trauma I'm reliving. Two, in fact. I so wish we lived closer so I could do some yoga with you. :) And yes, I agree with it being chemical and electrical. I just don't yet know the formula to keep everything in balance. But I keep working at it. :) Thank you for being there. XOXO!

Arianne Cruz said...

I don't think I've ever had one, but I definitely have occasional anxiety attacks. It feels horrible and I can't imagine what a panic attack would be like. The more you persevere against your "demons" the more it inspires me to face mine, so don't ever give up. Without you, I'd probably sink into full on depression. I'm here if u also want to just vent. Thanks for everything!

Michelle Kampmeier said...

Arianne, thank you. <3 I certainly don't plan on giving up, and I really hope you never develop panic attacks. They're not fun at all. Most of the time, I can stop it, but it was a runaway train last night. But today is a new day! :)

Arianne Cruz said...

That's right, new day, new chances, new possibilities. I had a good day yesterday because I'm tired of being down so I put in some effort. I'll try and do it again today and hopefully moving forward. It's hard coz most of the time I'd rather close in on myself instead of looking at someone and smiling to say good morning.

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