Warning: I’m about to get all real on you.
I know I seem all cool and collected, you know, a supermom (do you even READ this blog??), but the fact of the matter is I suffer from some pretty nasty anxiety. Not just your run-of-the-mill stress. I’m talking panic attacks that need medication and therapy.
Both of those things I have done or am doing, and they help tremendously. (If you’re looking for a good type of therapy, try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT)
Anyway, I am to the point where I know when I am having a panic attack, I know I’m not going to die, and I know that it will pass. But all of the logical thinking in the world cannot make an attack go away. All you can really do is ride it out.
Then you are left (at least I am left) feeling on edge for days afterward while you suffer the fear of another attack, and yes, sometimes they come in bunches.
Everyone who deals with panic attacks has their own method for coping (effective or not). Here are seven things I need to do to get myself back on my feet again.
-1- Let Yourself Veg
I spent the last couple of days glued to my couch and watching tv. I don’t know what it is about tv, but when I need to turn my mind off, it makes it so easy. I convinced myself (and rightfully so) that it was ok if Ellen watched tv for a couple of days while I recovered. If I had tried to push it or do too much, I would have easily fallen back into the terror, and there is no way I can take care of her while I am having a panic attack.
-2- Talk About It Constantly
People will often tell you to relax or that your thoughts are untrue, and that is one of the most frustrating things you can say to a person who is panicking. Um, we know all of that. A panic attack is a chemical reaction that you cannot stop by just breathing and thinking happy thoughts. With all of that being said, keep talking about your thoughts and fears. You might have to repeat the most obvious things that you know are true out loud over and over again, but staying attached to reality in this way is helpful to me.
-3- Call in Family
It isn’t as easy with us being out of state, but if you can, call in someone you can trust. I need to have a person around that is going to push me to continue on with my normal life after I have a chance to veg out. Left on my own, I would be too afraid to shower alone, get out of the house, drive, or anything. My mom is great at gently pushing me back into normal.
-4- Stay Away from Sugar and Caffeine
I think this might be obvious, but I struggle with it. Whenever I am feeling even the slightest bit less than happy, I want a cookie. Who doesn’t? Try fruit and water. It’s not replacement for chocolate or ice cream, but it keeps your mouth busy and your sugar levels in control.
Also easier said than done. I usually ask Mike to stay awake until I can fall asleep. He will watch a show on his iPad while I pray a Rosary. A Rosary is one of the few things I can do to calm myself enough to sleep. Why do I make Mike stay awake? I don’t know. It’s just comforting to know that he is awake and alert to help me if I need him.
The attack I had the other day happened at my doctor’s office (good place for it, I guess). I laid on the table and prayed. While I was praying (just repeating Hail Marys over and over), I thought to myself, “What do people do/think about when they don’t believe in the power of prayer? It must be hopeless feeling.” When things got really bad later that day, I just gripped my Rosary and held on to it all day. I just prayed, “Lord, I don’t have the strength to pray this right now, but I want to feel close to you.”
-7- Bare Minimum Mode
Seriously, come look at my apartment right now. It’s amazing what a few days of not doing anything that isn’t life or death will do to a place. I didn’t do chores, I didn’t go online, I didn’t cook dinner. We picked through the fridge when hungry, changed diapers when dirty and slept when tired. That’s about it.
I hope this post wasn’t a serious downer. Actually, I hope it helped at least one person. I am still making my way out of the wake, but I thought, in the spirit of honesty, I would share this with all y’all. If you have any other suggestions for how you deal with severe anxiety, let me know. I am always willing to try something new.
Other suggestions that people have given me that I would like to try: aknowledge and accept the attack, slow belly breathing, redirection tactics (focus on very specific details of the present i.e. this water is cold, it is going down my throat, etc), add more exercise to days when I am feeling good